A 6-month moratorium on wood-framed multi-unit construction in Dunwoody set to expire this month has been extended until August to give city officials time to review proposed changes to the city’s fire safety regulations.

The Dunwoody City Council voted May 6 to extend the moratorium for another 90 days, setting the expiration date as Aug. 5. The original moratorium approved in November was set to expire May 19.

The moratorium continues the city’s hold up on any review of applications or building permits for any wood-framed multi-unit buildings in the city.

A rendering of High Street, a massive mixed-use development project that has been on the books since 2007. Developers have said they expect to break ground by the end of this year.

It’s unknown how the moratorium affects the long-dormant High Street development. North American Properties announced shortly after the November moratorium was approved that it was teaming up with High Street property owner GID to develop “High Street Atlanta” on nearly 40 acres at Perimeter Center Park and Hammond Drive near the Dunwoody MARTA station. As part of the announcement, NAP said a groundbreaking is expected in late 2019.

The High Street development has been on paper since 2007. That’s when DeKalb County approved rezoning for the massive mixed-use development that includes 1,500 apartments and 1,500 condominiums, 400,000 square feet of new office, 400,000 square feet of retail and 400 hotel rooms. Dunwoody incorporated as a city the following year.

Preliminary High Street land disturbance plans filed last year with Dunwoody show the first phase of the mixed-use development includes construction of four 8-story apartment buildings and their parking decks, a row of townhomes and a 16-story apartment building surrounding 211 Perimeter Center.

The city’s moratorium on multi-unit building construction came after House Bill 876, dubbed the “wood bill,” went into effect on July 1, 2018. The bill prohibits local governments from banning wood-framed buildings that otherwise meet state building and fire codes.

The state law erased Dunwoody’s 2014 ordinance that required commercial, office, apartment or condominium buildings more than three stories tall to be framed with noncombustible materials, such as metal or concrete.

The council on May 6 briefly went over the first read of amending the city’s buildings and building regulations to require stricter fire safety requirements for apartment and condo buildings. The proposed new regulations as recommended by the DeKalb County Fire Department include:

  • Enhanced sprinkler protections including sprinklers added to the outside of the buildings;
  • Fire-resistant stairwells that include stairs and handrails be made with non-combustible materials;
  • Non-combustible roof cladding, or cover material.

City Council members are expected to suggest further changes to the ordinance in the coming days. Once those recommendations are made, the proposed building code regulations will then be sent to the state Department of Community Affairs for review.

Local governments may adopt local amendments to state minimum standard codes only after submitting the proposed amendment to the DCA for review and recommendation, explained Community Development Director Richard McLeod. Proposed amendments must be submitted to the DCA 60 days prior to proposed adoption, he said.

The timeline to receive feedback from the DCA and approve a second reading of the ordinance should be able to be completed by Aug. 5, according to Mayor Denis Shortal.

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