Monday, March 5, 2012

Honest Auto Service

Before I was able to get my photos for the last blog post, I needed a flat tire fixed.  I trusted in my usual spot:  Danny at Tilly Mill Service Center.  Technically his auto shop is just over the line in Doraville, but he has served many Dunwoody families' cars for years.  My family has always been able to trust Danny and his crew for fair estimates, great work, and a speedy turnaround time.  He also keeps his property neat and clean.

If you're looking for a mechanic for major work, oil change, or fixing a flat when it was the LAST thing you wanted to deal with today, please consider Tilly Mil Service Center.

UPDATE - Zoning Codes Gone Awry - Glaze Drive and "Dirt"

DHA had an item added to the agenda after the board received it via email on Thursday.

It would seem that "City Hall" has approved a permit to dump 5700 cubic yards of "dirt" (from the Chamblee HS construction site) into a less-than-one-acre lot at the end of Glaze Drive.

Being new(er) to this area than many on the DHA board I had to learn a few things about this area.

Previous site of the Glaze family hardware store
and grocery.  Intersection of Glaze and Peeler roads,
a few feet away from Dunwoody's "Gateway"
intersection of Peeler and Winter's Chapel
1.  Glaze Drive is named for this family which still owns the lot at the end of the R-100 and townhome housing developments.  The bare, half-overgrown lot next to the Shell station used to be the site of their family businesses.  (For Sale)

2.  The land in question has been a dump in the past for such notables as GM and similar industries.  God only knows what is under the top soil.  The dump was closed years ago.

3.  The land is bordered by a number of housing developments, including Four Oaks, and the North Atlanta Memorial Park.

The not-otherwise-named "Mr. Glaze" has apparently signed a deal with the contractor hauling dirt from the Chamblee HS construction site to have said dirt dumped into just under an acre of space in the lot.  During the meeting it was calculated that there would be around 600 trucks driving up and down that residential street to dump the dirt.  Starting in 2 weeks.  Did I mention that the road is not paved, but merely covered with gravel?  After driving down Glaze Drive myself I could see that it is actually paved, however the street becomes extremely narrow toward the end and the edges are deteriorating.  Perhaps the "gravel" mentioned at DHA was inside the property itself?
Since a previous visitor commented that most of Dunwoody does not know where Glaze Drive is, I thought I'd post a few photos that I took after getting the kiddos squared away for the morning.
Click to enlarge

First, halfway down the street is a townhouse development.  Right behind it are some high tension wires.  Remember the "greenway" plan that would employ space under the electric wires as "linear parks" and alternate transportation paths?  This is the one that would connect to the Gwinnett county parks system.

Click to enlarge
This is a typical single-family ranch-style home in an R-100 zoning designation on Glaze Drive.  The rest of the street not used for Georgia Power easements looks like this.  These homes on HUGE lots would blend in to any Dunwoody subdivision.  This one happens to be for sale, though I wasn't able to get the realtor's sign in the shot.

Click to enlarge

Here's where it gets interesting.  The road dead-ends with rough asphalt edges and no curbs.  A deep drainage ditch lined with rock is to the right.  See that itty bitty, teeny tiny neon yellow-green sign to the right?  That's the city-issued permit sign required by the "land disturbance" plan.  Here's some perspective in terms of how Dunwoody's zoning code is written:  adding a mountain of dirt requiring hundreds of trucks down this road requires a sign the size of a realtor's or candidate's campaign sign.  When my neighbor wanted to offer violin lessons at home (which would create an infinitely smaller impact) she was required to display a city sign six feet tall in bright red on a 30 sf front yard.  Fair?  Not in this universe.

Click to enlarge

The permit.  Same as the one you would use to do home renovations.  Same one that is issued after the Zoning Board of Appeals discusses how many feet from a stream a porch can be.  Or whether a new addition can be placed on a house.  Or whether a home can be used for daycare.  In that context, it just doesn't seem like enough.

Click to enlarge

More perspective.  This is my Dunwoody Mom-Mobile parked at the dead-end.  The street is barely wide enough to allow a minivan to drive down.  You can't turn around in this street without crashing someone's front yard, even if driving something tiny like a SmartCar.  I had to back up 30 feet to access a driveway just to turn around.  And this is the street they want dumptrucks to drive down.

Click to enlarge

The entrance to the Glazes' property taken from the very edge of the asphalt.  Could someone please point out where the road is that can handle construction equipment?

It was also estimated that the level of the ground would be raised about 10 feet if everything planned is dumped.  For some perspective, that's the equivalent of building a one-story office building on the site.   If Mr. Glaze wanted to build an office building on the site, the permit would be denied because it is zoned residential rather than retail or O/I.  But it is within zoning code to pack an amount of dirt equivalent to that size of a building onto this lot.

"Mr. Glaze" filed a request for a "land disturbance permit" to dump the dirt.  He received it from city hall (represented at DHA tonight by the city engineer and community development director).  There was universal shock and anger that the city could issue a permit for this use.  But here's the thing:  everything requested in the permit by "Mr. Glaze" was within Dunwoody's zoning code and the residents have little legal recourse to stop it.  City Hall had no rationale, consistent with the zoning code, to deny the permit.  City Hall staff did not see a need to contact City Council, or the residents because... it was all in line with zoning code.  Rescinding the permit could result in a court battle which, like previous situations, resulted in the city settling in the six-figure range.  There's going to be a lot of talk about this at city hall in the morning to determine what their next move should be to legally protect the residents of the area.

So that's where Glaze Drive and Dunwoody City Hall find themselves now.  This is an extreme example of "unintended consequences" of residential zoning (that one's for you, John....) but it spotlights the inherent double-standard of Dunwoody's zoning philosophy.  To date, everything considered "residential" is considered positive for a residential experience.  Everything considered "commercial" is considered detrimental to a residential lifestyle.  Glaze Drive is the reason that that basic classification doesn't fly.  The Glaze family didn't have to request a single variance, they didn't have to appear before a single board (even once, let alone twice) didn't have to fill out a lot of extra paperwork beyond the land disturbance form, and have no plans to erect signs or conduct any commercial enterprise.  In short, everything is residential and follows the letter of the law.  But the impact on the neighborhood is astronomical and can last months if not years.

Contrast this with the usual minutiae around residential use permits for construction or "commercial" use.  Months of hearings in front of 2 city boards and City Council.  Extra paperwork justifying its existence and clarifying the amount of traffic and "contact".  Who has a car parked where.  Is a parked car going to "change the neighborhood character".  How many people can visit at one time for a "commercial" use as opposed to a "residential" purpose and how can you determine the difference.  Does it matter if the "customers" are children, rather than white-collar adults.  In the end, most times it isn't possible to identify a "commercial" use impact on a residential neighborhood.  When you can, the result is an inconvenience that could probably be resolved amicably in a single conversation.

This is why the hysteria over "commercial use" in a home is ridiculous:  residential use per zoning code can have much greater impact on neighborhood quality than what is classified as "commercial" and Glaze Drive is proof.  The zoning code is created to pay more attention to the arbitrary intention of the owner, rather than actual, documentable effect on the neighborhood.  The words "residential" and "commercial" have become magic words that determine whether an action is desirable or not and have resulted in loopholes and contradictions separate from their actual outcomes.  I look forward to Duncan & Associates to use this example as a new concept of zoning that focuses more on actual actions that impact a neighborhood, instead of hypothetical activities that may or may not be addressed consistently.

I can't wait to see our elected and hired officials get themselves out of this one.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Join me in taking a break from the bad news about DCSS spending (again....) and the serious work, marketing, taxes, analysis, whatever you're doing at your desk.  I've got my windows open, fans on, and my office has migrated to the dining table on the deck this incredible afternoon.  One day of respite before knuckling down to serious blog fodder.  Enjoy my surprise finds from my otherwise pathetic front and side yards.

Surprise!  I didn't plant violas this year, definitely not where I found them when I took this picture.  But here they are!

My first attempt at lily of the valley.  They're doing well.  This is the first little bell to peek out of the flower stalk.

I LOVE crocuses.  The only thing that would make this patch better is watching them bloom in the snow.

I prefer narcissus to daffodils.  Bumper crop this year.  Their scent is like perfume out  of a bottle, which you can't get with daffodils.

Some of the hellebores are struggling but they keep trying to bloom.

One of the hellebores taking off.  Right next to the bush where the mockingbirds and cardinals are deciding who  is going to nest there.

White hellebores.  Struggling but persistent.