Dunwoody discusses regulations on community homes and recovery centers

A graphic from Dunwoody city staff shows the location of existing community and recovery homes. (Supplied by City of Dunwoody).

The Dunwoody City Council had a lengthy discussion at its July 8 meeting about a proposed ordinance to regulate community homes and recovery centers.

During public comments and discussion, while most advocated the need for both homes in the community,  there were several suggested amendments to the proposal.

A moratorium on drug rehabilitation centers and other facilities for treatment of drug dependency was enacted in February 2023 that was extended to August of this year while staff researched the issue and existing ordinances.

Further complicating the issue was a recent change to state law that repealed a mandate for lengthened public notification periods for halfway houses, drug rehabilitation centers, or other facilities for treatment of drug dependency. The city’s ordinances matched that of the state and needed adjustment as well, the memo said. 

The council discussed the ordinance, which stipulates the locations of community and recovery homes and the distance they would have to be from schools, other centers, parks, and put a limit on the number of people allowed to reside in the homes.  

“Instead of distinguishing by type of disability or treatment, the proposed text amendment distinguishes two uses by use intensity and land use impacts. Community residences are group homes for residents with disabilities that resemble a typical residential household,” the memo said. 

“A second category, recovery communities, is for generally larger facilities that include multiple dwelling units with centralized services. These facilities do not attempt to emulate a typical household and thus warrant different zoning treatment,” the memo continued.

During the public hearing, former Dunwoody Councilman Robert Wittenstein said he was concerned about some of the proposed ordinance items.

“Communities are judged by how we treat our most vulnerable populations and I think we are falling short on this,” Wittenstein said. “Sometimes we are driven by FUD – fear, uncertainty and doubt.”

Wittenstein asked the council to consider further reducing the distance between facilities and increasing the number of people allowed to reside in some homes from five to seven. 

Councilman John Heneghan objected to having one ordinance to cover both conditions, saying that “these are two very different things, and we can’t lump them together.”

The council will consider the ordinance again at a future meeting.

In other action, the council recognized longtime community volunteer and activist Bill McCahan, who served on the Citizens for Dunwoody committee and various other agencies within the city.

“You are truly a gentleman and Dunwoody is a better place for having you in it,” Councilwoman Stacey Harris said. 

In other action:

  • Kathy Florence acknowledged the achievements of longtime community advocate Lynne Byrd, who passed away last week. Byrd, the author of several books,was a co-founder of the Dunwoody Preservation Trust. She and longtime friend Joyce Amacher were the driving force that resulted in three Dunwoody landmarks being placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The council awarded a $837,000 design contract to KCI for preliminary engineering for the Village Crossroads Project, which involves the construction of a cycle track and wider sidewalks on both sides of Chamblee Dunwoody Road from Womack Road to Roberts Drive. Construction will not begin until at least 2028 or 2029, according to the staff memo.
  • Mayor Lynn Deutsch administered an oath of office to Dunwoody’s newest police officer, Ramatu Kamara.

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