06-22-18 Buckhead Reporter

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JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018 • VOL. 12— NO. 13


Buckhead Reporter



► Residents sue over Bobby Jones Golf Course construction PAGE 10 ► Bestselling author Emily Giffin talks about Atlanta, writing and more PAGE 16

Buckhead resident joins ADA suit against city of Atlanta

Remembering Juneteenth

BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

A Buckhead resident is among plaintiffs suing the city of Atlanta over its alleged lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit alleges that the city has failed to repair sidewalks and fulfill its 2009 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. James Curtis, a patient at the Shepherd Center who uses a wheelchair, says he joined the suit after frustration that the city See BUCKHEAD on page 22


Atlanta History Center staff members Jasmine Page, left, and Andrew Blair portray a newly freed slave and a Civil War Union solider in the short play “Freedom: Jubilee and Uncertainty,” part of the center’s Juneteenth celebration on June 16. The play was one of many events the center hosted to mark the 1865 emancipation of slaves in Texas and the end of slavery in the United States.



We want to be loved, we want to be understood, we want to be happy, we want our needs to be met, but in the dearth of any of those things, tender mercies can see us through. Page 20

See ROBIN’S NEST, page 15

Jon Ossoff helps to spotlight soccer corruption

Residents want history highlighted in new park on PATH400 BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

Page 4 6

Residents hope to see history highlighted in the development of a new park in North Buckhead near Ga. 400. Plans include hiring an archaeologist to determine who and how many people are buried in a historic cemetery on the site that dates to 1852. Officials said they need a study of the cemetery, one of the oldest in the city, to be done before doing more specific planning

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In Fulton property tax self-help meeting, officials say: ‘Appeal!’


and by visiting our website


as another public advocate. He’s a former challenger to county Tax Commissioner Arthur Ferdinand, long controversial as the state’s highest-paid elected official due to a law allowing him to collect a fee on tax lien situations. “Let me tell you something right now — I hate property taxes,” said R.J. Morris, who went on to criticize the Board of Equalization. “Let’s just say I call the BOE the B-OZ-O.” He said anyone with tax assessment problems can email him at fultontaxassessor@yahoo.com. There were plenty of complaints to field. Polled by Beskin via a show of hands, the majority of attendees had assessments increase over 40 percent and many more than 60 percent; about a dozen had increases of 100 percent or more. The vast majority of attendees had lived in their homes at least 15 years. Cleo Meyer, a resident of Buckhead’s 26th Street, said she bought her house last November for $865,000, but assessors valued it at $1.12 million. An assessed value above the purchase price in the same year was once barred by law; advice at the meeting conflicted as to whether it still is. Either way, Meyer said, “It’s stressful” and unexplained.


Located on Peachtree Road adjacent to Oglethorpe University

tion educational task force established by county Commission Chairman Robb Pitts. Former Buckhead-area City Councilmember Yolanda Adrean spoke about how she knocked $500,000 off her estimated assessment by challenging a “quality” section. She blasted the confusing forms and process. “You shouldn’t have to hire an attorney to figure out these exemptions,” Adrean said. “The process has run amok… Taxes have to be fair. They have to be equitable. They have to be transparent.” Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts spent the meeting listening. “We’re working on a lot of what came up,” he said after the meeting, though the commission controls very little about the state-dictated property tax system. He cited clearer materials and better training of Board of Equalization members. Pitts, a Buckhead resident, also said he’s pleased with the 32 to 35 percent increase in his home’s estimated value. A main source of assessment information is the county website at fultonassessor.org. Paynich also offers a how-to-appeal site with some free property sale information at propertytaxtoohigh.com. R.J. Morris, a member of the county Board of Assessors, presented himself

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Cleo Meyer stands and speaks from the crowd about her new home receiving an assessed value higher than the sales price.

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Many Fulton County homeowners are finally dealing with major property tax assessment increases after last year’s outrage-induced freeze. State Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta) drew about 250 of them – the vast majority complaining of assessment boosts of 40 percent or higher — to a kind of self-help meeting in Buckhead June 7 where the main message from officials was: “Appeal!” The deadline for those valuation appeals is July 6, and any appeal taken to the Board of Equalization will get an automatic three-year value freeze, no matter what, speakers said at the meeting held at the Atlanta International School. That advice was as simple as the tax appraisal and assessment system is complicated. Fulton’s property tax system has long been a target of complaints, but the latest round of public outrage came with sharply increased appraisals after years of not keeping up with market values. Some of the concern is simply about saving a buck, but displacement is a real concern for some homeowners, especially seniors. “We’re not denying our values are going up… This is the time of year where you talk about how terrible your house is and you don’t make any money,” said Beskin. But she said people may be “taxed out” of their homes, or at least forced to cash in savings or take on renters. Complaints about the system flowed freely, including from Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore, who just joined a lawsuit over her assessment. She and other officials offered tips on lowering the assessments and delivered calming advice on the near certainty of county and Atlanta government millage rate rollbacks, but anxiety lingered over the details and a possible Atlanta Public Schools rate increase. Beskin and state Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) sponsored legislation that could provide even more exemptions – a 2.6 percent cap on Atlanta tax homestead increases and a short-term exemption of the first $50,000 of value from school taxes — but not un-

til 2019 and only if voters approve the laws this November. Lee Morris, a Fulton County commissioner representing Buckhead and Sandy Springs, said he’s one of the residents who could theoretically get taxed out. He expects that millage rate rollbacks will cut his “astounding” 82 percent assessment increase, which rose from roughly $11,000 to $20,000. But if it didn’t, he said, he and his wife would be moving to lower-taxed Cobb County. Moore said that property tax messes are just part of Atlanta’s housing affordability problem. “If we’re running our homeowners, running our commissioners, out of the city,” the system has failed for them and for renters ultimately affected, too, she said. “The chickens have come home to roost and unfortunately we can’t afford all the chickens that have come home,” Moore said of the assessments. Morris and Moore said their governments likely will roll back tax rates to be revenue-neutral or better, as they’ve done historically. But Nancy Meister, a Buckhead representative on the Atlanta Board of Education, couldn’t say the same about APS. Beskin suggested it is poised to boost its budget by at least 10 percent and not roll back taxes to be revenue-neutral. However, Beskin says APS won’t change its longtime 21.74 millage rate, which accounts for just over half of property taxes in Atlanta. “We don’t know where this is going to land,” said Meister, noting that Fulton has not yet delivered its tax digest. She said the board “really will strive and work hard to make sure not everybody is being taken advantage of” and roll back the tax rate as much as possible. She also pointed out that the school system had to issue a tax anticipation note – at a cost of $400,000 in interest and fees – to pay the bills during last year’s assessment freeze. The complexity of the appraisal and assessment system was evident in the nearly 40 pages of material about it – including a sheet of corrections – handed out by the county and Maggie Paynich, a real estate agent who is on a homestead exemp-

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BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net


JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Community | 3



As the extent of a March cyber attack on Atlanta city government continues to surprise, most recently with


City Council President Felicia Moore.

the announcement that the police department lost archived dashcam videos, City Council President Felicia Moore says the administration should be more transparent about lost data. “We’re not in the information loop… They’ve got to find a way to be able to share more information,” said Moore about the lack of City Council knowledge of the data losses. The administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Moore spoke in an interview at a June 7 property tax meeting in Buckhead. That was the day after a city budget hearing where the administration requested an additional $9.5 million to deal with the cyber attack and discussed even more impacts, including the loss of a “decade” of documents in the city attorney’s office, according to a Reuters news report. Moore said the Mayor’s Office knows about lost data, but “they’re not sharing that data and detail with the council,” citing security concerns. Moore said she believes the administration could reveal the general lost data without discussing such sensitive information as specific software involved. She said that “councilmembers did express frustration” at the budget hearing and wonder what data loss might be revealed next. “When you withhold information, it just makes people want more,” she said. In the March 22 attack, unknown criminals penetrated city computer systems, encrypted various files, and demanded a ransom in exchange BH

for the key to unlock them, in what is known as “ransomware.” Known effects include temporarily halting city court citations and water billing. Several City Council members also lost data.


The Buckhead-based Atlanta Audubon Society is accepting proposals for grants to fund bird-friendly improvements The funding will come from the organization’s recently created Habitat Restoration Fund. The organization is headquartered at Buckhead’s Blue Heron Nature Preserve. “Birds and other wildlife that rely on metro-Atlanta’s ecosystems are being negatively impacted by ongoing habitat loss caused by urban sprawl and development,” the organization said in a press release. “However, conservation efforts can help combat these losses.” The project area must be at least 50 square feet, but no larger than three acres. If a project wins the grant, the At-

An illustration shows an example of a property that is a bird sanctuary.

lanta Audubon will provide services needed including removing invasive speices, planting bird-friendly native plants, monitoring birds or designing gardens or bird habitats. Atlanta Audubon wants the proj-


ects to lead to the property’s eligibility for its Wildlife Sanctuary Program, which encourages property owners to enhance their land for birds and other wildlife. Applications are due Aug. 31. For more information, visit atlantaaudubon.org.

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Ossoff helps to spotlight Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center Jon soccer corruption



Jon Ossoff in Ghana earlier this month, as he arranged security for journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas following a soccer corruption exposé.

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

OCT. 30


City Springs Box Office • CitySprings.com • 770.206.2022

A year ago, Jon Ossoff was in a national media spotlight as the Democrat making an unlikely – and ultimately unsuccessful – competitive run for the local 6th Congressional District seat. Today, the Brookhaven resident is the one putting a media spotlight on major issues as CEO of an award-winning producer of film and TV documentaries about international crime and corruption. Ossoff and his company, Insight TWI, are enjoying a remarkable month. Insight TWI just won a One World Media Award – a coveted prize for documentaries – for a BBC feature on sex crimes and genocide committed by ISIS in Iraq. And a BBC broadcast of a new Insight TWI-produced documentary on corrupt soccer officials in Ghana shook the sports world just days before FIFA announced the 2026 World Cup will be partly staged in the U.S., possibly with some games played in Atlanta. Speaking by phone as he traveled to pick up the award in London – and right after arranging security for the undercover investigator who revealed the soccer corruption – Ossoff said it’s fulfilling to work with journalists who, when necessary, are “willing to take risks and push the limits.” “I think that corruption and self-dealing are at the heart of a lot of the dysfunction and suffering in the world today, and it’s impunity, it’s a lack of accountability, that feeds it,” he said. “And I think that


where law enforcement lacks the will or the capacity to deter or punish it, journalists need to take on some of that responsibility.” That’s the broad mission of Insight TWI, which has won Emmys, a Peabody and a BAFTA award since its 1991 founding. Ossoff, who became its CEO in 2013, says it focuses on investigations of “official corruption, organized crime and war crimes” and “features and highlights work of local reporters rather than parachuting in.” Among the topics of its documentaries in recent years, Ossoff says: corrupt officials stealing U.S.-funded food and medical aid; death squads and extrajudicial killings by criminal gangs and security forces in South Africa, Kenya, Mexico and El Salvador; and quack doctors who kill and mutilate women in Nigeria and Colombia. The One World Media Award in the Popular Features category that Ossoff and other Insight TWI representatives accepted June 18 was for the BBC-broadcast “Stacey Dooley: Face to Face with ISIS.” The documentary followed a woman, long held as a sex slave by ISIS members, as she confronted one of its commanders in prison. As a producer, Insight TWI provides resources to journalists and arranges broadcast deals, working especially frequently with the BBC. Sometimes the broadcaster commissions a documentary; sometimes Insight TWI offers one. The company is based in London, with small offices in the African nation of Ghana and in Ossoff’s Brookhaven home.

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Working in various countries gives Ossoff a broad view of journalism quality and freedom. While the U.S. has its First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of the press, Ossoff notes that the reality can be different. He says the BBC, despite its faults, has “got pretty much the most stringent editorial standards of any news organization in the Western world.” And the journalism rights group Reporters Without Borders ranks Ghana as 23rd in the world for press freedom, well above the U.S. at number 45, on such standards as transparency, independence, selfcensorship and threats or violence against journalists. “I think that American journalism broadly is failing to hold leaders accountable [and is] focused on the wrong things, and generally not living up to its obligation to the public… I think it’s a pretty dismal scene, to be honest with you,” Ossoff said. Comparing the “starving” of U.S. public broadcasting with the BBC, he said, “I regret that the UK and not the US has the most prestigious and capable news-gathering and reporting organization in the world.” For more about Insight TWI and to view “Betraying the Game,” see insighttwi.com.

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“He is a master of deep investigations, deep undercover investigations,” said Ossoff, who counts Anas as a colleague and friend of many years. “He is an extraordinary character… He’s an asset to his country and the world.” In “Betraying the Game,” Anas and colleagues, posing as supporters of beloved teams, found soccer referees willing to accept unsolicited cash bribes. Working their way up the ladder, they show footage convinced a member of the FIFA Council – the group that organizes international soccer tournaments, including the World Cup – to accept a bag of $65,000 in cash as part of a scheme to set up a shell company to divert soccer sponsorship money to himself. The official, Kwesi Nyantakyi, later denied accepting the money as a bribe and claimed Anas tried to blackmail him. Three hours before the documentary aired on the BBC, Ossoff says, the government of Ghana announced it was dissolving the national soccer association. FIFA has provisionally suspended the council member shown accepting the cash. “I was in Ghana as all of this unfolded,” said Ossoff. “It’s rewarding to see the direct impact of that journalism.” It can also be threatening; Ossoff was in

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Journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas, his face hidden behind a mask of beads, in the documentary “Betraying the Game.”

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“Betraying the Game” focuses on an investigation by Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an acclaimed – and controversial -- Ghanaian journalist known for culture-rocking undercover exposés, including one where he caught many judges accepting bribes. Because he relies on remaining anonymous for undercover stings, Anas appears in public only while wearing a mask made of strings of beads.



Revealing soccer bribery

Ghana to work with U.S. officials and journalist rights organizations to assure Anas’s safety. As the documentary itself shows, Anas’s undercover methods are sometimes criticized as unethical and the results have sometimes inspired death threats. “Anas’s techniques are controversial. He operates at the aggressive end of the spectrum of journalistic techniques. It’s worth noting he has his critics,” Ossoff said of the decision to include some of them in the documentary. “Now, personally, I think his work speaks for itself.” Anas’s documentary is far from the only report on corruption in FIFA and such related international sports events as the Olympics. FIFA was rocked with a major scandal in 2015 when U.S. authorities brought charges against several top officials and accused them of bribery schemes related to staging and broadcasting games in the Americas. Ossoff says that the body of journalism and law enforcement reports make it clear that “corruption is endemic in international soccer” and that it is important that viewers of Anas’s documentary realize it is not just an “African problem.” “You saw in the footage just how commonplace, how pervasive, this culture was — that it was just normal for referees to be taking money in violation of rules for how the game is supposed to be conducted,” Ossoff said. As the World Cup heads to the U.S. – and maybe Atlanta – in 2026, Ossoff says he hopes “that journalists and law enforcement officials will be vigilant that this [event] … be conducted ethically and transparently.”


As CEO, Ossoff does not do any of the reporting or investigating. He’s a manager who oversees the documentaries, works with the journalists who make them, and negotiates the broadcast and distribution deals. But that work can be quite hands-on, especially when dealing with threats to the journalists who make anti-corruption documentaries. “I do tend to get involved where there are serious health or safety issues,” said Ossoff. In fact, he had just done exactly that in Ghana in response to threats that followed the broadcast of the new documentary “Betraying the Game,” about corrupt soccer officials.


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Wednesday, June 27, 3-4 p.m. Have a musical afternoon with bassist and cellist duo Blake & Ilana Hilley. All ages. Free. Sandy Springs Branch Library, 395 Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs. Info: 404-303-6130.


Sunday, July 1, 2 p.m. Atlanta writer Annie Harrison Elliott is featured in the second of this six-month series of readings of new plays by nationally known local writers at the Dunwoody Nature Center. Her play, “General Gabler’s Daughter,” is a reimagining of Ibsen’s classic “Hedda Gabler.” Professional actors bring characters to life in this series, which is presented in partnership with Found Stages on first Sundays monthly at 2 p.m. through November. Includes a meet-and-greet with the month’s featured playwright, actors and directors. Complimentary wine and appetizers before and after each reading. $20. 5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodynature.org.


Thursday, July 5, 6:30-9:30 p.m. The Mark Miller Band — folk music, roots acoustic, Piedmont blues — is next up in this concert series at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Cash bar; picnics welcome. Sunset Sips concerts are held second and fourth Thursdays monthly from June to September (except in July when there is only this July 5 concert). Concert is included with general admission and free to CNC Members. Admission: $10 adults,

$7 seniors (ages 65+) and students (ages 1318); $6 children (ages 3-12); ages 2 and under free. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org.


Saturday, July 7, 7-9 p.m. Wren and the Wravens bring their blend of retro soul, pop, and R&B to this lineup of summer concerts, held every other Saturday evening, rain or shine, through July 21. Seating available on a first-come, first-served basis in the meadow or on the back porch. Outside food and drink welcome. Craft beers, sodas and water available. $5 adults; $3 students; free for members and for children 3 and under. 5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodynature. org/2018-summer-concert-series.

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Sunday, July 8, 6-9:30 p.m. Head out to the Chattahoochee Nature Center for a concert featuring Adron, who blends samba and international sounds with ‘70s pop and R&B. Bring a blanket or chairs and have a picnic. Cash bar on site. $12-$16. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org.


Sunday, July 8, 7- 8:30 p.m. The 22nd season of Heritage Sandy Springs’ outdoor summer concert series continues with jazz and R&B from Gwen Hughes & The Retro Kats. Gates open at 5 p.m. Picnics welcome. Food, beer and wine available. Free. Sandy Springs Society Entertainment Lawn at Heritage Green, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org or 404-851-9111.

Tuesday, June 26, 5:30-8 p.m. Enjoy pizza and a movie courtesy at the Brookhaven Library on Tuesday evenings, courtesy of Friends of the Brookhaven Library on Tuesday evenings. Register by 4:30 p.m. on the day of the movie to be included for dinner. Adults must be accompanied by a child. Open to first 15 participants. Groups of five or more should call the branch fo an appointment. Free. 1242 North Druid Hills Road N.E., Brookhaven. Info: dekalblibrary.org/events.


Daily through July 31. 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays. Noon to 4:30 p.m. Sundays. Get up close and personal with hundreds of native butterflies surrounded by colorful nectar plants at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Special visiting opportunities include CNC Members Only hours and Breakfast with Butterflies. The Butterfly Encounter is included with general admission and is free to CNC Members. Admission: $10 adults, $7 seniors (ages 65+) and students (ages 13-18); $6 children (ages 3-12); ages 2 and under free. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org.

JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Art & Entertainment | 7



Tuesdays June 26, July 24, Aug. 28, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Meet other bookworms for lively discussion at a monthly book club meeting at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. The June 26 book selection is “The Vengeance of Mothers” by Jim Fergus. Adults of all ages. Members free; $5 nonmembers. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: atlantajcc.org or Earl Finley, 678-812-4000, earl.finley@ atlantajcc.org.

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Wednesdays, June 27, July 25, Aug. 29 , 6:30–7:30 p.m. Join Heritage Sandy Springs for a summer lecture series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of “the great war.” Topics include why the war happened, the U.S. entry into the war, science and technology, and the local Emory Medical Unit’s involvement. This series, which began in May, continues on the last Wednesday of June, July and August in the Community Room at the Heritage Sandy Springs administrative building. Free. 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org.

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Thursday, June 28, 7:30 p.m. New York Times best-selling author Emily Giffin introduces “All We Ever Wanted,” her new novel in which three very different people must choose between their families and their values. Atlanta media personality Mara Davis will interview Giffin at the book launch party at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. $30-$35. Tickets include a pre-signed copy of the book, and a reception featuring wine, desserts and light bites. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: atlantajcc.org/bookfestival or 678-812-4002.

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Tuesday, July 3, 1-2 p.m. Create with Ms. Madigan. Supplies and light refreshments will be provided. Free. 395 Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs. Register: 404-303-6130 or email sandysprings.branch@fultoncountyga.gov.

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► Fourth of July Celebration

Chamblee offers free summer fun


Chamblee, a century-old city known for its antique-shopping scene, is also home to big summer events, including an Independence Day fireworks show and a concert series featuring some well-known pop and rock bands. A neighbor of Brookhaven and Dunwoody, Chamblee’s free summer events are easily accessible from Buckhead and Sandy Springs as well. Here are the details on Chamblee’s Fourth of July Celebration and the final concert in this summer’s series, featuring the Gin Blossoms and the Rembrandts. For more information, see chambleega.com.

Chamblee’s Fourth of July Celebration includes a variety of daytime activities, including live music and food, and culminates in a 20- to 25-minute fireworks show after dark. Live music will be performed starting at 6:30 p.m. by Bogey and the Viceroy. Led by New Orleans native Bogey Thornton, the band plays classic soul, retro rock and pop, and current chart-toppers. Food will be available from the Mad Italian, the Frosty Caboose, Cop-NStuff and the Island Chef Food Truck. Attendees may also bring personal food and beverages, but no alcohol. Parking will be limited at Keswick Park. Recommended alternative parking will be available 5-11 p.m. behind the IHOP restaurant in the Chamblee

Plaza shopping center, 5516 Peachtree Industrial Boulevard. Attendees can also ride the MARTA Gold Line to Chamblee Station and walk the Rail Trail to the park.


Bike Parade: 5 p.m., starting from Chamblee Middle School, 3601 Sexton Woods Drive A parade of children who have decorated their bicycles, tricycles, wagons and similar vehicles in a patriotic manner. The parade starts at the school and ends in Keswick Park. Cornhole Tournament: 5:30 p.m. Eight teams will compete for prizes in the cornhole lawn games.

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10 | Community

Residents sue over Bobby Jones Golf Course work, say city rules apply

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Parents raise safety concerns with polling places in schools





Maxine Suzman’s leafy lawn on Northside Drive is shaded with mature trees and certified as an Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary. Through the greenery, across the street sits Bobby Jones Golf Course, which she once viewed as a companion park and now, as it undergoes a massive transformation, as a destructive surprise. “The course needed a change. It didn’t need a lobotomy, though,” said Suzman during a recent visit as she pointed out the bulldozed landscape of the historic golf course, the distant towers of Peachtree Road now visible across it. She’s one of six residents suing the private foundation that oversees the course, whose transformation began as a community effort and has ended up in court. In a June 19 hearing,a judge declined to put an injunction on the golf course work before the case is heard. In a 2016 land swap, the 1933 golf course passed from city to state ownership, while renovation and expansion plans are being carried out by the private Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation. The six residents say they’ve been unpleasantly – and unlawfully –surprised by recent work on the course and changes to the renovation plans: the mass felling of trees, the erection of a new cellphone antenna tower, the placement of a maintenance shed and driveway on Northside and more. The foundation says it’s state land, so city codes – such as the tree preservation ordinance – don’t apply. The residents got an attorney who argues that state case law proves otherwise. They filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court in May. The other plaintiffs include Bryan Baer, Lynn Barksdale, Jeffrey Carper, Jeannette Greeson and Li Yu Lo. Baer, who is an attorney himself, lives at the corner of Northside and Longwood Drive, where some of the course’s biggest trees still stand, but many were cut down in recent months. “For me, it’s more a governance issue,” said Baer, adding that while the community generally likes the foundation folks, they worry about the future. “If they’re above the law – and that’s not true – there’s nothing stopping another regime coming in and having a huge party there and fireworks happening after midnight… We are willing to back off of the position of having to comply with city law if we can come up with a reasonable governing structure.” “We respectfully disagree with the contention in the lawsuit that the project is subject to city of Atlanta ordinances,” said Chuck Palmer, the foundation’s chairman, in an email. “The property is owned by the state of Georgia, all the buildings and improvements are owned by the state of Georgia, and all the building drawings are reviewed and approved by the state of Georgia. We do hope this litigation can be resolved to the mutual satisfaction of everyone involved.” Efforts to upgrade the golf course began several years ago through such groups as the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy. The relationship got more complicated in 2015, when the city said the 18-hole layout was no longer safe and a reversible nine-hole reconfiguration was required. Then in 2016 came a controversial land swap, where the city traded the golf course to state ownership in exchange for properties, including a parking garage, near downtown’s Underground Atlanta to smooth its sale to a developer. The state’s expansive vision for the course included a golf hall of fame, a home for golf associations, an education center and more. State Rep. Beth Beskin was involved in the years of golf course meetings, starting around 2013, and said some of the changes have surprised her, especially since the state took over. “Initially, it was a neighborhood effort to substantially change Bobby Jones,” she recalled, but the land swap raised the issue of exemption from city review processes. “I was disappointed at the time…that this deal even happened, and it happened so quickly,” she said of the deal “to essentially trade a park for a parking lot.” She agreed that at least parts of the golf course plan had changed without notice since the state takeover.“I can tell you, I never saw a plat or map drawn to represent that maintenance shed being on Northside Drive,” she said, saying it raises issues of noise pollution and traffic. “When I saw that, I was shocked and disappointed.” Earlier versions of the designs showed the shed deeper in the course. Beskin said she was in recent talks with state officials and believed a compromise on the shed, at least, was within reach. But the residents filed the lawsuit before anything was put on paper, she said. Residents aren’t the only ones who have recently questioned the golf course renovation, which is expected to be completed this fall. Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a major environmental advocacy organization, recently complained that the work was coming too close to the Peachtree and Tanyard creeks, leading to some compromise on tree-cutting and other measures. Baer and Suzman say they never got any direct outreach from the golf course planners. “We woke up and trees were decimated,” Baer said. “I bought [my] property because I thought I was going to be next to nature. Now it’s commercial,” said Suzman. “It really changed the character.”

In the wake of recent school shootings across the country, some Fulton County parents are pushing officials to consider ending the use of school buildings as Election Day polling places. But the county’s elections director says that could disenfranchise voters in places with few alternative polling locations. Meanwhile, Fulton County Schools is considering one option it seems everyone can agree on: making the next general election day, Nov. 6, a teacher work day, so students would stay home. Liliana Brenner and Kristin Sharpe, co-presidents of the North Fulton Council PTA, said in joint emails that local PTA units are “evaluating the impact of hosting polling stations in schools.” “There are concerns that these stations cannot be established while maintaining a separation of voters from students; this potentially impacts student and school security,” they wrote. “…We are not aware of any specific incidents but want to be proactive about the safety of the children in our schools.” State Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell) said a new Senate school safety committee, for which he wrote the authorizing legislation, will “definitely” discuss the polling place issue. “I have just recently been asked about this issue and plan to review it,” Albers said in an email. “Safety has to be [the] Number One priority.” Richard Barron, director of the Fulton County elections department, said that some precincts have few options for polling places besides school buildings and barring access could reduce voting rights. “If we tried to get out of some of [the schools], our activist groups [and] neighborhood associations, would be up in arms,” Barron said. “You can disenfranchise voters by moving out of polling places.” The parental concerns are not coming from any recent incident in Fulton schools. The impetus is a similar discussion in Cobb County, where officials are reportedly discussing both school safety and difficulty in voters getting through school security – which Barron said is not a problem in Fulton. Cobb County officials did not respond to comment requests. The Atlanta and DeKalb school districts did not have immediate comment on whether they are hearing similar concerns. Brenner and Sharpe said north Fulton parents are working on the issue with the Georgia PTA, which did not respond to questions. The Virginia-based National PTA said it is unaware of any polling place debates. “We have not heard anything here at National PTA about such concerns,” and the organization does not have a position on the issue, said spokesperson Heidi May Wilson. Fulton Board of Education Vice President Linda McCain raised the issue at the board’s June 12 meeting. As a short-term measure, she asked Fulton Schools Superintendent Jeff Rose to consider making Election Day on Nov. 6 a teacher work day “so our students are not in the building…which would go a long way toward alleviating safety concerns parents have.” On teacher work days, students do not attend classes at the school building, though the Election Day version might have them doing schoolwork at home via computer. Rose said administration officials will “go back and look at the implications of the calendar change” in making Election Day a teacher work day and follow up with the board. Barron, the Fulton elections director, said that similar teacher work days have been scheduled for previous major elections, such as presidential contests. He said he supports doing it again as “everyone would feel better” and, on the voters’ side, would reduce parking and traffic problems. In his perfect system, he said, voting would be on weekends, as it is in some other countries. “We have this weird tradition here [that] we have to vote on Tuesday, when everything’s going on,” he said. But he objected to the idea of removing polling places from schools altogether. He noted that the county stations police officers at polling places and that voter access is crucial. “I don’t like moving polling places,” Barron said. “I don’t particularly care for consolidating polling places, and I don’t want voters to get disenfranchised… It’s not just good public policy. Fulton County is the heart of the Civil Rights movement.” BH

JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Community | 11


River trail plan gains traction BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net


The plan to give metro Atlanta a riverfront is gaining new momentum that may one day bring it to Buckhead. The city recently committed new funding to the plan, which would add new parks and trails along the Chattahoochee River. The project, dubbed the Chattahoochee River Greenway, is planned to include new parks, hiking trails, boat ramps, bicycle paths and other amenities along a 100-mile stretch from the Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County up to Lake Lanier, traversing the riverfront through northwest Buckhead and around Sandy Springs along the way. The city has committed $100,000 to the project as part of needed funding to contribute toward a local match of a $1.5 million Atlanta Regional Commission grant. Cobb County and the Trust for Public Land, a nationwide conservation group, each contributed $100,000 as part of the local match. The ordinance to commit city of Atlanta funding was led by District 9 City Councilmember Dustin Hillis, who represents the area west and south of I-75. “I believe that parks, greenspace and trail connectivity enrich the lives of city of Atlanta residents,” Hillis said in a press release. “I’m very excited about this project and our work to preserve this land for public use.” One of the first developed trails is planned to run from Standing Peachtree Greenspace near Buckhead and the Paces area down to Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in Atlanta’s Westside, Hillis said. “North of Peachtree Creek, the City of Atlanta border with the river is largely residential developed land, with those homeowners probably unwilling to sell or provide right of way along the river,” he said. The Trust for Public Land is one of the main drivers and is working closely with the ARC on the project. It’s also working with a coalition of more than a dozen not-for-profit organizations, including the Buckhead-based Atlanta Audubon Society, Park Pride and the Sandy Springs Conservancy, the website said. George Dusenbury, the director of the Trust for Public Land’s Atlan-

A map included in The Atlanta City Design shows a concept plan for the city of Atlanta portion of the Chattahoochee River Greenway, which would begin at Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway and run to Marietta Boulevard. Below, District 9 Atlanta City Councilmember Dustin Hillis.

ta office, said that the master plan is planned to be completed in 2019 or 2020 with community meetings held to gather public input. “To us, this is a transformative project. To accomplish that, we need everybody on board,” he said. The $1.5 million ARC grant will go toward a study led by the ARC that would create a master plan for the full 100mile concept and a detailed plan for a 1.5-mile “pilot project” in Cobb County, according to the document. The ARC distributed a request for proposals for the study May 31. “The Chattahoochee River Greenway Study is an opportunity to reconsider the region’s relationship to the river and create a new vision for the river’s future that will raise public awareness, improve connections and access, identify potential areas for protection or investment, and build on a legacy of ecological conservation and protection,” the RFP said. The greenway would connect to other already built parks, including the popular Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area parks found along the river from the Standing Peachtree Greenspace up to Lake Lanier. A similar, separate proposal has been supported by a group called Chattahoochee Now for several years, but its plan focuses on a smaller, 53-mile area. Its focus starts at Standing Peachtree Greenspace down to Chattahoochee Bend State Park. The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a major advocacy and conservation organization, is serving on a stakeholder

North of Peachtree Creek, the City of Atlanta border with the river is largely residential developed land, with those homeowners probably unwilling to sell or provide right-of-way along the river. DUSTIN HILLIS DISTRICT 9 CITY COUNCILMEMBER

group for the ARC study, as well as on a committee for Chattahoochee Now’s separate proposal. “It’s exciting to see more folks are paying attention to the river area and trying to envision people using it,” said Eric Fyfe, a watershed protection specialist at the Riverkeeper. The Atlanta City Design, a book detailing plans for the future of Atlanta released in 2017, supports and discuss-

es the park. The book notes that city can take advantage of the mostly industrial uses south of the Peachtree Creek confluence near Buckhead. “By investing in access and connectivity, along with other strategic interventions, we will create a wild, adventurous riverfront that provides a welcome change of pace in the city,” the book said.

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12 | Community

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City plans projects to reduce sewer spills near Memorial Park

Above, A before and after photo from 2010 included in the department’s presentation shows an example of sewer cleaning. Right, A map shows the proposed location for a new storage tank near I-85.

BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

The city’s watershed department has several projects in the pipeline, including cleaning sewers and building new storage tanks, to reduce sewage spills near Atlanta Memorial Park. “The City Department of Watershed Management is committed to eliminating wet-weather sewer overflows within Memorial Park and the Peachtree Creek Basin,” the city said in its presentation at a June 7 Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy meeting. The projects are planned to improve flooding and overflows in the Peachtree Creek Basin, which covers the southern half of Buckhead. A new phase a sewer cleaning began in May and is set to include clearing of debris from nearly 4,000 feet of the pipe. In May, the department cleaned nearly 900 feet and removed 146 tons of debris. That phase is cleaning is set to be completed by the end of 2019 and is estimated to cost $36 million. The sewer cleaning began in 2017 after


several years of sewer spills that contaminated the playground and park. The cleaning was part of a plan that included relocating the playground to higher ground. The plans include constructing a new 10-inch sewer main down Peachtree Battle Avenue, a street that was resurfaced six months ago, according to the Renew Atlanta bond website. It would include the closure of the eastbound lane. Residents were dismayed the work couldn’t have been done concurrently, reducing the traffic delays. Mikita Brown, who gave the presenation, said the department tried to make the projects line up, but wasn’t able to. “We had some false starts and just weren’t able to do it while it was being repaved,” she said. A new eight-inch sewer main along Woodward Way is also planned and includes the construction of a new pump station near its intersection with Northside Drive. The sewer would be constructed along Woodward Way on the west side of the park in an area where there have been re-

peat spills, accordin 2020. The projects are ing to the departbudgeted at $108 million. ment. The new The sewer cleanmain is estimated to ing projects won’t have cost $8.6 million. a direct effect on resiThose projdents because most of ects are planned to that work is done understart in fall of this ground, although staging year and end in the will be done in the park. spring of 2019. The department will let A new storage residents know of road tank and pump staclosures well in advance, tion is also planned Brown said. just outside Buck“We’re going to try head and south of not adversely impact I-85. It is expected you,” Brown said. to eliminate sewAn added bonus to er overflows across most work being done A map shows the location of the the entire Peachtree underground is that the Peachtree Creek basin, which covers the southern half of Buckhead. Creek basin up to work will not disturb during a 10-year park land, said Catherine storm. “We need added protection in the Spillman, the executive director of the conPeachtree Creek basin,” Brown said. servancy. The department has completed the con“One thing for people to understand is cept study and plans to begin design early that there will be no land disturbance. I next year. Construction is planned to start think we’re all sensitive to that,” she said.

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JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Community | 13


Residents want history highlighted in new park on PATH400 Continued from page 1


for the park. Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling said her organization plans to put up some of the estimated $8,000 cost. “That’s going to be really the first step before we know what we can do,” Andrew White, a landscape architect at Park Pride, said during a June 12 public input meeting. Park Pride selected the park for its program that provides free planning services, White said. The 1.5-acre park is nestled next to the Loridans Drive bridge over Ga. 400 and is planned to connect to the 5.2-mile multiuse trail PATH400. Starling said Livable Buckhead, which oversees PATH400 construction, wants to see the park “totally” connected to the path. That segment of the path is expected to be built out in 2022, she said. The land, which was also the site of the former D.F. McClatchey Elementary School, was purchased by the city in 2016 for about $220,000, according to an ordinance. Residents want to see more of the cemetery’s history uncovered, specifically possible connections to African-American slaves. According to famed Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett, who visited the site at least twice in 1930 and 1989, the first burial was for James Lowery, Jr., who was killed in an disagreement over the sale of a slave. The names of only three other people buried there are known: James Lowery, Sr., M.C. Stevens and W.H. Stevens. Garrett notes that he could identify at least 25 other graves, “many obviously children.” “Unfortunately, their names and their stories are lost to time,” White said. White said signs of the burials could still be seen on recent visits with a consulting archaeologist. Although no formal headstones remain, some field stones and ground depressions, typically indicative of burials, can be seen, he said. Only two formal headstones were known to exist to Garrett. On his 1930 visit, he found one for each of the Stevens, but both headstones were victims of vandalism or theft. One was recovered in a nearby yard and one is still missing. The headstone recovered is now housed at the Atlanta History Center to protect it from other possible damage or theft. Some residents, including North Buckhead Civic Association President Gordon Certain, asked if the headstone could be reinstalled in the cemetery during park development, but others said putting in a replica would be a safer option. Many residents noted they are concerned about sight lines in the park and the possible mischievous actions people could get away with because of the lack of visibility. The lot slopes down significantly from the road. Because of that, some want to see a fence of rod iron or a similar material con-

structed around the graves to make sure they are respected, but others noted that would block off a significant portion of the small park. The park is heavily wooded with trees and some would have to be taken out to develop the park. The residents said they want more plantings along the Ga. 400 sound wall to prevent an increase in noise. The park needs tree plantings along the border with seven single-family houses to provide a visual buffer as well, resi-


Above, “Ghosts of History,” one of the concepts Buckhead Heritage has for illustrating the community’s past, was included as an option for Loridans Greenspace in a survey. Left, An illustrated map shows the location of Loridans Greenspace and PATH400.


Right, The land for Loridans Greenspace, on Loridans Drive next to Ga. 400, is currently heavily-wooded and overgrown.

dents said. “I don’t want use to lose our canopy just so we can say we have green space,” a resident said. Residents debated adding a parking lot to the site due to concerns park visitors could crowd the surrounding streets. Others said that they don’t want to see parking taking away from the already small park and most visitors would likely be neighbors or PATH400 users. Most residents did agree on adding a sidewalk on the side of Loridans Drive closest to the park to provide more pedestrian access. A crosswalk is already planned outside the future entrance to the park as part of PATH400 construction. One idea that excited residents at the meeting is encouraging Sarah Smith Elementary School teachers to bring their students to park to learn about the history of the area. “That would truly provide something we don’t have in the area,” one resident said. Residents also want the park to provide more history on other notable happenings in the area, including its former use as farmland and for the McClatchey School, the installation of an anti-aircraft gun during World War II and the development of Ga. 400. Interpretative history displays designed

by the Buckhead Heritage Society, a preservation advocacy group that has restored Harmony Grove cemetery, may be used in the park. The displays were originally conceptualized in the groups 2014 “master interpretive plan.” One display possibility included in a park survey is adding human-scale frames of figures that would represent people from the past. Another would add signs that would provide wayfinding and historical information. Other recommendations included com-

mon park amenities, such as benches, water fountains, playground and picnic space. Other more unique suggestions included a viewing tower to see the skyline, water features and an open air classroom. Park Pride plans to host a meeting July 12 that will include planning workshops. A later meeting on Sept. 11 is planned to present design concepts. Both meetings are set for 6:30 p.m. at St. James United Methodist Church, 4400 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. For more information or to take an online survey about the park, visit parkpride.org.

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14 | Commentary

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Opinion / Coping with the property assessment confusion Fulton County is working to comply with state law that requires property to be valued at “fair market value,” and consequently property owners throughout Fulton County are dealing with large increases in their 2018 property assessments. State law also requires that counties estimate the tax bill on the assessment notice. Because 2018 millage rates (the actual tax rates) have not been set by most jurisdictions by the time of assessment notices, the estimates must use 2017 rates. Hopefully actual bills will be lower than the estimates, because many jurisdictions “roll back” millage rates to be “revenue neutral” – so jurisdictions do not receive more revenue as a result of reappraisals, and only receive net increased revenues from new construction. For example, in each year I have served on the Fulton County Commission, we “rolled back” the county’s millage to be even lower than revenue neutral -- a decrease of almost 12 percent since 2014. With more than 340,000 parcels in Fulton, there will be many errors in the county’s valuations. Taxpayers should appeal their assessment notices if they think the values shown are greater than fair market value, the property is not being valued “uniformly” with other properties, or there are errors in the information on which the assessment notice is based. Appeal online at fultonassessor.org, or print a form from that website and mail or hand-deliver it. There are professionals who will handle appeals for a fee, but many folks choose to handle their appeals themselves. The goal, after all ap-

peals are resolved, is to have tions of property tax bills a tax digest that is generally have had floating homestead “fair market value,” with only represents Buckhead exemptions for many years. modest future increases. November referenda, if and part of Sandy But that won’t solve all of Springs on the Fulton the voters approve, will apthe problems. One remaining County Commission. ply such exemptions to Fulmajor problem is that people ton County schools, the city are facing the very real prosof Atlanta and other cities’ pect of not being able to aftax bills. Unfortunately, such ford to continue living in their an exemption for Atlanta homes. Public Schools, over half of A flaw in funding local govAtlanta residents’ taxes, will ernments with property taxnot be on November’s ballot. es is that the amount of tax (A modest dollar increase in has nothing to do with abilthe APS homestead exempity to pay. When someone tion will be on November’s buys a home, he knows the ballot.) home’s costs, including taxWhile floating homestead es, are manageable within his household exemptions will ameliorate the burden budget. Small tax increases can thereafof future value increases, they will not ter generally be expected and addressed help those who already cannot afford the within the budget. But large sudden intaxes on their homes. More significant recreases are often not affordable, and lief for seniors in Atlanta is necessary, aleven modest increases over many years lowing folks to age in place, rather than can result in the household budget no forcing them to sell their homes because longer handling the tax bill. of the increased taxes resulting from valSome jurisdictions (for example, Caliue appreciation. fornia) use the purchase price of a propWe all know folks who moved to Cobb erty as the basis for assessment, with County or other jurisdictions with signifsmall limited increases annually. When icant senior property tax relief. Jurisdicthe property is sold, the new purchase tions have lots of reasons to want to alprice applies. No appraisals are needed, low seniors to age in place, aside from the nor are arguments about fair market valmoral imperative, including dining and ue, simplifying the system immensely. entertainment spending patterns that Other jurisdictions cap rates of increases help local economies, limited demands to address the problem discussed in the for services, and travel patterns that repreceding paragraph. duce rush hour traffic. So-called “floating” homestead exThe General Assembly made some emptions, where the homestead exempstrides in the last session to provide fairtion increases with the increases in valness and relief, but further steps in the ues, similarly address this problem. 2019 legislative session are needed. Fulton County and Sandy Springs por-

Lee Morris

Reporter Newspapers wins 12 Georgia Press Association awards Reporter Newspapers won 12 awards — including seven first-place honors in its division — in the Georgia Press Association’s 2018 Better Newspaper Contest, whose winners were announced June 8. The Reporter’s first-place honorees included: Photographer Phil Mosier, in news, sports and spot news categories; Managing Editor John Ruch for Business Writing in the Perimeter Business section; Robin Conte, whose “Robin’s Nest” column won in two categories; and Creative Director Rico Figliolini for Page One design. Staff writer Dyana Bagby won second place in the “Enterprise Story” cate-

gory for her coverage of rapid changes to the communities along Buford Highway in Brookhaven. The Reporter also won awards for local news coverage; website; layout and design; and “general excellence.” The awards honored work that appeared in the Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs newspapers. The Reporter’s sister publication, Atlanta INtown, also won a first-place honor in Magazine Commentary/Opinion Writing for Sally Bethea’s “Above the Waterline” column. The awards were given in the name of

the Reporter’s parent company, Springs Publishing. Publisher Steve Levene accepted the awards at a June 8 ceremony on Jekyll Island, Ga. The GPA is a 132-year-old organization of Georgia newspapers. Its Better Newspaper Contest is statewide and this year was judged by members of the Kansas and Oklahoma press associations. Entries were judged in seven divisions based on the newspapers’ circulation. Reporter Newspapers was judged in the division that includes all weekly newspapers with a circulation over 15,000 and all of the GPA’s “associate media members.”

represent the views of Reporter Newspapers or Springs Publishing, LLC. BH

JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Commentary | 15


Love reveals itself in tender mercies I saw a movie many years ago called “Tender Mercies.” I don’t remember much about it except that Robert Duvall was in it and it took place somewhere in the Southwest. I recently googled it out of curiosity and learned that Duvall played a has-been country music star in the film and won an Academy Award for his performance. But what stuck with me for all these decades was the title. It haunted me because I think it speaks to what we yearn for so often in our human condition…tender mercies. We want to be loved, we want to be understood, we want to be happy, we want our needs to be met, but in the dearth of any of those things, tender mercies can see us through. Being the curious being that I am and searching for fodder for this column, I poked around a bit and learned that the title phrase of the movie comes from the Psalms -specifically, Psalms 145:9. I investigated a little more and discovered a variety of translations for that particular psalm. The King James Bible translates it this way: “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Many other translations, however, use the word “comRobin Conte is a writer passion” instead of the word “mercies” or “tender mercies.” and mother of four who There’s nothing wrong with compassion. Merriam-Webster lives in Dunwoody. She defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others’ can be contacted at distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” And a quick therobinjm@earthlink.net. saurus check of the term will call up words like empathy, concern, kindness, care, and consideration. But compassion, benevolent as it is, seems to me somewhat sterile, somehow distant. Mercy seems to be a call to action. And tender mercy gives us the intent, invokes that gentleness of spirit that transforms an action into a transcendent moment. With tender mercies, we experience a softening of the heart, a catch in the throat, a transformation in both the giver and receiver. With tender mercies, we experience the divine. June is the traditional month for weddings, and my typical wish for couples who are joining together in matrimony is a life filled with love and joy. Now, having been seasoned by age and joy and yet a few sorrows and many disappointments, I have come to realize that joy has its counterpart in tender mercies. When we are too discouraged to rejoice, we can still find solace in something as simple as a sunrise, a hummingbird, a wildflower…tender mercies in the natural world that surrounds us. If our hearts are open, we can find comfort in a smile, a gentle word, a thoughtful act...tender mercies offered by the people around us. And we can bring tender mercies to others, with a comforting word, a sympathetic ear, a forgiving heart. The Beatles famously sang that “All you need is love.” I’ll agree with that. And I submit that love in its strongest, yet gentlest form reveals itself in tender mercies.

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16 | Art & Entertainment

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Author Emily Giffin

discusses Atlanta, her favorite bookshops, and more

Q: Author Emily Giffin.



BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers.net

Emily Giffin ‘All We Ever Wanted’ book launch party Thursday, June 28, 7:30-9 p.m. MJCCA 5324 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody 30338 Tickets $30-$35. Info: atlantajcc.org/bookfestival

Emily Giffin is a novelist with a string of bestsellers she aims to continue in her ninth book, “All We Ever Wanted.” She’s also a Buckhead resident whose love of her city has helped to inform her books. “Atlanta is such a diverse, beautiful city, but there is no more beautiful part than Buckhead,” Giffin said in an email interview. Giffin will appear June 28 at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta in Dunwoody in support of her new book. Her first novel, “Something Borrowed” was adapted for a 2011 movie starring Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Godwin and John Krasinski. She lives in Buckhead near Pace Academy, the school her children attend. In the following Q&A, Giffin answered the Reporter’s questions about Atlanta, writing and more.

Q: Do any of your books have referenc-

es to Atlanta or inspired by places you go here?

A: I’ve set two books in Atlanta, includ-

ing my novel before this release, “First Comes Love.” I’m so proud of this diverse, vibrant city and think it makes a fabulous backdrop for my characterdriven and relationship-rich stories.

A review of “All We Ever Wanted” said the book is timely given the #MeToo movement. Were you inspired by that movement for this book?


How is this book different from your previous novels?


This is the first book I’ve written that includes a male perspective, and the first time I’ve written from three different points of view. It’s also the first time I’ve really tackled issues of social class, white privilege and entitlement.

Interestingly, the #MeToo movement didn’t begin until I was mostly finished writing the novel. So in a sense, it was one of those “life imitating art” situations. And while the movement itself didn’t directly influence the book, I definitely wanted to tell a story that focused on women learning to seize control of their lives and, more pointedly, fighting back against having our voices and our concerns minimized. In other words, I am certainly aware of the sexism, and sometimes outright misogyny, in our society, and I think some of these concerns shaped the story, particularly the story arcs for the two main female narrators, Nina and Lyla.


What was it like to have a novel made into a movie?


It was surreal and so much fun. I’m also really thrilled to announce that I’m developing a TV series with Black Label Media, the same producer who worked on the film “Something Borrowed.”

JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Art & Entertainment | 17


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Q: Q: What are your favorite bookstores? A: In Buckhead, I usually go to my local Barnes & Noble, though there are so many great stores in the Atlanta area: A Capella Books (I love Frank Reiss, the owner) and Posman Books in Ponce City Market are two favorites. In the metro Atlanta area, I also love Eagle Eye Books in Decatur, FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, and Avid Bookshop in Athens.

Q: Are you friends with any other Atlanta authors?

A: I absolutely adore fellow Wake For-

est alum Kate T. Parker (“Strong is the New Pretty”). I’m also friends with novelists Susan Rebecca White, Colleen Oakley, Mary Kay Andrews and Patti Callahan Henry (though sadly for Atlanta, Patti relocated to Birmingham).

What was the first book you remember reading that had a profound effect on you?


Goodness, there are just so many. Too many to name. But I read Carson McCuller’s “A Member of the Wedding” in high school and it really changed and inspired me. I can still conjure all of the intense feelings that story awoke in me.


How has your writing evolved since you first began your career?


I like to think that my writing continues to improve with every novel. I think the issues in my book have also evolved, which isn’t surprising given that I was 29, single and childless when I wrote my first novel. I’m now 46, married withs three children (two of them teens). The stakes in life have become much greater for both me and my characters.

18 | Art & Entertainment

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Senior musicians are still playin’ after all these years


Above, Clark Brown practices mandolin in his Brookhaven living room. Right, Violinist Ronda Respess.

BY JOE EARLE Ronda Respess grew up in a musical family in New Jersey. Her mother was a pianist, her father a cellist. An aunt was a professional musician in Boston. Ronda was handed a violin when she was very young. “There was a violin in the house that had belonged to my grandfather,” the 71-year-old Sandy Springs resident recalled recently. “My mother decided she would give it to me when I was young. When I was 4 or 5, she took me into New York to get lessons.” In fourth grade, she took lessons in her public school in New Jersey. She kept playing and earned a music degree from Indiana University. Then, in 1969, she took a job with the Atlanta Sympho-

ny Orchestra. She’s been there since, playing with the ASO for 49 years. Along the way, the 71-year-old Sandy Springs resident has played dozens of concerts a year with the orchestra and performed all sorts of music. She’s played Carnegie Hall. More than a few times. Respess isn’t the only older musician in metro Atlanta who’s still taking the stage after decades of performances. Performing music once may have seemed a young person’s game, but no more. From Atlanta Symphony Hall to farmers’ markets to arenas, local stages regularly host shows by musicians who display more than a touch of gray but are still playing after all these years.

Tom Gray, who once headed an Atlanta-based New Wave band named The Brains and now leads a blues band called Delta Moon, admits there was a time he thought it seemed laughable to say he’d still be playing music in bars past age 40. “I thought that was old,” he said during a chat at a coffee shop in Decatur, where he now lives. How does he feel now about taking the stage at age 66? “Actually, I feel good. I enjoy it still. I have to be more careful and I have to work harder than when I was young, but it’s still possible. It’s still fun.” With the ASO, Respess regularly plays classics by composers such as Brahms and Beethoven, but she’s also developed a taste for newer works by modern orhestral composers. She simply likes being a part of the orchestra, no matter what they’re playing. She also has given back to the metro Atlanta musical community in other ways. She teaches and founded and serves as artistic director of Sandy Springs-based Franklin Pond Chamber Music, which promotes chamber music by young performers. “I just love the music,” she said. “I just love being part of the collaboration that puts a piece like Brahms Two together. I’m more a collaborative person than a soloist. I love working all the little parts together into one whole. The best part is I get to listen to it from right there in the middle of the orchestra.” She says it’s the music that’s kept her engaged for nearly half a century. “It wasn’t the violin as much as the music,” she said. The violin was the vehicle. I can’t say I fell in love with the violin. I fell in love with the music.” But now she finds the work demands more of her physically, so after nearly a half-century of playing professionally, she’s contemplating retirement from the orchestra. She hasn’t decided when she wants to leave, she said. “I want to retire before I feel like I’m not doing the job the way I

When we play someplace, people know we’re playing for fun. It’s a way to be with people who are likeminded and just want to enjoy an activity together. LYNDA ANDERSON

should,” she said. Still, she plans to continue teaching and playing music after she retires. “I’ll play myself or play in quartets. Who knows?” she said. “I’m going to do what I want to do. I enjoy playing violin.” In Brookhaven, Mandolin and guitar player and teacher Clark Brown, who’s 65, says his retirement from a career in the printing business means he can find more time to play music. Brown first picked up a guitar as a teenager. He wanted to play rock and roll at first. “It was the ‘60s and everybody played guitar. I’d seen the Beatles on TV,” he said. He switched to the mandolin in the 1970s. About seven years ago, he started playing music fulltime. He performed at church and found jobs at farmers’ markets, weddings and Christmas parties. He arranged Beatles songs and other familiar pop tunes for the mando-

JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018


Art & Entertainment | 19

John and Lynda Anderson play their ukuleles on the screen porch of their Decatur home.

lin and developed a following. Now his house is filled with mandolins – he has five – and guitars. He teaches mandolin and guitar at a music school in Decatur. The average age of his students, he said, is about 60. “I love music,” Brown said. “One of my students the other day said, ‘I haven’t played my mandolin this week,’ and I said, ‘I’ve played three different mandolins and a guitar today.’” John and Lynda Anderson like playing for an audience, too. “When we play someplace, people know we’re playing for fun. It’s a way to be with people who are like-minded and just want to enjoy an activity together,” Lynda Anderson said one recent afternoon as the couple picked ukulele tunes while sitting on the screen porch of their instrumentfilled home. The Andersons play all sorts of instruments and all sorts of music. John, who’s 70 and retired from a four-decade career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plays clarinet, banjo, ukulele, guitar, harmonica,

squeezebox and hammered dulcimer. Lynda, who’s 69 and a retired schoolteacher, plays mountain dulcimer, recorder, ukulele, guitar and bass guitar. They perform together publicly a couple of dozen times a year with another pair of musicians as the Ukulele Society of Decatur. John also plays banjo in an old-time country dance band called the Peavine Creek String Band (named for the creek that runs through the yard of their Decatur home) and bass clarinet with the Callanwolde Concert Band. “It’s fun to play,” John Anderson said. “It’s also fun to have an effect, to perform for people. If people respond to you positively, it’s great.” Gray says he, too, still feels a thrill when he’s in front of a receptive audience. “A good show is always fun,” he said. “It was when I was a kid and it is now. When you’re onstage connecting with an audience and when energy is flowing both ways … that has not changed a bit since I was young.”

Let’s talk about something retirement communities hardly ever mention. Accreditation. Because having the confidence and peace of mind of accreditation is important. So, let’s talk. The Piedmont at Buckhead is accredited by CARF International. It’s an independent organization that sets exceedingly high standards for care and service. It’s a lot like an accreditation for a hospital or college. Or a five-star rating for a hotel. But like most things in life, you have to see it to believe it. So, let’s talk some more at a complimentary lunch and tour. Please call 404.381.1743 to schedule.

CORRECTION I n de p e n de n t & A s s i s t e d L i v i ng

650 Phipps Boulevard NE • Atlanta, GA www.ThePiedmontatBuckhead.com • 404.381.1743

Leaders of the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon were incorrectly identified in the June 8 “Around Town” column. They are, from left, Joanie Shubin, Kate Kratovil and Valerie Habif. To read the column online, see ReporterNewspapers.net.

20 | Education

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Madeline Janowski North Springs Charter High School

changer. It set everything in place,” she said. Madeline’s mother, Stephanie, described how fencing is like a large family, where many fencers will see each other at multiple tournaments and constantly give each other encouragement and advice. “You can lose a bout and the other fencer will come over and say, ‘You know what, if you had done this move or that move, you could have gotten a touch on me’.” Madeline says her parents have been extremely supportive of her fencing, saying that they “have always driven me to reach the next level, to be competitive and achieve great things.” In addition to the moral and motivational support, Madeline recognized the physical and financial effort her family has put into helping her succeed by taking her to practice and traveling with Madeline to her national competitions, often turning them into family vacations. Her coaches also, she says, have been vital to her success, always giving her support and helping her practice, as well as just being there for her when she needs them. She found the fencing club she practices at because it was right near her house, but she has stayed with the club despite multiple new locations as she has developed relationships with her coaches and continues to learn from them. Her coach, Kathy Vail, said that Madeline’s focus, determination and ability to set goals for herself are extremely impressive and are key reasons for her success. Coach Vail believes that Madeline is well on her way to a Division I NCAA Fencing scholarship. “As a coach, it’s really a pleasure to work with a student like Madeline, who really enjoys her sport and understands the importance of hard work and really brings a lot to the table as an athlete,” Vail said.

At 7 years old, Madeline Janowski learned of what we become her passion: fencing. Now, eight years later, the rising ninth-grader, who will attend North Springs Charter High School in August, has excelled within a very competitive sport, winning the state championship and competing on a national level. Madeline became interested in fencing from watching it during the Olympics. Like many kids, she had played team sports at a young age, but her parents encouraged her to adopt an individual sport to help her build character and self-confidence. “My parents wanted something more individual, and they came across fencing. They knew I was already kind of interested in it,” she said, so they signed her up for lessons. Madeline fences with the epee, the most commonly used weapon in Georgia competitions. She competes in tournaments consisting of two rounds: pools and direct elimination. The tournaments she has attended have ranged from just three fencers to over two hundred. A fencing match, or bout, consists of two fencers trying to score points -- called touches -- by touching the other person with their weapon. When one is using the epee, the whole body is in play. Fencing didn’t always come easy for Madeline. “At first I was kind of nervous about it and it took me some time to be able to fence other people,” Madeline said. “It wasn’t just: Hey, you wanna go fence?” After a year and a half of fencing, she competed in her first national tournament. Left, Madeline Janowski poses with her trophy after winning the 2018 state championship. “I did absolutely awRight, Madeline Janowski fences against opponent at the ful, but it was cool to see 2017 North American Cup competition. all of that. It was a game

Standout Student


The DeKalb County School District has assigned a new principal to Peachtree Charter Middle School in Dunwoody. Donnie Davis, a former assistant principal at Henderson Middle School in DeKalb County, will serve as the next principal, according to a letter to parents. Davis replaces Scott Hepinstall, who had been the principal since 2009. Hepinstall was reassigned to another position in the school district following criticism over the schools administration’s handling of a widely-reported bullying incident in late 2017. The school foundation plans to host an event to meet Davis on July 11 at the school, 4664 North Peachtree Road, from 5 to 6 p.m.


Two North Springs Charter High School art students designed table centerpieces for the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber’s event benefitting a nonprofit. The June 12 event raised money for The Drake House, a Roswell-based nonprofit that provides housing and education for homeless single mothers. The art students, Zoel Keith and Devante George, and their teacher John Gresens, used laser cutters to design and create wooden centerpieces for the Drake House Fashion Show, Rockin’ the Runway, which was held at the UPS headquarters in Sandy Springs. “This is our 6th annual Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber Women’s Business Network fashion show benefitting The Drake House,” said, “and this year we are excited to unveil our new theme and branded name, Rockin’ the Runway, and collaborate with North Springs’ amazing art department on wooden centerpiece silhouettes that reflect this theme.”

What’s next?

Madeline is excited to compete in the Georgia high school fencing league, which will provide her with more competitions and more experience. She will continue to practice with Coach Vail at her current fencing club as she aims to improve and achieve even greater success. As for her fencing, she’d like to continue to go as far as she can, perhaps to international competitions or play in the college league. This article was written and reported by Max Goldstein, a student at Atlanta Jewish Academy. Editor’s Note: Through our “Standout Student” series, Reporter Newspapers showcases some of the outstanding students at our local schools. To recommend a “Standout Student” for our series, please email editor@ReporterNewspapers.net with information about the student and why you think he or she should be featured.

“We will use them for years to come and are proud to share this example of bringing the business, non-profit and educational worlds together to support such a great cause,” said Karen Trylovich, the chair of the Women’s Business Network, the committee of the chamber that hosted the event. Gresens praised the partnership as a way for the students to be a part of the community and work with other parts of the school, including the graphic design department, which helped them design the pieces. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids to reach outside to the community and we’ve all learned something new,” he said.


Three Riverwood International Charter School Students are visiting Germany as part of a program led by former Fulton County Chairman John Eaves. Malcolm Stewart, LaBrauns Stinson and Zechiah Weekley were chosen to participate in the 2018 Global Youth Ambassador Program, according to a press release. The students are attending high school classes in Nuremberg, visiting Munich and Berlin and cultural sites. The students stay with local families, according to the release.


Malcolm Stewart, left, LaBrauns Stinson, second from left, and Zechiah Weekley, right, will visit Germany as part of program led by former Fulton County Chairman John Eaves, third from left.

JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Classifieds | 21


Reporter Classifieds



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HELP WANTED Property Manager - Large condominium community located in Sandy Springs is looking for a property manager with a minimum of 8 years on-site experience directing the daily operations of a large scale community. Candidate needs experience with all aspects of management including accounting, collections, office and maintenance personnel management, directing vendors and contractors, developing best practices and assisting in the development of annual budgets and long range planning. Candidate must have absolute understanding of condominium documents and excellent communication skills to interact with Board and home owners. Send resume to sandyspringscondominium@gmail. com


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Home Services Directory

Matthew’s Handy Services – Small jobs & chores are my specialties! Shelves, organizers, carpentry, drywall, painting, etc. BBB rated. Call 404-547-2079 or email: mwarren8328@gmail.com Property Home Tending by Charles – “On the market or just Away.” Regular inspections of unoccupied property. Call 404-229-0490.

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CEMETERY PLOTS Arlington Memorial Cemetery - 3 lots for sale in the Calvary Section located in lot 276D, spaces 2, 3 & 4. Asking $5,900 each or $17,000 for all. This section is almost sold out and prices through the cemetery would be $,6,900 each. Beautiful views and the most desirable section. Cemetery will assist in showing. Email: mrmccabe@hotmail.com Two beautiful plots - Discounted, Overlooks the Lake and beneath Oak tree. Arlington Memorial Park – 770-596-1093.

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22 | Community

Buckhead resident joins ADA suit against city of Atlanta Continued from page 1 was not repairing sidewalks even after he submitted several maintenance requests. “I have not had much luck at all with ATL311,” he said, referring to the city’s request service. “The only thing I can think of is that the city just hopes you go away,” Curtis said. A city spokesperson said in an email that Atlanta is working to fix the sidewalks and other infrastructure to make them accessible for everyone. “The city remains committed to the core value that Atlanta truly belongs to everyone and no obstacles should stand in anyone’s way in contributing to and participating fully in our community,” the statement said. The city said it is not in violation of the 2009 agreement because the agreement is “ongoing.” “The city continues to address the identified needs and to cooperate with the DOJ by reporting its progress on an annual basis,” the written statement said. Curtis said he recently transitioned from a manual to powered wheelchair which has allowed him to explore the city more, but also showed him how difficult it is to navigate the damaged sidewalks throughout the city. “It really opened my eyes into how crumbled the infrastructure is,” he said. Most able-bodied people are able to get around the damaged areas with little issues, but for wheelchair users it becomes a big problem. “Unless you’re disabled, you wouldn’t think twice about the sidewalks,” he said. “I would love to see our sidewalks be wide enough for everyone to use.” In previous interviews for articles on sidewalk damage in Buckhead, wheelchair users have told stories of falling into the street due to steep sidewalk ramps and getting stuck in large cracks. Utility poles and signs also crowd the sidewalks, leaving insufficient room for a wheelchair and causing wheelchair users to turn around or make dangerous detours into a roadway.

Facebook.com/TheReporterNewspapers ■ twitter.com/Reporter_News On major corridors, the city of Atlanta and Georgia Department of Transportation each say the other is responsible for repairs, frustrating residents like Curtis who submit requests. “Everyone’s trying to deflect the blame,” Curtis said. There are two other plaintiffs in the case, Laurel Lawson and James Turner, who come from different areas of the city, which the attorney said was intentional. “We want to cover all parts of the city,” attorney James Radford said. The lawsuit did not come out of one specific incident and problem area, but rather the cumulative frustration the residents have experienced. “Things have come to a head. They really want to take action to force the city’s

hand,” Radford said. The next step is waiting for the city to respond to the lawsuit, which must be done by July 10. Radford hopes to work with the city to come up with a plan to repair the sidewalks through mediation. If that doesn’t work, Radford will argue for the courts to force the city to make the repairs. The plaintiffs are not seeking compensation as part of the lawsuit, Radford said. Sally Flocks, the president of Pedestrians Educating Drivers on Safety, known as PEDS, said she is confident the lawsuit will solve the problems with pedestrian access. Although not a plaintiff, Flocks has been advocating for maintained sidewalks for years.

The city has millions lined up under the Renew Atlanta bond program and TSPLOST, and Flocks hopes that money is finally spent on comprehensive maintenance, construction and repairs. “I really hope it forces the city to put some money into sidewalks,” she said. She said the lawsuit could spur similar action or activism in surrounding cities with sidewalk problems, but wouldn’t have any direct effect on other municipalities. “We need to get our elected officials setting priorities on what is vital,” she said.


James Curtis, a Buckhead resident and Shepherd Center patient, waits at an intersection during an October 2017 walking tour highlighting sidewalk problems. Inset, Curtis squeezes through a pole and utility box installed in a sidewalk on Peachtree Road in October 2017.


JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

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GDOT lowers estimate for closing of Northside bridge during construction BY EVELYN ANDREWS evelyn@reporternewspapers. net


The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to construct the new Northside Drive bridge on a 24-hour schedule, lowering the road closure time from up to six months to three months. GDOT plans to close Northside Drive just SPECIAL north of Atlanta MeA rendering shows the proposed trail underneath the Northside morial Park in 2020 Drive bridge, which is scheduled to be replaced next year. to replace the aging bridge. Previous schedules called for the road to be closed from been under design for more than 10 years four-and-a-half to six months, but GDOT and pushed back for 10 years,” he said. has been able to lower that time, said BriThe bridge has was built in 1926 and an McHugh, the project manager said at a has numerous problems, including cracks June 7 community meeting held by the Atin the foundation, he said. lanta Memorial Park Conservancy. Residents had called for replacing the The plan also calls for adding a sepawall because they said it adds a layer of prorate pedestrian bridge on the east side of tection between pedestrians and traffic. the road and building a multi-use trail un“There’s so many families that use that derneath the bridge that will allow pedesarea. What if a car jumps a curb?” said one trians to cross the road safely. resident at the meeting, which was held in GDOT plans to prefrabicate some parts, the Bobby Jones Golf Course clubhouse. do extra preparatory work and work on a constant construction schedule to lower the time the road will be closed. The official GDOT detour is planned to be I-75 because it will only send vehicles to other state routes, but it is working with the city to plan for increased traffic on other surface streets, he said. The city plans to adjust traffic signals, reach out to Waze and Google Maps to help redirect traffic and will take requests for road closures, he said. The project will begin with utility relocation and other preparatory work in January 2019. The road closure is scheduled to begin the summer of 2020, McHugh said. Some adjacent residents have expressed concerns about 24-hour construction, which McHugh said is a “valid concern.” The schedule also increases the cost of the project because the contractor has to hire more crews, he said. The project is expected to cost $6.5 million to $7 million, according to GDOT. GDOT will not be able to accommodate other requests made during previous public meetings, including adding a barrier wall between the sidewalk and bridge, McHugh said. GDOT will also not add a crosswalk at the intersection of Woodward Way and Northside Drive on the north end of the bridge, which runs over Peachtree Creek, he said. There is not enough space to add a barrier wall similar to what is currently there without redesigning the bridge and pushing the project back another year, McHugh said. “We really can’t delay it. The project has

A rendering shows the Georgia Department of Transportation’s plan for the replacement Northside Drive bridge and added pedestrian bridge.

McHugh said the planned pedestrian bridge that would run alongside on a separate structure would provide an option for those concerned about safety. The crosswalk cannot be created because it would cause traffic problems at the five-way intersections, which often cannot accommodate crosswalks, he said. Crossing the street can instead be done at other intersections with crosswalks or by using the trail that would run underneath the bridge, he said.


The PATH Foundation is working with GDOT and the city to create a multi-use trail that would run underneath the bridge. It would be paid for with PATH Foundation funds it has leftover from other projects and would be maintained by the city, said Pete Pellingrini, the foundation executive director. GDOT will do some work to clear and grade the area, McHugh said. “I think it’s safe to say its a done deal,” he said.

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