The update of the Dunwoody Village zoning to create a downtown area has been delayed a month after nearby residents raised concerns about transition buffers and multifamily housing, including apartments.

The Planning Commission voted Feb. 11 to delay for one month a vote on the suggested zoning changes to the 165-acres of Dunwoody Village Overlay, which covers the intersection of Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads. The next meeting is March 10.

In late 2018, the City Council hired consultant TSW to gather public feedback conduct a zoning rewrite to create a more walkable, bikeable downtown in an area that is considered by many as the heart of the city. They are considered long-term plans to have in place for when new developments may come to Dunwoody Village. The City Council is set to vote Feb. 24 on creating an entertainment district in Dunwoody Village with an open-container alcohol provision as part of their efforts to revitalize the area.

new dunwoody village zoning map
A map of the new districts included in recommended zoning changes to the Dunwoody Village overlay. (City of Dunwoody)

Numerous residents from The Branches and Vernon Oaks neighborhoods north of the overlay area spoke out against the recommended plans at the Planning Commission meeting. Their main concern is the reduction of a 150- to 200-foot buffer that now includes thickets of trees between their homes and the denser Dunwoody Village overlay to a 75-foot transition yard. Transition yards only require certain types of landscaping.

The Dunwoody Village Overlay would be altered to create four separate districts with different land uses: DV-1 is Village Commercial; DV-2 is Village Office; DV-3 is Village Residential; and DV-4 is Village Center. Building heights would range from 3 stories closer to single-family neighborhoods to 5 stories in the central area of Dunwoody Village.

The Dunwoody Village Overlay now includes three suburban shopping centers with expansive surface parking lots; several auto-repair shops and gas stations; office buildings; banks; the Dunwoody United Methodist Church; and the Dunwoody Village Townhomes under construction.

Multifamily ownership housing would be allowed in all districts. But rental apartments would only be allowed by a special land use permit that would have to be approved by the City Council. Some residents said the city cannot handle more apartments due to overcrowded schools and congested streets.

In a rare split vote, the Dunwoody Homeowners Association board said it does not want any residential uses in Dunwoody Village.

“Those who voted against the residential elements believe that apartments or condos are incompatible with the purpose of the Village Overlay to provide services to the surrounding single-family neighborhoods,” said DHA President Adrienne Duncan in a written statement that was read to the Planning Commission by DHA board member Bill Grossman.

Planning Commission Chair Bob Dallas said metro Atlanta’s population continues to grow as economic development thrives. Finding places to live for people moving here for jobs must be part of the zoning rewrite, he said.

“If you want everything owner-occupied, you’ll be challenged to have anything built” due to financing, he said. He noted the city has not approved new apartments since it was founded more than a decade ago, but now the schools are overcrowded with trailers on their campuses. He said he believed the overcrowding could be attributed to more children living in suburban homes.

“Do we want to have the school tail wag the good developer dog?” Dallas said.

Regency Centers owns the Dunwoody Hall and Dunwoody Village shopping centers. Andre Koleszar, senior vice president and senior regional officer, said the company has been in talks with the city about the potential new zoning regulations.

“We’ve been fortunate to be considered a major stakeholder in the area and have had some great sessions with the team behind the new plan,” he said in a written statement.

“Their focus on cooperation and input has been refreshing, to say the least, which makes us appreciative of the direction they are taking … and we’re excited to continue our conversations and watch as this develops into something great for the area,” he said.

Other zoning updates include narrowing Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads to two lanes; a green space for community gatherings; and parking decks to reduce surface lots. Other long-term visions include a new street grid within Dunwoody Village as redevelopment happens; pedestrian paths to adjacent neighborhoods; and required storefronts on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and portions of Dunwoody Village Parkway and Mount Vernon Road.

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