Monday, May 24, 2010

Tonight is the Public Hearing on the Dunwoody 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan

City Council Meeting
Tonight @ 7 pm

Dunwoody City Hall
41 Perimeter Center East

Tonight the City Council has a full agenda but half way though the night we will be holding a public hearing on the Comprehensive Land use plan that we as a City have been discussing for the last year.  Countless meetings have been held, surveys taken, e-mails written & read and now that the comp plan has passed the committees of the Community Council, Planning Commission and the Comp Plan Steering Committee; the ball is now in the court of the City Council. 

Last week I raised a few questions in a post as to the amount and density of residential units that the comp plan would allow in the Perimeter Center.  I wasn't comfortable with the language in the current draft because we were relying on standards set in the 2005 Livable Centers Initiative report which encourages unbridled growth of residential units in the area without any consideration of public infrastructure.  I suggested to modify that section to lessen the reliance on that report and I received a number of comments from various people that stated that my suggestions would be setting the City up for lawsuits and stagnation.
Comment 1: The overwhelming majority of the comments stated "No Growth" quite emphatically. Unfortunately, that doesn't work as the people will come and we won't have planned for it because we prefer to stick our head in the sand and the politicians will be all to glad to follow. In the end we won't have "No Growth" or "Smart Growth", just growth by lawsuit.
To answer comment 1, I did hear that a majority of the residents wanted little or no growth, especially in the apartment arena.  Within the next 20 years as this report tries to plan for, I am sure the number of apartment units will be going up while the number of single family homes will remain fairly consistent.  My concern is over the language of the LCI report which pushes for unbridled residential growth without any consideration of infrastructure, greenspace or amenities to serve those residents.  I am asking if this 20 year plan, written as it is, allows an open development checkbook for residential high rises much the way the O&I loophole allowed the construction of five story apartment complexes without any oversight?  If that is the case, now is the time to address the issue. 
Comment 2: Your conservative approach and fear of the LCI is somewhat misplaced.  While an additional 5,000 apartments will be opposed by everyone, we must make sure that Perimeter is allowed to grow as it will be our only way to grow the revenue within Dunwoody.
To answer comment number 2, after reviewing maps of Perimeter Center and the full 2005 LCI report, the item that jumped out to me was that almost all of the residential development except for a few town homes happened on the DeKalb / Dunwoody side of the lines.  Maybe DeKalb has already done our fair share of implementing the LCI residential plan in Perimeter Center for a while and we should now focus on other uses for the Perimeter area like hotels, Class A office space and mixed use (with the appropriate mix of uses) that will serve the city residents and the business community well. 
Comment 3: I'd be in favor of all the development possible in the PCID if they addressed the stress this growth will put on schools. All it would take is for the PCID and its corporate members to form a committee to meet and plan with the DeKalb School Board. If they show some effort of wanting to be proactive in regards to school capacity, I'd support them immediately.
I'm told we aren't suppose to tie zoning issues to school capacity or location yet it is my belief that the LCI study which talks quite a bit about transportation failed to take into account the current and future school locations as it relates to those increased transportation needs.  Maybe someday these issues will be resolved by the DeKalb County School Board adding another school in the area or by some other means but until then schools alone can not be a deciding factor.

A neighbor said that impact fees were drastically needed for the impending large developments near the mall and though they can not be used for schools, they can be used for amenities to the residents and business that would be joining our fair city.  Based on a chart found on the GA Department of Community Affairs website, DeKalb County currently has impact fees for Roads, Parks & Rec, Public Safety and Libraries, therefore the city should start exploring these options soon.  I also found and enjoyed a Master's Thesis written in 1995 by Ms. Patricia Toner, the wife of Mike Toner the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist from the AJC which discusses the history of impact fees and even mentions the growth of Perimeter Mall.

Pattie Baker and Rick Callihan also wrote a blog posts regarding their observations of the comp plan and tonight's impending meeting.  Please check them out, read the comp plan and possible amendments and just maybe I will see you at the meeting tonight.


silverlining said...

Thanks for the blog and the thoughtful comments. While my comments are indeed critical of the comp plan, that doesn't mean that I am not still a huge fan of you or any of the dedicated individuals who spent countless volunteer hours on the plan. My main issue is that any time you are undertaking a large and INFREQUENT task, the first task should be to look for similar and successful examples. I only have to read the comments to the plan to know it is a failure. Harsh words. Its conclusions and recommendations may be 100% correct, but if the public comments are overwhelmingly "no growth", then it cannot succeed. The council should make the difficult choice of starting over and coming up with a plan that starts with the assertion that there will be growth (which is clearly referenced in the existing appendix) and this new plan is to maximize the positives. The decision to restart will be much more difficult than actually implementing it. The public must be brought on board or we will have growth by lawsuit AND accusations of the board being beholding to developers no matter how conscientious gentlemen like John are.

As to the comments that development cannot be held hostage to schools, I believe that is an oversimplification. You can most assuredly deny an application if it poses an undue burden or nuisance on others, including overcrowding of schools. As a govt entity, you cannot fail to plan for growth (including schools) and then continually deny developments for something you have failed to plan for. One of the primary reasons that zoning laws are constitutional is to allow communities to plan. If you abdicate that responsibility, you don't get the right either.

Farmer Bob commented that the Perimeter must be allowed to grow to maximize revenue. I agree, but think the wording is dangerous. The Perimeter should be allowed to grow to maximize economic development. Gov't are not in place to maximize revenue (I know; you could have fooled me), but to serve the public. My point is that the COD will be undermined in their efforts if the public perceives it is just trying to increase revenue and power.

PCID is a group of businesses. As such they rightly are concerned with things that are good for business. Increased property values, improved traffic, etc. Things like schools and parks; not so much. They can accomplish some things better than COD, but need to be regulated when it comes to impacts on schools. They have proven their ability to deal with traffic issues in my mind.

Developed areas grow up and out. If the Georgetown area is not allowed to change, the Perimeter area will be forced more up and possibly more to the south and west and maybe even north. The Georgetown area is a huge opportunity for COD, but I am not sure that the residents can be sold on any change. If I were mayor, this would be my #2 priority right behind a strategy for improving the public schools serving the COD.
Short term, I would immediately sit down with Perimeter College and develop a comprehensive traffic plan. This does not seem that difficult to me. The longer the situation is allowed to continue, the more COD will face constant opposition from residents to any attempt at economic development.

Bob said...

The City does not lose control. It retains review and approval over every single rezoning and has great discrection in aprroving or modifiying individual zoning request. The comp plan should encourage all developer s to come forward, with a blank slate to work from. Council and staff then deal with the details at the zoning level
John you information is wron on Impact Fees,DeKalbe does not have them
My comment about growth and revenue was not just for the PCID, but for the reveune the city will need to in the next twenty years.

To all the no growthers out there who want no change, who pays for future needs ans services? How many of the no growthers will cream at the mention of higher taxes in the future.

folks keep confusing the issue of growth with the school system. whether it is the college or DeKalb, the best we can do is sit and talk, but dont hold your breath on any great cooperation.

Finally, why is this item once again buried in the MIDDLE of a large agenda. By the time each council member get s done speaking ad nauseum about every isse and person cause, hald the audience will be gone and other will just not bother showing up.

Staffs attention to this has been awful. The single most important item in front of this council and we seem to bury it in fronto of the very council that has the final say.

John PLEASE make sure that each of your and council red lines are reviewed, that Public discussion is help over each.