The writing of a new zoning code for the Dunwoody Village Overlay is now underway following a June 29 community meeting where more than 60 people showed up on a sunny Saturday afternoon to hear more about proposed changes and provide input. The new recommendations include adding green spaces, reducing the parking lot footprints and, yes, allowing rooftop dining.
The city of Dunwoody hosted the meeting with TSW, the planning firm hired to lead the rewrite of the Dunwoody Village Overlay master plan originally created over eight years ago. The meeting was standing-room-only in a room at Vintage Pizzeria, located in the Shops of Dunwoody at 5510 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.
“It was a great plan, but it did not go far enough,” Community Development Director Richard McLeod said of the 2011 master plan. An update to the Overlay to be written into the city’s zoning code will ensure what future redevelopment will look like as part of the city’s vision for a walkable downtown district, he said.
TSW rolled out some of its recommendations at the June 29 meeting, including creating four zoning districts: commercial, office, residential and center. The districts would follow much of the same requirements on streetscape designs, for example, as included in the Perimeter Center Overlay.
Other proposed zoning regulations include general building designs to have flat roofs for rooftop dining. Required green spaces for all redevelopment is also proposed. One way to eliminate so much surface parking now in the Overlay includes the proposal to build parking decks designed as amenities into buildings. Doing so would likely require financial backing from the city.
TSW is also suggesting two spots for future green spaces – in front of the Fresh Market grocery store where now a parking lot is located and adjacent to U.S. Post Office, also where a parking lot now exists. Fresh Market’s current lease includes leaving the parking lot where it is, but if and when future redevelopment comes to the site, the zoning is there to require green space should the city decide to adopt the proposal as part of the zoning code.
A recommendation that received a hearty round of applause was to require all banks and credit unions be located at least one-quarter mile apart.
The Dunwoody Village Overlay district includes 165 acres at the crossroads of Mount Vernon Road and Chamblee-Dunwoody Road in the western part of the city. The area has long been considered the “heart” of the city and includes privately-owned commercial areas with restaurants and retail surrounded by residential neighborhoods.
The commercial areas are noted for their business having distinctive colonial architecture, known as the Williamsburg style which has been unique to Dunwoody for more than 40 years. The commercial areas also include several surface parking lots with no green spaces and different-sized streets and sidewalks that are not friendly to pedestrians or bicyclists.
Any changes made to the Overlay would have to get buy-in from the private property owners. Regency Centers owns the Dunwoody Village shopping center where Fresh Market and Walgreens are located while Brand Properties owns the Shops of Dunwoody where restaurants J. Christopher’s and a new Breadwinner Café & Bakery is opening in the former Wright’s Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe buildings.
Both restaurant and retail areas have few vacancies are making money for their owners, McLeod said. But writing new zoning regulations now is to plan for the future, he added.
“This isn’t a short-term plan,” McLeod said. “This is a long-term plan, but with all the pieces added up to make a difference.” He said another community meeting is expected to be held in the next several months after TSW takes the information gathered at the meeting and comes up with a proposed draft zoning code for the Overlay.
McLeod also said the city has been talking to Regency and Brand representatives and they were invited to the community meeting. He said they are currently in “mostly listening” mode.
The City Council last year asked staff to look at potential changes to some of the mandates in the overlay, such as architectural style and parking requirements, in response to requests from residents and developers wanting to create an updated look.
A survey of what residents wanted to see in the Dunwoody Village Overlay last year resulted in an overwhelming majority of the more than 1,800 respondents saying it was time to get rid of the Williamsburg architectural style.
In December, the City Council approved several zoning amendments to the Village Overlay in response to the survey, including removing the Williamsburg style of architecture as a requirement. Drive-throughs for new buildings were also prohibited.
The City Council then hired TSW for $98,500 to review and rewrite the Dunwoody Village Overlay zoning requirements.
After about an hour presentation by TSW at the Saturday meeting, many attendees took a walking tour around Dunwoody Village to look at sidewalks and streets to gauge how pedestrian-friendly they are. They noted how there are only painted stripes designated for bike lanes and looked at taped-off spots where TSW representatives showed where wider sidewalks and narrower streets could be safer.
“It’s like pedestrians are an after-thought,” Michael Rock said after crossing busy Chamblee-Dunwoody Road at Dunwoody Village Parkway. “It’s horrible and dangerous. They should design for pedestrians first.”
Barbara Petrecca was taking notes while standing in the parking lot of Marlow’s Tavern. They included wanting separate bike lanes from multiuse sidewalks and less parking at banks. She said she participated in the 2011 Overlay master plan and believed the city was still in the “infancy” stage as to determining what it wanted for Dunwoody Village.
Inside Vintage Pizzeria, attendees were invited to write notes on various boards and illustrations what they would like to see. Howard Wertheimer, a 25-year Dunwoody resident, wrote on a pink sticky note to “Add bike lanes” on a potential streetscape design.
It is time to make changes to Dunwoody Village that differ from what was outlined in 2011 by residents who had lived in the city for 30 to 40 years already and “everything was perfect for them,” said Wertheimer, who recently retired as institute architect at Georgia Tech.
“[T]imes change and now we have families here with young children … and people are looking at other newly formed cities and at City Springs [in Sandy Springs] and Alpharetta, and Dunwoody is getting left behind,” he said.
“We haven’t created our heart yet, but we have the opportunity to do now if we are willing to accept risks.”
To view materials presented at the June 29 meeting, visit the city of Dunwoody’s website by clicking here.