Saturday, February 27, 2010

City of Dunwoody Update by Councilman Robert Wittenstein

Dear Dunwoody Friends and Neighbors,

I've been spending time lately thinking about how much government regulation is the right amount and how much is too much.  There have been several proposals or discussions in the last few weeks about enacting new laws or tightening up existing regulations.   Not all of these have broad support on the city council, so many of these won't go anywhere, but some might.

Most of us worked to form the city of Dunwoody to improve the level of services and to gain control over zoning.  Now that we are a city we need to establish the right level of regulation.  Nearly all of us, me included, were in favor of new restrictions on bar closing times (from  4:00 AM to 2:00 AM).  But what about other restrictions?  Below is a list of several new regulations or increased restrictions that have been recently discussed:
  • Require all homeowners and businesses to display their street address so that it is easily viewable from the street.
  • Require all newly constructed single family homes to have sprinkler systems installed. (This is already a requirement for multi-family homes.)
  • Restrict people who live in subdivisions from parking their cars in front of their homes except for short periods of time.
  • Restrict the number of cars a homeowner can have in their driveway or visible from the street.
  • Make participation in the DeKalb recycling program mandatory.
  • Register, regulate and tax taxicabs and limousines that come into Dunwoody to pick up passengers.
  • Further restrict the times that a homeowner can have a landscape company working at their home or a construction company or roofing company can work anywhere in Dunwoody.
Which of these would you favor and which seem like government interference?  I've gotten enough e-mails on all sides of these issues to know that what seems like government tyranny to some is an important quality of life or safety issue to others.  What do you think?

On a somewhat related issue, next month the City Council will decide whether or not to allow Dunwoody homeowners to raise six to eight chickens in their backyard.  There are already half a dozen families with children doing this in Dunwoody and their chicken coops are attractive and odor-free.  The chickens are a kid-magnet in each neighborhood and the locally produced organic eggs are a prize in certain circles.  Sandy Springs, Alpharetta, Roswell, Atlanta and Decatur all allow small numbers of backyard chickens.  The Dunwoody Planning Commission recommended approval unanimously.  If you would like to learn more about backyard chicken raising check out this link.

Finally, I'm very pleased to report that we have been awarded a grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) as part of their Livable Cities Initiative of $80,000 to help underwrite the cost of creating a new master plan for Dunwoody Village.  The master plan will "develop strategies for transforming the area into a vibrant town center, including development of new parks, green space, improved commercial space, and traffic flow."  It is very exciting and I look forward to lots of community involvement later this year when we hold public meetings to help establish the vision.




Chip said...

With regard to your observations:

1. A resolution encouraging not mandating placement of clear address information.

2. Residential sprinklers should be optional, not mandated.

4. Keep the off-street parking limits enforced.

4. Driveway limits to how many cars? 3 or 4 max?

5. Everyone pays for recycling, participate if you want.

6. Nothing to do with taxicabs unless they originate (are based) here in Dunwoody.

7. Current start/stop hours are fine as is.


DunwoodyPoliceWatch said...

To Tom and the others I informed the new city was going to run us over, How many Dunwoody Yes people from the 4th of July parade are on my side now?

Dunwoody Mom said...

Are we approaching the slippery slope of intruding into the rights of our citizens? Who cares how many cars are in a driveway if they are not parked on the street?

IMHO, these are not the types of items citizens who voted for cityhood envisioned as being important. How do these address crime, school overcrowding caused by the unabated building of apartments allowed by DeKalb County, etc., that were the overriding reasons that swayed some of us to vote for cityhood?

Bob Fiscella said...

Robert raises the issues, which I appreciate. But what I also would appreciate is knowing how he, as well as the rest of the council, will vote on the issues.

I encourage all Dunwoody citizens to let the council know how they feel - by either emailing them, here on John's blog or even on my blog site at

It's important to let the council know how we feel. As Abe Lincoln said, "Government Of the People, By the People, For the People."

Bob said...

I am curious as to who on the council is raising these issues. What or who are the drivers behind these sometimes frivolous issues? The council seems to be looking for ways to legislate without cause and then spend HOURS at council meetings discussing the why’s and why nots.
It seems as if some neighbors get the ear of a councilman and that becomes the cause of the day.
We end up with bad proposals that are not well written and no one has studied as to unintended consequences.
For example, Councilman Shortal’s "work reduction hours" seems harmless at first glance, but a reduction of 6 hours a week in production time for a builder and a developer adds up quickly. May not be bad for one guy with a leaf blower on a Saturday morning, but take that code change and apply it to a crew building a house or building a development in Perimeter Center and you are talking hundreds of hours of lost man hours each month and thousands of dollars in costs.
The city is not a homeowners association and the Council and the City as a whole must be run for the benefit of the homeowners and businesses in Dunwoody. Contrary to what Councilman Shortal believes, he represents more than just homeowners. He and the council work for the 15,000 plus residents who live in multifamily dwellings, and ALL of the business in Dunwoody.
Silly things like, how many cars can you have in your drive way? Come on let’s focus on the real issues that have a real impact on life in our City. My wife and I had three daughters all living at home; we each had a car to accommodate our busy schedules. That is 5 cars. They filled my driveway for sure and every once in a while the kids had friends over and they parked in the street. Are you going to make that a crime?

Bob said...

who came up with Taxi Cab fees?
Charge them for driving into and dropping off fares.
Why don't we charge deivery trucks who are dropping off all the LCD TVs and home entertainment centers to the exclusive Dunwoody single fammily neighborhood.
CAn any one say money grab?

John Heneghan said...

Thank you to those who have already e-mailed me, I have a few more replies to write but let me post my comments here as well.

Robert raised a number of issues which were discussed in council within the last month and like he said many of these have little, if any support, therefore they may not be going anywhere. Council members are not allowed to discuss items away from the public eye therefore every once in a while an item is discussed at a work session to feel out the other members. Sometimes ordinances are drawn up based on the conversations had at the meeting and sometimes they die right there.

As far as the items brought up by Councilman Wittenstein, I am already on the record for the following items…

• Addresses should be encouraged for public safety but not a finable offense. The Dunwoody Police Explorers were doing this as a public service project a while back. I will look into it in order to see if it is still going on.

• I am against mandatory Fire Sprinklers for new single family homes constructed in Dunwoody, but am on the fence for single family cluster homes built close together.

• I am against any ordinance restricting on street parking.

• I am against any ordinance restricting driveway parking.

• I am against mandatory recycling since it is already available to those who want it. I would like to find a way to encourage apartment complexes and businesses to participate at a higher level since that is where I believe the biggest gains could be made at little or no cost.

• I am in favor of some oversight of the taxi cabs working in Dunwoody but as with all regulations, the devil is in the details.

A while back we had a taxi related issue come in front of us and in doing my due diligence, I compared taxi ordinances from what we originally adopted to that of our neighbors. What I discovered was that our regulations were vastly different from that of our neighbors of Doraville, Chamblee, Sandy Springs and many others.

Their regulations attempted to assure the safety and oversight of taxis operating in their city where as Dunwoody only attempted to oversee the companies physically headquartered within the City Limits of Dunwoody. The State of Georgia defers taxi requirements down to the City level and it appears to me that there is a hole in our regulations where we in the City of Dunwoody are deferring the safety of our citizens to other municipalities’ oversight (or lack thereof). Because of this, I asked for review of the language in order to assure that we had originally adopted was correct and proper. I have posted the various city ordinances down below to highlight the differences in jurisdictional oversight.

Dunwoody: A taxicab shall be deemed to be doing business in the City when its original terminus, that is to say, the place from which it operated and is subject to calls, shall be located in the City.

Chamblee: Any person shall be deemed doing business in the city under this chapter if such person is picking up passengers in the city and accepting or soliciting any consideration, charge or fee which is determined by agreement, by mileage, by the length of time the vehicle is used, or by contract for the use of any motor vehicle or other vehicle designed or used for the purpose of transporting passengers.

Sandy Springs: No person, firm, or corporation shall operate a taxicab in the city except in accordance with the terms and provisions of this article.

As far as the Backyard Chickens, I know this item will be coming in front of Council this month therefore I will hold judgment on the issue but let me say that I am looking forward to the presentations, discussions and public hearing. Thanks.

Mom99 said...

I agree with Chip on all the issues brought up by Robert Wittenstein.

Please don't let the City of Dunwoody become a homeowners association.

I have spoken to many friends and neighbors (at least 30 people)-I can't find anyone who cares about the chickens. Where are these people who want to limit our rights as property owners? I will never have chickens in my yard but I don't want to take that right away from anyone. I watch these meetings in disbelief-some guy votes against the chickens because his wife didn't want them...I don't want to spend my time going to meetings fighting for such petty things but I am afraid I may have to start attending.

I only wish that I could vote against Mr. Shortal. It seems that alot of these petty ideas are coming from his direction. Maybe we could find him a house in a very restrictive subdivision and then he would be happy...

Aleister Crowley said...

Yep, yep, yep, I had figured that if the conservative Republicans had their way in creating a city of Dunwoody, destroying anyone in their path with the slightest bit of sagacity like they did with Ms. Chambers (who ironically has the same initials as a martyr of my faith -J.C.-) that we'd end up with this fascist state, where the government is more worried about limiting the number of cars we can have in our driveways, whether we can park on the street, and whether I can build a wheelchair ramp on my back porch, ensuring that with my 1989 model Chevy I get ticketed for driving three miles over the limit (when folks driving BMW's and Mercedes go flying by unimpeded at close to twice the limit), than being concerned about establishing a good government of merit for all.

I agree with Mom9999, that this little city-hood experiment has become just a taxpayer paid self-righteous homeowners' association and hopefully this all won't morph into a vice-squad that is assigned to peek into our windows at night to ensure that no same sex stuff is going on.

But I have to say, that the more they continue with these imperious edicts or proposed dictates, it sure makes me look like the "oh so insightful one" when I stated I would never vote for city-hood for just these reasons (i.e. government enactment of exclusion and a upper-middle class coterie).

Sometimes you get what you ask for, and that's what 80% of Dunwoody residents are getting. Yipee!

DunwoodyMan said...

The DHA, Dunwoody Homeowner’s Association, is voluntary. City laws are not. Many within the DHA were not content with the faux power they had, so they pushed for cityhood in order to force their beliefs on everyone. Just as we shouldn’t want our city to become a homeowner’s association, be watchful that our homeowner’s association is not trying to become our city’s government. Some of the crazy proposals before our city originate with the DHA.

Wishbone Nolan said...

DunwoodyMan, You are the Man! My sentiments exactly!

Steve Barton said...

Do y'all find that there is something about internet anonymity that somehow makes folks be outrageous/uncivil in how they discuss issues and other folks' motives?

I was a City of Dunwoody supporter from the get go. I am a new board member of the DHA. I am not in favor of any of the 7 items shared by Councilman Wittenstein. I use my real name.

Eh, taxi regulation could be okay, we should keep an eye on whether there is a problem with the taxis entering our city from those other places. I haven't seen a problem myself.

I appreciate Robert thinking about what kinds/amounts of regulations we want from our city and sharing some of the ideas that have been voiced amongst the council.

The council members should be free to think about all kinds of stuff. And they should ask our opinions. My opinion is that there is no need to institute any subdivision-covenant-style restrictions citywide. Go way slow on that stuff.

And there is no need to fulminate about this.

Aleister Crowley said...

All I know is that Councilman Wittenstein is a good man.

Aleister Crowley said...

And Aleister Crowley is my real name; however, as I am not a looker (I pretty much resemble Neville Brand in "Birdman of Alcatraz") I do not post my picture.