Facing an unpopular proposal to build townhomes on Ashford-Dunwoody Road, city officials are pushing for something different: a park and development creating a new city “gateway.”

“This is a special piece of property,” City Councilwoman Rebecca Chase Williams said during the March 24 council meeting. “It’s our gateway. … I’m suggesting something new. I’d like the city to explore dividing up that property and at least taking the front half of it for a linear park or green space. … We haven’t even begun to imagine the possibilities for this site.”

City Council delayed a vote on a rezoning proposal for 60 days to allow time for discussions among city officials, the property owners and the developer about alternative plans for the land. Williams said part of the land yet might be developed, but the portion along Ashford-Dunwoody could be included in a new study the city plans for the road corridor.

“I don’t want to let this opportunity pass and lose forever this corner,” Williams said.

Her proposal drew applause from members of the audience attending the meeting.

Lawyer Doug Dillard, who represents developers planning townhomes on the property, called the proposal “an idea worth exploring.”

“We’d rather work it out than go to court,” he said. “The property owners are frustrated because they’ve sat on this property a long time.”

Jim Parks, who owns one of the homes, worried the proposal would become “another way of stalling” redevelopment of the property. “It may be a very good idea, but how long must we wait?” he said.

The council also agreed March 24 to spend $125,000 from Homeowners Option Sales Tax funds to pay for a new study of traffic on the Ashford-Dunwoody Road corridor and of better ways to handle bicycle and pedestrian traffic

“There are no plans to four-lane [Ashford-Dunwoody], but we’ve got to look at better ways to handle traffic there,” Williams said. “Time is too valuable to be sitting there in traffic. We’re also about to fund a pedestrian and bike plan. What if we run a path up Ashford-Dunwoody Road?”

The townhome proposal has produced strong opposition from its neighbors.

Rockhaven Homes has proposed building 36 townhomes on 4.7 acres at Ashford-Dunwoody and Oak Park Drive. The owners of the property say it no longer makes sense for it to be used for single-family homes because of traffic on Ashford-Dunwoody, and that the existing houses should be replaced with more homes.

“That property has numerous limitations…,” said Clay Parks, whose family has owned a house in the area since 1966. “Nobody wants to live in a single-family home up against that traffic.”

But nearby residents argue the single-family homes still could find buyers and the proposed townhouse create too dense a development.

“It’s too dense for the population, too dense for the sewers, for the schools, for the traffic,” resident Noelle Hooge told the council. “The homes that are there are acceptable, better than acceptable.”

“What’s being proposed today is five times the density of our neighborhood,” Clay Robertson said.

“Everybody stands against this,” Alan Cole said.

Despite “numerous meetings,” the developer hasn’t been able to reach an agreement with surrounding neighbors on how the land should be developed, said Dillard, who argued the townhomes would provide a transition between the single-family neighborhoods and nearby commercial and office developments.

“This is the gateway to Brookhaven,” Dillard said. “It’s to do something nice. It’s time to get rid of six detached 1950s houses that are not doing anything for your community. We’re a city. … This is not the Spruill farm any more. … It’s time to think like a city. If you want this to be the gateway to Brookhaven, let’s do something nice.”

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