A parks master plan more than a year in the works offers no real specifics, no estimated costs and no priorities for proposed projects, leaving several members of the City Council to question its value.
“When I look at our current master plan [from 2011], I see a lot more detail,” Councilmember Terry Nall said at the July 10 council meeting, when representatives from Colorado-based Greenplay LLC and Atlanta-based Barge Waggoner Sumner and Cannon, formerly jB+a, made a presentation about the 157-page document.
“What we have here isn’t terribly specific,” he added.
Greenplay representative Pat O’Toole explained this specific master plan needed to be approved by the council so that the consultants could then create a detailed master plan for Brook Run Park. The Brook Run Park master plan is expected to come before the council this month.
“A master plan is typically a 50,000-foot look. It’s an update,” O’Toole said.
“So we need to approve this very generic master plan so you can move forward for the detailed Brook Run Park plan?” asked Nall.
“Yes,” O’Toole answered.
While the council approved the parks master plan unanimously, most members were not very pleased with the result.
“I think our, or my, expectations were not correct,” said Councilmember Lynn Deutsch.
Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker said the parks master plan as presented is “more of a department staffing management plan” and not a list of recommendations of capital projects, site plans and funding sources, as council members apparently were expecting.
Dunwoody Homeowners Association President Robert Wittenstein, during public comment, also voiced his frustration with the parks master plan.
“I’m really disappointed in the parks master plan. It cost us $100,000 … and it doesn’t say anything,” Wittenstein said. “The bulk of the plan is about process. There is no priority list. It’s fluff. It feels like we wasted a year.”
The council approved a $115,000 contract with Greenplay in late 2015, with several community meetings seeking public input beginning in January 2016.
A months-long battle over demolishing the theater in Brook Run Park delayed some of the process of developing the parks master plan. Also slowing the process a bit was the city’s decision to sell the Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields in Dunwoody Park to the DeKalb County School District for $3.6 million so the school district can build a new 900-seat Austin Elementary School on that property.
In exchange for the sale, the school district is transferring the current Austin Elementary School property to the city to use as it wishes, such as a park.
In the section labeled “An Action for Dunwoody,” the project list includes items such as continuing to develop pathways, sidewalks and bikeways and expanding them to connect to neighborhood parks; expanding the greenway system; considering land acquisition in the northeast and southwest parts of the city; and developing Perimeter Center East and Austin Elementary School Park properties.
The plan does include a conceptual drawing for the proposed new Austin Elementary park, but Councilmember John Heneghan cautioned against approving anything specific about that site because it has not yet been vetted by the public.
The parks master plan recommendations also include considering passing bond funding for facilities improvements.
To review the parks master plan online, visit https://tinyurl.com/y9sfe7qs.