Tuesday, March 6, 2012

City of Dunwoody update from Councilman Denny Shortal

My fellow citizens ... the following are some items of interest ....

1. Zoning Rewrite .... As you know we hired a firm in 2011 to rewrite our zoning ordinance. In my opinion, this is the number one priority in our city for 2012. Among other reasons of why this is important is that we must align our Zoning Ordinance (ZO) with our Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), Georgetown/Shallowford Master Plan (GTSMP), Dunwoody Village Master Plan (DVMP) and Transportation Master Plan (TMP) so that ZO will withstand any possible future legal challenge. I, and others, have been pushing to have this completed by the end of 2012. The rewrite itself is scheduled to be completed by that timeline. However, by time the rewritten ZO is vetted (public hearing, council meetings, etc.) it will probably be the first quarter of 2013 before the final draft is approved by the City Council. It is very important that each of you stay involved in this process. The attendance at the initial public meeting was a little disappointing. In addition to public meetings, of which there will be more as time goes on, you can go to our city website — www.dunwoodyga.gov — and on the right side of the home page you will see a green box with the statement "Zoning Code Rewrite Project" in red lettering. Click on that box and on the next page click on "Zoning and Land Development Code Rewrite." In the middle of the next page as you scroll down you will see a box with "Patch" written in it .... click on the box and you can view the presentation and issue discussed at the initial meeting. You can also sign up to receive updates as updates become available. At the last city council meeting a Citizen's Rewrite Sounding Board, with membership, was approved. In our march to city hood "Zoning" was the number one reason given by our citizens of why they wanted to become a city .... so please stay involved in this most important project. 

2. Storm Sewer Fees .... At the last city council meeting the Council voted to raise the annual "Storm Sewer Residential Fees" from $48 to $69 .... this is a $21 or 44% annual increase. This fee is shown on your annual property tax statement. Most of you know I am a strong proponent of low taxes/fees. IMO, spending money boils down to needs vs wants ... and storm sewers are a basic need. We have estimated that storm sewers would be our largest financial liability. Since we completed the inventory of all our storm sewers we now know it is the largest financial liability of our City. Concerning this increase, my question was is that large of an increase needed. The one thing I want to try to avoid is having to come back to the citizens for another increase. I am hoping that by fixing the worst storm sewers first we can stay ahead of the curve. Most of our storm pipes are a corrugated metal pipe (CMP) which has a life span of 30-35 years.  A lot of our storm sewers are approaching that life span. As we replace or resleeve where possible our storm sewer pipes we will be using a new pipe made out of a thick hard plastic-like material or concrete pipes where necessary ... both of these pipes have a greatly increased life span vs the CMP. We will be asking to put this pipe material as a requirement as part of our zoning code rewrite ... this will effect any future development or repairs of storm sewers. Some of you have ask about the sewer fee we pay to the County ... that is for sanitation sewer which is part of our water bill ...… the storm sewer is for water run off from the street, water ways, etc., and is a totally separate system from the sanitation sewers. 

3. City Way Finding/Information Signs Project .... In this year's budget in included $150,000 for new city way finding signs. These include new street signs, information signs, directional signs, etc. This is a multi-year project and I voted against this budget item because there is not a total cost figure for this project to completion. In other words, we know how much we are going to spend this year but do not have a figure for additional cost in the out years. That being said, the Council voted 5-2 to proceed with the Way Finding Project and I will work with members of the Council to implement the project in the most efficient manner. One thing that should be mentioned is that many of our current signs do not meet the new guidelines for size, illumination, etc. We have had a meeting with the firm that is doing the design work and they have taken the Council and Staff's inputs and will be coming back with some basic design/color schemes incorporating our inputs. Hopefully we will have something to show you in the near future at a council meeting. If all goes well, the first new signs will appear sometime late this fall.

4. Executive Session Leak… Executive sessions (ES) are closed meetings use to discuss sensitive issues such as legal matters, personnel and real estate. To go into ES a motion must be made and passed by a majority of the council.  Only the council members and essential personnel are allowed in ES. Everything said or done in ES in confidential information. Anyone breaking the confidentiality of ES maybe subject to disciplinary action by the Council. The leaking of the proceedings of ES can be a financial detriment to the city and/or be a cause for possible legal action against the city. It seems somewhat apparent that one or more individuals may have leaked information of the proceedings of the City Council ES that was held on 3 FEB 2012. The Mayor and City Council has hired Mr. Bob Wilson to investigate the circumstances behind the leak of information from the 3 FEB 2012 ES. I support this investigation. 

5. Weather Sirens .... I am a strong supporter of the installation of weather sirens. After my personal conversations with the Director of Emergency Services after a Level 5 tornado hit his city of Joplin, MO last year I have become a bigger proponent of sirens. As a history lesson Dunwoody actually had sirens until the early 1980s when, I am told, the sirens were sold by DC to Cobb County. Sandy Springs has recently installed sirens and are now going thru the testing phase. The sources of their funding were grants from Federal Emergency Management Agency, Georgia Emergency Agency and their own local funds.  We applied for grants in 2011 but were not successful. We will apply again this year for grants to help fund this project. IMO, severe storms and tornadoes are the number one risk factor of causalities for our citizens. I will continue to "push this ball down the court." In the mean time the following is a system set up by DC (Code Red Emergency Alert System) for weather alerts .... you will note there is action required by you to participate. I think it is definitely worth considering but I would not rely on it as your sole source of hazardous weather information ...… 

The DeKalb Emergency Management Agency is rolling out the next level of this high-speed notification system — called Weather Warning – that will let emergency officials to contact residents in the path of key pending weather events to provide critical warning.That is, of course, if you live in the county and enroll in the newly enhanced Code Red emergency alert system. “With this enhancement, DeKalb County citizens can receive telephone messages moments after the National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm, flood or tornado warning that has a projected path for a certain area,” DeKalb Public Safety Director William “Wiz” Miller said. “This will allow recipients of the alerts more time to prepare and take precautionary measures.”
The targeted nature of the system, Miller said, will reduce false alarms and unnecessary alerts.
Basically, the enhancement calls only registered users in the area projected to be affected by the storm.
Miller pointed to a recent tornado alert outside the county that threatened to skirt DeKalb’s northwestern corner.
“With Code Red, we send out prepopulated messages to all users,” he said. “That’s 240,000 citizens that we notified in that particular storm. Some people didn’t get the notification until after the storm warning had been canceled.”
If the Weather Warning call is missed, an 800 or 866 number is left on call waiting, and users can dial that number to hear the latest weather-related message.
Prior to the upgrades, the system was used to communicate anything from boil warnings, missing child alerts or traffic advisories to police suspect searches or community-wide health hazards.
While the Weather Warning option is only able to make automated phone calls, other Code Red alerts can send emails, text messages or make calls to home or cell phones.
But to use any of the free services, DeKalb residents and businesses must be signed up. And current Code Red users must register to use Weather Warning.
To register, go to the county website (www.co.dekalb.ga.us) and click on “Code Red” under “Emergency Alerts.”
The site will provide the option of adding Weather Warning and allow you to choose alerts about tornado, flash flood or severe thunderstorm warnings -- or all of the choices.
Those without Internet access who want to register can call 770-270-0413 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

6. Safety Issues .... 
Issue # 1 ... Recently I was going to the ATL Airport at about 0530. As I was driving on Mt Vernon Rd, in the vicinity of Dunwoody Station, in the dark I came upon a runner on the road in dark clothing with no reflectors, lights, etc. on. Folks that is not very smart. I know the human body is tough but it is no match for a 3,000 lb. car. If you have to run or bike in the dark pls. light yourself up like a Christmas Tree with lights, reflectors, etc..
Issue # 2  ....  As I run (if you can still call what I do running) and bike thru the neighborhoods, I notice many homes w/o the name and/or address on the curb in front of their home or on the mailbox located on the street. I know the emergency vehicles have a GPS system but what if the GPS fails or it is a very dark night, etc? I highly recommend that each of you check to ensure you have your address on your street mailbox or on a sign using illuminated paint on the curb in front of your home. 

7. Security Issues .... 
I encourage each of you to get to know your neighbors and set up a system where you can watch each other's house when one of you are gone from your residence. If you see something that doesn't pass the "smell test"... than call 911 ASAP. No matter how many police officers we have they can't be everywhere at once and we are their extra eyes and ears. Preventing crime in our City requires all of us to stay vigilant. 
Solicitors .... Any solicitors that come to your door, with the possible except of scouts and local school kids, must have a permit from the City to solicit. If they don't have a visible permit then call 911. Even if they have a permit I would recommend you do not let them inside your home to use the bathroom or whatever. We had a situation recently where a solicitor ask the resident to use the bathroom and then helped themselves to a few of the residents valuable items. 
Car Security ... REPEAT ITEM ... During a recent 16 day period we had 22 cases of "larcenies from vehicles." These vehicles all had items of value in plain view for the thief to help themselves. In addition to the pain of losing the items and a broken window/door lock for the owner these incidents use valuable time that our police officers could use patrol our streets to enhance the safety of our citizens. A theft can be in and out of your vehicle in a matter of a few seconds. Pls. be vigilant and keep all items of value out-of-sight in your vehicle ... please pass the word! 

8. Elections .... Today Tuesday - 6 MAR 2012, is the Presidential Preference Primary. You will have to select a Democratic or Republican Ballot and then vote for the candidate of your choice for the ballot you select. Voting will be at your normal polling location and the polls will be open from 7 AM to 7 PM. A lot of our relatives, friends, neighbors and fellow Americans have paid the supreme sacrifice to earn us the right to vote .... so please exercise that precious right/privilege. 

9. Walk to School .... This Wednesday, 7 MAR 2012, is a Walk to School Day in Dunwoody. Parents and students are urged to walk to school that day .... and every other day when possible. I will be walking with the Austin School parents and children and we will be departing from the Mellow Mushroom in the Village at 7:30 AM. See you all there. As a safety note, everyone please be aware that there will be large groups of our parents and children walking to all our city schools that morning. 

10. Stay Informed .... I ask each of you to stay informed as to what is going on in our City. I recommend that every few days you go on our city website .... www.dunwoodyga.gov ... and check the calendar (it can be selected from our "Home Page"), etc. for what is going on. Come to meetings when ever you can ... City Council (2nd and 4th Mondays of the month @ 6PM & 7PM respectively), Zoning Bd of Appeals (1st TH of each month @ 7PM), Sustainability Commission (2nd TH of each month @ 7:45 AM), Community Council (2nd TH of each month @ 7 PM) and Planning Commission (2nd TU of each month @ 7 PM). Contact your reps or if they are not available contact any one of us on the Council. Come to public hearing ... these are conducted in an effort to stay transparent and to keep you informed. Your input is sought. 

11. That is about all for this evening/morning. Please pass this on to all your friends, neighbors, members of your HOA or anyone else you think maybe interested. If anyone would like to be added to my email list please let me know and I will make that happen. Thanks for your continued support of our city ... as well as your personal and collective involvement. All of you make all of this worth doing.

Let Us Continue To Build Our City Together

Denny Shortal
Dunwoody City Council, District One, Post-1
Mayor Pro Tem
PH (O) 678-382-6700 (C) 678-246-9006


Joe Hirsch said...

Point number 4, regarding Executive Session needs clarifying: Discussing real estate is not legal in ES - except when it is to discuss AQCUIRING property. Thus, as the leaks have apparently informed us, the ES that is referenced above was a violation of GA law and I applaud the leaker. Swapping or selling land are conversations that must be made in public, and the city’s attempt at skirting the law is shameful. Those in attendance of the closed meeting should face the citizens and admit the city was wrong, rather than look for a scapegoat.

Hire_A_Veteran said...

You know that above Joe Hirsch is a pretty insightful guy. Seems to be just the type of gadfly our community needs to keep this current de facto single-party city government in check.

Wise Acre said...

Holy hell is Dunwoody Leaks @DunwoodyLeaks too funny!