Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dunwoody Rezoning: T minus 7 hours and counting

It's finally here, the beginning of the zoning rewrite.  A standing group meeting on a large project has monopolized  my Tuesday nights so I doubt I'll be one of the throng at Dunwoody Baptist Church tonight.

Here's the news announcement from Patch:

Here's Duncan|Associates that Dunwoody City Hall hired for the project.  (No relation)

Here's the guy heading up the project in Dunwoody.  You'll probably see him around tonight

Here's his email address:  kirk@duncanassociates.com

The descriptions of the company's past projects aren't specific as to how they rewrote codes, only that they did to make them more internally consistent, streamlined, etc.  This is a good thing.  But there's no clue as to how they're going to implement that here.  As I type this there are closed door meetings happening with the usual groups, which will probably be speaking again at the public meeting tonight.

I've already posted what type of approach to zoning will benefit the most residents in the long term.

Specifically, a solid zoning code has to have a clear, practical definition of "nuisance".  Find a way to make that word an objective, measurable benchmark by which all activities and complaints are measured.  As long as "nuisance" is subjective, any ordinance built on it is a house of cards waiting to fall.

Every resident in Dunwoody wants their neighborhood to be an enjoyable one where it is peaceful to live.  The problem comes from the fact that there is no unified agreement as to what that entails.  There has always been a spectrum of opinions on what constitutes "residential" and that spectrum became clearer after incorporation.  My personal thing about home businesses is only one of the questions being raised.  Don't forget the "urban farmers", the "backyard chickens", the "alternate transportation" and other causes that are questioning the definition of a "residential" activity.  Those questions are not going away.  Fighting at City Hall every single time a new idea comes into fashion is a waste of the city's time and money and residents' energy.

There is one thing that will decimate a community's quality of life more than home businesses, more than backyard chickens, and more than any other "new" activity to be dreamed up.  That one thing is a reputation as "The City Of 'NO' ".  When the entire life of a city is defined by one group within it, and anyone deviating from it is considered an "auslander" to be avoided or suppressed you're going to end up attracting fewer and fewer people to be a part of the city.  The result is, the quality of life that is supposed to be preserved becones "groupthink" and crosses over into stagnation.  What some will find ironic is to preserve a certain lifestyle, it's necessary to find common ground and coexistence within that spectrum of thought.

Not every lifestyle or activity is going to be workable within the city.  I would like to see the starting point of the discussion be an attempt at coexistence, rather than immediate barriers to growth and differentiation.

For tonight, I hope those attending avoid three "H"s:

Let's see if we can get through the night without overreacting to different opinions, dire warnings about "slippery slopes" or just making up a bunch of nonsense because someone doesn't like another idea.

Hell, if this ordinance code ends up getting written well enough, you might even convince me that chickens aren't so bad!

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