DUNWOODY, Ga. — Dunwoody is considering changing its parking space ratios for developments in an effort to free up more area for green space.
Under the proposal, all motor vehicle parking ratios for each type of development would change from minimum requirements to a maximum ceiling in an attempt to promote walkability in the city and maintain green space.
Right now, a drive-thru restaurant requires a minimum 10 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet. Under the proposed zoning change, the 10 spaces would be a maximum.
City Planner Ronnie Kurtz presented the first reading of the proposal to the City Council at their July 8 meeting.
“As the city is transitioning to a more urban, pedestrian-friendly environment, minimum off-street motor vehicle parking requirements have yielded a surplus of parking,” Kurtz said.
This has placed an unnecessary burden on new developments, he said, especially in the Perimeter Center area. The February 2019 edition of the Institute of Traffic Engineers journal recommends eliminating mandatory minimum parking requirements to encourage sustainable development and promote active transit, he said.
This change will allow the market to more freely decide what the demand is for a given site, he said, and would provide more adaptability for the city and applicant to meet the needs of a specific site.
Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch praised city staff’s work on the amendment and their eye toward the future with new transport options possible.
“I’m so excited,” Deutsch said. “Not only do I think this is a move in the right direction; I go to a lot of smart cities conferences and meetings, and this is certainly the trend.”
There was some concern from Councilman Jim Riticher about the simple flip from minimum to maximum.
“Are we going too far by just switching minimum to maximum?” Riticher said. “Has this been done in other municipalities? How long ago? Who’s doing this?”
Decatur made a similar change in 2015 to great effect, Kurtz said, and Roswell has both a minimum requirement and a maximum cap.
Currently, businesses apply more often for an exemption to go under the minimum requirement than they ask to go over what the city recommends, Kurtz said.
The burden of proof for an exemption to exceed the maximum would be high, Kurtz said. The business would be required to submit a traffic study or parking study to prove that the maximum parking ratios don’t “accurately reflect the parking demand that can be reasonably anticipated for the proposed use,” according to the code.
Developers want to build only as many parking spaces as is required to get financing, Kurtz said. The recent Branch Properties proposal to rezone the near-empty lot at Ashford Dunwoody Road and Meadow Lane for a grocer-anchored shopping center was the only recent development that asked to go over the minimum, he said.
That request was required by the still-unnamed grocer, Branch Senior Vice President Jack Haylett said. And this was a sticking point during presentations to the City Council for that shopping center.
This amendment would not require any parking spaces for any development, but developers would still be incentivized to have parking by their financers.
Councilman Terry Nall asked if this could make booting and towing cars more of an issue as it is in Atlanta, which has a similar policy.
Atlanta has a privatized parking enforcement agency, Community Development Director Richard McLeod said, so it is in their best interest to tow and ticket as often as they can. Dunwoody should not see a similar issue with fewer parking spaces, McLeod said.
An applicant could also exceed the maximum if they were to create a multi-level parking deck, Kurtz said, as long as the deck had a footprint no greater than what would provide for a surface parking lot of maximum allowable parking.
“If anything it will probably create less parking and more greenspace,” Mayor Dennis Shortal said.