The Dunwoody City Council has included $50,000 in its 2020 budget to pay for professional services it may need to mitigate the impact on property owners along the path of the planned I-285 top end toll lanes.

The council voted unanimously to approve the city’s $39.5 million budget for 2020 at its Oct. 28 meeting.

The budget includes $420,000 for the city attorney’s office. A line item sets aside $150,000 for litigation services. Of that, $50,000 was originally earmarked for legal action that may arise from the Georgia Department of Transportation’s plans to construct elevated toll lanes along I-285 bordering the Georgetown community.

Councilmember John Heneghan asked for the earmark in case the city disagreed with GDOT’s environmental impact study it is conducting as part of the massive road project. The money could pay for the city’s own environmental study, he said.

But listing the $50,000 within litigation services limits how the money could be spent, Councilmember Lynn Deutsch said. She recommended the $50,000 be moved to the professional services line item to broaden the scope on how the money could be used. With the money in professional services, for example, it could be used for traffic services to lessen the impact on those living near the future toll lanes, she said.

Deutsch said GDOT’s recent announcement it was delaying construction of the I-285 top end toll lanes has resulted in difficulty getting more information on the project. GDOT has not revealed where the lanes would go near Georgetown and what right-of-way it might need, including any possible property takings.

“GDOT has turned inward and is not sharing information,” she said.

GDOT announced Oct. 7 that toll lanes on Ga. 400 and top-end I-285 will come one to four years later than expected – opening between 2027 and 2032 — in a newly revised construction schedule. The changes came from construction industry input on the scale of the work and better phasing to allow time and attract bidders to smaller-sized pieces of the project.

Deutsh, who is running for mayor, has been outspoken in her opposition to the top end toll lanes adjacent to the city’s Georgetown community. The community includes the Kroger-anchored Georgetown Shopping Center near the Chamblee-Dunwoody Road interchange. The Dunwoody Pines Retirement Community and the Ashford Academy school are adjacent to the shopping center.

To the west of the interchange and on both sides of the interstate are dozens of single-family homes on such roads as Old Spring House Lane and Brawley Circle. They are separated from I-285 only by a thicket of trees. When the trees are bare, motorists driving along I-285 can readily see the 40 townhomes of the Chateau Club townhome community.

The 50-year old Georgetown Recreation Club is just dozens of feet away from I-285 and separated only by a fence and a small cluster of trees.

Along with revising the construction timeline, GDOT also reworked the I-285 project sections. The local part of the Perimeter toll lanes now falls into two large sections named East Metro and West Metro, with Ga. 400 in Perimeter Center as the dividing line. The East Metro project includes I-285 between Ga. 400 and Henderson Road, as well as that section of Ga. 400 south of the North Springs Station. The West Metro project includes I-285 between Ga. 400 and Paces Ferry Road. There are no changes to the boundaries for the Ga. 400 project north of North Springs Station.

The toll lanes project is separate from the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange reconstruction project that is currently under construction. That project, known as “Transform 285/400,” began in 2017 and is expected to wrap up in about a year. However, the toll lanes would run through the interchange area and connect with it. Especially on I-285, the revised toll lane schedule means the Perimeter Center area would see virtually continuous heavy construction on highways for 15 straight years.