MAY 2019 • VOL. 10 — NO. 5
Dunwoody Reporter COMMUNITY
Who’s running for mayor? So far, just one P12
Sandy Sprin gs
Business: PCIDs turns 20 ►Q+A with local couple behind Atlanta’s big anime convention
Flying into spring
nd-mortar reta il still BY JOHN RUC
johnruch@re porternewsp apers.net
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
CONTINUED Ce ON PAGE 34 Congratu lebrate Memorial Da lations to Let us fee all the 20 y and We Deliver! d your fam 19 gradua ily & frie nds wh tes! Sand y Springs/Buc
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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
Dunwoody’s old Austin Elementary School, which was expected to close once a new, 900-seat version debuts next year, may remain open temporarily as DeKalb Schools searches for ways to alleviate overcrowding. Doing so would mean extending a lease agreement between the city and the school district, but officials are being tight-lipped about their discussions. The city currently owns the old school at 5345 Roberts Drive, originally built in 1975, as part of a 2016 land swap deal with DeKalb Schools. The agreement included the city trading the former Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields for the school property and DeKalb Schools paying the city $3.6 million. DeKalb Schools is building the new school on Roberts Drive on the site of the former baseball fields and adjacent to the Dunwoody Nature Center, less than a halfmile from the current AES. The city has not finalized what it wants to do with the old school property once it is vacated, but talks have generally focused on creating a park space. The new Austin Elementary School is being built using 2011 special local option sales tax funding. As part of the 2016 agreement, the city agreed to lease the old school to DeKalb
See DEKALB on page 10
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Take steps to protect urban wildlife P18
Layla Smith, left, and Corrine Ovellette, eighth-graders at Peachtree Charter Middle School, ride the swings during the 20th edition of the Lemonade Days festival, which ran April 24-28 at Brook Run Park. The festival this year raised money for the Dunwoody Preservation Trust and the Donaldson-Bannister Farm.
DeKalb CEO touts Dunwoody unity in ‘State of County’ address
BY JOHN RUCH
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Old Austin Elementary School may remain open to relieve overcrowding
NATURE AND THEATER MER AT DUNWOO GE DY’S PLAY-READ ING SERIES PAGE 26
Spr ing 20 19
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.
Tilly Mill sidewalks spark right-of-way dispute
Mother’s Words of Wisdom
The PCID of shapings marks 20 years Perimeter C enter
LOCAL COU PLE BRINGS ANI ME, GAMING EVE NT TO ATLANTA
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 bridge-building, in a special “State of the County” address to
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2 | Community
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The owner of the historic Swancy Farmhouse on Roberts Drive is urging the Dunwoody City Council to deny rezoning property behind his house to allow for the construction of nine single-family detached houses, saying the infill project would surround his home with pavement and eliminate any privacy. Dave Haverty, who has lived at the Swancy Farmhouse at 5308 Roberts Drive for more than 20 years, also says if the City Council rezones the property surrounding his home from R-100 to R-50, a citywide precedent could be set to make way for developers to shrink lot sizes in neighborhoods otherwise known for spacious yards and large homes. “We don’t want to be shut off from the community,” Haverty said in an interview. “The development would turn us into an island of blacktop. “We feel real strongly about how we bought in a R-100 neighborhood,” he said. “We feel like what they’re trying to do is wrong.” A council vote on the rezoning request is expected May 20. The developer, Rock River Realty, wants
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to build nine single-family homes on nearly 3 acres next to and behind the Swancy Farmhouse which fronts Roberts Drive and is across the street from the Dunwoody Nature Center and the new Austin Elementary School now under construction. To build the nine houses, the properties at 5318 and 5328 Roberts Drive must be rezoned from R-100, which requires a minimum lot size of 15,000 square feet, to R-50, which requires a minimum 6,000 square foot lot. The lots currently have 1960s ranch-style houses on them. The current houses would be razed to make way for the proposed development. The new houses would be built with master bedrooms on the main floor and be priced in the $700,000 range. The Swancy Farmhouse, designated a historic property by the Dunwoody Preservation Trust, is built very close to Roberts Drive. On one side of the farmhouse is the Fairfield Townhomes community with 59 townhomes and on the other side is the Dunwoody Knoll neighborhood with three R-100 lots. A request by the developer for the new houses be restricted to families with members 55 and older was rejected by council members at the April 8 meeting due to their location close to a new school and a city park, making it an ideal location for young families. Plans for the proposed development include building two private roads in a “Tshape” off Roberts Drive to allow access to the homes alongside the farmhouse property and to the houses built on property behind the farmhouse. The new roads would essentially block in the Swancy Farmhouse, Haverty said. The Swancy Farmhouse was built in 1889, according to the Dunwoody Preservation Trust. The Swancy family moved into the home in 1930 and upgraded it over the years, including adding indoor plumbing and adding two bedrooms a half-floor for two bedrooms, Haverty said. When Haverty purchased the house in 1996, a Swancy family member told him a mule pulling a plow on the former farmland behind the home got stuck in the mud in the backyard and died. The mule’s bones are buried where he got stuck. Haverty has made major renovations and additions to the home. But he said all the projects were done in keeping with the historic significance of the home, including restoring the original wood ceilings and preserving the stone fireplaces. “When you look at our additions, you can see the additions are at the back of the house, in order to preserve the old part that was in the front,” he said. The city’s Community Development Department, which is recommending the rezoning approval, said in a memo to the City Council that because of the many renovations and additions to the Swancy Farmhouse over the years, its historical significance is lost. “The house was originally built in 1889
Community | 3
as a three-bedroom farmhouse house, however modifications and additions have greatly changed the property’s physical features and its relationship to its significance,” according to a memo to the council by City Planner John Olson. The property also fits in with an R-50 rezoning as part of the city’s comprehensive plan, Olson said. Haverty disagreed. “We like living in a historical place,” he said. “We had a nice big piece of property, with green space in the back and a park across the street. The proposed development and new school take away both of these characters.” Haverty said he did consider selling his property and gave the developer a price months ago and he thought an agreement was reached. But he said talks then turned to a possible purchase following the outcome of the rezoning request. Haverty acknowledged the price he gave was not based on an actual appraisal but he is now seeking an official appraisal. Curt Swilley of the Rock River Realty developers said at the April 8 meeting there were early talks of buying the Swancy Farmhouse as part of the proposed development, but the decision to possibly buy the land would be taken up again after the council votes on the rezoning. Swilley did not return a call seeking additional comment. Councilmembers did express concern about the Swancy Farmhouse at the April
8 meeting and the buffers between it and the proposed new houses. The developer negotiated buffers of 35 feet with Fairfield Townhomes and a 25-foot buffer between Dunwoody Knoll residents. Several Fairfield residents spoke in favor of the development and only one Dunwoody Knoll residents spoke against it. As part of its negotiations with the Fairfield community, the developer agreed to relocate and maintain a drainage easement and will build new stormwater pipes under the new private road. The developer promised Dunwoody Knoll residents a new underwater detention pond would help with stormwater runoff into their communities. Haverty’s request for a 35-foot buffer was not accepted by the developer or required by the city. Councilmember Tom Lambert said it seemed to him that Haverty was “getting the short end of the stick” due to the buffer restrictions granted the other properties. City officials said major landscaping along the shared borders of the Swancy Farmhouse and the new development would protect the home from adverse effects. Conditions for the rezoning include the developer planting 8-foot tall trees along the shared borders of the Swancy Farmhouse and the new development. A 6-foot tall aluminum fence is also required. The Havertys will also have access to the internal roads leading to the new houses, should the rezoning be approved.
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More in May:
Dunwoody Kids to Parks Day! Saturday, May 18 Starts at 5 p.m.
Brook Run Park Event Field 4770 N. Peachtree Rd. Dunwoody, GA 30338
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part — Movie & popcorn cart begin at dusk (around 8:45 p.m.)
Live music Face painting Movie at dusk Yard games Food carts DUN
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Thursday, May 9 6 p.m. Dunwoody City Hall
Walk With A Doc Saturday, May 11 9 a.m. Brook Run Park
4 | Community
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Community Brief B R EADWI NNER C A FÉ TO O P EN R ESTAU R ANT I N FO R M ER WR I G HT ’S S PA C E
The owners of Sandy Springs’ popular Breadwinner Café & Bakery says they are expanding into neighboring Dunwoody with plans to open a restaurant in the former location of Wright’s Gourmet Sandwich Shoppe. Breadwinner Café & Bakery co-owner Geoff Melkonian made the announcement on April 19 and in an interview said tentative plans are to open in September, close to Labor Day weekend. The new restaurant will be called the Breadwinner Cafe and Market and will be very much like the original sandwich restaurant in Sandy Springs. This version, though, will include a prepared foods section, Melkonian said. Plans are to enclose the patio with either garage doors or accordion-style windows so the space can be used all year, he said. The current space will soon be getting all new kitchen equipment and a needed update. Melkonian said he had no plans to open a new restaurant this year. But when Wright’s unexpectedly announced in February it was closing its location in the Shops of Dunwoody, he was overwhelmed by people urging him to look at the space. “Literally the day they posted they were closing, my phone lit up … from my Dunwoody customers who said, ‘We’d love to have you here,’” he said. Less than a week later, he had a letter of intent; then in early April a lease was signed. Wright’s, an iconic Dunwoody institution for over 30 years, abruptly closed its shop at 5482 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road on Feb. 12. Matt Wright, manager and member of the family that owns the restaurant, posted a farewell message on Facebook, but did not explain the reason for the sudden and unexpected closure. Melkonian said he’s always had an interest in opening a Breadwinner Cafe in Dunwoody but doing so would have meant competing with Wright’s. “Honestly, we stayed away from Dunwoody because how popular Wright’s was and out of respect to them,” he said. “They were doing similar to what we were doing.” Melkonian also has two other restaurants, both named Farm to Ladle, located in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market and Avalon in Alpharetta.
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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
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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.
Continued on page 6
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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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6 | Community
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Wins, losses and culture wars in the General Assembly Continued from page 5
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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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Community | 7
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.
Day. This award adds to a list of recent awards for Austin Elementary and its
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
Community Briefs DEP U TY PO L I C E C H I EF RETI RES; REP LA CEM ENT ANNO U NCED
Dunwoody Police Deputy Police Chief David Sides retired April 10 from the department after 10 years in the city and nearly 40 years in law enforcement. Maj. David Barnes has been promoted to deputy chief as Sides’ replacement. Sides was honored with a proclamation thanking him for his service at the April 8 City Council meeting. Chief Billy Grogan also recognized Sides as the first employee he hired in December 2008 to help him oversee the DYANA BAGBY Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan, left, and startup of the new city’s police Mayor Denis Shortal, far right, present Deputy force. The department celebratChief David Sides a proclamation thanking ed its 10th anniversary on April 1. him for his 10 years of service to the city. “I can honestly say that Deputy Chief David Sides made my job easier and more enjoyable these last 10 years. He will be missed,” Grogan said in a written statement. Sides worked at the Marietta Police Department for 29 years before coming to work for the Dunwoody Police Department. “It’s been an honor to serve,” he said at the council meeting. Barnes’ promotion to deputy chief takes effect April 11. Other promotions in the department going into effect April 11 are: Lt. Michael Carlson is promoted to the rank of major and will be responsible for Administrative Service and the Criminal Investigations Division; Sgt. Patrick Krieg is promoted to the rank of lieutenant and will be responsible for the Uniform Patrol Night Shifts; Detective Antho-
Community | 9 ny Stallings is promoted to the rank of sergeant and will transfer to the Uniform Patrol Division.
CITY CO NSID ER S RE S T R I C T ING T IM E FO R FIR EWO R KS
Shooting fireworks in the city of Dunwoody will soon be restricted to fewer hours. The City Council on April 22 gave preliminary approval to restricting the use of fireworks to 10 a.m. and 9 p.m., except on certain state-designated holidays. Final approval is slated for May 6. State law allows fireworks to be used later on Jan. 1, the last Saturday and Sunday in May, July 3-4, the first Monday in September and Dec. 31.
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DeKalb CEO touts Dunwoody unity in ‘State of County’ address
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Mayor Denis Shortal, left, receives a W.W. King Bridge Builder Award from DeKalb County CEO Michasel Thurmond.
Continued from page 1 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 incompe-
tence. The award to Shortal also underscored a bit of political uncertainty 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 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, DUN
Community | 11
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.” Working with local cities was crucial to such efforts as the SPLOST, and Thurmond particularly praised the support from Dunwoody. He said was told “that literally, hell would freeze over before it happened… I wasn’t there, so hell might have frozen over.” While he and Shortal “might be the odd couple in DeKalb County,” Thurmond said, the relationship with the mayor works because “he’s about people and not politics.” “I trust this man…. We’ve got somebody here that can lead us into tomorrow,” Shortal said in return. Thurmond acknowledged some ongoing problems in the county, including long-delayed sewer repairs that are going beyond a consent decree’s deadline; he attempted to downplay the situation as 13 repeatedly sewer-spouting manholes out of 70,000 and that he’s
order an end to that “foolishness.” Crime is another concern, especially murders of young black men. Thurmond says that comes down to better job opportunities. “The pimp and the drug dealer and the gangbanger shouldn’t be the only one recruiting our kids for a job,” he said. The event had ticket prices running $65 and up, and many sponsors that do business with the county, including American Medical Response, which has been embroiled in a Dunwoody-vs.-DeKalb dispute over ambulance response times. However, Thurmond struck a populist tone, saying he was making the county about “the people” and not about himself or lobbyists. He held a second “State of the City,” free and open to the general public, in Decatur. Thurmond gave another Bridge Builder Award to Egbert Perry, CEO of Integral Group, a major developer involved in such projects as Doraville’s massive Assembly mixed-use complex. Among the officials giving introductions were county Commissioner Jeff Rader and Ann Hanlon, executive director of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts and chair of the board at the Council for Quality Growth.
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Mayor Shortal to leave office; most council members say no to mayoral runs
Mayor Denis Shortal announced at the April 11 State of the City event he will not be seeking another term.
BY DYANA BAGBY email@example.com
Mayor Denis Shortal’s announcement that is not seeking reelection and retiring from politics to spend time with his family has not shaken out any new mayoral candidates in a race that will be decided in November. City Councilmember Terry Nall is the only declared candidate for mayor, having announced his intent to run for the seat in February. Most other members of the City Council say they are not running for mayor, Councilmember Lynn Deutsch, who is up for reelection, has not yet decided on a re-
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election or a mayoral campaign. Another possible contender, DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester, says she will not run. A match between Nall and Mayor Denis Shortal was eliminated after Shortal made the surprise announcement during last month’s “State of the City” address that he is retiring after this term so he can spend more time with his family. “On Dec. 31, 2019, Denny Shortal will retire as your mayor,” he said to a crowd of some 300 people at the April 11 event. “It’s one of those things I’ve thought about for a long time,” Shortal added. “If I was younger, all these other things … but everything piles up and I think maybe it’s just time.” Before making announcement, Shortal choked up briefly when thanking his wife of 50 years, Meredy, for her support and her volunteer service to the city. He spoke lovingly of his three grown sons who now live with their families in Florida, Arizona and Illinois. And, he said, he
wanted to be able to travel to visit them and his five grandchildren, ranging in age from college-age to 2 years old. He promised to work hard for Dunwoody until his last day. “I’ve got eight months left and I will give you everything I’ve got,” he said. Commissioner Jester, a Dunwoody resident, has been rumored by some local politicians as a potential mayoral candidate. She said in an interview she has no plans to leave her seat to run for mayor. “I feel like I have more work to do at the county,” she said. As chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, Jester said, she wants to continue to work on progress made in getting DeKalb’s “fiscal house in order.” She said she is also carefully monitoring the county’s federal consent decree requiring rehabilitation and repair of aging sewer infrastructure to reduce sewage spills. “I think it wouldn’t be good for my constituents to Terry Nall
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leave this position in the middle of my term,” she said. “I just can’t abandon my duties.” Besides the mayor’s seat, two council seats are up for election. Councilmember John Heneghan said he is seeking another term on the council and is not running for mayor now. He might consider a run for mayor in the next election, he added. Deutsch said she has not decided if she will seek reelection for her council seat or run for mayor. The other councilmembers — Jim Riticher, Pam Tallmadge and Tom Lambert — all said they are not running for mayor. “Now that Denny [Shortal] has stated he is retiring from politics, and I think he’s done a great job, I’m glad to endorse Terry Nall for mayor,” Riticher said. Tallmadge said she is a proponent of term limits and will only serve two terms on the council, this being her second term, and has no plans for higher office. Lambert said he is happy in his current position. The city election is Nov. 5 with qualifying being held between Aug. 19 and 21. Stacey Harris, a longtime civic activist and current member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, has already announced she is running for Nall’s seat on the City Council. Although Shortal and Nall won’t be facing off in a mayoral race, Shortal appeared to take a jab at the candidate for his seat in his State of the City speech by addressing DeKalb County’s ambulance response times, an issue “that has been batted around here quite a bit,” he said. Last year, Shortal and Thurmond worked behind the scenes to come up with a memorandum of understanding that included adding a third ambulance to the city during peak hours and creating tiered response times for critical and non-critical emergencies. Nall expressed disappointment at the time with the MOU because he and other council members believe the best avenue for Dunwoody is to have its own EMS zone, separate from DeKalb. Shortal has said he no longer supports that position. Nall has made the issue a key plank in his campaign platform. “That’s a binding agreement,” Shortal said of the MOU, pointing to a blowup image of it on a projection screen. “We’ve come a long way in a short time. ... and [CEO] Thurmond and I have a mutual trust. I trust that man.” The two men then hugged before Shortal continued with his speech. In a written statement, Nall said he understands that Shortal “personally trusts” the county CEO. “But the more accountable corollary is ‘trust, but verify,’” Nall said. “Personally, I’m in the ‘verify’ camp already, as that’s where Dunwoody finds itself today with DeKalb County EMS ambulance services. It will require our continued vigilance to ensure responsive public safety in the future for our residents, businesses, and visitors.”
Community | 13
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14 | Community
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Tilly Mill Road sidewalks come with eminent domain dispute BY DYANA BAGBY
citizen with injured legs and diabetes. This is a fraud on the public. And they have defamed me by calling me ‘Crazy Rick.’” The long-awaited sidewalks along busy Tilly Mill Road In a February letter demanding the city pay the more are expected to be installed beginning this summer. But dothan $1 million, in addition to the $50,000 for the easeing so means the city must forcibly take right of way from a ments, Woroniecki states he will sue the city, construction property owner who is refusing to grant easements for the contractors and utility companies project. The Tilly Mill Road sidewalk project has been on the The City Council recently approved using its eminent dobooks for about five years. The half-mile stretch the city main powers to acquire construction easements at 4996 Tilis set to build is a 5-foot-wide sidewalk between the Dunly Mill Road after negotiations broke down with the homewoody Campus of Georgia State University driveway on owner, Rick Woroniecki. Womack Drive to 4998 Tilly Mill Road. The sidewalks will The city offered Woroniecki $50,000 for the easements, connect to existing sidewalks at North Peachtree Road and but Woroniecki says the city owes him and his two neighWomack Drive. bors more than $2 million to fix damages to their driveways “The sidewalks are a longtime goal of residents along Tiland yards they say was caused by construction crews workly Mill. The purpose of the project is to add bicycles lanes ing on city’s intersection improvements at North Peachtree and sidewalks,” Smith said. “The road is being widened to Road and Tilly Mill Road that wrapped up last year. The toallow for bike lanes but will not be wide enough to add tal also includes attorneys’ fees. lanes for more cars.” SPECIAL City officials deny the city caused any damage to the Other property owners along Tilly Mill Road were ofRick Woroniecki is refusing to grant properties and were legally working in the right-of-way. fered between $3,000 and $10,000 for their easements for easements to the city for construction of a “Utility companies relocated some of their facilities besidewalk on Tilly Mill Road. The city is using the sidewalk project. An appraiser estimated the value of tween the property and the street in the right of way,” Pubeminent domain to acquire the property the easements at Woroniecki’s property at $45,100. The city for the project set to start this summer. lic Works Director Michael Smith said. “The city contractor then rounded up to $50,000. installed stormwater infrastructure and paved the road. The “City of Dunwoody staff and attorneys have tried to work homeowner’s claims were referred to the city’s insurance with the property owner to resolve his concerns. In an atprovider. The claims were investigated and denied.” tempt to avoid litigation, the city had the property appraised and offered him more Woroniecki said he was not attacking the city by demanding the money. than the appraised value for the property needed to build a new [Americans With “I just want my property repaired,” he said, calling city officials “professional Disabilities Act]-compliant sidewalk on Tilly Mill Road,” City Manager Eric Linton sharks” and accusing them of having their “heads up developers’ butts.” said in a written statement. “We regret that we weren’t able to come to an agree“If I wasn’t in the middle of this, it would be hilarious,” he said. “I’m a senior ment before pursuing our options through eminent domain.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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Lack of apartments in Perimeter Center project raises questions BY DYANA BAGBY email@example.com
A major development, including a national grocer and restaurants, could soon be under construction in the heart of Perimeter Center. But some local officials wonder why no apartments were included in the proposed project as part of the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vision to transform the high-density district into a â&#x20AC;&#x153;live-workâ&#x20AC;? area. The Dunwoody Planning Commission voted April 9 to recommend approval for Branch Properties to build a shopping center dubbed â&#x20AC;&#x153;Perimeter Marketplaceâ&#x20AC;? on about 10 acres between Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Ashwood Parkway and Meadow Lane Road. P.F. Changâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s restaurant is currently the sole open business on the property. The site also includes a stormwater detention pond. The City
Council is expected to consider the project next month. The site plan of the Branch Properties development. (Special) The shopping center would be anchored by an approximately 25,000 square foot national â&#x20AC;&#x153;prototypeâ&#x20AC;? grocer, according to the developer. A RaceTrac gas station and convenience store would be located at the corner of Ashford-Dunwoody Road and Ashwood Parkway and a drive-through bank on Meadow Lane Road. The shopping center would include five one-story buildings fronting the three roads and suited for restaurant or retail. P.F. Changâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s would be relocated into one of the buildings. The Branch property is located in what is designated as Perimeter Center 2 within the Perimeter Center Overlay District. The Perimeter Center Overlay was
approved by the City Council in 2017 and includes requirements for streetscape improvements and pedestrian and bike accessibility. PC-2 was designated â&#x20AC;&#x153;primarily for employment uses, residential buildings, and limited shopfront retail and services.â&#x20AC;? Mayor Denis Shortal last year attempted to tweak this definition to include the word â&#x20AC;&#x153;limitedâ&#x20AC;? in front of the word â&#x20AC;&#x153;residentialâ&#x20AC;? to try to dissuade such development, but his effort failed. Branch attorney Laurel David was asked by the Planning Commission why this proposed development did not include a residential component as recommended in PC-2. â&#x20AC;&#x153;If there ever was a day the city of Dunwoody would like to approve an apartment complex, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be happy to oblige,â&#x20AC;? she answered.
The city has not approved building apartments since it incorporated a decade ago. City officials estimate there are nearly 9,500 apartments in the city. The number of single-family homes and multi-family homes, which includes apartments, townhomes and condominiums, is approximately 20,000, according to the city, making the single-family versus multi-family mix in Dunwoody is approximately 50-50. Planning Commission Chair Bob Dallas pointed out the City Council in December approved 900 for-sale condominiums as part of the Grubb Properties mixed-use development on 20 acres on Perimeter Center East, also in the Perimeter Center Overlay District. David said it was currently difficult to get financing for condominiums due to the pre-sale requirements.
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16 | Community
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I-285 toll lanes project could affect 300-plus properties BY DYANA BAGBY AND JOHN RUCH firstname.lastname@example.org
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. Brookhaven 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 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 mixeduse redevelopment for the massive toll lane interchange on I-285, according to the site’s developer. GDOT is planning community input meetings about the I-285 top end project in Dunwoody on May 14 from noon to 2 p.m. at St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, 1978 Mount Vernon Road; and on May 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at City Hall, 4800 Ashford-Dunwoody Road. 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.
‘More than they’re telling us’
“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. In Dunwoody, local officials say they also do not know what properties may be affected other than the heaviest impact is expected to be in the Georgetown community. 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 includ-
ing Dunwoody 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 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.
‘The public got totally bypassed’
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: lanes reduce commute times
GDOT officials have pointed to the recent toll lanes opened on I-75 and I-575 as similar to what is planned on Ga. 400 and the top 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. DUN
Community | 17
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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Our mission is to provide our readers with fresh and engaging information about life in their communities. Published by Springs Publishing LLC 6065 Roswell Road, Suite 225 Sandy Springs, GA 30328 Phone: 404-917-2200 • Fax: 404-917-2201 Brookhaven Reporter | Buckhead Reporter Dunwoody Reporter | Sandy Springs Reporter www.ReporterNewspapers.net Atlanta INtown www.AtlantaINtownPaper.com Atlanta Senior Life www.AtlantaSeniorLife.com
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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.
Commentary | 19
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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Read Robin Conte’s debut book ‘The Best of the Nest’ “The Best of the Nest” offers 49 of Reporter Newspapers columnist Robin Conte’s witty essays on suburban family life, organized by seasons. They include some of the pieces that won Robin the first-place Lifestyle/Features Column award in 2017 and 2018 and first-place for Humorous column in 2018 from the Georgia Press Association.
Order the book at bestofthenest.net Follow Robin’s book-related appearances at robinconte.com.
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20 | Commentary
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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
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
Joe Earle is editor-at-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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22 | Education
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Old Austin Elementary School may remain open to relieve overcrowding Continued from page 1
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Schools for $63,100 a month so classes could continue as the new school is being constructed. The lease was expected to end once the new school opened in 2020. But the Dunwoody cluster has been overcrowded for years and students are learning in portable classrooms, or trailers, upsetting parents and residents. DeKalb Schools says extending its lease with the city and keeping the school open for classes on a temporary basis is one possibility to relieve overcrowding and keep students out of trailers. “DeKalb County School District and the city of Dunwoody are currently in discussions in their respective executive sessions, since the matter concerning the current Austin Elementary campus is a real estate matter, and the district cannot comment at this point,” DeKalb Schools said in a written statement. “After the new Austin Elementary campus is opened in Fall 2020 with the new 900-seat increased capacity, the six elementary schools in the Dunwoody cluster (combined) will be more than 500 seats (collectively) over capacity,” according to the statement. “The potential leaseback of the current Austin Elementary campus is one of a few options we are reviewing for the elementary schools’ overcrowding in the Dunwoody cluster.” Dunwoody City Manager Eric Linton would only say in a written statement that “the city of Dunwoody is evaluating all options and working toward the best solution for our community.” Another option DeKalb Schools is looking at to find relief for overcrowding is issuing general obligation bonds to raise revenue to possibly build new
schools. Doing so would require a referendum and a school tax increase. “The superintendent and staff are currently reviewing a few options for a general obligation bond that could go to the voters in November 2019 or March 2020 which may include new schools,” DeKalb Schools said in a written statement. Superintendent Stephen Green mentioned general obligation bonds in March at a community meeting at Dunwoody High School as one way to fund all the repairs and renovations the schools need throughout the school district, but no money amount has been discussed publicly. The idea of keeping the old Austin Elementary open at least temporarily is not playing well with some parents. Some spoke out at the April 22 City Council meeting, urging the council to not extend its lease with DeKalb Schools. They described the building as being dilapidated and unsafe. The school district denies any of its schools are unsafe for students. Having two Austin Elementary Schools could also lower morale among students, according to one parent, who said students at the old school would feel like they were not at the “real” Austin Elementary School. Parents also say the already notorious traffic on Roberts Drive would become worse with two elementary schools so close together. Despina Lamas, a member of the Austin Elementary PTO, said it would be irresponsible for DeKalb Schools to consider using the old Austin Elementary without having a permanent solution to overcrowding in the works. “I don’t want to enable [DeKalb Schools] to fix the problem temporarily;
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Education | 23
MAY 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net I don’t want another Band-Aid,” she said. “We need to come up with a real permanent solution to overcrowding.” DeKalb Board of Education member Stan Jester, whose district includes Dunwoody, said he does not support the city leasing the old Austin back to the school district. He said he supports the school district using modern portable quad classrooms that include restrooms. In the Dunwoody cluster, Lamas said she sees opportunities to expand older facilities or build new, larger schools. Redistricting is also an option, she said. But as parents, it should not be their responsibility to find a solution, she added. “I feel all of us in Dunwoody are being forced to come up with a solution. But we’re not the ones with the resources,” she said. “It’s just frustrating.”
DUNWO O DY EL EM ENTA RY S C HO O L S ’ ENR O L L M ENT A ND C A PA C I TY
City of Dunwoody and DeKalb Schools officials broke ground on the new 900-seat Austin Elementary School on Dec. 15, 2017.
Austin Elementary enrollment 688, capacity 500 Chesnut Elementary enrollment 442, capacity 437 Dunwoody Elementary enrollment 1,173, capacity 925 Hightower Elementary enrollment 739, capacity 475 Kingsley Elementary enrollment 415, capacity 463 Vanderlyn Elementary enrollment 668, capacity 525 Source: DeKalb County School District
NEW CITY REGULATIONS AFFECTING HOMES & BUSINESSES IN SANDY SPRINGS: TRUE VERIFICATION REQUIRED FOR MONITORED ALARM SYSTEMS JUNE 19, 2019 False alarms are a threat to your safety, diverting public safety resources when the alarm is nothing more than a sensor break. More than 99 percent of all calls to the city from alarm monitoring companies are false. To enhance the safety of its citizens, the City of Sandy Springs now requires audio, video or in person verification of an intrusion (burglar) alarm activation prior to the monitoring company calling 9-1-1. The Fire Department will respond to medical, residential, pulled station, sprinkler activation, water flow alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. All other fire alarms will require True Verification. Audio and video, or in person alarm verification moves the industry from simple notification to True Verification. Benefits to the Consumer
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NATURE AND THEATER MERGE AT DUNWOODY’S PLAY-READING SERIES PAGE 26
Spring 2019 | Where brick-and-mortar retail still works
The PCIDs marks 20 years of shaping Perimeter Center
Main photo, the diverging diamond interchange at Ashford-Dunwoody Road and I-285 as it looked shortly after opening in 2012.
Inset, the Hammond Drive interchange with Ga. 400 shortly after it opened in 2011.
BY JOHN RUCH email@example.com
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
CONTINUED ON PAGE 34
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Eat Your Heart Out.
The local couple who brings MomoCon’s world of anime, gaming and more to town
MomoCon operators Jessica Merriman and Chris Stuckey get into the convention spirit.
BY DOUG CARROLL
J U N E 8 -1 5 , 2 01 9
JUNE 8-15 8 T H A N N UA L
Save the date for the most savory week of the year: Dunwoody Restaurant Week! From June 8-15, join us for brunch, lunch, dinner and specialty items, all at set prices. The restaurants will serve their best, all you need to do is secure your spot (and prepare your palate).
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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Art & Entertainment | 27
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
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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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.
Food that Rocks BY JUDITH SCHONBAK
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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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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
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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-
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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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
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 email@example.com
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-
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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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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The following businesses recently opened in Reporter Newspapers communities
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.
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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
MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net
‘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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