A map shows the proposed gateway sign locations within the city. Photo: City of Dunwoody

The Dunwoody City Council has extended a moratorium on permitting or licensing any new drug, mental health, or alcohol rehabilitation centers in the city until February 2024 despite pleas from citizens calling for an immediate end to it.

During public comment prior to the business agenda at the July 24 meeting, a half dozen people spoke against the moratorium, including attorney Stephen Katz, who called the moratorium “ill-advised.”

“Mental health and drug treatment facilities do not harm cities, in fact they help cities,” Katz said, adding that research by accredited scholarly entities back up that claim.

About 30 people with an interest in ending the moratorium attended the meeting, with several of them advocating for more of these types of treatment facilities in Dunwoody.

A mother who lost her 23-year-old son to drug addiction said that facilities within the city, including the Atlanta Recovery Place in Dunwoody, “have helped an incredible amount of people” as they battle through addiction and mental health issues.

After the public hearing, when the moratorium extension agenda item came up for discussion, Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch commended the speakers for their statements, and assured them the city is not trying to shut down existing facilities.

“Your stories were moving and powerful,” Deutsch said. “What we are doing doesn’t affect any facilities that are open and operating – this is a zoning issue that we are just trying to get right.”

A memo presented by city staff said the 90-day moratorium is in place “to conduct further review of the needs and impacts of drug rehabilitation centers and other facilities for treatment of drug dependency uses. The staff will then propose changes to the city’s zoning ordinance that will have to be reviewed by the planning commission and the city council.”

During the second part of public comments, Katz again took issue with the moratorium, saying, “you didn’t give staff more time to complete what was done, because nothing was done.”

Katz said the need for more treatment centers within the city is obvious.

“The demand exceeds the supply, and this is not about zoning,” he said.

The council passed the moratorium unanimously, but asked staff if it works out zoning regulations before the February deadline, that it should bring the issue before the council.

The council also approved a mid-year pay increase averaging 10 percent for officers, detectives sergeants and lieutenants within the police department. A statement released by the city after the meeting said the increases were necessary to keep up with compensation and benefits offered by other cities.

“The city has regularly reviewed the compensation of public safety and other staff to recruit and retain top talent for our community,” Dunwoody City Manager Eric Linton said in the statement. “This increase is significant. It reflects our commitment to public safety and keeping Dunwoody competitive in a challenging environment.”

Since 2021, the statement said, the city has adjusted pay for police six separate times. As a result, officers and detectives have seen pay increases of 38.9 percent. 

In other action, the council:

  • Approved a contract with the Dunwoody High School Softball Booster Club to use modified baseball fields at Brook Run park for its softball program from August 1 to October 31 from 4 to 6 p.m.;
  • Heard a report about the upcoming installation of gateway signs at major intersections leading to the city;
  • Passed on its consent agenda the conversion of three staff positions, financial analyst, revenue accountant and business license specialist from contract status to city positions.  

Cathy Cobbs covers Dunwoody for Reporter Newspapers and Rough Draft Atlanta. She can be reached at cathy@roughdraftatlanta.com