Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Do You Want Your Dunwoody Neighbor to be a Grief or Sex Counselor?

The Dunwoody City Council is working on the monumental task of rewriting the Zoning Rules for Dunwoody.  The issue is huge and complex, and a boring read for most people.  But scattered throughout our city are people who like to dig deep.  Lots of people have worked on this issue for over a year.

Dunwoody Working Girl is very passionate about Work-from-Home issues.  She was on a committee that helped write the proposed changes, changes that can affect everyone.  I applaud her passion and it's great she volunteers.  Go HERE to read her recent post.

I agree with a lot of her points.  But when it comes to zoning I believe in The Worst Case Scenario.

One of the allowed occupations Dunwoody City Council is considering to allow is that of therapist.  Counselors are also okay to operate in a home, in a residential neighborhood, right next to you and your kids.

Here's a story from not too long ago about a lady doing counseling in her home.  Another story discussed a similar situation whereas sex offenders were being counseled daily, in a residential neighborhood.  If council does not act to change this, there is nothing to stop this from happening on your street.

Imagine making a few pitchers of lemonade, carrying a Little Tikes table and chairs to the curb, then having your kid and a friend sit out front and sell lemonade.  Ten or so customers driving up to buy lemonade, all sex offenders.    Oh yeah, the 10 sex offenders a day are going to park next door at your neighbor's house and get their therapy from your neighbor.  City Council won't allow me to have chickens in my backyard or park an RV on my property line, but my neighbor can run her therapy business from her home in the cul-de-sac.  

So, the question to council: Do you want your neighbor to be hosting sex offenders all day?  How about having a mental-health therapist next door?   

What if word gets out that Dunwoody allows sex offender counseling in homes and three or four people buy homes on your street?  Extreme case?  Of course.  Allowing customer contact in the home (except when clients are under 18 and receiving educational instruction such as music lessons or math tutoring) is wrong.

At last night's meeting the council addressed all the issues the Community Council and Planning Commission discussed, in addition to more items like pet limits.  I think city council and the mayor did a really good job last night moving through the new zoning document.  Many good points were discussed and lots of good questions to staff.  

Only a couple of decisions rendered differed from what I'd like to see written.  One is the tree removal rules.  Both Community Council and Planning Commission voted 5-0 to remove the tree rules on your residential lot.  The proposed tree rule takes the stance that trees on my (or your) property and the accompanying tree canopy belong to the people of Dunwoody, not the homeowner. If you decide to build a deck or add a garage or build a retaining wall (anything that requires a permit) you can only cut one tree a year (unless non specimen, and a government-hired arborist tells you what is a specimen).  I am of the opinion that I own the home, the land, and the trees.  Others feel differently.  There is no problem here that needs fixed.  We will not have people clear-cutting lots for the fun of it.  Tree removal is expensive and trees can improve home value.  Council will discuss the issue more at their next meeting.  Hopefully council will keep the newly interpreted tree rule (that affects only when you get a permit) but still, limiting tree removal even when a permit is required is wrong.  Trees don't have rights, people do.

The other issue I disagreed with is the setback rules for parking a fishing boat or RV.  City council pretty much banned all RVs and boats from Dunwoody.  Yes, if you have a boat, travel trailer, pop-up, or even a $400,000 Class A diesel pusher, tough luck.  You can't park it in your driveway, you can't park it within 20 feet of your neighbor's home.  Add the 10-12 feet needed to park the RV and the 20-foot buffer and you have eliminated 99% of all homes in Dunwoody.  Again, where is the problem we are fixing?  The Zoning Sounding Board voted to reduce this distance to 10 feet (that does not do much as most people have only 20 or less) and Community Council voted to eliminate the distance required.  Your neighbor can park five F150 Ford trucks in the driveway, have three dogs running around in the backyard, have sex offenders come to the home one at a time, but I can't park an RV beside the house?  At the end of last night's meeting a few council members suggested residents give them feedback - well, there's my feedback.

There are many neighborhoods in Dunwoody with restrictive HOA's.  If you want a square yard with no gardens, no boats, and no RVs, buy a home where this is a strong HOA. 


Joe Seconder said...

As Milton Friedman would say, there's Neighbor Effects that impact us ALL when people clear-cut or indiscriminately remove trees. And those Neighbor Effects need to be "made whole" to the rest of us. Besides, we as a society can do better than that as we are being educated in really what living in a "Sustainable" fashion means. We've learned the hard way from the Europeans that came across to America and clear cut the land, thinking our natural resources had an infinite supply and who could care less about the impact of their activities on our ecosystem. And people seek to move to communities that demonstrate and value protections of our natural resources, clean water, and fresh air.

Like water, trees are an asset for us all. They increase property values, provide shade & refuge and cool the temperatures around it. A healthy tree stores about 13 pounds of carbon annually, helping to cleaning the air -- that we ALL breathe.

Let me know when US Congressman Tom Price's hometown of Roswell starts allowing what we can do here in Dunwoody. Let me know when his wife, Betty, who sits on the Roswell City Council submits a Text Amendment to allow clear-cutting of trees in Roswell. Then, we can have a conversation.

Roswell is a conservative, established city and they DO protect ALL of their (specimen) trees within the city limits. Not just on city-owned property as we do here in Dunwoody.

The Roswell Zoning Ordinance regulates the removal, transplantation and trimming of trees that may be impacted during land development and construction. It provides standards for tree preservation and mandates replacement of trees that may be removed during the development process. It also protects specimen trees – trees that qualify for special consideration due to their size, species or condition.

The first law protecting trees in Roswell dates back to 1878 when the Mayor and Council passed an ordinance that would fine anyone $10.00 who “cut, injured, or destroyed any shade tree on any street, sidewalk or public square.”

Per Roswell:
A Specimen Tree is any tree, in fair or better condition, which qualifies for special consideration for preservation due to
size, species, or condition, and which meets the following DBH (diameter at breast height):
 24” DBH – Large hardwoods (oak, hickory, yellow poplar, sweet gum, magnolia, large holly, etc.)
 30” DBH – Large softwoods (pine, deodar cedar)
 04” DBH – Small trees (dogwood, redbud, sourwood, etc.)

And if you want to start talking about PROPERTY RIGHTS, then let me know when we'll start donating our land back to the Cherokee.

For more about the protections of trees that are offered in Roswell, check out the link below.

Max said...

OK Rick we are gonna break it down for ya!

You hate on dogs and trees;
but you love on kids and Charter Schools. Score even, in my book.

But then you drink that malevolent, vile swill, Hoegaarden. That's what sets me over the edge with you....LOL

Serious note(s):

GROUP HOMES: Federal Law doesn't allow Cities to discriminate against group homes. Like it or not, Dunwoody cannot forbid them from residential neighborhoods. This is not new in our Code and cannot be removed without subjecting the City to a losing lawsuit.

TREE ORDINANCES: Research how many US cities have absolutely no residential tree ordinances. I could not find ONE US City without some sort of guidelines on tree ordinances. This was stripped out of the DeKalb Code when we incorporated,BTW.

OUTSIDE STORAGE: Most folks do not want to look at RV's, boats, recreational vehicles because they tend to look tacky, especially over time, whatnot with green mold, etc. Outside storage may work in the North, but well, we aren't in the North, now are we?

HOME OCCUPATION: I think the proposed Code is well written to avoid the embarrassing 'violin-lady' situation, while protecting the residential nature of Dunwoody.

Keep up the good posts, but double-check your facts.

I mean the NUMBER ONE blogger must be reaching a large enough audience to where facts do matter.


dpgroupie said...

Aw geez Joe, where were you when First Baptist Church paved 6 acres of paradise (lots of mature, healthy hardwoods - not just the dreaded pine trees) to put in a parking lot?? Asphalt. No concern about additional runoff into Nancy Creek. (Joni Mitchell was so far ahead of her time...) And not to mention the destruction of the stream buffer until it was pointed out that "intermittent" streams required 50', not 25'. Ok, they restored the additional 25' after the Army Corps of Engineers pointed that out. Sure, we were not a City yet, and maybe you weren't on the Sierra Club bandwagon yet, but I seem to remember our group of nearby residents being criticized by plenty of "other" Dunwoody residents as "tree huggers". "It's their private property - they can do whatever they want". Sure. But FBA was on a mission, and turned a deaf ear to all suggestions of alternatives, including more effective use of existing property, including the always-empty Peachford overflow lot, and turning the wooded area into an educational opportunity for children, which residents would have spear-headed. I just find it kinda ironic that now people are upset about 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 trees in a residential lot, that they own, which is much less likely to cause the the damage a commercial property can.

Ken Thompson said...

Point of argument. There are many extreme cases both for sex offender rehabilitation services as well as tree removal. One seems no more or less valid than any others.

I think your comment about HOAs touches on the key point, at least the one that is key for me. The friction point isn't about what it is but what changes will be made. Joe's comments about Roswell mesh nicely here.

With regards to zoning and other property rights restrictions (deed restrictions, age limits, condominium) there is great diversity within the metro Atlanta area and even within Dunwoody.

When you buy a condo (I have) you know what you're getting into with regards to common areas, limited common areas, and unit owner rights and responsibilities. If you move to Roswell (lived there too) without much research you might be surprised at the fine levied for the garage sale sign you planted at the end of the street. But you can (and will) know the rules and limits on what you might otherwise or elsewhere perceive as your "property rights" and these rules were a priori knowable given a bit of looking. If you live in a neighborhood with a strong HOA the rules are not secret. If you live in a neighborhood w/o a HOA (as I do) you might enjoy the cost and freedom benefits (as I do).

While I understand that Zoning and HOAs exist to protect you from your neighbors if my neighbors came a knockin' suggesting we form a HOA I would not be agreeable as I see no benefit for ceding my current rights over my property. Similarly were the Condo association to expand my and my neighbors' rights to include operating units as rental properties I would be equally disagreeable.

The common thread is that I knew what I was getting into when I bought each place and the rules or lack thereof factored into the decision--it had and still has non-zero value to me. If my neighbors want to place new, additional restrictions on my use of the property I paid for (I understand I'm not sovereign and don't really own it I just rent if from the government) without what I consider adequate compensation (I do have a say in this don't I?) then I'm not happy. Now if those who wish to unilaterally take that which I value are also willing to compensate me at or above my perceived value then I will be significantly less unhappy. I've not heard anyone advancing changes that some homeowners see as "loss" advocating compensation beyond "try it you'll like it--it's just like what we had where ever I'm from...".

This "changing what we bought into" seems to underpin the much ballyhooed state of discontent in Dunwoody. Added to this is the impression that other folks have a rather negative prejudice against everyone else. Where I see normal well adjusted adults they see no end of extreme cases and they wish to impose their, or their "collective" will on those others who only have unrealized potential to offend their sensibilities.

And finally, at the risk of advocating "love it or leave it" (I've been asked more than once to embrace the latter option) I am a bit confused about folks who moved here and yet don't really like what it is--instead they want to make what others (who also moved here) see as unacceptable, radical changes. Are the change agents a majority? Were they deceived? Were they told they were buying into a community like what they are now advocating yet which didn't actually exist, at least not in Dunwoody? Given the options in the metro area why are they here? Why do they stay? I think this is more visceral than "Zoning Updates".