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Brook Run Dog Park continues to stir controversy in Dunwoody
by Christine Fonville
June 17, 2014 10:54 AM | 3166 views | 1 1 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a packed room, Dunwoody residents and city council members discussed the future of the Brook Run Dog Park last week but did not come to a vote on whether the dog park area should be moved or remain where it is.

Many residents showed their support of the dog park by wearing red while other citizens representing the Lakeview Oaks neighborhood close to the park’s current location came out to voice their concerns on why the dog park needs to move.

Beverly Armento, a Lakeview Oaks homeowner, spoke to the council in support of the parks and recreation department’s suggestion to move the dog park to the new location proposed on the city’s website.

“I’ve lived in the neighborhood since 1989 and I urge you to accept the park manager’s recommendation to move the dog park to an alternate location in Brook Run,” she said. “Your own study said if the dog park remains where it is, all the trees in that area will be dead in eight to 10 years and many of us feel it is not wise to kill off four acres of hardwoods.”

Armento also said the current site does not follow best practices for other dog parks around the country, such as rotation of the land in order to save vegetation.

Saul Sloman, resident and volunteer at the dog park, echoed what many other proponents of the current location said about the shade of the surrounding trees providing a comfortable climate for owners and dogs alike, but also said cost and potential liability issues were reasons not to move the park.

“The current location has minimal cost for maintenance and we, as users, are very happy to volunteer to work together,” he said. “There is potential liability if the dog park is moved close to the skate park in terms of people getting hurt because of the shared parking lot, but the current location is secluded with its own parking.”

After the public comments portion of the meeting, city council members still debated on what should be done with the park.

While most of the council members agreed the new location for the dog park was not ideal, many said something needed to be done in order to protect the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods affected by the noise as well as the preservation of the trees in the area.

“I think the new location creates problems, such as the shared parking lots, but I think Brook Run needs an updated master plan before we start committing to this and that,” said Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch. “There are best practices for building dog parks and I want to explain to the proponents of the current dog park location that it meets virtually none of those best practices.”

Deutsch said the current location of the dog park showed a lack of planning and thought process and she said she felt the lack of empathy for those who live near the dog park area is “shocking.”

Councilman John Heneghan was the only council member who said he would be voting against the location change.

“The Brook Run Dog Park Association put forward a plan that I believe has merit because it aims to lower noise and mitigate any damages to vegetation,” he said. “I will be voting against moving the dog park and recommend we revisit the plan presented by the association because it has lower overall cost, but more importantly, because it is the right thing to do.”

A vote on the issue is set for June 24 at 7 p.m. at city hall.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Nancy Woodruff
June 18, 2014
What I have to say is not going to be popular. My choice of words is harsh, but here goes!

First, I am offended at the title of the article, as it intimates that it is the people who support the current location of the dog park who are the ones who are creating and continuing to stir the pot on the dog park controversy. By stating that someone is stirring controversy, you are saying that the entity is creating controversy. If one is creating controversy then they are causing problems instead of attempting to find a remedy. In my opinion, the proponents of the dog park, by this definition, do not appear to be at the helm and stirring up controversy. The dog park supporters, quite to the contrary, are trying to find a reasonable remedy. They appear to be looking down the barrel of a loaded gun and are defending the belief that it is not necessary to move a cherished dog park at great cost to the city.

Who is actually stirring the pot? A group of homeowners who will try to get their way by latching onto others' complaints, issues and ideas. Lakeview Oaks. And FYI: I do not have a "dog" in this fight, nor am I a resident of Dunwoody. I've simply noticed a pattern by the residents of Lakeview Oaks through reports, video clips of their appearances at city council meetings, videos of meetings with parks and recreation, and from a collection of news articles.

Let's examine Lakeview Oaks' brief, but notable history of pot-stirring in the city of Dunwoody:

1) Vernon Jones: At every city council meeting they are ever habitual in their mantra of loathing for Vernon Jones. It was Vernon Jones who passed laws which enabled park improvements, and the residents of Lakeview Oaks pass blame to Vernon Jones, himself, for making the decision to situate a park behind their neighborhood in the first place. For a moment, let's ignore the fact that a complex that once housed a hospital - gone into neglect and abandonment, boarded up so that only miscreants were making use of the buildings for various questionable, nefarious purposes - has now become a Mecca of recreation for the residents of Dunwoody and surrounding cities. The creation of the Brook Run park complex allowed these decrepit buildings to be demolished and the land re-purposed as a public park complex, housing a children's playground, a skate park, many picnic areas, fields, pathways, a public garden, and an off-leash dog park. Forget for a moment that Vernon Jones was instrumental in passing a law in DeKalb County that made this happen. And forget for a moment that with the creation of a park complex the surrounding neighborhoods are safer, since the abandoned buildings are no longer in use for drug dealers and squatters and other illegal enterprises.

Instead, I ask: Why would you buy a home in a city like Atlanta when you are in denial that the city is going to grow and develop around your neighborhood? These homeowners are firmly planted in their 1950's "Leave it to Beaver" notion that neighbors are always going to be quiet and respectful. In their world there are no 12-lane interstate highways a mile from their back yard. They firmly believe that city development stops at their back door and will never invade their bubble. They believe that they can live in a city, take advantage of all that a city has to offer, yet not be impacted by the fact that cities grow and develop, create noise, and (let's face it) use land for city development sometimes at the loss of a little seclusion of residents. In their world everything that impacts them is the fault of the city and/or a few dogs as opposed to owning up to their own responsibility and planting a few trees in their own backyards for privacy.

2) 2012, Brook Run Trail that was scheduled to run behind the Lakeview Oaks subdivision. The residents latched onto the opposition by naturalists who were opposed to the destruction of trees in order to create a concrete trail that would run behind their neighborhood. Their concerns during this time were water drainage and how the excess water run-off would affect their neighborhood.

At this time they voiced that their "main concern" was water run-off from the Brook Run Park complex (not the dog park, but the park, itself). So, the residents of Lakeview Oaks sued the city of Dunwoody over the creation of a concrete walking trail that runs behind their neighborhood. It went all the way to the Supreme Court when the Lakeview Oaks residents finally threw their hands up in the air, cried "Uncle" and dropped the lawsuit. At the time of this lawsuit they accused the city of breaking the law. And when they dropped the lawsuit they stated that litigation is always a last resort. I have a feeling that this neighborhood has never, nor will it ever, use litigation as a last resort. After all they took this particular matter as far as the Supreme Court. That doesn't sound like a last resort move to me. (And if you are keeping track, at this point the residents of Lakeview Oaks have been opposed to the city's decisions.)

3) Later on, when the city hired arborists to do an impact study in regard to the trees at the Brook Run Dog Park, they switched sides and decided to sidle up to the city of Dunwoody, now making dogs and the destruction of trees in the dog park Public Enemy Number One in the crimes against their utopia of peace and quiet. Pick a side, people!

The Dog Park has, time and time again, attempted to meet all of the standards proposed by the city of Dunwoody in order to make the current location habitable for all. They have addressed the issue of dogs killing trees by hiring their own arborists (yes, arborists, plural) who refuted the city's report. The proposed plan hits on all the bullet points which will make the current location less likely to add to the water run-off into Lakeview Oaks (but remember that Lakeview Oaks' original beef regarding water run-off was with the park, itself, the concrete walking trail, and not the dog park). Yet, when this proposal seemed to be a good compromise all of a sudden Lakeview Oaks' main concern was...

4) Soil compaction. Dogs running around are compacting the soil, exposing the tree roots and killing the trees. Again, they piggy-backed on someone else's ideas. At this point it occurred to me that they have never had an original thought as they simply attached themselves to others' issues for their own selfish desires. And when the dog park association addressed the issue of soil compaction the new issue became...

5) Noise from the dogs barking. Keep in mind that the dog park is only open during the daylight hours, so that during the work week any barking should not disturb the homeowners as they should be away from home at work during these hours. The only time when barking dogs might disturb their peace and quiet would be weekend days. But again, a few barking dogs during daylight hours. They are not disturbing the neighborhood at night when the residents might be trying to sleep. Of course, I understand that when one is retired and has nothing better to do than complain about a dog park, then your sleep patterns are a bit different and the barking of dogs during the daylight might disturb your post-lunch, prune smoothy nap that lasts until your early bird suppertime. Heaven forbid your retirement should be spent in doing something else like getting out of your house, going to a museum or enjoying the park that is right in your backyard. Instead, you choose to spend your days finding a new complaint to latch onto.

At each turn, when their complaints are met head-on and either disproved by competent professionals or by a generous compromise, Lakeview Oaks has responded with a new complaint.

The City Council has actually made strides to help both sides reach a compromise, but Lakeview Oaks continues to stir the pot and grab at any and all straws they can and refusing to compromise on anything. All compromise has been done by the City of Dunwoody, the Brook Run Parks Association and the Brook Run Dog Park. Lakeview Oaks are the ones who continue to cause controversy. The dog park has made every compromise, but Lakeview Oaks has made no compromises at all. Just because they bought their homes back in the Dark Ages before Dunwoody became a city they firmly believe that they don't need to compromise on anything.

I pose this question to the residents of Lakeview Oaks: if they succeed in their quest to get the dog park out of their back yard, what do they think the parks and recreation department is going to do with that land? Do they honestly think that the city will continue to allow it to be a forested area? After all of Lakeview Oaks' complaints about dying trees, soil compaction, and water run-off, the city will most likely remedy the situation by deforesting the area behind their neighborhood for fear that those dying trees might fall on a house in Lakeview Oaks, or that water run-off will flood someone's basement thereby causing another lawsuit against the city (they're currently sidling up to the city, but don't think for a moment that they won't hesitate to sue the city again). And when all those trees are gone there will be no noise buffer from the park to their neighborhood. In fact, with those trees gone that area that once was a beautiful, shady park could be added to the already barren field next door to create a multi-use sports field. And that will mean more people, noisy adults and children, day and night. Bright lights to light up the field for nighttime games. Lights and noise that will invade their neighborhood 24 hours a day. Neighborhood peace and quiet truly destroyed.

So, Lakeview Oaks, consider your fight before you trade a few barking dogs during the daytime hours for the possibility of day and night noise and bright lights. Pick your battles, Lakeview Oaks. Consider yourselves lucky that your homes don't back up to a parking garage or a "Live/Work/Play" complex that includes high-rise apartments, restaurants, businesses and shopping. Stop stirring the pot, Lakeview Oaks. I will keep an eye on what happens and when the day comes that the City of Dunwoody Parks and Recreation installs a sports field with large, bright lights intruding your living rooms at night when you are sitting in your recliner, with your TV tray, trying to watch your shows I will not hesitate to say, "I told you so." You don't realize how lucky you are to have a few dogs in your back yard. Consider this pot stirred, put the spoon down, and walk away from the stove.

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