A rezoning intended to remake Dunwoody Village into a mixed-use, pedestrian-centric area won approval by the City Council Nov. 30. But one shopping center was left out after its owner sued the city in a dispute about the rezoning’s buffer area between it and neighboring houses.

More than a year in the making, the Dunwoody Village Overlay updates were approved by the Dunwoody City Council Nov. 30.

Dunwoody Village is an area of stores and shopping centers surrounded by residential neighborhoods in what many consider the heart of the city. The Dunwoody Village Overlay is a special zoning district tailored to the area and previously included a famous provision requiring a quasi-Colonial “Williamsburg” architectural style. The overlay covers 165 acres surrounding the intersection of Mount Vernon and Chamblee-Dunwoody roads.

The rezoning allows larger, modern-style structures and a big shift to ownership-only residential uses. The updated overlay rules will guide any private redevelopments that may be proposed and does not suggest any specific projects itself.

The council approved the rezoning with some alterations. Single-family houses without yards were added as a use. And buffer zones were extended from 150 feet to 200 feet wide to separate the parking from homeowners nearby.

But those buffer zones, which limit the available redevelopment area, have been controversial and resulted in the last-minute lawsuit filing by the owner of the Shops of Dunwoody at 5500 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. Peachtree Shops of Dunwoody LLC had threatened the lawsuit in August.

Den Webb, the attorney for Peachtree Shops of Dunwoody LLC, did not respond to comment requests. City spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher declined to comment on the lawsuit and referred to a brief explanation of it on a blog written by City Councilmember John Heneghan.

According to Heneghan, an executive session prior to the overlay vote was a discussion about the lawsuit. As a result, he said, the council removed the Shops of Dunwoody and an adjacent car wash property at 1244 Dunwoody Village Parkway from the rezoning.

“The City carved them out of the rezoning and will attempt to settle facts and a way forward to add those properties back into the Village zoning, along with proper neighbor buffering protections for larger buildings that may someday be built there,” Heneghan wrote.

In December 2019, the council imposed a moratorium on reviewing or permitting any redevelopment in the overlay area pending the new zoning. On Nov. 30, the council lifted that moratorium, except for the two properties that were left out due to the lawsuit.

Among the changes in the overlay are:

  • The rezoning would 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
  • Building heights would range from three stories closer to single-family neighborhoods to five stories in the central area of Dunwoody Village.
  • As properties redevelop, new streets would be required to be built by developers. The intent is to spread out traffic and encourage walking. Pedestrian paths would be encouraged to connect to single-family neighborhoods adjacent to the village.
  • Developers will be allowed to exceed the maximum amount of parking as an incentive to construct shared, public parking decks that serve the surrounding area. Along public or private streets, parking structures would be required to be fronted by buildings having living space along their full length.
  • New developments will be required to upgrade sidewalks to 8 to 12 feet wide, with a 6-foot-wide landscaping area adjacent to the curb. The landscaping area would include street lights and benches and would be flexible to avoid impacting trees. Additionally, developers would be required to put utilities underground, but the city could assist with Mount Vernon and Chamblee-Dunwoody roads in some cases.
  • Facades would incorporate materials such as brick, stone, stucco, or ceramic panels. The regulations will define four building types (shopfront, general, townhouse, and civic), along with regulations for their setbacks, ground-floor height, facade design, and requirements for uses on the ground floor versus upper floors.
  • Automobile-centric commercial uses will be prohibited, including gas stations, auto repair shops and drive-thrus. The intent is to focus on pedestrian-friendly uses.
  • Commercial developments would be limited to no more than 50,000 square feet to prevent big-box stores.
  • Any proposed multi-family rental project would be required to be reviewed by the Planning Commission and approved by the council with a special land use permit. Some degree of mixed-use development is required within the DV-1, DV-2, and DV-4 districts.
  • Owner-occupied multifamily units would be allowed in all districts, and townhomes would only be allowed in Village Commercial and Village Residentia. Any rental units would require a special land use permit approved by the council. Density would be regulated by building height.

–Holly R. Price and John Ruch

Holly R. Price is a freelance writer based in metro Atlanta.