A developer’s proposal to build 10 houses on Roberts Drive for “empty nesters” is being met by overwhelming skepticism from residents who say the land across the street from the new Austin Elementary School is prime real estate for families with school-age children.

Illustrations of the houses proposed to be built by Cowart Residential on a proposed development for Roberts Drive. The houses are planned to be built with master bedrooms on the main floor and marketed to buyers 55 and older. (Dyana Bagby)

Developer Curt Swilley, owner of Norcross-based Rock River Realty, and builder Dean Cowart explained to about 50 people at a Sept. 10 community meeting their proposed plans to build 10 custom-designed houses on about three acres at 5318 and 5328 Roberts Drive. Two houses currently sit on the site located behind the Swancy Farmhouse.

They said they want to target buyers 55 and older by building all the houses with a master bedrooms on the main floor. Senior residents tend to prefer one-story homes or houses with master bedrooms on the main floor so they can avoid climbing steps. Swilley and Cowart said their proposed project would fill an unmet need in the city for more senior residential housing.

The proposed two-story houses would include three bedrooms on the second floor (that could be used by grandchildren, according to Cowart), two-car garages and small yards that don’t require much maintenance. Prices for the houses are expected to be about $700,000.

But the proposed development’s price range and location across the street from the new 900-seat Austin Elementary School expected to open in 2020 would make the proposed houses attractive to families who want their children to attend the school, many people said at the meeting. Three bedrooms on the second floor would just make the houses that more inviting for people with families to buy, several people added.

The idea of restricting purchase of the homes to people only 55 and older is an idea Cowart said they are willing to consider as part of their proposed rezoning request expected to be submitted to the city in early October.

Dunwoody officials have faced in in recent years an apparent desire for more master on main residences for the city’s aging population.

A 2018 community survey showed the city scored low for senior housing options, leading Mayor Denis Shortal to say at a May council meeting there needs to be more residences with master bedrooms on the main floor built in the city.

Two years ago, the mayor and City Council approved rezoning slightly more than eight acres of property on Dunwoody Village Parkway to make way for a 79-unit townhome development.

As part of that rezoning, the city mandated 10 percent of the units have master bedrooms on the main floor specifically to meet the growing demand of the city’s older residents.

Cowart and Swilley said they didn’t expect the pushback they were receiving at the Sept. 10 meeting because they believe their proposed project would fill an unmet need in the city.

“I’m surprised the community has not embraced this master on the main product,” Cowart, a Dunwoody resident, told the crowd at the Sept. 10 meeting.

“I think this is an opportunity … to help people aging in our community. I think there is a need for master on the main,” said Swilley, who also lives in Dunwoody.

People living the Fairfield subdivision adjacent to the proposed development also voiced concerns about storm water drainage. Ethan Underwood, attorney for the proposed development, said plans include building a new retention pond as part of the project.

A traffic study has not been completed for the proposed project because it so early in the process. Cowart said other studies show older residents tend not to drive during peak times or as much as their younger neighbors.

Another presentation of the proposed development will be made at the Sept. 16 Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting at 7:30 p.m. in room 4 of the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.