Editor’s note: this story has been updated to reflect a clarification of a quote from Jenny Culler.
By Tom Oder
The temporary restraining order issued Thursday that has halted the development of a multi-use trail in Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park apparently was issued in the nick of time.
The cutting and clearing of 335 trees for the trail in the park’s forest was scheduled to begin on Monday, said attorney Jenny R. Culler, an attorney with Stack & Associates, P.C., who requested the TRO on behalf of the plaintiffs in the case, Dunwoody homeowners Beverly Armento and Rebecca More.
“I’m a little happier this morning than I was yesterday morning,” Armento said Friday as she looked out a window from her home at the towering hardwoods in the forest. “I’m now cautiously optimistic that the two sides can hopefully sit down and negotiate what happens next.”
That next step would likely be a full hearing on the matter, said Culler. The case, she said, has been assigned to Judge Tangela Barrie. Barrie was not available on Thursday, and the TRO was issued by Judge Mark Anthony Scott, Culler said.
A date for a full hearing on the matter has not been scheduled, Culler said, adding that the date for that hearing could be scheduled later today. In the meantime, she said, she anticipates that she and the city attorney, Cecil McClendon, will get an audience with Judge Barrie.
“The city cannot comment on pending litigation or ongoing legal proceedings,” city spokesman said Friday morning
The action by the court specifically enjoined any further construction activities, including the cutting or clearing of trees or other vegetation, according to Culler. “The hydrology report used to justify the project is fatally flawed,” said Culler. “This restraining order was necessary to ensure that the city doesn’t move forward with the destruction of hundreds of trees in Brook Run Park before the court has a chance to hear the matter.”
The Lakeview Oaks Homeowners Association hired Dr. Brian Wellington to review the city’s engineering report to check the accuracy of its runoff assessments, Armento said Friday. Wellington, she said, is with the Atlanta firm New Fields, which she said assists in development decisions.
“We just want the city to use the right data, conduct the right studies, and make the right decisions with this trail so it can be an amenity for the city and not a nuisance or a sore subject,” said Armento.
She said she bases her optimism on her own positive outlook on life, pointing out that “nothing has happened in the last few months that would otherwise make me optimistic. We’ve gotten no response from the city about our concerns,” she said.
Armento, outgoing president of the Lakeview Oaks Homeowners Association, has said previously she has never been against the trail itself. It’s the portion of the trail through the forest, the 12-foot width of that portion, the number and size of trees to be felled, the planned construction material of non-porous concrete and the possible impact of sediment and storm water runoff from the concrete that concerns her.
“Our community borders Brook Run, and the two water basins in the park flow directly onto our property and into W. Nancy Creek that borders us to our west,” Armento said of the Lakeview Oaks community.
A festering negative reaction to the trail broke into public view Monday evening when about four dozen people attended a City Council meeting and said they wanted the city to stop the project. The arguments against the trail focused on changes from the original proposal adopted last year to the current plan. The first plan called for an eight-foot wide trail of asphalt and wood chips at a cost of $130,000. The current plan calls for a 12-foot wide trail of non-porous concrete.
As word of the TRO spread among those opposed to the current plan for the trail, others who have joined in voicing concern about the trail’s potential impact shared in Armento’s optimism.
“This is the best gift ever,” Carey Coghill wrote in an email to other members of a coalition of homeowners, gardeners and naturalists who have spoken out against the trail through what she describes as “one of the last remaining intact and undisturbed forests on public land in Dunwoody.”
In the email, she asked them to share the news with their organizations, which include gardening groups, master gardeners and a variety of civic groups. “Thank you all for your support and hard work. There is more work to be done.”