City officials are contemplating changes to the Dunwoody Village overlay zoning district as some business owners are unwilling to meet the strict zoning requirements.
As the economy has improved over the past few years, businesses are asking to locate in Dunwoody Village, city officials say. But current restrictions on construction and renovation are keeping out some of those businesses, business owners say.
Community Development Director Steve Foote is recommending the City Council amend some of the zoning requirements in Dunwoody Village to make it easier for new businesses to locate in the area, which city officials want to be a town center.
“I think all of us want the village to be a shining star of Dunwoody that is not in the Perimeter Center … to represent the traditional Dunwoody,” said Councilmember Terry Nall at the council’s Jan. 23 meeting, when city staff presented the amendment.
“This area is very special to the history of Dunwoody … and this amendment is meant to be a Band-Aid,” Nall said.
Dunwoody Village was designed to be a walkable area with a distinct Williamsburg architectural style with brick exteriors and to attract people to the area with restaurants and boutique shops.
But height limits and restrictions on renovations of existing space in the current zoning overlay, for example, force developers to spend time and money seeking special land use permits from the council. Overlay requirements for The Shops of Dunwoody force businesses to build closer to the street, but there is no available street frontage, said Mike Lowery, who owns property in Dunwoody Village.
Lowery described the current Dunwoody Village Overlay mandates as “vague and confusing” and said they were “stifling economic development and driving away businesses.”
“This leaves property owners with no option but to bring in retail slum like you see on Buford Highway,” Lowery said.
In a memo to the council, Foote outlined proposed changes for the overlay that include:
● Relaxing the size of a building addition that can occur without triggering full compliance (increases the cap from 10 percent to 25 percent of floor space). This would allow a former bank drive-through to be repurposed/enclosed for commercial use (such as dining area) without requiring a full tear down or a SLUP application to avoid compliance.
● Increasing the exterior construction/remodeling cap from 15 percent to 25 percent of a property’s assessed building tax valuation.
● Defining a new interior renovation threshold cap of 50 percent for “partial compliance” and 75 percent for “full compliance.”
● Defining a new interior remodeling threshold cap of 35 percent for “partial compliance” and 50 percent for “full compliance.”
● Adding definitions for “renovations” and “remodeling activities.”
● Specifying that calculation formulas do not include amounts invested for interior or exterior Americans with Disabilities Act and life safety improvements, or unpermitted work such as painting or flooring replacement.
● Clarifying that calculations apply cumulatively over time and for all buildings on the site, not to individual occurrences or structures.
● Adding a provision for the city’s Community Development director to determine appropriate site improvements for achieving “partial compliance” without requiring a SLUP application.
No date has been set on when the council will vote on the proposed changes.
City Councilmember Lynn Deutsch said this summer she and other council members received probably 500 emails from residents concerned about the kind of businesses going into Dunwoody Village.
“I want to encourage modernization,” she said. “While I want Dunwoody Village to be a town center, we have to be careful not to be stuck in a different time.”
Deutsch said she envisioned the area being similar to downtown Roswell or Alpharetta.
Lowery said tenants have come to him saying that if they can get a letter from the city promising it won’t “cause problems,” they would like to locate in Dunwoody Village.
“I’ve had this happen to me over and over. Our only choices now are used furniture and consignment stores,” he said.
Robert Wittenstein, president of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, asked the mayor and council to be wary of approving vast changes to the zoning overlay.
The DHA was on the front end of designing Dunwoody Village nearly 20 years ago, before the city was incorporated and the plans were put in place to create a livable, walkable, community center, he said. Allowing developers to make the call on what should be built in the village may not be the best route, he warned.
“I ask you resist the temptation to raise limits and continue to ask developers to come before you. We almost always grant the SLUP,” he said.