A hotel development planned for Ashford Dunwoody Road has won approval from the Dunwoody Planning Commission. Again.
The commissioners on June 11 voted 3-0, with Chairman Bill Grossman abstaining and three commissioners absent, to approve the Sterling Point development, which proposes a hotel, a restaurant a shops on 11.53 acres at the corner of Ashford Dunwoody and Perimeter Center North.
The commission first approved the development on April 23, but Dunwoody City Council last month sent the proposal back to the planning commission for a second vote after ethics questioned were raised following the first vote.
The questions centered around campaign contributions by the law firm representing the developer to Commissioner Bob Dallas during his unsuccessful run for mayor and around participation by Grossman, secretary and former president of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, and other former DHA officers now on the planning commission.
The DHA in April opposed the project because of its access to Ashford Dunwoody, one of the city’s busiest streets. But after the developers negotiated with DHA representatives and agreed to allow only right turns into the property from Ashford Dunwoody, the association changed its position.
The new design also includes full access to the property from Perimeter Center North.
DHA president Stacey Harris attended the June 11 planning commission meeting to express the group’s support for the new plan. “We think this is a fabulous compromise,” she told the commission. “It’s good.”
Dallas and Commissioners Kirk Anders and Paul Player did not attend the June 10 meeting. Commissioners Don Converse, Tom Dwyer and Renate Herod voted to approve the zoning for Sterling Point.
In a letter apologizing to the city and dated May 7, lawyer Kathy Zickert said she, her firm and Hotel Equities Group LLC contributed to Dallas’ mayoral campaign and that “it was entirely an oversight” the contributions weren’t disclosed.
She wrote that she did not realize the city’s campaign disclosure forms applied to Planning Commissioners as well as City Council members. “I am not aware of any other jurisdiction in this state which requires such disclosures vis-à-vis anyone other than an elected person,” she wrote.
In May, Dallas said he did not think the contributions constituted a conflict of interest, any more than contributions from a lawyer to a judicial candidate should keep the judge from ruling on a case involving the lawyer. But he said he planned to ask the city Ethics Board’s advice on the question.
After the June 10 vote, Dwyer asked why Dallas’ questions had not been answered. Lenny Felgin, one of the city’s attorneys, said the city’s recent rewrite of its ethics rules eliminated the Ethics Board’s advisory role. “The board’s current role is as a jury on ethics complaints,” he said.
Consideration of the Sterling Point project now returns to the council for approval. It is likely to be taken up later this month, with a final council vote in July, city officials said. A group of zoning variations is to be considered by the Board of Zoning Appeals in August, city officials said.