The Dunwoody City Council discussed the pros and cons of a multi-use path outside of Dunwoody High School during a Monday meeting. 

Public Works Director Michael Smith presented a plan for pedestrian and bicycle improvements to a sidewalk along Vermack Road during the Jan. 24 meeting. Smith said the need for improvements arose after a resident complained about poles located in the middle of the sidewalk. Smith said the poles occasionally reduced the sidewalk’s width to less than five feet, coming into conflict with the Americans With Disabilities Act. 

A pole in the sidewalk along Vermack Road by Dunwoody High School.

Smith presented a conceptual plan that would create a wider, multi-use path along Vermack Road from Vanderlyn Drive to Womack Road. The conceptual plan for the path consists of a 3-foot buffer and a 12-foot concrete trail, allowing room for bicycles as well as walkers. The estimated construction cost for the project, including temporary easements from the school, would be $490,000, according to a city memo. 

Smith said the project has been on the city’s website since last fall, and that most public comment surrounding the project stemmed from concern over parking and tree removal. Smith said that some pine trees at the north end of the project near Vanderlyn Drive would have to be removed. 

A concept plan for a multi-use path on Vermack Road.

According to a city memo, the conceptual plan keeps on-street parallel parking and the curb-line as is. However, Mayor Lynn Deutsch said that Dunwoody High School’s Principal Advisory Committee asked if the city would be able to replace parallel parking with slanted parking. The advisory committee did not return a request for comment in time for publication.

Smith said the city could add about 12 parking spaces by switching to slanted parking, but doing so would require moving the curb and purchasing some property from the school system.

“We estimate that it would double the cost of the project,” he said. “If you look at it on a cost per space basis, it really gets to be more expensive than what you usually see the cost for a space in a parking deck.” 

Councilmember John Heneghan questioned the need for a multi-use path outside the high school and said he would like to know the cost of a project with a five-foot sidewalk that avoided the poles and included slanted parking. 

“It would be an overall win-win for the community,” Heneghan said. “We would meet ADA requirements, we’d have all the ramps, we’d put in the extra spots. But again, I don’t know about the cost benefit analysis.” 

Councilmember Joe Seconder has concerns about the safety of slanted parking on the road, and said he thought it might make backing out along the road dangerous.  Heneghan and Seconder also had concerns about what a multi-use trail in this area would add as far as connectivity across the city. 

“Do we really need a trail there, because what’s to the north of it and what’s to the south of it? It doesn’t connect to anything,” Seconder said. “What are we trying to achieve?” 

Councilmembers Stacey Harris, Tom Lambert, and Rob Price all supported the idea of a wider path in the area. 

“I would be strongly opposed to reducing the size of the trail there,” Lambert said. “Despite the fact that we don’t currently have multi-use trail segments connecting there, we do have other facilities … that we’re going to be connecting to there. If that’s our mindset with building trails, we’ll never build trails.” 

Smith said staff is looking to start the project this summer when school is out of session, but beyond the discussion with the Dunwoody High School PAC, the city has not discussed the project with the DeKalb County School District.

Deutsch said she was skeptical about getting the project off the ground by the summer if the city has not yet begun discussions with the school district. 

“We’ve missed their January meeting,” she said. “We’re not going to be ready for their February meeting. I’m a big believer in under-promising and over-delivering.”  

An emailed statement from the school district said that officials look forward to discussing the project with the city. 

Smith said staff would come back before the council next time with more options regarding a narrower sidewalk and slanted parking.  

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.