Dunwoody residents opposed to a proposed walking path on Tilly Mill Road accused one city council member of favoritism.
Speakers at the Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting on Nov. 6 also said there is no demand for a multi-use path in that area.
Neighborhood representatives from Stephens Walk and surrounding neighborhoods are opposed to a proposed installation of 12-foot multi-use paths along Tilly Mill Road, citing the location of the path, the loss of trees, and the proximity of the path to their homes. They also say that the existing six-foot sidewalk is adequate for the neighborhood’s needs.
Tom Simon, a 45-year Dunwoody resident who lives in the Stephens Walk subdivision, said a recent reversal of opinion about which side of Tilly Mill the path should be located is one of the main issues he and his neighbors have about the path.
The city’s website shows two possible alternatives for the path, one on the west side and one on the east side. At a June 13 Dunwoody City Council meeting, Public Works Director Michael Smith recommended to the council that the path run on the east side, to run in front of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA).
However, during a meeting held July 12, 2021, the staff recommendation was to locate the path on the west side of Tilly Mill, where several subdivision entrances are located. Staff cited heavier traffic and a greater potential for use by putting the path on the west side. The path would cost about $700,000 more to install on the west side, according to city staff.
Residents in several subdivisions along Tilly Mill have objected to this plan, Simon said.
“If the path is located on the west side, we will lose about 25 to 30 trees,” he said at the DHA meeting. “On the other side, it will disrupt six of the eight entrances to subdivisions, and it will take out more than 300 trees.”
Simon and others have implied or specifically blamed Dunwoody City Council Member Stacey Harris for the city’s change of heart. Harris is a program director at the MJCCA.
At the meeting, DHA board member Bill Grossman said Harris “teaches gymnastics at the JCC.” Simon said that the path was “magically moved” to the other side of the street after Harris mentioned that the MJCCA opposes its installation on the west side of Tilly Mill.
Harris, who was not at the Sunday meeting, said she has been completely transparent about her employment, and has specifically recused herself from discussions about the path’s location. In addition, she said she did not mention whether or not her employer is in support or opposes the original plan.
“It makes me angry that they (the DHA) would bring my reputation into question,” Harris said. “I have made a concerted effort to not discuss this issue at all with the other council members.”
Harris said her only contribution to the discussion about the multi-use paths was to urge city officials to look at both sides of the street when deciding about where to locate them and that she had been talking in generalities, not specifically the Tilly Mill path in front of the MJCCA.
DHA officials urged Simon and the other citizens to continue to meet with city staff, city council and make their concerns known. Simon sent out a mass email to city officials, the Dunwoody Preservation Trust, the city council, and others outlining their case.