A six-month moratorium on multi-unit building applications, permits and construction is now in effect as city officials say they need time to review the city’s fire safety codes and ordinances.

It’s unclear how the moratorium will affect Grubb Properties’ proposed 20-acre mixed-use development in Perimeter Center that includes 900 condominiums or the long-dormant High Street project that would include 400,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 3,000 residential units. High Street’s developers attended a Nov. 19 special called City Council meeting where the moratorium was approved.

The moratorium comes after House Bill 876, dubbed the “wood bill,” went into effect on July 1. The bill prohibits local governments from banning wood-framed buildings that otherwise meet state building and fire codes.

The new law erased Dunwoody’s 2014 ordinance that required commercial, office, apartment or condominium buildings more than three stories tall to be framed with noncombustible materials, such as metal or concrete.

Mayor Denis Shortal said HB 876 was “maybe a small part” of the council’s decision to issue a moratorium on multi-unit building applications and building permits, but the main factor for doing so was safety.

GID attorney Woody Galloway, far left, speaks to Mayor Denis Shortal at right following a Nov. 19 City Council special called meeting where the mayor and council voted to put a 6-month moratorium on multi-unit building applications and permits. (Dyana Bagby)

“We’ve been working on this [reviewing fire safety codes] for three or four months … with the county fire marshals, to try to make sure our codes are where they need to protect not only our citizens but also the citizens who visit and work in Dunwoody,” Shortal said.

The special called meeting for Nov. 19 to approve the moratorium immediately was requested because the city was not finished reviewing the codes with county fire officials, he said.

Shortal said even before state law was changed with HB 876, the city had agreed it was time for a review of its fire safety ordinances “because we had some idea our codes were not up to snuff.”

Councilmember Terry Nall, who spearheaded the 2014 ordinance to prohibit wood-framed buildings over three stories tall, said in a written statement the moratorium is not tied to the “wood bill” or any possible future development.

“It’s a breather for Dunwoody to very broadly assess and ensure, in conjunction with the county fire marshal, that the city has the correct codes in place as a public safety review,” he said.

Attending the Nov. 19 council meeting were representatives from Boston-based developer GID and their attorneys. They did not speak publicly to the council.

GID owns the High Street site at Perimeter Center Park and Hammond Drive, where they have proposed a 42-acre mini-city that has been on paper for more than a decade. GID filed a land disturbance permit application for High Street in March, according to a city spokesperson. It has not been approved.

When Amazon announced last year that Atlanta was one of its 20 finalist cities of where it was considering building its second headquarters, GID submitted the High Street site to the state to be part of its Amazon bid.

Amazon announced Nov. 13 that it is splitting its new headquarters between New York and northern Virginia.

Why GID was attending the council’s meeting is unknown. GID attorney Woody Galloway declined comment, as did GID’s Vice President of Development Jeff Lowenberg. They did huddle with and speak to Shortal after the meeting. Shortal declined to say what they spoke about.

The High Street property, which borders Sandy Springs, currently includes several office towers, including the home of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and a vacant area across the street from the State Farm regional headquarters under construction. The AJC’s occupancy is another question mark, as parent company Cox Communications has reversed a plan to relocate its newsroom to WSB-TV.

Just the first phase of the High Street development was proposed to include a 30-story residential tower, a 12-story office building, two seven-story residential buildings, two eight-story residential buildings, a 12-story residential building and several three-story townhouses. All residential buildings would have ground-floor retail.

Total residential units in phase one would include 500 apartments at more than 552,000 square feet and 75 condominiums at more than 237,000 square feet. Retail space would total 130,000 square feet and office space 250,000 square feet.

GID representatives visited the Dunwoody Homeowners Association in 2016 and said they hoped to break ground on the massive “vertical-urban” project in 2017 and possibly be finished by 2020.

Grubb Properties is slated to go before the City Council next month to seek rezoning of about 20 acres on Perimeter Center East, where the former city hall was located. The developer’s proposed plans include building 900 condominiums, 500,000 square feet of new office space, approximately 12,000 square feet of retail and nearly three acres of green space.

Dyana Bagby

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