The Dunwoody City Council expressed concern April 12 over a proposed change to a zoning district that council members fear could infringe on residential areas. 

The council considered an amendment that would reduce the minimum land requirement for the  “Planned Development” (PD) district from 5 acres to 1 acre. The PD district is a special zoning district that allows for developments that might otherwise not fit the city’s zoning code. To apply for the PD district, developers are required to have an Overall Development Plan (ODP) already in place. The ODP would override any conflicts with the city’s zoning code. 

City staff recommended the minimum acreage for the Planned Development district be lowered to one acre, but at a March 9 Dunwoody Planning Commission meeting, the commission recommended approval with two proposed changes. The commission changed the minimum acreage to 1.5 acres and also asked to allow the Planning Commission up to three deferrals when considering rezoning proposals to the PD District. 

City staff said the reduction would help streamline the zoning process, but at a recent Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting, members expressed concern the change would infringe on residential areas. During the council meeting, council members seemed to favor the Planning Commission’s recommendations, but also worried about the effect lowering the acreage could have on neighborhoods.

“The Planned Development zoning district was put in place, as far as I remember, for very large parcels,” said Councilmember John Heneghan. “Over time, it’s gotten whittled down. To me, it almost seems like we’re going down to approving spot zoning, where we’re taking very small parcels and we’re zoning it specifically for what your developer wants. I’m not sure that was really the intent of the initial Planned Development.”

Community Development Director Richard McLeod said an analysis of lot sizes in Perimeter Center and Georgetown Village led city staff to choose 1 acre, but Heneghan said he would recommend increasing the minimum to 2 acres.

Councilmember Pam Tallmadge asked if it would be possible to exclude neighborhoods for developers looking to rezone to the PD district. Planning and Zoning Manager Paul Leonhardt said that would not be possible, and it would be up to the City Council to reject any rezoning requests that might be inappropriate. 

Mayor Lynn Deustch said the idea to lower the minimum acreage for the PD district arose from recent zonings that had a lot of “moving parts.” The City Council recently approved a rezoning for 84 Perimeter Center, but after much back and forth and with 27 zoning conditions. 

Deustch asked if it would be possible to have a PD category for commercial zonings and a PD category for residential zonings. 

“When we talked about it, what I envisioned was not the end product dictating the amount of acreage, but the current, existing zoning,” she said. 

McLeod said staff could see if it would be possible to take in consideration the current zoning of the property in regards to the PD district. According to a city spokesperson, the amendment will have to go back before the Planning Commission before returning to the City Council. It is expected to be back before the council sometime in May. 

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.