Sunday, October 25, 2009

City of Dunwoody Update by Councilman Robert Wittenstein

Dear Dunwoody Friends and Neighbors,

Like a good Shakespeare play, occasionally some side plot will momentarily ellipse the larger story and take center stage.   This month’s “side plot” is about a new and growing trend of raising backyard chickens as pets, and for the eggs they produce. Most of Atlanta’s cities have passed ordinances that allow this practice on a small scale. Dunwoody has not yet. There are several families in Dunwoody who are keeping 4-6 chickens and they would like the practice legalized. We are, of course, talking about hens, not roosters, so these birds are completely quiet; no cock-a-doodle-dos. I am supportive of allowing Dunwoody residents to do this legally.
It can be tricky looking at individual issues and trying to see broad patterns, but I think I begin to see a larger philosophical question emerging around the role of local government. It seems to me that there is a continuum.   At one end of the spectrum is, “The city should protect me from any potential annoyances from my neighbors” and at the other end is, “We don’t want a lot of laws enforced that infringe on our basic right to live our own lives.” I guess it is the ‘neighborhood covenant’ argument on a larger, government, scale. How much do we value Suburban Sameness versus Diversity and what is the government’s role in making sure that residents are protected from potential nuisances?
I phrase it this way not because I think chickens will be a nuisance, but because there is another issue working its way through the ordinance process. There is a potential effort to make it harder for the elderly or developmentally disabled to live in a personal care home in a residential neighborhood.   Today our code allows a state-licensed personal care home with up to six adults in a residential neighborhood. There are several of these personal care homes operating in Dunwoody today. I would like to believe that we would welcome these residents into our neighborhoods—not just out of compassion but because of the rich diversity they bring. I would also like to believe that I can grow old and infirm and be welcome in Dunwoody. On November 10, the Planning Commission will consider whether we should have restrictions, or require a Special Land Use Permit be granted by the City Council, before one of these homes can be opened in a residential area in Dunwoody. I am deeply concerned about adding any new restrictions. The meeting is at City Hall at 7:00pm.
Our Comprehensive Planning process continues and we need more involvement from residents. We have two meetings coming up to look at defining our 10-year development roadmap for Perimeter Center and Dunwoody Village. The Perimeter Center meeting will be this week, at City Hall on Thursday October 29 at 7:00pm. The Dunwoody Village meeting will take place at Dunwoody United Methodist Church on Tuesday, November 3rd at 7:00pm. Please come and give us your views on how these areas should change and develop.  We will hold meetings in January to look at other areas (Georgetown and the Shallowford Road area, Tilly Mill, Jett Ferry and Winters Chapel).
Finally, I am excited that Dunwoody is becoming the center for so much community activity. The Dunwoody Community Garden is off and flourishing at Brook Run, the first Tour de Pink (a bicycle ride to raise awareness and money for breast cancer survivors) took place last week at Perimeter Mall, our first-ever Dunwoody Fall Festival was Saturday, and plans are underway for a new Dunwoody Arts Festival in the spring. This is a great time to live in Dunwoody!
Robert Wittenstein
Dunwoody City Council
Upcoming  meetings:
Thursday, October 29    7pm    Perimeter Center Comprehensive Planning meeting  
Location:  City Hall

Tuesday, November 3    7pm    Dunwoody Village Comprehensive Planning meeting  
Location:  Dunwoody United Methodist Church

Thursday, November 10 7pm   Planning Commission meeting
Location:  City Hall

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think we'd be wise to consider the larger philosophical question sooner rather than later. This larger philosophical picture will shape the positions that each of us takes on an issue and will help form the perception about Dunwoody to the greater Atlanta area. I would like Dunwoody to be known as a place that is forward-thinking, compassionate and values diversity. I would like Dunwoody to be a place that has enough regulations to support a quality of life that is peaceful and tolerant, but not so many that we feel like we live in a police state.
And, by the way, I am in favor of allowing small numbers of chickens around a household, and even more importantly, creative housing solutions to allow the elderly to live in a comfortable setting, many of whom have called Dunwoody home for many years.