Sunday, January 26, 2014

Letter to the Editor - Dunwoody Crier

I just submitted the following letter to the Dunwoody Crier: I would have said a lot more if I could have gone up to 1,000 words... (It's 554, so we'll see if it gets published).

There’s been an increasing perception from Letters to the Editor that we are less than happy here in Dunwoody. Have you considered how these messages are perceived by prospective home buyers or CEOs looking to relocate their businesses? Have you asked a realtor? Becoming a city means more than having autonomy; more than just zoning, code enforcement, paving and police. Being a city is allowing us to fashion and INVEST in our own future, based on citizen input through our vetted & approved master plans. All the while, the average homeowner in Dunwoody pays more for trash collection than city property tax. Talk about an ROI!

Care to have input into our community’s direction? Please don’t wait until elections every two years. Or with a 3-minute one-way Public Comment during Council meetings. When I moved to Dunwoody, we had just become a city and I didn’t know a soul. Yet in the first months of moving here, I met in person with every elected official. I met city staff members, had coffee with the President of the DHA, joined the Chamber of Commerce, volunteered and just immersed myself in developing relationships.

We have a small, dedicated and professional city staff. They are accessible and approachable. So are our Councilors and Mayor. Get to know them. Meet with them one-on-one whether you voted for them or not.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “A spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.” See the world as “the glass is half full”; be positive, collaborate and willing to compromise. None of us always get everything that we want. Just ask anyone who’s been married, it’s about compromise. When we moved into our house, I wanted a “Man Cave”. I got the big screen TV and an awesome sound system. My wife ended up decorating it (Oh well…). But it works and we’re both happy.

If you find yourself getting caught up with an issue, please be careful with whom you partner. The adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is temporal. Be aware of their ulterior motives. Do they really share the same values and are truly your friend? Are they “using” you and adding another excuse to oppose some initiative that they just plain ‘ol don’t want? If it’s an “Organization”, verify its background. It is legally incorporated with the Georgia Secretary of State? Is there an elected board, with announced open meetings? How is it financed? Are annual reports available? Who decides the messaging & direction of the group? Who runs the website and sends emails?

Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify”. News is someone’s version of what happened. Knowing the facts requires gathering information from multiple sources. We all know that opinions are like a certain part of one’s anatomy: Everyone’s got one. Aside from Executive Sessions, we as citizens have access to ALL of the same information and data as our Councilors. Subscribe to the city’s email alerts.

Back in the Regan era, at the end of the day, the President & Tip O’Neil would set aside their differences, and have a drink or two. Instead of showing up en masse to a public forum in an acrimonious fashion, perhaps we should be doing more of the same at one of our fine establishments right here in Dunwoody.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Welcome to Dunwoody: Steve Foote, our new Community Development Director

Today, Dunwoody announced a new Community Development Director. As this position is outsourced through a contractor, Mr. Foote will actually be employed by Clark Patterson Lee. I sincerely hope that Mr. Foote will be around for a while. Since incorporation, this will be the fourth person to serve in this role. That covers a period of just over five years. Maybe the Council will consider following the model of our newest sister city of Brookhaven, and bring these key Director level positions in-house. I recall that we started paying about $140,000 a year for a Parks & Rec Director to another consulting company. As much as I love Brent Walker, I don't believe he is being paid a salary & benefits that total $140,000. You can run the ROI on bringing in certain positions and find cost savings by bringing them in-house.

As I'm always looking for collaboration on Walking & Biking initiatives, I did a quick Internet search and found that Mr. Foote has a bit of experience in bicycling activities. He was Vice-Chair of of the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee in Tempe, Arizona. Since 2003, Tempe has been designated a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community. In 1971, Tempe was the first city in Arizona to install bike lanes; and in 1974, adopted their first Bicycle Plan. Mr. Foote is also a Certified Bicycle Safety Instructor in two states.

We look forward to Mr. Foote in joining us on our very own journey in achieving Bicycle Friendly Status, too!!

Here's some more info about Steve Foote, from today's press release and from Internet sources:

City of Dunwoody Press Release:

Dunwoody, GA – January 23, 2014 – The City of Dunwoody today announced the appointment of Steve Foote as the city’s new Community Development Director.  Mr. Foote comes to Dunwoody from the City of Mt. Juliet, Tenn. where he served as that city’s Planning Director since 2009.

A member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), Foote has more than 27 years of experience with local government planning and community development.  In his new position, Mr. Foote will help usher in a newly implemented zoning ordinance (Chapter 27) and set of land development regulations (Chapter 16), both of which were adopted by the City Council on October 14, 2013.

“Steve’s ability to engage with the community and his breadth of experience in the field of community planning will provide the citizens of Dunwoody with a knowledgeable and passionate community development leader,” said City Manager Warren Hutmacher.  “Steve has demonstrated success and innovation throughout his career.  I’m confident we’ll find Steve to be a tremendous asset to Dunwoody’s future efforts to maintain stable residential neighborhoods and promote quality growth and development in our commercial areas.”

Mr. Foote earned a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree from James Madison University and attended graduate school at Arizona State University.  He began his planning career in Prescott, Arizona in 1986, and gained additional experience in Mesa and Gilbert, Arizona, before moving to Alabama where he was Director of Community Development for the City of Gulf Shores.  He has extensive experience in leadership positions in his field and has served as President, Vice President, Section Representative, and Conference Chairman of the Alabama Chapter of the American Planning Association.

“I am looking forward to helping Dunwoody continue to be a great place to live, work and play,” said Steve Foote.  “My approach begins with careful, collaborative planning and community interaction to help ensure responsible and consistent customer service.”

Additional Background Information:

Steve joined the City of Mt. Juliet in 2009 and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).  He is a graduate of James Madison University and attended graduate school at Arizona State University.  He began his planning career in Prescott, AZ over 26 years ago, and gained additional experience through work in Arizona and Alabama.  Among other activities, Steve served as Chairman of the Ahwatukee Village Planning Committee (Phoenix, AZ); Vice Chairman of the City of Tempe Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee; and was Vice President, President, Section Representative, and Conference Chairman of the Alabama Chapter of the American Planning Association.  He is a Certified Bike Safety Instructor in two states.  Steve lives in Mt. Juliet with his wife Jane.  He has two sons; Tim and Daniel, who are students at Samford University and Tennessee Tech University

Linked In Profile

Planning Director

City of Mt. Juliet, TN
 – Present (5 years)Mt. Juliet, Tennessee

Director of Community Development

City of Gulf Shores, Alabama
 – 2008 (13 years)

Planner II

Town of Gilbert, Arizona
 – 1995 (6 years)

Arizona State University

M.A. (completed two years), Geography/Land Use Analysis
 – 1985

James Madison University

B.S., Geography
 – 1982
Activities and Societies: Magna Cum Laude

Additional Honors & Awards

Past President Alabama Chapter APA
Past Vice President, Alabama Chapter APA
Section Representative, AL Chapter APA
GNRC Award - City recycling program 
GNRC Award - Residential Design Standards


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Continue to Complete the Streets in Dunwoody

Live, work, play in the Dunwoody or Perimeter Area? Interested in seeing this pocket of Metro Atlanta continue to build on the 6 miles of bike lanes that have been created since 2011? PLEASE sign this on-line petition asking to continue building bike lanes aka "Complete Streets". 

The Council votes on Monday night (1/13) whether or not to add more bike lanes in 2014. Most notably on Mt. Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody, which would be truly TRANSFORMATIONAL!!

Please sign the petition below:


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Open Letter to Save Dunwoody

In regards to the proposed development of 52 homes in "The Desert" off of Vermack, I've sent repeated emails to individuals associated with Save Dunwoody over the past several weeks and have received no response. Regardless of your stance on the project, why not have a conversation? Or maybe they're still upset with me because (per their claim on their website) I single-handedly caused two candidate forums to be cancelled this past election cycle???

Here's what I've asked of them:

Hello Save Dunwoody,

I sent a message to this email address on December 22nd and have not had a reply. I am offering a second chance for a response. I have added some others into this message for distribution.

Can you please schedule a Public Meeting of Save Dunwoody to discuss the largest single family home development activity since the city has been incorporated?

Which members of “Save Dunwoody” are authorized to declare this an issue that the organization will take up? What are your criterion for taking up actions? Is there a vote?

Your website does not provide names of officers, leaders, or specific individuals to contact. Yet there seems to be an organization. There must have been individuals that decided which items to coalesce around. People decide what to put on the website and on yard signs.

Save Dunwoody took on the issue of the trail in Brook Run park, citing “Saving” 337 trees. I estimate that 4,500 trees may be destroyed in this development. The city has a no net-loss of tree policy, but it only applies to city-owned property. For Single-Family Homes Zoned R-100, the minimum lot area is 15,000 Sq. Feet. Which means leaving or planting 2 trees per lot. Over the proposed 52 lots, that means 104 trees will be planted or “saved”.

Estimated Tree Loss

Brook Run Trail Example of 337 Trees:
7/10 mile long & 30-ft wide area = 110,880 Sq. Ft.
337 / 110,880 = .003 trees per square foot

35 acres Vermack Development:
35 acres = 1,524,600 Sq. Ft * .003 = 4,573 trees destroyed (less 104 trees planted or retained)

Tree Planting Reference – City of Dunwoody Code of Ordinances:

 Chapter 27 - ZONING >> ARTICLE II. - DISTRICT REGULATIONS >> DIVISION 5. R-100 (SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL) DISTRICT  Sec. 27-191.  “Each lot shall provide and shall maintain trees and plant material as is required in the city's tree protection ordinance.”

“. any activity on real property which requires the issuance of a development permit or a substantial building permit within the city, but excluding the construction of individual single-family detached and duplex dwellings.

The following number of trees shall be maintained and/or planted on all single-family residential lots developed in the city:

Lot Size
Number of Required Trees
≤8,000 square feet
8,001 to 15,000 square feet
15,001 to 20,000 square feet
20,001 to 25,000 square feet
25,001 to 30,000 square feet
≥30,001 square feet
tree per 5,000 square feet of lot size

Water Quality & Flooding:

What is the Downstream neighbor effect? 

Our friends in Village Oaks are downstream of this development, as the stream flows across Peeler, into Brook Run Park beyond?

Annual City Net Tax/Expense Effect:
52 homes
All Homestead Exemption
Average Appraisal Value: $700,000
City Tax: $460
Stormwater Fee: $69

Estimate City Property Tax Revenue: (Online calculator here) $460 * 52 = $23,920 TOTAL
Stormwater Fee $69 * 52 = $3,588 TOTAL

Less road maintenance, storm water, police services, etc. What will be required? What is the impact? Is it a net positive or negative on city services, infrastructure, parks, etc.?

Traffic Impact:

What is the net effect of traffic on Vermack as a result of this?


Please hold a meeting of Save Dunwoody and let the people decide if this issue is to be taken up.