Dunwoody Community Development Director Steve Dush
Dunwoody Community Development Director Steve Dush

It’s been 18 months in the making — so far. And it’s got a least a couple more months to go.

But this summer or fall, the city of Dunwoody’s rewrite of its zoning and land development regulations is scheduled to be wrapped up and put into law. The proposed rewrite goes to the city Planning Commission for consideration July 19 and is scheduled to be given to Dunwoody City Council for review in August.

“It’s a big document,” said Steve Dush, the city’s community development director, who’s marshalling the rewrite project. “There’s a lot of information in there.”

It’s actually two chapters of the city code – Chapter 16, which sets technical land development standards, such as how wide new streets have to be, and Chapter 27, which spells out zoning regulations, such as where tattoo parlors or food trucks may set up shop.

Along the way, the rules touch some recent hot-button issues in Dunwoody, such as home occupations (allowed, within certain restrictions); the “loophole” allowing apartment construction in certain office districts (no longer allowed); and even raising chickens (still prohibited).

Dush is quick to emphasize that the rewrite will not change any existing zoning in Dunwoody. “We’re not rezoning any property,” he said.

But the new regulations will guide future changes and tie the city’s zoning and building codes to its plans. “We are molding the zoning to our own plan,” Dush said.

He said the documents city staff members and consultants have developed have been presented in more than 50 public meetings so far. They have been reviewed by a city “sounding board” of citizens, in general public meetings, by the Dunwoody Community Council and by groups such as the Dunwoody Homeowners Association.

For some, that isn’t enough review. Community Council member Tony Delmichi argued during that group’s June 18 meeting that passage of the ordinances should wait until after the fall election.“This still needs more debate,” Delmichi said. “It’s a very important document. …We need more time to go into public debate over this document.”

Other council members disagreed and the group voted 4-0 to send the rewrite to the city Planning Commission for consideration.

Dunwoody’s zoning and development regulations originally came mostly from DeKalb County. When the city came into existence, it adopted much of the county’s code.

The rewrite seeks to simplify the regulations by replacing long passages of text with easier-to-read graphics and tables, Dush said. “We’re making it more user-friendly and readable,” he told the Community Council on June 13.

Before, “it was like reading Thomas Aquinas,” Dush joked later.

In drawing the proposed new regulations, “what we’ve done is minimize any need for interpretation, to the best of our abilities,” he said. With the new proposals, a homeowner or a developer “asking, ‘What is a side, interior yard?’ can go to this graphic and – boom! – it tells you,” he said.

But some residents question specific changes made in the rewrites.

Robert Wohlford, for instance, told members of the Community Council on June 13 that proposed changes to the home occupation regulations would change the feel of the city’s neighborhoods. The draft ordinance allows teaching-based home occupations and certain other occupations, within limits.

“The proposed changes are going to allow something that’s never been allowed since my father bought a house here … I am against commercial activity bringing traffic into our neighborhoods,” he said. “The time and place for commercial activities is in commercial areas. The time and place for the peace and tranquility of residential activities is in residential areas.”

Bob Lundsten argued Community Council members should look closely at a provision that allows Dunwoody City Council to consider needed zoning variances at the time it considers a rezoning. The city’s rules now require a separate board, the Board of Zoning Appeals, to consider the variances after the rezoning is approved.

Dush argued to the Community Council that the change makes the process more understandable for citizens because all the changes are made public and considered at once.

But Lundsten argued the process meant the changes being approved through the variances might be compromised “in the haste and excitement of letting that new zoning come through.”

“It’s the second set of eyes, the independent review…,” Lundsten said. “When you start talking variances on major development projects at Perimeter Center, what happens can be terrific or devastating, depending on your point of view.”

Some of the proposed changes

Here are some of the major changes city officials have identified in the draft of Dunwoody’s proposed new zoning ordinance. To review the full draft, go online to zoningdunwoody.com.

O-I zoning “loop-hole”


Deleted existing (confusing/contradictory) provisions re-garding existing multi-unit residential being “conforming.” Text now expressly states that they are nonconforming and subject to Article 29, which provides much flexibility for owners.

Dunwoody Village Overlay


Rewrote provisions and added illustration


Added new CR-1 (commercial-residential) mixed-use base district (Sec. 27-5.10-B.7) and new form and design stand-ards for DV-O district village core.

Massage parlors


Defined; now regulated the same as other “adult uses.”

Tattoo parlors


Defined; now regulated the same as other “adult uses.”

Animal Care and Boarding


Defined “animal, companion” in definitions section of ordinance.

Gold Brokers


Defined; now regulated the same as checking cashing and other “convenient case businesses.”

Community Gardens


1. Removed reference to growing season and maximum ground cover plant height.

2. Removed minimum setback requirements for the gar-den (structures must be set back at least 10 feet).

2.3. Removed limitation on donations.

Food Trucks


Draft revised to allow one food truck per 20,000 sq. ft. of site area or fraction thereof.

Home Occupations


The limit on number of customers present at one time has varied, but is now set at two. Teaching-related home occupations now permitted as of right; all other “type B’ home occupations require administrative permit approval.

Here, listed by article or section, are some of the changes city officials have identified in the building regulations rewrite.

Minor subdivision

Article 14 Establishes a new, expedited procedure for subdivisions that will result in the creation of no more than three lots; do not require utility extensions (other than individual service lines); and do not require additional right-of-way dedication or new streets or street improvements.

Tree removal

16-10.30-E Added new provision related to tree removal requiring property owners to notify city arborist before removal of trees. This was an issue discussed at length and receiving majority support at the March 5 public workshop.

16-10.50-D Revised to allow single-family property owners to remove a maximum of one specimen tree per calendar year without replacement. Additional trees may be removed only subject to tree replacement provisions.

Source: city of Dunwoody

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Joe Earle

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.