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

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Sandy Springs Reporter

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► Senior musicians still playing after all these years PAGE 18 ► Bestselling author Emily Giffin talks about Atlanta, writing and more PAGE 16

Rocking the park

Fulton Schools proposes new, smaller North Springs High BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Rebuilding, not just renovating, North Springs Charter High School is now the official recommendation from Fulton County Schools Superintendent Jeff Rose, a major victory for community advocates. But details remain slim and new battle lines are being drawn over the timeline and Rose’s concept of a smaller building. For nearly a year, a group called CitSee FULTON on page 22 PHIL MOSIER

The new City Green park at City Springs had a big debut with the second annual “Food That Rocks” restaurant tasting event June 9. Among the hundreds of guests was Laine Walker (inset), who enjoyed the tastes of Breadwinner Café and Bakery and Farm to Ladle, provided by co-owner Geoff Melkonian. A thunderstorm briefly caused confusion in handling the crowd, but overall guest response was enthusiastic. Resident Fred Chaiken called the event “both a great value and introduction to a number of new and not-so-new restaurants in Sandy Springs… The entire City Springs complex is so impressive.”

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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

City approves $110M budget for FY2019 BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

The Sandy Springs City Council unanimously approved a nearly $110.5 million budget for fiscal year 2019 at its June 19 council meeting with significant funding going toward transportation infrastructure and land acquisition. The budget provides for the same millage rate as last year at 4.731 mills and includes $7.6 million for transportation infrastructure, $2.5 million toward city facilities, $4.5 million for land acquisition and $1.5 million for stormwater infrastructure. The budget also includes $285,325 for parks projects and

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Community Briefs

the customer’s overcharge would again be refunded but again did not explain the error. Sandy Springs leaders have a longstanding concern that ZIP code confusion is causing their sales tax collections to be misdirected to the city of Atlanta. The concern is based on businesses using software that report sales by ZIP codes. Many local ZIP codes use the preferred name “Atlanta” even when the addresses are actually in Sandy Springs.

I N A C H A N GE, I N DEP EN DEN CE DAY F IREWORKS SET F OR JULY 4

Sandy Springs will host its annual Independence Day celebration on July 4 this year, a change from previous years, when it was held on different days. Also new this year, food trucks will be on site serving food, a press release said. The location will be the same, however. The event will be held on the lawn of the Concourse Corporate Center, home of the King and Queen buildings, located at 5 Concourse Parkway, according to the release. Complimentary parking officially opens at 6:30 p.m. and will be available in Concourse Parking Decks Five and Six. Music from the band Shiloh begins at 7:30 p.m., and fireworks begin at 9:45 p.m., according to the release. Admission is free. Pets, tents, outdoor cooking and personal-use sparklers are not permitted in the Concourse area. Drones are not permitted in the Concourse and fireworks areas.

S TA PLES AGA I N C H A RGES ATLANTA S A LES TA X I N SA N DY SP R ING S

The giant office supply corporation Staples has again been found charging an online customer in Sandy Springs an incorrect, and higher, city of Atlanta sales tax. It’s an example of an issue that officials fear is contributing to lower-than-expected revenue from a transportation-oriented special local option sales tax in Fulton County. Six months ago, a resident of Sandy Springs’ 30328 ZIP code – which is entirely within the city limits -- complained about Staples’ promotional product subsidiary calculating the correct 7.75 percent sales tax on an online order estimate, but then incorrectly charging Atlanta’s 8.9 percent sales tax on the final order. After being contacted by the Reporter, Staples refunded the overcharge but declined to explain why the tax calculation was incorrect or whether it would be fixed. In June, the same customer reported the same problem on a new order. Mark Cautela, director of corporate communications at the Massachusetts-based company, said

M ER CED ES-B ENZ U SES S A NDY S P R I NG S S TR EET A DDR ES S

Mercedes-Benz USA is using “Sandy Springs” in its street address for its new headquarters, a nod to city concerns that it is home to several major corporations that often brand themselves “Atlanta” instead. On MBUSA’s website, the address for its Customer Assistance Center is given as “1 MercedesBenz Drive, Sandy Springs GA 30328.” Whether that address would FILE/KATE AWTREY say “Sandy The Mercedes-Benz USA headquarters at 1 MercedesSprings” or “AtBenz Drive on its opening day in March. lanta” was a touchy – and unanswered – point in last year’s controversial City Council decision to rename part of Barfield Road for the company. City officials have long been sensitive to their own branding issue. Other major corporations headquartered in the city, such as UPS and Intercontinental Exchange, the owner of the New York Stock Exchange, use “Atlanta” in their materials. MBUSA, which opened its new headquarters in March, did not respond to questions about the address decision.

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The sign for the adult bookstore Inserection at 7855 Roswell Road.

BY EVELYN ANDREWS AND JOHN RUCH Two recent decisions by the U.S. and Georgia Supreme Courts have paved the way for the city to shutter adult businesses after a decade-long legal battle. The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this month denied review of a lawsuit that would force out adult businesses in some parts of Sandy Springs and cut off their alcohol sales. The city has begun the process of forcing the businesses to vacate their properties. And on June 18, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in the city’s favor in a similar challenge brought by a local strip club. The businesses involved in the federal case include the adult bookstore Inserection, located on Roswell Road, and two strip clubs: Flashers, also on Roswell, and Mardi Gras, on Powers Ferry Road. The businesses are operating in areas where the city’s zoning code does not allow them. The city had won in lower courts in a lawsuit by adult businesses over a city ordinance that would ban the sale of alcohol — a major source of revenue — in strip clubs and place strong zoning restrictions on where adult businesses could operate. A petition for the court to decide the case, Flanigan’s Enterprises, Inc. v. Sandy Springs, was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 11, according to the court’s website. The city now is pursuing an injunction against the businesses to force them to move out of their current locations, where zoning restrictions prevent them from operating, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said in a written statement. The city expects “full compliance” with its ordinances, she said. The attorney representing the businesses did not respond to a request for comment. The state case involved a club at 5275 SS

Roswell Road that has gone through various name changes during the decade-long battle and is current known as the Doll House and Coronet Club. The club’s owners had challenged city zoning restrictions and a ban on alcohol sales in such clubs. The state Supreme Court rejected those arguments in a unanimous decision written by Justice Britt Grant.. Alan Begner, an attorney for the club, declined to comment, saying he was still reviewing the decision. Both of the cases originate in a 2006 controversy, when the bookstore and strip clubs challenged new city codes. Since 2009, the codes have been defended by Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee attorney who specializes in municipal laws cracking down on sexually-oriented businesses. The city has said it has no problem with adult entertainment per se, but argues that it produces crime as a side effect that needs to be controlled. The businesses say the city’s laws are motivated by a bias against their work and intended to make it impossible for them to operate. The businesses sued, claiming violations of the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourteenth Amendments. In both the main Flanigan’s case and the spin-off Davenport case, the city won in lower courts — but often did so by making last-minute changes to its laws which effectively loosened the intended restrictions on adult businesses. That included greatly expanding the types of zoning areas where adult businesses can operate and reversing a ban on the sale of sex toys. “The lower federal courts had consistently ruled that the city’s ordinances are constitutional regulations designed to protect the Sandy Springs community from the crime and blight documented to occur in and around adult establishments,” Kraun said.

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COMING SOON TO

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

TAJ MAHAL TRIO

SATURDAY • SEPT. 8

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

T I C K E T S O N SA L E N O W

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

SPECIAL

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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“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.

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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.”

N

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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6 | Art & Entertainment

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ADRON: SUNDAYS ON THE RIVER CONCERT

KIDS AND FAMILIES DINNER AND A MOVIE

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PERFORMANCES BASSIST AND CELLIST DUO

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.

WINE & READING SERIES

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.

SUNSET SIPS

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.

DUNWOODY NATURE CENTER SUMMER CONCERT SERIES

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.

CONCERTS BY THE SPRINGS

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.

GET ACTIVE BUTTERFLY ENCOUNTER

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

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LEARN SOMETHING BOOKS FOR BREAKFAST SUMMER SERIES

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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visit

► Fourth of July Celebration

Chamblee offers free summer fun

WEDNESDAY, JULY 4, 5-10 P.M. KESWICK PARK, 3496 KESWICK DRIVE

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.

OTHER ACTIVITIES INCLUDE:

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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The Summer Concert Series wraps up with two classic pop-rock bands from the 1980s and ’90s. Gin Blossoms have sold more than 10 million albums with such hits as “Hey Jealousy,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Follow You Down” and the Grammy-nominated “As Long As It Matters.” The Rembrandts are a Grammy-nominated band known for the hit songs “Just the Way It Is Baby” and “I’ll Be There for You” (the theme song from the TV comedy series “Friends”). Other hits include “Johnny Have You Seen Her,” “Someone,” “Burning Timber” and “This House Is Not a Home.” Food, beverages and beer will be available for purchase, and guests can bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks. Peachtree Road will be closed during the concert. Parking and shuttle service will be available at Chamblee Charter High School, 3688 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, 6:30-11 p.m.

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10 | Community

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Access points for managed lanes concern top end cities BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

The Georgia Department of Transportation is hoping to alleviate traffic in the top end of I-285 that touches Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs with new elevated express lanes slated to begin construction in 2023, but where new access points from those express lanes will be constructed remains a concern for these cities. Dunwoody City Manager Eric Linton last month sent a letter to Tim Matthews, senior design build project manager for GDOT, stating it is “critical for the managed lane network to have multiple, geographically distributed access points into the Perimeter market.” One of those proposed access points is already a point of contention. The city of Sandy Springs has asked GDOT to move a proposed access point at Mount Vernon Road to Hammond Drive. But moving the access point to Hammond Drive will likely result in more traffic on Dunwoody’s surface streets, according to Dunwoody Public Works Director Michael Smith. “We think there needs to be something further north than Hammond,” he said. Instead, Dunwoody is supporting a managed lane interchange between Ga. 400 and Riverside Drive to help further disperse traffic in the region, according to Linton. “Without such an interchange, traffic may flow unnecessarily into the Perimeter Center surface streets,” Linton stated in his letter to GDOT. Sharon Kraun, spokesperson for Sandy Springs, said the city is working closely with all stakeholders to determine the best site for access points. “The city is working closely with its partners including GDOT, the city of Dunwoody and Perimeter Community Improvement Districts (PCID) to explore options on where to locate access points for GDOT’s managed lane program,” she said in an email. “As options are evaluated, city staff will share this information with the city council and community and seek feedback.” The behind-the-scenes tensions about the managed lane plans came to light at the Sandy Springs City Council’s Jan. 23 retreat, where GDOT officials presented the latest concepts and city transportation planners pushed back with counterproposals including moving the proposed managed lanes interchange from Mount Vernon to Hammond Drive. GDOT spokesperson Jill Goldberg said at the time the agency will do “aggressive outreach” once it has what it considers to be a more solid plan. The Mount Vernon interchange, for example, was proposed relatively recently and is still being studied by engineers. At a recent Brookhaven City Council meeting, GDOT’s Tim Matthews also addressed some of the city’s concerns about access points raised by Mayor John Ernst in a letter to GDOT. “This project has major implications and impacts on the adjacent cities given the addition of access points that are not part of the existing highway interchanges,” Ernst said in his letter. “We want to be assured that any Brookhaven access point does not result in exasperating localized traffic congestion as commuters from neighboring cities come into Brookhaven to access I-285 managed lanes,” he said. Brookhaven also shares Dunwoody’s concerns about the distribution of access point west of Ga. 400, Ernst said. “[I]t appears the planned locations will result in commuters driving into the congested Perimeter area just to access the I-285 managed lanes to go toward I-75 or I-85,” Ernst added. The I-285 top end express lanes are still in the preliminary stages and nothing has been set in stone, but GDOT is already acquiring right-of-way where needed and is expected to begin the design process in 2020, Matthews told Brookhaven council members. There will be more time for public input as well, he said. The managed lanes are a separate project from Transform 285/400 project that would add even more lanes — four on each highway — in construction that could take a decade. The concept of the project is to allow toll-paying drivers to speed through the interchange in dedicated, entirely separate lanes, and is being touted by GDOT as a reliable way to get to where motorists want to go on time. The elevated lanes near the proposed interchanges are GDOT’s way to reduce taking city right-of-way, Matthews told Brookhaven council members. The current proposed managed lane interchanges, or access points, provide three access points: Johnson Ferry Road-Ga. 400, Perimeter Center Parkway-Ga. 400, and Mount Vernon Highway-Ga. 400. These points are fairly evenly distributed geographically in the Perimeter Center area, Linton said in his letter to GDOT. But if Mount Vernon were removed or moved to Hammond, “not only is there less access but the interchanges also would be concentrated in one quadrant of the market,” Linton said in his letter to GDOT. “Dunwoody is concerned that this would result in more of the managed lane traffic being directed to its surface streets and that the northern 2/3 of the market would have less than ideal access to the managed lanes,” Linton said.

PR O JECTS PLANNE D NEA R V I C I NI T Y O F P R O P O S ED EXPR ES S L A NE INTER C HA NG ES Dunwoody City Manager Eric Linton is asking GDOT officials to consider these future planned developments when planning interchanges for the future express lanes on the top end of I-285. Project name: Northpark Location: Mount Vernon at Peachtree Dunwoody Road Number of new vehicle trips according to Development of Regional Impact: 7,900 Project name: 1117 Perimeter Center West Location: Mount Vernon Road at Perimeter Center West Number of new vehicle trips per DRI: 12,000 Project name: High Street (in Dunwoody bordering Sandy Springs, massive mixeduse project that’s been on the books for years but no clear date for a groundbreaking set) Location: Hammond Drive at Perimeter Center Parkway Number of new vehicle trips per DRI: 28,000 Project name: State Farm’s Park Center (in Dunwoody) Location: Hammond Drive at Perimeter Center Parkway Number of new vehicle trips per DRI: 7,200 Project name: Peachtree Dunwoody Pavilion (business park) Location: Peachtree-Dunwoody Road at Lake Hearn Drive Number of new vehicle trips per DRI: 4,800

State commits $100M to new Ga. 400 bus system Gov. Nathan Deal has announced $100 million in bond funding for new bus rapid transit connections on Ga. 400 to kick-start a regional transit expansion. The funding makes the stations part of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s controversial plans for new “managed” or “express” toll lanes on Ga. 400 and may help sort out local concerns that the project doesn’t leave enough room for useful transit options. Bus rapid transit refers to high-capacity buses running in dedicated lanes. Deal said in a June 19 announcement that GDOT is studying locations for four bus-only interchanges, likely near future bus stations, as shown on a sample illustration. The Fulton County Transit Master Plan, a document developed with public input last year, proposed Sandy Springs’ Northridge Road as one station location, along with some point farther north: Holcomb Bridge Road, the North Point Mall area and Old Milton Parkway. “This investment in BRT infrastructure marks the first time that the state, Fulton County and MARTA have partnered together to improve our mass transit system,” Deal said in a press release. “With this announcement, we are introducing collaborative solutions for both transportation and transit, which is exactly what the ATL and Georgia’s commitment to improving mobility are

all about.” His general obligation bond funding follows the General Assembly’s passage earlier this year of legislation authorizing a new regional transit authority known as the ATL, which includes MARTA but also other agencies. The state money will go to planning and land acquisition for the bus interchanges. Further funding would need to come from MARTA and Fulton County if voters approved tax increases via a referendum. In meetings last year for long-term transit planning, local residents favored extending MARTA’s Red Line rail along Ga. 400. But Fulton County and city leaders eventually agreed on bus expansion as an easier and less expensive first step. Ga. 400 transit expansion plays a big role in another Sandy Springs city issue – the government’s desire to spur redevelopment of the north end’s older apartment complexes and shopping centers. Future transit plans for the Northridge Road area were among the topics mentioned at last month’s debut meeting of the city’s new North End Revitalization Task Force. Similar toll lanes are planned for I-285 as well and have raised similar concerns with cities across the top end Perimeter. – John Ruch

SS


JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Parents raise safety concerns with polling places in schools BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

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, copresidents 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.” 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 [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. 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, SS

Community | 11

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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 a 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 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 it could reduce parking and traffic problems. In his perfect system, he said, voting would be on weekends. But he objected to the idea of removing polling places from schools altogether. “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.”

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12 | Community

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In Fulton property tax self-help meeting, officials say: ‘Appeal!’ BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

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 until 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” 83 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.

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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.

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 exemption 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.

JOHN RUCH

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 as among the initiatives. 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 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. SS


JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Community | 13

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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” category 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.

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14 | Commentary

Reporter Newspapers 

Our mission is to provide our readers with fresh and engaging information about life in their communities. Published by Springs Publishing LLC 6065 Roswell Road, Suite 225 Sandy Springs, GA 30328 Phone: 404-917-2200 • Fax: 404-917-2201 Brookhaven Reporter | Buckhead Reporter Dunwoody Reporter | Sandy Springs Reporter www.ReporterNewspapers.net Atlanta INtown www.AtlantaINtownPaper.com Atlanta Senior Life www.AtlantaSeniorLife.com

C O NTA C T US Founder & Publisher Steve Levene stevelevene@reporternewspapers.net Editorial Managing Editor John Ruch johnruch@reporternewspapers.net INtown Editor: Collin Kelley Editor-at-Large Joe Earle Staff Writers Dyana Bagby, Evelyn Andrews Copy Editor: Donna Williams Lewis Creative and Production Creative Director Rico Figliolini rico@reporternewspapers.net Graphic Designer: Wes Duvall Advertising Director of Sales Development Amy Arno amyarno@reporternewspapers.net Sales Executives Melissa Kidd, Jeff Kremer, Janet Porter, Jim Speakman Office Manager Deborah Davis deborahdavis@reporternewspapers.net Contributors Robin Conte, Phil Mosier

Free Home Delivery 60,000 copies of Reporter Newspapers are delivered by carriers to homes in ZIP codes 30305, 30319, 30326, 30327, 30328, 30338, 30342 and 30350 and to more than 500 business/retail locations. For locations, check “Where To Find Us” at www.ReporterNewspapers.net For delivery requests, please email delivery@reporternewspapers.net.

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2018 © 2018 with all rights reserved Publisher reserves the right to refuse editorial or advertising for any reason. Publisher assumes no responsibility for information contained in advertising. Any opinions expressed in print or online do not necessarily represent the views of Reporter Newspapers or Springs Publishing, LLC.

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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 represents Buckhead exemptions for many years. “fair market value,” with only and part of Sandy modest future increases. November referenda, if Springs on the Fulton the voters approve, will apBut that won’t solve all of County Commission. ply such exemptions to Fulthe problems. One remaining major 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 exemptions es, are manageable within his household will ameliorate the burden of future valbudget. Small tax increases can thereafue increases, they will not help those who ter generally be expected and addressed within the budget. But large sudden inalready cannot afford the taxes on their creases are often not affordable, and homes. More significant relief for seniors even modest increases over many years in Atlanta is necessary, allowing folks to can result in the household budget no age in place, rather than forcing them to longer handling the tax bill. sell their homes because of the increased Some jurisdictions (for example, Calitaxes resulting from value 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. Fulton County and Sandy Springs por2019 legislative session are needed.

Lee Morris

Letter to the Editor

North Springs High rivals any school’s quality In a recent article in the Reporter Newspapers, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul was quoted saying, “In Sandy Springs, rich kids go to private schools, poor kids go to public schools, and middle-class kids go to Cobb County.” (“North End task force is told to boost retail, avoid gentrification,” May 25.) We appreciate that he has since apologized for these remarks. As members of the School Governance Council of North Springs Charter High School, we want to set the record straight: Sandy Springs parents and students don’t need to look for greener grass when it is time to choose schools. The public schools in Sandy Springs, which include students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, are schools of choice for many families seeking the mul-

tifaceted opportunities they receive in our district. Many local and out-of-district families choose to send their children to North Springs instead of to private schools or to public schools within their own districts to benefit from our school’s proven track record of success in academics, the arts and athletics. Here are a few statistics regarding the 389 students who comprise the North Springs Class of 2018: four students were named National Merit Scholar Finalists ; three students were selected to represent North Springs in the Governors Honors Program; 130 students completed a College and Career Pathway.; 78 students earned Advanced Placement honors; students have been accepted to schools all over the country.

Though the many examples of success we have cited here are about North Springs, Sandy Springs is home to 11 public schools that offer a rich, relevant and comprehensive education rivaling any private school, or for that matter, any school in Cobb County. We are proud of our faculty and staff who prepare our students for life beyond high school. We encourage Fulton County residents to visit North Springs to learn about the many opportunities that benefit our students. We are confident it will be clear why so many make North Springs their school of choice. Richard Artzi, Carolyn Dinberg, Lee Edelman, Cam Lupiani, Miriam Salpeter Members, School Governance Council, North Springs Charter High School SS


JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Commentary | 15

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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.

SPECIAL

A:

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?

Q:

How is this book different from your previous novels?

A:

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.

Q:

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

A:

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?

A:

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.

Q:

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

A:

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

PHOTOS BY JOE EARLE

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

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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

Education Briefs DEK A L B A S S I G N S N EW P EA C H TREE MID D LE PR INCIPAL

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.

N OR T H SP RI N GS STUDEN TS C RE ATE AR T F O R S A N DY SP RIN GS C H A MBER EVENT

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.

R IVERWO O D S TUDENT S V I S IT G ER M A NY

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.

SPECIAL

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

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22 | Education

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Fulton Schools proposes new, smaller North Springs High “After much review and analysis by our staff, we recommend placing the renovation on hold,” Rose told the school board at the meeting, held at the North Learning Center in Sandy Springs. “Instead, a comprehensive, neighborhood high school replacement, aligned with the anticipated enrollment need, which is lower than what is current, is beFULTON COUNTY SCHOOLS The entrance to North Springs Charter High School. ing recommended for the next capital program.” Rose gave a rationale Continued from page 1 largely matching what CFANNS has said all along, and follows a report izens for a New North Springs has earlier this year that said renovations pressed for Fulton Schools to give up would cost millions of dollars more on a renovation plan and rebuild the than budgeted. 55-year-old school at 7447 Roswell “The replacement school aligned Road in Sandy Springs. The city, which with community needs and is what wants to spur redevelopment of northwe believe is best for North Springs,” ern Roswell Road, officially supports Rose said. “It is also in the best finanthe cause as well. At a June 12 Board of cial interest of the community and Education meeting, Rose announced taxpayers over the long term. In addithe district was giving up its renovation, we believe we can build a replacetion plan, broadly agreeing with the ment school…and build it all at once advocates and proposing a new school rather than through a series of renovain an adjusted budget set to be voted on tions, and this would be less disruptive June 21.

to students and staff compared to the many renovation projects that would be needed over a series of years.” Emphasizing that the district reached the recommendation by “our process,” Rose said the decision involved comparing short- and long-term renovation costs to replacement costs. The district currently has about $19 million budgeted for a North Springs renovation in a capital program that runs through 2022. Rose proposes carrying out only “high-priority” items from the renovation list, such as “safety and security equipment and infrastructure needs.” The rest of the money would be reserved for a new school building, which he said would have to be authorized in the next capital program after 2022 with a new funding source, like an updated special local option sales tax. Rose provided no details about the change in plans, such as how much of the current budget would be reserved for the new school or what the lower enrollment projections are, and the district did not immediately provide answers after the meeting. “Now, I am well aware there are many more questions moving forward

in the short and long term,” he said, saying the enrollment and “academic program” questions will be answered “over time” in work with the school board. Betty Klein was among the CFANNS members who attended the meeting. “I think what he said is good news for the community and it’s obviously a great direction…,” she said, adding she is “very appreciative of what they’re doing,” But she also wants more information and details about the enrollment claim and why replacement school planning can’t start sooner. Enrollment projections may become a key issue. CFANNS has long said that many local parents send their children to Sandy Springs’ other public high school, the newer Riverwood International Charter School, and their return alone would significantly boost enrollment. Various city consultants in recent years have projected Sandy Springs as having a growing – though also aging – population. And the city’s broad concepts for redeveloping the north end involve higher-density housing, meaning a population boost. North Springs Principal Scott Hanson also said he looks forward to more information. “What’s the next piece?” he asked. Jody Reichel, a CFANNS co-founder and a member of the Sandy Springs City Council, said starting the planning for a new school should start sooner. “While it is critical that we utilize our resources to secure the safety of our school, why not use the remainder of current allocated capital funds or the millions of dollars that is currently in reserve to begin design of a new facility?” she asked in a written statement. “Waiting to start a design after another five years means no new building for possibly six to eight years.” Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, who previously sent Fulton Schools a personal letter supporting a new North Springs High, praised the decision and said he hopes the academic programming will include classes that allow students to gain high school and postsecondary education credits simultaneously. “I’m glad the school system listened and responded to the desires of the community regarding the physical needs of North Springs High School,” Paul said in a written statement. “I hope this leads to implementation of the dual enrollment opportunities the state is providing for both collegebound and non-college-bound students that I and my predecessor Eva Galambos have urged them to adopt.” –Evelyn Andrews contributed SS


JUNE 22 - JULY 5, 2018

Community | 23

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City approves $110M budget for Fiscal Year 2019

SANDY SPRINGS NOTICE OF VARIANCE PETITION Petition Number:

V18-0008 and V18-0009

Petitioner:

Legacy Ventures

Continued from page 1

Location:

5775 Peachtree Dunwoody Road

$750,000 for city capital purchases. The budget keeps the city’s fund balance at $20.5 million. There was no council discussion about the budget at the meeting. During public comment, resident Tochie Blad noted the city’s first ever line item for “water reliability” totaling $1 million. She said there is no clear definition of what that money is to be used for, whether for repairs on consulting projects, and asked the council to let the public know what the money is allocated for as it is spent. The city earlier this year launched a new priority to seek improvements to the Atlantarun water system or sue to seize control of it. Sandy Springs claims the system is aging and leaky, while Atlanta says the criticisms are all wet. City Manager John McDonough told the council during budget planning sessions he is planning “a way ahead, if you will” that will cost “multiple millions of dollars over the next five to seven years.” The $1 million in this budget is seed money for the multi-year planning, he said. Some elements of the general fund budget include:

Request:

Variances from Sec. 5.6.4.A of the Development Code to increase the build-to-zone and from Sec. 5.6.4.J to reduce pedestrian access from the street.

Public Hearing:

Board of Appeals July 10, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.

Location:

Sandy Springs City Hall 1 Galambos Way Sandy Springs, Georgia 30328 770-730-5600 pz@sandyspringsga.gov

SANDY SPRINGS NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING

■ $17,298,431 for general government contracts for city services; ■ $30,170,473 for personnel and related benefits; ■ $33,504,828 for operations and equipment; ■ $17,195,325 for capital improvement programs; ■ $12,317,173 towards funding the other special funds. All eligible city employees may receive a 3 percent salary increase and are eligible for an additional bonus based on job performance if they meet certain standards. The budget includes a $5.233 million Performing Arts Center Fund to be used for activities, staffing and operations at the City Springs Performing Arts Center. The North End Revitalization Task Force project also received $250,000 in an allocation decided by City Council members in an internal ballot. The money is intended as a gesture of support for efforts to spur redevelopment of older apartment complexes and shopping centers in the northern Roswell Road corridor.

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City of Sandy Springs

Purpose:

A resolution to adopt the 2018 Solid Waste Management Plan update

Public Hearing:

Mayor and City Council July 17, 2018, 6:00 p.m.

Location:

Sandy Springs City Hall 1 Galambos Way Sandy Springs, Georgia 30328 770-730-5600

SANDY SPRINGS NOTICE OF VARIANCE PETITION Petition Number:

V18-0011

Petitioner:

Scottish Rite Children’s Medical Center, Inc.

Location:

1001 Johnson Ferry Rd.

Request:

Variances from Section 8.2.9.B and Section 5.6.3 of the Development Code for screening of rooftop mechanical equipment and to reduce the transparency requirement of the facade.

Public Hearing:

Board of Appeals July 10, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.

Location:

Sandy Springs City Hall 1 Galambos Way Sandy Springs, Georgia 30328 770-730-5600

404-226-2002

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SANDY SPRINGS NOTICE OF VARIANCE PETITION Petition Number:

V18-0010

Petitioner:

336 Hamm, LLC

Location:

336 Hammond Drive & 6049 Boylston Drive

Request:

Variances for a proposed restaurant.

Public Hearing:

Board of Appeals July 10, 2018 at 6:00 p.m.

Location:

Sandy Springs City Hall 1 Galambos Way Sandy Springs, Georgia 30328 770-730-5600


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