Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What exactly is Dunwoody being "transparent" about?

Late last night, the City of Dunwoody issued a press release regarding the intent to purchase the Dunwoody Glen (formerly Northchase) apartments and convert them to a sports complex.  A number of acquaintances, neighbors, and fellow bloggers who until now have been strongly against the parks bonds are starting to waver. So many people quietly gripe about "the apartments" in "that other ZIP code".  Now a secret ballot to eliminate them doesn't seem so bad.

I had heard about this plan in a number of conversations but I didn't think hoped the planning process had hadn't gotten this far.

Here's the problem.  If you think that these bonds are ONLY about eliminating "those apartments" think again.  This is the same government that tried to push through a "greenway" plan that would have confiscated significant amounts of property from single family homes as well.  The difference is the homeowners aren't going to take that casual threat lying down.  They rose up en masse at a public meeting that had Hutmacher sewing body parts back on and the City Council in hiding.  Are the families in "those" apartments going to defend themselves as vigorously?  I doubt it.  I'll bet City Hall doubts it too.

I'm not buying the argument about how humane it is to honor all current leases.  It's not generous or moral to simply uphold a legally binding contract.  How would any of you feel living in your home while someone else is sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for you to budge so they can swoop in?

Let's take a birds' eye view of City Hall's approach to development.  First thing after City Government was set up was the establishment of a "Sustainability" commission.  Talk of obscure certifications and awards.  Green this, green that, green the other thing.  Except for the sneakers - those are golden.  All supposedly for the health and well-being of Dunwoody citizens.  Public land was set aside for gardens with contributions to feed those in need.  City Hall touts these efforts to show how enlightened and generous and "forward thinking" Dunwoody is.  It's a paradise of cooperation and charity where everyone is of one oh-so-enlightened mind.  In addition, elected officials discuss at length their religious affiliations and activity in charitable endeavors.  Pictures and links and everything.  Now the same government wants to displace hundreds of residents who live away from the central paradise.    Eliminate those not-green-enough homes.  It's easy to be charitable to people who are different than you are if they're not too close.  It's easy to be a saint in paradise.  Displacing people as a recreational development measure is not just wrong it is - dare I say it - unsustainable.

These are my thoughts on economic development, significantly clarified from my earlier vision:

1)  The east side of Dunwoody has the most potential for economic development as it is the oldest and has gotten the least amount of attention from both DeKalb/Gwinnett counties and the City of Dunwoody.

2)  It is never acceptable to drive an entire neighborhood away, eliminate homes, or otherwise confiscate residential property for the sake of recreation.  It doesn't matter if we're talking about single family homes, duplexes, townhomes, or apartments.  It's one thing to slow down growth of mixed use high density developments, but once a set of homes is here, it's here.  Deal with it, and their residents like human beings.

3)  The City has other ways of improving the area.  Including incentives to both commercial and residential property owners to upgrade their properties.  There is no reason why Winters Chapel cannot be as desireable as Dunwoody Village in terms of business use or residential location.  Taking the land off the tax roles and eliminating the residential population is like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

4)  Residents along Winters Chapel / PIB and for that matter in the 30360 ZIP code are just as much legitimate citizens of Dunwoody as those calling for their removal.  If the citizens calling for more and more expensive recreational opportunities want to have their opinions taken seriously by the people in this area, then they'd better treat their counterparts with the same respect they damn well want for themselves.  The latest proposal from the City doesn't qualify.

5)  Quality of life in any part of the city, not just Winters Chapel/PIB is going to require a greater investment in code enforcement.  One guy supervising enforcement in a city with a daytime population of more than 100K is not enough.  City Council has discussed funding police, rewriting a zoning code, and a skating rink, but not optimal enforcement of their ordinances.  I'd like to know why.

I'd like to see apartment residents organize their own advocacy group or civic association as the homeowners do.  This latest proposal looks like that organization is long overdue.  Anyone who lives inside the city has the same rights to defend themselves and their home.  No one should be more equal than others. This is not "Animal Farm" - yet.

I challenge City Hall, including our Council Members to make their way down to the apartments they want to eliminate and meet some people who live there.  Learn their names, look them in the eye, and tell them to their faces that a sports complex is more beneficial to the city than their presence.  I don't think any of you have the guts.  Prove me wrong!

UPDATE:  CBS Atlanta just posted the story on their website.  The comments should be interesting.


Rebecca said...

Good post. A nice, spicy counter.

Anonymous said...

Really well said.

Bravo to you!

Pattie Baker said...

Thank you for pointing out the limits of the ARC Green Community certification in only dealing with environmental sustainability. True sustainability is triple-pronged and included economic and social sustainability as well, as you suggest. That's why the creation of a city-specific sustainability plan (in line with best practices of forward-thinking cities around the country and world) that addresses all three prongs is currently included in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and was listed on the Short Term Work Plan for 2011. It was never funded, was assigned to internal staff, and has yet to happen.

When candidates talk sustainability tonight, please note that "recycling" is one tiny drop in the proverbial bucket.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

It just keeps getting better (/sarcasm)

The latest press release from City Hall touts a citywide volunteer day and mentions the usual "Dunwoody" causes: Brook Run, Perimeter Center, etc, although I'm glad to see Woodward Hollow park getting some acknowledgement.

I would like to know what beautification and "volunteer" plans are in place for the Winters Chapel/PIB area that the city is so desperate to improve that they're willing to displace several hundred people. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Post a comment if you have info, please!

Anonymous said...

I have read your blog, in the background, since its' inception. Often you provide provocative insights.

Currently, my reservoir of human compassion is as dry as my lawn. I could absolutely care less about the criminals in the PIB/Winters Chapel rent-subsidized apartments. The other 80% of non-criminal residents do deserve just treatment.

Everyone who rents knows when their lease expires, they have to move. No big deal, it is how it is, acceptable is YOUR view, not mine.

Creating a park where crappy, crime-ridden housing used to be is a solid move for the 30360 and all of Dunwoody.

Your points (2) and (3) above will not happen amidst criminal activity. Developers will not invest in crime ridden neighborhoods.

I agree about having more depth to Code Enforcement, and that tactic can work, but will take longer. In the end you still have crappy, old apartments charging $765 for a 3BR apartment. Not going to ever get quality development for that demographic.

Wake up, I live here too!

-Formerly not for Park Bonds/30360

Sight Edman said...

Not to pick nits, but it isn't clear that anyone at city hall (outside of Heneghan, for whom it is a personal passion) has ever claimed that "transparency" was a core principle of the city. But there are several questions.

Who's making a commission on this transaction and what ties do they have to the city and/or "Citizens for Dunwoody"?

Where *exactly* did this idea originate?

Does it predate the city? Perhaps this is a founding principle: to eradicate apartments in our bit o' heaven.

Did it originate within city hall from the staff, or was the first action taken by member of council or the mayor?

Is there someone outside city hall proper who kicked this off? If so, what was their first contact with a city official and which official was that? Do we have a puppet government? And who are their masters?

There is only one thing we know for certain: the power brokers behind this neither live in nor know someone who lives in those apartments.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

As of 6 PM the issue is now in the court of public opinion. Channel 46 - a news station that has built its brand on making their interview subjects uncomfortable - had microphones up the noses of Bob Lundsten and Dan Weber.

Even if you have the most "correct" and justifiable arguments in favor of removing the residents of the apartment homes, it is politically unwinable. I don't care how astute the politicians/lawyers are, you're going to be permanently stained by this one.

This is what happens when you make your bed, and issue a press release about it. Sleep tight!

Anonymous said...

Politically un-winnable?

We'll see.

I have been against the Park Bonds from the get go.

Not everyone shares the 'moral outrage' position. To label anyone a lesser because they don't agree your moral position is wrong-minded.

As the TV coverage shows, one resident is simply unfazed by the fact that their apartment home may become a Park. The moral issue is noise, in my opinion.

Those who argue moral superiority are neither.

SDOC Publishing Internet Solutions said...

Off topic for just a moment:

I've left this blog open to anonymous comments and I'm glad to do so because people have their reasons for posting w/out their names. That's OK.

But if you post while logged in to your work server... that's going to cut into anonymity. At least jockey your connection through a proxy or something.


Anonymous said...

Anonymity is over-rated. You are nice enough to allow 'anon' posting and I respect your blog enough to make comments that are clear, thoughtful, and concise.

So your readers know, both 'anon' posts above, and this post are from the same person.

Call me Cassandra.