Last summer, the Dunwoody Charter Commission had to move its meetings to a larger room to accommodate the crowds watching, listening to and commenting on its debates. But for its final meeting Sept. 25, the commission attracted only a pair of Boy Scouts working on a merit badge, a lone city councilman and a pair of reporters.

The commissioners had spent months reviewing and discussing Dunwoody’s charter, the city’s foundation document, to see whether they thought any changes should be made by state lawmakers as the city reaches its fifth year of operation. The charter itself called for the review at five years.

Their debates yielded controversy as some residents objected to a suggestion that the city be allowed to take over taxation to provide fire services without a vote of residents. Commissioner Robert Wittenstein said the process turned out to be “much more difficult than we had imagined.”

But Chairman Max Lehmann thanked the other commissioners for the way they responded to the controversy.

“I think we came through it with Dunwoody style, with a Dunwoody way of handling it, with grace,” Lehmann said.

The commission now wraps up its final report, which is due Oct. 1.

The commission is recommending several significant changes to the charter, including allowing the city to use special taxes to fund fire protection services, but to allow homeowners a tax discount to equal the reduction provided through DeKalb County’s Homestead Option Sales Tax; and to require two, rather than one, City Council member to sponsor an item to get it on the council’s agenda.

And the commissioners planned to call for another commission be named to review the charter in seven more years.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.