Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Game Changer for Parks Bond?

There are two issues people have with one or both of the proposed bonds on the November ballot.  One is taking on debt.  Naysayers are concerned that council would spend the $33 million on land acquisition quickly.  Those naysayers had their suspicions confirmed at Monday night's city council meeting as Council and city manager revealed a tentative agreement to spend $19 million on 42 acres in southeast Dunwoody.  The $19 million, in addition to the potential 'hospital' tract purchase, puts 75% of the $33 million of the land bond in the 'spoken for' column.

The other issue some people have had with the bonds is the lack of specificity in the bonds.  Those wanting to see and hear more got what they wanted - 42 acres for sports fields.

Will this new plan be the boost pro-parks folks were looking for to get that 50% (plus one) of voters? or will it fuel the anti-debt crowd?  Which side will get their folks to the polls?

Here is the official press release:

Dunwoody Moves Forward with New Sports Field Complex
Purchase of 42 acre parcel contingent on parks bond passage

Dunwoody, Ga. - October 24, 2011 - The City of Dunwoody has concluded negotiations with Cortland Partners, LLC and plans to acquire 42 acres of land for $19,000,000 on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard for the development of a consolidated sports complex. The new sports complex would replace the existing 519 unit Dunwoody Glen apartment complex. In addition to the new sports complex, in the Letter of Intent, Cortland Partners agrees to demolish and redevelop the adjacent 266 unit Lacota Apartments Complex into owner occupied housing in concert with the development of the sports complex. The total site includes 63 acres and over 785 existing apartment units.

"This purchase sets in motion the accomplishment of many of the goals in our adopted Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan," said Mayor Ken Wright. "It provides us with adequate space for a much needed sports complex to meet the needs of our youth as well as freeing up Dunwoody Park for the expansion of the Dunwoody Nature Center."

Mayor Wright continued, saying, "The City regrets the need to displace residents (785 apartment units), however, in a built out environment like Dunwoody, we have found it challenging to locate a sufficient amount of vacant land for the athletic facilities desired by the community. The City will work with Cortland Partners on a transition plan for the current residents, which includes 560 school age children who are in the Dunwoody cluster; all current leases will be honored without the threat of early cancellation."

This purchase is contingent upon the passage of the Parks Bond for Acquisition (Nov. 2011).
If the referendum fails, the City will drop the contract without financial penalty.

City Manager Warren Hutmacher explained, "Combined with the 19 acres under contract on
North Shallowford Road, with this purchase the City has identified for the voters 61 acres of property that will be purchased if the Parks Bond Acquisition referendum passes. This deal provides an assurance to the voters for how over 75% of the bond funds ($25,000,000 out of $33,000,000) will be spent."

Mr. Hutmacher continued, saying, "The remaining bond funds will likely be spent on some smaller neighborhood parks and the acquisition of land for a Town Green' in Dunwoody Village. This purchase provides transparency for the citizens of Dunwoody; when the voters go to the polls, they will now know what properties will be purchased if they approve the Parks Bond Acquisition referendum."
an active park is planned for the 42 acre site, if the land bond passes

This is a simple rendering of a possible layout.  This is very early on to speculate what would be built (your next city council would decide that, should the bond(s) pass. But the intent is clear - a sports complex offering a variety of active uses.  This plan sends a signal that Brook Run would most likely remain a passive park.  It also sends the message that the ball fields on Roberts would be moved, and the newly proposed Nature Center expansion / playground plans move forward.
new Dunwoody Nature Center with new amenities and playground

What impact would this have on schools?  The city's press release indicates 560 school age kids reside in the apartments in the area the city wants to convert to a sports complex park.  Hightower Elementary would lose about 240 kids.  Peachtree Charter Middle School would lose close to 160 kids, and Dunwoody High School would lose perhaps 165 students, maybe.  Students could relocate with their families into vacant apartments in other areas of Dunwoody, or their families could purchase homes in Dunwoody.  Or, the students and families could relocate in Doraville, Chamblee, Brookhaven, who knows where. Some people will see this as a positive move to help relieve overcrowding at Peachtree Middle School and Dunwoody High School. 
Elem/Middle/High # enrolled 2009

The '193' area shows elementary school kids going to Hightower living in the apartments planned for a park
affected apartments feed into Peachtree Middle and Dunwoody High School

This press release, coming just two weeks before the November 8 election, is sure to increase the discussion of the land acquisition bond especially.  However, the 'improvements' bond could possibly be used to fund this purchase.  Both sides of the bonds issue have fresh information to spread among their supporters. 

Some people will be pleased to see nearly all the $33 million spent before a vote is cast.  They can identify with the projects and now know the intent of the $33 million.  Others will see this as a spending spree.

According to DunwoodyTalk sources, this property has been eyed for a long time.  A deal was reportedly in the works the past few months.  As the election approaches, the property owner was most likely motivated to ink a deal prior to November 8th. 

The Dunwoody Patch has a piece up on this already as does the Dunwoody Reporter.  Look for the Dunwoody Crier story here sometime today.

Rick Callihan


Sight Edman said...

<tongue location="cheek of my calinky mouth" style="planted firmly">
Ain't Dunwoody great?

"And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable..."

And who amongst us shall profit by casting off these offensive scum of the earth who are a plague upon our community and our schools?

You know who :)

waterman said...

Rick - all of these kids go to Kingsley Charter School as well as Peachtree Charter MS and Dunwoody HS. Two things - the City is binding the new Council to these purchases. Current candidates who will "thoughtfully consider" parks decisions don't have to worry much about where to spend the $$. Second, it is clear to the reasonable person that we are using the potential acquisition bond to push a significant amount of people out of the area that some in our midst deem "a problem." Incredible. BTW, great blog - enjoy your writing and reporting style. Keep up the good work!

waterman said...

Whoops, should have looked at the lines - Kingsley is unaffected, but the MS and HS still are.

Rebecca said...

Rick, what do YOU think?

"Some people will see this as a positive move to help relieve overcrowding at Peachtree Middle School and Dunwoody High School."