Most citizens in Dunwoody see the new detention pond and new traffic lights and crosswalks at Peeler Road and North Peachtree Road as a sign for the end of many months of construction. For residents who live near this area, however, it marks the beginning for getting their landscaping, privacy and, hopefully, property value back.
Many commuters welcomed the intersection improvement, as most people were afraid to turn left onto North Peachtree from Peeler during both morning and afternoon rush hours.
“There was not a traffic signal there before and the traffic is flowing better now,” Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith said. “And, of course, it’s much safer for pedestrians now. The intersections didn’t have full crosswalks and pedestrian signals before.”
But what some might not realize is the other part of the project, the detention pond behind the senior living facility, Summer’s Landing, needed major changes as well. Workers cleared lots of trees from a large forested area that provided significant privacy and buffering to many homes and a lot of earth was moved.
Smith said the old detention pond was small and overgrown with trees.
“With the additional pavement and sidewalks for the intersection, we had to make sure that we didn’t increase the runoff or the storm water flows,” he said. “So we went ahead and made that existing facility bigger to handle more water, so that the flows wouldn’t be increased after construction.”
Construction started in December 2015, when workers began taking down lots of trees around the old detention pond and the church next to it. That’s when residents understood the full magnitude of what was happening.
A year and a half later, the detention pond is basically finished. But, homes that were once hidden away by dense vegetation are now open to the streets and noise.
Many residents have said they were disappointed with the communication they received from the city throughout this project.
“There hasn’t been good communication with some of the problems that have arisen and I think we were led down the primrose path of how great it was going to be,” one resident said.
Many residents were not aware this project was in the works when they moved into their current homes.
“My concern with the city all along has been a less-than-willing attitude for sharing information with the homeowners and addressing our concerns,” a resident near the construction said. “Homeowners have been willing to work with the city quite a bit on this project, and there hasn’t been the most open communication.”
Smith, however, said the city communicated with residents and sent letters to them when construction on the intersection was starting.
“We always want to communicate well with the public and have people feel like those lines are open,” he said. “On this project, I know members on staff from the city have been accessible to listen to and deal with concerns.”
One resident, Nina Malikina, lives right next to the detention pond. She said that throughout this project, she has been in contact with the city to help her fix her various issues, most of the time with little or no resolution reached.
Malikina is still hopeful she can come to an agreement with the city on grading and removal of a section of rotted storm water pipe the city has proposed to abandon in her front yard. She has had to deal with sink holes and uneven ground above the pipe route. She tried to clarify ambiguous language regarding how much work would need to be done in an agreement offered by the city. But she says they rejected her changes without proposing a new agreement. Now, she says trees have died and the grass won’t grow properly because of the damage to her yard the pipes have caused.
Also, some residents said the contractors took down more trees than was originally planned, leaving many, including Malikina, much more open than they were before.
“It was a totally private property with trees and now it’s on the edge of two intersections and there is no privacy,” Malikina said. “Nothing. I lost the privacy in the backyard and in the front yard.”
Malikina said she also bought her house because it was one floor and wheelchair-accessible for her daughter. Now, however, Malikina said they elevated the road as compared to her driveway to fit in the new sidewalks and her driveway is now fairly steep.
Meggan and Ron Wilcauskas also live on Tilly Mill Road. Throughout construction, they have had to park on their lawn, their mailbox has been destroyed and their driveway was unusable for nine months. Now, they’re worried the “punch list,” last minute touch-ups to a construction project, will never be completed.
“They seem like they’re at a finishing point and yet we’re not happy,” Meggan Wilcauskas said. “They’re supposed to pour a new driveway for us…and it has to be pitched so the water will go off and I’ve been told that it will be fixed. I’m concerned that it won’t get done and surely they could’ve pitched it right the first time.”
The Wilcauskases also lost two fully grown oak trees in their yard, without any notice that they were going to be taken down.
“I wasn’t surprised, but nobody contacted us,” Meggan Wilcauskas said. “They said they were only taking one down and then they mistakenly took the other one down. It was 40 years old; it was a landscaping tree.”
Most residents have also had to deal with an incorrectly installed beauty strip along Tilly Mill Road. According to one resident, Dunwoody wanted the beauty strip to look uniform, so they wanted to do grass. The resident then said workers came in and laid the sod, but they didn’t cut the sod to fit the three-foot width of the beauty strip. They also didn’t prep the soil well enough, so weeds grow out of it.
“I have five-year-olds who could do a better job,” the resident said. “They didn’t spend any effort. They just threw it down there and moved on.”
Another resident on Tilly Mill Road has dealt with several problems throughout construction, including a fire hydrant appearing in the middle of her lawn right in front of her front door. According to the resident, the fire hydrant was never supposed to be part of the construction plans and was incorrectly placed. Since then, she got DeKalb County to remove it.
“The thing I’ve learned from this project is how unsupportive Dunwoody is with real problems, such as the fire hydrant issue,” the resident said.
Shira Johnson is another resident on Tilly Mill Road who has seen issues with her driveway, her yard and her landscaping. She said she has lost trees that the city promised would be not taken down.
Johnson said workers put in new drainage holes in the middle of her yard with openings so large her 7-year-old daughter could fit in. She is not only afraid for the safety of her daughter and pets, but of others who walk by her house.
She has also had to change her house’s air filters once a month instead of once a year because of the extra debris tracked in from construction mud in her yard and driveway.
“All our driveways have been damaged by the cracking of the heavy construction equipment,” she said. “No one can talk to anyone. It was the biggest colossal mess I’ve ever seen. They will not take ownership for anything.”
Smith said the city plans to plant trees along and around the new detention pond to help with visual buffering at some point in October or November. But, residents around the area remain skeptical whether they will follow through and whether this area will continue to be maintained in the coming months and years.
“As far as the city is concerned, the intersection project is basically done and it’s a success and they feel good about what they did there,” a resident said. “But, they need to recognize that there are some stakeholders who paid a much higher price than others in the course of accomplishing this project.”