That seemed like an easy enough piece to write. But then I attended the informational session between my neighbors and Brookhaven City leaders on Sept. 21st. I was appalled by what transpired.
Over the course of 90 minutes neighbor after neighbor rose to paint a terrifying picture of the devastation that would befall our community if an abandoned home and dilapidated swimming pool were acquired by the city and replaced by green space. They accused their elected officials of underhanded tactics and ignoring the will of the people to serve some ill-defined conspiratorial master plan.
At various times we were told that if the city purchased the property it was inevitable that our streets would be gridlocked, drunken teens would litter our yards with beer cans, thieves would pour into the neighborhood from the park, female joggers would face horrifying danger and murders would become an ever-present risk. I wish I were kidding, but these are just a few of the risks I jotted down as the conversation got more and more heated.
You would think those who actually live near the park would be listing their homes at fire-sale prices to escape this horrifying slice of hell. In fact, a quick look on Zillow.com suggests those tortured residents are listing their homes for a minimum 30% premium over our neighborhood.
What is wrong with people? Have we become so terrified of the world around us that debating a purchase by the city and a possible foot path to a community park has to be demonized with the darkest of fears? Do we really want to live a life where we are so isolated that anyone walking past our home must immediately be assessed as a threat until proven otherwise?
Let’s put all of this into some perspective. The Dunwoody Forest Neighborhood runs off Chamblee Dunwoody, midway between I-285 and Peachtree Road. Traffic on the thoroughfare is so heavy that rush hour backups are often a mile and a half long. And now there are multiple condo and apartment complexes being built on either side of this two-lane road that will add to the congestion.
Under our yards four pipelines are pumping nearly 4.2 million gallons of petroleum every day. Just over a week ago one of these pipelines ruptured in Alabama, spilling 189,000 gallons of gasoline. That spill is the 178th incident the pipeline’s owner has reported to the Department of Transportation.
Overhead, our neighborhood is treated to a steady stream of flights on approach or departure from Peachtree DeKalb Airport. Twice in the past 10 years those planes have crashed, including one into the yard of a resident.
I don’t live in fear of these things. They are part of life in a modern age. But, when I have an opportunity to connect my home to a park, and likely increase the value of my real property there better be a pretty compelling reason why not to do that.
If there are legitimate concerns (I’m sorry, I can’t envision thieves hoofing it down a gravel trail with my flat-screen) then let’s figure out compromises that mitigate the risk. Even if you oppose the plan all together, learn how your government works and show up at regularly scheduled meetings and voice your concerns.
But please, let’s not turn an attempt to address blighted property into a debate on the dangers others pose to our way of life. That’s not the community that we should want to have.
– Todd Copilevitz has lived in Dunwoody Forest for the past eight years