It required a mid-meeting break to rewrite one section on the fly and an extensive last-minute discussion of how many pets would be too many. Still, members of Dunwoody City Council on Oct. 14 formally adopted the city’s new zoning and land development codes.

Ending a process that began about 22 months ago and included repeated reviews by citizens groups and city boards, the council voted 6-1 on Oct. 14 to approve the new codes, which are intended to create a zoning and building process that fit Dunwoody’s needs and its residents’ desires.

“This has been a monumental task and a Herculean effort,” City Councilman Terry Nall said.

Councilwoman Adrian Bonser cast the lone dissenting vote. “I’m having trouble voting on this tonight,” she said, saying council members needed more time to review last-minute changes. She said it also troubled her that the city did not yet have a fulltime community development director in place following the recent departure of former Director Steve Dush for a job in Florida.

But her motion to defer the vote to the council’s next meeting died after no other councilor would second it.

Tony Delmichi, a member of the city’s Community Council, one of the bodies that studied and commented on the proposals as they were developed, also argued City Council should delay its vote. He argued the proposal should be debated by the candidates in the Nov. 5 City Council elections. “This zoning rewrite still needs further debate,” he said. “You are rushing this zoning rewrite.”

But council members already had held lengthy discussions of the proposal in August and September. And several residents were on hand to commend the city on its work to develop the new ordinance.

“The business community definitely has some problems with it, but [city] staff [members] know it,” said Dunwoody builder Bill Grant. “Let’s move ahead and do a little patch work in the end. If I can speak for the builders, move ahead.”

The disagreement over what should be an allowable number of pets took flight after city consultant Kirk Bishop of Duncan Associates said city staff members were recommending a limit of 10 “companion animals” per household, raising the allowable number from the existing limit of three.

Any household with more than 10 pets, he said, would be considered to be operating a kennel. Problems with homeowners with fewer than 10 pets would be handled through nuisance regulations, he said.

“There is no magic to 10,” he said. “We deliberated on seven to 10 and decided to err on the side of flexibility.”

Councilman Denis Shortal argued that allowed too large a pack of pets. “It seems to me we’re putting down a number here without any thinking, pulling it down from the sky,” he said.

But Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch thought picking any number could create problems.

“I think we need to take this number out of here,” she said. “I don’t think we need to tell people they can have 10 dogs. I think we need to regulate the nuisances.”

Other council members agreed and the number was removed. Council members also agreed to consider separate nuisance regulations in the future.

On home businesses, Shortal sought to eliminate a new provision that would allow certain types of home-based businesses to have one non-resident employee. “My thinking is this: It’s protection of residential neighborhoods. If you have a non-resident employee and customers coming in … I think it’s time you should get yourself a cubicle [in an office],” Shortal said. “People come here for a quality of life.”

Sam Eads, a candidate for City Council who is running for the District 3, Post 3 seat, said he thought the proposal showed the city was trying to regulate too much. “You’re trying to turn this into a homeowners’ association,” he said. “The reality is, if you want very restrictive covenants move to a neighborhood with very restrictive covenants.”

At one point, council members found some portions of the proposed home occupation section so confusing that they stopped their debate to give the city’s lawyer a chance to rewrite it.

The new zoning code says most home-business owners who bring clients or an employee to their homes must go through a public process for a special permit. An exception allows teaching-related occupations conducted entirely inside homes to employ a non-resident person and to accept customers into the home.

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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.