01-19-18 Sandy Springs Reporter

Page 1

JAN. 19 - FEB. 1, 2018 • VOL. 12— NO. 2


Sandy Springs Reporter


► State, city officials debate best ways to regulate short-term rentals PAGE 4 ► Touring theater company for seniors eyes expansion PAGE 20

Bookbonding on MLK Day

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net



Bring on the bagpipes! 1,500 expected in Tartan Trot run Page 16

Is Sandy Springs’ arts-oriented civic center a smart play? See COMMENTARY, Page 10


Advocates’ secret concept influences affordable housing talk

Teacher Nancy McCord and High Point Elementary School fifth-grader Layelin Zamora, 11, read a book together as an example of the Sandy Springs Mission’s work during the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day event Jan. 15 at Heritage Sandy Springs. The annual event, attended by over 200 people, had a new program focused on introducing residents to a local nonprofit and how they can get involved. The Sandy Springs Mission aids at-risk, primarily Latino students in local schools with a partly Christian program. For more information, see sandyspringsmission.org.

As an artist myself; I fully support art as a core in civic identity. Construction and traffic are my only main concerns preand post-completion.


A Sandy Springs couple and their secret concept for a new mixed-income community have been a strong influence on the city’s affordable housing and north end redevelopment policy discussions for at least two years, according to internal city emails. Yet the general public has been unaware of their recommendations and plans, as they repeatedly insisted on secrecy — largely agreed to by city officials — to avoid “scrutiny,” “resistance” and “objections.” David Couchman, Melanie NobleCouchman and their philanthropic Noble-Couchman Foundation have not been the only voices in city policy discussions, and not every city official is sold on their vision. But, the emails show, their behindthe-scenes access and influence have See ADVOCATES on page 13

Plan for vacant houses could expand a park BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net


Creating a student-operated cafe at North Springs High Page 8

Two long-vacant houses aren’t the ideal neighbors for Allen Road Park. But in a possible redevelopment deal, part of the properties may add to that city green space. The 60-year-old houses at 75 and 85 Allen Road have been targeted by city Code Enforcement officers in recent years amid unsuccessful sales attempts. Morris Nejat, a New York City medical doctor brokering the latest sale on behalf of his father-in-law, says that a better future appears to be coming. “We’re in contract with a development See PLAN on page 23

2 | Community

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The city will start rebidding its main government outsourcing contracts this year. The contracts for the Municipal Court and the Parks & Recreation Department — both currently held by the firm Jacobs — will be rebid early this year with the aim of getting a deal done by mid-year, City Manager John McDonough told the City Council Jan. 16. Contracts for other departments will be rebid in 2019, he said. The city is well-known for its model of outsourcing almost all government services to private contractors, a move aimed at controlling costs, ensuring quality and reducing corruption. McDonough said that not all contracts will be rebid at once due to the effort required and other major priorities, including this year’s opening of the new City Springs civic center.


Land purchases approved by the City Council Jan. 16 will move forward for a new park and a long-awaited intersection redesign. A $39,500 purchase of flood-plain land in the panhandle will allow the city to link its new Crooked Creek Park, at Spalding and River Exchange drives, to a currently inaccessible part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area via a walking trail. The 1.95 acres is part of the Retreat at River Park apartments, whose owner had security concerns about the trail plan. And about $171,000 is buying the city five of eight parcels needed as right of way to rebuild the Roswell Road/Glenridge Drive intersection, which is in the design phase. The deal includes strips of land owned by four condominium associations. The project will change the intersection from a double-Y shape to a T.

PO L I C E: N O H OMI C I DES I N 2017

No homicides — including murders or manslaughter cases — were reported in the city in the entire year of 2017, according to Police Chief Ken DeSimone and Deputy Chief Keith Zgonc.

In 2016 and 2015, the city had three reported homicides each year. Those numbers may not include people killed in motor vehicle crashes, Zgonc said, and those stats were not available.


The Sandy Springs and Atlanta police departments have signed a mutual aid agreement that lets the two forces work together on anything from traffic enforcement to natural disasters. While the forces help each other from time to time, the formal deal allows for a much wider range of collaborations and comports with state law for doing so, according to Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone. That includes teaming up in border areas where jurisdiction might be an issue. The deal, which runs through June and renews annually, was approved by the City Council Jan. 2 for an initial assignment: a group of Sandy Springs officers helped APD provide security at the College Football Playoff National Championship football game.


The newly revamped former Lefont Sandy Springs movie theater is the recipient of the city’s first-ever incentive package aimed at small businesses rather than big corporations. Renamed The Springs Cinema & Taphouse, the theater at 5920 Roswell Road, is getting a waiver of a building permit fee and three years of city business taxes, for a projected total value of $11,290. The deal was approved at the Jan. 16 City Council meeting. The theater exceeded the incentive requirements in various ways, including $1.5 million in capital investments and the hiring of 17 employees. While all previous employees were laid off and some were rehired, the total new jobs still exceeds the city’s 15-position threshold, city economic development director Andrea Worthy said. The city created the small-business incentive last year.

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Community | 3


City Springs scores ballet, opera and more BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net


The Atlanta Ballet, the Atlanta Opera and a season of local musical theater are coming to City Springs, along with two fitness boutiques. And that’s just the start of many more arts events and business announcements to come as the city’s new civic center steams towards a two-week grand opening expected in August. The Atlanta Ballet and Atlanta Opera are the first major arts organizations to announce they will perform in the City Springs Performing Arts Center, both in spring 2019. No specific productions were announced yet as season scheduling is underway. The booking of such major and respected organizations as the ballet and opera marks early success for Sandy Springs’ ambition to make the civic center a regional arts capital. “Providing educational excellence and the highest quality entertainment through the arts is an important goal for the Performing Arts Center,” Paul said in a press release. “It is an honor to have such strong partnerships as we launch City Springs, leading with a solid foundation to bring world-class programming to Sandy Springs and the North Fulton area.” Tomer Zvulun, the Atlanta Opera’s general and artistic director, praised City Springs and its 1,100-seat Byers Theatre. “We look forward to producing powerful renditions of great opera in the new, state-of-the-art facility at City Springs,” he said in a press release. “The auditorium is similar to the size and intimacy of European opera houses, allowing us to deliver the high-quality experiences that audiences have come to expect from the Atlanta Opera. The location is equally outstanding, and will help us reach new audiences across the state.” “We are thrilled to expand the reach of Atlanta Ballet performances by participating in the inaugural year of the City Springs Performing Arts Center,” said Atlanta Ballet President & CEO Arturo Jacobus in a press release. “The new venue nurtures the vital arts communities around the city of Atlanta, and we are honored to contribute to this growth.” Meanwhile, the new City Springs Theatre Company, a musical company, also will perform five shows in the 2018-19 inaugural season. The performances include: “42nd Street,” Sept. 14-23; “Elf the Musical,” Dec. 7-16; “South Pacific,” March 8-17, 2019; “Billy Elliot the Musical,” May 3-12, 2019; and “Hairspray,” July 12-21, 2019. The City Springs Theatre Company is a musical outfit that will be run by Brandt Blocker, the former director of the Atlanta Lyric Theatre in Marietta Square. The theater company is being established by part of a $2.5 million gift from Ken Byers,

the head of the foundation, and his wife Tricia, which also got their name on the main theater. Along with the shows, the theater company will create “arts education” programs for “students of all ages,” according to a press release. The company also has announced that its associate artistic director is Shuler Hensley, a Broadway, film and TV actor who won a Tony Award in 2002 for his performance in a production of “Oklahoma!” A Marietta native, he is also the namesake for the Shuler Hensley Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards. “I am thrilled to join City Springs Theatre Company and become even further connected to the metro Atlanta arts community,” Hensley said in a press release. “Brandt and I will work to combine the immense local talent here in Georgia with stars from Broadway as we create New York-quality musical theater in a brand-new, world-class venue right here in Sandy Springs!” For more information, see cityspringstheatre.com. The first announced tenants for City Springs’ 29,000 square feet of retail space are the fitness boutiques SculptHouse and TURN Indoor Cycling + Strength, both expected to open sometime in the

spring, according to the city. The City Springs complex — located between Johnson Ferry Road and Mount Vernon Highway at Roswell Road — also includes a new City Hall, retail space and housing.

It is set to open in phases this year, with the housing within the next few weeks; the park and City Hall in the spring or summer; and the theater spaces in August and September. For more information, see citysprings.com.

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4 | Community

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State, city officials debate best ways to regulate short-term rentals BY JOHN RUCH

into effect late last year. Now it is considering ways to expand and refine regulations, possibly including a mandatory short-term rental registration system and the hiring of a company for $21,000 a year to keep track of them. At the Jan. 2 Sandy Springs City Council meeting, Mayor Rusty Paul said such regulations have complexities the city is still considering. “It’s a balancing act,” he said. Dollar said that it remains to be seen whether any state law will be passed in what is expected to be a short legislative session. But some kind of legislative reckoning is likely coming, he said, “just like we did with Uber and all those other things. Technology is forcing us to address these questions.”


As cities grapple with how to regulate short-term rental services like Airbnb, state legislation that would have reduced local control is getting a rewrite after pressure from Atlanta and Sandy Springs, among other jurisdictions. House Bill 579, introduced last March, would have prohibited cities from banning short-term rentals and limited local regulations. In Sandy Springs, where leaders are considering a new regulatory system, the city’s top planning official called the bill “frightening” and “dangerous,” and the city of Atlanta says it is “actively monitoring” the bill to ensure local control. The bill’s lead sponsor is Rep. Matt Dollar (R-Marietta), whose District 45 includes Sandy Springs’ northwest corner. He said the bill was a “conversation-starter” and is getting a rewrite. “The new bill will look very different,” he said, and likely will propose different types of short-term rental regulations for different types of housing and areas. That still leaves the big question of what those regulations will be, at both the state and local levels, where the issues are complicated and governments take varying approaches.


A mansion at 4205 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Buckhead as it appears in Airbnb listings that have drawn citations from the city of Atlanta, which the owner says are unfounded.

For cities like Atlanta, Brookhaven and Dunwoody, which largely address shortterm rentals through hotel and bed-andbreakfast sections of their zoning codes, statewide legislation could alter the playing field. “We are actively monitoring the bill and will work with our partners to ensure the

city has the ability to locally legislate on the subject matter in the interests of the public health, safety and welfare,” said Alnissa Ruiz-Craig, a city of Atlanta spokesperson. For Sandy Springs, timing could be important. The city just formally allowed short-term rentals to operate for the first time in its new zoning code, which went

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Short-term rentals have been especialterm rentals on the market in Georgia. Rep. Dollar notes that many “mom and pops” ly controversial in big cities, where they can rent out beach houses, mountain cabins act as significant competition with hotels and lakeside properties around the state, while avoiding the same taxes and regulawhich are accepted parts of local econotions. There are also concerns that shortmies. term rentals inflate local housing mar“Local governments kets, making it harder for are dealing with it in diflong-term residents to afferent ways,” amounting ford housing. In 2014, to a “big kind of hodgethe tourist-heavy city of podge,” Dollar said. The Savannah, Ga., cracked general intent of HB579, down on short-term renthe said, is to reduce “unals as zoning violations. certainty” for properLittle attention has ty owners and the shortbeen drawn to shortterm rental industry, and term rentals in sub“level the playing field” urbs and outlying urban with regular hotels and neighborhoods, where motels — and the taxes Jim Tolbert, Sandy Springs’ there likely aren’t such assistant city manager. they are required to pay. large-scale market imBut Tolbert, the Sanpacts and homeowners can often rent with dy Springs planning chief, said the legislamore privacy. But other concerns about tion was “frightening” and could be “taking short-term rentals are still possible, such as my authority to deal with these folks away.” absentee owners, misbehaving guests or viHe said the “most dangerous” part of the olations of condo rules. bill was that it would allow short-term rentJim Tolbert, Sandy Springs’ assistant al companies to pay local hotel/motel taxcity manager in charge of planning, told his es on behalf of their users without disclosCity Council that shorting where exactly any of term rentals can bring in those properties are. taxes and serve tourists Tolbert and his staff on the positive side. But are proposing several on the negative side, he changes to the legislative added, they can “replace proposal. Some ideas inlong-term residents and clude: requiring a shorttenants,” “alter neighborterm rental property’s hood character,” and creowner to live in the propate parking and safety erty the majority of the problems. time; requiring a business Tolbert said that in license and posting of November, he found 211 Rep. Matt Dollar. any city noise ordinance; short-term rentals offered and banning short-term in Sandy Springs via 10 different online rentals in subsidized housing units. companies. In 2016, a Reporter Newspapers Those ideas dovetail with additions Tolreview of listings on the services Airbnb bert suggests for the city code, such as reand Corporate Housing By Owner found quiring registration of all short-term rental dozens of local listings. Some of them were properties, with “detailed records” providthe type that concern city officials, such as ed to the city, and requiring all parking to a Buckhead “party house,” apartments bebe on-site. ing sub-rented against management’s rules, Two other local state representatives, and a Perimeter Center condo that had Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) and Deborah Silcox served solely as a short-term rental invest(R-Sandy Springs), said they have not taken ment property since 2010. a position on the legislation, but added that Certain properties have drawn city cithey have concerns. tations and neighborhood criticism in the “I am aware of a few homes here in my past two years. A prominent example is district that are the subject of a lot of neigha mansion at 4205 Peachtree-Dunwoody bor concern,” said Beskin, who represents Road in Buckhead that drew criticism for part of Buckhead. hosting a concert without the owner’s “I’ve got a lot of questions,” said Silcox, knowledge, then received a cease-and-deincluding the bill’s exemptions for “private sist notice from the city after noise comentities.” plaints, but remained in operation. Owner Dollar said he has spoken briefly with Paul McPherson said he was unfairly tarPaul, the Sandy Springs mayor, about the geted for past or nonexistent issues. issue. “I understand their position … SanIn Brookhaven, where Airbnb co-founddy Springs, it’s one of a handful [of cities] er Joe Gebbia Jr.’s father is a member of across the state that are addressing the the City Council, a house at 1302 Brooklashort-term rental issue,” Dollar said. wn Road drew city Code Enforcement at“The takeaway is, I am working on new tention for allegedly serving as a full-time language and I am working with all intershort-term rental property, which the ownested parties,” he said. er has disputed.

The legislative debate

But those aren’t the only types of short-

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6 | Food & Drink

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Popcorn Palooza BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Popcorn lovers Keith Gispert and Sandra Cox of Brookhaven worked in the medical sales field for many years, traveling the country, where they would specifically visit popcorn shops to try out some of their favorite snack. “We both remember being in a shop, looking at each other and saying, ‘We can do this,’” Gispert said. And so they are doing it. Popcorn Palooza was created in 2014 and now has a brickand-mortar spot at Keth Gispert and 5071 Peachtree Sandra Cox. Blvd., Suite 350, in Chamblee, just over the Brookhaven border, where they sell dozens of flavors such as parmesan garlic, red velvet, white cheddar, cotton candy and many more. The storefront is only open on Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. because most of the business currently caters specifi-

cally to corporate and special events. Gispert answered the following questions about their business.


What inspired you to go into gourmet popcorn?


[Sandra and I] were both were in the medical sales field for many years. We had the opportunity to travel many places and tried several different popcorn shops. We both remember being in a shop, looking at each other and saying, “We can do this…” Here we are several years later.


How do you come up with the different flavors? What is involved in the process?


We come up with

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different flavors through experimentation. There have only been a couple of flavors we tried that did not work to our liking, but nearly everything has worked out well. We have our core offerings at this point, but can always make other flavors for special occasions. Some people request special flavors for events, weddings, etc. We use commercial equipment for everything. Our process is different for our savory flavors versus our sweet/chocolate flavors. The savory flavors are an easier process, where we combine blends of cheeses and spices in a large commercial mixing bowl that turns and combines everything. The amounts of cheeses and spices has all been trial and error to get to the flavor profile we feel is best. The one thing we pride ourselves on is not using powder cheeses. The taste of our product versus a powder cheese popcorn is rather evident. The sweet and chocolate flavors are made by mixing everything in our large commercial equipment. The ingredients go in the heat kettle and it is a longer process. Again, we have tried many varieties/ amounts of certain ingredients we combine to get to the final product. We definitely go with flavor combinations that we know work, like peanut butter and milk chocolate, hot wings and blue cheese, etc. We both love cooking shows and have gathered ideas by flavor combinations we see on Food Network. Lots of trial and error to get to where we are.


How is the gourmet popcorn business doing overall? Is it gaining in popularity, and if so, why?

A: The business is doing well. There was

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corn when you go to the movies?


I have always purchased popcorn when attending the movies. Sandra would eat it sometimes, but not all of the time. Popcorn and the movies, the two just go together. I would not be telling the truth if I said we never bring our own popcorn to the movies. Let’s just say it has snuck itself in a time or 20.

Q: Can you eat regular popcorn anymore?

Or are you tired of popcorn when “off the clock” and like to eat other fun snacks?


We do eat regular popcorn here and there, but prefer to eat something we have created. People always ask us if we are tired of it, but we simply have too many options and flavor profiles to get sick of it. We definitely have our favorite snacks/treats. We are both on the same page when we say our favorite snacks outside of popcorn are donuts for me and ice cream for Sandra, but we definitely limit those treats.

Q: Why locate in Chamblee? A: Chamblee is growing like

crazy. There is a ton of development and great places coming to the community. We really enjoy the people and this location is rather convenient to where we live in neighboring Brookhaven.

Q: Who buys gourmet popcorn? A: Many people buy gourmet popcorn.

We like to say our age demographic ranges from about age 3 to 90 years old. The key point with our product is getting people to try it. I can say with great confidence that it is nearly impossible for someone to not really enjoy at least one flavor we offer. We truly have something for everyone. Oreo, caramel sea salt, parmesan garlic, peanut butter milk chocolate, Hotlanta con limon (a cheese blend with lime and hot spices), white chocolate pretzel and more. There is something for everyone. We have broken into the corporate world pretty well and that makes up a large portion of our clients. This is a great and fun option for employee appreciation, catering events, weddings and parties.


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definitely a learning curve over the first couple of years. We feel like we have figured out the best model for us and things are growing. Our product speaks for itself. People seem to love our product and we take pride in that. We value our loyal customers and look forward to growing our business in 2018.


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JAN. 19 - FEB. 1, 2018

Food & Drink | 7



The Dunwoody Farmers Market is set to open on April 18 at Brook Run Park after local volunteers partnered with the Dunwoody Homeowners Association and city officials to create the new offering. The city at one time had a for-profit farmers market, but it closed after not being able to find a permanent location. The new farmers market is nonprofit and is under the DHA’s umbrella, much like the DHA’s Food Truck Thursdays also held at Brook Run Park. The Dunwoody Farmers Market will take place Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. beginning April 18 and continuing through Oct. 27.

More information can be found at facebook.com/dunwoodyfarmersmarket.


Zoë’s Kitchen, a fast-casual Mediterranean chain, opened this month in the new Plaza at City Springs shopping center at 5840 Roswell Road, Suite 300. For more information, see zoeskitchen.com. Meanwhile, two restaurants in Sandy Springs’ Abernathy Square shopping center closed in January. The upscale sports bar Dantanna’s closed its doors Jan. 9. No reason was given on its website or through social media. Dantanna’s, with other locations in Buckhead and downtown, was located in the Abernathy Square shopping center at Roswell and Abernathy roads for about four years. It replaced an Ap-

plebee’s that was located at the site. CT Cocina & Taqueria, a Mexican restaurant, also closed in early January after being open for about one year.


Pontoon Brewing celebrated its official grand opening the weekend of Jan. 12 with a ribbon cutting, tours, live music, food trucks and, of course, plenty of craft beer. Located at 8601 Dunwoody Place Building 500, Suite 500, it is Sandy Springs’ first brewery. CEO Sean O’Keefe told Reporter Newspapers in October that the business owners looked at 40 buildings in areas as far as Carrollton, Acworth, Smyrna and the West End BeltLine. “We finally found the location we are in today because of the great proximity to the Chattahoochee [River], the amount of traffic and businesses in Sandy Springs

Not all mind expanding experiences are illegal

and the welcoming city. We thought Sandy Springs was a great location,” O’Keefe said.


The Dunwoody Village Burger King, which long doubled as the site for school groups and other organizations to hold car washes for fundraisers, closed its doors Jan. 5 after 30 years of serving Whoppers and fries. The fast food restaurant’s parcel was recently sold to Brand Properties, owners of the Shops of Dunwoody, who have listed the site for lease, according to City Councilmember Terry Nall.

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8 | Education

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Monica Brown, North Springs Charter High School Monica Brown, a special education teacher at North Springs Charter High School, helped create a school café operated by her students. She was awarded “Teacher of the Month” by the Sandy Springs school for her work creating the café in October. “It was a huge project undertaking with hard work, determination and patience with this process,” she said of the project. A teacher for 15 years, Brown is in her second year of teaching special education at North Springs, which created its CBI, or Community Based Instruction program, two years ago. “I am extremely elated about the new CBI program here at North Springs Charter High School. There are endless activities, programs and classes the students can participate in as a new high school student,” Brown said.

Q: Why did you decide to have your students run a cafe?


The Coffee Shop Program has been around in Fulton County for the CBI Program for some years. This program is designed to teach real life, functional, social, personal finance and transition skills to high school special needs students. The students operate a real business (a coffee shop)



in the school. Students operate a cash register, make change, fill recipes, deliver coffee, restock, talk to customers, clock in and lots more. There is no better way to teach job skills than to practice them in a real-world setting. The Spartan Café Express is doing a phenomenal job this school semester.


How is the café program going and how have the students responded to it?


The program is going great! The entire North Springs Charter High School is so excited about Spartan Cafe Express. The interaction amongst one another is exciting and friendships are made. The students have built great relationships with the other peer students. The staff and teachers are excited to receive their first cup of coffee and tea in the morning. This is such a wonderful delight in the morning. The students are loving it and excited! This is really a historical moment for our students. They have left a legacy, that’s for sure. I get a joy to see them prepare coffee, deliver and greet staff members and teachers each day.

Q: Do you enjoy your role in the new CBI

Monica Brown stands with students as they prepare to cut the ribbon on the Spartan Café Express in November 2017.



I truly enjoy my role as the CBI lead teacher of my classroom. The CBI scholars are growing, learning and having fun at the same time. I am extremely elated about the new CBI program here at North Springs Charter High School as the special needs population is growing within our communities. Now that the CBI program is up and running at North Springs Charter High School, students are able to go to their home school. There are endless activities, pro-


grams and classes the students can participate in as a new high school student. Students are learning and working towards building independence and employability skills while working in the coffee shop.


What attracted you to teaching at



After working with students and volunteering with the Special Olympics for several years as a recreation therapist, I later became interested to go back to school and pursue my Masters in Special Education as special education continues to grow within our nation and throughout our communities. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I have always had a passion and love for working with children and young adults with special needs. I see myself as a teacher, role model, friend and also a parent. I am truly living out my purpose, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Q: What do you want to see in your students?


I want to see my CBI students transition after graduating into a college, community college or even a work program to get started. I would love to see them working in the community by taking every job skill learned from my class. I want to see them be successful in their career, skill or even managing in their own business.

Q: What keeps you going year after year? A: My love and passion for my students keep me going. They have a will to learn and succeed in their work as they continue to grow and glow each day. They have a spirit of not giving up. This is what keeps me going and wanting to teach them more the next following year.



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Editor’s note: Through our “Exceptional Educator” articles, Reporter Newspapers showcases the work of some of the outstanding teachers and administrators at our local schools. If you would like to recommend a teacher or administrator to be the subject of an Exceptional Educator article, please email editor@ReporterNewspapers.net.

Education | 9

JAN. 19 - FEB. 1, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

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A rendering shows the final design for the new Riverwood International Charter School in Sandy Springs, which includes an auditorium, gymnasium, media center and cafeteria.

BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

The Fulton County Board of Education is set to vote on designs for the next phases of Riverwood International Charter School construction among concerns about changing the driveway at Heards Ferry. The $80 million project would build an entirely new school, including an auditorium, gymnasium, media center, cafeteria and classrooms. The first two floors of a classroom building and a baseball field have already been completed. Meanwhile, the school district is set to present the renovation plan for North Springs High at a Jan. 23 meeting amidst advocacy for an entirely new school, fueled in part by the new Riverwood campus. The board heard details on the next phases at its Jan. 9 work session, ahead of its regular board meeting set for Jan. 18. The concept designs for the entire Sandy Springs school and the site plan have not changed significantly since originally presented in 2015, Robert Sussenbach, the architect working on the designs said at the work session, which was broadcast on the board’s website. “This is pretty much what we showed you several years ago, and we’re trying to stay consistent with that,” Sussenbach said. Officials won’t be able to say whether or not the project is set to stay on budget until the board meeting, as final costs are still being determined, Patrick Burke, the chief operating officer of the Fulton County School District said during the work session. Some board members, including Katie Reeves, who represents District 2, brought up concerns about limiting the use of the driveway at Heards Ferry, which used to be heavily used but is now restricted to construction traffic and as a right-turn-only entrance. The main entrances are now located at Raider Drive. Reeves argued its safer to have multiple entrances and exits and questioned why one would be removed. Burke said the city of Sandy Springs has safety concerns about the driveway because of the curves on Heards Ferry and prohibited the driveway from continuing to be used as a full access entrance and exit. Construction of the school, located at 5900 Raider Drive, is split into seven phases. The first phase is the only phase that has so far been completed, which included the first two floors of a new building and a baseball field. The third floor of that building will be completed in the second phase, which is scheduled to begin next month and end in June. The contract for finishing the interior of the third floor is also set to be voted on at the board meeting. The construction is estimated to cost $2.8 million, according to the work session agenda. A cafeteria and media center will also be built during phase two. Other phases will include the addition of a gymnasium, an auditorium and expanded parking from 450 spaces to around 650. All construction is planned to conclude in January 2022, according to documents. The new school facilities are being built on the existing school grounds without shutting down any current classrooms or programs. Once the new facilities are built, the old ones will be demolished.

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10 | Commentary

Reporter Newspapers

Our mission is to provide our readers with fresh and engaging information about life in their communities. Published by Springs Publishing LLC 6065 Roswell Road, Suite 225 Sandy Springs, GA 30328 Phone: 404-917-2200 • Fax: 404-917-2201 Brookhaven Reporter | Buckhead Reporter Dunwoody Reporter | Sandy Springs Reporter www.ReporterNewspapers.net Atlanta INtown www.AtlantaINtownPaper.com Atlanta Senior Life www.AtlantaSeniorLife.com

C O NTA C T US Founder & Publisher Steve Levene stevelevene@reporternewspapers.net Editorial Managing Editor John Ruch johnruch@reporternewspapers.net INtown Editor: Collin Kelley Editor-at-Large Joe Earle Staff Writers Dyana Bagby, Evelyn Andrews Copy Editor: Donna Williams Lewis Creative and Production Creative Director Rico Figliolini rico@reporternewspapers.net Graphic Designer: Soojin Yang Advertising Director of Sales Development Amy Arno amyarno@reporternewspapers.net Sales Executives Julie Davis, Jeff Kremer, Janet Porter, Jim Speakman, Janet Tassitano Office Manager Deborah Davis deborahdavis@reporternewspapers.net Contributors Phil Mosier, Jaclyn Turner

Free Home Delivery 60,000 copies of Reporter Newspapers are delivered by carriers to homes in ZIP codes 30305, 30319, 30326, 30327, 30328, 30338, 30342 and 30350 and to more than 500 business/retail locations. For locations, check “Where To Find Us” at www.ReporterNewspapers.net For delivery requests, please email delivery@reporternewspapers.net.

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Community Survey / Is Sandy Springs’ arts-oriented civic center a smart play? With its new City Springs civic center, a $229 million facility set to open this year with a major performing arts center at its core, Sandy Springs aims to build its identity around the arts. Many respondents to the Reporter Newspapers’ latest 1Q.com survey say that’s a smart, forward-thinking move — though there is some disagreement about the cost. “I believe it adds great value and keeps the life in a city,” said a 58-year-old Sandy Springs woman, one of 200 respondents to the cellphone-based text survey of residents in communities served by the Reporter and our sister paper, Atlanta INtown. “Having this arts center will provide options for theater-going and generate revenue for the city. Keeping the arts alive is a way we can lead the younger generations and give them additional opportunities to learn more about their talents.” A 36-year-old Dunwoody woman said she couldn’t wait to join friends and family for shows at City Springs. “I love it!!,” she commented. “I think it’s a great add to our community.” “I live in Sandy Springs, so I’m all for it and the guests it will bring in,” a 53-year-old woman wrote. “I find it to be an incredible plan,” a 28-year-old Buckhead man commented. “I enjoy having various things to do around the Atlanta area, which includes art galleries, performances, attending the symphony, as well as enjoying music. More options like these make living in this city more enjoyable.” And a 52-year-old Buckhead woman put it simply: “It’s a good play for Sandy Springs,” she said. There were some naysayers. “That’s what the city of Atlanta is for. Not Sandy Springs,” said one 23-year-old respondent. Meanwhile, a 32-year-old Atlanta man applauded Sandy Springs for outdoing his city: “Not refurbishing and breathing new life into the Atlanta Civic Center was a waste of a beautiful property and a key part of Atlanta’s heritage. Glad to hear Sandy Springs is picking up the torch to enrich their community.” A bigger split in opinion was whether such a civic center, built as a public-private partnership, is worth $229 million. “Too much money spent,” a 42-year-old Sandy Springs man commented. “Let the private sector do this.” Another Sandy Springs resident, a 33-year-old man, had similar questions. “While I appreciate the city building a performing arts center,” he wrote, “the price tag to complete [it] is very concerning and [I] wonder if those funds could have been better used elsewhere for the city.” Residents of communities near Sandy Springs also were concerned about the cost. “I think it’s a waste for the smaller cities to do this. There are plenty of arts venues and organizations in Atlanta already,” a 36-year-old Brookhaven man noted. A 46-year-old Buckhead man said the project represented “a lot of money that could be going elsewhere. [I] don’t agree.” But other respondents thought money invested in the arts would provide a good return to the community. “I’m in favor of it,” a 51-year-old Sandy Springs man said of the performing arts center. “It makes a town more attractive and raises property values.” “Arts and culture are key to a community’s growth and vitality and is a proven economic driver for long term growth,” said a 42-year-old Atlanta woman. When respondents were asked what would attract them to Sandy Springs for a show, answers varied widely. Concerts featuring popular music led the list, with 34 percent of the respondents expressing interest. Classical music drew the least interest, with only 2 percent of the respondents saying they would come to Sandy Springs for that type of concert.

What type of arts event is most likely to attract you to visit City Springs? Popular music (pop, rock, hip-hop, etc.)


(musical or dramatic)


34% 18.5% 7.5%

Children’s arts programs


Art exhibit


Celebrity speaking tour






(classical or modern)

Classical music Other

2% 13%

Here’s what some other respondents had to say: “Great idea! The arts will enhance the cultural activities in the area.” — 27-year-old Atlanta woman “I believe arts are an important part of a community. The fact that Atlanta is doing pretty good on the arts front was a big reason for staying in the area.” — 39-year-old Atlanta woman “As an artist myself; I fully support art as a core in civic identity. Construction and traffic are my only main concerns pre- and post-completion.” — 25-year-old Buckhead woman “Feel like that money would be better spent in our schools and starting an appreciation for and attention to the arts early in life.” — 25-year-old Brookhaven woman

1Q is an Atlanta-based startup that has developed a technology which sends questions and surveys to a cellphone via app or text message from businesses and organizations across the country. Respondents are paid 50 cents per answer, through PayPal, for sharing their opinions. Payments may also be donated directly to charity. Sign up to be included in our local community polls at 1Q.com/reporter or by texting REPORTER to 86312. © 2018 with all rights reserved Publisher reserves the right to refuse editorial or advertising for any reason. Publisher assumes no responsibility for information contained in advertising. Any opinions expressed in print or online do not necessarily represent the views of Reporter Newspapers or Springs Publishing, LLC.

Have something to say?

Send letters to editor@reporternewspapers.net SS

JAN. 19 - FEB. 1, 2018

Commentary | 11


Around Town

Joe Earle is editor-at-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at joeearle@reporternewspapers.net

Growing up in Dunwoody, Kristen Hard loved to make things. “I was always into food, from the time I was a child,” she said recently. “I was always in the kitchen wanting to make stuff.” At the same time, “All I ever wanted was a chemistry set. I was really into science. I was really into invention.” “I think I kind of always had this brain where I have a balance with this obsession for science and for art,” she said. Jump forward a few years. In her 20s, Hard was working as a private chef on a yacht. During a stop in the Caribbean, she had an epiphany. The two sides of her brain came together when she discovered chocolate – real chocolate – came from the seeds hidden inside the fruit of a tropical tree and wasn’t simply concocted in a huge factory. “It blew my mind. It was like all these dots connected… like the stars aligned.” Hard set about learning how to make chocolate from scratch. She produced small batches of chocolate for herself and friends. She experimented. In 2004, she moved back to Atlanta and started selling her chocolate through farmer’s markets and street fairs. When Hard started out, she was among a handful of custom bean-tobar chocolate makers in the country, she said, and the only one in the southeastern U.S. Now her chocolates draw widespread attention. Notices from magazines such as Travel + Leisure, Food + Wine and Oprah decorate the walls of her office in her northwest Atlanta factory. Her company, Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co., makes luxury chocolate directly from cacao beans and sells scores of chocolate treats — such as $3 chocolate truffles and $8 chocolate bars and $21.50 Salame di Cioccolato, which looks like salami — through a Buckhead shop and a café in Virginia-Highland. Hard says she’s set her sights set on an even grander goal. She wants to make the best chocolate in the world. And maybe, in the process, help save chocolate itself for the future. After she got into the chocolate business, Hard said she discovered its problems. It’s a far-flung industry, with small farms in Central and South America and Africa and

manufacturers spread around the world. “I started understanding the industry and the corruption and the lack of quality,” she said. “Over the last 100 years, cacao has been bred [to increase] disease resistance and yield,” she said. “They have bred out flavors.” She decided that if she wanted to make the best chocolate in the world, she needed to work with the best raw materials. She went looking for better chocolate beans. She said she worked with cacao farmers and at one point even owned her own farm in Peru. She says she found what she wanted in old chocolate trees that produced fruit that is sweeter, not as bitter, “more elegant.” “I’m looking for the rarest, the less than 1 percent, cacao,” she said. “It exists. It’s really hard to find. It’s hard to find farmers who are growing it.” Hard said she’s now working to convince farmers to grow rare, heirloom varieties of cacao. At the same time, she wants to create a market that would allow those farmers to be able to afford to grow those varieties. “We basically have created a new market for cacao that has never been seen before,” she said. That means making chocolate that’s expensive. That doesn’t worry Hard. “Chocolate is a luxury,” she said. “A dark chocolate, fine chocolate, is a luxury. It’s not a foodstuff, like rice. It shouldn’t be treated like a commodity.” She also worries about finding ways to replace aging cacao farmers. Their chilSPECIAL dren are moving away or to Kristen Hard of other crops, she said, which Cacao Atlanta Chocolate Co. may mean real chocolate will grow even rarer, more expensive. “What happens when [the farmers] die?” she asked. She thinks it’s worth the struggle. “I am trying to redefine things so our children and children’s children will have this,” she said. “I just feel like there is a way to make a change in this world if you put your mind to it.”

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12 | Community

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Neighbors outraged by football star’s backyard ball-tossing project BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

A former NFL and Georgia Bulldogs star’s clearing of a backyard woodland is infuriating his Sandy Springs neighbors, who call it destruction of wilderness for a mini football field. But the athlete’s contractor says he’s just making a bigger — and perfectly legal — yard where his kids can play ball. Champ Bailey — a recently retired Denver Broncos cornerback and All-American player for the University of Georgia formally named Roland Bailey Jr. — and his family bought the mansion at 995 Heards Ferry Road in May 2017 for $2.9 million, according to county property records. The property included a wooded section of about 0.7 acres that neighbors thought was protected under a 16-year-old zoning condition. But the city says that condition doesn’t apply, and in August, Bailey got permits to raze the woods, expand the lawn and erect a 15- to 30-foot-high retaining wall. That didn’t sit well with Dr. Jerry Sherman and Dr. Stewart Szikman, who live in the houses downhill from Bailey’s back yard at the end of the Ivy Falls Drive cul-de-sac. Their own backyard view transformed from trees into a concrete-brick retaining wall. They’re

talking to lawyers, and Sherman said he was willing to spend $50,000 on a lawsuit for loss of property value. Sherman described the work as a loss of “an acre of urban forest inhabited by owls, foxes and other animals” and says Bailey is “raping the land so he could put a football field in his back yard.” “Who’s going to want to buy a house with that sitting in the back yard?” Sherman said, referring to the wall rising on the slope above his picture windows. “Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine someone would take down all the trees for a football field,” said Szikman. “We’re not mad at Champ Bailey. Every dad wants to be able to play with his kids,” added Szikman, who said he’s a fan and fellow Georgia grad. He said the neighbors are unhappy with the city permitting and the impact on their property, with the message being, “Sandy Springs, you guys dropped the ball.” Bobby Webb, the contractor on the project, said Bailey was not immediately available for comment. But, Webb said, it’s not really a football field and more of a family yard. Plans filed with the city show a 30-by-50-foot “sports court,” a 55-by-12foot batting cage and an open area. “He’s creating a back yard…so he can take his kids out and throw a ball with

’em,” Webb said of Bailey. “He’s really upset with [the neighbors] right now because people are trying to stop him doing what he wants to do on his own property. He’s one of the nicest guys. All he wants to have is a yard to throw the ball to his kids.” Webb is a former president of the Greater Atlanta Homebuilders Association’s North Fulton chapter and a wellknown custom home builder in Buckhead and Sandy Springs, where he has built houses for such famous athletes as basketball legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving. Webb said he built Bailey’s previous house elsewhere in Sandy Springs, adding that the football star moved to Heards Ferry specifically to have the larger back yard for family ball-tossing. “There’s been a lot of people saying things, behind the house, that are not true,” Webb said. “My opinion, they’ve enjoyed the luxury of looking back into woods and not knowing where their property line is. Now they’re shocked to find out where the property line is.” Webb said he informed some neighbors about the project beforehand, but Sherman and Szikman — whose side-byside properties abut the largest section of wall — said it was a surprise to them. Sherman and Szikman acknowledge that lawyers they’ve consulted tell them the

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project is legal, though they are seeking a second opinion. Sherman said that regardless, it’s a cautionary tale about a woodland not being as protected as neighbors assume. “Everybody needs to be vigilant of something like this,” he said. In part, the controversy is an example of ongoing debates about whether Sandy Springs’ tree protection ordinance should be stiffer. Records indicate that Bailey paid about $2,100 into the city tree fund in exchange for removing some of the larger trees. City officials have said they likely will take up tree ordinance revisions this year for addition into the new city zoning code. The dispute also involves obscure details of two successive zoning codes, both of them now defunct. Sherman and Szikman believed the woodland was safe under an outdated Fulton County rezoning dating to 2001, four years before Sandy Springs’ incorporation. But the city says that was never triggered and no longer exists. “They may be right about this,” Sherman acknowledged, though he said a “second opinion” from an attorney is forthcoming. Webb said he has gotten previous retaining wall projects permitted in about two weeks, but this one took about four months. He said that was because “the city of Sandy Springs really scrutinized this, went back and forth … They crossed every ‘T’ and dotted every ‘i.’ ” The main concern city staff made Webb address, he said, was water runoff. He said that while he understands that neighbors may not like looking at that wall, that runoff work will benefit them. “The only thing I can see they have a problem with is, they have to look at a wall,” Webb said of the neighbors. But, he added, that wall should fix existing water runoff issues, so from that perspective, “They’ve got a great situation.”

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Methodist Dunwoody United Gil Yates, about to begin at for his classmate Coast Indians was making a beeline A class on Pacific strode into the room, Church when a man OK.” approached. “Shuffling’sbuddy, who would not front row, center. said, as the man his “No running!” Yates is a year older than all in good fun. Yates By Kathy Dean The teasing was share his age: 91. with Perimeter Adults did but spring this name, classes reveal his 175 students taking We hear it all The men are among most of whom adults, time: senior (PALS). less is more. forthe rings education Services & especially Learning start. The phrase continuing true for older from the year of providing members adultsneed empty nests been PALS is in its 25th are facing and are the whofor of Dunwoody, have care ready of takes to of and his wife, Dot, of their enjoy the second kind lives. and this are 60-plus. Yates Intown and north half to help other people, many comforta metro Atlanta friends.” “People our age want made lifelong ble options for offer them. on page 4 Yates said. “We have “Baby boomers fellowship,” Dot have spent Continued working and much of their building lives said Dawn Anderson their wealth for retiremen t,” , Realtor, Dorsey “As retiremen Alston Realtors. t becomes more of a reality, they plan their transition begin to to downsize. Ease and affordability of life, proximity are certainly the goals of most downsizing common boomers.” The trend of continues to grow, 55+ active adult commun ities Anderson said. well qualified “Baby boomers buyers and know are looking for.” exactly what they are Kim Isaacs, aged Avalon in Alpharet 58, said that her townhom e in ta gives her everything they and her husband want. “We had home in Johns lived in our previous Creek for 19 years. left for college, When our last we child and really didn’t decided that we wanted a change need a large house of us,” she said. for just the two



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Community | 13


Advocates’ secret concept influences affordable housing talk Continued from page 1 been significant in shaping the new “Next Ten” planning and zoning policies, and in Mayor Rusty Paul’s plan for an affordable housing task force set to launch this year. Last year, the Couchmans and three high-profile affordable housing development organizations privately presented the mayor and City Council members with a redevelopment concept for some of the north end’s older apartment complexes, a large-scale idea featuring mixed-income housing and a community center, that one official likens to Atlanta’s East Lake. The Couchmans successfully pushed for “affordable” and “workforce” housing language to remain in the city’s new Comprehensive Land-Use Plan for that area to “sell” their concept. At one point, a top city planning official was working directly with the Couchmans on a multi-year program of both policy and persuasion, aiming partly to educate the Sandy Springs public about the need for affordable housing. More recently, Paul allowed the Couchmans to review and comment on a draft policy document called “Realizing the Dream,” apparently intended to guide the upcoming task force, which even some fellow city officials have not seen. A small “committee” of residents and business or nonprofit leaders has been working with the Couchmans on the “River Springs Initiative,” the north end redevelopment concept. Some of the members’ other advocacy efforts in the past year appear in a new light when their involvement in the Couchmans’ work is known. Among them are Betty Klein, who was involved in a new group pushing for a new North Springs Charter High School building in the general area, and Christine Bruno of the Huntcliff Homes Association, who spoke in favor of more affordable housing at a city Planning Commission meeting and whose organization was involved in the community’s rejection of a Lidl grocery store proposed for a shopping center within the area targeted by the Couchmans’ proposal. Neither Klein nor Bruno responded to a request for comments. The Couchmans are well-regarded leaders of the city’s philanthropic community. Their foundation, established in 2003, played a key role in reviving the nonprofit now known as the Sandy Springs Education Force, which bolsters local school programs. In 2011, the city honored Melanie Noble-Couchman with its Humanitarian Award. The Couchmans declined to answer questions for this article and urged that SS

their efforts remain secret for now. Paul, through a city spokesperson, declined to be interviewed, citing the ongoing policy formulation and his intent to discuss it at the Jan. 23 City Council retreat. Former City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling, one of the few officials or residents involved who agreed to speak in detail, said the mayor and council’s work with the Couchmans is not fundamentally different from how they take input from residents on many other issues prior to a public vetting of formal proposals. Sterling said he was not sworn to secrecy on the subject. But, he acknowledged, their particular efforts were kept under wraps, partly due to city leaders’ own lack of consensus on the complex issue of affordable housing, and partly due to the highly sensitive local politics. “I think oftentimes when people hear ‘affordable housing’ … they think ‘lowincome housing.’ And that by itself is scary to some people,” said Sterling. The city was interested in “getting its ducks in a row” before any general public discussion, he said, because coming out with an infeasible or unpolished affordability program or policy could “poison the well.” “I don’t view it as underhandedly secret, but it wasn’t ripe,” Sterling said of the Couchmans’ efforts, “and this is the thing where [the subject] is delicate, because it deals with issues of poverty, which in some people’s minds equals race.” The Reporter discovered the Couchmans’ advocacy efforts after conducting an open records request for dozens of emails about city affordable housing policy discussions for the entire year of 2017 from the accounts of Paul, City Manager John McDonough and Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert. In light of the emails, several public comments by Paul and former area City Councilmember Ken Dishman that sounded like general comments about gathering public input, or expressions of their own ideas, were actually hints of the Couchmans’ specific behind-the-scenes advocacy. In April 2017, the Reporter asked Paul and Dishman to provide more details about private affordable housing discussions the mayor had mentioned at a council meeting. The emails show that Dishman drafted a written response that he gave to three people for review: Paul, city Communications Director Sharon Kraun — and Melanie NobleCouchman, who urged secrecy unless the mayor said otherwise. “[M]y fear is that by addressing [the Continued on page 14

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PUBLIC INFORMATION OPEN HOUSE INTERSECTION IMPROVEMENTS AT NORTHSIDE DR AND RIVERVIEW RD The City of Sandy Springs is hosting an Open House to present design concepts being considered to improve traffic efficiency and safety at Northside Drive and Riverview Road. Thursday, February 1, 2018 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m. Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, STEM Building 805 Mount Vernon Highway Sandy Springs, GA 30327

For more information please visit sandyspringsga.gov

cades to come,” the email says. At least three organizations worked Reporter’s] question, we could begin on the concept. One is Purpose Built to stir up resistance or generate more Communities, a nonprofit consulting questions before we have a plan in place firm whose executive board chair is forto educate the staff, council and resimer Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. dents and handle objections,” NoblePurpose Built Communities came out of Couchman wrote, urging “an approach the 1990s revitalization project of East that ‘the less we say the better.’” Lake, which has become something of The final responses from Paul and a national model. The consultant advoDishman did not mention the Couchcates a neighborhood-based model of remans or their redevelopment concept. development with mixed-income housing, schools and an in-house nonprofit North end redevelopment conto oversee its direction. That model apcept pears to be the basis for the Couchmans’ Redevelopment of several older shopconcept. ping centers and apartment complexOther organizations involved ines along northern Roswell Road has clude Tapestry Development Group, a long been a desire of city leaders, and Decatur-based affordable rental housit gained momentum in the “Next Ten” ing firm, and the Southeast office of Enplanning. That priority also made the terprise Community Partners, which area the focus of provides technithe housing afcal assistance on fordability theme affordable housthat rose rapidly ing creation and on the city’s agenpreservation. da. All three orgaWhile many nizations either Sandy Springs did not respond residents to questions for weighed in with this article or dea wide variety of clined to comopinions during ment on the rethe “Next Ten,” cord. only a handful The concept of select insidwas researched ers knew about and developed by the Couchmans’ a “committee” the emerging conCouchmans ascept for a mixedsembled that first income redevelmet “formally” opment in the in April 2016 at north end and Lost Corner Prethat it was affectFILE serve and inforMelanie Noble-Couchman, above, has been ing city officials’ mally for at least working with husband David Couchman thinking. and their Noble-Couchman Foundation three months beThe concept on city affordable housing advocacy. fore then, accordappears to reing to the emails. main in a conceptual state and it is unMost of the members have participatclear what level of detail it has reached. ed in organizations, particularly LeadThe emails describe it as focused on the ership Sandy Springs, that are well-conarea bounded by Roswell Road, Dunnected politically with the city. Members woody Place, Roberts Drive and North named in a May 2017 email from the River Parkway, which currently inCouchmans include: Bruno, Klein; Tacludes apartment complexes, the North mara Carrera, the CEO of the nonprofit River Shopping Center and the Sandy Community Assistance Center; Sherwin Springs Charter Middle School. It broadNelson Clemons; Pam Jones; Gene and ly involves replacing two to three apartCarolyn Jordan; Robert Levinson; and ment complexes with several forms of Peggy Stapleton. rental and ownership housing affordOn June 6, 2017, the committee and able to a full range of incomes. A new the three consulting organizations held community center or recreation center a presentation at City Hall for the mayis also proposed, along with some eleor, City Council members and city staff ment of “strong public education,” apabout the concept. The presentation was parently a reference to connecting with split into two back-to-back meetings, a school. each attended by three of the six counThe Couchmans describe the concil members, specifically to avoid formcept in one email as “financially feaing a quorum. sible to address the preservation of afOtherwise, as the Couchmans wrote fordable housing” and “needed to create in an email invitation, “to include the a full transformation with far reachother councilmen it would have to be a ing results, for the north end of Sandy public meeting, and we are not ready for Springs.” The mixed-income, mixed-use a public meeting.” approach also “ensures stability for deThat tactic, often used by the council


JAN. 19 - FEB. 1, 2018

Community | 15


to receive city staff briefings, is legal under Georgia Open Meeting Act law, according to David E. Hudson, an attorney who serves on the board of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. Former Councilmember Sterling and City Councilmember John Paulson said they do not recall details of the presentations, except that they involved pro formas – general feasibility studies – of a couple of versions of the redevelopment. Reaction seems to have varied; Paulson called it “just one way, one path” on a complex issue, while Sterling said it “could be transformative, especially if it can be something we can replicate” rather than just do as a “one-shot wonder.” “The Couchmans have an approach for a specific area. But policy isn’t for 20 acres and one property,” Sterling said.

able housing as part of a federal Community Development Block Grant program whose funds are currently spent solely on sidewalks. But the Couchmans and their north end concept were not mentioned publicly as a factor in that outreach. Alexander has since left the city job and it is unclear whether her affordability housing education program continues. When the Comprehensive Plan’s final draft was issued in late 2016, the Couchmans were surprised to see the “Small Area Plan” for their north end area spoke only of middle-income ownership housing. The emails show them complaining to city officials about feeling betrayed after Dishman, the for-

and workforce housing.” That language was added sometime before the council adopted the Comprehensive Plan in a largely technical vote without further community meetings. Dishman declined to comment on the specifics of his discussions with the Couchmans for this article, saying broadly that he often met privately with residents on various topics, and deferring to the current councilmembers on the ongoing policy discussions. The Comprehensive Plan was the basis for the new Development Code, which formalizes a basic affordable housing incentive policy that, officials say, is just the beginning of a broader policy to be formulated by the mayor’s

‘Next Ten’ influence


As the city began grappling with housing affordability issues in its “Next Ten” planning process, the emails show, the Couchmans played a crucial advocacy role. They did not dictate policy, but successfully expanded the range and scope of policy discussions amid the city’s internal dissents and discussions. “Affordable” and “workforce” housing are fixed in the city’s Comprehensive Plan vision for the northern Roswell Road corridor because the Couchmans made a last-minute demand for that language, after public meetings were done and a final draft was approved by the City Council, according to the emails. The “Next Ten” planning process, which began in 2015, had other influential voices on housing affordability. Among the biggest was Rhodeside & Harwell, the consulting team leading the planning process, which pushed the concept of the “missing middle” — the idea that the city’s biggest housing problem is a lack of middle-class ownership units. But the Couchmans were key voices in pressing for deeper affordability and rental housing as part of their emerging mixed-income concept for the north end. By December 2015, they were closely involved in the “Next Ten” planning, meeting privately with city staff, elected officials and Rhodeside & Harwell consultants. The emails show that the Couchmans believed they had official city support for their mixed-income vision, and with good reason. In early 2016, the Couchmans said in emails, they were contacted by Michelle Alexander, then the city’s Community Development director, with an offer to work with them on a longrange affordable housing policy and a program of educating the city’s general public about the need for such housing. During that same “Next Ten” process, Alexander got the mayor and council’s blessing to hold an expanded series of public meetings on the topic of afford-

Part of an email from the Couchmans about a June 6, 2017 private City Hall meeting where their concept for north end redevelopment was presented to the mayor, City Council and certain city officials.

mer city councilmember, told them the council had decided on the middle-income ownership focus. The Couchmans pushed back, saying that the Comprehensive Plan needed to include “buzzwords” like “affordable,” “workforce” and “inclusionary zoning” for their mixed-income north end concept to proceed. “Many philanthropic organizations and individuals have said that we are being ‘naïve’ if we think that Sandy Springs could get behind this effort,” the Couchmans wrote in one email to Paul. “In the past year we have reassured them of the city’s commitment to this goal based on all of our conversations.” “We will not go against what the council and community wants,” they wrote later in the email. “We expect some resistance, but felt assured after our repeated conversations with you and other council members, that we were moving the same direction and that our mutual efforts would be successful in transforming the north end, and that we would pioneer a new model to addressing the missing middle [lack of middle-class housing] dilemma that is surfacing all over the country.” Dishman agreed and asked Tolbert, the assistant city manager, to insert language to address their concern that the Comprehensive Plan “does not provide what they need to in order to go out and ‘sell’ their redevelopment concept, which centers on affordable housing

task force. In various drafts of the Development Code last year, affordability policies changed significantly for reasons that remain largely unexplained. The emails do not give much more detail about that process. But they do show that in April 2017, the Couchmans contacted Paul to request a meeting with Lee Einsweiler, the consultant writing the Development Code, after media reports about a draft that contained an inclusionary zoning policy focused on middle-income households. The Couchmans said such a policy would not help with government funding of their north end redevelopment concept. The policy idea was criticized by some members of the public in community meetings as well and was later withdrawn.

‘Realizing the Dream’ and task force As the city affordable housing policy discussion continues, the emails indicate Paul is taking the lead, claiming credit for unilateral policy changes — including killing the inclusionary zoning proposal — and forming the upcoming task force with sporadic input from other city officials. The emails also show that Paul’s ideas for the task force are truly works in progress, sometimes changing in scope and timing. And over the “Next Ten” planning period and into this month, Paul’s public statements on affordable hous-

ing have shifted, from an early focus on the “missing middle” to today’s broader comments including lower-income affordability. Paul has had many sources of input and his own experience — he once served in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development — but his shift in language parallels the Couchmans’ advocacy and vision. “For the past year I have been working with the Noble-Couchman Foundation on an affordable housing strategy,” Paul wrote in September 2017 to a resident who had emailed him with a plea for the city to retain affordable housing for seniors and people with disabilities. It is the sole instance in the emails or Paul’s previous public comments where he revealed the Couchmans’ work to a member of the general public, and he provided no additional detail or explanation. Paul is forming the task force himself with no formal nomination process. The Couchmans are among those offering candidates behind the scenes, including two involved in their north end concept: an official from Community Enterprise Partners and Carrera, the Community Assistance Center’s CEO. Paul replied that he might consider them in consultant roles. Paul also provided the Couchmans with a draft of his “Realizing the Dream” document. The document does not appear in the emails and its details and purpose are not fully clear. But it appears to be intended to inform the task force’s policy goals and is described as an update of something Paul wrote after winning the mayoral office in 2013. References to its contents in the emails indicate it is similar to the concepts of the Couchmans and Purpose Built Communities, including aspects of schooling, economic mobility and home ownership. In one email, Melanie NobleCouchman says she and her husband agree with its concept to “transition the working class to financial stability and home ownership.” “We have read your Draft of [the] Affordable Housing Task Force and we are inspired, motivated, and excited … but scared to death! Your draft is a huge undertaking,” Melanie Noble-Couchman wrote to Paul in August 2017 about the draft document. “It is well-said, and a wonderful task that needs to be completed. And, we are looking forward to working with you on making it a reality,” commented David Couchman. He also made formatting and editorial suggestions, saying Paul should replace the terms “middle class” and “workforce” with “mixed income” and “essential.” The emails indicate that Paul has shown “Realizing the Dream” to some city officials, including McDonough and Tolbert, but not to all. When Sterling, who just left the council last month, was asked about the document, he replied, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

16 | Arts & Entertainment

Facebook.com/TheReporterNewspapers ■ twitter.com/Reporter_News and artistic director Roni Koresh. $25 members; $38 community. MJCCA’s Morris & Rae Frank Theatre, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: atlantajcc.org/boxoffice or 678812-4002.







Friday, Jan. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 18 Stage Door Players present the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Picnic,” by William Inge. The play is set on a Kansas Labor Day weekend in the joint backyards of two middle-aged widows whose families are disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious young drifter. $15$33. 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Schedule and other info: stagedoorplayers.net.


Saturday, Feb. 3, events begin at 7:50 a.m. An anticipated 1,500 runners will gather to the sound of bagpipes to compete in the 2018 Tartan Trot 5K/10K race, which starts and ends at Saint Luke’s Presbyterian Church. The Tartan Trot features two Peachtree Road Race qualifying races (8:30 a.m.) and is a walker-, stroller- and dog-friendly event with a 1-mile Fun Run (8 a.m.) and a Tot Trot (7:50 a.m.). $35 for the 5K/10K; $15 for the Fun Run. 1978 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. Info: tartantrot.com.


Saturday Jan. 27, 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 28, 5 p.m. The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta presents the critically acclaimed Koresh Dance Company, founded by Israeli-born choreographer


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Saturday, Feb. 3, 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Beginner’s dance lesson 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Dennis Stroughmatt and Creole Stomp band fuel the music for a Mardi Gras party featuring everything from bluesy twosteps and waltzes to Creole tunes and zydeco. Authentic Cajun/Creole food for sale. Sponsored by the Atlanta Cajun Zydeco Association. $18. $14 active military. $5 students. Dorothy Benson Center, 6500 Vernon Woods Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: aczadance.org.

JAN. 19 - FEB. 1, 2018

Arts & Entertainment | 17



Ongoing Senior Stretch and Cardio & Strength classes are now in session at the Briarwood Recreation Center. SilverSneakers is a fitness program for adults ages 65-plus that comes free with qualifying health plans. Free. $5 per class for nonSilverSneakers members. 2235 Briarwood Way N.E., Brookhaven. Info: silversneakers.com/flex or brookhavenga.gov.


Thursday, Jan. 25 to Saturday, Jan. 27, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The Cathedral of St. Philip partners with the nonprofit Antiques Council for its festival of art, antiques and floral and interior design, benefitting A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab. Period furniture, jewelry, art and accessories will be for sale; lunch available from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. $20 covers the three days. Additional costs for author talks, a Sunday tour of homes and other scheduled show events. 2744 Peachtree Road, Buckhead. Info: cathedralantiques.org.

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Thursday, Jan. 25 to Monday, Jan. 29. (Closed Sunday.) Members only: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. Public hours: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday. The Friends of the Dunwoody Library will hold a four-day book sale culminating with a Bag Day on Monday. 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: 770-512-4640.

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Saturday, Jan. 27, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Heritage Sandy Springs has rebranded its American Girl Club, which always welcomed all genders but only attracted girls, to reflect the inclusive nature of the program. This month, kids will learn about the history of country music with coed characters Logan and Tenney. Each monthly club meeting includes an activity, craft and snack. Kids are invited to bring their favorite doll. Best suited for ages 5 to 12. Advance registration recommended. $8 Heritage Sandy Springs members; $10 nonmembers; $15 at the door. 6075 Sandy Springs Circle, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org. Click the education tab. Continued on page 18

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Wednesday, Jan. 31, 5 to 6:30 p.m. All are invited to the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta at Zaban Park for a celebration of the Jewish Earth Day featuring songs, activities, crafts, fruit and nut sampling and a Tu B’Shvat birthday cake. Free. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Registration: atlantajcc.org. Info: Rabbi Brian Glusman at 678-812-4161 or rabbi.glusman@atlantajcc.org.

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Saturday, Feb. 3, 6 to 8 p.m. This ninth annual event is open to all girls attending school in Sandy Springs (grades K-5) and their dads or father figures. A DJ will play music from both generations. Dance contests, musical games, complementary snacks and refreshments, keepsake photo, door prizes and a goodie bag for each girl. Business casual to semi-formal attire. $35 for father-daughter; $10 each additional daughter. Preregistration required by Feb. 2 or until the event is full at registration.sandyspringsga.gov. Spalding Drive Elementary School, 130 West Spalding Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: 770-730-5600.




Wednesday, Jan. 24, and Wednesday, Feb. 7, 4 to 5 p.m. Seniors are invited to audition stories of their lives for a national living history initiative called “These Eyes Have Seen” (theseeyeshaveseen.com) during either of two events at local retirement communities. Free, with complementary food and beverages and live entertainment. The Jan. 24 event, featuring a presentation on the history of Dunwoody, is at Dunwoody Pines, 435 Georgetown Square, Dunwoody. RSVP by Jan. 23 to Traci Sherman at 770986-1100 or traci.sherman@sunshineret.com. The Feb. 7 event, which features a presentation by Holocaust survivor Helen Weingarten, is at Hammond Glen, 335 Hammond Drive, Sandy Springs. RSVP by Feb. 5 to Alicia Bartlett at 404-256-6300 or alicia.smith@ sunshineret.com.


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Saturday, Jan. 27, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Adult artists of all abilities are invited to the Blue Heron Nature Preserve for a natural science illustration workshop focused on trees. Drawing techniques such as modeling, contour and value building will be explored. For ages 18 and older. Preregistration required. Basic art supplies provided. $75. 4055 Roswell Road N.E., Buckhead. Info: bhnp.org.


Ongoing Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (beginners) and 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (intermediate). Learn Spanish and refine your Spanish language skills at the Sandy Springs Library. Free. 395 Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs. Info: 404-303-6130.



JAN. 19 - FEB. 1, 2018

Arts & Entertainment | 19


Atlanta Jewish Film Festival returns The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, a cinematic exploration of Jewish experience, is back for its 18th year of presenting films from around the world. This year’s event runs over 23 days, from Wednesday, Jan. 24 through Thursday, Feb. 15, at seven venues across metro Atlanta, including Sandy Springs’ Regal Perimeter Pointe and The Springs Cinema & Taphouse. Presented by AJFF, an independent nonprofit arts organization, the festival will feature more than 190 screenings, with 75 films from 27 countries. Filmmakers, academics, authors, critics and other guest speakers will engage with the audience before and after select screenings. Opening night and closing night festivities will take place at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Other venues include Regal Atlantic Station, Regal Hollywood 24, UA Tara Cinemas and Woodruff Arts Center. Here’s a preview of some of the film festival attractions:

“The Invisibles,” a docudrama about the teens and adults who survived World War II in Berlin hiding in plain sight.

“Let Yourself Go,” an

Italian comedy that features a self-involved psychoanalyst who has his tightly ordered world thrown for a loop by a high-spirited fitness instructor.

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“Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me,”

a tribute to the iconic dancer, singer and actor. Kicks off opening night.

“Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds: The Conductor Zubin Mehta,” a film that celebrates the international career of a musical maestro.

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20 | Arts & Entertainment

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Touring theater company for seniors eyes expansion BY JACLYN TURNER

ing there, Theatre-To-Go’s professional company travels to senior living comAfter a decade of bringing theater to munities, senior centers, churches and seniors, the Atlanta Theatre-To-Go travsynagogues, bringing a theatrical exeling company is making a big move of perience to seniors, its own, expanding from some of whom may its base in a Sandy Springs not be able to go to a house and hiring its first traditional theater. executive director. Three plays and “I am looking forward a musical are perto having more creative formed each year, time and to seeing my often written by lo“baby” blossom into its full cal playwrights, inpotential,” said founder cluding Ilgenfritz. Sondra Ilgenfritz, who has Beyond the 60 or so stepped down as president performances put to serve on the company’s on each year, TheSondra Ilgenfritz. board and devote more time atre-To-Go offers histoto playwriting. ry tours, and such interactive works as Lois Keopke, the new executive di“reminiscence theater,” where a memrector, has a resume that includes ory from a participant is turned into a forming a troupe of senior dancers to script, which is then performed in front perform at the Milwaukee Bucks basof family and friends. ketball team’s halftime shows. “We are ready for our next stage of “I’m really jazzed up about what I’m growth,” said Ilgenfritz. “For 10 years, doing and joining this organization,” we have been a largely volunteer-drivKeopke said. “Seeing what they are doen organization fueled by an entreing and bringing this joy to seniors, it’s preneur with a passion and a mission. really cool.” Thanks to generous sponsors and doFounded in 2007 in Ilgenfritz’s Sannors, we are now able to move into a dy Springs home and regularly rehearsprofessional business model with the funds to hire expert help. “I hope that Lois can create the type of buzz that makes Atlanta Theatre-ToGo a catalyst for other communities throughout our nation to harness and utilize the creativity of our seniors,” added Ilgenfritz, who will continue to serve on the company’s board. Koepke spent 22 years choreographing and creating halftime shows for the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks. She formed the “SeniorGee!” dance team in 2006, a group of dancers ranging in age from 60 to Your monthly guide 85 who auditioned and performed durto the city’s vibrant ing halftime, and calls it a highlight of INtown community! her career. She was inspired by a MiPick up a copy or ami Heat performance at an NBA Allread it online at Star game involving seniors, and adaptatlantaintownpaper.com ed it to her own. “They’d start with a classic routine, and then switch into hip hop. They brought the house down,” said Koepke. New Restaurant

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Reporter Classifieds

At right, Sandy Springs resident Sondra Ilgenfritz, president of Atlanta Theatre-to-Go, introduces some actors at during the company’s 2010 season.

well in order to continue the mission.” “They were the most popular entertainTheatre-To-Go rehearses and opment group I’ve worked with.” erates out of Ilgenfritz’s home, some“The work ethic was just awesome, thing that has worked smoothly for the and they just wanted to entertain,” Kolast 10 years, but Koepke would love to epke said of working with the dancers. have access to a rehearsal space or of“A piece of me says, I know what sefice space, perhaps in a community niors can do, and what they are capacenter. For one upcoming performance, ble of doing when they are jazzed about the company is rehearsing a Tucker the arts, and then actually perform it.” church. Koepke retired, but after a recent “My goal is to partner with an orgamove to metro Atlanta, she said, she nization that would like to serve as a wanted to get involved in her new comhome for Atlanta Theatre-To-Go. And I munity, and was interested in working say that very loosely, but with nonprofits. it could be a place where Koepke has expanwe rehearse and partner sion and upgrades in with them to give their mind for the theater residents free theater,” company, such as bringshe said. ing more technology to The company is curthe organization as well rently touring a musias creating a unifying cal comedy called “Evbrand. ery Day Is Tuesday,” with “It’s time to reach a stops including the Berbroader audience, and man Commons assisted my role is going to be living and memory care funding. I want to bring residences in Dunwoody. more performances to For more informamore places,” she said. tion, see AtlantaThe“I’m the one to make Lois Keopke. atreToGo.com. sure we function really

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22 | Public Safety

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Police Blotter / Sandy Springs Capt. Steve Rose provide the following information which represents some of the reports filed with Sandy Springs police from Jan. 1 through Jan. 11.

BURGLARY Mount Paran Road — On Jan. 1, a res-

ident said their car was missing from the driveway of the home. They were gone from the residence from about 9:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. Officers found evidence that the home had been entered, ransacked, etc. Several items were taken including kitchen utensils, cooker, juicer and coffee grinder. The resident also reported an Xbox game, purse, wallet, jewelry, cash and keys to a car and business were taken. 1300 block of Marsh Trail Circle —

On Jan. 2, someone entered the resident’s apartment sometime between 9:15 a.m. and 5 p.m. The front door had been forced open. The resident said several laptops were missing. Nothing else was reported missing. 1900

block of Marsh Trail Circle — On Jan. 3, the resident was gone from 4:30 a.m. until the following midnight. He returned and found the apartment unlocked and lights on. He is missing a suitcase, PlayStation 4 and a laptop. The other resident is missing jewelry. 6500 block of Roswell Road — On

Jan. 4, the complainant said an eviction took place; however, they did not change the locks and during that time, someone got inside the apartment and took a washer and dryer as well as a wine chiller. 5400 block of Roswell Road — On

Jan. 4, the resident left home about 1 p.m. She returned and discovered several jewelry items were taken from the home. She said she suspects another resident of the complex whom she has had problems with before although nothing indicated the other person was involved in the burglary. 700 block of Northway Lane — A res-

ident left the home on Dec. 29 and returned on Jan. 5. A back door was found unlocked and several items were missing. They found no forced entry. 8300 block of Roswell Road— On

Jan. 5, a resident said he was in his bedroom when he heard noises from his dog cage in the living room. The resident said he thought it was his husband returning, but inCaptain stead he found a STEVE ROSE, male standing in SSPD the living room. srose@sanThe suspect imdyspringsga.gov mediately fled. The officer noted that according to the complainant, the dog did not bark at the suspect, “although he barked uncontrollably at me.” 3100 River Exchange Drive — On

Jan. 8, a resident said she left for work around 7 a.m. and returned just before 8 p.m. She found that her front door deadbolt was damaged. Missing is a flatscreen TV, Sony radio, headphones and jewelry. 7100 block Glenridge Drive — On Jan. 11, someone forced entry to the gift shop at a church and took $247 cash from the register.

ROBBERY 100 block of Northwood Drive — On

Jan. 6, the employees at Super Mercado Santa Fe Restaurant said around midnight a man entered the store with a rifle and a knife. The suspect “snatched” money, totaling $6,000, from the counter. The suspect also took $380 from an employee’s wallet and then ran south from that location. The victims said the suspect was 5-feet-9-inches tall and slim. He wore grey gloves and a multicolored striped ski mask, green pants and a black jacket. To make things worse, one of the victims had a warrant from Sandy Springs and as a result, was taken into custody.

Cruz. Thomas came into the building, Cruz stayed in the car. Thomas said he wanted to show the shoes to Cruz and walked outside. The victim got nervous about the possibility of theft, and followed. Sure enough, Thomas got into the car and they drove away. The victim tried to pull on the door, but could not get it open. On arrival, officers posted a lookout and just like in “Adam-12,” a patrol K-9 officer spotted Cruz at the McDonalds on Roswell Road. Cruz took off running, but was quickly corralled. Cruz quickly gave up Thomas. Thomas is not the suspect’s real name. Turns out “Thomas” goes to school at Gordon State College. The detective contacted the campus cops there, who confirmed the real ID of “Thomas.” That followed with a copy of the arrest warrant and the Gordon College cops arrested “Thomas” for robbery and turned him over to Fulton County Jail. I do not know whether the shoes were recovered. 8600 block of Roberts Drive — A do-

mestic-violence call where the male suspect was accused of hitting the victim and stealing her phone on Jan. 11.

allegedly told the owner he would take him to the stolen chainsaws. The owner followed in his car, but the suspect fled. 4900 block of Roswell Road — On

Jan. 11, a Kroger employee purchased items at the self-checkout area and requested $100 cash. The cash did not immediately come out of the slot so he walked away to get assistance. On return, he discovered that the money was dispensed in his absence and was taken by someone else. He said a woman “lurked” over his shoulder during the transaction. 200 block of Franklin Road — On Jan. 11, the victim ordered a video game system online through Amazon. They delivered it, documenting that it was left in the mail room just before 2 p.m. He arrived at 5 p.m. to pick it up and it was gone. The apartment staff said they had no knowledge of the package. This Week’s Highlight Film Case No.

THEFT 6200 block of Peachtree-Dunwoody

Road — On Jan. 1, a fired employee was accused of saying she had the company keys and would come back and “mess the place up.” 5900 block of Peachtree-Dunwoody

Road — On Jan. 3, a fired employee was accused of taking car-washing equipment including a Sportsman generator, Ryobi vacuum and towels. 1100 block of Mount Vernon High-

way — On Jan. 6, a locker “dial” lock was taken from a gym as well as a credit card subsequently used next door at Dick’s Sporting Goods for $1,500. 500 block of Northland Ridge — On

Jan. 8, credit cards were ordered and then taken from victim’s mailbox by suspect. 600 block of Summer Crossing — On

Jan. 9, a package was stolen from victim’s doorstep.

200 block of Hammond Drive —

4600 block of Roswell Road — On

This is labeled robbery, but reads like a theft. On Jan. 8, the victim met a man on the selling site “Letgo” to sell a pair of shoes. He met a man named Mr. Thomas and another man named Mr.

Jan. 11, an employee was accused of faking the theft of two chainsaws from the work truck, and then putting them on Craigslist to sell. The owner saw the ad and confronted the employee, who

48: The victim, a guest at the Comfort Inn on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, told cops he met a man on the app Grindr. According to the report, they met at the hotel to spend some “quality time together.” Following the blissful time spent in quality mode, the man absconded after stealing $3,200 cash. We’ve had this discussion before. You take a chance with your property and perhaps your life when you arrange meetings with total strangers. A March 16, 2016 article in the British online news site called The Telegraph, reports crimes linked to sites like Grindr and Tinder have increased “sevenfold” in the past two years prior to 2015. Got to be careful, folks.

THEFTS FROM VEHICLES Between Jan. 2 and Jan. 11, 11 thefts

from vehicles were reported.

ASSAULT 6000 block of Roswell Road — On

Jan. 7, a victim said he was assaulted while eating lunch. He said he thinks the suspect was a gang member. 200 block of Summer Crossing — On

Jan. 11, the victim said shortly after 6 SS

JAN. 19 - FEB. 1, 2018

Community | 23


a.m. a male knocked on his door and began arguing over a parking issue. The victim said the suspect pulled an automatic gun from his waistband, but did not point it at him. The suspect’s girlfriend called him “Xavier.”

and some Oxycodone pills in a plastic bag. The driver refused to take the gun, but stashed the pills in his crotch. Both men were arrested, the driver accused of possessing the gun by a convicted

Plan for vacant houses could expand a park

felon and marijuana, and the passenger accused of disorderly conduct.

ARRESTS 7000 Roswell Road — On Jan. 5, an

officer responded to a theft in progress at the apartment complex. A witness saw a man break into a Kia Soul. Based on the lookout, the officer came up on a suspect and detained him briefly, until he decided things were not going his way. He fled on foot with the officer in pursuit. Both ran across Roswell Road and onto Spalding Drive in the 500 block. During the chase, the suspect tripped and fell, allowing the officer time to catch up and cover him with her Taser. He complied and was cuffed. He was later charged with entering an auto.

At least four people were arrested for

driving under the influence and two people were arrested for marijuana possession between Dec. 31 and Jan. 3.

OTHER INCIDENTS 5600 block of Peachtree-Dunwoody

Road — On Jan. 8, officers were called to Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital ER regarding a person shot. They spoke to a man who said he was the brother of the person shot. He said they were at a bar downtown, and at some point they got into an argument with a female and male.

1100 block of Spalding Drive —

On Jan. 8, officers stopped a car on a seatbelt violation. During the stop, the officers smelled marijuana coming from inside the car. The driver was arrested because he did not possess a license. Officers found a 9mm pistol during the inventory of the car. The gun information came back as stolen from John’s Creek. The driver said the gun belonged to the passenger. He told officers the passenger asked for a ride from 7000 Roswell Road to a MARTA station. When he picked him up, the passenger pulled the gun from his waistband, offering to sell it for $200. The driver said he declined. He went on to say that when they were pulled over, the passenger tried to get the driver to take the gun

The vacant house at 75 Allen Road, immediately next to Allen Road Park, as it appeared last month.

He said his brother was shot as they walked through the parking lot. A car, described as unknown, pulled up. The driver, also described as unknown, told them to get in, which they did, and they drove to St. Joe’s. The complainant said he did not know where the bar was located in Atlanta. The person, who was shot, will survive. The detectives say the contact number given has been called numerous times with no answer. OK, first, and I speak only for myself here, I don’t believe the story. Who would? Secondly, if you are shot in Atlanta, Grady should be your first choice. Great hospital and great trauma center, and it is not in Sandy Springs.


Continued from page 1 company that wants to obviously take down those houses and put something much nicer in the area and maybe work with the park next door to maybe give some land to the park,” said Nejat. Nejat declined to identify the developer, but said the proposal involves a commercial development and that land donation to the park. He added that within a few weeks, it should become clear whether the deal will work out. If it doesn’t, he said, “a lot of other developers are waiting” to make an offer. The burst of interest is no coincidence. Nejat worked with the city to get the property reclassified from single-family residential to “office mixed-use” in the new zoning code that went into effect late last year. City Councilmember Chris Burnett, whose District 3 includes the area, said he sees a lot of positives if the zoning speeds redevelopment. “Surrounding residents and business owners would certainly like to see these abandoned houses replaced by a high-quality project, so hopefully the new zoning designation will allow this to happen,” Burnett said in an email. “An expansion of the Allen Road Park could also be a great amenity for the community, so perhaps the city could consider this in the future if these sites become available.” The 3-acre park, located at Allen Road and Lake Forrest Drive, features sports courts, a playground and a nature trail. Boarded-up houses are a rarity anywhere in Sandy Springs, let alone sandwiched between a city park and bustling Roswell Road, on a street that recently became home to the luxurious Cliftwood apartments and a large John Wieland Homes development. Nejat could not recall exactly how long his father-in-law, Adel Milsoof of Roswell, had owned the properties or how long they had been vacant, but said it was many years. County property records showed Milsoof transferred both properties into the ownership of a real estate trust in 2016 and bought the house at 85 Allen in 2007. The next pre-2016 sale of 75 Allen was in 1983, according to county records, but they do not identify the buyer or the seller. Nejat said Milsoof bought the houses as redevelopment investments, but those plans had not worked out. City Code Enforcement records show one or both properties getting citations of various sorts as early as 2009. The citations — including unsecured property, trash and uncut grass — culminated in a 2016 court appearance where Milsoof was fined $500, according to city spokesperson Dan Coffer. Code Enforcement was back last year, but noted in reports that Nejat was now brokering a sale. The two properties, totaling about 1.5 acres, were listed by Nejat for $1.4 million.



James Beveridge


Dunwoody Christian School, Inc. (Contact: Bob Baima)

Property Location:

Parcel # 17 0078 LL0366 (24 The Landing)

Property Location:

2250 Dunwoody Club Drive (Dunwoody Community Church)

Present Zoning:

RD-27 (with conditions from CUP Case # 1979Z-0049)

Present Zoning:



Rezoning from RD-27 to RD-27 to modify the front setback.


Public Hearings:

Planning Commission January 23, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.

Request to operate a private school in an existing building (Dunwoody Community Church building).

Public Hearings:

Planning Commission January 23, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. Mayor and City Council February 20, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.


Sandy Springs City Hall Morgan Falls Office Park 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500 Sandy Springs, Georgia 30350 770-730-5600

Petition Number:



Mayor and City Council February 20, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. Location:



Sandy Springs City Hall Morgan Falls Office Park 7840 Roswell Road, Building 500 Sandy Springs, Georgia 30350 770-730-5600

24 |

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