Dunwoody City Manager Warren Hutmacher, left, and Mayor Mike Davis talk to residents attending a ‘town hall’ meeting Feb. 20. The screen behind them shows a graph illustrating how attendees rated topics for discussion.

More than 150 Dunwoody residents on Feb. 20 attended the first of four planned city-sponsored town hall discussions. They questioned Mayor Mike Davis and City Manager Warren Hutmacher about issues ranging from State Farm’s plan to expand in Dunwoody to whether the city should build a roundabout at the intersection of Vermack and Womack roads or ball fields at Brook Run Park.

One resident asked whether city officials were working with State Farm representatives to deal with traffic related to its planned new Perimeter Center development.

“They are very concerned about what’s going to happen in Dunwoody as result of them showing up and how they can mitigate that,” Davis told residents who attended the two-hour meeting at Dunwoody High School.

The town hall was organized by the city after critics complained last year that city officials weren’t listening to residents. Mayor Mike Davis said future community discussions are planned in each of the city’s three election districts.

City Manager Warren Hutmacher said city officials have been talking to State Farm for a year about its plans, which were announced Feb. 14.

Texas developer KDC says is plans to build 2.2 million square feet of office space, 100,000 square feet of restaurants and shops, and a 200-room hotel on property located on Hammond Drive across from the Dunwoody MARTA station. State Farm will lease 585,000 square feet of the office space and plans to add additional buildings over the next decade, KDC said in its press release. Construction will begin next summer, the developer said.

Davis said developers paid $8 million an acre for a 4-acre parcel to be used in the State Farm project. “That’s the kind of money they pay in Midtown for land,” he said. “We’ve never seen those kinds of prices.”

Davis said the roundabout at Vermack and Womack was an option that engineers had considered, but work on the intersection had been put on hold by the city. “As of right now, we’re not moving forward with that intersection at all,” he said.

Asked whether the city planned to build sports fields at Brook Run Park, Davis said he didn’t know. He said opinions on City Council appeared to be divided. “I think it’s going to be an interesting argument the City Council is going to have,” he said. “I can’t tell you how it’s going to go.”

After the meeting, Davis said he was pleased with the gathering.

“I think it went great,” he said. “The citizens did a great job in asking a lot of good questions.”

Several residents said they, too, were pleased that the discussion was held, but said they still had questions.

“I think it’s needed,” resident James Boler said. “I’d like to see more of it. But our streets have not changed since 1983, while our population has increased tenfold. I think if they continue to allow development, we’re going to be gridlocked.”

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.