Following months of heated debate, the Dunwoody City Council approved the parks master plan at its meeting June 13.
The vote reflected a compromise among members over the most controversial piece of the plan: how to use Brook Run Park.
The City Council has disagreed over the park. Some members preferred to designate it a passive park while others would like to see more organized sports and active recreation at Brook Run.
The council agreed that a plan from consultants to build three baseball fields in Brook Run should be taken off the table.
The move was popular with residents of Lakeview Oaks subdivision, who came to the meeting dressed in green to support the trees in the park.
However, many families with kids involved in youth baseball also attended the meeting to support adding more ball fields in Dunwoody.
“We’re talking about family-oriented recreation. Putting ball fields at Brook Run would not turn Brook Run into an amusement park,” said Peter Yost. “Our youth need a place to play. Maybe we can find another place as well, but right now we own Brook Run.”
Liane Levitan, former CEO of DeKalb County and the namesake of the park, which is formally known as Liane Levitan Park at Brook Run, came to the meeting to tell the council she was pleased with the consensus that had been reached.
“I believe what you have revised is in the best interest and intention of the state when they handed that [park] over,” Levitan said.
Instead of baseball fields, the revised parks master plan calls for a large multi-purpose field in Brook Run Park.
City Councilman John Heneghan proposed an amendment to the plan that the field be marked for use by organized teams to play soccer, lacrosse and other sports. Councilman Danny Ross suggested an amendment to Heneghan’s amendment that would remove the term “organized sports.”
The council voted to approve the amendments and the parks master plan.
“I think this is a great starting place and I’m proud of us all for getting there,” Councilman Robert Wittenstein said.
The council also discussed the bond referendum to fund the parks that will go before voters for approval.
Mayor Ken Wright suggested that the council move forward with a 0.75 mill, or $33 million, bond to acquire property for parks. He suggested holding a second bond referendum in the future to raise money to develop the properties.
“One thing we hear over and over is we do need green space,” Wright said. “Being an election year, I think there’s a tremendous amount of political rhetoric. I think it’d be difficult for us to have an open discussion with the citizens with this political rhetoric out there.”
Most members of the city council agreed that they would like the city to move forward with purchasing land for parks.
“I feel an urgency to acquire green space while prices are historically low,” Wittenstein said.
Councilman Denis Shortal said he would not support the bond referendum. He said it would put too much on voters with tax increases already coming from DeKalb County. He cast the sole vote against the parks master plan.
“We said we will keep your taxes low,” Shortal said, recalling one of the founding principles of the young city. “Please make it realistic so the citizens can afford it, not some pie in the sky idea.”