Why a City of Dunwoody
In the decades to come, will Dunwoody be the kind of community to which our children (or grandchildren) will want to return to raise their children?
Neighborhoods, schools, churches, and caring, family oriented neighbors. These are the things that make Dunwoody what it is -- things we should work to preserve and make better.
Who will be the better stewards for our community in future years? The CEO and county commission? Or neighbors whom we elect to serve as mayor and city council members?
If the latter, then we should incorporate to take control of our own destiny – to shape our own vision for the future.
A related question worth pondering: How would Dunwoody be different today if we had incorporated ten years ago?
Government Closer to the People. Smaller, more responsive, government is better. It is closer to the people. The CEO and each commissioner serve 700,000 and 140,000 residents, respectively. DeKalb is larger than six states. The mayor and each council member will serve 40,000 and 8,000 fellow Dunwoodians, respectively.
City Limits. Tentatively, the city boundaries are 285 to the south, the Fulton line to the west and north, and the Doraville city limits to the east (i.e., homes in unincorporated DeKalb west of Peachtree Industrial Blvd.).
City Services. Dunwoody will take over zoning, parks, code enforcement, police, roads, and fire. Dunwoody pays more for these services than the county spends. A new city would keep the revenues currently paid to the county. There will be no “duplication” of services.
The county must continue to provide these services for up to two years after Dunwoody starts to operate. This allows time to plan.
County Services. The county will continue to provide other services such as water, sewer, sanitation, courts, sheriff, and health department.
Feasibility Study. We are raising funds for an independent feasibility study by the Carl Vinson Institute at UGA. The cost for a full study will be $50,000. The study will project revenues and expenses. Expenses depend on the level of services desired.
Taxes. The city charter likely will cap the millage tax rate. It could be raised only by referendum.
Partner With Sandy Springs. The two city councils could work closely together and partner for the delivery of services, allowing the larger Dunwoody community, including the Sandy Springs “panhandle” along the river, to remain cohesive. We could also contract with the county to buy services from it.
Parks and Green Space. Dunwoody contributes about $4 million per year. For every $5 we contribute, we get about $1 back. That’s why Dunwoody voted 75% against the recent bond referendum. A City of Dunwoody could have opted out of the referendum. On the downside, some fear that the county might withhold the $11 million pledged from the bond referendum.
Dunwoody would negotiate to buy Brook Run and the Nature Center, just as Sandy Springs is now buying parks from Fulton. Dunwoody could create new parks and green space. For example, for several years we have looked for a way to build a natatorium. A city could make it happen.
Zoning, Congestion, and Overcrowded Schools. The explosive growth of apartments continues. A developer could tear down older office buildings in Dunwoody Village and build apartments without further review. Meanwhile, the county commission is pushing low-income housing to be built in Dunwoody.
The result is congestion and overcrowded schools. For example, Austin is already well over capacity at 680 students and the BOE projects the population at 1,369 in seven years. The other elementary schools have similar projections. If these projections are correct, Dunwoody will need four new elementary schools, not one.
The county is not working to abate the growth. The county has failed to close the zoning loophole that allows 5 story apartments to be built without review. At the last DHA meeting, an attorney for a large apartment developer presented plans for another 330 apartments on Ashford Dunwoody. The attorney is a law partner of one of the county commissioners.
Police. The precinct on Ashford Dunwoody serves one fifth of DeKalb. The officers there spend a disproportionate amount of their time outside of Dunwoody. Dunwoody pays for more than it gets. The City of Dunwoody could choose to increase staff to reduce response time, address speeding (particularly in school zones), or simply create a safer environment.
Support for Community Organizations. The City of Dunwoody could support organizations such as the Stage Door Players, the Spruill Center, and other new community organizations.
Home Values. City residents will see increased home values as a result of the city’s efforts to preserve and improve our family oriented neighborhoods, schools, and churches.
Time Line. With republican control of the governor’s office and the general assembly, we have a window of opportunity that might close with this November’s elections. We are considering the following timeline: (a) pass a city charter this spring, (b) complete the feasibility study by July 2006, (c) conduct a referendum in late 2006 or early 2007, (d) elect city officials in July 2007, and (e) start operations in December 2007. This timeline allows sufficient planning time in accordance with recommendations from Sandy Springs representatives. During this time the county would continue to provide all services.
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