A controversial stream buffer variance needed to build two sports fields as well as a picnic and parking area at the back of Brook Run got the go ahead March 25 by the mayor and City Council.

The vote allows the city’s contracted developer Lose and Associates to encroach into the city’s 75-foot stream buffer to build retaining walls for the fields. The project also includes construction of a detention pond and two driveways, also within the city’s 75-foot stream buffer.

This illustration shows where construction of the two athletic fields at Brook Run Park would encroach into the city’s 75-foot stream buffer. (City of Dunwoody)

Total acreage affected is 0.66 acres, according to city officials. None of the construction will encroach into the state’s 25-foot stream buffer, they said. The projects are part of the $7.5 million Brook Run Park master plan approved by the city after public input.

Several residents living in neighborhoods adjacent to the park protested the variance because they said they feared flooding in their yards due to loss of natural habitat. Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker said about 200 trees would have to be chopped down for the fields, but by encroaching into the stream buffer the city ends up saving approximately 200 more trees.

Opponents to the variance also criticized the City Council for what they said was over-development of the city’s 110-acre flagship park and feared it would one day become “barren land.”

This image shows where the city’s 75-foot stream buffer is encroached as part of construction of a picnic and parking area that will be build adjacent to the athletic fields at the back of Brook Run Park. (City of Dunwoody)

The city’s decision in February to amend its zoning code to allow the council to rule on variances for city projects rather than have them go before the Zoning Board of Appeals was also questioned.

“A variance signifies something is amiss … and the ZBA provides a checks and balance system,” Rob Weir said during public comment. “In your zeal to establish a legacy park … you have [cast doubts] on your future credibility.”

Several people spoke out in favor of the variance, saying it was past time for Dunwoody to build multi-use athletic fields that could be used for league play for sports such as football, soccer and lacrosse.

In 2016, several parents began a loosely organized effort to rally the council to support and fund construction of a sports complex at Brook Run Park. Doing so, they said, would allow local children to play sports in their hometown rather than travel to play sports at Morgan Falls Park in Sandy Springs or Murphey Candler Park in Brookhaven.

The council also voted in 2016 to contract with the Chiefs Futbol Club to operate a soccer league for children ages 3 to 9 at the open field at Pernoshal Park – a first-of-its- kind sports program in Dunwoody.

Neil McNab, executive director of the Chiefs Futbol Club, spoke at the March 25 meeting and said the program has grown from 20 players to 100 players. The Brook Run Park fields would allow the local teams to keep playing in Dunwoody, he said.

Walker said when construction of the projects would begin is not yet known. The state’s Water and Conservation Commission is still reviewing the project’s erosion control plan that must be permitted before any work begins.

Dyana Bagby

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