A long-standing court battle over park funds concluded May 26 with Dunwoody City Council’s approval of a $4 million settlement from DeKalb County.
DeKalb County will make a one-time $3.2 million grant to Dunwoody to be used toward the construction and development of the five-acre Dunwoody Renaissance Park.
Additionally, the county will grant $500,000 toward updating the master plan for parks and greenspace projects; and the county will grant $300,000 for construction of a great lawn at Brook Run Park.
According to city officials, $11.5 million was promised for Brook Run Park to DeKalb County voters in 2005 as part of a $96-million bond package. The county spent $4 million on the park, city officials said.
Councilman Doug Thompson thanked the commissioners, lawyers, mediators, Lee May and “everybody who was involved in this” for coming together and approving the agreement. The council approved the agreement unanimously.
“This was a long, hard-fought battle that took its toll on everyone,” Thompson said.
Mayor Mike Davis called the settlement “the right thing at the right time.”
“The alternative, I’m afraid, was a much longer and much harder fought and not necessarily a better settlement than we got so we’re moving forward for certain,” Davis said.
The check that will arrive soon from the county will “put to bed” the lawsuit with DeKalb County and allow Dunwoody to invest in its parks, the mayor added.
Councilman Denny Shortal said he isn’t usually the kind of person to settle.
“We were owed $7 million dollars,” he said, but he added that the lawyers convinced him that accepting the deal and moving forward would likely be the best outcome.
He said it boils down to an all-or-nothing situation where waiting for the full amount could result in getting nothing at all.
“Do I like it? No, I don’t,” Shortal said. “I think it’s the best that we could do at the time.”
Councilman John Heneghan said getting the money to pay for projects the city had planned makes the approval worthwhile. “We’re going to be standing side-by-side with our DeKalb County commissioners to open those parks,” he said.
DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester said in a press release that finding a taxpayer-friendly settlement and avoiding a costly lawsuit had been a priority for her since joining the Board of Commissioners.
“In just a few short months we worked together and turned an issue which had divided the county and city into a win for the taxpayers,” Jester wrote. “The approximately $4 million will be spent on specific park projects that will both, improve the quality of life for residents of DeKalb County and enhance property values.”
As both a citizen of the city and the county, Heneghan said the situation is win-win for everybody involved.
“This is a glorious day,” Heneghan said. “We’re done suing each other with our own money.”