As November nears, discussions about the upcoming parks bond referendum are getting heated.
Dan Weber of the advocacy group Citizens for Dunwoody gave a presentation about the proposed $66 million bonds for park land acquisition and development to the Dunwoody Homeowners Association on Oct. 2.
Weber outlined the highlights from the Dunwoody’s parks master plan, the cost to homeowners and some of the arguments for and against the parks bonds. Weber will be presenting information about the parks bond to several neighborhoods and community organizations during the month of October leading up to the Nov. 8 referendum.
“Our parks are deficient in every category. DeKalb didn’t do a very good job with the parks,” Weber said. “This is our chance to make up for the deficit.”
Those in attendance, including several city and state officials, pelted Weber with pointed questions about the more controversial aspects of the bond referendum during his proposal.
Sen. Fran Millar asked why the 16-acre “PVC farm” property recently purchased by the city may not be developed into a park.
“When that property was purchased, this community was told it was going to be a park,” Millar said. “If that property is flipped, you just lost your credibility with the community.”
City Manager Warren Hutmacher said the 16-acre property was purchased with money from the general fund so the city would have the flexibility to use it as a park or for other purposes.
“I know it sort of sounds ambiguous but we’re trying to use good business sense on this property and keep our options open,” Hutmacher said.
City Councilman Danny Ross said the city also bought the property to prevent the development of an apartment complex.
“We can now zone it for a more appropriate use and not overcrowd our schools,” Ross said. “We’ve got control over this property and I think it’s a good thing.”
Older, run down apartments were included in the presentation’s list of properties that could be candidates for future parks because of their potentially low cost.
But the possibility of the city razing apartment complexes for parks is a touchy subject for some Dunwoody residents, who say that the city should not use parks money as a cover for getting rid of troublesome areas.
“If tearing down a rundown complex reduces crime and gang activity, that’s a legitimate secondary purpose,” Weber said. “Other cities have done it.”
Some also questioned why there were not more concrete plans for how the bond money would be spent.
Weber said with the flexibility granted to Dunwoody City Council to acquire property – and dispose of it, if necessary – the voters will have to decide if they want to place that trust in the council.
“To me, that’s the kind of flexibility they need,” Weber said.
Dunwoody resident Bob Lundsten said there’s no way to know if people can trust council members to make wise investments with parks money in the future.
“That’s not mistrust of the current council. That’s mistrust in the next 20-30 years over the life of this bond,” Lundsten said.