The Dunwoody City Council narrowly approved zoning for a development that would include age-restricted apartments, but with conditions to ensure the complex would keep its age requirements in the future. 

At a March 8 meeting, Mayor Lynn Deutsch and Councilmembers Pam Tallmadge, Jim Riticher and John Heneghan voted in favor of the development at 84 Perimeter Center East, at the intersection with Ashford-Dunwoody Road. The property was originally approved as a hotel in 2019, but was revamped in light of the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the hospitality industry.

84 perimeter center Dunwoody Apartment Project
An illustration of the apartment complex proposed as part of the 84 Perimeter Center East redevelopment.

Heneghan said he looked forward to this type of product becoming available to seniors in Dunwoody.

“Our community residents are looking for senior living,” Heneghan said. “It’s a housing type we do not have, and I’m looking forward to moving forward with this project.”

Three council members — Tom Lambert, Stacey Harris and Joe Seconder — voted against the proposed development, which would include about 225 age-restricted rental housing units and 43,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. 

Per the conditions approved by the council, developer JSJ Perimeter LLC must apply for a land disturbance permit within two years of the zoning approval, and the city must issue that permit within 30 months of the zoning approval. 

The council also approved conditions that state the developer must comply with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations for age-restricted housing and must report its occupancy to the city community development director one year after receiving a certificate of occupancy and every two years after that.

Council members who voted against the rezoning expressed concern over what options the city would have if the applicant or future owner did not stick to the age-restricted apartments.

“We’re not going to tear [the apartments] down,” Harris said. “They’re going to be there. Really, what teeth do we have to enforce the senior housing?”

City Attorney Bill Riley said if the complex ends up not adhering to age restrictions, that would be considered a violation of zoning. Riley said there are a number of actions that could be taken in that case, including daily fines or jail time. 

“Really, what teeth do we have to enforce the senior housing?”

Dunwoody City Councilmember Stacey Harris

Harris asked if tax abatements for the development could be taken back if the developer did not adhere to age restrictions. On Feb. 18, the Dunwoody Development Authority approved an “inducement resolution” for the development, offering an estimated tax break of $7 million over 10 years.

City Economic Development Director Michael Starling said the Development Authority has not yet entered into a “memorandum of understanding,” or formal agreement, with the developer for the tax break. 

“One of the things we could do is put in some stipulations that if the senior housing changes over that 10-year period, we could walk back those abatements,” Starling said. “After 10 years, that goes away, we’re out of the picture. But at least [for] those 10 years, we would have a role to play.” 

Councilmember Tom Lambert, who aso also voted against the zoning, said he has concerns about JSJ Perimeter LLC’s request for a special land-use permit to increase the limit on impervious surfaces like concrete or pavement, which can prevent the absorption of rainwater and cause damage to the environment. 

“I haven’t been given a compelling reason from the developer that we should waive this requirement of zoning that we have as a city,” Lambert said. “My fear is that if we continue to do this, we’re just going to become a sea of concrete in the Perimeter area. If there’s one thing the past year has taught us, it’s the value of outdoor spaces and the value of green space.” 

John DiGiovanni, a representative of JSJ Perimeter LLC, said the developer has made strides to include more green spaces, rooftop terraces and other outdoor amenities to the development.

“From our perspective, the plan we’re presenting today is considerably better,” DiGiovanni said.

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.