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.
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.
“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.