A recent online survey shows 85 percent of respondents don’t want restrictions on the architectural style in Dunwoody Village, a strong indicator of changes to come to what many consider the heart of the city.

The mayor and City Council have pushed for changes to be made in the Dunwoody Village Overlay renowned for its mid-Atlantic architecture, commonly called the “Williamsburg” style.

Historical Concepts architect Clay Rokicki draws an illustration of various building types people say they want to see in Dunwoody Village while David and Lorna Sherwinter of Dunwoody look on. An online survey shows 85 percent of respondents would like to see a variety of architectural character in the Village area. (Dyana Bagby)

The Community Development Department attempted to erase most of the strict regulations that regulate such details as types of roofs and size of windows and doors, but backlash from the community to slow the process down and gain more public input was heeded, leading to the Aug. 25 daylong community open house.

A total of 1,812 people responded to an online survey conducted for the city by Historical Concepts, an architecture and planning firm based in Atlanta and New York. The results were released Aug. 25 at a community meeting at Vintage Pizzeria in the Shops of Dunwoody.

More than 1,000 respondents selected Canton Street in Roswell as what they would like to see in Dunwoody Village, making it the top pick of what they envision for Dunwoody Village. Brookhaven Village on Dresden Drive in Brookhaven came in second with more than 500 votes.

Other results include: more than 99 percent of respondents get to Dunwoody Village by car; most respondents believe Dunwoody Village is not very vibrant but want it to be; and 85 percent of respondents said they would like to see a variety of architectural styles in the Overlay.

dyana bagby
Community Development Director Richard McLeod talks to attendees at an Aug. 25 community meeting to discuss possible changes in the Dunwoody Village Overlay. (Dyana Bagby)

A final report from Historical Concepts including recommendations on what changes to make the Dunwoody Village Overlay ordinance is expected by the end of September and the Planning Commission will consider the changes at its Oct. 9 meeting. Plans are then to take the recommended changes to the City Council for approval in November and December.

The city is paying Historical Concepts approximately $23,500 for consulting on the Dunwoody Village Overlay. The cost covers meetings with staff, four meetings with different community stakeholder groups, the survey and survey analysis, and a final report for the Planning Commission and City Council.

At the Vintage Pizzeria meeting, several staff members were on hand, including architects drawing illustrations of proposed ideas

For Kevin Clark, principal with Historical Concepts, one sure thing the survey showed is Dunwoody has an “impassioned citizenry.”

A main takeaway from the survey is people don’t see Dunwoody Village as a “vibrant” place, Clark said.

“There are very restrictive regulations in place,” he said. “People want consistency, but also variety.”

The top four downtown areas people selected in the survey could not be built under the current restrictions in the overlay, he added.

Lorna and David Sherwinter with their 15-month-old son, Adam, at their feet, looked over maps and pictures of pictures of various downtown areas set up in a room at Vintage Pizzeria located in the Shops of Dunwoody.

The couple were among more than 100 people who showed up on Saturday, Aug. 25, to look over survey results of what people would like to see in the Dunwoody Village Overlay district as city officials ponder removing some of the strict regulations the overlay now has in place.

“We are in support of change, more variety in restaurants, a place to spend time outside,” Lorna Sherwinter said. “We spend a lot of money going to dinner in Chamblee, Brookhaven, Alpharetta. We’d like some of that money to stay here in Dunwoody.”

David Sherwinter said Dunwoody’s location in North DeKalb is better than the other cities they travel to for meals, shopping and simply walking around in various parks. But Dunwoody is not doing anything to keep up with the current trends, he said.

“The city with the best location is not the one doing anything to reinvigorate the architecture, businesses and culture,” he said.

Many people attending the community meeting also complained about the vast parking lots in Dunwoody Village and how it does not invite pedestrians to get out of their cars to walk around.

“We hate coming here because of the traffic,” said Catherine Baird, who has lived in the city with her partner, Milena Khlabystova, for 11 years.

“There are miles and miles of parking lots here,” she added.

An update to Dunwoody Village is overdue, Baird said, to attract newer businesses. One thing she does know, however, is this: “The last thing we need is another bank.”

“No more banks” is a common refrain when talking to people looking at making changes to Dunwoody Village. The current architectural regulations have made banks easy to build in the overlay.

Geri Penn, who has served on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and is an executive with the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, worked for many months on the original Dunwoody Village Overlay.

She said she liked the changes supported by a majority who took the survey — allowing flat roofs, large windows, green spaces and focusing on pedestrian access.

“There is so much asphalt and parking that is not used,” she said. “If we have a green area, that will make it easier for people to congregate and get to know each other.”

But bringing in “industrial” architecture without recognizing the city’s historic Cheek-Spruill House on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, known as the Farmhouse, is not something Penn wants.

“We need to protect what little history we do have,” she said. “Putting an industrial building across the street from the Farmhouse is an insult.”

City resident Jack Eubank acknowledged he prefers Dunwoody Village’s “Colonial” style now in place. He criticized the city in the survey for showing respondents various downtowns that have their own common theme. Placing a new theme or architectural style in Dunwoody Village will create a “hodgepodge” of buildings, he said.

“The common theme we have is what we are getting away from,” he said.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.