The Dunwoody City Council has made it easier for businesses to expand their spaces to meet social distancing guidelines, allowing for more outdoor seating at restaurants and interior remodeling in Dunwoody Village despite an ongoing development moratorium that will be extended into December.

The votes came in a May 11 meeting where the council also heard the first hard number about tax revenue impacts and discussed the reopening of city parks facilities.

The temporary outdoor dining permit will be available to restaurants with no application fee and will be good through Dec. 31. They will allow restaurants to move part of their operations into parking lots or tents.

The intent is to help restaurants adjust to occupancy limits under Gov. Brian Kemp’s pandemic reopening guidelines. At the time of the vote, restaurants were limited to 10 people per 500 square feet and keeping groups at least 6 feet apart. On May 12, Kemp amended the order to allow up to 10 people per 300 square feet.

Dunwoody Village

Much of Dunwoody Village is under a moratorium on new development that began in December 2019 while the city reviews possible new zoning to remake the city’s historic center. That moratorium was scheduled to expire June 6, but the council chose to extend it through Dec. 3 due to the pandemic’s delays in the rezoning process.

However, the extension came with an amendment, proposed by City Councilmember Pam Tallmadge, that allows Dunwoody Village businesses to conduct interior remodeling to make adjustments to their spaces for pandemic-related social distancing.

In addition, the moratorium already exempts several types of businesses, including eating and drinking establishments; health clubs; and medical offices or clinics.

Community Development Director Richard McLeod said that if any new business wants to open in Dunwoody Village during the pandemic, the moratorium can be reconsidered. He also said the temporary restaurant permits would not be affected by the moratorium.

“I wanted to make sure we’re not inhibiting business in any way, and make sure we’re not preventing businesses from doing what they need to do to remain open,” said Councilmember Tom Lambert.

Other pandemic impacts

The city has seen a 15% dip in April revenue from its special local option sales taxes compared to April 2019, in what Assistant City Manager Jay Vinicki called the “first hard data point” about the pandemic’s impacts on the budget.

In April 2019, the revenues were about $590,000, and last month were about $500,000, he said.

Vinicki previously told the council he was preparing for a hypothetical 25% reduction in SPLOST revenues, which would amount to a $1.7 million cut. He said that most of that could be covered by a road project that likely would be delayed anyway.

SPLOST funds are restricted to spending on public safety, transportation and “limited general repairs,” according to the city.

In other pandemic business, City Manager Eric Linton said that Dunwoody officials have been communicating with neighboring cities to coordinate the reopening of local parks facilities.

Linton said the city is still aiming for a “soft reopening” of City Hall on Monday, May 18.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the staff, and I feel like a lot of the staff during this period of time, believe it or not, has talked to each other more now than they did when they were in the office right down the hall,” Linton said. “We are very engaged, even though everybody is not in the office.”

–Jordan Meaker

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