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Dyana Bagby Posted by on August 4, 2017.

Unhappy trails? Multi-use paths in Dunwoody yards spark debate

Ken Levy planted about 10 Leyland cypress trees and other shrubs nearly a decade ago on the outside of his backyard fence along Tilly Mill Road. He wanted his family to have privacy when they took a dip in their swimming pool.

His home, on Dunwoody Glen at the corner of Tilly Mill Road and Womack Road, and those trees, now may be in the sights of the city’s proposed updates to its Comprehensive Transportation Plan.

Ken Levy, whose home on Dunwoody Glen is adjacent to Tilly Mill Road, is concerned the trees behind him that provide privacy will be knocked down for a proposed 12-foot-wide multi-use path on Tilly Mill Road. (Dyana Bagby)

The proposals include adding a 12-foot-wide multi-use path on Tilly Mill Road from Mount Vernon Road to Womack Drive. Cost to the city for this project after grants is estimated at $144,000, according to the draft plan, and is recommended to be completed between 2018 and 2022.

Levy said he is concerned the construction of a 12-foot-wide multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists and will not only take out the right of way, but also his side-yard property along Tilly Mill Road, where those trees stand.

“This is my concern, if they take out all my buffer over there,” he said, pointing to the trees lining his fence, as traffic raced past on Tilly Mill Road, “then we will lose the privacy around the pool.”

At the same time Levy was talking, a cyclist riding north on Tilly Mill Road was using the narrow 4-foot-wide sidewalk that currently exists along the thoroughfare. Sidewalks run on both sides of the road.

Levy said he did not know the city was updating its 2011 transportation plan and that he did not know about the proposed plan for potential 12-foot wide multi-use paths along Tilly Mill Road until he got a call from City Councilmember Terry Nall.

The council on July 24 deferred voting on approving the plan by consultant Pond & Company after debate arose about the recommended widths of sidewalks and trails along some residential streets.

Graham Malone of Pond & Company told council members there was a strong desire from the 470 respondents to a survey about what they wanted to see in the city’s updated transportation plan for more bicycle and pedestrian accessibility and connectivity.

At the July 24 meeting, Nall raised questions about planning multi-use paths that combine bicycle and pedestrian use on Tilly Mill Road, rather than sidewalks as approved in the 2011 transportation plan.

“I’m trying to visualize how we get a 12-foot multi-use path on somebody’s front or side yard depending on where the home is on Tilly Mill,” he said. “That’s somebody’s yard. Call it right of way, but it’s still somebody’s yard.”

Public Works Director Michael Smith said public feedback called for multi-use paths because residents feel safer riding bikes on dedicated paths rather than on bike lanes painted on the road.

In a heated exchange, Nall and Councilmember Doug Thompson debated putting multi-use paths in residential neighborhoods.

“Somehow in Dunwoody … we think this will hurt our property values. And that is just not the case,” Thompson said.

Leyland cypress trees and other shrubbery stand on the outside of Ken Levy’s backyard, providing privacy for the family when using the swimming pool. (Dyana Bagby)

“I don’t want this fear … that paths somehow damage values,” Thompson added. “Yes, there will be people who don’t like it, but, by and large, we have great buy-in.”

Nall said the city will have to decide on which side of the road a multi-use path will be located and that the yards of those to be affected are likely to be residents who have lived in the homes for decades.

Thompson said the lucky people will get the path and the unlucky ones won’t. “That’s where we are philosophically opposed,” he said to Nall.

Councilmember Lynn Deutsch backed Nall and said many residents purchased their homes and have lived there for a long time without necessarily anticipating development.

She suggested the possibility of using 8-foot wide multi-use paths instead of 12-feet. “I think the language needs to be flexible,” she said.

Levy and his family moved into his Dunwoody Glen home in 1999 after losing their home on Sharon Drive during the 1998 tornadoes that devastated the city. As a Jewish family, the proximity to the Marcus Jewish Community Center was a bonus, he said. Their home is also near the Dunwoody campus of Georgia State University.

He said he understands the city wants to plan for alternative modes of transportation and to also plan for the future, but “it seems a little bit strange” for a multi-use path on Tilly Mill Road when there are already workable and serviceable sidewalks on both sides of the road.

“I’m not against bike paths per se, and I’m not against pedestrian access. I just think it’s highly improbable, especially for a busy road like Tilly Mill,” Levy said.

8 Responses to Unhappy trails? Multi-use paths in Dunwoody yards spark debate

  1. Greg C.

    August 4, 2017 at 1:29 pm

    I sympathize with Mr. Levy, but the R.O.W.along Tilly Mill Rd is considerably wider than the existing road and, in places, is almost 30′ further in than the existing sidewalk. I’m not sure why Mr. Nall concludes that building on the R.O.W. will somehow deprive homeowners of property (which was and is not theirs to begin with). Tilly Mill and Mt. Vernon Rd. both have R.O.W.’s that would allow for a multi-use trail, and connecting both of these roadways would make a significant and desireable traffic corridor through the Dunwoody area.

    A few years ago, Mr. Nall opposed asking for land easements from owners along Tilly Mill with respect to expansion of the Marcus Center, arguing that it was “unfair” to ask landowners to cede land for bike lanes that were not in the Comprehensive Plan. Had Mr. Nall had the foresight to consider the future as well as the present, we might be able to plan and accommodate multiple needs and uses.

    Mr. Levy is to be chided, in my opinion, for not keeping current with the local media and announcements which have been ongoing for several months. I don’t believe anyone who lives in Dunwoody can rightfully claim ignorance of planning activities! You can complain about execution and sometimes adherence of the plans, but Dunwoody has always been forthcoming about Comprehensive Plans.

    • Ken Levy

      August 7, 2017 at 8:49 am

      You should be chided for not checking your facts. The trail will take my trees on my property. The City believes it to be within the Right of Way, but my deed, my survey, and my recorded plat show the right of way to be some three feet from my fence. According to a certain city official who reviewed the plans with me, the trail will require the removal of my trees from my property. The city r/w plat is as inaccurate as it can be. My yard has been surveyed three times . Each survey shows those trees to be mine and not within the existing right of way. Besides, I think trails like this that don’t connect are just a bad idea.

      • gregcrnk

        August 7, 2017 at 12:30 pm

        The article did not mention that there was a dispute regarding your property line. My point was, that according to the Dunwoody GIS maps, there are several points along Tilly Mill where the R.O.W. is significantly wider than one would expect
        The S.W. corners of Lake Springs and Tilly Mill and along the Kingswood Methodist properties are examples in place. I believe there is adequate room along Tilly Mill corridor for this project. The “hangup” is some believe the current roadbed is sacrosanct, when it actually meanders quite a bit in the R.O.W. it may be incrementally more expensive to realign, but that’s a different issue.
        You’re correct that unconnected trail segments are problematic. But, you have to start somewhere, and the first segments are always going to be “unconnected”. An unnamed council member, in my opinion, fails to grasp that fact.

  2. Gary Ray Betz

    August 4, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Hmm, this – “…then we will lose the privacy around the pool” wouldn’t be a big concern for me. If folks wanted to sneak a peak at me in the pool, then they’d welcome to an eyeful of my big butt in swimming trunks.

  3. Jules

    August 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Paths yes, 12ft a no. Brookhaven has a wide multiuse trail requirement too. That is unless you are a developer where the variance to 8 ft is a common approval. The only time the wider one is pushed is on a resident. There has to be common sense used and if the business are getting by with 8′ that should be the standard for EVERYONE. As far as use and cost, Portland is instituting a tax on cycles that will use their paths so that they share In the cost of development of these lanes. As a bike rider, golf cart owner and a home owner it makes sense.

  4. Chris Lambrecht

    August 5, 2017 at 7:45 am

    Plant on ROW and you are at risk for losing those plantings. Sorry, but there is nothing to debate here.

  5. Sam

    August 6, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    I think a 12′ path is beyond excessive. What are they planning on doing with such a massive path? A multilane bike highway? 8′ is far more reasonable. Plenty of space for a two lane path with pedestrians walking in the opposite direction of bikers on each side (to give the pedestrians time to prepare for a passing cyclist without surprises.) On such paths, a cyclist approaching another in the same direction at a faster pace shouts, “on your left” and the slower cyclist gives the passer a wide berth or pulls over depending on path conditions. In my home state, we have exactly that sort of bike path running continuously through two entire counties, connecting various small towns to shopping centers, parks, and our capital city. I believe it is less than 8 feet wide. It’s definitely not wider than a car lane that’s already on the narrow side. It’s been working there for decades. My family and I rode on it regularly for years, as do residents of the state every day for as long as it’s existed.

    People drive much slower and there is considerably less traffic in my hometown, but even so, I generally felt uncomfortable riding on the actual road with cars unless the road was barely trafficked. In Georgia, I don’t even see this as a possibility. The speeds and density of cars makes biking on the road, even in the tiny bike lane, a very unattractive pursuit, especially for less experienced riders. I welcome any step in the direction of making interconnected paths dedicated to safe biking and walking. As a Dunwoody homeowner, I think such a path would be a great benefit to the residents of this city.

    Before I’d like to see a 12′ width, there are a few features that are far more essential for success. That is intelligent placement for practical use (as in, not a path that no one will use because it leads to nowhere people are going) and an effort to run it through or close to public green spaces like parks.

    Lastly, I think the city should take every reasonable measure to ensure proximal residents have reasonable privacy. Some people will never be satisfied until the entire plan is scrapped, but it is entirely possible to have it both ways if the space is there. The article isn’t clear on whether or not Mr. Levy owns the space on which he planted the privacy trees, but if he doesn’t, it’s completely unreasonable for him to expect the city to preserve valuable space that could be used to benefit every Dunwoody citizen for the sake of his borrowed privacy (it looks from the photo like he already has a solid fence blocking views of the pool as well. What’s the problem?)

  6. Hemi Farmhauser

    August 7, 2017 at 11:31 am

    The Council should be thinking for the greater good and not the affected. If politicians always worried about the individual, we would NOT have any highways, airports, sewer treatment plants, transit, power lines, landfills and now, multi use trails.
    #DunwoodysBestAmenity