DUNWOODY, Ga. — The Dunwoody City Council passed a rezoning modification 6-1 to allow development of a shopping center near Perimeter Center.
Branch Properties plans to break ground early next year, building a grocery-anchored shopping center, a new cut-through road and pedestrian trails at the lot surrounded by Ashford Dunwoody Road, Meadow Lane and Ashwood Parkway.
The site is already home to a P.F. Chang’s, but the two restaurants next to it are closed. A pond frequented by Canada geese and a parking lot take up the rest of the lot.
Several council members said they were less than impressed with the plan Branch presented, but the development would be better than a nearly empty lot.
“You got to remember that right now, that property is vacant and vacant property doesn’t really bode well,” Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal said. “Could we do better? Yes, I think we could.”
Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch agreed. The development they have is not what she envisioned, she said, because it does not fully comply with the PC-2 zoning that is part of their comprehensive plan.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed,” Deutsch said. “I came here tonight intending to vote against this.”
In the end, she voted in favor, mostly because of the amenities that Branch was providing, including multi-purpose walking and biking paths around the center, a road connecting Ashwood Parkway and Meadow Lane and the landscaping around the property, she said.
Councilman Tom Lambert, who cast the sole dissent, said he could not get over the inconsistency the development had with Dunwoody’s comprehensive plan. Even with walking trails around the lot, Lambert said he didn’t feel this would be a people-centric center. Rather, he said, it would remain car-centric.
Community Development Director Richard McLeod said the development did not fit all requirements of a PC-2.
“It’s kind of cramming a square peg into a round hole,” McLoed said.
The development meets streetscaping standards and complies partially because it is a mix of retail and restaurants, Planning Manager John Olson said, but it does not have the residential component that a PC-2 would require.
“It has components that are consistent with the comprehensive plan, and there’s some things that aren’t quite there yet, so it’s somewhere in the middle,” Olson said.
Lambert said he wanted more public gathering spaces put into the plan, proposing that a water feature could have been added. The development will include a temporary 1-acre park but has no water features in design plans.
Councilman Terry Nall spoke in favor of the plan, saying that it does not have the typical look of a strip center because the buildings are all facing inward and are not all connected together. The gas station is “desperately needed,” he said, as a second station in the Perimeter Center area.
“I believe that part of our zoning task long term is replacing higher density parcels with lower density development,” Nall said. “That’s how we put brakes on traffic growth, especially the day-job commuters that come into Dunwoody.”
The shopping center will contain fast casual dining options, retail stores and a yet-unnamed 25,440 square foot supermarket. There will also be a left-turn lane added westbound on Ashford Parkway into the development.
The center will be buffered by 20 additional feet of streetscape width on the Ashford Dunwoody Road and Meadow Lane sides. Branch will also construct landscaping and patio seating areas, a new sidewalk, a bicycle commuter trail and move the curb and gutter system to make a new landscape buffer between the proposed streetscape and the Ashford Dunwoody Road travel lanes.
The mayor thanked Branch for their patience and accommodations during the process that took more than 35 revisions before passing Monday.