deer

DUNWOODY, Ga. – After months of deliberation, the Dunwoody City Council passed two grounding-breaking rezoning ordinances Nov. 30, but it failed to resolve one hot-button issue – bow-hunting for deer within the city.

The council passed on first reading by a vote of 4-3 the controversial R-50 rezoning request on three properties located on Roberts Drive, clearing the way for construction of 14 new “aging-in-place” patio style homes by Peachland Housing Group. The proposal was panned by surrounding neighbors, who have concerns about its density and potential stormwater issues.

However, city planners speaking at the meeting cited research showing several other R-50 developments around the city that had equal or higher density. Councilman John Heneghan, who voted against the rezoning request with council members Stacey Harris and Tom Lambert, said he was uncomfortable with the number of concessions that needed to be made in order for the subdivision to be built.

“I think we are playing fast and loose with this,” he said. “I am going to vote against it.”

Councilman Jim Riticher supported the rezoning.

“This is the kind of development that we need to support,” he said.

Riticher and council members Pam Tallmadge, Joe Seconder and Mayor Lynn Deutsch all voted for the measure.

The other measure, a massive overhaul of the Dunwoody Overlay district, passed unanimously after the council returned from a brief executive session. Upon reconvening, staff discussed increases to specific buffer zones that addressed residents’ concerns, but the vote took a mysterious turn when the council, without discussion, amended the ordinance to remove two properties from the overlay district.

The first property, 5500 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, is listed as the address for several retail establishments in the Shops of Dunwoody. The second property is 1244 Dunwoody Village Parkway, which is the address for Sunshine Car Wash.

The council, again without discussion, lifted a previous building moratorium that had been in place for the properties within the newly created overlay district, with the exception of the two excluded properties.

City of Dunwoody Communications Director Jennifer Boettcher said she was unable to comment as to the reason why the two properties were excluded from overlay, other than that “the decision was made because of remaining questions about the buffer.”

However, Heneghan posted on his blog (https://dunwoodynorth.blogspot.com) that the decision was made to exclude the properties because of pending litigation.

“Over the weekend before the council meeting, the city was served with a lawsuit from the Shops of Dunwoody (including the Car Wash) disputing agreements and covenants that were put into place many years ago,” he wrote. “Therefore the city carved them out of the rezoning and will attempt to settle facts and a way forward to add those properties back into the Village zoning along with proper neighbor buffering protections for larger buildings that may someday be built there.”

Kathyrn Zickert, the attorney who allegedly filed the action, did not respond to a call for comment.

The council also grappled with a hot-button issue concerning state laws allowing bow hunting in suburban areas. Officials said their hands were tied as far as banning or adding restrictions to the law.

In past weeks, there have been reports of several dead deer found in yards and common areas within the city. One of the deer had been shot with an arrow, and the other appeared to have been shot with a rifle, which is illegal within city limits.

Several residents, during the public comment section before and after the meeting, said they were concerned about the fact that bow hunting was allowed, and they called for an ordinance banning the practive.

However, Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan, along with several other Department of Natural Resources representatives, said the practice was regulated by state laws. The city’s Law Department also opined that state law was the final governing authority, and that a ban would be unenforceable.

Council members said they were incredulous about the statute and the city’s inability to do anything about it.

“How do I explain to the citizens of Dunwoody, who find a dead deer in their yard with an arrow sticking out of it, that it’s okay?” Harris asked. “Why would you go to a densely populated area just to shoot a deer?”

DNR representative Eddie Tompkins said the size and population of deer in the suburban areas make bow hunting in populated areas an attractive option.

The council concluded that any action would have to be taken by state officials.

“It sounds like we need to take the next step, which would be a legislative conversation,” Deutsch said.

In other action, the council:

• Viewed proposed gateway signage for the city, which will include marquee monuments, directional signs and other identifiers to be installed around Dunwoody.

• Approved by a vote of 5-2, with council members Joe Seconder and Heneghan dissenting, an expenditure of $64,000 for the construction of a car wash operation at the southwest corner of Dunwoody City Hall on Ashford Dunwoody Road.

• Discussed proposed, but not yet funded, plans for a $1.7 million park located on Perimeter City Parkway East that will include walking trails, playgrounds, a gazebo and passive exercise equipment.

The council adjourned after almost five hours. The next scheduled meeting is Dec. 14.

Cathy covers local government and community news for the Dunwoody area.

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