Saturday, November 2, 2013

Dunwoody City Council Race District 1

Things have become quite interesting in the District 1 race between Henly Shelton and Denny Shortal.  The past few days emails and blogs have been flying from neighborhood to neighborhood, household to household.  It's sad in a way how becoming a city has fractured some us more than brought us together.  It seems as the independent school district is the only issue that has huge support.  No matter who wins I hope all the candidates stay involved. And hopefully these newly politically active folks will remain involved as well.  For the record, writing letters to the Crier is not really considered being involved.

I've met with Mr. Shelton a couple of times and I have met with and worked with Mr. Shortal a few times the past five years.  I'm also on speaking terms with Tea Party Norb (we serve on a city board together), Tammy and Brian, and with the blogger Farmer Bob.  All these people are active politically in Dunwoody and DeKalb.  They all love Dunwoody and have strong opinions on certain topics - perhaps too passionate at times.
our new city logo, with a nod to Twitter instead of WalMart

Dunwoody's push to become a city was mainly due to DeKalb's zoning changes/laws/variances allowing developers to build apartments at will, all over Dunwoody.  Once there were not many apartments in Dunwoody, perhaps ten years ago.  Now, half of the city's residents live in multi-family units. I'm not hating on people in apartments (I lived in a nice apartment OTP back in the early 1990's, as did many of you), but you have to recognize that apartments are like pickleback cocktails; very few and not too often.  Apartment complexes, unlike our single-family home neighborhoods, do not improve over time.  Take a look at Dunwoody's crime statistics and you'll quickly see our police resources are needed more near the apartments than in Mill Glen or Wynterhall.  

Did the recent zoning re-write approve 3,000 or 6,000 new apartments?  
No, not at all.  The zoning code re-write had been in progress for 22 months. It started in January 2012 and ended two weeks ago.  See HERE for a timeline.  If there was/is a viable way to stop 1,500 apartments in the Perimeter why are we hearing about it one week before an election?  Would this theory been better vetted six months ago or a year ago? 

Impact Fees
Although many disagree with me, I think that citywide impact fees is the best way to handle a potential influx of apartments and in-growth.  Impact fees in Georgia cannot be used to build a school.  Impact fees can be used to add police, improve storm water, improve roads, add a park, add a library, etc.  Perhaps the impact fees (taxes) are used to buy a big chunk of land for a park and library.  Choose a chunk of land near Perimeter Mall that is already approved (by DeKalb County) for apartments.  Impact fees cannot be targeted at apartments only.  Impact fees would be imposed on new office space as well.  The city should not give one penny in tax incentives and should immediately start discussion on impact fees. The influx of thousands of new residents and new businesses will surely (at least in the short term) affect current taxpayers in Dunwoody.  There is a financial burden (new police needed, added storm water, increased demand for parks and library, etc.) and impact fees were created to offset this financial burden.  Just as you and I pay an inspection fee (tax) or a permit fee (tax) for certain home improvements and activities to offset costs of these safety/code inspections, new development should some form of an impact fee.  State Farm (insurer) has a different tax payment structure than traditional businesses.  The City of Dunwoody will not see a huge swell in its income (confiscation is a better term than income) with State Farm and its several thousand low-income call center jobs, but do know we will need to increase police and certain infrastructure. Impact fees are not new to Georgia.  They were put in place and approved by legislators for a reason.

Project Renaissance at Georgetown
The City of Dunwoody has not changed any zoning or given any type of variances to allow apartments. Project Renaissance will bring Dunwoody 105 owner-occupied housing units spread over 35 acres.  Compare that to a private developer’s original plan of 288 housing units crammed into 15 acres.  This project also includes three public parks, parks that would not have been built prior to the city’s involvement.  John Wieland Homes was sold to a real estate investment firm, they did not go bankrupt.  Contrary to a circulating rumor, Dunwoody is not paying 12% interest on a variable loan related to this project – the rate is currently 1.53%. Ask your candidate if they prefer 105 homes on 35 acres or 288 on 15. The term 'sweetheart deal' has been circulating quite a bit.  Keep in mind this land sat vacant for a long time, with no one interested.  The deal was done at a time when no one was buying real estate.  Although not usually a fan of government getting in the mix of private development (residential), this was a rare case where those of us in the quiet neighborhoods will benefit from the city getting involved.

The Sidewalk on Mt Vernon Way
Yes, Mt. Vernon Way is getting a sidewalk,  Yes, Mr. Shortal voted no for this sidewalk.  No, a young child was not injured on Mt. Vernon Way and the injury was not due to a lack of a sidewalk on Mt Vernon Way. Mr. Shortal (and at least one other council member) said other streets needed a sidewalk ahead of Mt. Vernon Way due to heavier pedestrian traffic.  Tilly Mill comes to mind.  Either way, Mt Vernon Way is getting its sidewalk.  Funny thing about sidewalks - the folks on Dunwoody Club dislike their new sidewalk while others really want one.  

High Street at Perimeter
High Street is a planned development in the Perimeter area.  It is between the mall and MARTA.  It is approved (by DeKalb) for 1,500 apartments and 1,500 owner-occupied condominiums.  We all thought State Farm was committed to building 1 million square feet of Class A office space, kick-starting this dormant development plan.  Well, State Farm instead bought a different property in Dunwoody.  Looks like High Street will remain a pipe dream for a couple more years - just in time for the next city council elections.  State Farm is building a corporate campus in Dunwoody.  Up to 8,000 jobs will be added.  A 24-hour call center will change the Perimeter nightlife.  Maybe we'll get a new Waffle House and perhaps a night club.  Call-center jobs are jobs, but not high pay jobs that enable these workers to buy your District 1 Dunwoody home.  Many of the call center workers will ride MARTA, many will live in apartments in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, some will commute down Mt Vernon Road or down Roberts passing Austin from GA 400.  With State Farm stating their new property is for office space only, look for High Street to want to build only the condos and apartments to start - as usual..  As State Farm grows, the next council (and the Zoning Board of Appeals) will have some key votes the next four years.  You can't celebrate the relocation of a big player like State Farm on one hand, then complain about increased traffic and housing on the other.  The key is smart growth, supported by a Master Plan and impact taxes. 

Austin Elementary School
DeKalb County School System will build a new school somewhere in Dunwoody.  With real estate selling recently for $2 million to $8 million an acre in the PCID, the idea of that new school being built on or near Ashford Dunwoody Road have been all but eliminated.  A new school, if built in the current Austin district, will have to be built at the current site or at the site of the baseball fields on Roberts.  A new school affects more than District 1.  Wherever the new school is built, it will need butts for the desks. In the end I think DeKalb buys five homes near Austin and builds at the current site.

Sandy Springs Apartments
Sandy Springs City Council is the apartment builder's best friend nowadays.  25 years from now homeowners will look back and ask 'what were they thinking' when Sandy Springs leads Fulton County in Section 8 housing. 

For your continued amusement/information gathering, please visit:



 TV Bob

Farmer Bob 

Save Dunwoody

A Better Dunwoody 

For those totally frustrated you can write-in a candidate.  

In District 1 TheOtherDunwoody is an option, as is Kenny Powers.  

District 2 folks can write-in Tony Delmichi, the blonde lifeguard from Vermack Swim & Tennis, or the Vanderlyn Viking.

Gary Ray Betz is a great option for District 3. 

Hopefully we have no run-off elections.  Only The Dunwoody Crier's ad staff wants that. 

I suggest you think long and hard on which candidate you want voting on important issues the next four years.  Today would have been a great day for a chili cook-off.  Can someone organize one for next October?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dunwoody Talk Supports Doug Thompson for District 3 Dunwoody CityCouncil

We support Doug Thompson for Dunwoody city council.  It's our belief that he is the best choice going forward the next four years.  If Doug wins and maintains his seat on council, I really hope that Sam Eads stays involved. Sam said a couple of things I liked during the campaign and hopefully he'll get active around Dunwoody.  Best of luck to both candidates, but we are pulling for Doug.  Of the three races this one seems to be the one with the least amount of smack talk.

Please vote for Doug Thompson on Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Safety in Dunwoody

The worst traffic day of the year is not Black Friday, it's not the Friday of Spring Break.  The worst traffic day of the year in metro Atlanta is Halloween.  If it take you 30 minute to get home normally, it will take an hour on Halloween.  Many parents leave work early, kids are out on the streets, last-minute shoppers buying sugary treats for the rug rats, etc.