It’s a not even a mile.
But Dunwoody Village Parkway, the little road that runs through the Dunwoody Village shopping center, has created a huge controversy, highlighting the differing visions that people in Dunwoody have for the future of their city.
Currently, the road features four lanes separated by a tree-lined median. Dunwoody City Council has approved a plan that would use grant money to reduce the road to two lanes to make room for sidewalks, bicycle lanes and street lights.
But the seemingly innocuous project has found many opponents in long-time Dunwoody residents.
The city’s Design Review Committee, an advisory board, has gotten permission to take another look at the proposal to see if an alternative design could save the median and keep more travel lanes for cars.
Jim Dickson spoke up at a recent Design Review Committee meeting, saying the council’s decision to move forward with the parkway project speaks to a larger issue.
“Many of us feel our government’s betrayed us,” Dickson said.
He said people feel that the council needs to listen to the community, which has been vocal in its opposition to the parkway improvements. They feel the project has been pushed through without public input and the $1 million-plus cost is a waste of money. They feel the reduced lanes will create more traffic for people in cars, while benefiting only a few bikers. And they don’t understand why the shady median must be removed.
“We’re not naysayers. We’re the people that live here and vote here. We’re the owners of this city. The City Council are just the managers,” Dickson said
Former City Councilman Danny Ross argued that Dunwoody’s first council hosted many public meetings during which more than 1,500 residents gave their input on the Dunwoody Village Master Plan.
“It’s all been done in the public eye with public input, and it’s something I believe we should move forward with,” Ross said.
At the same Design Review Committee meeting, Stacey Harris said she doesn’t understand the desire to slow down the parkway project.
“If we continue to wait, nothing is going to get done in this city,” Harris said. “It’s time to move forward. This is a step. This is a small step.”
The parkway upgrades will be paid for in part by $1.1 million in grants. The intent of the project is to give the parkway a more pedestrian-friendly, urban feel that will fit with the city’s eventual goal of making Dunwoody Village its city center.
City Manager Warren Hutmacher said many seem to take issue with the addition of bike lanes.
“This is being viewed as a bicycle-lane project. It’s not. It’s to make a main street. It’ll be beautiful at the end of the day. You’ll have trees on both sides,” Warren Hutmacher said.
Bill Grossman, a member of the design review committee, said the board took up the parkway design after hearing the complaints from the community.
“Our goal is to come up with a compromise more people would buy into and would quiet some of the complaints we’ve heard,” Grossman said.
Grossman said the board isn’t sure it will be able to find a new design that will still accomplish all the city’s goals.
Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith said the city has been working on the parkway design for two years. He said engineers considered trees, drainage, zoning and other points of concern, all taken into consideration when developing the plan.
“We’ve taken all those things into account and that’s how we’ve gotten to the design we have,” Smith said.
The city has limited right of way, so it would be too expensive to keep the median and build sidewalks and bike lanes, Smith said. Plus, there would be additional tree losses.
“If we push it out any more we’re going to lose a lot of trees along the exterior of the parkway,” Smith said.
Grossman, who is also the president of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, said people feel a sentimental attachment to the median in Dunwoody Village Parkway, which for years has provided shade during the annual Fourth of July parade.
“DHA paid for the upkeep of the median for 20 years. No one necessarily wants to get rid of it,” Grossman said.
But he noted that with the project, Dunwoody is keeping up with many metro Atlanta cities, which are upgrading commercial areas to make them more visually appealing and accessible to pedestrians.
“This sort of thing is not uncommon. A lot of people are trying to retrofit,” Grossman said.
At the end of the day, he sees the lines drawn between the long-time residents, who are opposed to the changes, and the younger residents, who want to see improvements to the city.
“A lot of the differences seem to be generational,” Grossman said.