After five years of operating under a patchwork of zoning laws gleaned chiefly from DeKalb County, Dunwoody is set to adopt its own code tailored to fit the city’s vision.
The new zoning code hammers home that, despite the glimmer of Perimeter Mall and the cascade of glass-sided office buildings, single-family homes rule in Dunwoody.
“When it comes to our residential neighborhoods, I think there’s a collective agreement that we want to do things that support maintaining them and making them better,” said Bob Dallas, a 30-year resident who spent 12 1/2 years on the DeKalb County Planning Commission.
Compared to the county, Dallas said, Dunwoody’s smaller footprint makes it easier to craft a zoning code fine-tuned to community tastes. And many of those tastes run to protecting residential property, particularly single-family homes, which make up about 80 percent of the city’s landscape.
One of the biggest changes would ease some restrictions on home businesses.
Under the current code, a person seeking customer visits to a home business requires a special land-use permit, a process that can take up to four months. The new code would allow up to two customer visits at one time with an administrative permit that can be obtained in about two weeks.
The code also allows up to three visitors in cases of tutoring.
The new regulations identify 10 general regulations home businesses must comply with before a permit is issued.
They don’t liberalize home-use rules enough for long-time resident and businessman Dwight Hawksworth.
“Dunwoody just put wheels under the ordinances of a lot of other places,” he said. “They have some rules that are really anti-entrepreneurial.”
Hawksworth, who runs a consulting company and executive recruiting firm out of his home, said the new code ignores the needs of small businesses, such as meetings with staff and partners. He also criticized restrictions on the number of students a tutor can teach at one time.
“Education is not a threat,” he said. “They’re trying to control things that I think they should not need to control.”
Another code change involves apartments.
Under the current zoning ordinance, developers have been able to obtain a special land-use permit to build apartments up to five stories in areas zoned for “office and institutional.” The new code would require builders to obtain a zoning change, complete with public hearings and notices to nearby property owners, before apartments can go in.
The city spent 18 months redrafting the code, conducting dozens of public workshops that drew crowds of anywhere from a handful to two dozen residents, Dunwoody Community Development Director Steve Dush said. It also updated its website with the latest revisions and provided space for online comments.
The purpose of the revised zoning code is to implement a city master plan adopted four years ago, shortly after Dunwoody incorporated, Dush said. It also eliminates inconsistencies and reorganizes how the code looks reads and feels, with numerous charts and tables, he said.
The website can display a property, then show its zoning and any restrictions on the site, such as setbacks and height. It also identifies front, side and rear yards.
“It takes any ambiguity out of question, and it lays it out in an easy-to-understand format,” Dush said.
City officials said they hope to have the code adopted by Oct. 1. Until then, the city has a moratorium on zoning applications.
Mayor Mike Davis said he it could take another five City Council sessions to finalize details.
“We’ve had a lot of citizen input on where to go with this stuff,” he said. “Mainly it’s just tweaking the code that was given to us from the county.”