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MARCH 2020 • VOL. 11 — NO. 3

Dunwoody Reporter COMMENTARY

Local leaders react to GDOT’s toll lanes plan P10

Section Two



Sandy Spring s Dunw oody


piano man in a department store P25 ►Donna Lefont helps keep film history alive P25 ►STAR students and teachers P33

Brookh aven


Buckhe ad

A depa pianist rtment stor entert in the key oe aining customf ers PAGE 26














BY JUD ITH SC HO NB AK Music is Von partm Maur’s ent sto tradem re at woody ark at Perime . On its deter fully pla any given day, the Mall in Du yed pia nthe thr sounds no mu ee floo of ski rs. The sic carries at the throug llkeys sit piano hout and at on the first floo the foot of the the musici an chairs r, with escala nearby tor an are . a of com bank Pianis fortab t and le broad compos ran er Dav way dur ge of tunes id Ree b plays fro ing the The Geo a midday m classical to hours rgia nat four day Broadplayin g for Von ive is marki s a week. ng ployee s alike. Maur custom his eighth yea His fing ers and keys wit r ers sto hout a re emmove sur pause even wh ely over the en a sho pper Continu ed on page 28

New owners plan ‘reimagining’ of dormant Gold Kist site Cinem



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UR EN LE AT HE RS When Donn worke a Lefont d at a was loc often took his al movie the 8 years old , her ater. As would childr en run fre a single father ely aro to work wit dad, h him und the , where he theate they r. Lefont ’s favor-

Pianis t in the David Reeb Von Ma sits at PHIL MOS his ur sto re at Per instrume IER nt imeter Mall.

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ite pla ce to exp calls pee lor king out e were the pro ing a dar from behind jection rooms k room screen the ma . She re. “It wa full of peo chiner ple s says, y and namech kind of like , their faces seeSIGN lit up ecking a UP TO by the the cla Cinema Par RECEIV adi ssic Ita E DAILY lian film so,” she & WEEK about a LY EM Continu AILS WI ed on page 29 TH CO











The pirates who bring Mardi Gras to Buckhead P12


It’s time again to get counted P20 Check out our podcasts at

The Dunwoody Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIP 30338 For information:


An older aerial photo of the Gold Kist headquarters at lower right with frontage on I-285 to the left and near the towering State Farm glass buildings at the right. In the distance are the King and Queen towers in Sandy Springs.

Nature Center welcomes new hives in ‘Bee City’ BY DYANA BAGBY

Thousands of new denizens are relocating to the Dunwoody Nature Center this spring, where their new designer digs are to be planted in a visible spot surrounded by walking trails. Visitors on a nature stroll can pause at their new homes to possibly hear the hum of the workers serving their queen. And, if lucky, one day they may sample the

fruits of their labor: sweet honey. Four new honey bee hives, resembling short dressers with several drawers, are being painted and prepped to be located near the entrance of Dunwoody Park by early April. Nature Center Executive Director Michael Cowan said corporate sponsors are being sought to help cover costs of caring for the bees, and logos may be painted on hives, too. See NATURE on page 22


The former Gold Kist headquarters in Perimeter Center is soon to be remodeled and renovated into a creative corporate campus including a complete renovation of the massive 3-story building that has sat vacant for many years. Buckhead-based RocaPoint Partners and New York-based The Georgetown Company recently purchased the approximately 13-acre Gold Kist site at 244 Perimeter Center Parkway for an undisclosed amount. The site is within walking distance of the Dunwoody MARTA Station, Perimeter Mall and the towering State Farm glass buildings. Plans are to “renovate and reimagine” the vacant headquarters building to create a space unique to the Perimeter Center market. See NEW on page 23



(See Page 8)



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2 | Community ■

Local cities approve automated speed cameras in school zones

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The cities of Brookhaven and Dunwoody have approved installing automated cameras to catch and ticket speeders in school zones. The technology is now available in Georgia after the General Assembly last year passed a law to allow the use of photo and video enforcement in school zones. Both cities recently approved contracts with RedSpeed, an Illinois-based provider of enforcement technology. Automated speed-detection cameras, software and signage will be installed by the company in both cities. RedSpeed also provides a website for control of citations and mailing procedures. When the cameras and equipment will be installed remains to be seen. Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan told the City Council at its Feb. 24 meeting that the DeKalb County School District has yet to sign off on the contract and the city must also gain approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation to show need. This process is expected to take months, he said. “We have awhile before this will roll out,” he said. The no-cost agreements allows RedSpeed to collect 35% of all fines. The remaining money must go toward local law enforcement. Brookhaven plans for the revenue to go to the city’s 911 fund. In Dunwoody, the money is being proposed to buy more surveillance cameras and license plate readers. “The idea is to get drivers to slow down, not collect fines,” said Brookhaven spokesperson Burke Brennan after the City Council approved the RedSpeed contract on Feb. 11, “Changing driver behavior is certainly our sole concern,” Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan told the City Council at its Feb. 24 meeting. Motorists that would be ticketed are those traveling at least 11 mph over the school zone speed limits an hour before school starts, during the school day and an hour after school lets out. Police officers will be trained by RedSpeed on how to review each citation before mailing a ticket to the registered owner. The fine will be $75 for a first citation and $125 for further citations in the same year. A study conducted in three Brookhaven school zones on Aug. 27 last year found more than 3,000 vehicles speeding at least 10 mph over the limit. Cross Keys High School on North Druid Hills Road had by far the highest number of speeders, with 2,230 passing by that day. There were 467 violators recorded at St. Martin’s Episcopal School and 399 at Montgomery Elementary School, both on Ashford-Dunwoody Road. Earlier this year, Dunwoody conducted a one-day study and enforcement in three designated school zones on Roberts Drive where Austin Elementary School is, on Womack Road near Dunwoody High School and North Peachtree Road where Chesnut Elementary and Peachtree Charter Middle School are. There were 2,319 cars captured traveling at least 10 mph over the speed limit. North Peachtree Road had the most speeder with 1,067 citations issued. Police issued 639 speeding citations on Womack Road and 613 citations on Roberts Drive. RedSpeed will also have license plate readers in the school zones to notify police of sex offenders or wanted persons to increase safety in school zones. Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch asked RedSpeed representative Greg Parks at the Feb. 24 meeting how their cameras differed from the notorious red-light cameras. The red-light cameras were intended deter cars from speeding through traffic lights, a top cause of crashes. But recent studies have shown they were not effective in reducing red-light crashes. People also complained the cameras were only used to make money for municipalities and have led to class-action lawsuits from drivers who said they were illegally ticketed. Parks said school zone cameras, unlike red-light cameras, are focused on conservative enforcement in specific areas and for short amount of times. “The red-light cameras could be put anywhere, and tickets issued anytime,” he said. Dunwoody Councilmember John Heneghan asked about how a person could get information on the number of tickets being issued through the RedSpeed cameras. Parks said an open records request could be made to the city, which would then request the information from RedSpeed. RedSpeed states in their contracts that the local police departments will have access to their video footage when requested. RedSpeed will keep video data for 25 days unless asked by the cities to keep the footage longer. Once the cameras are ready to be installed, signs would be put up around school zones to notify drivers that RedSpeed cameras are in effect. Warnings will be issued to speeding drivers during the first 30 days of the program. Warning signs will be placed on both ends of every school zone. DUN

MARCH 2020

Community | 3

Community Briefs


Mayor Lynn Deutsch is set to give her first “State of the City” on March 12 that will provide the same kind of information residents want to know, but in a much different setting than years past. This year’s State of the City is being held at Dunwoody United Methodist Church, 1548 Mount Vernon Road, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Activities Building. The event is free and open to the public. For many years, the State of the City has been a formal affair at the ballroom of the Crown Plaza Ravinia hotel. There were corporate sponsors, a free buffet and cash bar. Last year’s event cost $30,000, most paid by corporate sponsors, but costs to the city were increasing. Deutsch said she wanted to save the city some money but also hold an event that is more casual and accessible to all residents. “The State of the City has been a fairly big production for many years, but I wanted something more low-key, more casual, something that is much more reflective of my personality,” she said. “But residents will get the same information on the city as they have in the past.” Deutsch said she also did not like how past State of the City events provided tables for corporate sponsors while members of the public were forced to sit in rows of chairs set up at the back of the ballroom. “It always made me uncomfortable,” she said. “There are no corporate sponsors this year, and I very much wanted to change the event, so all residents sat together in the same areas.” This year’s event will include a reception with desserts from the local Zukerino Pastry Shop. There will be sugar-free and gluten-free options, Deutsch said. Deutsch said she is planning a separate event for the business community in the spring, but not date has been set. It will also be open to the public. Sponsors for this event include the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber; the city’s tourism department, Discover Dunwoody; and the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.




The City Council voted Feb. 24 to approve the use of “construction fence wrap” for developments under construction. The fence wraps, popular with major projects, provide information through text and illustrations of what is planned for the fenced-in site. City officials have been getting requests to allow construction fence wrap, leading to the zoning text amendment approval, according to the city. Construction fence wraps will require a staff review and permit before being installed. The city’s guidelines allow wraps on fences surrounding construction sites for the duration of the construction activity. The city also requires the wrap be removed prior to issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy. The fence wrap must be maintained in good condition and properly attached to the fence. Messages, logos, renderings or similar information may not exceed 40% of the total area of the fence wrap, according to the city. | 4800 Ashford Dunwoody Rd., Dunwoody GA 30338 | 678.382.6700

March Calendar of Events 1

Sesquicentennial Tea

Dunwoody Preservation Trust’s 150 year celebration of the DonaldsonBannister Farm 2-5 p.m.


An aerial view of construction of the great lawn area of Brook Run Park. When finished, the great lawn, in the center of the park, will include an amphitheater with terraced seating.

ton said in a written statement. The upgrades include a new “great lawn,” an amphitheater, sports fields and a pavilion. DUN

Day of Unplugging

Brook Run Park Event Field 9 a.m. - noon

Dunwoody Community Garden Master Gardener Session - Lawn and Turf Brook Run Park Barn 11 a.m. - noon


Free First Saturday — Five Senses


City Council Meeting


City Hall 6 p.m.


History Alive

“Traditional Skills of the North Georgia Cherokee” Dunwoody Preservation Trust Donaldson-Bannister Farm 9:30 - 11 a.m.

Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild

City Hall 6 p.m.

North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center 10 a.m..

Sustainability Committee Meeting

34th Artistic Affair

City Hall 7:45 a.m.

Dessert and coffee reception Dunwoody United Methodist Church 7 p.m.

Opening Night Stage Door Players Dunwoody Nature Center 8 p.m.

Planning Commission Meeting

2020 State of the City

“The Outsider”

Friday Night Hike

Dunwoody Nature Center 10 a.m.


Annual fundraiser for Spruill Center for the Arts 6:30 p.m.

City Council Meeting City Hall 6 p.m.


Please join us Thursday, March 12 7 p.m. for a dessert reception and State of the City address by Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch


A grand opening celebration for the $7.8 million upgrades to Brook Run Park has been delayed from March 21 to April 18 after officials questioned whether its new grass had enough time to take root. The delay will give more time for the grass planted in early February to take root and allow for “finishing touches,” according to City Manager Eric Linton. “We’ve had such a wet winter that we’re building in some room for additional weather delays, as well,” Lin-


Dunwoody United Methodist Church Activities Building - 2nd floor 1548 Mt. Vernon Road

Stay on top of everything happening in Dunwoody with D-News, our Friday on-line newsletter.

Just text DNEWS to 22828

4 | Community ■

Residents concerned about buffers, apartments in new Dunwoody Village zoning plan BY DYANA BAGBY

The update of the Dunwoody Village zoning to create a downtown area has been delayed after nearby residents raised concerns about transition buffers and multifamily housing, including apartments. The Planning Commission voted Feb. 11 to delay for one month a vote on the suggested zoning changes to the 165-acres of Dunwoody Village Overlay, which covers the intersection of Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads. The next meeting is March 10. The final vote will be made by the City Council once it moves through the Planning Commission. In late 2018, the City Council hired consultant TSW to gather public feedback as part of conducting a zoning rewrite to create a more walkable, bikeable downtown in an area that is considered by many as the heart of the city. They are considered long-term plans to have in place for when new developments may come to Dunwoody Village. The City Council is set to vote Feb. 24 on creating an entertainment district in Dunwoody Village with an opencontainer alcohol provision as part of their efforts to revitalize the area. Numerous residents from The Branches and Vernon Oaks neighborhoods north of the overlay area spoke out against the recommended plans at the Planning Commission meeting. Their main concern is the reduction of a 150- to 200-foot buffer that now includes thickets of trees between their homes and the denser Dunwoody Village overlay to a 75-foot transition yard. Transition yards only require certain types of landscaping. The Dunwoody Village Overlay would be altered to create four separate districts with different land uses: DV-1 is Village Commercial; DV-2 is Village Office; DV-3 is Village Residential; and DV-4 is Village Center. Building heights would range from 3 stories closer to single-family neighborhoods to 5 stories in the central area of Dunwoody Village. The Dunwoody Village Overlay now includes three suburban shopping centers with expansive surface parking lots; several auto-repair shops and gas stations; office buildings; banks; the Dunwoody United Methodist Church; and the Dunwoody Village Townhomes under construction. Multifamily ownership housing would be allowed in all districts, such as residential units built above retail. But rental apartments would only be allowed by a special land use permit that would have to be approved by the City Council. Some residents at the commission meeting said the city cannot handle more apartments due to overcrowded schools and congested streets. No new apartments have been approved in the city since it incorporated in 2008. Recent estimates show there are approximately 9,400 apartment units in the city, according to officials. Total multifamily residential units, including apartments, townhomes and condominiums, is between 10,000 to 11,000. There are approximately 11,000 single-family residences in the city. In a rare split vote, the Dunwoody Homeowners Association board said it does not want any residential uses in Dunwoody Village. “Those who voted against the residential elements believe that apartments or condos are incompatible with the purpose of the Village Overlay to provide services to the surrounding single-family neighborhoods,” said DHA President Adrienne Duncan in a written statement that was read to the Planning Commission by DHA board member Bill Grossman. Planning Commission Chair Bob Dallas said metro Atlanta’s population continues to grow as economic development thrives. Finding places to live for people moving here for jobs must be part of the zoning rewrite, he said.


A map of the new districts included in recommended zoning changes to the Dunwoody Village overlay.

“If you want everything owner-occupied, you’ll be challenged to have anything built” due to financing, he said. He noted the city has not approved new apartments since it was founded more than a decade ago, but now the schools are overcrowded with trailers on their campuses. He said he believed the overcrowding could be attributed to more children living in suburban homes. “Do we want to have the school tail wag the good developer dog?” Dallas said. Regency Centers owns the Dunwoody Hall and Dunwoody Village shopping centers. Andre Koleszar, senior vice president and senior regional officer, said the company has been in talks with the city about the potential new zoning regulations. “We’ve been fortunate to be considered a major stakeholder in the area and have had some great sessions with the team behind the new plan,” he said in a written statement. “Their focus on cooperation and input has been refreshing, to say the least, which makes us appreciative of the direction they are taking … and we’re excited to continue our conversations and watch as this develops into something great for the area,” he said. Other zoning updates include narrowing Chamblee-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon roads to two lanes; a green space for community gatherings; and parking decks to reduce surface lots. Other long-term visions include a new street grid within Dunwoody Village as redevelopment happens; pedestrian paths to adjacent neighborhoods; and required storefronts on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and portions of Dunwoody Village Parkway and Mount Vernon Road.

Funding approved for planning first park in Perimeter Center BY DYANA BAGBY

Dunwoody’s years-long plan to build a park in Perimeter Center is finally moving forward thanks to funding from the city’s hotel-motel taxes. The City Council at its Feb. 10 meeting approved spending $45,000 of its hotel-motel tax money for design services for the 5-acre Perimeter Center East Park. The property is currently filled with trees and a dilapidated building. It is adjacent to the Endeavor Montessori School at 48 Perimeter Center East and south of The Lofts Perimeter Center apartments at 100 Perimeter Center Lofts Circle. Nearby is the site where Grubb Properties plans to build a 20-acre mixed-use development at the former City Hall complex at 41, 47 and 53 Perimeter Center East. “Let’s get it moving, please,” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said. “I’d like to see it … completed by 2021 and open and used by children as soon as possible.” The city is still in talks about how to pay for construction, but one option being considered is issuing revenue bonds using hotel-motel taxes. The $45,000 would pay for survey work, architectural services, engineering services and geotechnical services. The information would be used to create construction docu-

ments that would be put out to bid. Approved as part of the city’s 2017 Park & Recreation Master Plan, the park would include a playground, a picnic shelter, a restroom, an exercise equipment area, a plaza with a water feature, trails and a parking lot with about 50 spaces. The park would have a future multiuse trail connection to the Georgetown-Perimeter Center pedestrian bridge as part of the Dunwoody Trailway. Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker said the park was identified as the number one project to be completed using hotel-motel tax funds. The city raised its hotel-motel tax in 2017 from 5% to 8% with the intention of funding green space and trails for visitors staying in the hotels in the city’s urban center. Hotel owners agreed to raise their taxes because they said there was a need for such amenities for their customers. Of course, residents will be able to enjoy the new facilities as well. The extra revenue from the hotel-motel tax increase brings in about $1.6 million a year. State law requires the city use half of the money for parks and trails and the other half of the money for the city’s tourism agency, Discover Dunwoody, to promote and brand the new facilities. DUN

MARCH 2020


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6 | Commentary ■

Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at

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The Sisters of Mercy, founded in Ireland in 1831, were often called “walking nuns.” Instead of staying cloistered, they walked the streets, caring for the poor. Today they “walk” the world, including Atlanta, where in 1890 four Sisters of Mercy founded Atlanta’s first hospital, known for years as St. Joseph’s Hospital, currently Emory St. Joseph’s. Though the hospital is now secular, the Sisters of Mercy have long held leadership roles. One of them is Sister Jane Gerety, Ph.D., who was senior vice president at St. Joseph’s for 17 years (19922009) before leaving to serve as president of Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. Last year, she retired from academia and anSPECIAL swered the call to return to Atlanta as chief mission officer of Mercy Care Atlanta, a network of Top, Mercy Care Chamblee, a comprehensive healthcare community healthcare centers offering compreclinic, was paid for entirely hensive care for the poor. by grants and donations. “I didn’t want to retire-retire,” she said. “AtlanAbove, Sister Jane Gerety, ta had been home for me, and I had friends here. chief mission officer of Mercy Care Atlanta. It seemed natural to come back.” It was also natural for her to join Mercy Care, as it had been part of St Joseph’s Hospital during her tenure there. Incorporated as a nonprofit in 1985, Mercy Care was an outreach of St. Joseph’s that sent teams with tackle boxes of medical supplies into the streets to treat the homeless. Since 2012, when St. Joseph’s joined Emory Healthcare, Mercy Care has paid its own way with funding from Emory Healthcare; public and corporate grants; private donations; and patients, who pay on a sliding scale based on their income. Despite having to regroup and build its own internal systems from scratch, Mercy Care has grown into 10 primary care locations throughout metro Atlanta, including six freestanding locations, four mobile clinics and multiple Street Care teams. It offers services for both children and adults, including primary, specialty, mental, vision and dental care, along with financial counseling, pastoral and recuperative care and much more. Like God’s mercy, Mercy Care is for everyone. In 2018, 75% of its patients were uninsured and living below the Federal poverty line; 60% were homeless. Medicare, Medic-

MARCH 2020

Commentary | 7

aid and most insurance plans are accepted. Mercy Care Chamblee, which opened in 2017, is an amazing 45,000-squarefoot, state-of-the-art facility at 5134 Peachtree Road that I was privileged to tour recently. Notable in the lobby is a large plaque listing the donors who made it all possible. Many of the names are familiar to us all. Everything at this location is exemplary, from the abundant natural light to the colorful furniture and walls, spotless floors and cheerful, welcoming staff. Many fancy Atlanta clinics could take lessons! As chief mission officer, Sister Jane is responsible for keeping everyone on mission -- which is compassion, commitment to the poor, excellence, integrity, justice, stewardship and reverence for the dignity of each person. “I’m involved with employees as they’re carrying out the mission,” she said. “I give them structures for seeing their work as sacred. It’s God’s work, whatever their religion.” One of her “structures” is the daily reflection she sends to everyone. She’s also learning how to address the “compassion fatigue” that affects people “surrounded by so much challenge and sorrow.” “I’ve never seen so much joy at serving as I’ve seen at Mercy Care,” she said. “Part of my role is to listen and help them find balance and boundaries without giving up their heart.” And then, there are the patients. “I’ve never been so close to people who have so little,” she said. “I want to listen, learn and be close to them.” With only four Sisters of Mercy in Atlanta and the numbers of religious dwindling everywhere, she feels her ultimate goal is “keeping the flame lit” among the lay people. Unlike the nuns many of us remember from childhood, Sister Jane wears normal street clothes. Though she wore a traditional habit for eight years after joining the Sisters at age 17, she no longer owns one. “The old habit was off-putting,” she said. “Dressing as lay women makes us more accessible.” Like lay women, she lives in her own apartment in Brookhaven, very near the three other Sisters of Mercy, one of whom lives in an apartment across the street and the other two in the convent behind St. Joseph’s Hospital. They “live in community” by meeting several times a week for dinner and caring for one another.. “We’re a virtual community,” Sister Jane said. Mercy Care accepts both financial and in-kind donations. For information, go to

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8 | Community ■

Residents concerned with Verizon 5G towers; cities consider filing suit BY HANNAH GRECO

Residents of a Sandy Springs neighborhood are raising concerns because Verizon has started digging up their yards to prepare for a plan to install over 1,000 new poles in the city in preparation for 5G, the newest generation of wireless technology for cellular networks. But city officials say they cannot interfere because of a new law that passed last year restricting local control on cell towers. In response to the new law, some cities are deciding to join a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission. One resident of Derby Hills, a neighborhood near Peachtree Dunwoody and Windsor Parkway in Sandy Springs, said he does not think Verizon communicated with anyone in the neighborhood before beginning the process of digging up yards for pole placement. “I can clearly tell there wasn’t any planning in this,” the resident said at a Feb. 4 council meeting. “There was no kind of conversation or correspondence with the neighborhoods.” Matt Hartley with Verizon spoke at the meeting, admitting that the company did not properly notify residents of the pole installations. “We dropped the ball on that,” Hartley said at the meeting. “We did not follow what we had discussed with the city permitting office as far as notifications for residents.” The installation of poles will continue, Hartley said, but Verizon is trying to avoid placing poles in front of houses and front doors at all costs. According to Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert, there are over 1,000 applications for such poles in Sandy Springs. Mayor Rusty Paul is unhappy with the legislation and is concerned with the amount of power it gives telecom companies. Paul said at a Feb. 4 meeting that the city fought against the bill last year, but the major telecom companies went to the legislature to be able to avoid local concern. “They went to the legislature and then they went to the Federal Telecommunications Commission to be able to bypass local governments because they see us as a problem,”

Paul said at the meeting. Sandy Springs is now considering joining the coalition of cities suing the FCC and will discuss the idea further at an upcoming council meeting. Brookhaven joined the lawsuit last year, which cost the city a $5,000 flat fee. “The primary reason we joined is because we had a number of complaints from citizens about small cells in front of their homes and messing up their viewshed,” said Brookhaven City Attorney Chris Balch in a recent interview. In 2018, the FCC issued an order for a “one-size-fits-all” solution to small cell deployment and curtailed what the city could do in its own right of way, he said. “When we joined the FCC fight, we said our citizens want to protect what their streets and sidewalks look like,” Balch said. “The FCC says we don’t have that power anymore.” Crown Castle is the country’s largest provider of wireless technology and owns many of the cell towers and fiber infrastructure used by companies like Verizon. Kimberly Adams, the company’s government relations manager for the area, said last year the state bill keeps wireless providers from having to meet different regulations in different cities and simplifies the process of getting high-speed internet access across the state. In March 2019, the Sandy Springs City Council passed a law that required companies to install new antennas on existing poles if possible and that set fees in preparation for the new legislation. The application fee for collocation is $100. Replacement poles will cost $500 and new poles $1,000. The fee for using the city’s right of way is set at $100 per year for collocation on an existing or replacement pole, $200 per year for new poles and $40 per year for collocation on a city pole, according to the ordinance. In December 2018, Brookhaven’s City Council approved its own small-cell legislation that determined the fair market value for use of city right of way is $1,000 for each wireless antenna, or small cell node. In 2015, the Dunwoody City Council approved a small-cell ordinance limiting the height and size of nodes. — Dyana Bagby contributed

MARCH 2020


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Tax Year Deadline for


DeKalb County Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson Presents:

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Please bring the following to see if you qualify for an exemption:  Your valid driver’s license  Your State & Federal income tax forms. DUN

10 | Commentary

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Commentary: Local mayors and a resident react to I-285 toll lanes concept The Georgia Department of Transportation recently released more detailed concepts for its proposed I-285 top-end toll lanes project, so potential effects on local communities are easier to see. The designs show that more than 150 properties in Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Dunwoody and other nearby cities could be affected or demolished by the project. GDOT also proposes adding access points that would allow drivers to enter the new lanes from city streets. Among those following the project closely are Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch, Doraville Mayor Joseph Geierman and Dunwoody resident Robert Wolford. The Reporter asked them what they thought of the latest proposals. Now that the proposal is a step closer to reality, what do you think of it? Deutsch: Having watched the visualization of the managed lanes, I am amazed by the scale and scope of this project. It will forevDunwoody Mayor er change the landLynn Deutsch scape of metro Atlanta. I still remain unconvinced that this project will impact traffic in a meaningful way. Geierman: My thoughts about this project have not changed. Research has proven that adding more lanes to freeways does not solve traffic congestion. I think the taxpayer dollars being earmarked for this project would be more effective if they were spent building out other forms of mobility – including mass transit and bike/ pedestrian paths. That said, this project is going to move forward no matter what I personally think about it. My responsibility is to ensure that whatever gets built has a minimal negative impact on (and hopefully benefits) the city of Doraville. Wolford: I think that the “Advanced Improvement Project” proposal [to build some related non-toll lanes and ramps sooner] is very reasonable. However, I think that the toll lanes project is a colossal waste of time and money. Most people probably don’t realize, yet that the GDOT proposal is actually two different proposals for the I-285 corridor. The first, called the AIP, consists of collector-distributor lanes and rebuilding the Chamblee-Dunwoody Road bridge. It is all grade-level construction and it will serve Georgia well as a positive improvement on the top end Perimeter highway. The second, called toll lane expansion, involves elevated toll lanes that are above grade, take land unnecessarily, cost too much and won’t solve traffic problems long term. Is there anything that you see in this version of the plan that surprised you? If so, what was it? Geierman: I had been concerned that the toll lanes would require even more right of way acquisition along I-285 than they did and was a little surprised that relatively few businesses along the corridor were affected. I was disappointed to see businesses that I personally patronize -- like Tucker Castleberry Printers and Rob Mello Acting Studio – in the path of destruction.

Wolford: What surprises me about these proposals is not what is in them, but rather what is not in them. These proposals do not include any studies. There are no sound barrier mitigation proposals. There are no greenway or multi-model pathway proposals. There are no environmental studies, including any air and water quality impacts, storm water run-off impacts, noise impacts. There are no open and honest communications occurring between GDOT officials and citizens in communities affected and impacted by GDOT proposals. Deutsch: The city of Dunwoody is losing an entire neighborhood. We have been aware of this for a while, but we learned at the recent meetings that an office building and three buildings at an apartment complex will be destroyed to make space for the project. There are additional impacts not yet clearly defined on other properties as well. How can GDOT best mitigate any damage the lanes will cause local communities? What do you think they can do? Wolford: GDOT must, at a minimum, build sound barrier protection walls prior to any construction and maintain those barRobert Wolford rier walls during all construction. GDOT must also include greenways and pedestrian pathways between their expansion projects and impacted communities, as well as including greenways and pathways on the reconstructed Chamblee-Dunwoody bridge. And GDOT should pay for the greenways and pedestrian pathways in the impacted communities. Deutsch: Noise walls must go up before construction begins, even if they are relocated during the process. For Dunwoody, we need the space and infrastructure to install a multi-purpose trail along I-285. When the Chamblee-Dunwoody bridge is rebuilt, there must be room for a multipurpose trail as well as landscaping. Geierman: I would like to see GDOT give more serious consideration to how huge infrastructure projects like the top-end toll lanes negatively impact communities. I hope that as part of this project, the state helps local governments overcome this by building in bike and pedestrian access in the affected footprint and ensuring that

these new lanes do not cause more traffic problems than they were designed to solve. Once the work is done, will the project make driving in local communities better or worse? Do you think the long-term changes it will bring will be good or bad for local communities? Deutsch: The collector-distributor lane between Chamblee-Dunwoody Road and Ashford-Dunwoody Road should make commuting to the Perimeter area easier for Dunwoody residents. Along with other improvements the city of Dunwoody is already planning to make, this collector lane should help the flow of traffic on ChambleeDunwoody Road in the Georgetown area and beyond. Dunwoody is already well situated for commuters who travel by car and those who use transit. The addition of rapid bus transit as an east-west transportation option will provide some new options for our residents. This project, though, isn’t being built for metro residents who already live close-in. Rather, it is designed to benefit those who live further away from the job centers. Geierman: I do not think that the toll lanes on their own will do anything to solve Atlanta’s traffic problems -- the Doraville Mayor only thing that will Joseph Geierman do that is getting people out of their cars and to use other forms of transportation. I do think there’s an opportunity to utilize the toll lanes for bus rapid transit, which would provide some benefit to reducing traffic. This is not currently part of the plan, but I am hoping it makes it into the final draft. Wolford: The Advanced Improvement Project C-D lanes will make driving better, but the toll lanes will not make driving any better long-term. The only changes that can have any long-term significant improvements to the top end Perimeter traffic challenges must include rapid transit options. Bus rapid transit and light to medium rail are the only hope for long-term good for our communities. That is why Senate Resolution 654, the resolution authored by state Sen. Sally Harrell [calling for a state Constitutional amendment to allow gas tax money to be spent on transit], is so important. SR654 will allow GDOT to fund the transit projects necessary for Georgians to live, thrive and survive. DUN

MARCH 2020

Commentary | 11

Burning through the tea kettle curse Everyone has flaws and endearing peccadillos; mine is that I have an inexplicable tendency to burn water.


It started with a Michael Graves tea kettle that was a gift from my uncle and looked like a piece of artwork, it was so brilliantly designed. It had a whistle shaped like a little red bird, so it was a perfect “Robin” kettle. It came to me when the kids were toddlers, and it met its demise one busy morning when it sat on the stove with its little Robin-bird whistling her heart out as I ignored it while tending to a screaming child until the water burned out completely and the cute little whistle-bird melted into the pot itself. I was crushed because I loved that tea pot and doubly crushed when I went to replace it and discovered its cost. I received a replacement Michael Graves kettle for Mother’s Day, and I got to enjoy it for only two months before I burned that one. As a punishment to myself, I did not replace it but boiled my tea and French-press coffee water in

Robin’s Nest

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see

a basic pot on the stove instead. However, since a plain old pot does not come equipped with a whistle, it’s even easier to burn than a tea kettle. I burned four perfectly good 1.2-quart pots until I decided it was time to go back to kettles. By then I had saved up enough money to buy another Michael Graves kettle that I so loved, and I gave it to myself for Christmas, with the silent pledge that if this one burned, I would not replace it. You guessed it. This one burned, too. But it wasn’t by me

this time! It burned on a babysitter’s watch. I put it on the cabinet-top ledge where it stood as decoration with its fallen brothers. And I decided it was time to go the route of electric tea kettles. I was well-chuffed with a glass version that boiled water efficiently and expertly, until after a year, it suddenly stopped. I replaced it, and its replacement broke. I replaced it once more and, true to my rule of three, gave up the electric tea kettles when the third one broke. By this point, it had been about a decade since my burning-curse began, and I’d lost at least 10 pans and teapots along the way. The electric-kettle interlude lasted long enough for me to rekindle my hankering for old-fashioned kettles, and as karma would have it, I found the most perfect one on sale at HomeGoods. It was a nice solid shape, with strong shoulders and a hefty base, plus it was robin’s egg blue, so it became my new perfect-for-Robin tea kettle. It was a color so unique and so wonderful that the ladies in the checkout line with me gushed over it, while I stood in smug satisfaction because I had snagged it for myself. Every day when I walked into my kitchen and saw it perched there in its spot smackdab in the middle of the stove top, complimenting my kitchen décor with ease, I felt a light lift of spirit. I had a new favorite, and I didn’t even think it was possible. How long did it take me to burn this one? Exactly eight months. This time, I truly

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I decided that I’d start scouting HomeGoods again, just in case. I found a stainless-steel kettle that looked dashing on the HG shelf, and I bought it, but I never could bring myself to use it because it was so lackluster in my own home. When I returned it, I scoured the store once more, and lo and behold, I spotted my very same blue kettle, high on a shelf and on clearance because its lid was lost. Eureka! Fortunately, even though my first blue kettle was useless, I had not moved it because I couldn’t bear to walk into a kitchen bereft of its cheery blue self, and thus I had a lid that perfectly fit this new topless kettle. Sometimes, things work out. And maybe, just maybe, this one will last. DUN

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12 | Commentary ■

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The pirates who bring Mardi Gras to Buckhead Things started with David Moffett. He wanted a way to get to know his neighbors in the Club Forest subdivision better. Club Forest had several community clubs and social events through which women could meet, he said, but nothing similar for the men. “The women all knew each other, but none of the guys knew each other,” he said. JOE EARLE Moffett grew up in Lake From left, Krewe du Foret members Ryan Schultz, Charles, Louisiana. and Jamie Walker, Kurtis Fahn and Craig Hyde show went to Tulane, so he had their inner pirates in their Buckhead neighborhood’s a fondness for Mardi Gras, annual Mardi Gras parade on Feb. 23. the traditional no-holdsbarred party on the final day or days before Lent, a season of fasting for Christians. He thought Club Valley Drive, the main drag through his neighborhood in the Historic Brookhaven area of Buckhead, looked like a good place for a Mardi Gras parade. Why Mardi Gras? “Why not?” he replied. Mardi Gras parties and parades usually are staged by groups called krewes. Moffett and neighbor John Greiner launched the Krewe du Foret to bring Mardi Gras home. Greiner, it turned out, had a pirate costume, so the new krewe adopted a pirate theme and started putting together a parade. That was eight years, and eight parades, ago. Krewe du Foret now claims 50 or more members, all men, and puts on two to three social events a year, its members said. And it’s brought together men of Club Forest around a common interest. “I wouldn’t know any of these guys if we didn’t do something like this,” said Moffett, a 55-year-old banker who wore a Tulane cap and New Orleans Saints’ jersey with his pirate suit.. “It’s a great way to get our neighborhood together.” On the last Sunday in February, about 25 to 30 members of the krewe, maybe more, donned pirate costumes and joined in the Mardi Gras parade on Club Valley Drive. Some had grown beards just for the event and some wore elaborate costumes with thigh-high boots or fancy jackets and hats. “It’s a good experience to dress up like a pirate,” Mark Hanna, 46, a physician had said the day before when he joined a dozen or so members of the krewe to rebuild the floats that are stored at Moffett’s house during the winter. Most of the pirates in the parade rode on one of three colorful, pirate flag-decked floats built on top of trailers and pulled by pickups. Some rode atop an antique fire truck, while others walked alongside the string of vehicles, which included a convertible carrying the krewe’s queen for the day, resident Judy Jones. A New Orleans-style band called 2nd Line Atlanta played from one of the floats. Families lined the street and caught beads the pirates tossed from the floats as they rolled along. Marc Rosenkoetter stood out among the parading pirates. He walked on stilts and towered above the crowd in his pirate getup as he tossed Mardi Gras beads to clamoring kids. “It’s for the kids,” the 40-year-old management consultant said of the party as he helped decorate floats the day before the parade. “Honestly, it is.” Besides, he said, it helps give Club Forest an identity. “It really pulls the neighborhood together,” he said. “It sets the neighborhood apart. In a world of fences and walls and security cameras, its nice to have a neighborhood that can come together for something like this.” Lori Hicks waited in her driveway to see her husband parade past. She was joined by her mother-in-law, Charlotte Hicks of St. Marys, and sister-in-law, Shannon Hicks of Chattanooga. “It’s my favorite day of the year in Club Forest,” she said. “I think it’s incredible that they pull this off and pull it together for everybody on the cul-de-sac.” Why is it her favorite day? She thought the question over for a moment. “Maybe it’s my favorite day because the men are in charge and the families have so much fun,” she said. “That’s why. I just figured it out.” It took just 10 to 15 minutes for the revelers to pass. The parade ended at a cul-de-sac at one end of the block, where the pirates and their families and friends could dance and eat gumbo at a neighborhood party. Bill Selvey, who’s 58 and said he works as a head-hunter for doctors, has lived in his home in Club Forest for 26 years and has taken part in every Mardi Gras parade. He, too, calls Maris Gras parade day his favorite day of the year. “You dress up like a pirate and throw Moon Pies and beads to people,” he said. “Free beer. Free gumbo. What’s not to like?” DUN

MARCH 2020

Community | 13

New Spruill Center CEO says art creates ‘shared sense of community’ BY DYANA BAGBY

immediately. In addition, several other nonprofits currently share the limited space at the center. We’d like to begin the buildout as soon as possible and already have construction drawings completed, We’re at the point where we are ready to begin fundraising, but this will hinge on the city’s willingness to help as they are the property owners and will ultimately own any new buildings that are added.

Alan Mothner is the new CEO of the Spruill Center for the Arts after Bob Kinsey recently announced his retirement after serving 16 years in the job. The Spruill Center offers a wide variety of art classes and events at the cityowned North DeKalb Cultural Arts Exchange on Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. Mothner began his job in March and will work with Kinsey for several weeks as part of the transition. Kinsey will be honored March 21 at the Spruill Center’s annual Artistic Affair fundraiser. Mothner stepped down as the executive director of the Dunwoody Nature Center slightly more than a year ago. The Dunwoody Reporter asked how he thinks his experience there would help the Spruill Center, about the long-talked about expansion of the Spruill Center at the city-owned North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center and the status of CREATE Dunwoody, a group he helped organize to bring public art to the city based on recommendations from the city’s $86,000 arts master plan approved in 2017. Q: How do you think your seven years as executive director at the Dunwoody Nature Center will help you as the CEO of the Spruill Center? It should be helpful in allowing me to jump in with a pretty good understanding of the community and a clear picture of the how the city’s elected officials and staff work together with the nonprofits. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with Bob Kinsey and his team over the years and really get a sense of the love the community has for both the classes offered at the education center and the exhibits and programming at the Spruill Gallery. Q: What is the status of the expansion of the Spruill Center that has been talked about for years due to cramped quarters? We are still considering our options and working with the city toward expansion. I think a lot will hinge on the findings of the Sizemore Group’s report on both the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center and with what the city decides to do with the old Austin Elementary property that they now own. [The city last year awarded a $65,000 contract to Sizemore Group to assess the arts center and Austin school site on how best to use them.] Classes fill up almost immediately and people get left out from having an opportunity to learn from the arts. We also do not have the space to take on passion projects such as partnering with other need-based nonprofits DUN


Alan Mothner is succeeding Bob Kinsey as the new CEO of the Spruill Center for the Arts.

to help spread joy and love through the arts. Right now, there’s a lot of jiggering of space to accommodate the variety of classes offered, and because some -like ceramics and jewelry -- utilize specialized equipment and require dedicated space, they fill to capacity almost

Q: What is the status of CREATE Dunwoody arts advisory board? Are you all still working on coming up with a public art ordinance? CREATE Dunwoody is moving along with trying to establish public art in the city. We are currently working on a public art master plan that will inform both the public art ordinance, help to identify the type of art the community might be excited about and suggest areas to incorporate art throughout the city. Spruill falls under the broader public art umbrella with the other nonprofits, but I am hoping that we can also help lead the discussion given our nearly 50-year history of providing arts



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to the community. Q: How do you envision public art impacting residents and setting Dunwoody apart from other cities? Some art makes you think, some captures the essence of what it means to be human today, some brazenly shines a light on a major issue and forces us to see it in a different way. Other art is just so beautiful and sublime that a viewer can literally be moved to tears. For the city, art should reflect the culture and history of our community. Because art is unique in its ability to bridge the multicultural and multigenerational gaps, it is essential to define what makes Dunwoody what it is today. Take, for example, the “Everything Will Be Okay” sign at the Spruill Gallery – I don’t think there is a single person who hasn’t been positively impacted just by driving by and being open to receive that message. We desperately need art in all its forms throughout the city to bring joy, to inspire hope, to enliven debate and to create a shared sense of community.

14 | Community ■

In tax-break debates, turf wars arise between local and county authorities BY JOHN RUCH AND DYANA BAGBY

mated value of the tax abatements it provides. For years its agendas did not Tax breaks granted to developers even list the location of many projects. by bodies called development authoriDecide DeKalb cut one tax-abatement ties are under growing scrutiny in metdeal in a local city last year that it refusro Atlanta’s hot real estate market. But es to divulge. “We do work for the pubbehind the issue of when to grant tax lic but some companies don’t want to be breaks is another question: Who should named until they announce,” said Degrant them in local cities – local authorBarr. ities or their county versions? And what Both county authorities say they happens when one says no to a developmake deals that “create” -- often meaner and the other says yes? ing relocate -- jobs, and in DAFC’s case, The Development Authority of Fulsome affordable housing units. But they ton County is facing a call from Atlanlack mechanisms to confirm that those ta’s authority to stay out of its turf and goals are met and there appear to be no state legislation that would bar the way for the authorities to get full taxes DAFC from operating within cities withpaid if the developers don’t hold up their out local government approval. The deend of the bargain. velopment authoriIn contrast, city dety in DeKalb County, velopment authoriknown as Decide ties in Brookhaven and DeKalb, has better reSandy Springs have lationships with locreated “payment in cal cities now, but four lieu of taxes” agreeyears ago stirred conments that get some of troversy with the city the abated money back of Brookhaven for lack for city purposes, such of notice on major tax as building new streets abatements that hit its or acquiring land for budget unexpectedly. city facilities. “It is not in the inCitizens may not terest of a city’s resibe aware of the tax dents to allow develbreaks, or have difficulopers to play a county ty in discovering why development authoria particular authority ty off against that city’s granted them. Sandy SPECIAL development authoriSprings in recent years State Rep. Derrick Jackson. ty for tax breaks. That promoted the developis what happens now,” ment of a new downsaid Julian Bene, a critic of tax breaks town area with luxury apartment comand a former board member of Invest plexes that have been both lauded as Atlanta, that city’s development authormodern and criticized as traffic-generaity. “A city development authority tends tors. Of five new apartment complexes, to be more accountable and responsive four have received tax abatements – two to the needs of its residents and protecfrom the city and two from the county. tive of their tax burden.” Leaders of the county authorities disTax break powers agree. Development authorities are govern“Overall, DAFC serves an extremement-created, but independently operly important purpose in Fulton Counating and self-funding, bodies that can ty, as its focus is on economic developoffer incentives and property tax abatement that benefits Fulton County as a ments in a variety of ways. Fulton and whole and the needs of all of its resiDeKalb counties have development audents and not just those in one particuthorities, as do many local cities, includlar municipality in isolation,” said DAFC ing Atlanta, Sandy Springs, Dunwoody Executive Director Al Nash in an email. and Brookhaven. A powerful deal-mak“We always look forward to solidifying ing ability authorities wield is to issue and strengthening our partnership with bonds on behalf of a developer, using the municipalities to ensure economic its tax-exempt status to grant a partial development continues within Fulton property tax abatement for a period of County.” time, usually 10 years. The general ra“We are extremely intentional to cotionale is to promote economic developordinate with cities,” said Dorian Dement. Barr, the interim president of Decide The DAFC has been targeted with DeKalb. “[We] don’t want developers to criticism for years for granting abategame the system.” ment deals on luxury projects in such But the details of county authorihot markets as Buckhead and Midtown, ty tax breaks can be opaque. Only last where there appears to be little need to year, after decades in operation, did the spur economic activity. Atlanta Public DAFC start publicly releasing the estiSchools Superintendent Meria Carstar-

phen, herself a former DAFC board member, is a fierce critic of such deals, with the controversy ballooning to major proportions again over the past two years. Carstarphen has said various tax breaks cost her system tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue each year. In fiscal year 2019, the Fulton County School System lost $6.2 million in “potential revenue” from various abatements and incentives, and $4.8 million in fiscal 2018, according to Chief Financial Officer Marvin Dereef. In 2019, the DeKalb County School District lost $3.9 million to tax abatements, according to interim Chief Financial Officer Robert Morales. The county authorities say that the developments they assist boost the tax base enormously. Critics argue that many of the developments would have happened anyway, so the abatements are giveaways of money. Brookhaven and Dunwoody have good relationship and communications with Decide DeKalb, according to city spokespersons. And in Sandy Springs, Mayor Rusty Paul, a professional marketer and lobbyist, has had the DAFC as a client for about 15 years. He said that when the DAFC contacts city government, it does so through the city manager in a process that does not involve the mayor.

Turf wars

Relationships are more strained in the Atlanta area, where the DAFC cuts far more local tax abatement deals than Decide DeKalb does. Last year, Invest Atlanta’s president and CEO, Dr. Eloisa Klementich, sent Nash a letter asking DAFC to stop cutting bond-based tax abatement deals within the city limits. She questioned the legality of such deals; said her board is more representative of local taxing jurisdictions; and noted a divergence in the two authorities’ policies on affordable housing. She also raised the issue of “perspective” from the local point of view. “We think it is essential to be at the table for the conversation and the future development in the city,” she wrote. The recently incorporated city of South Fulton was the scene of another tax abatement dispute last year. Major controversy erupted over whether the local government’s authority or the DAFC should grant a tax break for a major commercial project. Controversy within the city government dragged on for weeks, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, at one point threatening to remove South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards and a City Council member from office. As a result, a state legislator has filed a bill that would bar the DAFC from granting such breaks within cities with-

out the approval of local governments and school boards. State Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone) said he filed House Bill 986 to promote conversations between the DAFC and local leaders. “You would think that would happen naturally, but unfortunately it did not,” he said. “… The whole goal is to make sure development authorities touch base with local municipalities.” Paul, the DAFC lobbyist, said before the bill’s filing that he was aware of its general approach. He called it “more punitive than policy-setting. It singles out DAFC and leaves the other development authorities operating in the county out of the proposed regulation.” Paul said he understands the intent was to “start a conversation about the relationships among the cities and the two school boards [in Fulton and Atlanta]. That discussion is healthy and I look forward to it.” One provision of Jackson’s legislation would bar an elected official from chairing a development authority, to avoid what he called “tension and confusion” about political roles. But local input is his main goal, he said. The bill would bar the DAFC from acquiring property, granting any tax abatements or “undertak[ing] any project” within cities without the “approval” of the local board of education and the city government. “Although it’s great the county can come in… the county may not be familiar with their comprehensive plan, the land use, just the whole arch of having a particular vision for that city,” Jackson said. Nash said that DAFC’s perspective has its own advantages. “The need to have a development authority that crosses city lines and takes into consideration Fulton County as a whole cannot be overstated,” he said. “People oftentimes reside in one part of Fulton County and work in another part. In addition, proposed projects may be located in multiple cities [or] jurisdictions, which is something DAFC is well-equipped to handle and has done so in the past.” Jackson noted that abatements can affect local governments and school system revenues, where people have elected representatives to oversee the operations. “Keep responsibility and accountability where they belong,” he said.

LOCAL PROJECTS WITH TAX ABATEMENTS A full list of over 30 projects can be found online at DUN

MARCH 2020

Community | 15

I-285 toll lanes would bring new highway access points on local streets BY DYANA BAGBY

The Georgia Department of Transportation’s plan to build tolls on the top end of I-285 include new highway interchanges on such local streets as Perimeter Center Parkway and around North Shallowford Road. GDOT also proposes to turn Savoy and Cotillion drives on the DunwoodyChamblee border into one-way streets to serve the toll lanes system. Some local officials have raised concerns that the new access points would drive more cars onto city streets, adding even more congestion to areas such as Perimeter Center. GDOT contends the recommended access points to the toll lanes, or “express lanes,” were selected to provide “adequate and equitable” access for motorists as part of its eventually statewide “Georgia Express Lanes” system. GDOT says there still may be tweaks to the plans, including access points, after reviewing community input. Construction on the eastern portion of the top end of I-285, between Ga. 400 and Henderson Road, is not expected to begin until 2023 and open by 2029. The western section of the I-285 top end toll lanes between Ga. 400 and Paces Ferry Road are expected to begin construction in 2026 and open in 2032. There are no detailed illustrations of what access points would look like, according to GDOT spokesperson Scott Higley. An animated video GDOT released in January of what the toll lanes would look like include concepts for the access points, he said. Recommended access points that would connect to local streets in current concept plans include: ■ Perimeter Center Parkway in Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. ■ Johnson Ferry Road at Ga. 400 in the Pill Hill medical center area of Sandy Springs. ■ Mount Vernon Highway at Ga. 400 in Sandy Springs. ■ North Shallowford Road at the Dunwoody/Chamblee border. Raider Drive in Sandy Springs is listed as an “express lane merge.” The toll lanes are proposed to be built over Raider Drive with no direct access to local streets. “Merges” are places where motorists can move between toll lanes and general purpose, or free, lanes within the highway, Higley said. The area of North Shallowford Road in Dunwoody would have an access point to connect to local streets and have an express lane merge, according to GDOT’s current plans. GDOT is also recommending Cotillion Drive and Savoy Drive, which flank I-285 between North Peachtree and Chamblee-Dunwoody Roads, become oneway streets with the toll lane access ramps flowing in or out of them. The new interchange would be built near North Shallowford Road, using Cotillion and Savoy drives to provide local traffic with access, Higley said in a writDUN


A screenshot of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s visualization of access points to the planned I-285 top end toll lanes at North Shallowford Road from Cotillion and Savoy drives.

ten statement. There will also be a direct merge created on the interstate so regular lane users can enter or exit the toll lanes near North Shallowford. Cotillion and Savoy would be reconfigured and widened up to four or five lanes in some sections. The remake of the roads would take sizable strips of several properties and up to five buildings, depending on alternatives. Marked for possible demolition at the area of Savoy and North Peachtree are a gas station, the Wild Ginger Thai restaurant, a laundromat, and the Tip Top Kosher Market. And a Georgia Power building at Cotillion and North Shallowford may come down as well. Dunwoody and Brookhaven officials have raised concerns that access points could exacerbate local traffic congestion. Higley said the state has been in talks with each city throughout the planning. He said that, when placing access points, the GDOT takes into account such factors as traffic demand, availability of potential for park-and-ride locations; proximity to town and job centers, such as Perimeter Center and Pill Hill; and future land use compatibility. “Once complete, I-285 Top End Express Lanes will be one piece of the Georgia Express Lanes network,” he said. “When considering potential access locations, the entire network was considered to provide adequate and equitable access for motorists systemwide.” First Baptist Church in Dunwoody, which has an entrance on Cotillion Drive, would be required to give some right of way and provide easements to GDOT. GDOT has been keeping the church in the loop on planned interstate changes since at least 2012, said Senior Associate Pastor Anthony George. “We are very supportive of the efforts the state is making to improve I-285, and we believe their latest easement proposal is very reasonable.” George said the church supports making Cotillion Drive a one-way road because it would make entering and exiting the church property safer. It would also make for a quicker exit for the thousands of people leaving after a Sunday service, he said. He also said the new toll lanes would give the church better visibility from the interstate. “Although we never like to see trees come down, the GDOT plan calls for clearcutting for the expansion, which will provide the church with direct exposure to I-285 traffic,” George said. “I am praying that unhappy property owners and GDOT can achieve satisfactory solutions as these plans materialize,” George said. — -John Ruch contributed


The intersection of North Shallowford Road and Savoy Drive on a day in February. The area could become part of a major interchange to the new toll lane system.


16 | Community ■

Dunwoody Senior Baseball finances come under scrutiny in city audit BY DYANA BAGBY

how the league operates. A new agreement between the city and the nonprofit baseball league is now in

Dunwoody Senior Baseball’s bookkeeping skills are off-base, according to an audit that found discrepancies on how league officials handle money. DSB officials argue the audit was based on faulty calculations and presents a misleading picture of

the works following the unfavorable audit. The contract is expected to determine how best to cover future maintenance costs of two new Brook Run Park turf fields. The fields, which opened in 2018, are getting heavy use as teams from around the state and Southeast come to Dunwoody to compete in baseball tournaments. “This is a new facility and it is getting much more use, which raises new issues,”


Mayor Lynn Deutsch said. “When we have strong partnerships with the nonprofits that manage our assets … [W]e have to make sure it happens the way it should.”



The City Council agreed in 2016 to sell the DSB baseball fields at Dunwoody Park to the DeKalb County School District for nearly $4 million to build a new Austin


Elementary School. The contract included the city using that money to build two new baseball diamonds on school property between Brook Run Park and Peachtree Charter Middle School. Cost overruns put the cost for the new fields closer to $6 million. PCMS gets use of the fields during school hours and others can use them when

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there is no DSB league or tourney play. Bill Mulcahy presented his audit of the nonprofit DSB at the City Council’s Feb. 10 meeting. There is no signed agreement between the city and DSB about how the baseball league would manage the city-owned fields, he said. He said he had to base his audit on an unsigned facilities agreement from 2018. Mulcahy said his audit revealed some DSB board members can purchase items, deposit money, record revenue and issue checks – including to themselves -- without internal oversight. Mulcahy said he asked DSB for bank account information but never received it. A written policy on how revenues are determined was not made available. DSB rents out the fields to different leagues to hold tournaments on the fields, but they pay only after play is finished. A list of unpaid tournament fees was also not available, Mulcahy said. The 2018 facilities agreement included a revenue-sharing provision in which DSB would pay the city 10% of its net annual revenues generated by tournament rental fees if the amount is less than $100,000, and 15% if the net annual revenues were more than $100,000. The money is to go into a fund that would cover future maintenance costs, including replacing the turf fields in 10 years or so. But DSB is not following that formula as he understands it as written in the current agreement, Mulcahy said, and last year the league paid the city nothing. “Do you have a clear understanding of their finances?” asked Councilmember Stacey Harris. “Their books are not understandable, and I understand that,” he answered. Mulcahy suggested the city determine a set amount to be deposited into a fund each year for major maintenance rather than determining the amount DSB would pay using certain percentages. He also said other users of the field should pay into the fund. DSB President Jerry Weiner, a certified public accountant and auditor, said in an interview that Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker approved the league taking out tournament expenses before paying a percentage to the city. The agreement also states that if DSB spends its own money on capital expenses during the year that amounts to more than 10% or 15% of tournament revenue, the league does not owe the city anything. Weiner said better internal controls are needed and those concerns are being addressed as he works with the city to hash out a new contract. He said over the past two years DSB has spent $125,000 tournament revenue on capital expenditures at the two ball fields, offsetting any payments to the city. The projects included more than $40,000 to build bullpens and batting cages, repairing restroom leaks and regular maintenance of the turf fields. DSB paid $10,000 to the city last year, though it didn’t have to, he said. DSB also wants to add shade spots and more seats, a project expected to cost about $300,000, which would come out of tournament revenue, he said. “Our understanding is the language in the agreement was inconsistent and we are taking steps to modify the contract,” he said. “We want to protect the integrity of the park and fields,” Weiner said. “As a group of volunteers, we’re just trying to do the right thing.” DUN

MARCH 2020

| 17


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18 | Community ■

Residents test new voting machines BY DYANA BAGBY

Local election officials were busy providing free demonstrations to the public on how Georgia’s new voting machines work before they are rolled out statewide for the March 24 presidential primary. During a Feb. 13 demonstration of the machines at the Dunwoody Library, DeKalb Voter & Registration Elections official Nytia Harris walked dozens of people through the new system. The system includes electronic check-in on a machine similar to an iPad, selection of ballot choices electronically via a touch screen, and a paper record that lists in text the voter’s choices. The paper also includes a QR code. The paper is inserted into a scanner, STEP STEP STEP the size of a large garbage can, that reads the QR code to count the votes. The scanner also stores the paper ballot. “Truthfully, this is not a whole lot different than what we were using before, except PHOTOS BY DYANA BAGBY now we get a piece of paper,” said Shelagh Clegg, who tested out the new machines at the Step 1: Shirley McAllister of Dunwoody, left, checks in electronically with her library. “At least we have a record with the paper.” driver’s license to vote during a Feb. 13 demonstration of the state’s new voting machines at the Dunwoody Library. Other forms of ID are also accepted. The General Assembly approved purchasing the machines for the entire state for more than $100 million following legal challenges to the state’s electronic voting system. Step 2: McCallister makes her choices on a mock ballot via a touch screen. The nearly 20-year-old former system required people to check in to vote by checking in to vote by filling out a piece of paper. The voter would then get a plastic card that would Step 3: DeKalb Voter & Registration Elections official Nytia Harris, left, be inserted into a touch screen machine that would then record the ballot selections. shows Shelagh Clegg how to insert her paper ballot with a list of her Voters have complained for years there was no way to ensure the machine recorded selections into a scanner. The scanner reads a QR code on the paper to the correct votes on the plastic card. A paper printout with the QR code of a voter’s selectabulate the ballot. The paper remains locked in the scanner. tions as part of the new machines is supposed to alleviate those concerns. Questions raised during the Dunwoody demonstration about the new voting machines included how to ensure voter privacy; accuracy of the ballot counts; and if there


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Community | 19

would be enough help at each precinct in case there are slowdowns created by people confused with the new machines. Partitions are to be placed around the touch screens to provide privacy, Harris said. DeKalb County plans to add several more poll workers at each precinct to assist voters than in the past to limit potential backups. There will be one scanner for every 11 touch screens, which is expected to meet voter demand. None of the devices used to vote are connected to the internet, so no hacking can occur, Harris said. The machines don’t keep track of the ballot, Harris explained. It’s the scanner that reads the QR code from the paper that counts the ballot, she explained. The paper ballot is stored in a large ballot box attached to the scanner and if an audit of an election is needed, voting officials can unlock the ballot boxes to retrieve the paper ballots.

MARCH 6-15

MARCH 24 IS PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY, ATLANTA SPECIAL ELECT ION DAY March 24 is Election Day statewide for the presidential primary races. The city of Atlanta also will hold a special election that day, seeking to reauthorize a 1% sales tax. In the primary election, voters can choose their favorite among the majorparty contenders for president in advance of nomination votes at national party conventions. The Democratic ballot has a dozen candidates, some of whom have already withdrawn from the race. The Republican ballot has only incumbent President Donald Trump. Georgia holds open primary elections, meaning that a voter is free to choose either the Democratic or the Republican ballot, regardless of their political affiliation. Advance voting was scheduled to begin March 2. Within Atlanta, a ballot question seeks to extend the 1% Municipal Option Sales Tax, or MOST, that funds water and sewer projects. The MOST is set to expire later this year. Primary voters will have the MOST question on the same ballot. Nonpartisan voters also can choose a ballot that has only the MOST question. For more information, see the Georgia Secretary of State’s “My Voter” webpage at

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WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS ARE WE STILL OK AFTER THE SECURE ACT? IS THERE REASON FOR CONCERN IN LIGHT OF THE RECENTLY ENACTED SECURE ACT? No, most people should continue to feel secure (pardon the pun). The financial media has enjoyed a field day describing the SECURE Act, which affects retirement accounts, as a game-changer. We have received questions from clients, but the group of people who need to modify their planning is a relatively small number. Although a bit of an oversimplification, it really boils down to just two main things. WHAT ARE THOSE TWO “MAIN THINGS”? The age at which you must start drawing down your retirement balances has been moved back to age 72. It was 70-1/2 previously. The new starting age applies to anyone not already 70-1/2 at the end of 2019. The later start improves planning flexibility for people who might retire before age 72 but, because of other income sources, may not actually need immediate withdrawals from their retirement accounts. Phillip Hamman, CFA, CFP®, heads our Wealth Planning Committee. He describes it as: “They can develop an ‘optimization strategy’ for drawing down these accounts”. YOU SAID THERE WERE TWO “MAIN THINGS”… The other important item generally affects beneficiaries of IRA accounts who are NOT the surviving spouse of the deceased account owner. Before the SECURE Act, these inheritors could slowly draw down these retirement accounts in installments over their entire lifetime. That offered some great

Sam Tortorici, CEO & Director, Cadence Bank, N.A., and President, Cadence Bancorporation, discusses the SECURE Act with Linscomb & Williams team members MaryJane LeCroy, CFP®, and Bill Kring, CFP®

income tax planning flexibility. The SECURE Act generally shortens the withdrawal period to a maximum of 10 years. In certain cases, where families fully expect that retirement assets will pass to the next generation, planning should likely be updated. IS THERE A “BOTTOM LINE” HERE? Everyone needs good planning around configuring cash flow in retirement. If you have not focused on this area, we recommend sitting down with a financial advisor who is a fiduciary 100% of the time, like Linscomb & Williams. We have an experienced and fully-credentialed team and are available to meet in our office right here in Atlanta.

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20 | Community ■

How to respond to 2020 U.S. Census questions arriving in March BY DYANA BAGBY

Residents are expected to begin receiving information from the U.S. government in mid-March asking them to participate in the 2020 Census, part of a national headcount that takes place every 10 years. The numbers are used to determine how to distribute annually some $675 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments. According to a recent George Wash-


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ington University study, Georgia receives about $2,300 a year per person based on Census figures. The numbers also determine how many seats a state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives and are used to draw legislative and school districts. By April 1, known as Census Day, all homes across the country are scheduled to have

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Census questionnaires. There are no citizenship questions on the Census. Federal law protects Census responses and information from being shared with law enforcement or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Sample questionnaires and more information about the Census are available at For the first time, people will be able to answer Census questionnaires online via a website portal that launches March 23. People also will be able to answer the Census questionnaire by phone or by mail. Households will begin receiving invitations to respond online to the 2020 Census be-

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tween March 12 and 21. Reminder letters and postcards will be sent out through March and April. Beginning in May and continuing through July, Census workers will go doorto-door to households that have not responded.

What the Census does State, county and city governments use the federal money distributed based on Census data to fund schools, hospitals and emergency services. The results also inform how billions of dollars will go to programs like Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, highway construction, school lunches and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, according to the Census Bureau. Developers and business owners also use Census data to decide where to open new

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restaurants or factories or where to build new office buildings.

Local government sources Local officials use various methods to inform people about the importance of being counted. Officials are holding community meetings, launching social media campaigns and hosting public events where they can hand out Census swag, such as tote bags and water bottles. The city of Atlanta has a website at to provide information about

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how to participate in the Census. It is estimated that 35% of Fulton County’s population will be hard to count, so the city is recruiting Neighborhood Ambassadors on the website to reach out to friends and neighbors to get the word out. This is the first Census for the city of Brookhaven, which incorporated in 2012. The city has budgeted $70,000 to try to reach all residents and ask them to take part in the Census. Special attention is being made to reach the city’s Latino and Hispanic residents living in apartments on or near Buford Highway. More than 24% of the city’s approximately 54,000 residents identify as Latino or Hispanic. The city’s outreach also includes ads on Telemundo and partnering with groups such as the Latin American Association and Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, according to Patty Hansen, who is organizing the city’s efforts. The city is hosting a March 14 festival at Northeast Plaza on Buford Highway to raise awareness about the Census. In Dunwoody, the city is planning an April 1 Census Day event at the Dunwoody Li-

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brary where iPads will be available for people to fill out Census questionnaires. Other outreach events include a “Kids Count” event at the Farmers Market on April 4 to make sure young children are counted and an April 19 event at Crossroads Church. The church is trusted by many in the Hispanic community, said city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher. The Refugee Women’s Network also is collaborating with the city to target local apartment complexes, she said.

MARCH 2020

Community | 21

Medical office to replace bank in Perimeter Marketplace development BY DYANA BAGBY

A bank at the Perimeter Marketplace mixed-use development is out and a medical office is in. The City Council at its Feb. 24 meeting unanimously voted to approve replacing a bank with a medical office in the Perimeter Market plans originally approved in June. Branch Properties, owner of the approximate 10 acres fronting Ashford-Dunwoody Road between Meadow Lane and Ashwood Parkway, where Perimeter Marketplace is being built, requested the change after a bank tenant fell through. The new plans will replace a 2,800-square-foot bank on the southwest corner of the site with a 4,700-square-foot medical office building. The zoning approval allows the developer to build retail, office or a restaurant at the site if the medical office tenant backs out. Representatives for the project declined to say who would be going into the medical space, but said it is not a retail pharmacy such as a CVS or Walgreens. “We [approved] this project last summer … and while [this application] is called a major modification [for zoning purposes], this is not really a major modification,” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said. “It’s switching out a bank for a doctor’s office. It changes virtually nothing to this space.” The development includes a yet-to-be-named grocery store, restaurant and retail space, a RaceTrac gas station and plans for a hotel. The project requires filling the pond on the site

to build a surface parking lot. The project is replacing restaurants on the site. Demolition of the closed McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant and Brio Tuscan Grille restaurant buildings was recently completed, and a chain link fence now surrounds much of the property. The P.F. Chang’s restaurant on the site is expected to remain open through May. In December, Branch Properties received an approximate $2.3 million tax break over 10 years from the city’s development authority for the $38 million project. The tax break was awarded as part of the property owner’s agreement to build a portion of the public AshfordDunwoody commuter trail and a public road through the project. An illustration of the planned Perimeter Marketplace mixeduse development along AshfordDunwoody Road. SPECIAL


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22 | Community ■

Nature Center welcomes new hives in ‘Bee City’ Continued from page 1

Clockwise from top left: Cindy Hodges, at right, the Nature Center’s beekeeper, and Nature Center Executive Director Michael Cowan look over some of the honey bees from last year. (Special)

After the hives sit in the sun for a few days, Master Beekeeper Cindy Hodges will then don a white, baggy bee suit with a hooded veil. She will trek to the hives, emblazoned with original designs by Buckhead artist Nathan Seiden and Diana Flowers, and go through the delicate process of installing the queen and the bees. “I will manage the bees and take care of everything inside,” said Hodges, a longtime Dunwoody resident. “The Nature Center has been an excellent location for honey bees over the years.” Last year, there were three hives at the park that produced approximately 100 pounds of honey, said Cowan. That honey was harvested by Hodges, who has cared for the bees for years, and then bottled into 1-pound glass jars. The raw honey with a special Dunwoody Nature Center label can be yours by becoming a member at the $500 level. “It’s the most expensive honey you can get,” Cowan said with smile. “But this kind is very scarce and the feedback we’ve gotten is great. And it goes to a great cause.” The bees in those hives have mostly died, Cowan said, leading to this year’s replacement. The painted hives and the labeled honey jars are not just for show. Cowan said they are part of the Nature Center’s mission to raise awareness about honey bees and other pollinators such as butterflies, birds and bats, and their importance to sustaining a healthy environment. “You don’t get the pollination you need without the bees, so you don’t get the fruits and plants and flowers that you need,” Cowan said. “So, it’s very important from that standpoint to have the bees.” Pollen is a yellow, powdery substance created by flowering plants as part of their reproductive process. When butterflies or

Dunwoody Nature Center Executive Director Michael Cowan holds a tray of honey bees from last year’s hives. (Special) Nathan Seiden paints one of the four new honey bee hives to be placed at the Nature Center this year. (Special) Nature Center Executive Director Michael Cowan led the effort last year to get Dunwoody named a Bee City for its efforts to teach others the importance of honey bees as pollinators. (Dyana Bagby)

honey bees land on a flower to eat its nectar, the pollen attaches to their hairy bodies. Called pollinators, these insects and other animals fly to different flowers for more food and transfer the pollen to fertilize them. Fertilized plants grow into fruits, flowers, vegetables and nuts. Farmers depend on pollinators to sustain their crops and their livelihoods. And future generations of seeds and plants depend on pollinators. Honey bees rely on nectar as food to sustain their hives, feed their queens and keep them alive during cold winter months. But honey bees and other pollinators are threatened by all kinds of diseases, widespread use of pesticides and rapid development that is paving over the flowers and plants they need to survive. Last year, Dunwoody became a “Bee City,” the ninth city in Georgia to earn the

designation from the national Bee City USA organization. Bee City USA promotes education about pollinators in urban areas. Criteria to be named a Bee City includes a City Council resolution, hosting pollinator awareness events and enhancing habitats. The Nature Center recently opened its Crean Eco Classroom made from shipping containers. Located near the site of the new hives, the classroom’s roof will be planted with native plants, such as milkweed, to create a pollinator garden. Honey bees can travel roughly 3 miles searching for food, but they prefer to stay closer to home. The bee theme continues this year during the annual Monarchs & Margaritas & Bees Knees fundraiser on April 25. The Bees Knees is a classic cocktail made with gin, lemon juice and, of course, some Dunwoody Nature Center honey. Hodges, the Nature Center’s beekeeper, has been learning and teaching about bees for about 15 years. Her “Hodges Honey” has won awards locally, nationally and internationally, and she sells jars of it at various outlets. She said the science that goes with beekeeping, the fascinating creatures hon-

The Dunwoody Nature Center was able to get 100 pounds of honey from last year’s honey bee hives and is giving them as gifts to generous donors. (Dyana Bagby)

ey bees are and their importance to the environment inspires her to educate others about them. One thing she wishes she could teach everyone not to use mosquito spray or other pesticides that kill the important pollinators. “Honey bees are fighting an uphill battle,” she said. She started a new Dunwoody beekeeping group that meets the first Thursday of the month at the Nature Center. The group’s inaugural meeting in February attracted more than 20 people, she said, many of whom already have beehives in their yards. For more information, email her at “Beekeeping is a wonderful hobby, it gets you outside and away from the TV,” she said. “I’m hoping to create a cozy club in Dunwoody where we get to know our neighbors and about good neighbor beekeeping. “When people think of bees, their first thought is they sting. But they pollinate flowers and help Dunwoody to be a more beautiful place.” DUN

MARCH 2020

Community | 23

New owners plan ‘reimagining’ of dormant Gold Kist site Continued from page 4 “We think it’s a premier location in metro Atlanta with a high-quality redevelopment potential,” said Phil Mays, principal with RocaPoint Partners. “We will do a complete renovation and reimagining of the headquarter building … and it will be done in such a way that it will become a creative-type of campus … a merging of the outdoors with the indoors,” he said. The Gold Kist headquarters was built in 1975 and overlooks I-285. The mid-rise building has more than 264,000 square feet and large “floor plates,” the amount of leasable square feet on an individual floor. One floor of the Gold Kist building has 80,000 square feet. In contrast, the new Twelve24 office tower on Hammond Drive across the street from State Farm has about 28,000 square feet on one floor. The Gold Kist headquarters was one of the first office buildings to be constructed in what is now known as Perimeter Center. Before it became Gold Kist, the company was the Cotton Producers Association, a cooperative founded in the mid-1930s by D.W. Brooks, an agronomy professor at the University of Georgia, to help farmers during the Great Depression market their cotton. By the 1950s, the co-op had diversified beyond cotton to chickens, fertilizer, pork and other grains, and became known as Gold Kist. In 2006, Gold Kist was sold to Pilgrim’s Pride Cooperation, becoming the largest poultry business in the world. Buildings with history such as Gold Kist tend to be more interesting as well, Mays said, so renovating it rather than tearing it down to build something new was also appealing. As a former headquarters, the building also has “good bones” to work with, he said. “We’re very practical as to what we think should happen here,” he said. “Our feeling is you can get a new glass cube anywhere, but an adaptive reuse is a compelling and more interesting place to work.” Plans are to weave the history of the building into the remodeling and save certain artifacts to incorporate into a contemporary design, he said. The property is zoned for 1 million square feet of office space, but Mays said there are no current plans to build out to that size. There are future plans to add another office building and possibly a hotel, he said. The existing campus already has outdoor common areas that are to be renovated and updated that will be part of an office campus “not seen in the Central Perimeter markets,” he said. “There is an enormous amount of Class A office space in Perimeter Center, but they are not for the next generation [of employees],” he said. “I think we’re seeing across the country a desire to not be locked in a box, for a mix of outdoors with indoors.” These kinds of campuses

help companies hire and retain high-quality employees, he said. Mays said the building lends itself to a single user for a national or regional headquarters. Companies are already reaching out to gain more information on the building, he said. RocaPoint Partners was the developer for the new $370 million Halcyon “mixed-use village” in Forsyth County at McFarland Parkway and Ga. 400. The 135-acre property includes restaurants, a food hall, apartments, single -family houses, townhouses, 480,000 square feet of retail and office space and two hotels. There is also a Mercedes-Benz Experience Center onsite with interactive digital displays and new vehicle showcases and product launches. The Georgetown Company is known for its joint development with the Hearst Corporation to restore redevelop the former headquarters of the historic Herald Examiner newspaper building in Los Angeles. The building was built in 1914 by William Randolph Hearst, a colorful newspaper publisher and businessman. Dunwoody’s Economic Development Director Michael Smith said the project would add “energy and momentum” to an area already thriving around the MARTA station, including State Farm and the new Twelve24 office building where Insight Global is relocating its headquarters. The Gold Kist building has sat vacant for at least nine years, Starling said. Recently, the “iconic” building been a popular site for movie and commercial shoots because of its distinctive look and massive size. Director Clint Eastwood used the Gold Kist building as the site of Atlanta’s division of the FBI in his movie “Richard Jewell” about the wrongly accused 1996 Olympics bombing suspect. “It’s an interesting building and a unique opportunity,” Starling said. “It’s not your typical high rise. It’s really big, but only three stories and takes up most of the site. And the large floor plates are something we don’t have in the Perimeter Center.” Starling estimates that a building with more than 260,000 square feet could bring in between 800 to 900 jobs “with easy walking distance of the MARTA station.” “Reusing the building … makes a lot of sense,” he said. “The [developers] behind the project have a lot of experience retrofitting old buildings, to create something a little more unique. Sounds to me like it would be a good place for tech or other creative companies.” The Georgetown Company and RocaPoint Partners purchased the building for an undisclosed amount from Dunwoody Crown Towers. Dunwoody Crown Towers had hoped in 2016 to get approval from the Dunwoody City Council to build a massive mixed-use development on the property, including four high rise buildings, including office and residential towers. The developers withdrew the project after the council hinted it was going to deny the project in part because they wanted more owner-occupied residential units.

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A department store pianist in the key of entertaining customers

BY JUDITH SCHONBAK Music is Von Maur’s trademark at its department store at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody. On any given day, the sounds of skillfully played piano music carries throughout the three floors. The piano and the musician at the keys sit at the foot of the escalator bank on the first floor, with an area of comfortable chairs nearby. Pianist and composer David Reeb plays a broad range of tunes from classical to Broadway during the midday hours four days a week. The Georgia native is marking his eighth year playing for Von Maur customers and store employees alike. His fingers move surely over the keys without a pause even when a shopper


Pianist David Reeb sits at his instrument in the Von Maur store at Perimeter Mall.

Continued on page 28

Cinema Paradiso

Donna Lefont seeks to keep film history alive with pop-up screenings BY LAUREN LEATHERS When Donna Lefont was 8 years old, her father worked at a local movie theater. As a single dad, he often took his children to work with him, where they would run freely around the theater. Lefont’s favor-

ite place to explore were the projection rooms. She recalls peeking out from behind the machinery and seeing a dark room full of people, their faces lit up by the screen. “It was kind of like a Cinema Paradiso,” she says, namechecking the classic Italian film about a Continued on page 29


26 | Art & Entertainment ■

Author Q&A: Thriller novelist Harlan Coben on suburban secrets and Netflix hits BY JOHN RUCH

where “Tell No One” was made into an acclaimed 2006 film. Coben entered the filmmaking business himself as a writer and producer, creating the British mystery series “The Five” in 2016. Now he is adapting his works for international audiences on Netflix, where a British production of “The Stranger” debuted in January. His local appearance is part of the year-round programming for the Book Festival of the MJCCA, a major event every November. It wouldn’t be a Coben event without a plot twist – in this case, two bestselling novelists for the price of one. He will appear “in conversation” with Emily Giffin, a Buckhead resident and author of such hits as “Something Borrowed” and “All We Ever Wanted.” The Reporter recently asked Co-

Harlan Coben enters his 30th year of authorship as a master of the plot-twist thriller, with such bestsellers as “Tell No One” and “The Stranger.” He’ll deliver some more thrills to local fans by appearing for a discussion and book-signing at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta on March 18, the day after the debut of his latest mystery, “The Boy from the Woods.” The new novel, about a man who was found living feral and orphaned in the wild and who now goes in search of a missing girl, is one of Coben’s standalone thrillers. He’s had success in the series format, too, with the adventures of ex-basketball pro Myron Bolitar and his morally challenged pal Win Lockwood, and three young-adult thrillers starring Myron’s nephew. European film and TV has been very Coben-friendly, especially in France,

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MARCH 2020

Art & Entertainment | 27

ben about the appeal of suburban evil, the challenges of writing technothrillers and more. Q: Dark secrets behind suburban life is a theme in many of your books and seems to show up in the new one, too. What is that fascinates you about suburban life in that way? A: The suburbs is the home of the socalled American Dream – a nice house, a picket fence, two cars, two-point-four kids, peace, security, etc. -- but a dream is fragile. How far will you go to protect it? That interests me. Q: You’re having a string of success with Netflix productions based on your books. How involved are you in those productions? Is it challenging to hand your written babies over to a different medium?

A: I love doing these adaptations with Netflix, including the most recent, “The Stranger.” If you think about it, I’ve chosen to spend most of my life alone in a room by myself. To get out of that room and collaborate with tons of talented people – cast, crew, writers – has been a wonderful change. I compare the bookwriting to winning a tennis or golf championship. You celebrate alone. The TV adaptations are more like being captain of a team. We celebrate together. We rise and fall as one. Oh, and I’m very involved with the Netflix series. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Q: You use technology in a lot of your plots. When you’re writing that type of thriller, do you try to write in a way that will hold up in 10 years, or are you happy with it being a snapshot of the moment?

I write contemporary novels. They are a snapshot of that moment. That’s how it should be. That’s how it is, if you think about it, with almost every novel. What must be universal is in the emotion and themes – the humanity -- not the trappings of time or locations. Q: You seem to be back to writing standalone novels rather than series. Is there something drawing you in that standalone direction? Any plans to bring some of your favorite characters back in the series form? A: Not really. Since 2000, I’ve written a Myron Bolitar novel every five or six years. My last Myron novel was “Home” in [2016], so that’s about right. Will I write more Myron and Win books? That’s the plan. I never force it. I wait until the idea comes to me and then I’ll see whether it will work for the series or not.

Q: In your local book festival visit, you’ll be in conversation with Emily Giffin, one of our local star novelists. Do you know her or have opinions about her work? A: I’m a huge Emily Giffin fan and – don’t be envious – I’ve already read an advanced copy of her upcoming release, “The Lies That Bind.” Ooh boy, is it great. I think it’s her best. Emily is also a wonderful friend and absolutely hilarious. It will be a fun event, I promise.

Harlan Coben in conversation with Emily Giffin Wednesday, March 18, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $35 (includes new book “The Boy from the Woods”) Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody

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28 | Art & Entertainment ■

A department store pianist in the key of entertaining customers Continued from page 1 stops to ask for directions or make a comment on the music. The Reporter talked with Reeb and as he played at Von Maur. And, yes, he did play a request: “Clair de Lune” by Debussy and a jazz medley. Q: When did you start playing the piano? A: I was 4. My parents bought a piano for my 10-year-old sister so she could take lessons. I loved that piano right away and after hearing her play “Chopsticks,” I sat down and played it by ear. I played “Chopsticks” a lot and my parents probably got tired of it. They told me to stay away from the piano and said it is not a toy. Finally, I sat down and played a song all the way through from memory, by ear. It was a song from church: “Jesus Loves Me.” They were impressed, and from then on, I could play when I wanted to. I actually did not take lessons until I was 16. But I loved practicing and wanted to practice rather than play outside or do almost anything else.

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Q: Did you have a preference for a certain genre of music once you started lessons? A: Not particularly. I loved playing everything. I am classically trained from my private lessons and continued that love and expanded styles and genres to include jazz, standards, popular music and Broadway while training at Gordon State College in Barnesville, Georgia, and the University of Georgia. Q: When did you begin playing at Von Maur? A: I began in 2012. This is my eighth year playing for Von Maur. Right now, I am playing four days a week, though the schedule changes occasionally. Two other musicians also play here: John Ivey and Elizabeth Carey. Q: Do you get a lot of requests as you play? A: A few. People seem to like to take a break from shopping or wait to meet someone, so mostly they sit and listen. This is a good meeting place because of where I am located in the store. It’s easy to find. When I do get requests, it’s usually a favorite song or it may be seasonal, like a special Christmas tune. Q: There is no sheet music on your piano. Do you know all your repertoire by heart? A: I have about 3,000 pieces in my head, from classical and jazz, to Broadway, standards through the decades and those popular today. I keep some sheet music in my briefcase just in case, but mostly I practice new pieces all the time. Even though I play a lot every day, I still love to practice and add to my repertoire. Q: Do you have occasion to meet people and play for them at Von Maur? A: Sometimes people will ask me about playing for a private event they are planning. As for playing at the store, I did have a wonderful experience this past December. I had just finished my shift at Von Maur when a young woman in an evening gown and her parents stopped at the piano. It turned out that she is the current Miss Georgia and her talent in the beauty pageant competition was singing. I played for her and she sang. She has a beautiful voice, and, in fact, she went on to win the talent competition in the most recent Miss America pageant. Q: Where else do you play? A: I play five nights a week for singers at open mic sessions and sing-alongs at Stone Mountain Public House, Olive Bistro in Midtown and Buckeye Room Bar & Grill in Chamblee. I also play at for weddings, receptions, parties and other private events, and I currently teach two students.

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Q: You are also a composer. What have you written? A: I have written music for several theater shows. One was “Teachers: The Musical.” It premiered in Acworth, Georgia to rave reviews. I did a YouTube video for the Christmas season called “Mozart’s Two Front Teeth.” It’s a take-off in Mozart style of Christmas songs. Included are “Mozart Wants a Hippopotamus for Christmas” and “Mozart Got Runover By a Reindeer.” I made up a whimsical story for each one. Q: What would Mozart think? A: I think he would laugh. He had a sense of humor and played around with music like throwing in a lot of unexpected notes in his works.

MARCH 2020

Art & Entertainment | 29

Cinema Paradiso

Donna Lefont seeks to keep film history alive with pop-up screenings Continued from page 1 young boy who escapes life in his war-torn village at the local movie house. “The theater was my home away from home and I got used to it.” The Lefont name is legendary in Atlanta because Donna’s ex-husband, George Lefont, owned for 40 years a chain of independent cinemas in the city that still loom large in movie-lover’s minds. The chain included The Silver Screen, The Screening Room, Garden Hills Cinema, Lefont Sandy Springs and Plaza Theatre. Lefont Theaters were the place to see foreign, independent and documentary films. George opened his first theater, The Silver Screen, in Buckhead circa 1976. Lefont Sandy Springs -- now the Springs Cinema & Taphouse -- was the last theSPECIAL George and Donna Lefont at the Academy ater he owned before retirAwards in an undated photo. ing in 2017. Donna has made it her this day and age with all the technology mission to not only continue George’s available, we need to stay connected.” legacy, but continue her passion for cuThe movies Food Film Music screens rating films, connecting the communiare hand-picked and curated by Lefont. ty, and teaching the relevance of cineShe says researching the films is her ma she first experienced as a child. favorite part, because she’ll often go The Lefont Film Society was creatdown a rabbit hole of discovering moved in 2012 to “bring back a version of ies she’s never seen prior. After picking the Lefont programming and nostalthe film, Lefont researches the distribugia without having a physical location tion rights or contacts distributors to again,” and has since become integratrequest screening rights. ed into Food Film Music (foodfilmmu“Hidden history is what I’m trying to, a series of pop-up style screendiscover and find new ways to connect ings. “The pop-up idea came to me — food, film, and music pretty much because it kind of allows for curated connect all of us in some way,” she says. programming, specific to the neighborNext on the Food Film Music docket hood audiences.” is a double feature of “The Mindfulness Lefont says the pop-up cinemas – Movement” and “Tashi and the Monk” which will take place in various locaon Saturday, April 4, from noon to 4 tions including yoga studios, local thep.m. at the Cinevision Screening Room aters, restaurants, boutiques, and more in Chamblee. – will provide the opportunity to hold Lefont is also collaborating with tight to the city’s film history, provide Emory University’s Cognitively-Based education opportunities, and fulfill Compassion Training, which focuses her passion for film. It also provides a on practicing attentional stability, anchance for movie-goers to collectively alytical reflection, and increased emoshare emotion and exchange dialogue tional awareness, at future movie and about the films. meditation events. She also plans to “If you’re watching something and host a film screenwriting camp in June you’re crying together, with your pupils for 5th to 9th graders to teach screensniffling next to you, and you’re trying writing and storytelling. To Lefont, a to hold it back, or people are busting a great story will remain timeless. gut laughing,” Lefont says. “You’re shar“There’s so many production camps ing emotion with people, and I think in and workshops available, but let’s back

it up to storytelling,” she says. “We have to retrain our minds to not consume so much all the time, and to actually be mindful and slow down and really appreciate this visual motion picture art form for what it is. Without that, you’re going to lose film history.” As with many aspects of media in this digital age, there is a looming shadow over the fate of the traditional movie theater due to distribution rights, the convenience of streaming entertainment, and the influx of film that is changing Atlanta. “I think it’s going to take reaching a plateau that people are going to want to connect back in the dark auditorium with strangers,” Lefont says. “Sure, you can have comfortable seats in your home, but that’s not the same as having this huge screen take over your whole life. You have to make the effort to appreciate the art form, no different than going to see a live band versus listening to it online.” While Atlanta has become Hollywood adjacent with Tyler Perry Stu-

dios, Pinewood Studios, and EUE/ Screen Gems and dozens of big budget film and television shows constantly in production (from the Marvel universe films to “Stranger Things”), the city’s growing film economy hasn’t phased Lefont. She’s focused on conserving the vast film history the city holds. “There’s so much growth going on in this city and I think it’s important to hang on to the history and to keep sharing it even as people are moving here,” she says. “Everybody’s trying to get into the [film] business and I don’t even know if they understand the history of it.” Part of understanding that history is keeping George Lefont’s passion for cinema alive in the city. “The Lefont Film Society built such a great following all those years and I can’t let it disappear, because all the hard work would have been in vain,” she says. “It’s getting back out into the community and talking about the Lefont Theaters film legacy, the Atlanta film legacy.”

Photo: ING Photography

EXHIBITION EXTENDED On view through April 25, 2020

4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Atlanta, GA 30338 Gallery Hours: Tuesday—Saturday: 11am-6pm, Monday: by appointment

30 | Art & Entertainment

H I G H ■


Enjoy free admission and special programs on the second Sunday of each month.






Saturday, March 21, 3 p.m. Riverwood International Charter School Dramatic Arts department presents the movie-based musical about a teenager rebelling in a town that has banned dancing. Tickets $15, students $10. Riverwood International Charter School, 5900 Raider Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: fultonschools. org/RiverwoodHS.



Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 21 and Sunday, March 22, 1 p.m. Roswell Dance Theatre performs a onehour production of “Cinderella,” followed by Atlanta Dance Theater presenting a one-hour production of “Aladdin.” The Saturday matinee features a meet-and-greet with both casts. Princess costumes welcome, with costume contest at each performance. Tickets $20-$35. Byers Theatre at The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:




MARCH 8 • APRIL 12 Designed for little kids, big kids, and the whole family, Second Sundays are for everyone. Visit us each month and experience new interactive, innovative family activities inspired by our collections and rotating exhibitions. Generous support for Second Sundays is provided by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

Saturday and Sunday, March 28-29, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The annual music and arts festival will feature an arts & crafts market and children’s play area, with headlining performances from Rachel Platten (Saturday) and Better than Ezra (Sunday). Free. Blackburn Park, 3493 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven. Info:

Friday, March 6-Sunday, March 15 A comedy about a man who tries to get the family fortune by jumping the line of succession by any means necessary, performed by the City Springs Theatre Company. Tickets: $30-$65. Byers Theatre at The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, 8 p.m. Sunday, March 8, 3 p.m. Capitol City Opera Company opens its 37th season with opera by composer Charles Gounod, based on William Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. Performed in French with English supertitles. Tickets: $30-$40. Conant Performing Arts Center, Oglethorpe University, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info:



Thursday, March 12-Sunday, March 22 Jerry’s Habima Theatre, featuring actors with special needs as well as professional actors from the community, will presents the musical comedy using ABBA’s greatest hits to tell the story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. Tickets: Nonmembers $45 (children $15); memebrs $25 (children $10). Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: or 678-812-4002.


Thursday, March 19Saturday March 21, 6:30 p.m.


Sunday, March 22, 4-7 p.m. Celebrate World Water Day with Georgia River Network, featuring live music, beer, food from gourmet food trucks, a silent auction and raffle. Tickets $30, children $15. Pontoon Brewing, 8601 Dunwoody Place, Building 500, Suite 500, Sandy Springs. Info:


Saturday, March 21, at 7:30 a.m. Peachtree Road Race qualifier and a fundraiser for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Registraton: $25. Blackburn Park, 3493 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven. Info:


Friday March 13-Saturday, March 14, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday March 15, 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. The Sandy Springs Society’s longest-running fundraiser and sells gently used items of designer clothing, high-end accessories, jewelry, antiques, books, furniture, upscale home decor and more. Free; Thursday preview party $35. In former Chastain Preschool building, 4967 A Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info:


Saturday, March 28, 6-11 p.m. Benefit for the Sandy Springs-based nonprofit TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation, with live and silent auctions, live entertainment, a seated dinner and open

MARCH 2020

Art & Entertainment | 31

bar. Tickets $200. Intercontinental Hotel, 3315 Peachtree Road, Buckhead. Info:


Saturday, March 14–Sunday, April 26, 2020 The Georgia Watercolor Society (GWS) presents its juried show open to all watercolor artists across the United States. Tickets $5, students/children free. Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info:


Sunday, March 15, 4 p.m. “Creating Harmony in Classical Proportions,” featuring works by Hazo, Persichetti, Schubert, Zdechlik, Heed, Fillmore, Reed and more. Free. Ahavath Achim Synagogue, 600 Peachtree Battle Avenue, Buckhead. Info:



Thursday, March 5, 7 p.m. Matt Matternes, an expert in the history and archaeology of cemeteries, speaks to the Buckhead Heritage Society about the cemetery at Buckhead’s New Hope Church. Free; reservations requested. New Hope Church Sanctuary, 3012 Arden Road, Buckhead. Info:


Saturday, March 7 through Sunday, March 29 The three-week-long festival celebrating Atlanta’s cultural and historical resources will showcase 100 “preservation partners” offering over 200 events, including guided walking tours, lectures, storytelling, open houses and more at various sites, including in Buckhead. Free. Info:


Wednesday, March 11, 9:30 a.m.-noon Carol Brooks and Pat Price of the North Fulton Masters Gardner’s will discuss “Shade and Shade Gardening.” Free. North Shallowford Annex, 4470 North Shallowford Road, Dunwody. Info:


March 11, 6-8 p.m. The Sandy Springs Education Force hosts its 10th Annual STEAM Showcase, a handson technology and arts exhibition. Free. North Springs Charter High School, 7447 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info:

Sunday, March 15, 6 p.m. 20th anniversary concert with pianist Roberto Plano performing works from Ottorino Respigh, Frédéric Chopin, Franz Liszt, Heitor Villa Lobos, Alberto Ginastera and George Gershwin. Tickets: 10-$25, Studio Theatre at The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


Tuesday, March 10, 6-7 p.m. The author of “The Temple Bombing,” “The Underdogs” and other nonfiction books and distinguished writer-in-residence at Agnes Scott College speakers in a presentation sponsored by the Friends of the Northside Branch Library. Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA, 1160 Moores Mill Road, Buckhead. Info: northside.branch@fultoncountyga. gov.


Monday, March 30, 7-8 p.m. Jennifer Renee Blevins’s debut memoir about her personal and family experiences in a fat-phobic world and critiquing the “obe-

sity epidemic.” Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info:


Friday, March 13, 9-10:30am Rock collecting class. Free. Big Trees Preserve, 7645 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info:


Saturday, March 7, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Discover the best deals and sell your unwanted items at the Brookhaven Parks and Recreation Department’s annual Community Yard Sale. Free to Attend. Tables to Sell: $20 or $30 for two tables. Briarwood Park Recreation Center, 2235 Briarwood Way, Brookhaven. Reserve a table: 404-637-0512 or


Through Wednesday, April 15 The Community Assistance Center, serving Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, offers free tax return preparation and filing to moderate- to low-income households earning up to $55,000 in 2019. For an appointment please email or call (770) 552-4889 ext. 241.

32 | Education ■

Teaching historical photography at Lovett BY HANNAH GRECO


Karey Walter has been teaching both analog and digital photography at the Lovett School for 24 years. Walter’s work is unique because she is teaching in ways that have been forgotten by many: historical photo printmaking. While many schools have moved to digital photography and teach only Photoshop or other finishing software elements, Walter’s students learn black-and-white film photography, printmaking with ultraviolet light, daguerreotype and other historical methods of printing photography.


Easter Services

Holy Week

Palm Sunday

9:15am Sunday School 10:30am Worship

Maundy Thursday

7:00pm Communion Service

Good Friday

7:00pm Tenebrae Service

Easter Sunday

Northwest Presbyterian Church

9:15am Sunday School 10:30am Easter Celebration 11:45pm Easter Egg Hunt

4300 Northside Drive Drive,NW, NW 30327

Childcare Provided.

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Everyone Welcome!

Easter Sunday April 12, 2020

6:45 AM

Outdoor, sunrise worship with Communion

8:45 AM

10:55 AM

Traditional worship Traditional worship with choir, brass, with choir, brass, and Communion and Communion

ALL are welcome!

4400 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd Atlanta, GA 30342 | 404.261.3121

Easter at Misty Creek Palm Sunday

April 5 - 10:30am in the Stone Chapel

Good Friday

April 10 - 7pm Service in the Stone Chapel

Community Easter Sunrise (Easter message: Reverend David Shivers)

April 12 - 6:30am Arlington Memorial Park Sandy Springs

Easter Services

9am & 10:30am at the Stone Chapel with a dramatic presentation

March & April Sermon Series: Resurrection Stories

590 Mt. Vernon Hwy NE, Sandy Springs GA 30328 w w w.mist

Lovett School senior Kendall Greene, left, and fine art photography instructor Karey Walter pose in front of their works selected for Manifest Gallery’s 10th annual exhibit “TAPPED: Artists and Their Professors,” a showcase of works by current and former teacher/artist pairs in Cincinnati, Ohio.


Walter also helps her students enter their photographs in competitions. In January, Walter and Lovett senior Kendall Greene displayed their works at Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the 10th annual exhibit “TAPPED: Artists and Their Professors,” a showcase of works by current and former teacher/artist pairs. “The relationship between artists and their current or former instructors can be a powerful one,” an excerpt from Manifest Gallery’s website reads. “All of us who have been students carry forward our teachers’ legacy in one form or another.” “I was more than excited to see that my months of shooting with a medium-format film camera, processing rolls of color negative film by hand, editing and scanning had paid off,” Kendall said of her work being displayed at Manifest. “I am so lucky to be learning from Ms. Walter and learning the fundamental skills of photography.” Q: How did you get started with photography? A: My journey in photography started with my love of horses as a 12-year-old attending summer camp. I would photograph with disposable cameras and I become fascinated with capturing my life experiences. While in high school, I had the opportunity to learn the darkroom process with black-and-white film. Studying the arts in high school led me to explore the arts in college and eventually receiving my master of fine arts from the University of Utah. Q: How did you become the instructor of fine art photography at Lovett? A: After graduate school, I returned to the South and was unclear about my goals as a photographer. I decided to hike the Appalachian trail with my dog to discover myself. Along the way, I met another photographer who informed me of a job opportunity teaching photography at the Lovett School. My trail experience was at a time before cellphones, so I hiked to the Nantahala Outdoor Center to use a payphone and called Lovett. They wanted me to come to Atlanta for an interview, so I left the trail and landed the job. Twenty-four years later, I am grateful to be educating students and exploring many techniques in the photographic arts with generous support in the arts at Lovett. Q: What inspired you to begin teaching students about historical methods of photography versus the more common digital photography methods? A: While in graduate school, I studied a variety of historical photo processes from the 1840s through the 1900s. In addition to historical processes, I am trained as a darkroom photographer and skilled in a variety of analog film and printing processes. Lovett is unique because we still operate a fully functional analog darkroom that allows me to educate the students in a variety of photographic processes. Twenty-first-century learners are intrigued with making and tactile materials, so the darkroom is a magical place to explore and to understand the complexities of photography. We also introduce the students to digital photography and learning Adobe editing, but being behind a computer all day does not have the same experience as the analog process. Q: What is next for you and your students? A: My advanced photography students are studying a photography project called PhotoArk, created by Joel Sartore, a photographer for National Geographic. The PhotoArk’s imagery is a documentary series highlighting animals and where they currently stand with extinction. We are traveling on an overnight photo retreat to the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, Florida, to photograph a variety of animals and research the sustainability efforts of this organization. White Oak researches and breeds several animals such as rhinos, okapi, zebras, cheetahs, giraffes and Pere David’s deer. Offering experiential learning gives the students a real-life documentary photoshoot, which allows them an interactive experience while photographing on location.

Education | 33

MARCH 2020 ■


very year, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation, known as the PAGE Foundation, identifies top students at public and private high schools across Georgia. The foundation says its Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program, or STAR student and teacher honors, has highlighted the achievements of more than 25,000 students since it started in 1958. The program identifies high school seniors who post the highest SAT scores for their schools and rank among the top 10 percent or top 10 students in their class in grade-point average. Each STAR student then chooses her or his STAR teacher. Once school winners are selected, regional STAR students and teachers are chosen to compete for the state title. Here are STAR students and teachers for high schools located in Reporter Newspaper communities. Atlanta International School

Maanit Madan Star Student

Brandon Hall

Catalina Ghercioiu Star Teacher

Chih-Chun (Vivian) Lin Star Student

The Galloway School

Nicholas Hungria Star Student

Matthew Keagle Star Student

Marist School

Charles Callahan Star Student

Ethan Shi Star Student

Nicole Chapman Star Teacher

Melody Cannon Star Teacher

Eliza Bruno Star Student

Holly Isserstedt Star Teacher

Manny Yepes Star Student

Erica Hiers Star Teacher

John Gresens Star Teacher

Ricardo Ruiz Star Student

Rod Schopke Star Teacher

Jenny Chen Star Student

Susan Wingate Star Teacher

Pace Academy

Ezra Midkiff Star Student

Aidan Gannon Star Student

Grady Stevens Star Teacher

St. Pius X Catholic High School

DeAndre Johnson Star Student

Riverwood International Charter School

Ann Graham Star Teacher

The Lovett School

Amanda Thornhill Star Teacher

North Springs High School

Yaron Bernstein Star Student

Justin Heo Star Student

North Atlanta High School

Amy Choi Star Teacher

Amber Player Star Teacher

Dunwoody High School

Holy Spirit Preparatory School

Mount Vernon School

Jose Gregory Star Teacher

Kimberly Kassis Star Student

Chamblee Charter High School

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School

Cheryl Despathy Star Teacher

Atlanta Girls’ School

Laura Romero-Mondragon Star Teacher

Daniel Buckley Star Student

The Weber School

Caroline Schneider Star Student

Olivia Rocamora Star Teacher

Maria Kepler Star Teacher

Margherita Ceccagnoli Star Student

The Westminster Schools

Anup Bottu Star Student

Claire Chen Star Student

Laura Drewicz Ewing Star Teacher

Carrie Stockard Star Teacher

34 | ■

Horse Lovers Summer Camp Chastain Horse Park - convenient Buckhead location! Boys and girls ages 4-8 – Mon-Fri 8am-1pm Many weeks to choose from during Summer 2020 Camp activities for our younger riders include horsemanship instruction (grooming, safety and more), riding lessons, crafts and games! Contact us at (404) 252-4244 ext.1001 or More information regarding summer schedule dates and registration form can be found at, select Riding Services, then select Summer Camp!

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MARCH 2020

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38 | Education ■


DeKalb County Board of Education member Stan Jester has announced he will not seek re-election for the District 1 seat. Andrew Ziffer of Dunwoody previously announced a challenge to Jester for the seat and is now running unopposed. Ziffer has said his agenda includes creating an atmosphere of collaboration between school officials and the community rather than one of division. “I know there are many people who are frustrated and feel ignored by the Board of Education and DeKalb Schools,” Ziffer said. “I will continue to focus my campaign on delivering a positive message, reaching out to the different neighborhoods and communities in District 1 to hear their thoughts.” The seat represents parts of Dunwoody, Chamblee, Brookhaven and Doraville. The election is May 19. “I’m tired and I’m getting spread pretty thin,” Jester said. “I don’t want my obligations outside of work to affect my ability to prepare for board meetings effectively.” Jester was first elected to the school board in 2014. In November, Jester said he was planning to run for a third term. He has been outspoken and critical of former Superintendent R. Stephen Green and his administration on issues ranging from spending to redistricting. “I think it’s important to recognize Stan Jester’s service to our community for the last 6 years,” Ziffer said. “He shined a light on many issues and helped many families.”


Two North Springs Charter High School students have been named Governor’s Honors Program semi-finalists. Grace Kirschner, junior, has been nominated for communicative arts and Matthew Szabo, sophomore, has been nominated for theatre. Both candidates will now have a final state-level interview in hopes to be selected as a finalist. SPECIAL If selected, Kirschner and Szabo From left, Grace Kirschner and Matthew Szabo. will spend four weeks this summer at Berry College in Berry for the GHP Summer Intensive program. The GHP is a residential summer program for gifted and talented high school students who will be rising juniors and seniors during the program, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. The program is designed to provide students with academic, cultural, and social enrichment necessary to become the next generation of global critical thinkers, innovators and leaders, according to GOSA’s website.


A Riverwood International Charter Scool senior Neha Devineni has been named one of Georgia’s top two youth volunteers of 2020 by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. In 2017, Neha founded the nonprofit ASA that now encompasses more than 100 young people in several states and overseas who are working to improve the lives of children in need, particularly in the areas of nutrition, sanitation and education. On a trip to India, Neha saw unimaginable poverty. “What I witnessed was heartbreaking,” Neha said in a press release. “Children younger than me were going to work in fields and factories and living in makeshift tents on the sides of the street.” As a state honoree of the Prudential award, Neha will receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an allSPECIAL Riverwood International expense-paid trip in early May to Washington, D.C., where Charter School senior she will join the top two honorees from each of the other Neha Devineni. states for four days of national recognition events. During the trip, 10 students will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2020. The award, now in its 25th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Prudential is a nationwide program that honors young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.


For the fifth time in six years, a team from Saint Jude the Apostle Catholic School in Sandy Springs has won the Future City Regional Competition and represented the state in the National Championship in Washington, D.C., according to a press release. Future City is an engineering education program and tasks students with researching, designing and building a city to showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. This year’s theme, “Clean Water: Tap into Tomorrow,” challenged the students to identify a threat to their city’s water source and design a resilient system to maintain a reliable supply of clean drinking water. The city would exist at least 100 years in the future, and the engineering solutions had to be innovative, futuristic and scientifically plausible, the release said. At the competition, teams presented their vision of the future through a virtual city design using “SimCity” video game software, a 1500-word essay, a scale model of their city built with recycled materials and a short oral presentation to a panel of STEM professionals. There was a spending limit of $100 to complete the task. Saint Jude’s team, named Team SMART Springs (an acronym for Safe MetropolisActive Resilient Thriving), consists of sixth-graders Adam Doulby, Anna Duffy, Barbara Guaderrama, Robbie Mahan, Ryan Quinnelly, Josh Tippen and eighth-grader Will Mahan. The students were guided by the faculty STEM advisor, Eleonora Straub, and parent coach, Banesa Guaderrama. In addition to placing first in the region, Team SMART Springs also won Best Research Essay, Best Virtual City, Accessible City Award and a special award presented by NCEES for Best Land Surveying Practices, the release said.

MARCH 2020

Classifieds | 39



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