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MAY 2019 • VOL. 11 — NO. 5

MAY 2019

Brookhaven Reporter COMMUNITY

New public park fishing regulations approved after heron’s death

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Section Two

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Dunwoody

Buckhead

Perimeter B

►Perimeter

Business: PCIDs turns 20 ►Q+A with local couple behind Atlanta’s big anime convention

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After 20 years of a popu increasingly jammed highw lation boom, scraper-sprouti ays and skyit may soun ng mega-developm ents, d quaint that about Perim people worr eter Mall traffi ied 1999. c way back in But the Perim eter Comm provement unity ImDistricts, the self-t of business property owne axing groups out of those rs that form concerns, are ed sons the local among the reawhy the traffi boom has happened and c to Perimeter isn’t even worse. If you Center today go get there via , you may well one of the PCIDs push big projects ed – like the the Hammond ramps on Drive Ga. woody Road 400 or the Ashford-Du ndiverging change at diamond interI-285 – and you’l touches they’ re responsibl l see smaller scaping and e for, like landrush-hour traffic cops. “They had one, cleaning a reputation for, num ber things up, provi those cosm ding some etic of used to,” said amenities we’ve all becom Ann Hanlon, e the CIDs form who watched as a longt resident and ime Dunw oody now serves as their execu director. “At the tive lutionary, that time, that was pretty revoa private group to pay for those was willing amenities.” Back in 1999, the three cities day cover that toPerim en, Dunwoody eter Center – Broo khavnot yet exist. and Sandy Springs – did As the PCID its next 20 s looks ahea years d to sion on trans , it has refocused its misportation, leaving previ proposals such ous ies. Transporta as park-building to the cittion these erything from days mean s evtrail networks helping to build mult iuse toll lanes and to shaping the futur e of transit on Ga. That’s in addit 400 and I-285. ion to some PCIDs curre of the basic s the ntly like sidewalks provides or coordinate and crosswalk s, shuttles, traffi s, commuter c rimeter Conn signal timing and the Peects comm vice. uter advic e serAn increasing part of Perim ly residential secto r is eter Cente r’s future, with

Emory unveils $1B plan to remake Executive Park as ‘health innovation district’ Main photo , the SPECIA at Ashford-Dudiverging diamond interchang L nwoody Road e looked short ly after open and I-285 as it ing in 2012. Inset, the Ham mond Drive FILE Ga. 400 short interc ly after it open hange with ed in 2011.

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Emory University’s master plan for the 60 acres of Executive Park it owns shows future medical and office buildings colored in blue, including a new hospital and Musculoskeletal Center. Emory is seeking to rezone the property from retail to office and industrial.

300-plus properties could be affected by I-285 toll lanes project BY DYANA BAGBY AND JOHN RUCH The state’s plan to build toll lanes on the top end of I-285 could impact a minimum of 300 properties all along the corridor, ranging from construction easements to full land takings, according to city of Brookhaven officials. Mayor John Ernst and City Councilmember Linley Jones informed about 50 people attending an April 18 community meeting at

City Hall that was the number they learned after a private meeting with a Georgia Department of Transportation project manager. They also said they did not know how many Brookhaven properties would be affected. The 300-plus properties affected on the top end of I-285 are located between Henderson Road in the Tucker area in the east See 300 on page 23

BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Emory University has revealed its $1 billion plan for Executive Park, a “livework-play health innovation district” that includes a hospital, a hotel, multifamily housing and medical and office space. The 60-acre plan will take 15 years to build, but work on an orthopedic center could start this year, Emory says. Residents of Lavista Park, a neighborhood adjacent to Executive Park, are seeking to be annexed into Brookhaven, possibly as soon as this year, in part because they want to have a say in the development. “It’s critical we have a say because this comes into our neighborhood,” said Michael Lappin, speaking shortly before EmSee EMORY on page 22

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Community Briefs C IT Y BUY S BUF ORD H IGH WAY PR O PER TY F O R FUTURE I -85 F LY OVER B R ID G E

The City Council approved April 23 spending $1.5 million to purchase an approximately 1.5-acre parcel on Buford Highway as part of a long-term plan to build a bridge over I-85. The flyover bridge is part of a regional strategic plan to provide access to Executive Park and the new Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta medical campus, according to city officials. The flyover bridge would also help alleviate traffic on North Druid Hills Road, according to the city. “This is a huge strategic move for the region, not just for Brookhaven,” City Manager Christian Sigman said in an interview after the council meeting. The parcel is located at 2751 Buford Highway and is a mostly unused parking lot that is part of the existing Druid Pointe office building complex. The $1.5 million to pay for the land is coming from the $10 million CHOA paid to the city for 6.27 acres of right of ways for Tullie Road and Tullie Circle as part of CHOA’s construction of an approximate 70-acre medical campus at I-85 and North Druid Hills Road. The city has been using this money for acquiring the private land needed to build the Peachtree Creek Greenway. The city has said it has spent $9.3 million of that $10 million. Brookhaven and Georgia Department of Transportation officials have been in talks for approximately 18 months about building a bridge from Buford Highway property over I-85 and into Executive Park. Emory University purchased 60 acres of Executive Park in 2016 with plans for major redevelopment but has not publicly revealed what it wants to build there. Executive Park is currently zoned for mixed-use, including office, residential and a hotel. Across the street from Executive Park is CHOA campus where two office support buildings are now under construction. Construction of a new $1.3 billion hospital is slated to start in 2020. The bridge would be four lanes, 80 feet wide, and have 10-foot sidewalks and bike

paths on either side, he said. Sigman said the new bridge would catalyze redevelopment along the southern portion of Buford Highway as well, making the property valuable for new development and redevelopment of current properties. Across the street from Druid Pointe and a bit south is the Latin American Association and two small apartment complexes. Office buildings make up most of the area in the surrounding area.

M AYO R AL TER M L I M IT EX T ENS I O N S TA L L S ; TAX R EL IEF B IL L S A P P R O V ED

A bill to give the Brookhaven mayor the right to serve in an extra term in office extra failed to pass in the General Assembly after some legislators wanted to require a referendum to decide the matter. The bill is expected to be taken up again next year. The General Assembly did approve two bills to provide tax relief to Brookhaven homeowners. State Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven) sponsored House Bill 695, which would have amended the city’s charter to give the mayor the ability to serve three consecutive terms. Currently the mayor can serve two consecutive four-year terms. The city’s charter review commission recommended in 2017 that the mayor’s term limits be extended. The commission had also recommended City Council members be limited to three terms; currently their terms are unlimited. Cities are required by the state to review their charters by the state every five years. This was Brookhaven’s first charter review since incorporation in 2012. The reason for the change to term limits was to encourage people to run for office, according to a report from the charter review commission. By implementing equal term limits for all elected offices, residents would not be intimidated by the advantages of an incumbency to run for office, according to the report. The City Council accepted the report but chose this year not to take up council term limits, instead agreeing to OK an extra term for the mayor. Mayor John Ernst, who is seeking his second term this year, would be eligible for a third term if he wins reelection and the charter change is approved. Currently, he faces no opposition. The election is Nov. 5. The state legislature did pass HB 645 to increase homestead exemptions for Brookhaven homeowners from the current $20,000 to $40,000 by 2025. HB 647 was also approved, providing additional exemptions for residents age 65 and older and those with disabilities who make less than $15,000 a year. The legislation increases a $14,000 exemption to jumps to $160,000 over the next five years, with an annual increase of $29,200. Both tax relief bills were proposed by Ernst. Voters will decide on the homestead exemption in the Nov. 5 city election.

CITY LIFTS S HO R T- T ER M R ENTA L BAN IN R ES I DENTI A L NEI G HB O R HO O DS

Homeowners living in single-family neighborhoods can now legally rent out their homes and rooms via short-term rental agencies such as Airbnb. The city had previously banned short-term rentals in single-family neighborhoods and only allowed them in apartments as part of its zoning ordinance rewrite approved in November. But on April 23, the City Council reversed course to allow short-term rentals for single-family homeowners with the following rules: homeowners must receive a permit from the city, they must pay the city’s excise tax, and they can only list their homes on such sites as Airbnb for 180 days. Councilmember Joe Gebbia’ son, Joe Gebbia Jr., is a founder of Airbnb. Councilmember Gebbia recused himself from discussion and the vote on the short-term rental vote.

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PAR C B R O O KH AV EN EL EC T S NEW P R ES I DENT

Members of the Parks and Recreation Coalition Brookhaven recently elected Steve Peters from the Murphey Candler Park Conservancy to succeed Sue Binkert as the nonprofit group’s president. Binkert had helmed the organization since its founding in 2013. Peters has said is goal is to reinvigorate PARC Brookhaven and is working with all parks groups to become members. PARC Brookhaven was formed shortly after the city was incorporated. The founding members are residents who were active in various parks advocacy groups before the city incorporated. PARC Brookhaven was instrumental in helping create an initial parks master plan in 2014. In 2016, the City Council approved a final parks master plan. Several members of PARC Brookhaven participated in 2017 and 2018 in coming up with three bond referendum scenarios to pay for the parks master plans. Those members then publicly opposed as too costly the $40 million parks bond referendum that was approved by the City Council to be put on the ballot. Voters approved the referendum in November with 60 percent of the vote.

BK


MAY 2019

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Community | 3

Developers strike out in attempts to bypass new zoning regulations BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Major development projects in Lenox Park on the Buckhead border and on Dresden Drive have been scrapped after developers discovered they were not going to get a pass to circumvent the city’s newly approved zoning regulations. Plans to build a senior multiunit resiSpecial dential development in The developer scrapped plans for to build a multiunit residential Lenox Park were withdevelopment in Lenox Park that would be for residents 55 and older after failing to get a waiver of the city’s new 10 percent drawn at the City Counworkforce mandate for new multiunit residential projects. cil’s April 23 meeting. Backlash from residents opposed to apartments being built played a large role in the withdrawal. But the Planning Commission’s recommendation the City Council deny approval because the developer wanted to waive the city’s new 10 percent workforce housing mandate perhaps played a bigger role. “I hope this sends a message to people wanting to develop here,” Planning Commission Chair Stan Segal said at the commission’s April 3 meeting when the commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of the project. “We’re serious about having workforce housing and … being much more inclusive in any way we can. That’s what this city is going to stand for,” he said. Greystar GP II LLC was seeking to rezone four parcels at 1035, 1045, 1055 and 1065 Lenox Park Blvd. for a 188-unit residential project for people age 55 and older. The site is currently an approximate 5-acre green space and is zoned for two office buildings. The withdrawal request to the City Council was made by a representative from

BK

AT&T, owner of the parcels. The representative said Greystar GP II LLC decided not to seek to buy the property after the Planning Commission meeting. “We no longer have a buyer under contract … and now this is a moot point,” the AT&T representative told the City Council. This is the second time AT&T has sought a buyer for the Lenox Park property, only to see development plans be rejected by Lenox Park residents and the city. Both projects were residential developments. The newest project was the first proposed development in the city to fall under the new workforce housing mandate approved as part of the zoning ordinance rewrite in November. The ordinance requires 10 percent of a new multiunit residential project to be classified as workforce housing. Harrison Development & Construction also withdrew its request at the City Council’s April 23 meeting to build eight townhomes and two single-family houses on a less than 1-acre plot at the corner of Dresden Drive and Camille Drive. The Planning Commission voted at its April 3 meeting to recommend denial because the high-density project was just Special outside the Peachtree OverThe developer of the proposed townhomes at Dresden lay District, also approved by Drive and Camille Drives withdrew the plans after the City Council last year. Sevfacing denial because the project was just outside eral residents living in the surthe Peachtree Overlay District, approved last year for such projects while protecting single-family rounding single-family neighhome neighborhoods outside the overlay district. borhoods spoke out against the project and cited the Peachtree Overlay District’s purpose to keep high-density development out of single-family residential areas. The Peachtree Overlay District extends down Dresden Drive past the Village Place and Village Park at Brookhaven mixed-use developments and ends at Camille Drive. Past Camille Drive is the Ashford Park-Drew Valley character area where zoning regulations call for preserving the single-family housing community.


4 | Community

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DeKalb CEO touts Dunwoody unity in ‘State of County’ address BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond touted unity as the force behind local resurgence, and cited his “odd couple” partnership with Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal as key bridgebuilding, in a special “State of the County” address to business leaders April 25. Adding to the symbolism, the event – hosted by the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and the policy and lobby group the Council for Quality Growth – was not only held in Dunwoody, but in very same Crowne Plaza Ravinia hotel ballroom where the city’s own annual “state of” address was held just two weeks ago. More than 600 business and political figures attended, including Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst and other officials from that city. “One DeKalb, one Georgia, one America,” said Thurmond. “That’s my vision. That’s my hope. That’s my promise.” Shortal, who received one of two W.W. King Bridge Builder Awards

whose winners were selected personally by Thurmond, praised the county that his city famously – or infamously, depending on political viewpoints – incorporated to get an arm’s length away from in 2008. “We’re DeKalb County. Be proud of it,” Shortal urged the crowd. “Don’t sit there and say, ‘Oh, DeKalb County…’ Pump your chest, hit it!” “No North and South, no black and white, all of that stuff – no Republican and Democrat,” Shortal added about the new era in DeKalb. And alluding to a previous comment of Thurmond’s about everyone using the same water system, Shortal repeatedly noted with something of an anti-segregation-era air that today we all are “drinking out of the same fountain.” The enthusiastic crowd response showed how much Thurmond, since his 2016 election, has turned around DeKalb’s reputation from years of scandals over corruption and incompetence. The award to Shortal also underscored a bit of political uncertainty

Mayor Denis Shortal, left, receives a W.W. King Bridge Builder Award from DeKalb County CEO Michasel Thurmond.

over the future of Dunwoody partnership, as Shortal recently announced he will not run for re-election this year. Thurmond described the state of the county in monumental terms. “DeKalb

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is rising,” he said, adding at another point, “Let the word go forward that the sleeping giant that has existed in north metro Atlanta has awakened.” He cited a recently voter-approved special local option tax for a bevy of infrastructure improvements; higher property values along with deep, five-year homeowner property tax reductions; the continued success of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport on the Chamblee-Brookhaven border; and the boom of transit-oriented business development in Perimeter Center. Thurmond hammered home his point that all of those successes – past, but mostly present – are due to unifying political efforts. He praised the current county Board of Commissioners for “understanding that divisive, zerosum politics is a losing proposition.” He noted that DeKalb became a founding county member of MARTA about 50 years ago. He said that while other counties continue to debate transit, DeKalb is enjoying ever-larger economic paybacks. And, he said, “we owe it to those who would not allow themselves to become prisoners of narrow, mean-spirited, partisan politics.” The theme carried through allusions to DeKalb’s corruption scandals. “We have learned some difficult and painful lessons because of past mistakes, missteps, failures. We have learned some hard truths about ourselves,” Thurmond said, but added there’s another lesson: “Learn from the past, but don’t dwell on it. …There are some whose minds are still stuck in 2013.” BK


MAY 2019

Community | 5

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Wins, losses and culture wars in the General Assembly BY EVELYN ANDREWS, DYANA BAGBY AND JOHN RUCH

CONNOR.CAREY VIA ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA

The General Assembly session came to a close on April 2 with a dramatic debate about the passage of the “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions in cases where a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The Reporter asked local legislators about their wins and losses this session,

legislation would have provided immunity for anyone rescuing an animal from a hot car by breaking a window if they call 911. The mood in the General Assembly: Kirkpatrick said her job is to review every piece of legislation and do what is best for her constituents, which is why she voted against the abortion restrictions. “I think things like [abortion] are very divisive and tend to polarize people and draw extremes,” she said. “People like me are definitely in jeopardy and I think it’s important we have people who are thoughtful.”

vide new coordination between schools and law enforcement. The legislation came out of recommendations from a task force Albers chaired.

Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs)

Win: HB 424, which changed criminal law to add sex trafficking to gang activity definition and loosened the rules on some rape case testimony and investigations; combined with legislation that tightens rules on elder abuse. Loss: HB 158, which would have al-

Rep. Josh McLaurin

Kitchen Fronts of Georgia

(D-Sandy Springs)

and the culture-war climate of the legislature in the wake of the abortion bill. Two legislators did not respond: state Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta), who testified in the U.S. Senate against a federal abortion restriction bill amid national attention for her speech against the “heartbeat bill,” and state Rep. Erik Allen (D-Smyrna).

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Sandy Springs)

Win: Kirkpatrick, who had a 30-year healthcare career, said passing several pieces of legislation on that industry was the big success, including certificate-ofneed reform, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, and insurance waivers. Loss: Kirkpatrick counts her one big loss as the failure of her hot car bill. The

Win: McLaurin said his successes were passing a bill he co-sponsored that allows “citizens to use lawsuits to hold the government accountable.” Loss: McLaurin said the passage of abortion restrictions was the worst loss. He said Georgia is one of the last in the county for maternity mortality rates and he believes the new rules could make it worse.“You would think it would be impossible to take a step back, but we did,” he said. The mood in the General Assembly: He said he believes divisive social issues remain a focus of Republican leaders because they are afraid of losing control and are trying to please polarized voters.“I feel let down because this legislature doubled down on social issues rather than moving Georgia forward in a more sane direction,” McLaurin said.

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Sen. John Albers (R-Sandy Springs)

Win: Albers’ big win was passing the “Keeping Georgia’s Schools Safe Act” which would address offenses for minors in possession of a firearm; require school safety plans, including performing threat assessments, drills and education prevention and reporting; and pro-

lowed people with HIV and AIDS who use Medicaid to get access to the same drugs used by others in the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program. “I definitely think this is needed, because we’re the number state in the country with outbreaks of AIDS.” The mood in the General Assembly: She attributes the tensions to new state leadership that doesn’t know each other yet, and she believes the abortion bill was unconstitutional. “I’m very hopeful things are going to calm down.”

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Wins, losses and culture wars in the General Assembly Continued from page 5

Betsy Holland (D-Buckhead)

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Win: Bills that increased educational opportunities, including HB 218, which will extend the time students can utilize the HOPE Scholarship to 10 years after graduation and with active military service not counting. Also covered requiring recess in elementary school; more resources for students with dyslexia; and raises for teachers. Loss: The failure of the hate crimes bill and Medicaid expansion, and passage of Confederate monuments protection bill and the abortion bill. The mood in the General Assembly: “While many good pieces of legislation involved bipartisan efforts, there were many ‘culture war’ bills that divided the chamber. During the last month of session, we walked past protesters almost every day.” She has hope of working with other newly elected Democrats next time.

Sen. Sally Harrell (D-Dunwoody)

Win: Defeat of the school voucher bill that would have allowed the state to pay for private school tuition. “That surprised me,” she said. “I was surprised how many Republicans [opposed] the bill and stood in solid support of public schools. This was definitely a bipartisan win.”

Loss: Failure to pass Medicaid expansion. The legislature did pass a bill giving Gov. Brian Kemp the authority to study options on Medicaid waivers, which Harrell said is not enough. The mood in the General Assembly: At the beginning of the session, Harrell said she saw many Republicans wanting to work with Democrats because of the number of seats Democrats flipped. But when Gov. Kemp settled into office and the “heartbeat bill” to essentially ban abortion was introduced, the mood shifted significantly to a much more conservative tone, she said. “The right wing of the Republican Party knows if they can get a bill to the floor, the moderates have to vote for it.”

Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Brookhaven)

Win: Holcomb’s bill requiring police to keep rape kits and evidence gathered from sexual assaults for up to 50 years passed unanimously in the House and Senate. Before, evidence only had to be preserved for 10 years. Loss: Holcomb introduced several bills to address elections and voting, including bills to allow for hand marked paper ballots, same-day voter registration and the creation of an independent redistricting commission. None of the bills got hearings. The mood in the General Assembly: The most controversial bill, the “heartbeat bill” that bans abortion, was a curious bill to introduce because Republican

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majorities were much greater in previous sessions, he said. “If I wanted to be really cynical ... I’d say this was nothing but political theater because it will be struck down,” he said.

Rep. Mike Wilensky (D-Dunwoody)

Win: Wilensky passed his first bill to revise the criteria tax assessors use to determine fair market value of real property, which he said will benefit Dunwoody business owners. Loss: The failure of the hate crimes bill. The mood in the General Assembly: Wilensky said the bitter state of politics in Washington, D.C., affected the current tone of Georgia’s politics, especially with the passage of the anti-abortion bill.

Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven)

Win: Wilson is one of five openly LGBTQ legislators at the General Assembly and this year introduced a bill to

ban conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay or bisexual to heterosexual. The bill got a hearing in the Regulated Industries Committee and Wilson said his intention is to educate legislators on the issue this year with plans for a House vote next year. Loss: The state approved an overhaul of the DeKalb County ethics code, but Wilson voted against it. He said the bill does not go far enough to give the ethics officer authority to hold county officials accountable. The mood in the General Assembly: Wilson said he senses a growing divide between the far-right and more moderate Republicans, or, to put it simply, between rural and metro Atlanta Republicans. “The far-right conservatives’ strategy on how to maintain their majority is to dig in and serve up legislation that takes away rights from Georgians they don’t represent,” Wilson said. “Then you saw moderate Republicans fighting to advance legislation on HIV treatment and prevention and on hate crimes. Ultimately voters will decide who will be on the right side of history.”

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8 | Education

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Ann Culbreath, Austin Elementary Ann Culbreath, the principal of Dunwoody’s Austin Elementary School, was chosen by Auburn University College of Education as its 2019 Outstanding Educator, an award given to alumni. “I was elated and honored but felt it was surreal,” Culbreath said of winning the award. “It is so humbling to have been selected by my alma mater by other educators in the field.” The school community celebrated by declaring April 10 as Austin “War” Eagles

Austin Elementary Principal Ann Culbreath in her office.

SPECIAL

Day. This award adds to a list of recent awards for Austin Elementary and its

Exceptional

Educator

leadership, including the public school’s recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2018 and Platinum Award Winner from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for four years in a row. Culbreath was also nominated for 2018 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership by the U.S. Department of Education. She helped established the Austin Eagle Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps pay for curriculum materials not covered by county or state funding, and led the creation of the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program. Culbreath has been an educator with the DeKalb County School District since 1987 after graduating from Auburn. She has served as Austin’s principal for seven

years, and will next year lead the school into its next chapter as a new, 900-seat school expected to open in fall 2020 to relieve overcrowding. The school is being built on the former Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields less than half a mile from the existing school. Culbreath said the school is excited for the new facility, and hopes to grow the partnership with the Dunwoody Nature Center since it will be closer.

Q: What are you most looking forward

to with the new school? I am looking forward to a brand new state-of-the-art facility where students enjoy coming to school each day to engage in learning while having fun!

Q:

What major changes will the new school bring? A: The biggest change will be an increased enrollment with my students and staff. The school has the capacity to hold 950 students and our current enrollment is 680. We currently have a partnership with the Dunwoody Nature Center, but we look forward to more collaboration since we will be next-door neighbors. My hope is that our students can “play in the dirt” all the time!

Q: What keeps you going year after year? A: I always feel like there is always more to give and learn since education is al-

ways evolving. I truly believe in life-long learning!

Q:

What do you hope students learn from you? A: That hard-work and perseverance pay off. Also that you can do anything you set your mind to doing if you believe in yourself.

Q:

How has educating changed since you became an educator? A: The level of accountability has increased for everyone, as well as the level of instruction for our students. In addition to increased accountability, technology has transformed how students learn and teachers teach. Lessons are now planned integrating technology to engage students and make learning fun.

Q:

What is your favorite memory at your school? A: When students see me in the hall or in their classrooms and they tell me sweet stories about themselves or me. Most recently a student wrote me card that said, “Congratulations on your trophy! I will see you at Auburn when I get to college.” It is amazing to me how impactful I am as their principal and how the students look up to me on a daily basis.


MAY 2019

Public Safety | 9

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City looks to electric cars to power police fleet BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

The Brookhaven Police Department recently purchased a 2015 Tesla electric car using $45,000 in confiscated drug funds. The purchase is part of a city-wide sustainable initiative to potentially replace all police patrol cars and other city vehicles with electric versions, according to city officials. The money to buy the car came from the city’s State Drug Asset Forfeiture fund, said Chief Gary Yandura. The account that holds money seized by Brookhaven officers during drug arrests. The car Tesla is the first major purchase from the seized drug funds since the city’s incorporation nearly six years ago. Cost savings and reducing emissions are a major reason the city is looking to replace its police fleet with electric cars, Mayor John Ernst said. Ernst has been driving a Nissan Leaf since 2013 and said he saves about $250 a month by no longer having to buy gasoline. He charges his car with a 110-volt outlet at home and has not noticed any significant increase in his electric bill. “I’m excited to see how we can get to an electric fleet,” he said. “Any electric fleet is cheaper for a city overall.” The city’s police department is currently made up of 36 Ford Tauruses, 36 Ford Explorers, two Ford Escapes, one Ford F-150 EcoBoost and 11 Chevrolet Impalas. Costs to repair and maintain the vehicles in 2018 totaled nearly $140,000. Gasoline costs totaled nearly $223,000. Idle times for gasoline police cars are “immense” and costly, Ernst said. Sitting still in an electric car costs no money and boosts the battery, he said. The pre-owned Tesla Model S purchased by Brookhaven had 22,000 miles on the odometer and has a 100,000-mile, eight-year warranty. The car is now at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth County where it will undergo field testing for endurance and speed on a specialized track. The data of the Tesla’s tests will then be compared to current patrol cars and their mileage and usage patterns to determine the feasibility of how to move forward with electric vehicles. If cleared to be used as a patrol car, the Tesla will be tested for six months by the police department before a final decision is made to purchase more electric cars, according to city officials. Brookhaven’s Police Department appears to be part of a growing trend by some police departments and municipalities to replace gasoline cars with electric cars. The Fremont Police Department in the San Francisco bay area debuted its Tesla Model S patrol car last month as the first electric car to be used for patrol duty, according to mashable.com, an online BK

technology media outlet. Fremont is also the home to Tesla’s manufacturing plant. The Los Angeles Police Department and Denver Colorado Police Department have had Tesla Model S vehicles in their fleets for a few years. And in Switzerland last year, a department purchased seven Tesla Model S cars. “I don’t know of any other city this side of the Mississippi that is testing an electric vehicle platform for patrol vehicles,” City Manager Christian Sigman said in a written statement. “Other cities have electric cars for city planners, code enforcement and other officials. That’s not uncommon. We will be the first to use them for law enforcement patrol operations.” The city’s new public safety headquarters to be built overlooking the Peachtree Creek Greenway will be fitted with four electric car chargers on site for public use and another four in a secure area where police officers will park. As the city looks to replace its police fleet with electric cars, the infrastructure for more electric charging stations is also included in the new project. Brookhaven City Hall also has one electric car charger and plans are to replace that one station with four smart chargers in the next three months, ac-

cording to city officials. The new Skyland Park has one electric car charging station

and the city is planning to add two charging stations at Blackburn Park.

CITY OF BROOKHAVEN

From left, Sgt. Jake Kissel, Mayor John Ernst, Police Chief Gary Yandura and Officer Carlos Nino and the city’s new 2015 Tesla Model S. The electric car will soon undergo performance tests at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center before it is used as a patrol car.

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10 | Community

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City budgets $1.6M to create brand, boost tourism BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

The city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau is working with a $1.6 million budget this year to “build a brand strategy from the ground up” as Brookhaven tries to create a regional and national presence, according to city officials. State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), who represents a portion of Brookhaven, said he understands the hotel-motel taxes that fund CVBs are to be spent for specific purposes, but questioned the amount on the small city’s tourism. “But $1.6 million is a lot of money,” he said. “The numbers seem out of whack. What I’m not a fan of is requiring money be spent because the law requires it be spent.” Holcomb said he wants to take a closer look at the laws regulating hotel-motel taxes to determine if there are different ways the money could be spent or even change the law to allow for more flexibility of spending. “I wonder if this is the best use of taxpayer money or is there a need for greater flexibility,” he said. Like all other CVBs, Brookhaven’s is funded through hotel-motel taxes. Brookhaven’s hotel-motel taxes have generated approximately $3.6 million over the past two years. State law requires hotel-motel taxes be spent on tourism and promotion. SPECIAL Renee Areng Renee Areng, Brookhaven’s

new CVB executive director, leads a volunteer board of directors tasked this year with funding a branding strategy for the city that will attract visitors to parks and events such as the Cherry Blossom Festival. The board recently hired Washington-based BrandStrategy Inc. for $116,000 and Zehender Communications, located in Louisiana and Nashville, Tenn., for $700,000 to come up with that plan. The city put out a request for proposal for marketing services and out of 16 applicants, the CVB board chose Zehender Communications, Areng said. The advertising agency is responsible for logo creation, marketing services, digital ads, website development and optimization, public relations and social media. There was no RFP for BrandStrategy Inc. because the company and its founder, Duane Knapp, are the “gold standard” when it comes to research and market analysis to inform development of a comprehensive marketing strategy, Areng said. “This [BrandStrategy] was always going to be a separate effort,” she said. “This was who the board decided to go with. We did negotiate his proposal down.” The $116,000 will cover expenses for the first three stages of BrandStrategy’s contract, to be finished by the end of this year. The three stages are: surveying hundreds of local residents, visitors, business owners, educators and other stakeholders about their perception of the city; create a promise of what the city is to visitors and to residents; and creating a “brand blueprint” on how to set the city apart from other communities. The final phase, implementation of the branding, is to start in early 2020.

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North Druid Hills Corridor Study approved with roundabout BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

The Brookhaven City Council recently approved a study of North Druid Hills Road in the city and Buckhead’s Pine Hills neighborhood that includes a controversial roundabout at East Roxboro Road. Pine Hill residents have been outspoken about the roundabout included in the North Druid Hills Corridor Study that calls for realigning the “Y”shaped intersection north of Buford Highway to bring it closer to a 90-degree angle and converting it into a 3-legged multilane roundabout with a central landscaped island. The project would call for closing Goodwin Road to vehicular traffic, maintaining it as a green space and preserving access for the residences in the CITY OF BROOKHAVEN triangle between East Roxboro A roundabout at the East Roxboro Road and North Road, Goodwin Road and North Druid Hills Road intersection is included in the recently approved North Druid Hills Corridor Study. Druid Hills Road. Traffic signals would be removed at the intersections of Emory University also plsnd a mixed-use North Druid Hills and East Roxboro redevelopment of Executive Park, across roads at Goodwin Road for the roundthe street from CHOA’s campus. about. Crosswalks and sidewalks and The Georgia Department of Transmultiuse paths also would be incorporatportation is working with CHOA on a ed into the design. redesign of the interchange and CHOA Several residents attending the April officials have long said they prefer a di23 City Council meeting asked why the verging diamond be built there. study would include a roundabout when Councilmember Joe Gebbia said at the it is still unknown what will happen meeting he understood there is “a lot of at the I-85 and North Druid Hills interdistrust” of roundabouts, but noted this change. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanproject is a listed as a long-term project ta’s 70-acre medical campus is now unwith funding expected in 2045. der construction at the interchange and

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MAY 2019

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Officials discuss ‘wicked problem’ of affordable housing

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BY KATIA MARTINEZ With the difficulty of finding affordable housing in metro Atlanta on the rise, the Cross Keys Sustainable Neighborhood Initiative held a forum April 28 in Brookhaven aimed at raising awareness of the problem. The forum, whose host organization aims to improve quality of life in the Cross Keys High School cluster, was held at the Latin American Association and brought elected officials, citizens, and researchers together to discuss the problem of the nearly impossible living costs along the Buford Highway corridor and beyond. Dr. Michael Rich, a professor at Emory University, presented his research on the affordable housing problem in Atlanta, which showed that, like most major metro areas in the country, it’s getting worse and won’t get better without several major partnerships. “The affordable housing problem is what we call a ‘wicked problem,’” he said. “That means that the remedy or solution is beyond what a single entity or community can do.” According to Dr. Rich’s research, minority communities are being hit the hardest. The Hispanic community in Atlanta and its surrounding counties has the highest percent of people who are severely cost-burdened, which means they pay more than half of their income just in housing. The recommended amount of money to spend on housing is no more than 30%. Brookhaven City Councilmember Joe Gebbia said he’s been advocating for affordable housing in his city, but that there isn’t enough land available to make any large projects happen. “We’re land shy,” he said. “I hope we can find a piece of land large enough to create more housing, but it will take working with DeKalb County to make that happen.” Gebbia cited land banks as one of the more ideal solutions to the problem, since a government-owned land bank would be the least expensive way to create more units. That control also protects residents from skyrocketing rental rates. “By controlling the land lease, you can dictate what the Brookhaven City Councilmember rent will be on the project going forward,” said Gebbia. “That’s Joe Gebbia discusses how you really protect a long-term affordable housing at affordable housing component.” the April 28 fourm. Gebbia joined Chamblee City PHOTOS BY KATIA MARTINEZ Councilmember Brian Mock and Doraville Community Development Director Enrique Bascuñana on a panel where they discussed what their respective cities have been doing to alleviate the problem. The answer was unanimous: not enough, and they can’t do too much more. “It’s difficult because we’re such small cities with limited resources,” Bascuñana said. “We need to look regionally and for partnerships with larger government entities for this so- Doraville Community Development Director lution because on our own we don’t have the financial powEnrique Bascuñana er to fix that.” speaks at the forum. The city of Norcross has been researching its affordable housing problem recently. Lejle Prljaca, the director of both the Lawrenceville Housing Authority and the Gwinnett Housing Corporation, shed some light on the severity of the problem in the Norcross area. According to Prljaca, Norcross has 30% of the extended-stay hotels in all of Gwinnett County and 84% of those people are using them as a permanent residence. More than one-third of those people have lived there for more than a year, and one-fifth have lived there more than three years. “A vast majority of [these people] are stuck in these units because of the lack of resources and the lack of the affordable housing,” she said. She also said that due to hotel tax and unregulated room rates, the majority of people living in extended stays end up spending more for housing than the average Gwinnett County resident because they can’t afford moving costs for a traditional housing unit. Those residents are not counted by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, so Prljaca said their main goal in doing this research was to prove that Gwinnett County had a bigger problem with affordable housing than had been previously reported. “We have thousands of families living in these establishments,” she said. “Fifty to 80% of their income is spent on their housing, so they can’t afford anything else.” BK

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12 | Community

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Five-year streetlight outage plagues busy Buford Highway crossing BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Nighttime means pitch darkness in the busy intersection of Buford Highway and Sidney Marcus Boulevard, on the Buckhead-Brookhaven border, where the streetlights haven’t worked – not for a month, not for a year, but for a half-decade. The exact reasons are unclear, but the city of Atlanta and the Georgia Department of Transportation appear to have long been in an internal blame game, internal city emails show. A city spokesperson said the lights went out during construction of the flyover ramp connecting I-85 southbound to Ga. 400 northbound – which opened on April 2, 2014. Floyd Taylor, a resident of Buckhead’s Peachtree Hills, has long complained to the city about the fiveyears-and-counting outage, saying it endangers pedestrians and gives cover to criminals. He has a shorter summation of the city and GDOT’s inaction. “They’re acting like children,” he said. GDOT and the city say a fix in the

Lillian Schapiro, MD, FACOG

works, but neither would elaborate on details or provide a timeline, and Taylor said he’s heard such promises before. He believes from various City Hall conversations that all that needs to be done is fixing two fuse or switch boxes. Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook says he recalls Taylor’s years of complains about the outage. In response to Reporter questions, Shook said he spoke to city Public Works Commissioner James Jackson Jr. about it. “He did say that a dialogue has been initiated between the city, Georgia Power and GDOT to determine where each entity’s responsibility begins and ends, which will mean a lot of pouring over various MOUs [legal memorandums of understanding,” Shook said in an email. “While it may take some time for these three large bureaucracies to resolve all of this, it seems that concrete steps are at least underway.” And that’s not the only mysterious safety situation in the intersection. There are no crosswalks or pedestrian signals, unlike many similar intersections around the city, but it appears there once were. A street sign at the

Kathryn Garren, WHNP

dead-end of a sidewalk on Sidney Marcus directs pedestrians to use a crosswalk that does not exist, and a wheelchair ramp empties into the midst of a travel lane well before a traffic signal. The city did not respond to questions about what happened to pedestrian furnishings there. The intersection is a busy one, feeding directly into the Buford-Spring Connector and very close to a Ga. 400 interchange. About 1,000 feet to the north, Buford Highway intersects with Lenox Road near its I-85 interchange. The outage extends along Sidney Marcus to Ga. 400 and along Buford Highway to Lenox Road. City and police officials in neighboring Brookhaven said they have not noticed the outage and have not lodged any complaints about it. Taylor is known as a gadfly on pedestrian safety and streetlight issues at Atlanta City Hall, regularly complaining about the city’s slow repair times. He said he has met with various officials at City Hall three times over the years about the Sidney Marcus/Buford Highway lights, to no avail. His concern was renewed, he said, by the November death of a friend who was killed while walking in the area of the Lenox/I-85 interchange. Taylor provided various year-old emails from city officials about the issue, which include some contradictory explanations. They outline three apparently separate problems: pedestrian lights, apparently in the Lenox intersection area; “decorative lights” along the sidewalk; and the main “cobra” style streetlights. The pedestrian lights had not been “energized” by GDOT, the city said, but it appears that issue has been resolved. As for the decorative lights, the city email – which had been sent to GDOT -- said that agency had failed to keep them burning for 30 days so that the

city could perform an inspection. Then there are the main streetlights, which are the ones said to have been shut down for the flyover ramp work and never turned on again. Santana Herrera, the city’s manager of signals and streetlight operations, wrote to Taylor that GDOT damaged “service points” on the lights during construction and never repaired them. Georgia Power said fixing them would cost $267,000, an amount beyond the city’s current budget, Herrera wrote. He said the city and Georgia Power were working on a bevy of streetlights damaged by vandalism, accident and wire theft along I-75, I-85 and I-20 and trying to prioritize projects within the budget. “I apologize that the lights on Buford Hwy has [sic] not be given the expected priority so far,” Herrera wrote in the March 8, 2018 email. “I will follow up with this with our manager to see if we can give attention to this [sic] repairs once and for all. I will return your call but I wanted to give you my word that this street light issue has not been out of our mind.” The repairs have yet to be made, and recent responses from the city and GDOT to Reporter questions were slim on details, while Georgia Power did not respond at all. “A revised quote is needed, as additional damages have occurred due to wire theft and vandalism,” a city spokesperson said of the repair work. “Once a revised quote is received, [the Department of Public Works] will issue a purchase order so that Georgia Power can make necessary repairs.” “I’m not sure about what led to the service points being disabled,” said GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale, “but I do know that we are working with Georgia Power and COA [the city of Atlanta] to get them working and handed over to COA.”

Ashlee Forrester, WHNP MARCH 201 8 Vo l . 2 4 N o. 3

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Community | 13

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Nightlife venues appeal alcohol license suspensions BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Three nightclubs and one bar are appealing the city’s decision to suspend their alcohol licenses after an audit showed the businesses owe tens of thousands in liquor excise taxes. The latest hearings are part of ongoing battle the city has had with nightlife venues, particularly along Buford Highway. Medusa Restaurant & Lounge, Josephine Lounge and XS Restaurant & Lounge are set to go before the city’s alcohol beverage hearing officer on May 7. They are all located in Northeast Plaza at 3375 Buford Highway. The Rusty Nail, at 2900 Buford Highway, is planning to appeal at a June 13 hearing. All businesses that sell liquor pay an excise tax on liquor sold. If an alcohol license is suspended due to failure to pay the liquor excise taxes, the business cannot sell any kind of booze, including beer and wine. The four businesses appealing can continue serving alcohol until a decision is made following the hearing. If an alcohol license is suspended, the business can stay open but not serve any alcohol. The city says Medusa owes $32,240; Josephine owes $48,334; XS owes $18,443; and the Rusty Nail owes $3,979.90. Representatives from the businesses could not be reached for comment. The city had already taped a notice to Medusa’s door saying its alcohol license was being suspended on April 26, but the club’s attorney spoke with city officials to allow them to appeal the suspension at the May 7 hearing. The city’s liquor tax crackdown is part of an ongoing campaign to tame the city’s nightlife industry. City officials have long said late-night venues create more crime and strains the police force, especially along Buford Highway. Last year, the city hired an outside accounting firm for approximately $10,000 to audit the city’s 77 businesses that serve alcohol on premises, such as bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The audit was conducted between January 2016 and March 2018. The audit was done, according to Assistant City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Steve Chapman, because the alcohol industry is notorious for cheating. “[T]here’s always the opportunity to take cash payments, to underreport, to bring alcohol in from non-distributors, because the rewards are great for the vendors,” Chapman said. “This business in particular … there is a bigger benefit for people, I hate to say it, to cheat, versus other businesses because the margins are larger,” he said. City spokesperson Burke Brennan added it is also important that all businesses pay their fair share of taxes so that an undue burden is not put on those businesses who do play by the rules. Thirteen businesses were originally found to owe unpaid liquor taxes, but settlements were reached with all but five, including the four venues appealing their alcohol license suspensions. The Hudson Grille appealed in April the approximate $10,000 the city said it owed but lost the appeal and paid the money to avoid its alcohol license being suspended. During the audit, a CPA with the firm compared how much liquor distributors reported selling to the local businesses versus how much those businesses reported buying and used social media and website information to deduce average drink prices. The combined numbers produced an estimate of how much booze was sold versus how much was paid, and finally how much taxes were owed. Letters then went out to 13 restaurants in December — Red Pepper Taqueria, Medusa Restaurant & Lounge, El Potro Mexican Restaurant, Josephine Lounge, Kaleidoscope Bistro Pub, Hudson Grille, Pink Pony, the Righteous Room, Verde Taqueria, Pancho’s Mexican Restaurant, the Rusty Nail, the Righteous Room, Villa Christina and XS Restaurant & Lounge — saying they all owed back liquor taxes. Red Pepper Taqueria was later removed from the list after the city learned the alcohol distributor reported the wrong amount of booze sold to the business. The Pink Pony was told it owed $80,237.72, but because the Pink Pony filed bankruptcy last year, how and when the money will be paid is unknown, Chapman said. Pink Pony CFO Dennis Williams said the business has agreed to pay the amount but is awaiting a ruling from the bankruptcy court on how to do so. He said he disagreed with how the city determined the excise taxes. For example, a mixed drink with juice may cost $8, but the actual alcohol in the drink is valued at much less than $8. The juice, he said, should be taxed as a food and not as liquor.

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City councilmember seeks review of LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

A City Council member is asking the city attorney for a legal opinion on whether the city should consider an ordinance prohibiting local businesses from discriminating against minority groups — including LGBTQ people — in the wake of similar ordinances being passed in surrounding cities. Councilmember Linley Jones said April 18 she has asked City Attorney Chris Balch for an opinion on whether a nondiscrimination ordinance is the proper route for the city to take to ensure all residents are treated equally. “The city and I support equal protection for all,” she said. The move by Jones to seek more information on a nondiscrimination ordinance comes on the heels of the city of Chamblee approving April 16 its own nondiscrimination ordinance. On City Councilmember April 2, the city of Clarkson also passed a nondiscrimination orLinley Jones dinance. Both ordinances ban local, privately-owned businesses from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinances also prohibit discrimination against people based on their race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, age, ancestry and military status. These cities are following the lead of Doraville. In November, the Doraville City Council became the second city in the state to pass such a nondiscrimination ordinance. The city of Atlanta approved a similar ordinance in 2001. Doraville’s effort was spearheaded by Stephe Koontz, the only openly transgender elected official in the state, who said at the time she hoped her city’s action would inspire other cities in metro Atlanta and across the state to approve their own ordinances. The ongoing push by some Republican state lawmakers to pass a so-called “religious liberty bill” is the key reason LGBTQ activists say it is important for local municipalities to take a legal stance on banning discrimination. They say such a “religious liberty” bill that would allow business owners and other agencies to deny services to people based

on religious beliefs would pave the way to open discrimination against LGBTQ people and other minorities. Richard Rhodes, 81, has lived in what is now Brookhaven since 1988, the same year he ran as the first openly gay man from DeKalb County for the state House. He lost that race, but his LGBTQ activism continues. He said he was inspired by Koontz’s work to ask his own City Council members to pass a similar ordinance. “All politics is local,” Rhodes told the City Council during public comment in March. “It’s up to cities to include LGBT people in a nondiscrimination ordinance.” Rhodes said in an interview he was pleased to hear Jones was asking about the nondiscrimination ordinance, but he’d prefer the council put their beliefs into an ordinance as part of the city’s Brookhaven written record. resident Richard Rhodes, an “I like to think Brookhaven is more progressive than other citadvocate of the ies, and this should be a no-brainer,” he said. “Somebody has to new ordinance. have the courage to bring it up.” Rhode said he understands the issue may be controversial to some people “but it is the right thing to do.” Jones said an ordinance may be one way to broadcast the city’s position that it does not tolerate discrimination against anyone. She acknowledged there could be other ways to do the same and noted Brookhaven has been designated a “Welcoming City.” Welcoming City designations are made by Welcome America, a nonprofit group that focuses on integrating immigrants in local communities. But Georgia currently does not have a law prohibiting businesses, employers or landlords from discriminating against LGBTQ people, and activists say local governments are the best way to ensure people are protected. “Local governments are in the best position to actually make sure discrimination does not happen and when it does, to take action,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy organization. “Most of us have the perception that discrimination is rare. And for the vast majority of people, they don’t experience discrimination on a day-to-day basis. Unfortunately, there is far too many LGBT people being discriminated in employment, public accommodations and housing,” he said. There is no federal law banning discrimination nationwide against LGBTQ people in the U.S., leaving residents in some states, such as Georgia, unprotected from discrimi-

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nation, Graham said. While it is legal for same-sex couples to get married in Georgia because of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges., which erased the state’s prior constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, that married couple can still legally be fired in Georgia for being openly gay. For the past several years, Democrats at the legislature have introduced a state civil rights bill backed by Georgia Equality that would mirror federal law to protect Georgians against discrimination in hotels, restaurants, theaters and other public accommodations based on race, color, religion, natural origin or sex. The bill would also include sexual orientation and gender identity. Georgia is one of only three states to not have such a state law – South Carolina and Mississippi are the other two. Dunwoody officials have said they are not considering a nondiscrimination ordinance. Sandy Springs spokesperson Sharon Kraun has said the city “has no authority to police complaints by private citizens discriminating against private citizens.� Jones said she believes local governments have a role in ensuring local businesses do not discriminate against LGBTQ people. But it is hard because cities do not have infrastructure in place, such as the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to investigate and enforce claims of discrimination. “The most effective place is for this to come from the top, but it hasn’t happened at the national and state level,� Jones said. “This is entirely in keeping with the purpose of government, to ensure equal protection and equal treatment,� she said of a possible local nondiscrimination ordinance. “The government has a critical role to play in that.�

Koontz worked with Georgia Equality to come up with her city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Koontz and Georgia Equality also worked with the cities of Chamblee and Clarkston on their ordinances. Their ordinances create a way for people to file complaints with the cities alleging discrimination and enforcement is tied to business licenses issued by the city governments. In Clarkston, for example, the ordinance states the city will cover the cost of mediation between a business and a complainant and will include the hearing in the native language of persons involved. Clarkston City Councilmember Andrea Cervone, who helped draft the ordinance, said the best part of the ordinance is the city has the authority to revoke or suspend a business license. “This give the ordinance teeth and sets the tone for the climate we want to create in Clarkson,� Cervone said. “We’re known as a welcoming city; this is a way to reinforce that welcoming.� Chamblee’s bill also mandates the local police department to track hate crimes. Georgia has no hate crime law, but some police agencies, such as the Atlanta Police Department, do track them and report them to the FBI. Hate crimes are prejudice-motivated crimes against people based on religion, race or sexual orientation, for example. Georgia is one of five states without a hate crimes bill. This year, the hate crimes bill was approved in the state House for the first time but failed in the state Senate. “People are finally stepping up ... and wanting to work with their City Councils,� Graham said. “Until the state acts on its own [civil rights ordinance] it will be up to local municipalities.�

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New public park fishing regulations approved after heron’s death BY DYANA BAGBY Stricter guidelines are now in place for people wanting to fish at Brookhaven’s parks following the death of a great blue heron found at Murphey Candler Park. The new ordinance also prohibits fishing along the future Peachtree Creek Greenway. The new rules were approved by the City Council April 9, just days following the death of a great blue heron found at Murphey Candler Park whose beak had become tied shut with cast-off fishing line. The beak was also clamped shut with two hooks from a lure that resembled a small fish. The bird was unable to eat and drink for about a week while at Murphey Candler Park and later died after being taken to a wildlife rehabilitation facility. The specific amendment made to the city’s ordinance requires a fisherperson shall use monofilament line, of not more than 10 pounds of breaking strength, and a single unbarbed hook, using only natural baits. No lures, jigs, or other artificial devices may be utilized, according to the ordinance. Fishing is prohibited under all circumstances along the Peachtree Creek Greenway, the ordinance states. The ordinance gives the Brookhaven Police Department, the DeKalb County Police Department and the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department the authority to enforce the code, including citing an offender to go before the city’s Municipal Court and face a possible fine. Lissie Stahlman of Brookhaven, an avid bird-watcher who helped track the great blue heron in April as volunteers worked for about a week to capture it, told the City Council during public comment on April 9 that three great blue herons have died or injured at Murphey Candler Park over the past 17 months due to “human neglect.” “I don’t think people who enjoy parks have malicious intent. But they really need to be educated as to how their actions affect our natural habitat and the extraordinary wildlife that depend on it for survival,” she said. One great blue heron had its lower beak caught in a nylon dog collar, preventing it from swallowing food, she said, and eventually died. Another great blue heron had its leg amputated after being caught in fishing line and adapted before recently disappearing. And then the one found in April, whose beak was tied shut, died 24 hours after being weak enough to rescue and taken to the Atlanta Wildlife Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE) facility in Lithonia. Scott Lange, AWARE’s director, said the heron was very emaciated from lack of food and drink, as well as stress. Volunteers tried to revive it with fluids, but the bird’s chances were not great due to going so long without food and drink. “It’s always difficult to lose one, but it comes with the territory,” Lange said. “We try to take solace knowing he died in a quiet, safe spot and not being chased by a predator. But it is definitely disappointing.” The heron was first spotted March 28 by Stephen Ramsden, an amateur photographer for the Atlanta Audobon Society and an avid bird-watcher. He was taking pictures of birds at Murphey Candler Park when he noticed the heron sitting in a tree with what appeared to be a fish in its long, pointed beak. He zoomed his camera in for what he thought would be a great photo. The “fish” was actually a fishing lure and its two hooks were embedded into the bottom of the beak. More than a dozen feet of fishing line were wrapped around the beak as well, Ramsden said. “If it was natural, it would be one thing,” Ramsden said. “But knowing our intrusion into their habitat caused this problem is disheartening. “We have more birds killed in the springtime,” he said. “The number one cause is dogs running loose. The number two cause is garbage.” When those who fish at Murphey Candler Park’s lake cut their fishing line or leave their fishing line lying on the bank and don’t pick up their lures, they eventually make their way into the lake, Ramsden said. The sharp lures that look like small fish become prime targets for hungry birds and can result in what has happened to this heron, Ramsden said. “Pretty much every year, a great blue heron gets tangled up and dies,” he said. “It’s a common bird, but people don’t think twice until they notice its absence.” Lange said finding birds with their beaks entangled in fishing line or other trash is common with water fowl. More than 20 such birds were treated at AWARE last year. The rehabilitation facility treated some 1,300 wildlife in all in 2018. Sometimes when people are fishing they break their fishing line or the lines and lures get caught in a tree, Lange said. This is usually not intentional, but there are some steps to take to reduce damage to wildlife: ■ If a person loses a line Lange said they can try to gather as much line as possible and cut the line into 6-inch segments. The smaller segments make it harder to entangle a beak, he said. ■ When walking around a pond or lake and discarded fishing line is visible, pick it up. Remove the line and hook from the environment to protect animals.

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Dunwoody Reporter announces The Reporter’s Evelyn Andrews wins sponsorship of Fourth of July Parade Atlanta Press Club ‘Rising Star’ award The Dunwoody Reporter will be a new presenting sponsor of the 2019 Dunwoody Fourth of July Parade, joining the Dunwoody Homeowners Association as a top supporter of one of Georgia’s largest Independence Day celebrations. “We’re delighted to be a part of this great Dunwoody tradition and join with so many volunteers and community groups who make the parade a success,” said Steve Levene, publisher of the Dunwoody Reporter and Reporter Newspapers. “Thank you to the Reporter Newspapers for carrying on the essential media support for the Dunwoody Fourth of July parade,” said parade cochair Pam Tallmadge, who also serves as a City Council member. Dunwoody’s Fourth of July Parade, reputed to be the state’s largest Independence Day parade, with 2018’s attendance estimated at 32,000 spectators and 2,500 participants. The parade dates to American Bicentennial celebrations in 1976 and has run annually since 1991 as one of Dunwoody’s top local traditions and regional attractions. The theme of this year’s parade is“Happy birthday, Dunwoody!” to note the 10th anniversary of the city’s incorporation.

Reporter Newspapers staff reporter Evelyn Andrews won the Atlanta Press Club’s 2018 “Rising Star” award, recognizing her as an “outstanding talent” in metro area journalism, at an April 16 ceremony. Andrews, who joined the Reporter two years ago, earned the recognition for her work on stories in Buckhead and Sandy Springs and on the education beat. She combined shoe-leather reporting and use of the Open Meeting and Open Records laws to ensure transparency on plans for a park capping Ga. 400 in Buckhead, to help secure sidewalk repairs affecting patients at the Shepherd Center hospital, and to follow Sandy Springs’ plans for massive redevelopment of its north end, among other stories. The “Rising Star” award recognizes “outstanding talent from any medium, from a journalist under 30 years of age.” Andrews was a finalist for the “Rising Star” award last year as well. This year, the other finalists for the award were Stephen Fowler, a political reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting, and Stephannie Stokes, a reporter on housing and other major issues for WABE News.

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Community Voices Simple steps to reduce killing wildlife in parks We Atlantans are extremely fortunate for good reason. One dog running through to live in a forest teeming with plant and a pond or wooded area can kill thousands animal life. We, not the animals, are the of amphibian or reptile eggs, and I can’t invaders. tell you how many wading bird carcassA few common-sense practices can es I have found after off-leash dog attacks. greatly reduce the number of creatures Their owners certainly harm the enneedlessly killed every year in our parks vironment by leaving their poop piles all and nature preserves. over the place. The ones who bag the As screen time has expopoop and then leave it are nentially increased in our particularly grievous. society, the connection with While I was tracking a the immediate world around heron injured by fishing us has suffered. In recent line in March at Brookhavyears, I have seen hundreds en’s Murphey Candler Park, of people use natural areas I saw at least a dozen offas their daycare centers, dialeash dogs. One owner even per disposal bins, dog parks, allowed his dog to run down drone training grounds or the embankment towards garbage dumps. Sure, 98 the injured heron! percent of the people visiting Please, keep your dog, these areas are great stewfriendly or not, on a leash at Stephen W. Ramsden ards of nature. Unfortunateall times while in a nature is the founder and ly, it only takes a few people area. to ruin the environment and director of the global Each of the last three devastate the wildlife in a nonprofits The Charlie years has seen at least one Bates Solar Astronomy small park or preserve. great blue heron killed by “My dog is friendly, he Project and Sunlit Earth. fishing line or other trash left doesn’t need to be on a leash” at Murphey Candler Park. is something I hear often. City, county and It’s amazing how many people will walk, state law differ with this conclusion, and jog or bike through a natural area and

thoughtlessly dump their drink containers, cigarette/cigar butts, or plastic wrappers on the ground. I have noticed that the majority of these people operate from ignorance versus malice and would like to believe they simply don’t know the damage they are doing. Of course, some just don’t care. Simply put, discarded trash is a major killer of wildlife. Animals assume it is food, eat it, and die. One candy bar wrapper is enough to choke a small mammal. One piece of fishing line will strangle most small animals. Your beer/soda can or bottle can kill numerous creatures in several horrible ways. Please, please, please, don’t litter our beautiful natural areas, and if you see garbage, pick it up. If there is a fishing lure caught in a tree or line on the ground, discard of it properly. Turning your head and ignoring these thin gs is almost as bad as leaving them in the first place. Let’s work together to provide safe habitats and beautiful green areas for all of us. Wading birds are a real treat for nature lovers. Let’s take some commonsense steps to ensure that the next generation can enjoy them.

Power and money are at stake in 2020 Census Come next spring, our resentatives, underlining the country will be in the midst importance of the Census in of our most inclusive exerdistributing political power. cise in civic engagement: The 435 voting seats in a complete count of every the House are fixed by law person living in the United and proportionally repreStates. sent the population of all 50 Though April 1, 2020 – the states, with each member of official day of the count – is the House representing a set almost a year away, it’s not number of constituents. too early to start preparing After the 2010 Census, our communities. There is Georgia gained one seat. The simply too much at stake in Aixa M. Pascual Peach State was one of only the 2020 Census, especially eight states that added repis senior lead for for populations that are hard resentatives in Congress, acadvocacy, thought to count. cording to the National ConThe decennial Census is leadership, civic affairs ference of State Legislatures. about much more than com- and cultural engagement Congressional representapiling a demographic snap- at the Latin American tion is also consequential beshot of our nation. It is about Association in Brookhaven. cause the number of a state’s the allocation of power and representatives in Washingmoney. If we don’t get an accurate and ton, D.C., factors into the all-important complete count of all people living and electoral votes that determine who gets to breathing in our country, we are all dibe president. minished. Moreover, the critical task of redrawOur democracy is, after all, a collective ing the boundaries of state legislative and endeavor that empowers “We the People” congressional districts also occurs in the through voting and other forms of politiaftermath of the Census. We cannot uncal and civic participation. For those who derestimate the importance of redistrictcan’t -- or choose not to -- vote in elections, ing in shaping political outcomes. something as simple as filling out the CenCensus data has a bearing on who gets sus questionnaire can be a source of emto vote. In December 2016, the Census Bupowerment. reau designated Gwinnett County, which The Census is a tradition steeped in our has more Latinos than any other county country’s history. Mandated by the U.S. in Georgia, as a jurisdiction that falls unConstitution, the first Census was conder Section 203 of the 1965 Voting Rights ducted in 1790. An “enumeration” is called Act. Since more than 5 percent of votingfor in the same article and section that adage citizens in the county are members dresses membership in the House of Repof a single-language minority group and

have difficulty understanding English, this action ensures that these voters can access Spanish-language ballots. Between 2015 and 2040, Latinos in metro Atlanta will grow faster than any other racial or ethnic group, with Gwinnett County seeing the biggest growth, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. How tax dollars from Washington are allotted to states is also derived from Census numbers. Data from the decennial count determines the geographic distribution of about $900 billion in federal funds. For many metro communities in Georgia this is of utmost importance, since many cities have been incorporated in the past decade and the 2020 Census will be their first decennial count. In 2016, guided by data gathered from the 2010 Census, Georgia received $24 billion through 55 federal spending programs, according to a recent study by the George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy. For every person not counted in the Census, the state forfeits $1,339 annually in the 16 largest federal assistance programs, the report said. As Georgia’s population grows and becomes increasingly polychromatic, it is imperative that all our communities and residents get access to the resources we need so that Georgia can remain competitive as a business destination. In order for Georgia to reap the political benefits of a population growth powered by Latinos and to retain for decades to come its spot as the top state to do business in, all Georgians need to be counted.


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Mother’s words of wisdom Every so often (really, orders and frantic interropractically daily), I see litgations while playing Beat tle gift-store books or interthe Clock: net memes sharing “moth“Turn off the lights!” er’s words of wisdom” or “Do you have your something to that effect. homework?” These are deep, insight“Where are your shoes?” ful sentiments intendNow that they’re all ed to guide the offspring grown up, and with no through the obstacles of grandchildren anywhere life. They are philosophical on the horizon, my opporparadoxes: tunity for imparting life Robin Conte lives with lessons in pithy nuggets “It’s not about finding her husband in an emp- has practically passed. Yet yourself, it’s about creating ty nest in Dunwoody. still, my words of wisdom yourself,” or “The future does not lie in front of are purely pragmatic: you, it lies inside of you.” “Remember your power cord.” Go ahead, do a quick internet search “Don’t walk alone at night.” and you’ll see that Pinterest has 269 “Get enough sleep.” “Best Mommy Words of Wisdom,” and It seems as if the world around us has that’s just for starters. There’s Mothbeen boiled down to sound-bites and taer’s Words of Wisdom to Sons, Mother’s glines, Insta-phrases and 30-character Words of Wisdom to Daughters, to chilbios. But that’s not how we live our daidren about to marry, to children raisly lives. We live in episodes. We live in ing children, to children adopting pets, mini-series. We live in full-fledged storaising plants, cleaning out basements, ries. changing tires…Mothers have Words of My words to my children were simWisdom for every possible person and ply fragments of a whole, spoken to situation imaginable. them as I tried to nurture them through These Words are illustrated with childhood to adulthood. I’m not sure if waterfalls, winding roads, or mountain I uttered wisdom, but I did try to voice vistas, all intended to underscore the encouragement. fact that the phrases are dripping with I wish I could report that I had sent sagacity. Even Harriet Beecher Stowe my kids off to school with some kind of proclaimed decades ago that “mothers Zen-like phrase: are the most instinctive philosophers.” “The road that lies before you may I hate to let Harriet down, but I ofbe rocky, but there is beauty in the jourten see these “things my mother told ney.” me” Yoda-isms and a get a little pang of But I didn’t. guilt, racking my brain to see if I can reWhat was it that I did say? What call any pearls of wisdom that I shared words will my children remember of with my own children. those I told them if they were to write What did I tell them? their own book? “Don’t sleep with wet hair.” “God bless you.” “Floss your teeth.” “Be grateful.” “Stand up straight.” “I’m praying for you.” I don’t remember doling out wis“I love you.” dom while I was trying to get them to Maybe that was enough. school on time. I was mainly calling out

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A local historian uses new tech to make ancient connections

John Beach in the study of his Buckhead home. JOE EARLE

John Beach clicked a few keys and one of several computer screens on the desk in the library of his Paces Ferry home displayed a map covered with scribbled words highlighted in magenta. The scrawl covered the screen like graffiti on a city wall. The brightly colored words marked locations where nearly two centuries ago surveyors had spotted significant trees when laying out land lots in Buckhead. Beach’s computer laid the locations of the trees over a modern map of the area. As the 64-year-old Beach sees it, this

Around Town

combination of old and new maps can be the start of something. He’s president of the Buckhead Heritage Society. When the mapping is done and published, local students, members of garden clubs or other neighborhood volunteers can use the resulting new map to track down any of the “land lot” trees that have survived the decades of development and bad weather since that original map was drawn. Why go to all this trouble for a few trees? “These trees are part of the history of Buckhead,” Beach said. Besides, they have something to say about the Buckhead environment, and about what was there before. Part of the appeal of studying history, after all, is making connections between the present and the past. It lets us see just how we got from there to here. Beach thinks history as something that helps create a sense

Announcing

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

of place. “It makes me feel more connected to an area to understand what’s happened in the past,” he said. Beach is about as connected to Buckhead as anyone can get. His family has been in Atlanta for generations and his resume sketches a portrait of an old-fashioned Buckhead Boy: he grew up near the Bobby Jones Golf Course; went to both Lovett and Westminster; and lives in a house he says once was owned by noted Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett. Beach’s computer-screen-topped desk sits in a study that once was Garrett’s, the writer known for producing a definitive, multi-volume study of Atlanta’s history. Beach even owns the web address “BuckheadBoys.com,” although he said it now only whisks visitors to the website for his construction company, Paces Construction, which started in 2002 (he was in computers before that) and specializes in renovating older homes. Beach said he’s interested in combining his lifelong interest in history with his background in using computers. “I’s hard to explain,” he said. “I like the [intersection] of old and new,” he said. “I like using technology to track and visualize history… What personally excites me is finding new ways to use historical scholarship to make better decisions moving forward. In

my mind, coming from a computer background, it’s about collecting the information and making it actionable.” Things may change, he said, but there’s often a pattern beneath the changes. “Think about Buckhead right now,” he said. “198 years ago, this was the Creek nation. The United States signed a treaty with the Creek nation transferring this land to the U.S. government and then to Georgia.” Soon the Creeks were moved out and new settlers moved in. Over the generations since, he said, Buckhead has repeated the pattern: new people move in and displace residents who had been there before. “That’s a continuous process that has happened,” he said. The trick is to recognize it and learn from it, to figure out how to mix old and new and keep both side by side. “Buckhead means something different to different people,” he said. “It wasn’t all built at the same time … so we get a broad array of house styles, which makes it interesting to me in trying to figure out how to preserve it, or parts of it. We do not want to see Buckhead becoming Anywhere USA, with a lot of 8,000-square-foot mansions. ” That may mean keeping tabs on old things, such as the oldest trees in the forest. They’ve survived a lot, after all. Once found, they may be able to help new residents figure out what to hold on to.

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Emory unveils $1B plan to remake Executive Park as ‘health innovation district’ Continued from page 1 ory filed its rezoning plan. “And if we’re not residents, we may not have much of a say.” The Executive Park site is across the street from a massive new Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta medical complex under construction. Emory already operates several medical offices in Executive Park, including a joint medical and training facility with the Atlanta Hawks basketball team that opened in 2017. Rezoning plans for the property at North Druid Hills and I-85 were filed May 1 with the city of Brookhaven. If all goes well, construction of a new Musculoskeletal Center building as part of Emory’s existing Orthopaedics & Spine Center could begin this fall, according to Robin Morey, Vice President and Chief Planning Officer for Emory University. “I think it’s all about the mission and healthcare delivery and improving the land,” he said of what is named Emory at Executive Park. “It’s a well-thought out plan that will add value to Brookhaven and DeKalb County.” CHOA’s 70-acre medical campus across the street will include a $1.3 bil-

lion hospital. The two healthcare campuses will “bookend” each other, Morey said, and the location of both near the interstate makes it ideal for patients having to visit from throughout the state. The current zoning of Emory’s property is for retail. The rezoning request is to make way for office, commercial and residential uses that would allow for expanding the university’s healthcare mission, especially in the growing areas of orthopedics and spine and brain health services that are already located in Executive Park. No timeline on projects following construction this year of the Musculoskeletal Center have been determined, Morey said, but next in line would be the 140bed, non-emergency, inpatient hospital and an expansion of the Brain Health Center. Emory University purchased 60 acres of Executive Park in 2016. The Emory Sports Medicine Complex, a partnership with the Atlanta Hawks, opened on the site in 2017. Toll Brothers, through its Toll Brothers Apartment Living subsidiary, is building a 348-unit apartment building named Oleander in Executive adjacent to the sports medicine complex.

A Place Where You Belong

Besides the existing Orthopaedics & Spine Center, Brain Health Center and Sports Medicine Complex, Emory’s other facilities at Executive Park include medical science education and health information technology. North Druid Hills Road traffic is already a concern for anyone who lives and drives in the area. Morey said building out medical offices and a hospital rather than retail at Executive Park would result in fewer cars. Emory has no plans to pay for any road projects or traffic improvements but is working with CHOA to align their main entrances. The main goal is to provide easy access from the North Druid Hills corridor in and out of the site and with the addition of roundabouts that will facilitate on-site traffic operation while discouraging cut through traffic to Sheridan Road, according to Emory. The city of Brookhaven recently purchased 1.5 acres of an unused parking lot on Buford Highway with future plans for the Georgia Department of Transportation to build a bridge over I-85 and into Executive Park. The city says the new bridge would provide a second entryway into southern Brookhaven and would relieve some of the traffic on North Druid Hills Road. Morey said Emory does not own the land in Executive Park where the bridge would go, but is aware of the city’s plans and supports the project. Plans for Executive Park include 7 acres of public green space, 1.5 miles of new sidewalks and a half-mile multiuse trail that will connect to CHOA’s multiuse trail that leads to the Peachtree Creek Greenway. Providing alternative modes of transportation is also a way to help alleviate traffic, according to Emory. At full build-out, Emory at Executive Park is estimated to generate $7 million in property tax revenue each year

to Brookhaven, DeKalb County and the DeKalb County School District. Emory is holding a community meeting on what is planned at Executive Park on May 20 at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1438 Sheridan Road. Emory representatives have been meeting for several months with residents living in LaVista Park, adjacent to Executive Park. LaVista Park residents are gathering signatures to seek annexation into Brookhaven. One reason residents want to be annexed into the city is to have a say on what happens at Executive Park. To be considered for annexation, 60 percent of property owners must sign on to do so. There are 960 parcels in LaVista Park, mostly single-family homes, and 1,214 voters, Lappin said. LaVista Park’s civic association met with Brookhaven officials including Mayor John Ernst, Councilmember Joe Gebbia, Police Chief Gary Yandura and City Manager Christian Sigman late last year about the possibility of annexation. Lappin said they hope to make a formal request for annexation by the end of the year. Brookhaven spokesperson Burke Brennan said the city is willing to consider any annexation request initiated by residents in a community. Last year the city approved the annexation of the Enclave at Briarcliff condominiums that includes 271 parcels on Westchester Ridge, adjacent to CHOA.

C O M M UNIT Y M EET I NG

Emory University is holding a community meeting on its plans for Executive Park on May 20 at 6 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1438 Sheridan Road.

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300-plus properties could be affected by I-285 toll lanes project Continued from page 1 and to Paces Ferry in Vinings, just to the west of Buckhead. The top end of I-285 cuts through Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, as well as Doraville. Ernst said GDOT is currently acquiring right-of-way now for the toll lanes and expects to have approximately 150 properties acquired by the end of the year. GDOT has already taken 5 acres of Doraville’s gigantic Assembly mixed-use redevelopment for the massive toll lane interchange on I-285, according to the site’s developer. Ernst and Jones stressed they believed there was nothing to be done to stop the project and the city was not pursuing any plans to fight it. “This project is going to happen,” Ernst said when asked at the April 18 meeting if there was anything to do to stop it. “Unless Gov. [Brian] Kemp decides to stop it, this project is moving forward.” The news of the 300 properties being impacted was serious enough that Ernst and Jones invited noted eminent domain attorney, Charles Pursley, to the Brookhaven meeting to outline rights homeowners have when GDOT may come knock on their door to say they need all or some of their property to construct the toll lanes. “We don’t know how many properties are affected in Brookhaven, but what we do know is they know more than they are telling us,” Jones said. The project, they added, has been in the works for years before Brookhaven became a city. They did say they would try to work with GDOT and residents in the northern area of the city abutting I-285 to try to mitigate such factors as stormwater detention, sound barriers and landscaping. The I-285 Top End Express Lanes project, estimated to cost close to $5 billion, would add two new barrier-separated express lanes in both directions alongside regular travel lanes and is expected to begin in 2023. The toll lanes are part of an $11 billion statewide “major mobility investment program” to reduce traffic congestion, particularly in metro Atlanta. Ga. 400 south of the North Springs MARTA Station was recently shifted to the I-285 project and impacts won’t be known until late this year. Ernst is praising the top end project because GDOT has said the new toll lanes, also called “managed lanes” or “express lanes,” could be used for bus rapid transit, or BRT. Ernst organized a top end mayors’ group in 2017 to talk about east-west transit along I-285. A study commissioned by the group estimates it would cost about $480 million to build access points for the high-end buses, or trams, as Ernst called them, along the entire I-285 top end corridor where the toll lanes are planned. Other costs include $10 million start up costs to buy the buses and another estimated $8 million in maintenance costs. I-285 top end crosses Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties and six cities. How to pay for BRT – through a special local option sales tax referendum or creating a special tax district or another way – is unknown, he said. A study to determine if people would ride the new transit system is also BK

underway, he said. Cost for MARTA rail is estimated in the billions of dollars and is not feasible, according to the study. In Brookhaven, residents living north of Murphey Candler Park in the areas of Brawley Circle, Ashwoody Trail and Berkford Circle are those who would be most impacted, said Jones, who represents District 1. In Brookhaven, the elevated toll lanes are expected to be between 30 and 60-feet high and constructed near Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. “While the state of Georgia has decided that the top end 285 project is in the best interest of the citizens of Georgia, there is no question that it is going to be very difficult proposition for many of the citizens right along the top end of District 1,” Jones said. For many Brookhaven residents, the news of the toll lanes is disappointing, especially because they say they feel they have been kept out of the loop by GDOT. Steve Zoeller has lived on Brawley Circle since 1993. He said for the past 20 years there has been ongoing talk about the state widening I-285 to accommodate more traffic. But he said during those years, he and other neighbors were included in preliminary public meetings. For this I-285 toll lanes project, though, he said it seems like GDOT bypassed preliminary public input and is going straight to informing people what will be happening. No help from the city is also frustrating, he said. “GDOT can now make all their plans and then come to you and tell you what is happening,” he said after the Brookhaven community meeting. “The public got totally bypassed and this has been thrust upon us. “I voted for Brookhaven to be a city to get representation for big-picture issues like this,” he added. “Now we’re not involved, and we’re being told this is what you get.” The first GDOT public meetings to unveil design plans for the I-285 top end toll lanes are expected in December or January, Ernst said. Those maps would be the “the big reveal,” as he described them. At least one Brookhaven resident was happy the toll lanes were being built because of the promise they would alleviate traffic. “I’m terribly sorry some of you may be losing your home or have already lost your home, that is awful … but you have to understand Atlanta is incredibly transient and has grown significantly,” she said, noting she has young children. “The engineers who are building all of this are doing it for our future.” Ernst said he and the council would continue to monitor the toll lanes project and advocate for the city and its residents. “We will do what we can do to effect change,” he said. GDOT is also undertaking building two barrier-separated toll lanes along Ga. 400 in both directions in a project estimated to cost $1.2 billion and begin construction in 2021. GDOT officials have pointed to the recent toll lanes opened on I-75 and I-575 as like what is planned on Ga. 400 and the top

DYANA BAGBY

Steve Zoeller of Brookhaven points on a map to where his neighborhood abuts I-285 during an April 18 community meeting on the I-285 Top End Express Lanes project. Homeowners in north Brookhaven are expected to be heavily impacted by the project, but no definite answers as to how have been made available to the public.

end of I-285. They say these toll lanes have significantly reduced commute times for motorists. In Sandy Springs, more than 40 properties, including single-family homes, an apartment building and offices, could be taken by the state as part of the Ga. 400 toll lanes project. The information was made public during a GDOT public hearing on the Ga. 400 toll lanes in February. The total number of public and private properties estimated to be affected by the toll lanes project was among the pieces of information the Reporter sought from GDOT late last year in an open records request. GDOT repeatedly refused to release the information, citing various Open Records Act exemptions and a policy of keeping such information private, despite the opinion of an attorney on the board of the

Georgia First Amendment Foundation that the general number of properties affected is among the information not legally exempt from disclosure. Matt Samuelson, chief operating officer of Assembly owner and developer Integral Group’s commercial real estate division. said the Assembly’s 5 acres was taken roughly 18 months ago for a settlement he legally can’t disclose. He said GDOT showed Integral detailed plans for the huge interchange, which would plug into both sides of the highway, in both directions, on New Peachtree and Flowers roads. It includes flyover ramps spanning the highway and a rail at heights of 45 to 75 feet, he said. The main toll lanes on that section of I-285 likely would be elevated on columns, GDOT has said.


MAY 2019

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PAGE 26

Buckhead

Perimeter Business

Spring 2019 | Where brick-and-mortar retail still works

The PCIDs marks 20 years of shaping Perimeter Center

SPECIAL

Main photo, the diverging diamond interchange at Ashford-Dunwoody Road and I-285 as it looked shortly after opening in 2012.

FILE

Inset, the Hammond Drive interchange with Ga. 400 shortly after it opened in 2011.

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

After 20 years of a population boom, increasingly jammed highways and skyscraper-sprouting mega-developments, it may sound quaint that people worried about Perimeter Mall traffic way back in 1999. But the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, the self-taxing groups of business property owners that formed out of those concerns, are among the reasons the local boom has happened and why the traffic isn’t even worse. If you go to Perimeter Center today, you may well get there via one of the big projects the PCIDs pushed – like the Hammond Drive ramps on Ga. 400 or the Ashford-Dunwoody Road diverging diamond interchange at I-285 – and you’ll see smaller touches they’re responsible for, like landscaping and rush-hour traffic cops. “They had a reputation for, number one, cleaning things up, providing some of those cosmetic amenities we’ve all become used to,” said Ann Hanlon, who watched the CIDs form as a longtime Dunwoody resident and now serves as their executive director. “At the time, that was pretty revolutionary, that a private group was willing to pay for those amenities.” Back in 1999, the three cities that today cover Perimeter Center – Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs – did not yet exist. As the PCIDs looks ahead to its next 20 years, it has refocused its mission on transportation, leaving previous proposals such as park-building to the cities. Transportation these days means everything from helping to build multiuse trail networks to shaping the future of toll lanes and transit on Ga. 400 and I-285. That’s in addition to some of the basics the PCIDs currently provides or coordinates, like sidewalks and crosswalks, commuter shuttles, traffic signal timing and the Perimeter Connects commuter advice service. An increasingly residential sector is part of Perimeter Center’s future, with

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Eat Your Heart Out.

The local couple who brings MomoCon’s world of anime, gaming and more to town

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MomoCon operators Jessica Merriman and Chris Stuckey get into the convention spirit.

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She originally had planned to become a neurosurgeon. He studied computer science, but had designs on being a video-game developer. What Jessica Merriman and Chris Stuckey had in common, though, was their affinity for anime, the Japanese style of animation that caught fire in the U.S. in the 1990s. Fifteen years ago, they were members of Anime O-Tekku, the anime club at Georgia Tech — “a bunch of nerds,” Merriman says -- with whom they happily claimed affiliation. Out of that club of a few dozen enthusiasts came a convention, MomoCon, in 2005. The event now brings more than 30,000 people to Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center over Memorial Day

weekend but keeps Merriman and Stuckey — now married — busy all year. It’s a circled-in-red extravaganza of cosplayers, gamers and comics fans that just keeps getting bigger and more sophisticated. There’s even a half-day career fair for those hoping to do what Merriman and Stuckey did and turn avocation into vocation. MomoCon — “momo” is Japanese for peach — made the jump from the Tech campus to the massive convention complex in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. For more information about MomoCon 2019, see momocon.com. “We’re invested in this,” Stuckey says. “We want to grow this to be one of the largest events in the country…. As stressful as it is, we’re fortunate to do something we’re passionate about.”

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MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net The couple, who reside just outside Brookhaven in DeKalb County, discussed that passion and their plans for this year’s MomoCon with us recently.

Q: How did MomoCon get off the ground way back when?

Stuckey: It was a lot of effort by Jess to start it. It had 750 people the first year, then it doubled, then it doubled again. We have grown through word of mouth and grassroots marketing and geek hangouts. And we were early in social media with a Facebook page and group.

Q: Explain the attraction of cosplay – costume-wearing and creation -- to its most devoted fans. Merriman: Cosplay people feel very attracted to a character and want to create a costume around that. Some just love the character. Others want to meet like-minded people around the character. It’s a personal expression of relating to something fictional. There’s also some awesome craftsmanship.

Q: What are some of the current trends that we might see reflected at this year’s MomoCon?

Stuckey: E-sports have become bigger. We’ve used our connections there to help us grow. We’ll have 60 different game tournaments this year. We’ve cultivated “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and are ex-

pecting 1,000 competitors in that alone. We work with people who understand the space well. Merriman: We have a partnership with the Girl Scouts regarding STEM programming and robotics. That’s a new thing.

Q: What’s the key to staying current across so many genres?

Stuckey: To stay relevant, you have to be a fan yourself — and we are. We’re on top of the latest and greatest. It’s easy to stay in tune through social media. That’s where the culture is. For example, within a minute of the start of an episode of “Game of Thrones,” there are memes showing up on social media. Also, we’ll attend other events to network, and we invite influencers as MomoCon guests.

Q: How does Atlanta rate in the eyes of those who attend these types of conventions?

Stuckey: Dragon Con [held Labor Day weekend in Atlanta] has been going for 33 years and was one of the first big fan events in the U.S. It helped grow the Atlanta geek scene in the late 1980s. You could say Dragon Con started the culture here. It made cosplay and prop-making professional. Some of the people in the film industry in Atlanta got their start with Dragon Con.

ANDREW MICHAEL PHILLIPS

A cosplayer at last year’s MomoCon pays tribute to the video game series “The Legend of Zelda.”

Q: The numbers on MomoCon are staggering. You’ve got 1,200 volunteers divided into 70 teams. You have more than 600 sessions scheduled across four days. And you’re handling marketing, contracts, web design, apps and more. How do you keep from going crazy? Stuckey: I tell people that running this convention is like keeping a bunch of plates spinning. It’s difficult. Two months out, it’s all day, every day. We’ll go see the new “Avengers” movie, but even that’s

Meet a Cosplayer

Stuckey: This is a passion, and I like that I can still work with game developers as part of it. Merriman: I’ll do this until I die.

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Q: How did you first get into cosplay, and how long have you been a cosplayer?

Mo Vermenton as Green Lantern

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Q: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened to you in costume?

A: I guess the most surreal and interesting experience was the first time my dad saw me in cosplay during our trip to New York for New York Comic Con. Up to that point, I think my dad had only seen my cosplay in pictures, never in the flesh. Because my dad is old-fashioned and in his seventies, I didn’t know what his reaction would be to see this “hobby” I had chosen for myself. To my surprise, he was complimentary and super supportive. I could tell that he saw how much I enjoyed doing this and how happy it makes me. It was by far one of the best experiences.

Q: What makes MomoCon special?

Q: Does it ever get to be too much? Any thoughts of leaving this behind?

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Mo Vermenton is a cosplayer from Buckhead who will portray comic book hero Green Lantern at MomoCon.

A: I am a lifelong geek. I’ve loved comic books and superheroes since as far back as I can remember. I started getting into cosplay probably around 2013, and my first cosplay was Hancock [from the Will Smith movie]. The first convention I attended in cosplay was Dragon Con.

kind of work-related for us. Then two weeks after MomoCon, we’re off to E3 [Electronic Entertainment Expo] in L.A., then the Anime Expo [in L.A. in July].

A: I think MomoCon is a great experience for fans and geeks of all ages. It really sets itself apart from other cons by making its programming and events open to a wide variety of not only genres and fandoms, but diversity across the board.

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28 | Art & Entertainment

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Nature and theater merge at Dunwoody’s play-reading series

F An audience watches a play reading at the Dunwoody Nature Center in the debut Wine & Reading series last year.

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

Audiences will wend their way along a tree-canopied boardwalk to the Dunwoody Nature Center’s newest addition, the North Woods Pavilion. Set on a knoll and surrounded by a lush deciduous forest, the spacious, glass-windowed building feels like a treehouse. They will be on their way, not to hike, bird watch or picnic by the stream, but to a reading of an original play by a nationally recognized playwright, read by professional local actors. In the Dunwoody Nature Center, Atlanta-based Found Stages found the venue for its six-month Wine & Reading Playwright Series to bring original plays out of traditional theaters and into real-world places within the community, from nature

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Art & Entertainment | 29

MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net centers and parks to inns and even back yards. May 12 marks the start of the second annual edition. Co-founders Nicole Palmietto, artistic director, and Second Sunday of each month Neeley Gosset, resident playMay – October, 2 – 4 p.m. wright, made their vision a Visit foundstages.org and dunwoodynature.org. reality in 2014. It was an idea For playwrights, visit leeosorio.com that had been percolating in and edithfreni.com. Palmietto’s mind since her college days about a decade ago. “Our mission is to build a sense of community among audiences as well as with the writers and actors,” she said. Non-traditional spaces and small gatherings give everyone a comfort level, she added. Palmietto and Gosset also hope to help people see that theater is accessible as a part of everyday life, rather than a special occasion. For the Wine & Reading Series, the playwrights are curated, but the choice of the play is up to each individual, says Palmietto, who directs the readings. Local actors known to Found Stages are invited to read a particular role for the play. The play’s set is whatever venue is chosen. There are no props, and actors wear everyday attire. The series readings are the second Sunday of each month, beginning May 12 through October 13. The audience, the director, the playwright and actors mingle over wine and hors d’ oeuvres before the reading, and for open discussion following the presentation. A play reading is a step in the development process of a new play. It’s one most audiences don’t get to see. The Reporter caught up with two busy playwrights to talk about their work in the theater arts, their support for bringing theater to unexpected places and about the readings. Both have a lengthy list of impressive credentials, awards and experience and are known nationally for their work. Lee Osorio, actor, teacher and playwright, opens the 2019 reading series with his one-act play “Faith” on May 12; and Edith Freni, playwright and teacher, will introduce her play “The Hystericals” for its first public reading on June 9. Both Osorio and Freni agree that a reading is vital to the playwright. At their respective readings, they will be sitting in the back of the room taking in audience reactions: where they laugh – or not, gasp or seem to be puzzled. The writers will also be making notes about the pacing of the play, its pitch and volume. “I love to watch the audience’s response and reaction. It tells you so much,” said Osorio. He and Freni said they will likely make changes in the play based on their own reactions as well as audience reaction and post-reading comments. “The plays are still evolving,” commented Osorio.

PLAYWRIGHT Q&A: LEE OSORIO

Just ending a three-week run in the leading role of “Hamlet” at the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta, Osorio will don his playwright hat at the reading of his play. Four actors will read “Faith.”

WINE & READING PLAYWRIGHT SERIES

Q: What are your connections to Atlanta? A: I grew up in the metro area. My family moved to Mar-

ietta when I was nine. I came back to live in Atlanta three years ago after undergrad and grad school at Brown University and Trinity Rep in Providence, Rhode Island.

Q: As a playwright, what inspires your work?

A: Life! There are stories everywhere. I was inspired to write “Faith” by an indie blue-

grass song I heard on the radio when I was in Toronto a couple years ago. I was quoted in a press release that I like to investigate characters that want to live and love well, but are really unsure how. My hope is that my work makes someone feel seen, that emboldens someone to be more honest about their struggles, and it encourages us to reach out.

Q: What are the benefits you see in bringing performances to venues outside traditional theaters?

A: I love the model of truly immersive theater. It can attract new audiences; create more support for the theater arts; and give people something different to do. I think the readings give audiences a chance to use their imaginations and respond to the play itself. They are not bound by set, costumes and staging. They can think about what a full production might be like.

Q: What is your view on Atlanta as an opportunity for theater arts? A: I think Atlanta is a place with great potential, diversity and space for more arts in-

cluding theater arts – for actors, playwrights, producers and directors. I have found [Atlanta] to be one of the kindest, most generous, welcoming and supportive places I have worked. There’s room to improve. We need to push ourselves to grow. I advocate that Atlanta must try to become more representational of its diverse communities and I ask of the city and its leaders to make art more accessible to all. Interviews continued on the next page >>

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6 | |Art 30 Food & Entertainment & Drink

Facebook.com/TheReporterNewspapers ■ twitter.com/Reporter_News Continued from page 29

PLAYWRIGHT Q&A: EDITH FRENI

On June 9, playwright and teacher Edith Freni brings her play “The Hystericals” to the Wine & Reading Series for its first public airing. Five actors will deliver the reading.

Q: You currently live in Nashville. What are your ties to Atlanta?

A: I was the inaugural Emory University Playwright Fellow

atre in 2015 to 2017.

for two years, 2014 to 2016. It really established me as a playwright. I have had commissions from Actor’s Express, Theatre Emory and Georgia State. I also received a New Territories Playwriting Residency at Serenbe Playhouse. I have worked with Kennesaw University and was the co-lead teacher for the New South Young Playwrights Contest and Festival for Horizon The-

Q: When did you get interested in play-writing? A: I have written ever since I learned to read and write. I grew up in New York where my dad was an actor, so I was immersed in theater all my life. I kept a journal of my writing samples, essays, stories and scripts for him. I remember rewriting the end of “Hamlet.”

Q: What inspires your plays? A: I focus on women and their stories, and in the last five or six years, I have usually had a female protagonist. “The Hystericals” grew out of my own experience with an auto-immune condition and the fact that women are not always taken seriously by the medical profession. I also discovered how people may overly identify with an illness. I met personalities –all women – in online chat rooms and I wanted to write a play about my and their experiences.

Q: Do you have more than one play under development at any given time? A: I have been writing “The Hystericals” over the last year-and-a-half. It’s possible to have two in the works. The theater arts are very competitive, so like many playwrights, I have side gigs going, in my case, teaching. I have taught playwriting, playmaking, play analysis and theater history at various universities.

Q: Do you have current works in development? A: Actually, I am entering a whole new world: writing for television productions. I recently

sent out my first original script. TV offers a lot of writing opportunities for writers. It’s a lifechanging move from my 10 years in academia and writing plays for theater.


Food & Drink | 31

MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

What’s new at the 2019 Dunwoody Farmers Market BY STAFF REPORTS You might say that metro Atlanta was ripe for a wave of farmers markets, in light of renewed interest in farm-to-table food and an influx of urbanites championing it. Edward Hunter, the new general manager of the Dunwoody Farmers Market, has had his eye on the trend for a while. “Atlanta has seen a flight into the city of young, educated people in the last 15 to 20 years,” says Hunter, an Atlanta native. “Now there’s so much that is thriving here, and people want the experience of a farmers market. There has to be 50 of these in the metro area now.” Georgia’s agricultural roots also are a factor in the popularity of the markets. “There’s still an agrarian spirit in the state,” Hunter says. “People dabble in growing their own food. There are nascent growers, but also people who grew up doing it.” The Dunwoody Farmers Market, which launches its second year on May 4 in Brook Run Park at 4770 North Peachtree Road, represents a partnership between the city and the Dunwoody Homeowners Association. Hunter says about two-thirds of the 30 confirmed vendors will be weekly regulars — the season runs through September, on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon — and favorites such as Watsonia Farms (peaches) and Regina’s Farm Kitchen (homemade jam) will be back. For more information about the Dunwoody Farmers Market, go to dunwoodyfarmersmkt.com. Hunter, who now lives in Athens and works full time in hospital tech, fielded a few questions about the market and his role.

Q: How did you fall into overseeing a farmers market?

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A: A friend of mine, Brandon Smith, started in peach and produce distribution eight or nine years ago. He saw a need in the Atlanta metro area for some competition. The number of Edward Hunter markets has doubled or tripled since he started, with different demand in different parts of the area. I think I can help Brandon with something that’s already strong in Dunwoody. I’ll try not to mess anything up.

Q: How will this year’s market build on the success of last year’s? What’s new? A: There will be more variety. We’ll try to have more food-truck activity, such as Jamaican food, barbecue and Marlee Street Eatz. Two or three times a month, we’ll do a theme.

Q: Will the market have music again this year? A: We’ll have live music for at least half of the season, including Alex Gordon. He’s a solo act who adds the perfect ambiance. He has a “yacht rock” style that’s relaxing. It’s eclectic instrumental music that ranges from the Beatles and Nirvana to Miles Davis and Herb Alpert. We’ll also have a string duet and some singer-songwriters.

Q: What’s special about putting the market in Brook Run Park? A: The park seems to be a real draw for the Dunwoody area, and it’s got a killer playscape for families with kids. The property helps bring businesses into the market. Dunwoody has had [a farmers market] in fits and starts over the years, and the Dunwoody Homeowners Association seems to be a great organization.

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32 | Out & About

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O W O N DY U D BROOKHAVEN

BUCKHEAD

PERFORMANCES BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL

Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 12 City Springs Theatre Company presents Broadway’s Drew McVety, Pamela Gold, and Sarah Charles Lewis in this unforgettable musical that follows a young boy as he trades in his boxing gloves for dancing shoes in a small mining town in the English countryside. Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center’s Byers Theatre at 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Tickets: $30-$62. Info: 404-477-4365 or cityspringstheatre.com.

This year’s theme: Grand Marshall: Dunwoody Police Department

JULY 4, 2019 at 9:00 am Parade begins at the Mount Vernon Shopping Center, proceeds down Mount Vernon Road for approximately 2.5 miles and ends with a lively Family Festival in Dunwoody Village The Dunwoody Homeowners Association and the Dunwoody Reporter newspaper will host the annual Fourth of July Parade featuring marching clowns, animal units and local celebrities! GOLD

SILVER

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AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’

Friday, May 24 through Sunday, June 16, Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2:30 p.m. The Stage Door Players bring the joyful music of Thomas “Fats” Waller to the stage. The energetic, upbeat show features familiar songs like “Honeysuckle Rose,” “This Joint is Jumpin’,” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Stage Door Players, 5339 ChambleeDunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Tickets: $33. Info: stagedoorplayers.net or 770-396-1726.

MUSIC

CONCERTS BY THE SPRINGS

Sunday, May 12, 5-8:30 p.m. The Return, a Beatles cover band, take the stage at 7 p.m. part of a free concert event. Beforehand, the new Taproom Concert Series will offers craft brewery tastings. The Bell’s Breweries and Founder’s Brewing Co. will offer 12 samples of beer and a commerrative Taproom Concert Series cup. Taproom Tastings $18. Heritage Sandy Springs. 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org.

CITY GREEN LIVE MUSIC SERIES

Fridays, May 24; 31, 6:30 p.m. The City Green in Sandy Springs debuts its summer music series with Grammy Awardwinning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers on May 24 and Eagles tribute band 7 Ridges on May 31. More acts scheduled throughout the summer. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Free, no tickets required. Tables may be reserved starting at $40. Info: citysprings.com.

VISUAL ARTS GATHERED IV

Through Saturday, June 15, 11 am- 5 p.m. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia presents its 4th installment of a biennial exhibition showcasing the breadth and diversity of Georgia talent from a variety of mediums. This year, Gathered IV features 47 works of art by 38 Georgia artists. 75 Bennett Street, Buckhead. Tickets: $8. Info: mocaga.org

SALVADOR DALÍ & LEON KELLY, SURREALIST ART

For more information about sponsorship, please contact Leah Economos at 770-624-4825 or leah@eepevents.com.

Friday, May 3 through Saturday, Aug. 31 Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven presents two fine print portfolios by the artist, his illustrations for the Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror and Dante Aligh-

DUNWOODY

SANDY SPRINGS

ieri’s The Divine Comedy, on loan from Park West Foundation. Also newly on display is a retrospective spanning surrealist artist Leon Kelly’s entire career. Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. $5, free for members. Info: museum.oglethorpe.edu.

BOOKS & AUTHORS JILL BIDEN, “WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS”

Wednesday, May 15, 7:30 pm Former Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, presents her new memoir and personal story of how she built a family and life of her own, Where the Light Enters. The book is a candid, heartwarming glimpse into the creation of a beloved American family, and the life of a woman at its center. MJCCA-Zaban Park. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Seating is extremely limited; tickets are limited to two per person. Tickets: One general admission ticket with one hardcover copy of book $40 / Two general admission tickets and one book: $60. Info: atlantajcc.org

A SHORT HISTORY OF BARBECUE IN AMERICA

Thursday, May 23, 6p.m. As part of the “Barbecue Nation” exhibit, on view at the Atlanta History Center through Sept 29, consulting curator Jim Auchmutey, author of “Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America,” will discuss the history of barbecue in America from the ox roast that celebrated the groundbreaking for the U.S. Capitol building to the first barbecue launched into space almost 200 years later. A preceding reception will include barbecue appetizers. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta. $10 general public; $5 members. Info: 404-814-4150 or atlantahistorycenter.com.

E L JAMES, “THE MISTER”

Thursday, May 30, 7:30 pm E L James, author of the bestselling “Fifty Shades” trilogy, makes her first Atlanta appearance with a new romance novel, “The Mister.” MJCCA-Zaban Park. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Tickets: $32 includes general admission plus book. Info: atlantajcc.org

OUTDOOR EVENTS GARDENS FOR CONNOISSEURS TOUR

Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m.5 p.m. Benefiting the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the tour spotlights nine private home gardens throughout metro Atlanta, including Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Decatur and Midtown. Tickets: $28 advance/ $35 day of. Info: Atlantabg.org.

DUNWOODY ART FESTIVAL

Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m.5 p.m. Dunwoody Village transforms into an artist market with shopping, children’s activities, live music and a food court featuring


Art & Entertainment | 33

MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net neighborhood restaurants. Dunwoody Village Parkway, Dunwoody. Free. Info: splashfestivals.com/events-festivals/dunwoody-artfestival/.

CHASTAIN PARK ARTS FESTIVAL

Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m.5 p.m. Fine art and crafts from 185 artists and artisans, live acoustic music, a children’s area and local food and beverage concessions, including gourmet food trucks. Chastain Park, 140 W. Wieuca Road, Buckhead. Free. Info: chastainparkartsfestival.com. Outdoor Fun

FOOD TRUCK ROUNDUP

Wednesdays, starting May 15, 6-9 p.m. The popular Brookhaven Food Truck Roundup, now entering its sixth season, returns in a new location at the north end of the park near the Blackburn Pavilion. The new site borders a recently installed playground and will feature 8 to 10 food truck dining options, a beer and wine tent, live entertainment and a bounce house and other activities for children every Wednesday through Oct. 2. Blackburn Park, 3493 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven. Info: brookhavenga.gov.

BROOKHAVEN BOLT

Saturday, May 18, 8 a.m. A 5K run that is a Peachtree Road Race qualifying event. All proceeds go to Ashford Park Elementary School. Village Place Brookhaven, 1430 Dresden Drive, Brookhaven. $30. Info: brookhavenbolt.com

BUCKHEADRUN!

Saturday, June 1, 7:30 a.m Livable Buckhead amps up its wellness mission with BuckheadWALKS, a free 30-day walking challenge that culminates with buckheadRUN!, an inaugural 5K race that takes runners through Buckhead and Path400. Lenox Square mall, 3393 Peachtree Road, Buckhead. Run: $30 before May 15, $35 after. Info: livablebuckhead.org/run.

FOR KIDS

FAMILY FOREST WALK AT BIG TREES PRESERVE

Friday, May 24, 9-10:30 a.m. Enjoy a short guided walk and see some of the tallest trees in Sandy Springs, including Tulip Poplar and American Beech. Big Trees Forest Preserve, 7645 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Free, registration requested. Info: registration.sandyspringsga.gov.

MOTHER & SON DANCE

Saturday, May 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Brookhaven Parks and Recreations hosts its first ever Mother & Son dance for a special night with a live DJ, photographer, food and giveaways. Lynwood Park Community Center, 3360 Osborne Road, Brookhaven. $25. Register at brookhavenga.gov/parksrec.

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34 | Perimeter Business

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Perimeter Business Focusing on business in the Reporter Newspapers communities

The PCIDs marks 20 years of shaping Perimeter Center Continued from page 25 an estimated 9,000 people already living there and more large-scale, mixeduse projects in the pipeline. It remains to be seen whether the PCIDs will join similar business groups in leveraging residential property owners into the self-taxing district. “The CIDs’ story, in some ways, is a mirror of the story of metro Atlanta,” Hanlon says of the growth. “I’m excited to see what the next 20 years brings for Perimeter… Metro Atlanta is changing so rapidly and Perimeter is no different.”

Pioneering Projects

Self-taxing Community Improvement Districts are authorized by state law. Virtually any business area can form one and institute the tax, as long as a majority of commercial property owners representing 75% of the local property values agree and the state legislature gives permission. The PCIDs’ district in Perimeter Center is roughly bordered by Ga. 400 to the west, I-285 to the south, and residential areas of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs to the north and east. Another rule, and the one responsible for the PCIDs somewhat awkward plural name, is that a single CID cannot cross county lines. Perimeter Center happens to be split nearly in half by DeKalb and Fulton counties. The PCIDs is a joint staff that operates on behalf of two separate CIDs: the DeKalb CID, the one that formed in 1999 and is the basis for the 20th anniversary celebration, and the Fulton CID, which followed in 2001. Today, there are 27 CIDs in the metro Atlanta area, according to the Council for Quality Growth. But in 1990s CIDs were still a novelty. “The CID was really a novelty,” Hanlon says. Cobb County’s Cumberland CID was the first, founded in 1988. Another early example was Central Atlanta Progress in that city’s downtown. Buckhead attorney Chuck Palmer had worked on the CAP legislation and was drafted by Perimeter Center leaders to form the DeKalb CID. “There was a group of property owners

who believed they really needed to focus on transportation out there… and that they would come up with some solutions for that,” Palmer said. “…Basically, these property owners are putting their money where their mouths are.” Yvonne Williams, then the president of the SPECIAL Cobb Chamber of ComDunwoody Mayor Denis merce, was brought on to Shortal, left, and PCIDs lead the new CID – partly Executive Director Ann because the Cumberland Hanlon pose on a new CID had been an affili- multiuse trail connecting the city’s Georgetown ate of the chamber, givneighborhood with ing her experience in that Perimeter Center. The world. Williams led the trail opened in April. PCIDs for 17 years, leaving in 2016, and is now president and CEO at the Greater Macon Chamber of Comerybody was frustrated with Ga. 400” and merce. long-stalled road improvement ideas to re“We went in reverse, [by] not having a duce its infamous congestion. The PCIDs strategic plan in the beginning,” Williams joined the Sandy Springs Development recalled. “We decided to get a project done Authority in partnering with the state to very quickly” to show the value of the tax add a new half-interchange on Hammond dollars — relatively minor crosswalk and Drive in 2011, which Williams called a landscaping improvements to the inter“game-changer.” section outside Dunwoody’s Crowne PlaAnother huge project, the Ashfordza hotel in the Ravinia complex where the Dunwoody diverging diamond, followed CID was based. in 2012, helping to establish the PCIDs’ rep“We started with small projects with utation as a big builder and partner with small wins to engage the public,” Williams the Georgia Department of Transportasaid. “Then, of course, it just evolved to be tion. The intersection, where traffic crisshuge.” crosses the street for better flow and safeThe PCIDs came into being when the ty, was the first of its kind in Georgia and is Fulton side joined in 2001. At an April now widely imitiated. 25 20th anniversary reception, held in Brookhaven’s Hyatt Regency at Villa ChrisCities Join the Picture tian, founding DeKalb CID board memThe cityhood movement trigged by ber Bob Voyles recalled that gathering Fulthe incorporation of Sandy Springs in ton property owners was “more fractious” 2005 swept Perimeter Center, with Dunbecause there were more of them, with woody coming in 2008 and Brookhaven smaller businesses. Another founding in 2012. It was reportedly something of a board member, Diane Calloway, was honsurprise to PCIDs leaders who had come ored at the reception for her work, which to view Perimeter Center as its own locaincluded wrangling those Fulton propertion. As Voyles said at the 20th anniverty owners. sary reception, “Business owners think Williams soon found herself advocatmore about the region. And we don’t see ing for projects much larger than landPerimeter as cities. We see it more as an scaping. On the Fulton side, she said, “Eventity.”

Williams said the PCIDs always got along well with the new cities and saw itself as a “uniting partnership” among them. But there could be some frustration as well, as the PCIDs was used to dealing with the much lighter project review process of a single county. “You can’t erase history” and the partnership with new cities was good, Williams said. But, she added, “You can’t always have things go as smoothly” and projects could sometimes face a “smorgasbord” variety of review processes that made them “labor-intensive” and a “heavy lift.” “[City reviews] probably adds another layer of complication to it,” says Palmer, the attorney who continues to advise the DeKalb CID, adding that there is good cooperation. At the city of Dunwoody, which recently partnered with the PCIDs on a new multiuse trail connecting the Georgetown neighborhood with Perimeter Center, Mayor Denis Shortal and City Manager Eric Linton had effusive praise for the organization. “They’re just a tremendous partner,” said Linton. “They understand that their success is our success, and our success is their success.”


Perimeter Business | 35

MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

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A conflict with one local city is among the controversies and misses the PCIDs has seen amidst its successful efforts. In 2016, Sandy Springs sued the PCIDs for $2.8 million over a project paperwork problem; the PCIDs later settled. Some efforts are viewed differently with the passage of time. In 2017, the PCIDs gave GDOT a $10 million check to boost its “Transform 285/400” highway interchange reconstruction project, which is now underway. Williams says the money and the political symbolism made the project happen up to a decade faster. Current PCIDs leadership hasn’t openly criticized the donation, but had made it clear such unrestricted funding won’t happen in the future. Hanlon and Williams have differing thoughts on the PCIDs’ missed opportunities. Hanlon says a trail plan was dormant for too long – something the organization is reviving now with a new master plan. Williams is disappointed a planned park alongside the Dunwoody MARTA Station fell by the wayside, and in the disbanding of the affiliate group the Perimeter Business Alliance, whose exact function was fuzzy but which she says served as a “regional forum” for innovative ideas. However, Hanlon and Williams agreed on the PCIDs’ biggest success. It also happens to be the most widely mocked: the Perimeter Center Parkway bridge over I-285, which opened in 2007 and was nicknamed by critics as the “bridge to nowhere.” While hardly remote, the immediate area was not booming with new development at the time, essentially connecting the back ends of the Medical Center and a Dunwoody hotel. Now State Farm is building an enormous multi-skyscraper office campus at one end, and more redevelopment is coming at the southern end, at Lake Hearn Drive. And GDOT is eyeing the bridge as an interchange for its future toll lanes system. Williams said it was the first joint project of the combined CIDs and the $35 million was secured by her relationship with then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, who

da. So is coping with demographic and traffic changes well beyond its direct control at this point, including an influx of residential properties in the increasingly urbanized Perimeter Center and GDOT’s enormous toll lanes projects. “I think the next 20 years are going to be a continuation of those basic services… [while also] finding new and innovative ways to invest,” Hanlon said. From the point of view of the PCIDs, residential properties in the district get many benefits of the public improvements without paying the extra tax. In fact, conversion of former commercial spaces to mixed-use – or nonprofit or government headquarters, like Dunwoody’s new City Hall on Ashford-Dunwoody Road – mean properties come off the PCIDs’ special tax rolls. Many CIDs recently lobbied the state legislature, unsuccessfully, to allow bringing residential properties into their taxing system; Hanlon was among the advocates. In some CIDs, like Buckhead’s, the counterargument from residents is that they shouldn’t pay higher taxes or rents to a private business organization over which they have little influence or access and whose board members may have personal profit motives. It’s a tension that’s likely to grow along with the residential population. Already contentious is the toll lanes project, which the PCIDs has met with general support for traffic relief and some skepticism about the look and placement of the gigantic ramps and interchanges that will weave throughout Perimeter Center. Along with the Transform 285/400 project already underway, it means a solid decade of construction in the area. Hanlon recently appeared in a GDOT video supporting the toll lanes, which are planned to include MARTA bus transit on Ga. 400 and may have transit on I-285 as well. “My take on it, especially as a Dunwoody resident… [is] right now, our interstate system is not functioning as efficiently as it should be,” she said. “New road construction is not always popular… especially when you’re talking about the potential to take land, to take homes, to take neighborhoods.”

be under construction with mega infrastructure projects for the next 10 years,” Hanlon said, adding that the PCIDs will seek input on everything from minor lane closures to major transit advocacy. “I think it’s absolutely critical that some sort of transit be built in the top end [toll lanes] project.”

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She said that toll lanes present a tradeoff between “do you want to build big elevated managed lanes and look at that” or build even more regular lanes and see them fill up again. She said that if the pricing of toll lanes pushes anyone to use alternative transportation, “I consider that a victory.” “Generally speaking, our western wall and our southern wall are going to

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Shortal called it a “true partnership,” personally drove an earthmover across not like some where you “smile for the it as a ribbon-cutting. camera and when the Hanlon calls the cameras go off, things project “visionary” and turn around.” Without partly responsible for the PCIDs, Shortal said, “billions” in new insome projects would vestment. “I can say take the city longer to without question the do, and some might not Perimeter Center Parkhappen at all. And both way bridge was the Linton and Shortal said best project the Perimthe PCIDs’ political leeter CIDs has done,” verage is a huge asset she said. “With big infor the area. frastructure projects SPECIAL “They’ve got influlike this, time realYvonne Williams, the former ence with GDOT and ly does tell the story… head of the PCIDs. under the Gold Dome Now it’s the bridge to because they’re very much an economic everywhere.” engine for the whole state,” Shortal said. Hanlon agreed the relationship with The Next 20 Years cities is going well. “It’s like they’re the As the PCIDs looks ahead 20 years, cake and we have the ability to be the icthe current slate of service and transing on the cake,” she said. portation planning is still on the agen-

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36 | Perimeter Business

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Buckhead’s Onward Reserve shows how brick-and-mortar retail still works BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

They say it’s a tough time for brick-andmortar retail, and a trip through Buckhead shows some of the proof, as the old Belk department store at Phipps Plaza comes down brick by mortared brick for an officeand-hotel makeover. But keep on traveling through Buckhead Village and you’ll find a locally based men’s apparel retailer that’s beating the odds. Onward Reserve, headquartered above its shop at 3072 Early St., has blossomed into an 11-stores-and-growing Southeast chain that just bought a new HQ on a future Buckhead segment of the Atlanta BeltLine. Owner and founder T.J. Callaway, who also lives in Buckhead, says the difference is creating his own brand – a mix of preppy casual and outdoors-y practicality –that is authentic and true to itself. “We get an Amazon package at our house every day,” says Callaway, explaining that he’s no foe of the store-crushing online retailer. But Amazon’s focus on showcasing the lowest price is “in effect… a race to the bottom for brands… The people getting killed by Amazon are selling a commodity,” not an identity, he says. Onward Reserve’s identity is a bit of old-school masculine and a bit of Southern hospitality. The Buckhead store is festooned with deer heads and antlers – part-

ly a nod to the neighborhood – and even a stuffed lion. You’ll be greeted warmly – even before they know you’re, say, a reporter -- and if you’re thirsty, they’ll offer you a Coke or a beer. The design is calculated, but it’s not just for show. A ride in an elevator hidden behind wooden paneling takes a visitor to the upstairs headquarters, where there are similar hunting trophies in the online sales shipping area and Callaway’s comfortable office. The break room has walls hung with swatches of shirt fabric under consideration, surrounding a stuffed bear mounted with crossed golf clubs. “It’s kind of me,” Callaway says of the Onward Reserve brand identity. “It’s a store for what I want… I like to fish. I like to hunt… I’m kind of a weekend warrior on a lot of fronts.” It’s what a lot of customers want, too, which is how Callaway attracted the interest of such investors as Robin Loudermilk, president and CEO of Buckhead-based Loudermilk Companies, one of the city’s biggest real estate firms, as landlord and partner. The irony is that Callaway started his apparel business as an online store in 2011, curating other makers’ brands that he liked, before opening his first brick-andmortar spot in Athens, Ga., in 2012. He says he quickly realized that simply being an “aggregator of brands” gave him little control over the future against the likes of Am-

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Onward Reserve founder and owner T.J. Callaway inside the Buckhead store.

azon. Today, Onward Reserve still sells other brands and has a growing sideline in college sports product licensing, but also create a house brand. “We design them from scratch,” Callaway said. “That’s made all the difference… It’s what enabled us to turn into another brand instead of just another retailer.” The company now has 11 store locations, including in Ponce City Market; Thomasville, Ga.; North Carolina; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; and Washington, D.C. Callaway says it plans to open two to three more stores in the next 12 months,

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including a new spot in Buckhead’s Peachtree Battle shopping center and a store in College Park, Texas. It continues to have a significant online and catalog-based sales business – though the catalog no longer contains an order form, instead driving people directly to the website. And now Onward Reserve is moving into an expanded headquarters at 116 Bennett St., where online sales will be handled and the twice-a-year warehouse sale will be hosted, with the first one coming in July. The 40,000-square-foot building, which the company bought for $2.5 million, is a

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Perimeter Business | 37

MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net former antiques mall. Known for nightclubs, shops and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Bennett Street is also pegged in preliminary designs for a segment of the BeltLine trail, connecting to the existing Northside Trail nearby in Atlanta Memorial Park. The BeltLine’s transit line is planned to run on a railroad corridor just behind the Bennett Street building. Onward Reserve is no stranger to the BeltLine boom, as it has a location in the Old Fourth Ward’s Ponce City Market. “I am excited about all the work that has been done to improve the greater Memorial Park area and am glad to be a part of it,” said Callaway. “It will be very exciting for our new neighborhood and specifically for Bennett Street when the BeltLine ties into all the work that has been done by the PATH Foundation, the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation and others in and around Memorial Park.” One thing not changing is that Onward Reserve remains a privately held company, “so that we can continue to be who we want to be as opposed to who an investor wants us to be,” Callaway says. That’s important to his business, too. It’s not just about identity, but also that the identity is authentic. The same goes for the stores, which are individually designed to suit the vibe of the location. “We want each store to be an authentic part of the community where it exists,” Callaway says, and in the Buckhead store, that includes reusing bricks from an old Midtown building designed by famed Atlanta architect Need

Reid. “Live authentically” is a slogan Callaway says the company has trademarked. “My biggest peeve about the fashion world is so many people are just making things up to seem authentic,” he said. The company name reflects the sense of authentic spirit. It’s named for Onward, Mississippi, the area where then President Teddy Roosevelt refused to kill a bear specially captured for him during a hunt, deeming it unsportsmanlike, an incident that drew national headlines and was exploited for the now-iconic toy teddy bear. A bear is the company’s logo. Callaway says he likes the story of Roosevelt’s integrity and the widespread meaning of the bear. “Who has not been impacted by the teddy bear?” he says. Callaway says this approach is what ties customers to his brand. A $100-plus golf shirt isn’t for everyone, and that’s exactly why his business works. “If all you need is a shirt to cover your back, Onward Reserve is probably not the most economical,” he says, explaining that it’s all about that identity. (The company also sells more affordable trinkets and accessories, so most anyone can participate in the brand, he adds.) “Retail as a whole is in trouble… I would not be buying stock in a department store right now,” says Callaway, but he believes that real experiences can prevail in the digital age. “I still like going into a store and interacting with human beings.” For more information, see onwardreserve.com.

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38 | Perimeter Business

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Ribbon-cuttings

The following businesses recently opened in Reporter Newspapers communities

SPECIAL

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State Farm Agency-Michael Howard celebrated its office opening March 1 at 1455 Lincoln Parkway East, Suite 105, Dunwoody. Joining in the ribbon-cutting were, from left: Aijilon Gallow and Tammy Minter of the agency; Gladys Stubbs, mother of Michael Howard; owner Michael Howard and daughter Leighton Howard; Mayor Denis Shortal; Terrence Coley and Destiny Dickerson of the agency; Dan Farrar, city of Dunwoody; and Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Stephanie Freeman. For more information, see statefarm.com.

Dr. Kimberly M. Moran, left, and Dr. Antontious L. Moran cut the ribbon on their new business, Moran Signature Chiropractic, April 4 at 750 Hammond Drive, Building 6, Suite 150, Sandy Springs. For more information, see moransignaturechiropractic.com.

Be Part of the Innovation Ecosystem in Sandy Springs A vibrant community in Northpark Town Center where entrepreneurs, small business and corporate teams connect and collaborate. • Class “A” Office Space with all the amenities • Innovation related Educational programming from Industry Leaders – ATDC, SBA, and GA Centers of Innovation • Convenient Location at GA 400 & I-285 • Walking Distance to Sandy Springs MARTA • 24/7 Access with Free Parking • Conference Room & Podcast Studio at no additional charge (Scheduled) • Kitchenette with coffee and snacks included • USPS Address & Delivery • Free Wi-Fi • Event Patio

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Guardian Physicians recently opened a practice at 4651 Roswell Road, Suite D 308, Sandy Springs. Joining in the ribbon-cutting were, from left, Suzanne Brown of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce; owner Dr. Adebola Oyekoya and her husband Veronock Exavier; and Tashauna Gayle of the Chamber. For more information, see guardianphysican.com.

Cinco Mexican Cantina – Perimeter, 4400 Ashford Dunwoody Rd., Dunwoody. Info: cincorestaurants.com. Crescent Neurology and Sleep, 8010 Roswell Road, Suite 140, Sandy Springs. Info: cnsatlanta.com. Esthetique by Elaine Sterling, 5840 Roswell Road, Suite 900, Sandy Springs. Info: esthetiquebyelainesterling.com. il Giallo Osteria & Bar opened a new Catering Division, 5920 Roswell Road, Suite B-118 Sandy Springs. Info: ilgialloatl.com. Pathways Autism Center, 6849 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Building A-1, Sandy Springs. Info: pathwaysautismcenter.com. Persium Group is the new name of the financial and investment advisory firm formerly known as White Horse Advisors, 6190 Powers Ferry Road, Suite 500, Sandy Springs. Info: persiumgroup.com. Smile Doctors by Awbrey Orthodontics, 5501 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd., Dunwoody. Info: smiledoctors.com.


Perimeter Business | 39

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‘Policy over politics’ is doing well, Lt. Gov. Duncan tells business group BY DYANA BAGBY

syth County, said one of his main goals is to make Georgia the “technology capital of the East Lt. Gov. Coast.” To do Geoff Dunso, Duncan can praised said, he wants this year’s legto lead an efislative sesfort to create sion as a sucan “ecosystem cessful one of talent” in where “polithe state. cy over poliComputer tics” was the science classes name of the offered at all game in passhigh schools ing laws foand integratcused on eduing technolocation, health gy into educacare and techtion can help nology. achieve this Duncan goal, he said. made the Much like the comments film industry April 16 durhas created an ing a 15-minenvironment DYANA BAGBY ute speech at Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan spoke about the legislative session where talent a Dunwoody at the April 16 Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber luncheon. can be found Perimeter in Georgia for Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at all areas of making a movie, so can Georthe Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center hogia do with technology, he said. tel with approximately 30 people attend“I want technologists to come here, to ing. train here, to start businesses here,” he Duncan did not mention in his comsaid. ments to the crowd the controversial Duncan said he believed Georgia House Bill 481 bill, known as the “heartwould also become a model for other beat bill,” that was approved this year and states due to its passage of Senate Bill 106. essentially bans abortion in the state. In The bill gives the governor the authority a brief interview, he said he was proud of to seek Affordable Care Act and Medichow the Senate handled the emotional deaid waivers that, Duncan said, would albate. The governor has yet to sign the bill low “Georgia to create its own health care into law and Duncan did not know when system.” that may be. The bill only allows for limited Med“Look, it’s a personal issue. It’s a pericaid expansion for Georgians at 100 personal issue for me, it’s a personal issue cent of the poverty level. For an individual, for the folks who voted against it,” Dunthat’s about $12,000 a year. Full Medicaid can said. expansion, as Democrats pushed for, inThe ACLU of Georgia has already statcludes adding those making 138 percent ed they plan to sue the state if Kemp does of the poverty level to Medicaid, or about sign the bill into law. $16,000 for an individual. “We’ll see how that plays out. I’m perThe new law will “redefine the definisonally in favor of the measure,” he said. tion of Medicaid,” Duncan said. “I’ve got three beautiful kids I view as Legalizing growing and selling medicomplete miracle from God ant that’s the cal marijuana, signed into law by Kemp lens I look through.” on April 17, was also a major milestone During his talk, Duncan said he for the legislative session, Duncan said. kept his focus on shepherding good law The medical marijuana bill passed in through the General Assembly. 2015 gave people the right to use THC oil “I get policy, and I despise politics,” illnesses such as seizures, but they could Duncan said. “I’m a policy over politics only obtain the oil by crossing state lines person.” to purchase it, thereby breaking federal He said Gov. Brian Kemp is the same law. way and “what you see is what you get” in This bill closes that loophole by credealings with the governor who, he said, ating a limited, government-supervised would tell a person the same thing in priindustry to grow medical marijuana, he vate that he would tell them in public on said. The bill would not pave the way to any kind of legislation. recreational marijuana use because of “Although we may not always agree how closely it will be supervised, Duncan on policy, we agree that being honest and said. up front is the best way to start,” Duncan Duncan praised a rural broadband said. bill approved this session. The bill allows Duncan, who lives in Cumming in Fordyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

electric membership corporations to get into the broadband business and bring high speed internet to rural communities across the state. This will help boost economic development throughout the state and not just in metro Atlanta, he said.

Kemp’s $3,000 raise included in this year’s budget to all public teachers is a “great down payment” for the $5,000 raise he promised on the campaign trail, Duncan said, and was a successful bipartisan effort.

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