MAY - Sandy Springs Reporter

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MAY 2019 • VOL. 13 — NO. 5

MAY 2019

Sandy Springs Reporter

Sandy Sprin gs

Section Two




Perimeter B


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



The PCID of shapings marks 20 years Perimeter C enter


City agrees to extend PATH400 to Johnson Ferry Road P9


| Where brick-a

nd-mortar reta il still BY JOHN RUC


P. 36


johnruch@re porternewsp

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

Homeowners criticize roundabout threatening 1927 building





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.

Some residents fear new burglar alarm rules P4




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Joe Card, the owner of this carriage house at the Mount Paran and Powers Ferry roads intersection is calling for the city to stop a plan to build a roundabout.

City Springs theater group prepares for another season of packed houses


The Sandy Springs Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIPs 30327, 30328, 30342 and 30350 For information:

As the City Springs Theatre Company prepares the final shows of its inaugural season, it’s also prepping for what it expects to be another season of packed shows as it tries to keep up with the enthusiasm and demand from the community. The theater company survived major

leadership changes at City Springs and has succeeded in implementing one of the complex’s key initiatives – educational programming. “I’ve been involved in nonprofit theatre for 33 years now. I have never, ever in my career seen anything like the level of support and desire for musical theater,” Brandt See CITY on page 12

Residents near the intersection of Mount Paran and Powers Ferry roads have rallied against a roundabout expected to be built early next year. They argue the roundabout will mostly help commuters while negatively affecting their properties, including requiring demolition of a nearly century-old building once used as a country store. “We’d like Sandy Springs to make a priority of residential neighborhoods and not make it a bypass for commuters,” said Aaron Gill, a homeowner at the intersection. The start of the project is quickly approaching, with utility relocation expected to begin in the fall and construction by spring 2020. The city is currently working on securing right of way for the roundabout. The $2.5 million project is expected to cost $1.2 million for construction, $800,000 for right of way and $300,000 for design. The city did not respond to a request for comment, but has said the roundabout would improve safety by reducing side-impact crashes and installing pedestrian improvements. It’s also expected to reduce congestion, according to the city. See HOMEOWNERS on page 14


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Community Briefs

An illustration shows the design for the realigned Glenridge Drive and Roswell Road intersection.


A long-planned project to realign the Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive intersection in Sandy Springs is expected to begin in June, according to the city. The plan straightens the sharply curving, Y-shaped intersection and its traffic island. Construction work is expected to last about two years, said Marty Martin, the director of public works. The work will be done by the Georgia Department of Transportation because Roswell Road is a state route. Martin said extensive lane or road closures are not expected, other than some for a “short duration.” The existing northbound, right-turn lane into a nearby commercial property on Roswell Road that is north of the intersection will be eliminated to make


room for two southbound left-turn lanes onto Glenridge. An additional eastbound lane on Glenridge also is planned.


Last year’s bitter race for a Sandy Springs state House seat, which became a courtroom drama of criminal allegations and a libel lawsuit, could see a rematch as Republican Alex Kaufman has filed to challenge incumbent Democrat Josh McLaurin in 2020. But there may be Republican primary competition first in the House District 51 race, as another Republican, Grant McGarry, has filed as well. The district includes Sandy Springs’ panhandle and part of its north end area, along with parts of Roswell and Johns Creek. McLaurin, a Sandy Springs attorney

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and political newcomer, eked out a surprise victory in last year’s election as part of a suburban “blue wave,” winning a seat long held by Wendell Willard, a Republican stalwart who helped found the city and served as its city attorney. Kaufman, a Roswell attorney, lost that race after supporting state party claims that McLaurin did not qualify under residency requirements to run for the seat. The debate descended into campaign mailers describing McLaurin as under investigation for “criminal” activities, and the Democrat responded with a libel lawsuit. Now Kaufman wants a rematch and McLaurin said he welcomed Kaufman’s challenge. McGarry, a Roswell resident and Army veteran who operates a tree care business, said in a press release he was running to advocate for public safety, local business and “responsible” economic growth.


Sandy Springs will host a ribbon-cutting May 10 for the new rain garden at Morgan Falls Overlook Park. The rain garden will serve as a bio-retention area, taking in stormwater runoff from Morgan Falls Road. The garden has native vegetation and specially-designed soils to clean and treat the water, the announcement said. The event will be held at 11 a.m. at Morgan Falls Overlook Park, 200 Morgan Falls Road.


Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul will give the 2019 “State of the City” address on May 14. The speech will be held in City Springs’

Terrace Meeting Room from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event is hosted by the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce. Paul’s address last year discussed the effort to seek improvements to the Atlanta-run water system or sue to seize control of it, along with other city priorities. City Springs is located at 1 Galambos Way. Admission is $40 for Chamber members and $45 for non-members. Registration closes May 12 at noon. For more information, visit the Chamber website at


The developer of a planned 26-story office tower that has been in the works for years as part of Sandy Springs’ Northpark Town Center complex has put out

the call for tenants and says construction could begin this fall. The 450,000-square-foot office building, called Northpark 700, would be the fourth in the development located on Abernathy Road near the Dunwoody border. The building would be located on the northeast side of the complex at the intersection of North Park Place and Mount Vernon Highway. Hines, the development company, hopes to start construction in the fall this year, but wants to lock down a tenant first, said John Heagy, a senior managing director. Hines, which also developed Dunwoody’s Ravinia complex, has already received a land disturbance permit from the city of Sandy Springs and does not need any other approvals, Heagy said. Hines has announced plans to lease Northpark 700 at points over several years, but it has not yet moved forward.

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

What Alarm Customers Need to Do

What Has Not Changed

With True Verification, calls made to 911 are confirmed emergencies = priority response from public safety

Contact your alarm company about measures they are taking to comply with the law

Fewer false alarms = more time for public safety to focus on patrols and other safety initiatives

Understand your options. In addition to alarm monitoring services, there are also self-installed and monitored audio and video systems

If you have an emergency, CALL 911. Public safety will ALWAYS respond to 911 calls from residents and business owners.

Public Safety will ALWAYS respond to panic, holdup, medical and fire alarms.

Fewer false alarm calls to administer = taxpayer dollars saved


4 | Public Safety ■

Some residents fear burglar alarm verification’s privacy, safety impacts BY EVELYN ANDREWS

Some Sandy Springs residents fear a burglar alarm verification requirement taking affect this June will jeopardize their privacy and safety. The city is currently educating residents and finalizing protocols for residents and companies to send the video and audio it will require before responding to a security alarm. “Fundamentally, it jeopardizes the safety of our families and other residents,” said Darryl Laddin, a resident and lawyer opposing the city’s alarm ordinance. “This ordinance is a big step backwards.” The city’s new alarm ordinance shifted fines for repeated false alarms to the security companies who service the alarm systems, rather than residents and business owners who use them. In 2018, the city added a requirement for alarm companies to provide direct confirmation that a burglar alarm call is a real crime – with audio or video devices or in person – before calling 911. That provision takes effect June 19. The city says it gets thousands of alarm calls a year, of which about 99 percent are false, tying up police officers and firefighters and costing enormous sums of money. “We want to reduce the number of false alarms which unnecessarily tie-up public safety personnel and resources, so that our public safety personnel can focus on patrol and activities that are proven to help keep a community safe,” city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said. The city is also working on finalizing the protocols for how companies will send the audio or video that verifies an alarm, which is expected to be an email, Kraun said at the April 2 City Council meeting. “We’re trying to make it as simple as possible,” she said. Mayor Rusty Paul said at the meeting that the ordinance will “bring a higher level of safety to the city.” Laddin said he believes in nearly every case there’s a chance verification won’t work. Some can’t afford the equipment or won’t understand how to operate it, he

said. If a resident is using a self-monitoring system, they may not always be able to get to their phone to verify, such as if the phone is dead or if a criminal has tied them up, he said. If the company is monitoring the system, the cameras or speakers may not cover the entire property and detect the criminal, Laddin said. “This is sending a terrible message to the criminals,” he said. “It is not the right answer to deter crime.” Barbara Brightwell, another resident, said she will no longer feel protected if she does not have a way to verify the alarms, but doesn’t feel comfortable with cameras in her home. She’s looking into other options, like monitoring only the audio or using a private guard service. “It’s an invasion of privacy,” she said. “Why can’t the city just fine me?” In an update at the meeting, Kraun said the city was continuing to work on educating residents and companies about upcoming requirement. Part of that education is one what options they have that may save them costs, she said. Some residents have called the city reporting that companies are quoting them “shocking” prices. People have been quoted $3,000, $1,000 and $850 from different companies to install verification equipment, she said. A self-monitoring system, like the popular Ring or Nest devices, can save money and help with privacy concerns because an alarm company won’t be monitoring the feed, Kraun said. “So there are different ways you can do it to keep it within your budget and also to make you feel comfortable,” she said. The costs can be a burden on some, said Brooke Dickerson, another resident opposing the ordinance. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. Not everyone can afford that,” she said. Dickerson would rather the city raise fines to cover the police’s expense. “We have to come up with a way to help pay for the extra costs, but I just don’t think is it,” she said. While the city does incur a cost responding to the alarms, it’s a fraction of the city’s budget, Laddin said. “I’m hopeful the City Council will see the light and reverse this,” Laddin said.

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MAY 2019

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


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

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

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

Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs)

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

Rep. Josh McLaurin

Kitchen Fronts of Georgia

(D-Sandy Springs)

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

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Sandy Springs)

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

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

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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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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MAY 2019

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.”

Find Your Paradise


8 | Education ■

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.

MAY 2019

Community | 9

Sandy Springs agrees to extend Buckhead’s PATH400 to Johnson Ferry Road BY KATIA MARTINEZ AND EVELYN ANDREWS With a unanimous vote at the April 16 City Council meeting, Sandy Springs residents are one step closer to safely riding their bikes all the way to Krog Street Market. Sandy Springs has long planned to build a path from Buckhead to the city, and this move nails down the funding and construction agreement. A separate, connecting piece will be built by the Georgia Department of Transportation under the I-285/Ga.400 interchange, bringing the path up Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. The council voted to enter into an agreement with the city of Atlanta to design a multiuse path that would extend Buckhead’s PATH400 trail to Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs. The connection to PATH400 will allow Sandy Springs to travel all the way to the Atlanta BeltLine system. And the trail will continue through the Ga.400/I-285 interchange along PeachtreeDunwoody Road. That piece is being built by the Georgia Department of Transportation during its massive project reconstructing the interchange. But the piece in Sandy Springs may have a different name. The name will be decided after the final design is completed, city spokesperson Dan Coffer said in an email. The council authorized a design process, though funding for that phase of the project won’t be officially requested until this summer. The designs will cost approximately $360,000, and Atlanta will pay Sandy Springs 22.2 percent of that, or no more than $81,519, as 22.2 percent of the project will be in Atlanta. The plan to extend PATH400 has long been in the works. Concept design work began in 2018 following initial public meetings in 2017. The new design work will include preliminary plans, environmental studies and surveying. A public open house is expected to be held this summer. The completed designs are expected in 2020, with construction projected to begin by 2021 and finish by 2023. Funding for construction would be split between the municipalities, but according to Sandy Springs Communications Director Sharon Kraun, the exact source of that funding would not be determined until 2021. Allen Johnson, a Sandy Springs program

manager who presented the proposal, said the split will be proportional to how much of the path is in their respective cities. “The construction in each city will be funded by that city,” he said. “We won’t pay for something that isn’t in our city limits unless we agree to reimbursement.” Sandy Springs expects to pay a total of $4.1 million for the entire project. The path would run mostly along Ga. 400, weaving in and out of communities at a few locations. Three sections of the path would cross streets, including two crossings with bridges to isolate the pedestrian traffic and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and another over Nancy Creek. The largest would be a bridge over the Glenridge Connector ramps that would be aesthetically similar to the PATH400 bridge in Buckhead that runs over Ga. 400. The only location to have a mandatory street crossing, at Loridans Drive, will be altered to allow regular pedestrian access. “We’ll have signals, crosswalks, and whatever else is needed to make that crossing, and any other smaller crossing, safe,” Johnson said. Parts of PATH400 have already been built in Buckhead, with plans to extend it to the Sandy Springs area on Loridans Drive. At that site, a new city park is in the planning stages and a preliminary design exists for a crossing to continue the path into Sandy Springs. Councilmembers expressed enthusiasm for the project, as they have since its inception in 2017, and Councilmember Andy Bauman even brought up the possibility of expanding this path further into Sandy Springs upon its completion. “We want our citizens to safely get all the way to Chastain Park [in Buckhead], and I can see this path paving the way for that,” Bauman said. Councilmember John Paulson said he was excited to see the plans, and referenced the city’s original goals as once discussed by founding Mayor Eva Galambos. “This is exactly what our late mayor and those of us who worked to make Sandy Springs envisioned,” Councilman Paulson said. Johnson said the city’s long-term goal for the path to act as a spine for a larger network of trails.

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In Holy Spirit expansion debate, talk of agreement, threats of lawsuits Side-by-side comparisons of Holy Spirit Church and Preparatory School’s expansion proposals, with last year’s original version at left and the current version at right. SPECIAL


A massive, marathon meeting about Holy Spirit Catholic Church and Preparatory School’s controversial campus expansion plan April 24 was filled with tough questions and hopes of compromise — all backed by increasingly tough legal pressure from both sides. Some residents continue to say they might go to court over a 15-year-old legal agreement that could block part of the project, while Holy Spirit revealed that it photographed 170 pro-agreement yard signs with an eye to possibly suing opponents for “defamation.”

Despite such saber-rattling, both sides say there’s room to talk about the proposal – which includes a parking deck, church buildings and relocating the Lower School from its current home elsewhere in Sandy Springs – as it heads toward a May 7 filing deadline for a use permit at the city of Sandy Springs. The plan would expand the current church and Upper School campus at Mount Paran Road and Northside Drive in Buckhead onto an adjacent Sandy Springs site, with a parking deck, church buildings and a new Lower School relocated from Sandy Springs’ Long Island Drive. The school posts updates to the plan on its website here.

But debate among roughly 250 residents in the nearly four-hour meeting, held at the church, showed any new agreement has a big gap to bridge, with often emotional arguments pitting quality of life against quality of schooling. Many of the dozens of comments were personal anecdotes about the school and the neighborhood rather than addressing specifics of the proposal, though new details about disputed tree loss and traffic impacts emerged. “I think it’s only logical and reasonable to have one location” for both campuses, said Jinny Keough, a 30-year church parishioner, who wore a “YES” button and – like many other supporters

– the school color of green. “We just want people to talk, not yell.” Debbie Guerra, CEO of the Northside/ Chastain/Mt. Paran Neighborhood Preservation Association (or NPA), a group formed to negotiate with Holy Spirit, said the plan would “disrupt, on multiple levels, the tranquility of our protected, single-family neighborhood.” While opponents often praised the church and school, none of them acknowledged that the plan had been significantly reduced in response to their concerns from a previous version last fall. And no supporter acknowledged any problems with the plan’s neighborhood impacts or the discarding of the old agreement. One opponent said supporters are clamoring to solve “first-world problems” of inconvenience; one supporter said neighbors are “a bunch of ostriches sticking their heads in the sand.” Several opponents suggested that school attendees are mostly outsiders; several supporters said they moved to Sandy Springs specifically because of Holy Spirit. People who said a religious school should stick to an old promise were dismissed as inflexible and obsessed with paperwork; supporters who said deals should be flexible were said to be setting a bad example for schoolchildren. Opponents’ characterization of the plan as “commercial” or “commercialization” was viewed an insulting by several supporters, who noted the school is a nonprofit that, in part, assists underprivileged students.

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There was even a brief debate over whether tree-cutting violates Pope Francis’s encyclical about protecting the environment. (A science teacher said it’s complicated, but basically OK.) But the biggest debate is about the old agreement, where residents approved the Upper School expansion in exchange for a written promise that the school would never grow further on the site or any adjacent property. Holy Spirit acknowledges that agreement could block the school part of its project, but says it is now invalid due to a legal technicality: the NPA failed to renew its annual registration paperwork with the state. The NPA’s Stephen Phillips says Holy Spirit is wrong and the neighbors are willing to test it in court. “Listen, if we wanted to be in a lawsuit tomorrow, we could do that,” he said after the meeting, adding that the NPA is willing to negotiate further instead. The NPA’s yard signs are touching a legal nerve as well. Dotting scores of local front yards for months, they read “Respect Our Neighborhood” and “Honor the Agreement,” along with the NPA’s website. One resident complained that last month he found the school’s public relations director photographing his yard sign and was told it was evidence-gathering for a possible lawsuit. Head of School Kyle Pietrantonio acknowledged that was true. “At the advice of the board of directors, we were advised to document and photograph 170 or so signs and map the corresponding addresses for a potential suit [alleging] defamation against the institution,” Pietrantonio told the crowd. “At this time, we don’t plan to pursue that.” Pietrantonio said in an interview that the defamation claim was based on the idea that the signs are false because “technically, there is no agreement… We felt like we could prove some institutional reputational damage.” But in a completely reverse move, Pietrantonio arranged for Phillips to make a special, full-length presentation about the agreement and claims of its validity from the podium during the community meeting. “Unbelievable, isn’t it?” Phillips said afterward about Holy Spirit’s defamation lawsuit idea and photo-taking. “We were really shocked and dismayed about it.” Pietrantonio also complained about harassing activity related to the signs. He said that on the night of Palm Sunday – an important Christian observance – someone planted a large number of the signs on the school’s field and on buses parked there. And recently, he said, some students wearing Holy Spirit gear at the Atlanta airport ran into someone who said they “better honor the agreement.”

Traffic pros and cons

Traffic and parking are big drivers of the campus expansion. Holy Spirit says church parking is already a problem and SS

Community | 11 that having separate Lower and Upper Schools generates unnecessary traffic between them. The parking deck would be project number one. In combination with a new driveway on Mount Paran, a vehicle queue within the new deck, new turns lanes and traffic officers, Holy Spirit says overall traffic would be lower and flow better. Some top neighborhood leaders aren’t convinced. Sally Riker, president of the Mt. Paran-Northside Citizens Association, estimated the plan would add 200 vehicles to the campus total and do so in 30-minute crunch times in the morning and afternoon. She said the plan needs more mitigations, such as longer turn lanes. Ronda Smith, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, said it is likely the current Lower School would be sold to a different school that would generate its own traffic in the area. Likening it to the game of musical chairs, she said, “It will be musical schools in this region.”

Tree loss

Holy Spirit’s plan is aimed at a 13-acre, largely wooded site. That has led to concerns about tree loss and related effects, such as stormwater runoff and flooding. Holy Spirit’s arborist said the site has over 700 trees, of which roughly 92% are healthy. It remains unknown exactly how many would be removed, but it appears to be a large number, as consultants said the steeply sloped property would have to be heavily flattened for construction. Under state and local laws, an area around a stream on the property cannot be developed, so the trees there would remain, and Holy Spirit says that alone could meet the city’s requirement for 40% tree canopy coverage. Large new trees would be planted, and some other notable trees could be saved. Resident Rand Knight, a trained forester who ran for U.S. Senate a decade ago, said that “not all canopy cover is created equal” and that simply mapping trees and replacing them with “planted ornamentals” doesn’t address “habitat destruction” and full ecological impacts. A side discussion alleging another form of broken agreement involved the 2003 sale of the property to Holy Spirit by the late Ben Sims. Some residents said his family members and obituary indicate he essentially gave the land to the church on the condition that the woodland be preserved. “I don’t care about his obituary,” replied Msg. Edward Dillon, the church’s pastor, who said he brokered the sale and that the price was about $170,000 an acre. Dillon said that Sims was, for lack of a better word, a “tree-hugger” who figured “if he sold to the parish, as long as I was around, we would preserve a lot of that” — particularly as opposed to it becoming another suburban subdivision, which is has not.

The disputed agreement

Behind the wiliness to negotiate is the legal leverage both sides see in the disputed 2003 agreement. On the NPA’s side, the agreement explicitly bars the school expansion. On Holy Spirit’s side is the claim that the agreement has lapsed – and in case was a deal with the school, not with the church, which could proceed with the parking deck on its own. In his presentation, Phillips gave a history of how the agreement came from previous legal hardball. In January 1998, he said, the school – then called the Donnellan School – sought to come to the site with an expanded building and parking deck. After months of talks with residents, the school withdrew and filed with the city. More than 800 opponents gathered at a meeting and connected with Atlanta officials, who ultimately rejected the plan. The school then attempted to use a permit from a previous school who facility it had purchased; the city also rejected that. Only then did the school return to neighbors and seek the agreement signed in 2003 – five years later. The new move to declare the agreement invalid on a technicality is “morally reprehensible,” said Stanley Birch, a local resident who is also a retired federal appeals court judge. “And here we stand in a church, and we’re talking about, ‘The


agreement doesn’t matter because our reason is good.’” Birch said that going to court could delay the project for years and cost a lot of money. Referring to Holy Spirit’s attorney, Carl Westmoreland, Birch said, “Now, Carl’s a very good lawyer, and if he’s having to fish this hard for a reason not to enforce the agreement, then the church isn’t in that good a spot.” However, a resident who is also an attorney spoke in support of the project and said that the agreement’s permanent ban on school expansion wouldn’t stand up in court anyway, under legal principles barring eternal deals. Meanwhile, Westmoreland had another legal pressure point to poke. He said to get an “independent opinion,” he asked a title insurance company to review the agreement and see whether it would insure the project; the company reportedly said the agreement wouldn’t stop it. But Westmoreland said he is also pronegotiation, noting that some people didn’t want any change and some people were more open. “I’d like to think the solution is somewhere in the middle,” he said after the meeting. Phillips had a similar approach. “They’re passionate, some might say arrogant,” he said of Holy Spirit, but the NPA is willing to talk with them further.

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12 | Art & Entertainment ■

City Springs Theatre Company prepares for another season of packed houses

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Sandy Springs Theatre Company Executive and Artistic Director Brandt Blocker in the nonprofit’s offices during a tour in April.

Continued from page 1 Blocker, a veteran in community theater who serves as the nonprofit’s executive and artistic director. The nonprofit community theater group launched shows last fall when City Springs and its 1,070-seat Byers Theatre within the Performing Arts Center opened. The company is a separate organization from the civic center, which is also home to the Sandy Springs City Hall and hosts performances and events from many other groups. “Nonprofit theater certainly has challenges, but what I haven’t seen in this community yet -- and hope to never get there -is struggles,” Blocker said. “Challenges are understandable, but struggles are far too difficult and painful.” Some of the challenges have included a lack of rehearsal space, trouble with the initial operator of City Springs and meeting the “unbelievable” demand for tickets from the community, Blocker said. The first two challenges have been solved, and the company is working on ways to meet the challenge of almost being too successful, he said. But it hasn’t had any struggles with a lack of resources or support, he said. The company’s inaugural season brought “42nd Street,’ “Elf: The Musical” and “South Pacific” to City Springs’ opening year and holiday season. That season has not wrapped up and will finish with “Billy Elliot: The Musical” in May and “Hairspray” in July. Many shows are sold out and are playing to an audience at 97 percent capacity, he said. “That is also unheard of, especially in a 1,000 seat theatre,” Blocker said. The second season will bring a musical version of the book series and classic Dis-

ney film “Mary Poppins”; Irving Berlin’s “Holiday Inn”; the Tony award-winning “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”; a musical comedy based on the 1992 film “Sister Act”; and “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” a comedy based on the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The announcement of the second season has been low key -- so low key that many may have not heard the shows and schedule have been set. That approach has been intentional, Blocker said, to ensure it doesn’t create demand it can’t fulfill Because of the success ticket sales and attendance have seen, the nonprofit has barely touched the marketing budget and rarely does advertisements, he said. Filling demand has also meant adding extra shows. The current schedule has a show on Friday, two on Saturday and a Sunday matinee for two weekends. The company has needed to add performances for several shows because of demand and is considering adding shows on Wednesday and Thursday, he said. When the first season’s tickets went on sale, the nonprofit received over 300 calls in five minutes. Finding themselves unprepared for such a large response, it took several days to return all the calls, Blocker said. But in the end, the company earned over 4,000 subscribers, or season ticket holders, for its inaugural season. “We had no idea about the passion and magnitude of what they wanted,” he said. The company was formed in 2017 to bring Broadway-style shows to the Byers Theatre. It’s not technically an in-house theater company, but operates as an affiliate of the Performing Arts Center. The formation of the theater company initially started as an idea to lure the popular Atlanta Lyric Theatre to move from Marietta to City Springs. It morphed into SS

MAY 2019


Art & Entertainment | 13

creating a new company, and Blocker, Lyric’s former managing artistic director, was picked to lead it. When he left Lyric, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary next year, it had about 3,000 subscribers. “To think in our first year, we are over 4,000 subscribers…I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “That really shows again that this is a very special community.” A new venue can spur extra excitement, but Blocker said the strong ticket sales are continuing into the next season. Over 3,200 subscribers have renewed so far, he said. “I think that really speaks to this community that has taken this idea and really given us an opportunity to create something really special here,” he said. One big challenge the company had early on was a lack of space to rehearse, but a donation helped it secure a large space in an office complex on the city’s north end. It moved into the space in January. The space holds the offices, a dance studio, workshop, rehearsal halls and private rehearsal rooms and was funded by donation from Ken Byers, whose gift also secured the naming rights to the Byers Theatre in City Springs. The personal piano of Eva Galambos, the city’s founding mayor, is in one of the private rehearsal rooms. Another challenge was the operator of City Springs, Blocker said. The city contracted with Comcast’s Spectra company to run the theater and manage bookings. But Spectra was an arena-based group that did not understand community theater, he said. “I just think it wasn’t the right fit. It was unfortunate it didn’t work out, but I think it was a very wise decision to part ways,” Blocker said. The theater company coordinates with the city on booking its shows in City Springs, but operates independently, shaping the season and running auditions for the shows. While the first two seasons have been completely musical theater, it may not always be that way. Surveys found what the community most wanted from the company was musicals, so that it the focus for now, Blocker said, but the staff tries to “build a season for everyone.”

If that fails, the company will try to produce shows so well “you’ll want to see it anyway,” he said. Another one of the nonprofit’s responsibilities is running the educational programs, a vital piece of City Springs set as a priority by Mayor Rusty Paul and the city. Blocker said that has “kicked off quite well.” Programs include discounted matinees available to students for shows that are playing in the Performing Arts Center. “Master classes” are also being offered, including a class observation and discussion about shows. Another allows students to

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go behind the scenes on the show to learn about the set design, construction, lighting and sound design and stage management. “That’s really a crucial component to the success of the theater company,” he said. And the educational programs are planned to grow next season, according to a presentation given by Natalie DeLancey, the theater company’s managing director, at the April 16 City Council meeting. Participation in this season’s programs is projected to reach 5,500 students. The goal for next season is 14,480.

Right, set pieces are put together in this workshop at the nonprofit’s rehearsal and office space. Left, Sandy Springs FoundingMayor Eva Galambos’ piano is tuned in a rehearsal room.

While the nonprofit theater company is funded through ticket sales and donations, the educational programs are funded by the Sandy Springs Art Foundation, a nonprofit originally formed by the city that is now a private organization.




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14 | Community ■

Homeowners criticize roundabout plan that could demolish 1927 building Continued from page 1

The proposal to build a roundabout at that intersection, which is currently a four-way stop, has been in the works for years. But some residents said they are new and have only recently heard about it, including one saying he learned of it only when he spotted a surveyor measuring in his front yard. The roundabout would take property from the property owners surrounding the intersection, including a nearly century-old building that was once used a neighborhood country store and gas station. The building, which is now used as a carriage house and garage, has been there since 1927, the owner Joe Card said. The right of way needed for the roundabout cuts through the building and would need to be demolished, Card said. It’s not on any official historic registries, but it does have interesting history, Card said. It is a small, white building on the edge of the property that also has a large single-family house. It’s topped with a cupola and weathervane. The building has been recently renovated, but it is still built out of bricks dating to the early 1900s, he said. From 1930 to 1956, it was used by various companies as a gas station and store, with pumps located where the street is


Left, an illustration from the city shows the overhead view of the planned roundabout at the Mount Paran and Powers Ferry roads intersection. Right, a city illustration shows the conceptual design for the roundabout at the Mount Paran and Powers Ferry roads intersection.

now, said Card, who has tracked down the old deeds and site plans. At one point, it was known as Tucker Store. Run by “Old Man Tucker,” it was a neighborhood staple similar to the remaining Mt. Paran Country Store, Card said. The building still is seen as a small cultural landmark by the neighborhood. The gas station was owned by the Gulf Oil Corporation until 1973 when it was sold to the Mt. Paran Area Civic Association and a few years later to a developer. A restriction prohibiting using the prop-

erty as a commercial business was added to the site at that time, according to documents provided by Card. Not only does the building give the property character, he said, but it serves as Card’s office for his two jobs – a builder and a nuclear energy trader. The building also provides a buffer from the busy intersection’s noise and appearance, he said. “If they take that down I just don’t know what I’m going to be left with,” he said.

Curb Appeal Achieved

He said the city has been responsive to all of his concerns, and he believes that they can come to a compromise. But he’s still hoping that there is a way for the plan to change. The neighbors have rallied together to try to convince the city to change the plan to a traffic signal or stop it and appeared together at the City Council to speak against it during public comment. “We thought there maybe is a chance to slow this thing down,” Card said. “I just think the bad outweighs the good.”



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David Steinfeld, who owns a house near the intersection, said at the City Council meeting that he only found out when he saw survey flags posted in his yard. He said he believes the city should be pushing commuter traffic off of local roads onto other routes, not encouraging them to use their neighborhood streets. He also thinks the illustration the city has circulated is not “aesthetically pleasing,� with a large red circle and lack of landscaping. “I don’t think it’s something we need to have and disrupt the whole neighborhood, so I would ask you to shelve the project,� Steinfeld said. Gill, another homeowner, said he is concerned the roundabout couldn’t handle carpool traffic to the nearby Schenck School. The neighbors haven’t been able to


Joe Card, the owner of a 1920s building he uses as a carriage house, talks about the property’s history.

find traffic studies that show how it will work, which is “why a lot of us are getting concerned with how it is proceeding,� Gill said.

“It’s a very complicated intersection,� he said. “We just don’t understand how it will work.� Monisha Longacre, who lives on Mount Paran Road, said she drives through the intersection multiple times a day and only has issues with congestion during rush hour. “More often than not it is fine,� she said. “The roundabout won’t alleviate it, just move the congestion

down the road.� Although a roundabout would not completely solve traffic congestion, Dr.

Michael Rodgers, a roundabout expert and professor at Georgia Tech, said they generally bring big safety improvements. A roundabout can “significantly improve� safety by reducing the number of places cars cross each other’s paths, he said. And a traffic signal wouldn’t solve all of the residents’ concerns, Rodgers said, because installing signals often are more impactful than people think. “People think adding a traffic signal is just dropping one in, but there’s a lot more to it,� he said. Although roundabouts are becoming more common, many in the U.S. and Georgia are still unfamiliar with them, he said. But Departments of Transportation across the country are looking at the safety improvement numbers and increasingly implementing them, Rodgers said.





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City and housing nonprofit settle discrimination lawsuit BY EVELYN ANDREWS

Sandy Springs has settled with a housing nonprofit that filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the city. The founder of the nonprofit said the agreement won’t change its operations. “It will be business as usual,” said Lucy Hall, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Mary Hall Freedom House. The city had cited the nonprofit several times over more than a year, alleging it was operating a drug treatment facility out of condos it purchased in 2017, which would violate zoning rules. MHFH filed a lawsuit in late 2018 claiming the city was trying to push out minorities and disabled people. The city’s citations and MHFH’s lawsuit have been dropped as part of the settlement, which requires the nonprofit get its offices rezoned and not provide any services out of the condos, according to a city-issued statement. “I am proud that we were able to bring this matter to a resolution,” City Attorney Dan Lee said in the statement. “The city’s goal in taking legal action was compliance with the zoning law, which safeguards not only the character of the neighborhood, but the residents who live there, including women enrolled in rehabilitation programming conducted by Mary Hall Freedom House.” Hall said she was glad to end the legal battles and that she is “satisfied” with the agreement. “The bottom line is, I’m just tired. I’m emotionally drained from negotiating with the city that could have just sat down with me from the start,” she said. City officials, who hope to inspire redevelopment of the area, say they received complaints from residents of MHFH and of the remaining tenant-owned condos at the Reserve of Dunwoody at 9400 Roberts Drive about the services being provided out of the condos. Those “social services” were in conflict with the city’s zoning ordinances, the statement said. Hall maintains that MHFH only allowed its clients to live in the condos, which are located on the city’s north end, and did not provide any services there. The city wants MHFH to provide services out of its offices at 8595 Roswell Road and not the condos, which the nonprofit has agreed to do, the statement said. The nonprofit also will apply to rezone with the offices Roswell Road to be classified under a zoning district that permits drug treatment, according to the statement. Additionally, none of the MHFH residents had a lease that would allow them rights of occupancy because tenancy was directly connected to the treatment they were receiving, according to the statement. MHFH will now provide leases of at least six months to tenants, the statement said. The MHFH board has issued a resolution adopting and agreeing to the settlement, stating its intent to comply with the terms, the statement said. The nonprofit’s strategies to fight the city’s legal challenges have included enlisting a public relations firm that brought in former Atlanta Mayor, U.S. Representative and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young. It also launched a website, which appears to have been deactivated, directly targeting Mayor Rusty Paul called “”

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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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18 | Commentary

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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.

MAY 2019

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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20 | Commentary ■

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

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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

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 “,” 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 | Community ■

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Residents question why toll lanes are preferred over rail expansion





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The question of why building toll lanes was chosen over expanding rail transit is rising to the top of residents’ concerns with the Georgia Department of Transportation’s plan to construct the lanes on Ga. 400 and I-285. GDOT set meetings to discuss generalities about the I-285 piece of the project as more impacts become known, including that it could affect more than 300 properties along the top end, including Doraville’s Assembly development. The topic has become a focal point for the community. The Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods dedicated its annual meeting to the subject, inviting state Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) to lead a conversation about the lanes. Residents at the meeting continued to push back against flyover lanes atop Northridge Road, the lack of rail expansion and the massive amount of property impacts expected. Silcox, who has become one of the most outspoken officials on the toll lanes, said at the April 22 meeting that she’ll “fight” for mitigations like parks in areas where properties have been taken, sound barriers and for GDOT to change the plans to be less impactful, such as putting the lanes underneath the Northridge Road overpass instead of over top. “Like you, I am very upset and concerned about this projects,” she said. “It is not too late for every single one of us to have input into these projects.” The toll lanes projects are expected to start with Ga. 400, which would add two new barrier-separated express lanes in both directions alongside regular travel lanes in a project estimated to cost $1.2 billion and begin construction in 2021. The I-285 Top End Express Lanes project, estimated to cost close to $5 billion, would add similar lanes and is expected to begin in 2023. GDOT will host seven meetings about the I-285 lanes in six cities across the top end, including Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. The meetings will not include detailed drawings or maps and will instead be meant for the public to provide input on the project and to fulfill a technical requirement, the agency said in a release. Meetings with that specific information will come in early 2020. Sandy Springs’ meeting will be held May 22 from noon to 2 p.m. at Hilton Atlanta Perimeter Suites, 6120 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. Plans to implement bus rapid transit on both toll lane projects are in the works. On Ga. 400, MARTA is an official partner and stations are shown on the conceptual designs. On I-285, planning and funding has been left to the affected cities, who have commissioned studies that show it could be feasible. BRT is being pursued as a more affordable option than heavy rail, which has been ruled out as too expensive. Some questioned why the state is making an investment in this project instead of expanding the existing MARTA lines. “We’ve got a state of the art transit system right out there and it’s dead-ended,” a resident said, referencing the North Springs MARTA Station, the north terminus of the transit system. Expanding MARTA is “the answer,” and a lot of progress could be made at the price of the toll lanes, he said. Silcox, the new chair of the General Assembly committee that supervises MARTA’s budget, MARTOC, said it is mostly due to cost. Transit cannot be funded by GDOT, but Silcox said she is looking into ways to permanently fund MARTA. She also expects the new umbrella agency The ATL to help streamline the process to create new options. Around 40 properties, many of which are houses, would need to be demolished in Sandy

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Springs in one section of Ga. 400. The part of the highway south of the North Springs MARTA Station was recently shifted into the I-285 project and is on a later timeline. Property impacts for that project have not yet been officially revealed, but Brookhaven officials recently said they’ve been told by GDOT 300 properties are expected to be affected. GDOT 18 months ago took 5 acres of Doraville’s gigantic Assembly mixed-use redevelopment for a massive toll lane interchange on I-285, according to the site’s developer. Amid intense controversy over land-takings for the new toll lanes, GDOT has presented the project to the general public as still highly conceptual and too vague to show any detailed plans. Part of the controversy is that, despite those GDOT statements, there have been repeated revelations of early property purchases based on detailed designs shown to governments, property owners and special interest groups, with the Assembly taking and Doraville interchange the latest case. A resident of Spalding Woods, a neighborhood along Ga. 400, said her home is not being taken for this project, but she is near others that area. “This is just breaking my heart,” she said. “People have lived there since 1985, and they have their home paid off, and no matter what the DOT gives them, it’s not even enough to get back in the neighborhood.” Following someone’s comment that the Transform 285/400 project is expected to save each person one minute in travel time each direction, another resident asked if the toll lanes are expected to bring a similar benefit. Transform 285/400 is GDOT’s massive project to rebuild the Ga. 400 and I-285 interchange. “I’m just trying to figure out what the problem actually is. Are people going to sit on Ga. 400 for six hours? Three hours? Or is going to be one minute longer than they are right now?” he said. “I’m just wondering if you can be very explicit about what problem you’re actually solving so that we can understand why you want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars putting concrete in the air so people who live in Alpharetta can get downtown one minute quicker.” Matthews did not cite specific travel times, but said GDOT’s indicate rush hour will get worse and people may increasingly turn to city roads and clog local traffic. “Basically, the model is showing we’re going to have a breakdown in traffic,” he said. “If we don’t do anything, it’s just going to get worse.” Residents of the Northridge Road area, where GDOT has planned flyover lanes atop the overpass, continued their call for the agency to rethink that plan. GDOT has said the flyover lanes are needed due to space constraints and complications such as a Fulton County water line that would need to be relocated. Northridge is where the lanes transition from being on the outside of the regular lanes to the center. Because the bridge is not wide enough to fit the lanes underneath it, the lanes have to go over the top. But residents think the impact they’ll see is worth rebuilding the bridge to fit the lanes underneath. “We’re paying for that project through our life savings being wiped out or diminished by a project that’s going to put this ugly, urban expressway in the middle of a residential community when we know…it can go under the bridge,” one resident said. Matthews said he has been speaking with the city of Sandy Springs and Councilmember John Paulson, who has also been pushing for that to be changed. Matthews has instructed GDOT staff to take a look at the area to see if something else could be feasible. Another change could be moving a planned I-285 toll lanes interchange from Mount Vernon Highway to Crestline Parkway, an L-shaped road that connects Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and Mount Vernon Highway to the east of Ga. 400. Residents of Crestline have pushed back on that idea since it would require eight townhome units to be demolished and would construct lanes next to the remaining residences. GDOT also requires that the city of Sandy Springs pay for the difference between the two options, a cost of $23 million. “It’s a beautiful, small street now,” said a resident at a March 26 meeting with GDOT. “This would ruin it.” Brian Eufinger, a board member for the Aberdeen Forest Homeowners’ Association, said that neighborhood is pushing for the Crestline option to be chosen. “It’s unfortunate” eight houses would be demolished to use Crestline, Eufinger said. “But there’s costs to everybody. There’s no win here.” — John Ruch and Dyana Bagby contributed LEGAL ADVERTISEMENT

The City of Sandy Springs Department of Natural Resource Protection, hereby gives notice of the City’s intent to revise the flood hazard information, generally located in Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, and Brookhaven within DeKalb and Fulton counties. Specifically, the flood hazard information shall be revised along Perimeter Creek from Lake Hearn Drive to a point approximately 400 feet upstream of Hammond Drive.


Community | 23

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Notice of Public Hearings for Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) Related Documents The City has finalized its 2019 Annual Action Plan and 2019 Citizen Participation Plan Amendment for adoption by Mayor and City Council on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 and submission of the 2019 Annual Action Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 2019 Action Plan Draft: The Annual Action Plan describes how the City intends to use its 2019 CDBG allocation to achieve the broad goals described in the City’s 2018-2022 Consolidated Plan. The City of Sandy Springs anticipates receiving approximately $550,000 in CDBG funds in the 2019 Fiscal Year. Staff will determine the amount of Section 108 loan funds to be used in 2019 by the end of the summer. These funds will be used for the design and construction of sidewalks in the identified LMI (low/moderate income) target areas, as part of Phase III of the Multi-Year Sidewalk Improvement Program, on Roswell Rd from Long Island Drive to the Prado and from Lake Placid Drive to Northwood Drive. 2019 Citizen Participation Plan Amendment Draft: This amendment seeks to update the newspaper advertisement requirements for consistency with the City’s recently approved resolution (2019-01-08) designating the Sandy Springs Neighbor as the sole official newspaper for public notices. The Citizen Participation Plan will continue publishing public notices in Spanish in the Mundo Hispanico newspaper to serve the Spanish-speaking residents of the City. Additionally, the amendment seeks to add the Community Assistance Center (CAC) as a new required location for availability of hard copies of all CDBG related documents for public review.

As a result of the revision, the floodway shall widen, narrow and shift, the 1% annual chance water-surface elevations shall increase and decrease, and the 1% annual chance floodplain shall widen and narrow.

To meet the requirements of Consolidated Submissions for Community Planning and Development Programs, the City of Sandy Springs will hold a public hearing for the adoption of the 2019 Annual Action and Plan and 2019 Citizen Participation Plan Amendment on the May 7, 2019, Mayor and City Council public hearing. All meetings start at 6:00 p.m., are open to the public and held at the Sandy Springs City Hall, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs, GA, 30328.

Maps and detailed analysis of the revision can be reviewed at the City of Sandy Springs located at 7840 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, GA 30350. Interested persons may call Gilbert Quinones at (770) 730-5600 for additional information from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM Monday-Friday. Gilbert may also be reached by email:

Citizens in need of translation services or materials in alternative formats should call 770-730-5600 seven calendar days prior to the regularly scheduled meeting. Those interested in reviewing the plan will find it located on the CDBG webpage, which is accessed through the Community Development Department webpage:

MAY 2019


| 24

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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.


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


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26 | Art & Entertainment ■

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.


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

weekend but keeps Merriman and Stuckey — now married — busy all year. It’s a circled-in-red extravaganza of cosplayers, gamers and comics fans that just keeps getting bigger and more sophisticated. There’s even a half-day career fair for those hoping to do what Merriman and Stuckey did and turn avocation into vocation. MomoCon — “momo” is Japanese for peach — made the jump from the Tech campus to the massive convention complex in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. For more information about MomoCon 2019, see “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 ■ 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.


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. Our team of experienced physicians provides comprehensive gynecologic services, in a compassionate environment, throughout every stage of a woman’s life.

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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28 | Art & Entertainment ■

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

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







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 ■ 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 and reality in 2014. It was an idea For playwrights, visit that had been percolating in and 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.


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.”


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

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

Q: As a playwright, what inspires your work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 | |Art 30 Food & Entertainment & Drink ■ Continued from page 29


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 ■

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 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 ■




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

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: or 770-396-1726.



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:


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:


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:


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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:


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:


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


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:


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:


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 ■ neighborhood restaurants. Dunwoody Village Parkway, Dunwoody. Free. Info:


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: Outdoor Fun


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:


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:


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:



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:


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



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34 | Perimeter Business ■

Perimeter Business Focusing on business in the Reporter Newspapers communities

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

Pioneering Projects

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

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

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

Perimeter Business | 35

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

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

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

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

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

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Buckhead’s Onward Reserve shows how brick-and-mortar retail still works BY JOHN RUCH

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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MAY, 2019 ■ 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

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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

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

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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

Cinco Mexican Cantina – Perimeter, 4400 Ashford Dunwoody Rd., Dunwoody. Info: Crescent Neurology and Sleep, 8010 Roswell Road, Suite 140, Sandy Springs. Info: Esthetique by Elaine Sterling, 5840 Roswell Road, Suite 900, Sandy Springs. Info: il Giallo Osteria & Bar opened a new Catering Division, 5920 Roswell Road, Suite B-118 Sandy Springs. Info: Pathways Autism Center, 6849 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Building A-1, Sandy Springs. Info: 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: Smile Doctors by Awbrey Orthodontics, 5501 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd., Dunwoody. Info:

Perimeter Business | 39

MAY, 2019 ■

‘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

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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