By Stephanie Ramage

A proposal to extend Ashford Center Parkway into the Chestnut Ridge subdivision appears dead thanks to protests from residents.

“Please don’t do this to our neighborhood,” Shawn Bard, a mother with young children, begged members of Dunwoody City Council during its work session on March 14.

The council’s meeting was devoted to plans for roads, parks and commercial developments.

The Ashford Center Parkway extension was proposed by the city’s consultants as part of a plan to improve traffic flow around Dunwoody Village.

Although no votes were taken and many of the problems raised remain without concrete solutions, council members made it clear they were not interested in pursuing the proposal to open Chestnut Ridge Drive, currently a dead-end, to through traffic.

“Something may look good on paper,” Councilman Danny Ross said, “but then you start thinking about how it might change the character of a neighborhood.”

Bard suggested that the extension would alter things that attracted homebuyers to the area in the first place, among them a quiet fringe of woodland and its small inhabitants who have become a part of families’ lives.

“Every single day,” she said, “we have learned about turtles and bats and foxes.”

She paused and explained that she was trying not to cry. “If you build this street, you will tear out the heart of our neighborhood,” she said.

Neighbors echoed her sentiments.

Susan Tallent, for example, said she believed the plan to extend Ashford Center Parkway through Chestnut Ridge was in direct conflict with the two-year-old city’s stated mission of being mindful of citizens’ wishes, preserving old growth forests and keeping traffic in check.

“When we were looking for a house, we looked for three years to find a quiet place where our children could play,” she said. “The only thing this road would do is help people who do not live in Dunwoody get through to Sandy Springs or Norcross faster.”

City Councilman Denis Shortal agreed.

“Traffic is like water,” he said. “It will follow the path of least resistance.”

This is not the first time an extension of the road has been considered and defeated. Councilman John Heneghan said his research showed that the Dunwoody Homeowners Association came into being because of opposition to this very proposal more than 30 years ago.

The plans hashed out by the council this week call for road widening, roundabouts, new baseball fields, cultural venues and shopping developments as well as other projects. The council has discussed placing a bond issue on the ballot in the fall to finance $51 million in parks improvements.

A few citizens spoke in support of various parts of the plans, but rejected others.

“I am very excited about the plans for Dunwoody Village, especially since we live within walking distance,” Chestnut Ridge homeowner Darrell Solomon said, referring to a proposal to remake the shopping center into a town center with an entertainment venue.

But he opposed the idea of extending Ashford Center Parkway.

Overwhelmingly, the nearly 70 Dunwoody residents who turned out to weigh in on the range of proposals oppose change

“I have three small children, and the noise they make playing on our cul-de-sac is far more beautiful than the hum of any traffic that will be there because of this project,” one resident told the council. “I like my neighbors. I like Dunwoody. And we shouldn’t have to change a thing.”

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.