A dog park, a treatment facility and a new city manager all made headlines this year in Dunwoody. Neighbors fought the proposed facility for teenage girls with eating disorders coming to a residential neighborhood, while the city council approved moving Brook Run Dog park slightly to save trees at the location. The council also late this year hired Eric Linton as its city manager to replace Warren Hutmacher, who left in April.
A home-based treatment facility on Manget Way stirs opposition
Neighbors fought against a California-based company, Center for Discovery, which purchased property on Manget Way with plans to open a home treatment facility for teenage girls with eating disorders.
In May, Dunwoody city officials said the company would file a lawsuit if not permitted to open, and a group of neighbors, backed by the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, hired a lawyer and appealed to the Zoning Review Board. They said they weren’t told about the plans and that the Center for Discovery should have been classified as a medical facility and not a “personal care home.”
The Zoning Board on June 16 voted 4-3 to sustain the residents’ appeal, and an appeal filed by Center for Discovery on July 11 said residents on Manget Way waited too long to challenge the city’s decision allowing the home.
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 personal care homes in single family areas as part of a sixth-month review of the city’s new zoning code. On Oct. 13, the language concerning the city’s proposal for “personal care homes” reverted to reflect the state’s description, saying medical care and treatment should not be included in a dwelling intended “to provide or arrange for housing, food service and one or more personal services for two or more adults not related to the owner unless the state would grant a license for such services.”
Neighborhoods in north and central Dunwoody were among those selected in January to be part of a study into changes in DeKalb County’s sanitation services, including a move to once-a-week garbage pickup.
The three-month pilot program included 28,000 single family households along more than 20 garbage pickup routes scattered across DeKalb to gauge opinions from customers from various parts of the county. While DeKalb County reported that most customers favored the savings that came with switching to once weekly pickup, others voiced strong sentiments about the quality of service and their preference to pay for twice weekly trash pickup.
City hires a new manager, its second
Dunwoody said goodbye to its first city manager, Warren Hutmacher, in April, and it took nearly eight months for a committee comprised of the mayor, three council members and two residents to choose Eric Linton as the city’s new manager. Linton was the unanimous choice out of five top finalists and 83 total candidates for the job.
On April 26, Police Chief Billy Grogan stepped up to the role of acting city manager for the remainder of the year. He said he is happy that Jan. 5 will be his last day as acting city manager, but he has learned a lot while balancing two full-time jobs. Grogan looks forward to helping Linton get accustomed to the job, before he heads back to running the police department.
‘Go west, MARTA,’ citizens say
Facing a possible 12-mile expansion of MARTA service north along the Ga. 400 corridor from the North Springs station, some Sandy Springs and Dunwoody residents pushed for the extension to run up the west side of the highway.
But it will be a while before that decision is made. “We haven’t decided which side of Ga. 400 we want to be on,” said Mark Eatman, project manager at MARTA, at an Aug. 19 presentation at Sandy Springs City Hall.
Eatman said a preliminary engineering and environmental study would be conducted before the agency can determine where the expansion might be located. That study would examine the impact on the rail extending on the west or east side, or even up the center of the highway.
Residents on the east side said that an expansion of that side would cut through schools and neighborhoods, and that a west side expansion would be more logical since more businesses and apartment complexes are located there.
Dog park has its day
Two years’ worth of struggle over the Brook Run Dog Park in Dunwoody came to a resolution when city officials and dog park enthusiasts compromised to save both the trees and the dog park by shifting it slightly.
On May 16, 2013, city officials presented two possible designs for a new dog park and asked people to pick their favorite and share any other comments they might have about the park. Parks and Recreation Manager Brent Walker said at that time the city would incorporate all the feedback into the final plan for the park, but a year later, in June 2014, Dunwoody City Council voted against relocating the dog park. They instead instructed Walker to investigate ways to shift the footprint of the current 4-acre park while staying near the edge of the Brook Run property.
On Nov. 10, City Council approved a new design for the dog park that includes shifting it just a short distance from its current location, and adding a quarter acre for smaller dogs on the east side of the larger dog park. This plan allows for rehabilitation of the soil and trees in the current dog park area, and a city staff stormwater engineer will make sure water runoff won’t adversely affect Nancy Creek.
City toughens building codes
In October, the Dunwoody City Council agreed to ask the Department of Community Affairs to review and comment on a proposed amendment to the current building code that would require metal or concrete frames for all buildings taller than three stories and more than 200,000 square feet in floor area. At the time, wood framing was allowed for structures of these dimensions. On Dec. 8, the council voted 6-to-1 to adopt the changes requiring commercial, office, apartment or condominium buildings more than three stories tall to be framed with noncombustible materials such as metal and/or concrete. The city had allowed buildings up to five stories to be built with wooden frames.
Dunwoody Village Parkway
Construction on Dunwoody Village Parkway was finally completed in 2014, with new trees planted all along the roadway. A “grand opening” party to commemorate the project is planned, but a date has not yet been set. The city received federal grant money to improve the road back in 2012, and plans for downsizing from four lanes to two drew some controversy because of the cost, but business owners and members of the chamber of commerce said they look forward to making the area more “walkable.”
The council voted 5-2 on Oct. 28, 2013, to approve the $1.6 million contract with Johnson Landscapes Inc. for the project, which produced strong opposition among some Dunwoody residents. The city budgeted up to $2.4 million for the overall project. City officials said they expected construction to take seven to eight months, and that they hoped it would be completed or substantially completed by July, in time for the Dunwoody Homeowners Association’s annual July 4 parade. Instead, work extended through October, and completion of the project was announced during a Town Hall meeting on Nov. 9, where Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch encouraged residents to patronize the businesses along Dunwoody Village Parkway again.
Treetop obstacle course
Mayor Mike Davis said in May that it sounded “cool” to have a company called Treetop Quest construct an obstacle course in Brook Run Park. A series of platforms installed around trees would be complete with zip lines, bridges, swings and rope ladders, the company said. Davis and two members of council visited a similar facility in Gwinnett County, and on May 27 they said they were impressed by what they had seen. The company, the American branch of a company that operates similar facilities in France, has offered to pay Dunwoody five percent of the facility’s revenues or $25,000 for use of the Brook Run trees. The group is doing some preliminary planning work onsite and anticipates a public opening in late March, Bob Mullen, the city’s marketing director, said.
Boyer out, Jester in
Elaine Boyer had held the seat representing the northern end of DeKalb County on the County Commission for years. Then, last summer, federal authorities accused her of pocketing county money. Boyer resigned, pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced in early 2015. Five candidates ran in a special election to succeed her. After a runoff election Dec. 2, Nancy Jester of Dunwoody, a former member of the DeKalb school board, won the job.