Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal on Sept. 20 held his second town hall since being elected to the post.
Some 50 people attended the town hall held in the chapel of Dunwoody Baptist Church to hear the mayor discuss everything from Brook Run theater to tax abatements to Austin Elementary School.
The topic raised most often by those in attendance was the City Council’s recent vote to accept bids to demolish Brook Run theater. Shortal voted was the only to to vote against awarding the bid. He said the six council members who voted in favor — Lynn Deutsch, Terry Nall, Doug Thompson, Jim Riticher, Pam Tallmadge and John Heneghan — will explain why they voted they way they did in emails.
“Everyone knows where I stand,” Shortal said. “We’re a democracy and votes were taken. In a democracy, majority rules.”
Shortal said the city’s new parks plan will be considered without the theater in the plans. No firm date of when the building will be torn down was given. He also said there are no plans to replace the building with another performing arts center or community center.
“The cost of a building like that is quite high … and not in our budget,” he said. The Stage Door Players theater at the North DeKalb Cultural Center may be enhanced or expanded in the future, Shortal said.
Other topics discussed included:
• Shortal was asked why the city offers tax abatements and incentives to corporations like State Farm to build in Perimeter Center through the Dunwoody Development Authority. Shortal said the companies bring jobs, economic development and funds into the city. And, he said, if the city didn’t provide the incentives then DeKalb County would do so through its own development authority.
“Then [the city] would lose control of what’s going on. If we did not provide tax incentives, the DeKalb County will grant it,” he said. He said a new law is being worked on in the state legislature to prohibit county development authorities from granting tax abatements in incorporated cities that have their own development authorities.
• The $20-$30 million proposed Westside Connector to connect Ashford-Dunwoody Road to Perimeter Center Parkway will have to be paid for with government funding, Shortal said, because there is not enough money in the city’s budget to pay for it.
• Shortal said he could not discuss the future of Austin Elementary School because the issue is a real estate matter protected in executive session. State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), who attended the town hall, said the issue really needed to be addressed.
“What we have are two governmental entities arguing over if they want to swap property,” Millar said. “I think this issue needs to be resolved. If the city is not going to do anything, then the city should come forward and say something.”
Discussions have taken place between the city and DeKalb School District over where to build a new Austin Elementary School. The current school is located on Roberts Drive and talk is that a new school is proposed to be built in Dunwoody Park where the current Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields are located.
Jerry Weiner, president of Dunwoody Senior Baseball, said in April he was told the DSB leagues would be relocated to Peachtree Charter Middle School in the DeKalb School District. DSB opposes that location. Weiner also said he was told it would cost about $3 million to relocate the fields but that the city did not want to pay any money toward that expense.