When the city of Dunwoody was founded in December of 2008, the city council went to work to set up ordinances, codes and guidelines needed to run our city. Among the myriad of decisions that were made, a stream buffer criteria was established for a 75-foot strip of vegetation to be maintained on either side of a stream running through a property. Dunwoody property that was built into a 75-foot buffer area before December 2008 is considered “legally nonconforming” and not required to conform.

If changes are proposed that would enlarge the footprint into the existing buffer of a building on that property, or cause disturbance that would further infringe on the existing stream buffer, then a request for variance to the stream buffer ordinance would be required.

Why is a stream buffer required at all?

Buffers slow down water runoff to prevent property loss due to erosion. (See photo of stream that has gouged out a large area of the owner’s property). Buffers help to filter sediment, fertilizers, pesticides, metals, pet waste, oil and other vehicle fluids and other pollutants. They provide shade for the stream which promotes aquatic life. Buffers protect surface water and allow water to percolate through the soil to replenish ground water. All of our Dunwoody streams eventually enter into the Chattahoochee River, which is our primary source of drinking water for all of metro Atlanta.

If you have or are near a stream that does not have an adequate buffer, you can plant one. Actually, just letting a buffer zone go natural will work well as long as the foliage is thick and the area has enough plants and bushes that don’t mind “wet feet.” Good sized and strong roots are needed to hold the soil of a buffer.

Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs has an article on its website called “Backyard Buffers, Protecting Habitat and Water Quality.” The article has lists of plants, bushes and trees for buffers in all kinds of topographies and tells how and where to plant them. Native plants, bushes and trees are good choices for an effective and visually attractive buffer. Take a bike ride or a canoe ride on the Chattahoochee River at Roswell and see for yourself the variety of native plants and trees growing there.

Here are some other sources for stream maintenance and plantings: Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper, UGA Cooperative Extension Services, Georgia Native Plant Society.

A few tips to maintain stream health: Never mow to the edge of a stream and don’t dump grass clippings or yard waste in the stream; woody debris is OK in a stream but do remove trash; use fertilizers sparingly and pesticides not at all if you can manage it.

Last tip: Sit on a rock and put your toes in the water. That may have a neutral effect on stream maintenance but you will feel wonderful.

The public is invited to attend Dunwoody Sustainability Commission meetings and input is invited at the end of each meeting. The commission meets the second Thursday of every month at 7:45 a.m. in the City Council Chambers, 41 Perimeter Center East, Dunwoody, GA 30346. Sustainability Commission members are appointed by the Dunwoody City Council. For more information visit the city website at dunwoodyga.gov.

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