Dunwoody City Council members and a developer clashed at the Feb. 8 council meeting over a proposed project to build 14 multi-unit buildings on two parcels on the east side of Dunwoody Village and just north of Mount Vernon Road.
Marian Adeimy, the attorney representing Lynwood Development, and City Council members debated for more than two hours about the development that calls for 79 townhomes on the 8.34 acres. Specifically, there was disagreement about constructing units with a certain number of master bedrooms on the main floor, known as master on main.
There are currently four 2-story office buildings on the site that date back to the 1970s with several small businesses located in them.
The Feb. 8 meeting was the first reading of the proposed development that is seeking to have the property rezoned for residential development and also to waive the Dunwoody Village’s Special Land Use Permit that requires new development add 6-feet of sidewalk to the already existing 6-feet of sidewalk. No vote was taken. A second reading and expected vote on the project is set for Feb. 22.
Dunwoody staff recommended the developer be mandated to construct 25 percent of the units with master on main, while the council seemed to be fine with 20 percent.
But Councilman Terry Nall said for the city to demand a certain number of master on main units be built went against a free market system. He offered a failed compromise by asking the developer to ensure the master on main be offered as an option on 20 percent of the units.
“My concern is we make this mandate and the market is not there and the units will be empty,” Nall said. “We are trying to dictate what the market is.”
Mayor Denis Shortal said the 20 percent mandate should be easy to accommodate.
“The Planning Commission said they wanted it to have 28 units, then staff said 25 percent. Now we’re down to 20 percent units. That’s 16 units. We have a lot of people here who want these units. That’s not unrealistic — 16 units for this entire city,” Shortal said. “If you build them, they will come. I’m locked on it.”
Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch said now was the only time the council would have to make requirements of the developer for master on main that she said were being requested by many senior citizens at public meetings she attended.
“This is our only bite at the apple,” she said. “I would rather take a lower percentage and make it mandatory rather than throwing out the mandatory. We are letting people down if we don’t require master on main.”
Adeimy said she understood the council’s concerns, but said it is hard at this time to determine if there will be high enough demand for master on main. She explained the town homes are to be for senior, active adults, such as empty nesters, who want to walk to and enjoy the amenities of Dunwoody Village. She said Nall’s option would be the acceptable.
Units with masters on main are wider units and would have to be built on the ends of buildings or all in one building, Adeimy added.
“We need flexibility,” explained Woody Snell, president of Lynwood Development. “What you want to do is build a unit that will sell. We hope to have entire buildings presold before we start building. But don’t force our hand. This is a slipper slope. Let the buyers determine what they want to buy rather than force us.”
“I understand what y’all have gone through, but we represent the people,” Shortal said.
Several members from the Dunwoody Homeowners Association and nearby Mount Vernon neighborhoods spoke to council and said they supported the proposed project after many meetings with the developer.
There was much discussion also about variances to the existing Special Land Use Permit for Dunwoody Village. The developer is asking, among other things, the required driveway length for the units be 10-feet rather than 20-feet and to reduce the sidewalk requirement from 12-feet and instead remain at the existing 6-feet, as indicated in the photo.
Most council members seemed agreeable to either 8 or 10-feet sidewalks rather than 12-feet.
“We don’t want to build a concrete jungle here,” said Shortal. “A uniform 6-foot sidewalk is more important than sizes changing [entering into different neighborhoods]. This is much more aesthetically pleasing than breaking [sidewalks] up into different sizes.”
But Steve Foote, the city’s community development director, argued in a memo that allowing the developer to not add 6-feet of sidewalk would be “short-sighted and adversely impact the development goals for this area.”
Below, the city’s SLUP for the Dunwoody Village area requires developers add 6-feet of sidewalks to the existing 6-feet of sidewalks.