Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Green Way Discussion at Dunwoody City Hall

Dunwoody Parks and Recreation director Brent really knows how to throw a party.  Tonight the council chambers were packed.  Standing Room Only.  I knew it would be crowded, but the attendance exceeded my expectations (and obviously city staff underestimated as well).  Being fair to city staff, this meeting was bumped up a month or so and not really other options available to the city to set up a meeting on short notice. In many small towns council meetings are held in school cafeterias and auditoriums, but since we do not have our own school district having a city meeting at Peachtree Middle or Dunwoody Elementary School seems out of the question.  I don't think Dunwoody and DeKalb Schools have many intimate conversations with each other.



Anyway, back to this big Green Way love fest tonight. The room was packed, it was very warm, and people were vocal.  About 50 people could not even get in the room.  I think the room has about 200 chairs, so I put attendance at 450 people.  A few disgruntled residents left at the start of the meeting and headed to Mellow Mushroom, home of fresh hot pizza, cold Hoegaarden on draft, and the most generous  coin-operated Drop-the-Claw/Stuffed Animal game in north DeKalb County.

The meeting started with Warren, our city manager, giving a slide show presentation.  To put it gently, the slide show was not a hit with many of the residents in the room and will not be made into a musical by the Stage Door Players.  I even think the Magic Vertical Map presentation had more fans.

Warren kept his cool during the presentation and kept things professional.  Even though he had numerous interruptions he politely asked the crowd to hold questions until the end.  I know it's a hot issue for many, but we need to respect the guy when he has the floor.  You may not agree with his message, but at least let him speak. He said he would stay and answer questions after the presentation and he did.  I left at 9 PM and he was still there.  He conversed with residents and shared his thoughts.  He stayed until everyone was gone.

Part of the meeting tonight was a written survey and the famous put-the-colored-dot on-the-poster game.




 The name of the game above is called 'Place  a RED Dot in anything that looks like a Green Way'. The audience did quite well, with a few risk takers using GREEN dots.

There are a couple of ways to look at this proposed Green Way Multi Purpose Path.  The first view is from the homeowners who actually own the dirt where said green way is proposed.  For the most part, these people want nothing to do with this project.  I think that message has been delivered.  They own the land, don't want others walking on it, and sure don't want a bike/walk path on it.  End of story.

Can the city pay them for the land?  Yes, but I really doubt we'd get enough takers, and oh yeah, the city doesn't really have any money.  They first need to take it from 50,000 residents, then distribute it back out again.  Let's say there are 220 homeowners along the pathway.  $25,000 per homeowner?  $5.5 million.  Oh wait, the city actually only needs half the people.  Let's make it $2.25 million for land acquisition. $35,000 per homeowner?  $3,850,000. (I don't know how many homes along the pathway, just guessing so don't call me out on the figures until I can get a number).  Maybe 20 of the homes are rental properties? Would those be easier to acquire land from for the pathway?  Would the 98% of residents not eligible for the city sponsored land grab approve of paying out big bucks for the land?  Would they approve of the method?

How does a non-power line dweller feel about all this?  Some people I talked to love the idea of having a path connecting us to Gwinnett and Morgan Falls.  Of course they probably also have a mint-condition copy of the Communist Manifesto by their bed, with highlights of their favorite planks and one of those colorful 'Change' bumper stickers.

I have spoken to others who really would enjoy biking across Dunwoody, across GA 400 to Morgan Falls for a baseball game (since Dunwoody does not have youth baseball fields), but understand and respect property rights.  Some of these same people think the city should put a price out there and let people decide one house at a time.  And there are others out there who say 'no way' do they want their city using force to take land.

Let's get back to the meeting.  City staff had two huge color maps off to the side,  Residents were asked to draw school attendance lines for elemen.... never mind; that was some other thing I heard about. Something to do with schools and lines and roads and proximity and other stuff.

So there were two large maps.  Use markers to mark your property (or mark someone else's property if they were  (a) not looking (b) in the bathroom (c) at home watching 17 Again on Cinemax, starring Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, and Leslie Mann (d) enjoying a freshly made pizza at Mellow Mushroom while sipping a frosted mug of Hoegaarden)

Let's just say they had to run over to Office Depot for another box of red markers.  On parts of the map it looked like an Austin Pre-K art project gone awry.
Not sure, but I think this part of town may be a tough sell.  
The War Room
A few 'Greens' were present and accounted for
Far western part of power line, crossing Spalding into Sandy Springs and GA 400








So now what?  At the next meeting I expect Council to pull this project out of the Parks Plan.  A majority will vote for a bond to improve Brook Run and other parks and to acquire land for new parks.  Keeping the green way in jeopardizes the plan.  Green Way gone, Frisbee golf and bocce ball in.

Now all you folks that came out tonight - stay involved.  Lots of volunteer opportunities in the city.  Attend Monday night council meetings.  Eat at Village Burger.

Here's a story from the Patch on this topic.  The Patch article shows a little more anger than does my simple blog post.

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