A small pond in Dunwoody’s Perimeter Center area, once home to geese, turtles and other wildlife, has been drained by the property owners in favor of a parking lot.
Some residents, including City Councilmember Joe Seconder, want to relocate the pond’s wildlife. But, they said, they were blocked by Branch Properties, the company that’s building a “Perimeter Marketplace” shopping development near 500 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, which is set to include an anchoring grocery store, restaurants and other stores.
The project was approved 6-1 by the City Council in June 2019. City Councilmember Tom Lambert had the lone “no” vote, saying it was a “car-centric development, not people-centric.” Opponents at the time also had concerns about draining the pond. Before Seconder was elected to the council, he spoke out against the construction project during a May 2019 public comment session and on his personal blog.
Residents say the stormwater detention pond, located at the corner of Meadow Lane and Ashford-Dunwoody Road, is a natural oasis in the heart of an area without much green space left. The pond was drained sometime during the first week of August, according to Dunwoody residents’ Facebook posts about the pond. Construction started in the last week of July, according to the city of Dunwoody.
“I thought that it contributed to the wellness of the community,” resident Nadya Dhadiala said about the pond. “People were happy to be there — to see it, walk, observe and just be there.”
As a runner, Dhadiala said, she enjoyed running the sidewalks around the pond and seeing the wildlife, but now the area is a construction site with a few small puddles where the water once was.
Seconder, saying he was acting as a private citizen, organized a Facebook event at the end of July to get volunteers to come and brainstorm ways to help relocate the wildlife. But he cancelled the event and posted that the developers would not allow the relocation, citing safety and environmental concerns.
Corblu Ecology Group President Richard Whiteside, whose company is working as an environmental consultant for Branch Properties, said the company advised against relocating the wildlife at the pond.
Water in the pond comes from road runoff, which could include pesticides, chemicals or oil and other materials, Whiteside said. Because of that, he said, the animals could have diseases that would spread by relocating. The water also may have animals that are not native to Georgia watersheds, which would introduce invasive species into different areas, he said.
Branch Properties did not respond to requests for comment.
Resident Hannah Wildner said she thinks the developer is “hiding behind” the consultant’s evaluation of the wildlife relocation because there hasn’t been proof that the animals are actually diseased.
“There’s a lot of turtles and amphibians that, in the process of the pond being drained, are crossing Ashford-Dunwoody and getting smushed,” Wildner said. “They’re leaving to find another habitat, and they need help moving.”
Wildner and resident Lisa Foust said they don’t understand why the developers couldn’t allow volunteers to come help move the wildlife because it wouldn’t be a significant stall in construction.
“It’s a really simple request,” Foust said. “It should not hold up the project, and it’s the right and humane thing to do.”
Because the pond has already been drained, the residents fear it’s too late to really help the animals now. Dhadiala said she hopes it’s a lesson for the next development that the council should do more to preserve green space and wildlife.
Dhadiala said she was a little worried about the pond when she first heard about the development in summer 2019 but thought that “somehow it will all get sorted out by itself.” Foust and Wildner said they didn’t know about the development until construction started a couple weeks ago.
“Generally, I understood, but I never witnessed,” Dhadiala said. “It’s looking at it in the eye and looking at the ugliness of it that really turned it over.”