Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Residential density in the City of Dunwoody
Monday night the Dunwoody City Council held a special called meeting to discuss the Comprehensive Land Use Plan that the residents have been discussing for about a year. Most of the discussions were centered around the future building heights and development densities of the Georgetown (Shallowford) and Dunwoody Village areas. These two character areas along with the most of the other character areas set maximum requirements that are rather low as a starting point so that developers will need to go in front of the council in order to go above those baseline thresholds.
For example, several members of the City Council wanted the suburban neighborhood density capped at no more than four units per acre which is about what most of the character area is currently built as and I have no problem with that being the basic standard. That being said, a quarter acre building lot will also price many people out of the Dunwoody market and it doesn't allow other housing types like cluster homes or custom craftsman homes on smaller lots. It is my belief that the city's housing stock should have various types and various lot sizes in order to offer a wider variety. For example setting the maximum density at four units per acre in the suburban neighborhood area wouldn't allow for the housing innovations that created wonderful subdivisions like Brook Ridge, Oxford Chase or the Briers North subdivision off Tilly Mill famous for their trick or treating. If we want to make Dunwoody a place where we can "age in place", doesn't it make sense to offer private home ownership where one does not have to cut a quarter acre of grass? I need to assure myself prior to Monday's scheduled vote on the comp plan that we have an over ride process in place to allow these types of housing innovations if deemed appropriate to do so.
The Georgetown and Village areas will be going though a Master Plan process that will take the Comp Plans 40,000 foot view and will then zoom in to plan those two areas almost block by block, therefore I am comfortable that the process put in place by the initial comprehensive land use plan, will be further refined to what the community wants.
What I am not comfortable with from Monday night is the area that has received the littlest attention yet may have the biggest impact on the city and that is the Perimeter Center area. Unlike the other character areas which list allowable zoning densities, this area does not; instead it only says our vision is to "implement and compliment the framework plan and projects identified in the Perimeter Center Livable Centers Initiative study (LCI) and it's five-year (2005) updates" as well "creating the conditions of possible true "live-work" environment, with a downward trend in the jobs-to-housing ratio from 6.2 in 1990, to 4.5 in 2012".
In reviewing the the text of the Comp Plan for Perimeter Center and comparing it against the literal reading of what is in the 2005 Perimeter Center LCI study, I believe that more safe guards need to be implemented to place the power to grant increased residential density to the city council vs an esoteric statement in the comp plan stating that we want to implement the LCI study, when the whole premise of that very document is promote the unbridled growth of residential density that we now want to control. The LCI plan has been very successful over the last ten years and I believe now is the time for the city to step forward before we rubber stamp this growth the way DeKalb County did previously.
Our second land use goal on the last page the Comp Plan for Perimeter Center talks about school capacity being addressed and working with the Board of Education, but to me that one line doesn't provide definitive protection against unbridled growth, therefore it is my belief that the entire Perimeter Center section of the Comp Plan needs to be revisited and reworked to put the power of proper development back into the hands of our city leaders and the citizens they represent.
To make it easier to follow what I am saying, I have trimmed down both the 2005 Perimeter Center LCI study and the current draft of the Dunwoody Comprehensive Land Use Plan to only include those sections that deal directly to Perimeter Center.
For the record, I do believe that Perimeter Center is the economic engine that drives the entire city, I consider myself pro-smart growth development and want to see a thriving area filled with offices, hotels, convention centers, retail and residential of various types but I also want to see parks, playgrounds, libraries, green space, and proper restaurants to serve their needs as well as schools, roads and transportation infrastructure that can handle the residential capacity. Is that too much to ask?
All that being said, I'm probably still not being endorsed by the Atlanta Board of Realtors?