Dunwoody Homeowners Association Supports Austin Land Swap

Dunwoody Senior Baseball board members put on their rally caps and called on the Dunwoody Homeowners Association Nov. 13 to withdraw its support for the proposed deal between DeKalb Schools and the city to swap the lands of the league against Austin Elementary and cash. City Council is due to vote on the deal on Monday, November 14.

The DHA Board of Directors voted last month to back the deal in which the DeKalb County School Board will use the Dunwoody Park ball diamonds as the site for a new Austin elementary school building and pay $3.6 million to the city, which it can use to develop new ball diamonds. at Peachtree Charter Middle School. The city will also gain control of the land where the current school is located.

And despite the final pitch, the DHA board has stuck to its initial support of the land swap.

Dunwoody Senior Baseball board members John Crawford and Jimmy Wood have tried to sway DHA members by making an argument the league has been making for weeks – that new baseball diamonds should be built in the backcourt of Brook Run Park.

Crawford and Wood argued that having the league grounds at Peachtree Charter Middle School would hurt the league as there will be a lack of parking as well as less maintenance on the grounds that will be used by the students. during school hours. They also said that because Peachtree Charter Middle School kicks off at 3:55 p.m. and league play typically starts at 4 p.m., dueling schedules will make it difficult to continue league success.

“It’s down the ninth,” Crawford said of asking for DHA’s support in moving the fields to Brook Run Park. “We understand that there is no alternative and that we have to go. But we suggested the city consider building the fields behind the park.

Wood said that because the fields were to be built on school property, the league would essentially become “guests in our own baseball park.”

Wittenstein pointed out that the league is currently invited to Dunwoody Park, which is owned by the city.

The parents of Peachtree Charter School also oppose the land swap deal because they said building two baseball diamonds on eight acres of school property would disrupt opportunities for student education.

“We’re opposed because we’re losing green space,” Allegra Johnson, president of the Peachtree Charter Middle School Foundation, the school’s governing body, said at the DHA meeting. “Children are the ones who are lost in all of this.”

DHA President Robert Wittenstein asked Crawford and Wood if the league would be willing to halt league play for perhaps several months as the city moves forward with its parks master plan, which includes collecting feedback from the public on what to add or not add to Brook Run Park.

“Would you rather miss a few seasons? Because I don’t think [there is support] by delaying the construction of Austin Elementary,” he said.

“No, because we’ll be gone,” Crawford said, hinting the league wouldn’t survive any type of delay. He then said he doesn’t believe the city needs to go through a parks master plan and hear from community members in order to decide whether to build the new baseball diamonds at Brook Run Park.

“They need to put some sort of sports fields at Brook Run because otherwise there’s wasted land,” he said. “We are not prepared to wait six months. Where was the public input to this [the land swap deal]? All of this was done behind closed doors. Why are we all in favor of citizen participation, except in this particular case? »

DeKalb Schools and the City Council negotiated for about nine months in executive session over what to discuss about where to build a new Austin elementary school and state law allows real estate transactions to be discussed behind closed doors so that there is no possibility for landowners to raise prices when they know that a government entity, for example, is interested in buying a property. State Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), however, said that because this agreement was between two government agencies, the negotiations could have been discussed publicly.

Stacey Harris, former DHA president, said community input into what’s happening in Brook Run Park is needed because by building diamond-shaped baseball diamonds, the city’s “crown jewel” park will not have space for other sports to serve the whole community, such as football. , lacrosse and even women’s sports leagues.

She also questioned delaying the deal to decide where to place baseball diamonds that primarily serve middle and high school students, as it would also delay the construction of the new elementary school. A new school to reduce overcrowding benefits all of Dunwoody, she said.

“We envision a primary school that serves the owners and taxpayers of Dunwoody. Dunwoody Senior Baseball will be fine,” she said.

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