The Dunwoody City Council conveyed city-owned property near the Park at Pernoshal Court to an Atlanta-based developer on Nov. 9.

In doing so, officials addressed claims that the city has improperly paid property taxes on the 7.5 acres of land it handed over to John Wieland Homes, the home builder behind a master-planned redevelopment effort.

According to city officials, the company has owned the property since 2018, and paid the property taxes ever since.

Dunwoody partnered with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods in 2011 for Project Renaissance, an urban redevelopment plan poised to revitalize 35 acres of land in the city’s Georgetown area with new housing.

Wieland built 68 homes on 16 acres just west of Shallowford Road as part of the agreement and has now turned its sights on a gated community with 35 homes to be built on 19 acres next door to Pernoshal Park. The subdivision, dubbed The Enclave at Dunwoody Park, is advertised as part of the John Wieland Collection and offers 4- and 5-bedroom brick homes starting at $700,000.

But according to city officials, the developer couldn’t begin building those homes until the city officially deeded the property to them.

The council did just that, unanimously approving a quitclaim deed that granted three contiguous parcels to John Wieland Collection. The three properties are: 5.7 acres at 4575 North Shallowford Road; 5.4 acres at 1959 Pernoshal Court; and 3.2 acres at 2030 Pernoshal Court.

“It’s a little confusing because this should’ve happened five, six years ago. This cleans up the ownership record so everything is clear.”

DeKalb County Property Appraiser records show the city acquired two of the parcels in 2012 and took ownership of the third in 2013.

Ownership for the smallest parcel, about 3.2 acres, quickly shifted to the city’s Urban Redevelopment Agency shortly after the city purchased it in 2012. The URA is the panel that has overseen Project Renaissance.

The other parcel the city purchased in 2012 is 5.4 acres of largely undevelopable land, much of which will be used as a passive conservation area. That property was deeded to a JW Collection subsidiary in December 2018, the property appraiser’s website shows.

Pernoshal Park is situated on the third 5.7-acre parcel, which straddles North Shallowford Road. The property for the public park was transferred back to the city.

JW Collection plans to build the gated residential community on 7.5 acres that encompases all of the 3-acre parcel and portions of the two others, city. Economic Development Director Michael Starling said in a Nov. 10 interview.

According to a Nov. 9 memo from Starling, the developer purchased the property from the URA in 2018 and the URA conveyed it to Wieland’s company via two limited warranty deeds.

But the city was still the listed owner on record for all three parcels and DeKalb County has continued to tax the city for the property. According to county Tax Commission records, the city paid nearly $48,000 in property taxes for the parcels over the past three years. The most recent such payment from the city on Sept. 30 was $15,897.

Starling said JW Collection actually paid the taxes for 2020, 2019 and the portion of 2018 for which the company owned the property. He said residents emailed city officials, asking if the city had been mistakenly paying property taxes.

During the council meeting, Mayor Lynn Deutsch addressed the emails, one of which was shared with the Reporter. In the message, a resident alleged the city was still paying the taxes dating back to 2012 and would be handing the property away to JW Collection without any compensation for the tax payments.

Starling said that his team checked the tax rolls and property records and found that was not the case.

“When these properties were purchased originally, the finance team determined that they were not going to be used for governmental purposes,” he explained. “So they decided at that time that they were taxable. So we were going to be paying taxes on it regardless of whether this deed had been done correctly in the past or not.”

Deutsch acknowledged the assessments shown on the Tax Commission website, and agreed that the city paid property taxes up until 2018, when JW Collection took ownership.

“Are we paying property taxes or is Wieland paying us back for the property taxes?” Deutsch asked Starling.

“Wieland has paid the property taxes and they are receiving the bills from this year as well as from now on,” Starling responded.

JW Collection has already started developing on the acreage, installing residential roads, street lighting and other infrastructure. But the developer must record a final plat for the subdivision before it begins construction of the homes planned there. That couldn’t be done until the property was properly conveyed from the URA to correctly acknowledge the chain of ownership.

Now the tax rolls will correctly list the developer as owner of the property, according to city officials.

“Starting with the next one, the names of the bill should show up in Wieland’s name instead of ours,” said Assistant City Manager Jay Vinicki. “Historically, they’re always going to be in our [name] for those years. They paid those three years…and that’s where it stands now. This quitclaim deed reflects the previous and the initial purchase. It clears that part up so that the change is correct.”

Matt Bruce

Matt Bruce is a writer based in metro Atlanta.