By Ellen Eldridge and Joe Earle
Carla Lindemann grew up in Dunwoody. She’s lived there longer than Dunwoody has been a city.
As she sat in her wheelchair, her father stood at the podium and told members of Dunwoody City Council he’s worried that if the city moves to ban personal care homes from single-family neighborhoods, his 31-year-old daughter might have to move away. As he ages, he said, he is looking for a place for his daughter to live, and wants her to be able to stay in her home town.
“You’re saying, ‘Sorry, you’re not good enough; you can’t live here,’” he told members of the council on Sept. 8.
After a proposal to develop a home for treating teenage girls with eating disorders met strong neighborhood resistance, city staff members proposed taking a new look at Dunwoody’s rules for personal care homes.
The city initially approved the home on Manget Way, but later the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals overturned the decision. Residents fighting the Manget Way home argued that because of the level of care provided, the facility should be considered a medical treatment facility, which is not allowed in single-family areas, and not a personal care home, which is allowed in those areas. The California company planning to develop the home is taking the city to court over the decision.
City Councilman Doug Thompson told members of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association on Sept. 7 that the council would look into a city staff proposal to stop allowing the homes in single family areas as part of a sixth-month review of the city’s new zoning code. Changes to the code would be debated by several city boards, city officials said.
“We are at the beginning of this process,” Thompson said.
Dunwoody Development Director Steve Foote said his department made the recommendation to the council after debate about the Manget Way home.
“If you look at what goes on in a personal care home, I do have to think young girls with bulimia is pretty innocuous,” he said. “If everybody got that upset about that…based on where we are today in 2014, since we are in the process of reviewing things about the code, from a staff point of view, it made sense to put it out there and say, ‘Is this something we should take a look at?’”
Foote said the city’s zoning code did not differentiate between different sorts of personal care homes. “There’s a lot of room for different interpretations,” he said.
At both the DHA meeting and council meeting, former Councilman Robert Wittenstein spoke against changing the rules allowing personal care homes in single-family areas.
“There is a meanness of spirit associated with an attempt to keep the elderly and disabled, and those who need personal care out of our neighborhood,” he said. “The inclination to exclude them should embarrass those who support it.”
Wittenstein said the proposal went too far. “Most of us are in favor of limited government,” he said. “It is not your job to protect every resident on every street from every annoyance.”