Dunwoody Community Development Director Steve Foote talks to members of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association on May 4. President Stacey Harris, left, and board members Heyward Wescott and Robert Wittenstein listen as Foote outlines proposed changes to the city building code for structures more than three stories tall.

Dunwoody Community Development Director Steve Foote talks to members of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association on May 4. President Stacey Harris, left, and board members Heyward Wescott and Robert Wittenstein listen as Foote outlines proposed changes to the city building code for structures more than three stories tall.

A controversial revision to Dunwoody’s building standards could be taken up by Dunwoody City Council this summer.
The proposal – which requires some buildings be built of sturdier, but costlier materials – has drawn criticism from builders and developers’ representatives, who say it will slow development in Dunwoody.

“You have an enviable formula. Don’t mess with the formula,” Michael Paris, CEO of the Council for Quality Growth, told members of Dunwoody City Council during their April 21 meeting.

Dunwoody’s standards now require buildings more than five stories tall be made with a metal-and-concrete construction. Shorter buildings can be built with wooden structures, called “brick-and-stick” construction. Some city officials are proposing requiring the more expensive metal-and-concrete structures for buildings more than three stories tall.

“We’re talking about a change that will increase construction costs 25 percent,” builder and Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce board member Bill Grant told members of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association’s board of directors on May 4. “[Building in] Dunwoody is a great thing, but it’s not worth an extra 25 percent.”

Grant told members of City Council on April 21 the proposed change was “a big deal.”

“The impact of this is, it’s going to take the places we want changed and stop [their redevelopment] because you’ve changed the economics,” he said. “It’s like throwing a hand grenade in a crowd to get one person. You get that person, but you do a lot of damage.”

But City Councilman Terry Nall told DHA members the reason for the proposed change was to raise the quality of buildings in Dunwoody. “One of the things we’re concerned about is the downward spiral you get with ‘brick-and-stick’ construction … ,” he said. “I believe if you start with a higher quality standard, it’ll stay a higher quality.”

Nall called the proposal “a way of finding balanced, quality growth in Dunwoody.”
City Community Development Director Steve Foote, who started work with the city in February, said the proposal was initiated by members of City Council last year. He said he had not seen a proposal exactly like this one in other cities, but understood the idea was to address “the quality of construction and the durability of the built environment.”

DHA board member Robert Wittenstein argued that raising construction standards could have a long-term effect. “All you have to do is look at Buckhead, the apartments being built in Buckhead,” Wittenstein said. “The payoff is over a long period of time. … In Manhattan, people want to live in 100-year-old apartment complexes. There’s no example of that in
Atlanta.”

But several people at the DHA meeting questioned why the change was needed. Some argued the proposal really was an effort to stop construction of apartments in Dunwoody by making them more expensive to build.

“It won’t work…,” chamber board member Don Boykin said. “If we really want to get rid of the apartments, we need to manage their maintenance by code enforcement.”
Grant said the proposal would make all types of construction more expensive. “It is not what it does to apartments, it’s what it does to everything else,” he said. “Everything will be affected.”

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