AUGUST 2019 - Sandy Springs Reporter

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AUGUST 2019 • VOL. 13 — NO. 8

Sandy Springs Reporter


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Section Two

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Horizons Atlanta marks 20 years of working with students






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It’s time to take back our streets and make them safer P10

Buckhead soccer fan covers sports for CNN P20

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


Born f r news o om the Atlan utlet s eeks t ta Olympics, o pres erve it a sports s legac y





Mayor Rusty Paul, who has shepherded the City Springs project to completion, stands outside the complex and its City Green park.


Study says Sandy Springs school district would be financially feasible BY EVELYN ANDREWS

A study commissioned by a group advocating for a city school district has found that creating one would be financially feasible. The study found Sandy Springs’ taxes would generate sufficient funding to

operate the 11 public schools within the city’s borders, which are currently operated by the Fulton County School District. Projected revenues for a separate Sandy Springs school district would be approximately $163.3 million. Operating expenses were estimated to be $65.2 million. See STUDY on page 16

The City Springs civic center and its Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center are celebrating their first birthday, after a year that included adding new public art, changing the theater’s operator and buying an outdoor stage to host concerts. And there’s more to come, including a new gallery, a restaurant and a brick-naming program to raise funds for the PAC. To Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, the Performing Arts Center, which opened in August 2018, has been “overwhelmingly successful,” citing over 500 events in the first year. It’s also brought the walkability, community gathering space and apartments for young renters and families Paul envisioned, he said. See CITY on page 14


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The city has approved a $2.5 million construction contract for the Sandy Springs Circle streetscape project. The contract was awarded to the firm Vertical Earth and unanimously approved at the July 16 City Council meeting. There is approximately $4.2 million currently available in the project budget, according to the city. Construction is expected to begin later this year. The most recent plan presented in late 2016 includes converting one northbound lane into on-street parking, while the two southbound lanes remain open and eliminating a sidewalk included in the original concept. The original plan was heavily criticized. Big points of controversy were turning two of four travel lanes into parallel parking and large right-of-way takings due to installing both a sidewalk and a multi-use path. The construction contract includes building retaining walls and sidewalks and installing pedestrian lighting. The city has already done some smaller elements of the project, such as build sidewalks that plug into it and restriping.



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Public Safety | 3

City’s Swiftwater Rescue Team offers tips for safety on the Chattahoochee

One of the Swiftwater Rescue Team’s boats is seen at Fire Station 3.


Cool waters and fast currents from the dams feeding into the Chattahoochee River are two common reasons people need rescuing by the Sandy Springs Fire and Rescue Department’s boat and swimming team, according to Capt. Stacy Bailey. Sandy Springs’ Swiftwater Rescue Team responds to water rescues in the city as well as surrounding jurisdictions. Each team consists of a boat operator and rescue swimmers trained in rescue techniques and medical care. An inflatable boat called a rapid deployment craft is used to rescue people in shallow waters. Each year, several people need to be rescued from the river by the Swiftwater team and some die. In April, Sandy Springs helped recover a body near Cobb-Sandy Springs border. Another man died in June 2018 after he jumped from a cliff, hit rocks and fell underwater. In one incident from May recounted by Bailey, a man fell in the river while taking pictures along the shore and could not get out. The water was so cold he could not control his body enough to swim out of the current, Bailey said. The Swiftwater team was able to reach him and found him showing signs of hypo-


The following are the Fire Rescue Department’s tips for river safety ■ Be aware of hypothermia. The water in the river can be unexpectedly and unseasonably cold due to water releases from the Buford Dam to produce power. The water comes from the bottom of Lake Sidney Lanier, where the temperature is about 50 degrees. ■ Water levels and currents can also change quickly when water is released. The dam release schedule can be checked by visiting or calling 770945-1466. ■ Check the levels of the bacteria E. coli to determine the risk of swimming in the river by visiting ■ Don’t use alcohol or drugs while on the river. ■ Get off the water before sunset. People on the river after dark are more prone to getting lost, and rescue efforts are more difficult. ■ Personal flotation devices, or life jackets, should be worn at all times for safety. They are required on many sections of the river. ■ Check the weather. ■ Wear proper clothing and footwear. ■ Don’t go on the river alone. ■ Don’t dive into water, where a shallow bottom, hidden rock or other obstruction could cause a head injury. thermia. He was treated at a hospital and survived. The incident could have been prevented, Bailey said, by staying along marked paths and keeping a life jacket at hand. The rescue team also responds to many false calls when people lose track of friends or family members and wrongly fear they fell into the river. “Although a majority of these calls are false calls, rescuers take these reports very seriously,” Bailey said. “This type of call expends many valuable resources from multiple jurisdictions across the metro area.” “Floating or swimming in the Chattahoochee River puts you in an environment that is totally different than the environment that we live in every day,” Bailey said. “Therefore, special caution needs to be taken by every visitor while on or in the river.”

4 | Public Safety ■

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Hate crimes in Sandy Springs that violate local laws will come with enhanced legal penalties and stronger police data collection after the City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance, an effort supported by the Anti-Defamation League. The ordinance is a municipal version of laws that have been adopted at the federal level and in 45 states, but not yet in Georgia. Sandy Springs is one of the first local jurisdictions in Georgia to enact such an ordinance. The ordinance took effect immediately following the passage July 16. The ordinance was supported by the ADL, which believes the passage could help spur Georgia to pass a state law, the organization said in a press release. “Implementation of this ordinance recognizes the unique harm hate crimes cause not only to victims, but also entire communities, and sends the clear message across Georgia that bigotry in all forms is wrong,” Shelley Rose, the ADL’s Southeast Regional deputy director, said in the release. The resolution approving the ordinance says that “hate or bias-motivated crimes are more than acts of violence and destruction, they are attacks on the very values which are pillars of the city of Sandy SPECIAL Springs… [T]he Mayor and City Council of City Councilmember Andy Bauman. Sandy Springs hold that the diversity that exists within our community should be embraced, and that the city is more vibrant and stronger because of the diversity of our citizens.” Proposed by City Councilmember Andy Bauman, the hate-crimes enhancement affects certain city ordinances related to public order, including vandalism; disorderly conduct; public urination and defecation; loitering and prowling; creating a disturbance; and littering. The increased penalties would come if a court ruled that the victim was targeted due to hate or bias based on “their actual or perceived race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical or mental disability, or national origin,” according to the ordinance’s language. The accompanying resolution emphasizes that “hate speech” is not criminalized in the ordinance, only certain “criminal acts.” The ordinance allows a judge to increase the fine or jail sentence up to the legal maximum, and to impose community service or a required educational program either in addition to such legal penalties or as replacements for them. The ordinance also mandates that the Sandy Springs Police Department report hate crime data to the FBI. Councilmember John Paulson asked whether the city ordinance would be superseded if the state passes a hate-crimes law. “Not at all. This is in our wheelhouse,” Bauman said. “This will only apply to municipal crimes. The state law will apply to state crimes.” Some nearby cities, including Dunwoody, recently instituted similar hate-crime reporting codes and a nondiscrimination ordinance that prohibits local, privately-owned businesses from discriminating against minority groups amid particular concerns about increased protections for people who are LGBTQ. Bauman previously said he has been asked about working on a similar nondiscrimination ordinance in Sandy Springs, but he is focused on the hate crimes ordinance for now. He wants to see how the non-discrimination ordinances play out in other cities, he said.

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Education | 5

AUGUST 2019 ■

Summer program marks 20 years of serving low-income students


Students in the Horizons program at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs take a bow after finishing a performance.


A summer education program serving low-income students from Sandy Springs’ public schools is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The Horizons Atlanta program at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School (HIES) teaches students so they don’t fall behind during the break, while also helping them deal with major issues like deportation threats. Horizons enrolls 135 students each summer to teach them more literacy and math through special projects at HIES Sandy Springs. Students in the program at HIES come from two feeder schools, Lake Forest Elementary and High Point Elementary, both in Sandy Springs. The teachers and instructors come from a mix of the feeder schools and the host school. Many students at HIES and surrounding schools volunteer to help with the program. The program has grown massively since beginning in 1999. Vera Woods, a recently retired High Point Elementary teacher, has been teaching at Horizons HIES program since it started and seen it grow from 10 students to 135. It has also grown to expand beyond academics to teaching students empathy and social and emotional intelligence, Woods said. “You have your little seed and now have we this beautiful mosaic,” she said of the program. Continued on page 6

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Summer program marks 20 years of serving low-income students Continued from page 5 Since the program at HIES began, the nationwide Horizons National organization has opened an Atlanta regional office, now led by former Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan, and eight new host schools began participating, including Atlanta International School in Buckhead. Another Buckhead school is expected to join soon, Wan said. Horizons Atlanta currently only works with Fulton County and Atlanta districts, but they see the need to serve DeKalb, Wan said. “The trick is finding a host institution,” he said. Each host school provides facilities, some teachers and funding, Wan said. The students are nominated by teachers or chosen because they are performing below grade level. All participants join the program as rising first-graders and commit to stay in the program through eighth grade. Students with a sibling in the program get priority, and some students are allowed after first grade if there are open seats, which usually are created when students move. A common reasons students move and leave the program is that they often come from transient families who have to leave communities as rents rise, said Kate Kratovil, the Horizons at HIES site director for Horizons at HIES. When that happens, Horizons allows them to continue attending if they can make it with their own transportation, since busing is only provided within Sandy Springs, Kratovil said. They may also join another Horizons program if one is nearby. During the free, six-week program, students get lessons on math, literacy and emotional well-being, as well as take part in weekly field trips and receive swimming lessons. Swimming lessons give students the opportunity to take lessons like wealthier peers often do, Kratovil said. The program also uses a tool to help students recognize their moods and talk about it with peers, Wan said. “It gives students and teachers a way to articulate and think about how they’re feeling,” Wan said. “I think it has paid dividends.” Horizons at HIES has needed to provide a different kind of support to students and families this year after hearing Hispanic participants frequently talk about their fear of being deported. Following rumors U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would conduct raids in Atlanta in July, Horizons brought in an attorney to talk with families and give them legal advice. “This summer the students are really aware and openly talking about it. It is certainly a fear,” Kratovil said. “It helped if nothing else for them to know that we are advocates for them.” The curriculum already tackles similar issues to give their students a “global perspective,” Kratovil said. They learn about human rights, the United Nations, freedom of opinion and the Holocaust, among other issues. “It is that mix where we are going to tackle big issues, but there’s also that blend of enrichment where kids refer to it as a summer camp,” she said. “My unofficial mission is to trick them into learning,” Wan said. Horizons plans to host a 20th anniversary event at HIES, 805 Mount Vernon Highway N.W., from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 15.

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Education | 7

AUGUST 2019 ■

Kathy Vail, Dunwoody High School Kathy Vail has led Dunwoody High Fencing from its start as a small team in 2009 to a full club with a large practice area. Now, she’s won the United States Fencing Association’s Outstanding Service Award for Youth Fencing for her work building and coaching the program, which allows high school students to learn fencing and participate in competitions with other Georgia schools. “Receiving the award at the National Championships in front of coaches and fencers from across the country was amazing and humbling,” Vail said. “To be asked to speak to young fencers about our sport was a great honor.” USA Fencing is the national governing body for the sport of fencing in the United States. It oversees competitions and promoting the sport. USA Fencing Membership Director Bob Bodor and Brandeis University Head Coach Jennie Salmon presented the award to Vail at the 2019 USA Fencing National Championships in Columbus, Ohio. “You especially deserving for everything you do for the sport and for how much you did for the development of the youth component to the national level competitions,” Bodor said when presenting the award.

and learn about themselves as they progress. Good footwork and good blade work can take you a long way in our sport. Knowing what you want to achieve and what you need to do achieve it can make you a champion.

Q: What types of competitions does the team do? A: The team competes in the Georgia High School Fencing League. There are


teams that compete in the Georgia High School Fencing League. The GHSFL is the third largest high school fencing league in the nation. New York and New Jersey rank first and second.

Q: What do you think fencing teaches high schoolers? A: Discipline, decisiveness and confi-


eight tournaments, with men’s and women’s events, throughout the season culminating in Individual and Team Championships. The members of the DHS team also take part in the “GHSFL Day at the Capitol,” a fencing demonstration held in the state Capitol rotunda each year.

Q: How common are high school fencing teams? A: Sixteen years ago, there were no high school fencing teams in Georgia. Today, there are 20 high school fencing

dence. Although fencing is an individual sport, students also learn the value of being part of a team. Fencing provides a platform from which high school athletes can earn college scholarships and fence on a National Collegiate Athletic Association team. It can also provide a great way just to connect with other students when starting college

Q: What do you like about fencing? A: Our sport has been called “physical


Kathy Vail receives USA Fencing’s Outstanding Service Award for Youth Fencing at its National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, held in June and July.

gence and athleticism required for fencing. I like the fact that while strength and agility are required, it is the smart fencer that, more often than not, wins the bout. I also enjoy sharing the long, colorful history of our sport. Fencing is great fun when you know the story behind an action or tactic.

chess” due to the combination of intelli-

Q: How did you get started fencing? A: My first experience with fencing was a physical education course in college. By taking that class, I discovered a sport that I have enjoyed for many years. I have gone on to do coaches’ training at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and continue to earn professional certifications through USA Fencing and the U.S. Fencing Coaches Association.

Q: How did you get involved teaching the Dunwoody High team? A: In 2009, a student from my private fencing club, Dunwoody Fencing Club, asked me to help start a fencing team at DHS. I’ve been coaching the team ever since. At the start, we were a small team with limited practice space and time. As we grew and earned tournament medals, the DHS administration has given the team a large practice area and allows fencers to earn P.E. credit.

Q: What do you like about teaching youths? A: Young students are always eager to try something new. Helping them discover the mental and physical aspects of our sport is rewarding. Watching the light bulb come on as they understand a new strategy or master a new tactic is great.

Q: What do you hope the students who teach learn from you? A: I hope my students learn that with hard work they can achieve their goals,

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8 | Commentary ■

Hospital’s volunteer corps celebrates a half-century ‘paying it forward’ Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at

cancer patients the day after their surgery, Ten years ago, after a successful career I’m the face of survivorship.” as a corporate executive, Dunwoody resiAnd the leadership skills she had honed dent Chris Cox retired and soon found herduring her long career didn’t go unnoticed. self in a bed at Northside Hospital recoverSoon, she was asked to join the auxiliary ing from breast cancer surgery. board. Filled with fear and uncertainty about “When I got the call to join the board, I her future, she was visited by a former pawas ‘OK. I’m back in the groove,’” she tient who had survived the same surgery. Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant wholike, lives on the Dunwoodysaid. “Itwhose became part of my reinvention afDressed in a NorthsideSandy Hospital AuxiliaSprings line and writes about people lives inspire others. Contact heranat ter a busy work life.” ry blue volunteer’s coat, Cox’s visitor As a volunteer in the auxiliary, Cox is swered her questions and allayed her fears. not unique. Patients and visitors at the hosThus began a whole lot of healing bepital would be surprised at how often the yond cancer. When she felt better, Cox beperson greeting them in the lobby, pushing gan spending four hours a week doing for their wheelchair, delivering flowers, staffother breast cancer patients what had been ing the gift shops, bringing in therapy dogs, done for her. Gradually, those hours betaking baby pictures, driving courtesy carts came part of her own recovery as well. and offering information and comfort to “When I retired, all of a sudden, I had patients and their families is a retired cornowhere to go,” she said. “I was pretty lost porate executive. Others are teachers, artand didn’t know what to do with myself.” ists, veterans, homemakers, high-school Volunteering at Northside gave her students and more. what she was missing. Though from diverse backgrounds, “The doctors’ job is to fix things. We help they all seem to have one thing in common: patients get through the aftermath,” she they were inspired by the kindness of othsaid. “As a volunteer who visits with breast

er volunteers when they or their loved ones were patients. “Most of us who volunteer have experienced being in the hospital and had someone do something that changed our life,” said Vicki Atkinson, Auxiliary board president and breast cancer survivor. As personal as volunteering is, the Auxiliary volunteers are essential to the overall operation of the hospital. Formed in 1969, the year before Northside Hospital officially opened, the auxiliary is celebrating 50 years of providing services. Since its founding, auxiliary members have volunteered more than 2.3 million hours and raised more than $20 million, all of which is used to benefit the hospital. The auxiliary also operates Camp Hope for cancer survivors, the Special Projects Fund, which allocates $200,000 a year to fund hospital wish list requests, $40,000 for advanced training scholarships for hospital employees and volunteers and the Educational Grant Fund for teenage volunteers in the summer “Volunteen” program. Other projects the auxiliary has funded include playground equipment for the Children’s Developmental Center, the Serenity Garden, a security system for newborns, CAD digital mammography equipment, a mobile mammography truck, PCI (angioplasty) equipment and a daycare

center bus. Besides fundraising, one of the most valuable things auxiliary members do is free up the staff. “We’re everywhere in our blue coats,” said Atkinson. “As greeters, we’re usually the first people patients see and also the last because we wheel them out.” The auxiliary has been celebrating its 50th anniversary all year through a series of events. One of them included fielding a team on July 4 that “ran” the Peachtree Road Race, also celebrating its 50th anniversary. For some of the team in their 60s, 70s and 80s, it was their first Peachtree ever. But not all auxiliary members who ran the Peachtree are corporate retirees. One of them, Sonia Ray, is a young mother who lives in Rex, about 45 minutes south of Sandy Springs. A two-time breast cancer survivor, Ray says “paying it forward” is proof her “battle was not wasted.” In addition to counseling patients, she has started a nonprofit to help fund services for breast cancer patients who live in her underserved area. The auxiliary has a tagline: “Be the Difference.” Members say you can be the difference by giving just four hours a week. For information, visit northsideatlaux. com.


Community | 9

Self-storage proposal draws north end development concerns BY EVELYN ANDREWS

A proposal to build a three-story self-storage building on Roswell Road brought concerns from Sandy Springs residents that the development wouldn’t deliver the city’s goal of “revitalizing” the north end area. The facility would replace a vacant gun range. “The north end has been a dumping ground for strip malls, fast food restaurants and nail salons,” one resident said. “This is not the type of thing we’ve been waiting for.” Residents at the June 26 community meeting also had concerns that the self-storage building would bring noise and traffic to their neighborhoods. But the developers behind the proposal, RRB Development, said it would bring much less than any other commercial use allowed on the site at 8040 Roswell Road. The developers are seeking a conditional use permit to build the facility where the long-vacant Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range is located. The gun range has been closed since an accidental fire in 2016. The proposal is scheduled to be voted on by the Planning Commission at its Aug. 27 meeting and by the City Council at its Sept. 17 meeting. The new building would be around 100,000 square feet, larger than the old one, and have a required 40 parking spaces, though the developers have asked for permission to reduce that. There would be around 720 storage units, depending on what sizes are decided. The self-storage unit brought many concerns from nearby neighbors, including that loud moving trucks would disturb the residences, traffic would dramatically increase and property values would fall. Some are also concerned that the north end is still not attracting the type of high quality developments they want, despite the city beginning an effort to spur redevelopment in the area. The city last year created the North End Revitalization Task Force that recommended several ideas drawing development to the area. The city is now planning to study how to redevelop four shopping centers, create a business district and build a trail network around the Chattahoochee River.

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10 | Commentary

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

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Commentary / How to take back our streets for pedestrians Editor’s Note: In recent weeks, accidents have injured non-motor-vehicle-driving users of major local roads, including a bicyclist and a pedestrian killed on Sandy Springs’ Roswell Road and pedestrians injured on Brookhaven’s Buford Highway and Buckhead’s Peachtree Road. The Reporter asked Sally Flocks of the advocacy group PEDS about her group’s vision of safer streets. If you’re like me, you dream of your community becoming a place where children walk to school, the elderly cross the street without fear, and streets are places where people enjoy chance encounters on sidewalks and at street cafes. Walkability doesn’t happen on its own. Development won’t necessarily bring it. Making our streets and communities great places to walk depends on us. Together, we need to think small in a big way. For decades, transportation agencies have made maximizing the flow of cars and minimizing de- Sally Flocks is president and CEO of PEDS, an lay to drivers the top priorities. advocacy group working Would you prefer other goals? Do health, safety and quality of life matter more to you than getto make streets ting places a minute or two faster? walkable and safe In the Atlanta region and elsewhere in Georgia during the past five years, the number of people who lost their lives while walking increased an alarming 50 percent. Some 264 people were killed in 2019, the worst in history. The loss of life was tragic. But the brutal crashes were also predictable and preventable. High-risk roads have a typical pattern: high-speed, multi-lane streets where safe crossings are few and far between. Buford Highway, for example, is the third most dangerous road for pedestrians in Georgia. The fatal crashes are also symptoms of a region and state that invests far too little in pedestrian safety improvements. Instead of top-down planning, let’s start from the bottom up. No one knows a street as well as the people who live along it. What kind of place do you want to live in 25 years from now? And what will your grandchildren want 50 years from now? Issues we hear about frequently -- technical expertise and cost -- are not the real barriers to walkable communities. Plenty of quality engineers know how to create safe crossings and “right-sized” roads in urban and suburban areas. Transportation agencies spend millions each year. The real issue is how they spend it. The key to success is community vision and will. One size doesn’t fit all, so be inclusive. Hold meetings at places that are easy to get to, even for transit users and people on foot. What does success look like? Come in with a blank slate. Leave professional degrees at the door. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that wide streets and speeding reduce our quality of life. Once your community has identified its values and vision, develop a strategic plan for achieving it. Reach out to others – and consider opportunities, challenges and partners. Think beyond sidewalks. People walk more when they have places worth walking to. Would you like to walk to a restaurant or coffee shop? Achieving this may require zoning changes, but don’t be afraid to ask. City Springs, Sandy Springs’ civic center, provides a shining example of the benefits that come with compact, mixed-use development. Leadership matters. The most successful change agents are those who listen and inspire. Empower a champion to maintain the momentum. You’re building a movement, not just a campaign. Forget about silver bullets. Change takes time. It also requires relationships. “You vs. them” rarely, if ever, results in good outcomes. Instead, collaboration between community activists, developers, transportation professionals and elected officials is essential. And never forget, it’s up to the people in your community -- and the elected officials who represent you -- to identify your vision and values. Transportation agencies are responsible not for setting the vision, but instead for implementing projects that enable you to achieve that vision. Seeing progress is a great motivator, so try out a pilot project. Ask an elected official or someone in your public works department for permission to use orange cones or bales of hay to keep people from parking close to a crosswalk. Or try using them to narrow travel lanes or create a traffic circle at an intersection in your neighborhood. Does that get drivers to slow down? Streets have many uses, only one of which is moving cars. They’re also public spaces, accounting for nearly one-third of the land in our communities. Working together, we can take back our streets and make them places we love.





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Commentary | 11

Having twins gets easier – once they go to college They say that God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle, and I like to think that’s true, but I do believe that sometimes He slips a few more pounds in your pack while you’re not looking and sends you on an uphill trek. I know that because I have twins. Aug. 3 is National Twins Day, and I’m going to observe it by reliving the mania of the Early Years. I’ll set the stage by saying that I happen to have two older children who were born a year-and-a-half apart, so I can speak from direct experience and tell you unequivocally that two babies born less than two years apart is challenging, but two babies born one minute apart is in another category altogether. I was on bedrest for the last trimester before their birth because my doctor routinely ordered that for his patients carrying multiples. I laid there in my command center of the den sofa as friends and family stopped in to bring dinners and pick up or drop off my other two tykes. These helpRobin Conte lives with ful people always had faces awash in sympathy for me -her husband in an emp- poor soul! -- confined to the couch for three months, but I ty nest in Dunwoody. was thinking all the while, “Hey, this is as easy as it’s ever going to get.” Never have I been right to such a colossal degree. I knew that it would be hard after the birth, but I did think that sometime during their first year of life, I would be able to get to the mailbox. No, it wasn’t until they were 13 months old that I finally emerged from the house, tangle-haired and droopy-eyed, wearing a bathrobe speckled with crusty Cheerios. I peeked my haggard face out of the front door and paused for a moment to adjust to the light of day, then collected myself and made the trip to the curb, hoping against hope that I would not encounter a perky mom in a tennis skirt.

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As an encore, my husband took me out to dinner. I showered and put on lipstick and a bra that didn’t have nursing flaps. I wore a nice dress and must have cleaned up pretty well, because one of those moms who had dropped off food for me a few months earlier happened to be dining at the same restaurant and was convinced that my husband was with another woman. She told her spouse: “I’ve SEEN Robin, and that’s not Robin!” The man actually came over to verify. When I learned I was carrying twins, I had two prayers: Please, God, let them be healthy, and please, God, let them be friends. Thankfully, they were born large, strong and healthy. As they aged, they forged a friendship – honestly, it was more like an alliance in “Survivor.” See, the thing about twins is that they destroy in tandem. They use their secret twin-speak to gang up against you. Before they could even talk, my toddler sons could communicate subversively with each other to figure out how to make a break from their playpen. The brains of the operation would find the weakest link and point it out to the brawn, who then barreled through it. Between two toddlers, there is always enough energy for a tantrum. One would have a crying fit, then pause for a break and pass the baton to his brother, who’d pick up where the first one left off. On the days I took them to preschool, they each clung, sobbing, to one of my legs so that I entered the building looking like I was trying to free myself from a pair of wailing koala bears. Twins moms often whispered encouragingly to me, “It gets easier.” I kept wondering when that would happen, and I finally realized that it got easier when the boys left the house and went to college. They turned 21 last fall, and for the first time in their lives they were not able to celebrate their birthday together. They were truly disappointed to be apart for their milestone, to a degree that warmed their mother’s heart. Yes, they are healthy, and, yes, they are friends… and somehow, by the grace of God, their mother handled it.

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12 | Commentary ■

A farmers market director’s work is never done – and always delicious

Around Town Joe Earle is editor-at-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta

Sara Craig-Goodell has a thing for food. She’s quick to say so. for over 30 years. He can be reached at “Yes, I do like food,” she says with a grin. “I like eating it. I like learning about it. … How can you not care about food? I spend most of my day waiting for get hungry again so I can eat.” Her fondness for good food comes naturally. She remembers visiting her grandparent’s home and orchard in rural Mexico, where she dined on fresh avocados and pecan, limes and figs, persimmons and nectarines. “I’ve just always been a big eater,” she said. “I like to try new things. She likes to cook, too. “I’m an enthusiastic cook,” she said. “I like making food that tastes good, usually so I can eat it. Not for other people. I mostly want to make food I can eat.” She remembers the first meal she ever prepared for herself. She was about 8, she said, and wanted eggs, so she got out a pan and scrambled some. She’s been cooking since. Now she favors pasta or tacos made with whatever’s in season. At home, she said, “the kitchen is my space.” Her taste for fresh food was part the reason the slim, energetic 34-yearold was hustling around the parking lot behind the Cathedral of St. Philip in Buckhead one recent Saturday morning. The lot is the home of the foodie haven that is the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, one of the larger openair markets in a metro area now brimming with such Saturday morning food sales. Since March of 2018, Craig-Goodell has run the place as the market’s exJOE EARLE ecutive director. Sara Craig-Goodell on a recent One recent Saturday, she was doing what executive directors do: walking Saturday at the Peachtree around the market to check in with vendors; finding a generator and power Road Farmers Market. cord for the blender to be used in a cooking demonstration; making chalkboard signs for special events; introducing a visiting chef; generally keeping But, in a story typical of Tech students, she ran into Calculus 3 and other courses she an eye on things. She’s been known to rack up five or six miles on her Fitbit just hustling needed for engineering, “so I changed my major to psychology.” Then, “I graduated into around doing errands on market mornings, she said. “You get a lot of steps,” she said. the 2008 depression,” she said, so she ended up working at lots of jobs. Later, once the market wound down and the vendors prepared to pack up their tents, Looking for work led her back to food. She did a stint as the cook at a private school. she would go shopping herself. “I cook with an eye for whatever I see at the farmers She baked cupcakes at a shop in Buckhead. She went back to school, this time to culimarket that looks good,” she said. “I do all my menu planning the morning of.” nary school. She proofread pages for a cooking magazine. During the week, she works with vendors and to find ways to keep the market releShe worked as assistant director at the farmers market before she was promoted to vant in a time when customers have lots of other options for finding fresh veggies. Afexecutive director. She said her job at the market allows her to promote good, fresh food ter all, she says, customers can have food delivered to their homes now from groceries for others, as well as herself. “It’s one way of … creating a sustainable environment,” she or online marketers. said. “It’s one way to give back. That’s where Craig-Goodell’s degree training in psychology comes in handy, she said. “I do personally prefer to eat food that’s been produced ethically and sustainably,” “A lot of [my job] has to do with [customers’] perception, and with doing research,” she she said. “You vote with your fork. I’d like to send my money on food that’s been prosaid. duced in ways that don’t make me feel sad.” The path to her job at the market hasn’t exactly been a straight line. In fact, it wasn’t Besides, the Farmers Market is where the fresh food is. “I’d probably be at the farmeven her affinity for food that brought her from her home in Texas to metro Atlanta. It ers market anyway on a Saturday morning,” she said. “I might as well get paid for it.” was Georgia Tech, which she attended with plans to major in biomedical engineering.





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Community | 13

City says private council briefings are useful; critics question transparency BY JOHN RUCH


In a special called meeting on the afternoon of May 14, the Sandy Springs City Council made one of the biggest, most dramatic and most surprising decisions in the city’s history: a reversal of much of its pioneering model of privatized city services, which had drawn international attention and underpinned Sandy Springs’ identity. Despite the significance and complexity of the decision, the councilmembers had no debate. Before a unanimous approval, some councilmembers asked apparently rhetorical questions of the city manager so he could emphasize certain talking points, and a couple of them gave explanations of a decision they had already made prior to the meeting. In a nation of open government and a state with open meeting laws, how is it possible that a city council could deliberate such a major topic in private, with the general public able to see only the official vote and some explanatory speeches? The answer is the city’s common practice of gathering councilmembers in groups of three – one fewer than a voting quorum -- for private briefing sessions. It’s a method that has allowed private council considerations on such major local topics as north end redevelopment, affordable housing policy and the Georgia Department of Transportation’s toll lanes on Ga. 400 and I-285. The city says the method is well-intentioned and completely legal under the state Open Meetings Act, which essentially allows governmental officials to meet privately if there are too few of them to officially vote. Critics say it’s a loophole in the law that should be closed and, while technically legal, is against the spirit of open government. In fact, such meetings would be illegal in at least two other states with tighter transparency laws. “We have no meetings where action is taken without a quorum,” Mayor Rusty Paul said in a written statement. “When we have briefings on issues of interest to the council, we take steps to ensure that every such briefing fully complies with Georgia’s open meetings laws.” Jim Zachary, editor of the Valdosta Daily Times and director of the Transparency Project of Georgia, called the quorum-dodging method of private meetings “game-playing” in an opinion article published earlier this year in which he argued for the law to be changed. “It is technically legal. It is also absolutely wrong,” Zachary wrote. “Being legal and being right are not always the same thing… The public should not only be present for the votes on policy but should be able to listen to all the deliberations and be made aware of how elected officials make decisions.” Later, in an email, he said, “Unfortunately, [the method] is essentially a loophole in the Georgia Open Meetings Act, and while I am confident it violates the spirit of the law, it does not violate the letter of the law.” Former City Councilmember Karen Meinzen McEnerny, who sat on the first City Council after the city’s 2005 incorpo-

rate and served two terms, said the method of private briefings was useful and sometimes involved deliberation and debate. “Yeah, you would try to -- if you felt they weren’t going to support whatever you want, you might give them some arguments that might change their mind,” McEnerny said of the debates among the three councilmembers in private briefings with city staff members. And by asking city staff, she said, it was easy to figure out what the other group of councilmembers was thinking as well. “But we all felt we needed to listen to the public the following Tuesday [at the council meeting],” she added. “Briefing sessions are helpful… and they’re perfectly legal,” McEnerny said. But she also suggested that at least some of them, particularly briefings about zoning cases, be opened to the public. “Transparency is a good thing,” she said. Sandy Springs is not the only city to take advantage of the quorum rule in the Open Meeting Law. In the neighboring city of Roswell, the city manager used it last year to hold private meetings about a controversial road project. Roswell City Councilmember Mike Palermo revealed and criticized the meetings, saying they should have been public. “I believe any three-person meeting [of councilmembers] should have significant justification disclosed to residents,” Palermo said in an email. In Tennessee, such meetings would need more than justification – they would have to be public, according John Dunn, spokesperson for the state office that oversees open meetings law. Tennessee’s law covers gathering of as few as two members of a governing body. “Therefore, any time two or more members of a governing body get together, they should not discuss or deliberate toward a decision that must be voted on by a quorum of a governing body,” Dunn said. In Sandy Springs, the private briefing method is something of an open secret. Paul occasionally remarks about how rare open disagreement is among councilmembers at council meetings, and councilmembers sometimes refer to debates happening beforehand in conference rooms. But exactly how the method is used and how deeply it affects policy has gone unexamined. City spokesperson Sharon Kraun defended the city government’s actions, saying in an email, “It is a common practice to brief members of the council to provide them with information they need in order to make an informed decision. ... The current open meetings laws balance assurance that elected officials are informed, so they are able to make educated, quality decisions in the best interests of their constituents, and that all of their decisions are made publicly and with allowed public comment.” In an investigation last year, the Reporter revealed extensive secret city discussions about north end redevelopment and affordable housing policies, including two back-to-back meetings, each with three councilmembers, to privately review a particular concept. Former City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling said at the time those

discussions were kept private for political reasons, including a lack of council consensus and the sensitivity of issues of poverty and race. GDOT’s toll lanes is another controversial topic where private meetings have affected policy without leaving written records. Sandy Springs has had significant influence on GDOT’s proposals for interchange locations and has suggested an elaborate, controversial plan for a new one in Perimeter Center that would require demolishing eight homes. To discover how the city proposed and influenced such complex concepts, the Reporter earlier this year sought about 14 months’ worth of emails about toll lanes from the offices of the mayor and the city manager. The city at first wrongly claimed that no such records exist, and after three months of appeals, it remains unclear whether all the records were provided. One email left out of Sandy Springs’ response was later discovered in the files of Doraville’s mayor. However, the documents provided found only a handful of emails mentioning toll lanes, despite the city government’s pervasive influence and involvement. When asked how the city was arranging and conducting its influence on the toll lanes proposals, Kraun responded, “Faceto-face and telephone communication are effective tools for communication.” Tim Matthews, GDOT’s project manager

on the toll lanes, later said he has frequently met in person with councilmembers, singly or in groups, to go over documents and discuss concerns. McEnerny said that when she was on the council, members were not privately briefed beforehand about every single agenda item. However, the three-member private meeting method was used every Friday afternoon before council meetings to discuss pending zoning cases, and for quarterly briefings on Public Works’ capital improvement projects. McEnerny did not criticize the threemember meetings, but suggested some changes that she thinks would increase citizen involvement, including issuing the council agenda a week beforehand rather than the current practice of the Friday before a Tuesday meeting. “That would allow more people to be aware of the subject and potentially contact their councilmember,” she said. “Another idea would be to make the zoning brief[ing] sessions open to the public if they wanted to attend,” McEnerny said, adding that in general, it is important for citizens to hear council deliberations. “It’s very, very helpful to understand the dynamics of discussion on the council,” she said, as open comments allow “you to understand where your councilman or –woman is coming from.” — Evelyn Andrews contributed 960 Johnson Ferry Road NE, Suite 500 Atlanta, GA 30342

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14 | Community ■

City Springs celebrates a ‘successful’ first birthday Continued from page 1 Though the Performing Arts Center still relies on a city subsidy to keep it in the black, the city said that was expected and anticipates donations, grants and private funding to help balance it. Paul also touts the development as bringing the community together by giving them spaces in the city center to play sports in the City Green park, bring the children to a splash pad or come to restaurants -- all in the same place. “This would have never happened before. Nobody walked here before,” Paul said during a July tour of City Springs. The city has also made several tweaks to the civic and art complex since opening, including making on-street parking free and adding signs to keep children out of fountains and in the splash pad. The splash pad has opened and has become incredibly popular, with open hours extended after several requests, Paul said. It’s also helped keep children from playing in the regular fountains, which have become an “attractive nuisance,” he said. An outdoor sculpture gallery debuted in May, bringing nine sculptures to City Green. And longstanding plans to create a gallery inside the building are still in the works. The gallery would feature a mix of permanent and rotating artwork, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said. The City Council decided to purchase the previously leased outdoor stage after finding events to be successful. The stage is not installed on the City Green permanently and has been used for the first “City Green Live” summer concert series, which Paul said have been well-attended and a success. “If you come out here on Friday, the lawn is covered,” he said. All the businesses and restaurants initially announced by the city in 2018 have opened, the last being The Select. Dave Green, one of the co-owners of The Select lives in City Springs’ Aston apartments, which he says has “been a great experience” and allows him to join in the city’s newly walkable environment. “I haven’t seen my car in six weeks,” Green said. The city has been sure to communicate with the apartments about events that could cause late noise, Kraun said. Most Friday nights until September have an event, she said. The Select made a major change to the façade of the building, adding a closed-in area that can be opened during nice weather, which Green said is working well, along with the location. Two retail spaces remain empty and haven’t been announced, but Green said one of them is expected to be a restaurant from the owners of the General Muir, located in Emory Village. Jennifer Johnson, one of the General


Below, the splash pad has opened after being delayed, and has so far been a big hit with families, Mayor Rusty Paul said.

Left, the outdoor stage was purchased by the city after it changed its mind on renting and is now used to host concerts, such as the “City Green Live” series.

Muir’s owners, said restaurant is not moving out of its current space. Johnson said in an email she’s “not in a position to share any other information at this time,” but more information would be available later in August.

Performing Arts Center funding

The latest numbers, from May, show that in the first 10 months, the PAC would have lost over $2 million if it wasn’t for the city subsidy. With the city subsidy, it’s in the black by over $300,000. The city has said it always expected to provide extra funding to facility as it starts up. Between July 2018 and May 2019 the PAC had $3,314,514 in revenue, including facility rentals, event income and a $2.3 million city subsidy. Operating expenditures cost $3,003,087. In May, the PAC brought in $81,033 in revenue from event income and facility rentals and spent $341,533, meaning it lost $260,500 that month. Parking, which is combined with the PAC on the city’s financial records, earned $47,175, but cost $61,852. In April, the PAC’s revenue was $639,234, which includes $582,548 of the subsidy. It spent $168,233. In March, it earned $117,313 and spent $125,811, losing $8,498. The PAC also lost money in its opening months. The facility was operating about

$185,000 in the red at the end of 2018, despite receiving over $1 million in subsidies from the city. The revenue between August to December 2018 was $1.9 million, including performances, private rentals, the city subsidy and parking income. Expenditures cost the city over $2.09 million, including parking. The PAC and parking were budgeted to break even by the end of the fiscal year in July, with revenue and expenditures balancing at $5.2 million, including the subsidy. The financial records for June and July were not available at the time of publication. “We knew from the beginning that the performing arts center would need financial support in its early years as the center was established,” Kraun said. Paul also said this was an expected part of opening the theater. Now, the goal is to get more funding from businesses, residents and through grants, he said. “My job is to sell the private sector on this facility,” he said. “We’ve proved the value of this facility. Now what can we do to engage the private sector and residents?” Extra funding is needed to help it “live up to its potential,” he said. Some of that is planned to come from a engraved-brick fundraising program that has long been in the works. Expected soon, the program will allow people to buy engraved bricks that will inlaid in the walkways at City Springs, Paul said. The city has

not yet secured a donor to buy the naming rights to the PAC, he said. The Sandy Springs Arts Foundation, which was set up by the city to fund the facility but has since cut ties, has been expected to operate the brick program. The nonprofit has also been providing a $500,000 grant to the PAC over the year. Sandy Springs also had to cope with losing the first PAC executive director, Michael Enoch, who left in October 2018, three months after its opening. Shaun Albrechtson filled the position and took the post July 15. He previously worked at a cityowned cultural arts center in Colorado. “We have a very talented and driven staff who do really good work and are committed to a successful operation for the community,” Albrechtson said in a written statement. “I am talking with as many stakeholders as possible, and will use their input, as well as feedback from our staff to form a plan for our next season.” The city also changed up the City Springs’ operator, ending early a contract with Spectra, an event facility management firm owned by Comcast, which had run the venue since opening in 2018. The City Springs employees are now employed by The Collaborative, a Bostonbased firm that once held the city’s communications department contract before the city began employing them in-house, along with most other departments. SS


Community | 15

Cultural Center seeks Holocaust education funds, draws debate on city mission BY HANNAH GRECO AND EVELYN ANDREWS


Sandy Springs is moving ahead on an $8.6 million “Cultural Center” project, contingent on a big co-payment from a Holocaust education group that could bring a new state memorial to the city. But the July 16 decision came with a rare split vote among City Council members, with one saying the project – which also would include offices for a Chamber of Commerce and a tourism agency – is not a proper city function. A resolution passed by the state legislature in 2018 mandated the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust to fundraise for and build a memorial. Although a Holocaust memorial is expected to be installed near the state Capitol in downtown Atlanta, an additional one may also be built at the Cultural Center, said Sally Levine, the commission’s executive director. Focusing on the Holocaust education element, Mayor Rusty Paul said that, having grown up in Alabama, with its Civil Rights history, “I know what hatred looks like. And we have got an opportunity … to shine a light in this community that will shine well beyond Sandy Springs.” City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio argued that the bulk of the Cultural Center’s proposed uses should be left to private organizations or businesses. “As worthy as this project may be, this is not a project that is the responsibility of the city,” DeJulio said. “I want to be clear, I am not disputing the value of these facilities. What I am disputing is, these are not city functions.” Paul, in a written statement, defended the worthiness of the Cultural Center as a city project. Rent and upfront funding will allow the city recoup “any upfront costs very quickly.” “Thus, we get a world-renowned institution and two support organizations here with virtually no long-term cost to the city,” he said. The Cultural Center, whose location is officially undetermined but likely somewhere near City Springs, partly would serve as a new home for the Holocaust commission’s “Anne Frank in the World” exhibit (which is currently housed in a Roswell Road shopping center), the commission’s office, and possibly a new Holocaust memorial mandated by state legislation. It also would lease office space to the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce and Visit Sandy Springs, the city’s tourism promotion agency, which would run a visitors center. A brief city presentation estimated the Cultural Center’s total cost at $8,622,210, including development, construction and contingency. City Councilmember John Paulson


An illustration shows a conceptual design for the Cultural Center building.

said that he is glad to see the project go from a concept to a potential agreement. “I think this is going to be an asset to the City Springs community and to the community at-large,” said Paulson. “I am glad it is taking the shape that it is taking and I look forward to the next steps.” Paul said late founding-Mayor Eva Galambos believed the Anne Frank exhibit would “establish in Sandy Springs as a national, regional, and state-renowned facility to teach future generations about the evil that manifests itself in hate.” “I, and a majority of council, agree with her assessment and want to follow up to deliver on her hope that we would ultimately have a world-class facility where people from around the region could visit and learn from that sad period of history,” he said.” The July 16 decision focused on moving forward with an understanding that the Friends of the Georgia Holocaust Commission, a fundraising group for the commission and the state memorial, would pay roughly $3 million of up-front costs. The decision was made by the city’s Public Facilities Authority, which is the mayor and City Council acting under a different name to make it technically legal for the city to arrange longterm leases of public space. City Councilmember Andy Bauman is a member of the commission, which he divulged during discussions. Levine, the commission’s executive director who spoke in support of the center at the meeting, said the decision to pay $3 million upfront was made because it would be paid for through fundraising and not out of the operating expenses. The commission is already mandated to raise private funding for the Holocaust memorial. The first memorial is expected to be near the state Capitol downtown, featuring a series of panels about survivors and liberators, she said. But Levine also hopes and anticipates there will be a “more permanent” exhibit at the Cultural Center, though it hasn’t been officially decided.

Robert Wittenstein, a member of the state commission and a former Dunwoody City Council member, said in the public comments that the Cultural Center would be a win for Sandy Springs. “The cultural arts center has the capacity to be ground zero for activity in this area of the state, and with your decision to put the Holocaust Commission and the Anne Frank exhibit here, you also get a bonus, and that is the state’s one and only Holocaust memorial,” Wittenstein said. DeJulio made it clear he is not against a Holocaust exhibit as a whole, but em-

phasized that the city was formed to benefit residents and “not the special interests who want to use our tax dollars of our residents for our personal projects.” “The only part of this that is the city’s function is the visitor center,” DeJulio said. “The others are private functions and should be developed privately.” Bauman said that he understands the city will not be on the hook for Cultural Center spending, with the private tenants providing up-front or lease payments. “…I do hear all the time, ‘Well, we didn’t form the city for this or we didn’t form this city for that,’ but I actually think this coexists with what you say about the genesis of this city and what a city does,” Bauman told DeJulio. “And I am very proud that our city is taking a lead to create quality of life through recreation, arts, culture, economic development, education…I think this project hits on all cylinders.”

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City school district would be financially feasible, study says Continued from page 1

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The study, which is dated to April but just released, was authored by Kelly McCutchen, a senior fellow and former president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, and Georgia Tech professor Christine P. Ries. Ries authored a similar study for Dunwoody in 2013. “We find that the proposal is not only feasible, but generates a surplus of net revenue of nearly $100 million per year,” the study said. “We expect that a smaller community school district with more intensive community and parent oversight will result in better educational outcomes. Moreover, the financial analysis indicates that the community could potentially increase the expenditure on schooling per student of nearly 60%.” City spokesperson Sharon Kraun said that City Manager John McDonough had not seen a copy of the study and that Mayor Rusty Paul was out of the office. Fulton County School System spokesperson Brian Noyes said in a written statement that school is focusing on reopening for the next year and did not comment directly on the study. “Fulton County has great schools in Sandy Springs. Our students are excelling,” Noyes said. “We have fantastic and talented teachers and staff. We are going to stay focused on opening schools on Aug. 12 and continuing to provide the best learning experience possible for our schools.” Although the study found the school system is financially possible, major roadblocks stand in the way, including the state constitution’s prohibition of any new school districts. Regardless of the study’s findings, creating a new district would require a state constitutional amendment. Betty Klein, a member of the advocacy group Citizens for Local Area School Systems, said the group has been talking to legislators statewide about supporting an amendment. Dunwoody Rep. Tom Taylor, once a champion for the amendment, is no longer in office. The group started after the Klein and others successfully advocated for a new North Springs Charter High School. They felt the school board was not familiar enough with Sandy Springs’ schools because the district is too large. CLASS also sees separating from the Fulton County School System as the next step after Sandy Springs’ cityhood,

according to its website. North Springs Charter High School and Riverwood International Charter Schools are magnet schools that draw students from across the district. Klein said that even if the Sandy Springs city district is eventually possible and approved, students from outside the district could still attend by keeping them magnet schools. “We’re not going to keep anyone out of the school if they want to come, as long as they qualify,” Klein said. Although City Councilmember Jody Reichel has been leading the effort and creation of CLASS, the city itself has not officially signed onto the idea. “If the citizens of Sandy Springs determine they want their own school district, all options, including an amendment to the constitution, would need to be explored,” Reichel said. While Sandy Springs would have an excess of money to operate, the Fulton County School District would lose more money than it costs it to run Sandy Springs schools, the study found. Fulton would lose $140.9 million in local funding, but would shed $52.2 million in operating costs for Sandy Springs schools, according to the study. A greater share of Fulton’s funding would come from federal and state sources, the study said. The calculations use existing tax data and don’t count on a tax increase. Sources for the data included the Georgia Department of Education, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the Fulton County Board of Education, the Fulton County Tax Commissioner and the city of Sandy Springs Tax Digest, the study said. The study also expects Fulton would be able to reorganize “for very substantial savings in central district costs.” The study also used the city’s landmark “public-private partnership” form of government, which outsourced most departments to private contractors, as an example of how a local district could improve managing a school system. However, the city recently changed that model and now directly employees the majority of staff. “Like the city management philosophy, a smaller and streamlined management of Sandy Springs schools might become more responsive to the needs of residents, businesses, parents, teachers, and students,” the study said. SS


Art & Entertainment | 17

Act3 aims for theater season success by starting with ‘Disaster!’ BY JUDITH SCHONBAK Act3 Productions aims for a successful 2019-2020 theater season by starting with disasters. The Sandy Springs semiprofessional theater is bringing earthquakes, infernos, tidal waves and swarming wildlife to its stage with ”Disaster!,” a musical parody of the disaster movies that proliferated in the 1970s, which premieres Aug. 9. Act3 is fresh from a 2018-2019 season that garnered a record 38 nominations for Metropolitan Atlanta Theater (MAT) Awards. The ceremony is to take place on Aug. 25. For the new season, Act3 has an ambitious schedule following the close of “Disaster!” on Aug. 24. Second on the season docket in September is courtroom thriller, “Twelve Angry Jurors,” based on the acclaimed movie with Henry Fonda. The thought-provoking drama explores what it means to live in a democracy. In November, “Baby,” a musical, follows the highs and lows of impending parenthood for three couples: college age young people just going into adulthood; 30-somethings determined to succeed in conceiving; and middle-aged parents expecting a surprise baby. Next up in February is “Calendar Girls,” a comedy based on a true story. Two best friends decide to raise money for Leukemia Research by posing nude for a calendar. The news of the women’s charitable venture spreads like wildfire, and hordes of press soon descend on their small village. For its season closer in April, Act3 chose the 1998 Broadway revival production of the classic award-winning musical “Cabaret,” which follows entertainer Sally Bowles in the decadent Kit Kat Klub as the Nazi Party quietly takes hold of 1930s Berlin. But first, it’s time for “Disaster!” In the musical comedy, the array of threats doesn’t stop a cast of characters from dancing, gambling and romancing on opening night in 1979 aboard New York’s first floating casino and discothèque, “The Barracuda.” During the 1970s, more than 30 disasters at sea, in the sky, on and under land, and from space lit up, flooded, blew away, crashed, shook and burned on the big screens during the disaster film decade. Some reached iconic status: “Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno,” “Earthquake” and “Airport” are among them. As the trend took hold, their numbers grew, as did sequels. Along with jukebox pop hits from the ’70s, it makes for “a show filled with fun, goofy, kitschy humor with some underlying drama,” says Spencer G. Stephens, director for the Act3 production. How will they bring all those disasters to a small theater? Stephens said he did not want to give away too much, but he


“Disaster!” cast members carry out a dress rehearsal in July.

did share that “the stage will be infested with rats, ceilings will fall, and there will be some casualties.” “Disaster!” by Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick, first appeared Off-Off Broadway in 2012, moved to Off-Broadway in 2013-14, and in March 2016 made it to Broadway at the Nederlander Theatre, with an all-star cast. The Broadway production closed three months later after 32 previews and 72 regular performances, though it did garner some rave reviews from New York critics. But the show has always been around under the radar and is surprisingly well-known, said Mary Sorrel, Act 3’s executive director and board chair. This is a rare opportunity to see the show. There is no record that it has played in a community or professional theater in Atlanta to date, although it has appeared on high school stages occasionally, noted Stephens. “Disaster!” popped up on the radar during Act3’s initial consideration for season shows, which started from Nov. 15 and continued through Jan. 15. Sorrel and Michelle Davis, Act3’s artistic director, pitch shows for the next season and

Act3 Productions

selection begins in mid-January. For musicals, they call on the expertise of JohnMichael D’Haviland, music director for Act3 and instructor at the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School. “It’s a lengthy and complex process,” said Davis. “Important in all these con-

siderations is what makes the season appealing to our community — our audiences and the actors who will audition and perform. In a small space like Act3’s the actors and audiences need to feel a connection. It is like being part of a community.”

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18 | Art & Entertainment ■ may be reserved starting at $40. Info: citysprings. com/events.





Saturday, August 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Discover hundreds of butterflies across three tents. Games, crafts, animal encounter, live music and concessions will be available too. Early registration reccomended. Doors open to members an hour early. Tickets: $10 Adult/$5 child per a tent. Dunwoody Nature Center, 5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody. Info:


Friday, August 9, - Saturday August 24 A new musical comedy from Broadway, featuring some of the most unforgettable songs of the ‘70s. Presented byCITY Act3SPRINGS Produc- THEATRE COMPANY tions. Tickets: “MARY$16-$32. POPPINS/SEASON” Act3 Playhouse, 6285- NEWSPAPERS for REPORTER R Roswell Road, Sandy 10”x6.185” Springs. Info:





Sunday, Aug. 11, 5-8:30 p.m. Atlanta Brass Cats, a 10-piece rock band recreating the sounds of Chicago, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars and more, takes stage starting at 7 p.m. Beforehand, the Taproom Concert Series will offer a craft brewery pop-up tasting experience. Taproom Tastings $18. Heritage Sandy Springs. 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info:


Fridays, Aug. 16, 30; 6:30 p.m. The City Green in Sandy Springs continues its summer music series with Sam Burchfield & the Scoundrels and the Trongone Band (Southern soul/rock) on Aug. 16; and Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics and Delta Moon (Southern soul/rock) on Aug. 30. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Free, no tickets required. Tables


Saturday, Aug. 24, 7 p.m. Angelica Hale, a child singer who received the famed “Golden Buzzer” on America’s Got Talent, takes the stage in a hometown show fresh off the release of her debut album, “Feel the Magic.” Tickets: $30-$130. Byers Theatre, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: Groovin’ on the Green Saturday, August 10, 6-9 p.m. The final Groovin’ on the Green concert of the summer is a back-to-school social. Enjoy live music by the Wheelers, free ice cream bar, pretzels, cotton candy and snow cones, giveaways and a photo booth. Free. Pernoshal Park, 4575 North Shallowford Road, Dunwoody. Info:


Aug. 8 through Sept. 29 Opening Reception August 1, 5- 7 p.m. Atlanta landscape artist Lila McAlpin showcases her work at GALLERY 4945, an exhibition space for emerging and established artists in the area. Highpoint Episcopal Community Church, 4945 High Point Road, Sandy Springs. Info: or 404252-3324.


Friday, Aug. 16 through Jan. 31, 2021 Commemorating the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, this exhibition documents how women gained the vote and the ways they have used political power over the last century. Included with admission, $21.50 ($18 students, $9 children under 12). Swan House at the Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info:


Through Saturday, Aug. 24, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Spruill Arts Center displays artwork from its students and instructors during its annual juried exhibition. Spruill Gallery, 4681 AshfordDunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: spruillarts. org.






Art & Entertainment | 19



Wednesday, August 7, 7:40 p.m. A documentary about the origin of one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals, “Fiddler on the Roof.” Tickets: $15, Byers Theatre, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


Fridays, Aug. 9 and 23, 6 p.m. Catch your favorite movies on the big screen outdoors with “How to Train your Dragon 3” on Aug. 9 and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” on Aug. 23.Food trucks and festivities at 6 p.m., entertainment on stage at 7 p.m.; movies at dusk. Lawn chairs, blankets and picnics welcome. Free. The Green at City Springs, 1 Galambos Way. Info: citysprings. com/events.


Saturday, Aug. 17, 6-10 p.m. Enjoy a free outdoor showing of “Toy Story” on a jumbo screen with Chick-fil-A meals and King of Pops ice pops for purchase. Plus “Toy Story” costume contest and tours of the farm. Movie starts at 8 p.m. Free. Donaldson-Bannister Farm Park, 4831 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info:

BOOKS & AUTHORS SAM JONES, ‘WHOLE HOG BBQ’ Wednesday, August 7, 6 p.m.

ty Room, Heritage Sandy Springs, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info:



Tuesday August 13, 4-7 p.m. Sandy Springs hosts its annual Back to School Bash at Hammond Park. Event will include water slides, games, a DJ, face-painting, snow cones and popcorn, and opportunities to learn about fall programming. Free. Hammond Park, 705 Hammond Drive, Sandy Springs. Info:

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Saturday, August 10, 8 a.m. Oglethorpe University hosts its first-ever 5K race benefiting the track and field team with a closed-course road race starting at the Track and Field Complex and continuing through the historic campus. Cost: $40. Oglethorpe University Track & Field Complex: 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Register:

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Saturday, August 24, 7:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m. A 5K run and walk for humans and their dogs. Proceeds benefit the Ahimsa House, which is dedicated to helping the human and animal victims of domestic violence reach safety together. Cost: $30-$40. Lenox Park, 2220 Lake Boulevard, Brookhaven. Info: ahimsahouse. org/walkwagnrun





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Saturday, August 24, 8 p.m. The annual Brookhaven Police Department Hot Pursuit Glow Run 5K benefits the Shop with a Badge initiative, which raises funds for Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. Cost: $25. Murphey Candler Park, 1551 West Nancy Creek Drive, Brookhaven. Info:

LEARN SOMETHING CHINESE BRUSH PAINTING In “Whole Hog BBQ,” Sam Jones and Daniel Vaughn recount the history of the Skylight Inn in Ayden, North Carolina, which opened in 1947, and share step-by-step instructions for cooking a whole hog at home. Cost: $10, $5 members. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta. Info: 404-814-4150 or


Wednesday, August 7, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Sandy Springs native and author Edward Buckley uses his experiences growing up in the Mount Vernon Woods neighborhood to inform the events in ‘All The Way Home,’ a coming-of-age tale about two boys navigating their growing awareness of the Civil Rights Movement, racial inequality and the meaning of love and family. Free. Communi-

Tuesdays, August 6, 13, 20 and 27; 4 p.m. Learn simple Chinese brush-painting techniques. Supplies will be provided. Free. Sandy Springs Branch Library, 395 Mount Vernon Highway N.E., Sandy Springs, 30328. Info: 404-303-6130.


Monday, August 26, 7-8:30 p.m. The class will cover fall season crops, sustainable gardening techniques, preparing the garden for winter and more. Free. Lost Corner Preserve Cottage, 7300 Brandon Mill Road Sandy Springs. Info: master-gardener-classes.


Saturday, Aug. 24, 2-5 p.m. Bring your own snacks and drinks while you socialize and paint with your family and friends. Cost: $30. Hammond Community Building,705 Hammond Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: registration.sandyspringsga. gov.

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20 | Art & Entertainment ■

Covering the world of sports: Q&A with CNN anchor Don Riddell BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN

A marathon runner and lifelong soccer fan, CNN sports anchor Don Riddell has lived in Buckhead near Chastain Park since moving from England to Atlanta in 2012. He has hosted “World Sport” for CNN International for the past 16 years and has also presented “Living Golf” and programs such as “World News” and “CNN Today.” Riddell, 46, covered the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, as well as the fatal plane crash that wiped out most of the Brazilian Chapecoense soccer team that same year. He produced two award-winning documentaries: “Branded a Rebel” about a West Indies cricket team that defied the rules of the day by touring apartheid-era South Africa, and “They’ll Never Walk Alone,” about the aftermath of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in Sheffield that killed 96 soccer fans.

Q. How and when did your fondness for sports begin? A. Soccer was the first sport I really loved. My team is Tottenham Hot Spurs, the Premier League team in North London that got to the Champions League Final this year.

Q. How has the perception of U.S. soccer fans changed in recent years? A. The rest of the world looks at the United States with a curious eye. Americans do have a great interest in sports generally, but had less in soccer. ‘It’s a sport that high-school girls play’ -- that’s how [the U.S. attitude] was viewed overseas. I knew that wasn’t necessarily true, but I was interested to find out what the case was. Clearly in the last 10 to15 years a lot has changed and it’s undeniable now that this country is really getting into it. For a while I thought that fans were just going along with it -- because it was different -- but didn’t necessarily get it or understand it, but now that I live here I see the passion is real and genuine. There is a real love of the sport, and what’s happened with Atlanta United is just extraordinary. I’m thrilled it’s happening in my town.

Q. What do you think of the recent Women’s World Cup won by the U.S. team? A. That’s really exciting. The amount of investment is clear to see because they are streets ahead of anyone else, but in this World Cup we saw that certain European teams are catching up. The quality and the

skill is undeniable and the standard is improving at a fairly rapid rate. The reality was there wasn’t enough money being put into the game and they were not being coached or trained properly. Now look how good they are.

markable to cover. It was utter devastation. Every night fans would come to the stadium because they didn’t know what else to do. This was a very tight-knit, close community. There was SPECIAL Don Riddell. a lot of love for the team. I went back two months later when they got a team together and played their first Q. What was it like covering the Olymgame. Friendships were forged out of this pics in Rio? tragedy. A. The popular narrative had people mocking it months before we even got there. But Q. Do you believe sport can lift us? here I was at the Olympics -- my first time A. It can teach us so much about indi-- and it was really cool. Didn’t everybody vidual growth and development. In terms want to be here? You’d go to the stadiums of breaking down barriers, especially now and things might be a little disorganized, that the world is so polarized, you get a but if you watched it on television it all bunch of people together on any kind of looked great. At the end of the day it was all playing field or court and all that goes out about sport, and there was some incredible the window. We are all just human beings sport. To see the finale in the flesh is just a just trying to be better. remarkable experience. Unforgettable. I reSports is a great way of realizing and ally enjoyed it and hope to be at the next appreciating what we have in common -one in Tokyo in 2020. working together trying to achieve a common goal. I’m not sure I swallowed that Q. Shortly after that you were coverwhen I was younger, but now that I’m olding the Chapecoense plane tragedy. er and wiser it’s quite clear to me sport has A. It was a really intense experience -- rea huge role to play.

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SERVICES AVAILABLE Landscaping: Tranquil Waters Lawn Care – Hauling of debris, yard cleanup, aeration, leaf blowing, power washing, etc. Free estimates – No contract necessary – Commercial or Residential. Senior/Veteran discounts available. Call Mike 678-662-0767. Masonry: Driveways & Walkways – Replaced or Repaired. Masonry, Grading, Foundations repair, waterproofing and retaining walls. Call Joe Sullivan 770-616-0576.


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HELP WANTED Seeking Loan Officers – Home Funding Corp is seeking three experienced Loan Officers with License. Can work out of home – Self Starter. Call Gloria at 404-453-5677. Handy Helper Needed – Part-time near Perimeter Church Johns Creek. Yard projects, organizational skills helpful and some inside work. Weekdays anytime between 10am - 3pm. Three hrs. + Mon., Wed. & Fridays. 404-680-5281.

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22 | Community ■


Library reopens with new children’s room, meeting spaces

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Top, the main shelving section of the Sandy Springs Branch Library was reorganized after renovations reconfigured the main floor plan, including knocking down many interior walls. Above, new children’s seating and tables were added.



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The renovated Sandy Springs Branch Library officially reopened July 23 with a reconfigured floor plan, new furniture and meeting spaces. The renovation did not include any additions to the library, but involved a total renovation of both the interior and exterior. The floor plan was reconfigured, including removing most interior walls, to create long-desired spaces for a teen section, a bookstore to be run by the Friends of the Sandy Springs LIbrary, meeting space and a children’s art room. New study spaces with TVs and speakers also were added. The Sandy Springs work is part of a series of renovations to branches of the AtlantaFulton Public Library System, including Buckhead’s two libraries. Built in 1973, the library at 395 Mount Vernon Highway N.E. was last renovated 30 years ago. The library’s previous renovations have an included expansions onto the original building, which meant the spaces didn’t flow as well as they could, Branch Manager Madigan Mirza said. This year’s renovation included demolishing several interior walls and reorganizing the layout of shelving, she said. A new children’s storytime area was also created, creating a space three times larger than the previous area, Mirza said during a tour before the library officially reopened July 23 with a celebration event. Some finishing touches had not been completed at the time of the tour. The book checkout and return systems were also replaced. Replacing the large checkout desk are smaller information desks. Checkout will now be done through elec-

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Community | 23

tronic kiosks, and books will be returned on conveyor belt system, Mirza said. The library had been closed since August 2018 and its reopening was delayed after being originally scheduled for March. Mirza said she wasn’t the exact reasons behind the delays, but acknowledged that the library system has undertaken a massive renovation project involving multiple libraries on different timelines. “I’m really excited to be back,” she said. The library heard from many patrons asking when the library would reopen, Mirza said. “It was really heartwarming,” she said.

Left, several new study rooms with TVs and speakers for group study or presentations have been added. Right, the new children’s storytime area is three times larger than the old one, Branch Manager Madigan Mirza said.

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Sandy Springs Dunwoody






Perimeter Business Focusing on business in the Reporter Newspapers communities

Summer 2019 | New Atlanta airport chief discusses improvements, investigation | P27

Born from the Atlanta Olympics, a sports news outlet seeks to preserve its legacy BY JOHN RUCH

Talk of the lasting legacy of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics usually revolves around a downtown park or stadium. But tucked inside a Buckhead office tower is a different kind of product of that heady time: a pioneering sports publication covering Olympics news and politics. And now it has its own legacy to preserve as its owners seek to pass the torch to new hands and find a home for their precious historic archives. Around the Rings was founded in 1992 by editor-in-chief Ed Hula, an experienced radio journalist, as a specialty newsletter covering Atlanta’s Olympics planning. It grew into a top Olympics trade publication – the only one based in the U.S. – and an early example of an internet-only, subscription news site. “It’s a fascinating world,” Hula said of the Olympics in a recent interview in Around the Rings’ small newsroom at Peachtree and 25th streets. “It combines the sport, the entertainment side… the business side. All the things I was interested in were part of the package called the Olympics.” While reporters typed up the latest sports news, Ed and Around the Rings publisher Sheila Scott Hula reminisced about more than a quarter-century of Olympics coverage. The couple and their team have amassed a collection of memorabilia that ilContinued on page 26


Publisher Sheila Scott Hula and editor-in-chief Ed Hula pose in the “Around the Rings” office with Olympics torches and other memorabilia, including “Izzy,” the Atlanta Olympics mascot. Sheila holds a torch from the 2008 Beijing, China, Olympics and Ed holds an Atlanta Games torch.

Please eat our plants: An edible landscaping trend began in Buckhead BY JOHN RUCH

Atop a steep, shrubbery-spotted embankment in a Buckhead office park, where I-85’s traffic roars by just behind a low concrete wall, is one of Morgan Carswell’s favorite places to go for a work-break snack. In that unlikely locale, many of those shrubs are blueberry bushes, and Carswell says she and her coworkers at EpiCity Real Estate Services have gleefully picked “two to three large Tupperware bowls” of ripe berries in recent weeks. It’s no coincidence of nature that the plants are there. EpiCity has partnered with a Decatur-based company called Natural Born Tillers to turn its Buckhead headquarters into a pioneering experiment in

“edible landscaping,” an effort that has borne fruit and expanded to the Atlanta corporate campuses of Delta Air Lines and the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Employees scrambling eagerly over the grounds of the Armour Junction office park on Plasters Avenue, searching for fruits and vegetables and beauty, is exactly what Cory Mosser, the farmer-founder of Natural Born Tillers, had in mind with the concept of edible landscaping on commercial sites. “I started looking at people in traffic and seeing how sad they were,” says Mosser. “I saw a lot of boring, placeholder landscaping.” He figured edible, rather than purely decorative, landscaping could be a feature



Figs from a tree planted at EpiCity Real Estate ervices in the palm of Cory Mosser’s hand.


26 | Perimeter Business ■

Born from the Atlanta Olympics, a sports news outlet seeks to preserve its legacy Continued from page 25 lustrated the stories. Elaborate Olympic torches from several different Games. A Wheaties cereal box signed by Olympic swimming champion Janet Evans “to my friends at Around the Rings.” Such Atlanta Games souvenirs as a license plate, stuffed toys of mascot “Izzy,” and an “Olympic Gymnast” Barbie doll. In a back room are even more historic materials – Ed’s archive of roughly 1,000 audio recordings of Olympics reporting, including landmark moments in Atlanta’s bidding process. Many of them are on then cutting-edge, now outdate media, such as digital tapes and MiniDiscs. And it’s time for much of that material to find a new home, the Hulas say. They already sent 31 boxes of memorabilia to the LA84 Foundation archives in Los Angeles. Ed is looking to the Atlanta History Center --- home to the official Atlanta Olympics exhibit, now under reconstruction – and the Switzerland-based International Olympics Committee as possible permanent archives for his recordings. The couple have reached retirement age, and Around the Rings subscribers are not as plentiful as they used to be as once-frenetic city bids for Olympics have waned amid controversy over spending and corruption, and the IOC calling for less lavish promotion and marketing. The Hulas are looking for an investor or two to take the reins. “We’re trying to wind down our involvement,” said Ed.

Covering the bid

The Olympics is not a world he expected to be involved with in the first place. In the 1970s, he was a PBS radio reporter in Florida and earlier this year appeared in the Netflix documentary “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” to share his memories of covering the serial killer’s crimes there. In 1984, Ed moved to Atlanta to work as a writer and show producer at CNN. Sheila worked there as executive producer of a travel program and they met. Ed went on to become news director at Peach State Public Radio, now known as Georgia Public Broadcasting. For Peach State and other radio stations, he began covering Atlanta’s Olympic bid. “I didn’t have any real Olympic experience then to make the decision how to cover it,” he said. “This was all new to everybody.” In 1990, he went to Tokyo, Japan, to cover the IOC’s announcement of which city won the 1996 Olympics hosting rights. Atlanta’s chances were considered so unlikely, Hula had a back-up assignment to report on cooperation between Japanese and Georgia businesses. “And little did we know, we came


Top, a 1996 Olympics license plate is among the memorabilia in Ed Hula’s office. Above left, a Wheaties cereal box signed by Olympic swimming champion Janet Evans is among the trophies in the “Around the Rings” office. Above right, “Olympic Gymnast” Barbie is an Atlanta Games souvenir the Hulas aimed to donate to a friend.

home with the Olympics to worry about,” he said. Sheila was as surprised as anyone that Atlanta won the bid. “Home of the Braves. Home of the Falcons. Are you kidding me?” she recalled with a laugh. Ed was not only in Tokyo for the announcement, but he was with such legendary leaders as Mayor Maynard Jackson, former mayor Andrew Young and Billy Payne, the Dunwoody businessman who led the bid committee. Among the moments he recorded was Jackson and Young shouting, “You did it!” to Payne. “They sounded like kids on their first Christmas,” Hula said. “In 1990, when the announcement was made in Japan at the IOC session, [only] myself, maybe Sally Sears from Channel 2 and Bert Roughton from the AJC… were actually embedded with the Atlanta bid team on the floor of the IOC session,” Ed recalled. “We were right there. To be in the group at the moment when they heard ‘Atlanta’ -- it was an electrifying moment… I realized my life was probably changing.”

Around the Rings

It sure did. Back in the States, Salt Lake City was soon in the news for pursuing another U.S. bid, this time for the Winter Olympics. Ed saw an opportunity in covering Olympics bids and started freelancing radio pieces about the process in 1992, when he covered his first Games in Barcelona, Spain. At the same time, he heard from Bill Shipp, a legendary Atlanta Constitution journalist and publisher of a popular political newsletter, who wanted to circulate an Olympics newsletter as well. In those days, paid specialty newsletters circulating by mail or fax or were a trend. The result was “The Hula Report,” which Shipp later handed over fully to Ed. After the Atlanta Games, it was renamed Around the Rings. For some years, Ed remained focused on radio reporting. In 1998, the Hulas moved to Australia for a two-and-a-halfyear stay to cover the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics for radio there. They kept a small office active in Atlanta, but really geared up in 2001 to become a pioneering digital news outlet for the Games and

the first internet-only media accredited to cover them. Operating as an early subscription news site with a paywall, Around the Rings grew to become a top Olympics news outlet in a specialty field with about a half-dozen competitors worldwide. Today it has six staffers in Atlanta and freelancers in key international countries. During the Olympics, it publishes special print editions as well. In 2009, the Hulas also established a companion news site, World Football INSIDER, to cover soccer and World Cup bids. Around the Rings work was frenetic in the glory days, when the 2004 Summer Olympics drew 11 bid cities. But that is changing, with bidders drying up and the IOC asking those who remain to spend less on self-promotion. That’s because the Olympics is in another of its regular cycles of scandal about corruption, wasteful spending and human rights impacts. The 2014 Sochi Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics drew high-profile controversy for skyrocketing budgets and corruption. A 2015 revolt against Boston’s 2024 Olympics bid led to an unprecedented dual award of the 2024 and 2028 Games to other cities for sheer lack of interested bidders. “I think we’ve seen the last of unbridled, no-holds-barred bidding. The IOC realized the bid process ended up killing bids,” said Ed. That’s good for the Olympics, he said, because “I think it was moving toward collapse, going the way they were going.” But it’s not so good for Around the Rings, where contested bids helped to boost subscriptions and advertising. “They killed their own golden goose… It’s too bad, because it was so much fun,” said Sheila, lamenting the loss of bid excitement. “In some ways, it was a good thing,” she added, citing a bidding process that led to “hurt feelings, humiliations, angry taxpayers.” The Olympics may be nearing the end of giant construction projects, too, Ed said, noting that “Atlanta has one or two white elephants…venues that didn’t make it after the Games.” The emerging model, he said, is to “make the Olympics fit your city rather than making a city fit the Olympics.” As they look to move on from the Olympics scene, the Hulas have their own favorite memories. “I’m still a little bit in awe of the high level of human achievement – athletes, royalty, heads of state,” said Sheila. Ed said he appreciates the friendships, meeting world leaders and sports champions, and “getting to see parts of the world I wouldn’t ordinarily visit.” To read their latest Olympics news, see


Perimeter Business | 27

New Atlanta airport chief discusses improvements, investigation BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN John Selden was invited to visit the cockpit of a Bermuda-bound flight when he was five years old. He sat on the co-pilot’s lap and even got to hold the control yoke for a bit. That started his lifelong love of all things related to aircraft, the new general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport explained during a June 27 Buckhead Business Association breakfast. He took his position last October after serving in a similar role at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Calling the new post “the pinnacle of my career,” Selden said, “Atlanta hospitality has been very nice, totally different from the one I came from in New York. People smiling… I have had a very warm reception since I arrived.” Selden touted Hartsfield-Jackson’s position as the world’s busiest airport, with an average of 2,750 daily flights, but his goal is to increase that number eventually to 3,400. A sixth runway is in the planning stages, as well as more buildings. “We have the capacity to grow,” he said. “The infrastructure has to keep up with the growth,” Selden said. “We cannot turn into [New York’s secondary airport] LaGuardia. My goal and my team’s goal is to do everything we can to work with everybody that SPECIAL John Selden. we need to [in order to] ensure that Hartsfield-Jackson is not a limiting factor on the growth of the Atlanta region.” A massive new parking garage will be built in College Park, between the rental car center and the airport, becoming the first stop on the Skytrain. West of that, a five-star hotel will be erected, as will a 50,000-square-foot office building. “We are building pedestrian walkways,” Selden added. “Somehow you all believe you can come out of the terminal, looking at your phones, and texting, without getting hit. Three people have been hit since I’ve been here.”

Additionally, traffic lights will be installed outside the terminals “where they scream at you ‘don’t walk’ because everybody’s got their headphones on.” Another potential area of growth is cargo and the possibility of Atlanta as a hub for ecommerce. “It’s coming. Cargo creates tons of jobs,” he said, noting that too many planes are flying with cargo holds that are practically empty. Referring to Hartsfield-Jackson as a “competitive machine,” Selden announced at the meeting that requests for proposals were recently issued for development of roughly 800 acres of land owned by the airport on its periphery. Selden credited part of the airport’s success to its landing fees, some of the lowest in the country. He cited Delta Air Lines’ 80 million annual passengers as well, and said Hartsfield-Jackson is the largest employer in the state with 63,000 jobs. “We generate $52 billion in revenues in Atlanta metro. The rest of Georgia is another 15,” he said. “There is $83 billion worth of economic activity in the region — a huge economic impact. Concessions were $1.1 billion gross last year.” But not everything runs as smoothly as Selden would like. On arrival at the breakfast, Selden took a call regarding the attempted kidnapping of a child in the airport’s atrium that had just been defused by Atlanta police. He also has to maintain a working relationship with the City of Atlanta, which owns the airport. The city is being investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration for possible misuse of airport funds, and the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the handling of an FAA subpoena of airport records. Hartsfield-Jackson is one of several airports picked for a financial compliance review, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. “The procurement process is run by city hall and is different from the operation of the airport,” Selden told the Reporter after his presentation. “My goal is to monitor where the money and the funds are spent. I can’t speak of the past, only going forward, and we haven’t misused any funds.” “Mayor [Keisha] Lance Bottoms has a task force; she is leading the charge to reform the city to ensure that all these alleged corruption scandals are mitigated, procedures are put in place and she is moving the city forward,” he said. “She called it a cloud over the city.”


To Learn More, Visit or Call 770-390-1780

28 | Perimeter Business



Please eat our plants: An edible landscaping trend began in Buckhead

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

AUG 11 • SEPT 8 Designed for little kids, big kids, and the whole family, Second Sundays are for everyone. Visit us each month and experience new interactive, innovative family activities inspired by our collections and ever-changing exhibitions. Second Sundays are sponsored by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

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Top, Cory Mosser of Natural Born Tillers discusses the blueberry bushes planted along I-85 at the EpiCity Real Estate Services campus in Buckhead. Bottom, Morgan Carswell of EpiCity Real Estate Services, left, watches as Mosser offers fresh figs. Opposite page, a sunflower sprouts in the garden created by Natural Born Tillers at Adult Swim’s Midtown headquarters. (Special)

Continued from page 25 that “breaks people’s bubbles” between cars and the landscape, between the natural environment and the office environment. It’s a concept that already has some popularity in residential areas – including the recently opened Urban Food Forest in southeast Atlanta, where Natural Born Tillers is a contractor – but the commercial side is a new field. About three years ago, Mosser got the chance to try the concept through a chance introduction to EpiCity president Tom Stokes via a mutual friend who operates an organic farm at Emory University’s Oxford College in Oxford, Ga. Stokes and EpiCity’s architecture firm partner, Sizemore Group, agreed to help plant the seeds of the idea at the real estate company’s five-building complex on Plasters Avenue. Today, instead of generic evergreen shrubs under the office windows, EpiCity

has lavender plants and pineapple guava, which bears edible flowers. Trellises on an exterior wall will soon hold vines of muscadine grapes. On a closer look, landscape plants turn out to be the aromatic herb rosemary or the fruit-bearing serviceberry. Coming soon are “cocktail herbs” and tea plants for a new bar that will open in the complex. On a recent morning, Mosser strolled across the visitor parking lot, hopped onto the curb, stuck his hand into the foliage of a small tree, and produced some figs, which the Reporter can confirm were yummy. “When was the last time you stopped and looked at a plant?” Mosser said. “I think it changes your relationship to the landscape when you get something from it.” The edible landscaping was a hit. Now several EpiCity-managed properties have edible landscaping and garden beds, in-


Perimeter Business | 29

cluding another office park on Powers Ferry Road in Cobb County. “We are really enjoying this collaboration with Natural Born Tillers and the ability to offer our community members more amenities and a chance to get outside and to be a part of God’s beautiful creation,” said Stokes in a press release highlighting the Cobb project. And bigger clients have followed, among them Adult Swim, which brought Natural Born Tillers in to plant a corporate landscape garden at its Midtown headquarters in 2017. Matt Harrigan, Adult Swim’s vice president of digital operations and one of its top writers and hosts, also oversees the company garden. He says the taste of nature is a nice alternative to the company’s largely electronic work. And the harvest every week or two includes not only staples like tomatoes and blueberries, but “a few surprises” Mosser and the team planted, such as “tiny Mexican sour cucumbers, Carolina Reaper peppers, edible nasturtiums [flowers].” “Our garden is a fun, parallel organic universe populated with bees, butterflies and the occasional rabbit, and part of the fun of this garden is that it’s in a perpetual state of change,” Harrigan said. “The employee reaction to it has been overwhelmingly positive.” That kind of ecosystembuilding is another benefit of edible landscaping, especially in the pesticidefree method Natural Born Tillers does it, Mosser says. He said 210 native species of moths can live on blueberry bushes, and Carswell said she has noticed more honeybees on the property as they come to pollinate the variety of plants. Attracting a full range of creatures is a way the landscaping can solve one issue that often worries property-owners – vermin that might like to eat the plants as much as people do. “One of the biggest concerns I get when meeting with new clients is, ‘What about pests?’” Mosser said.

“If you have predators, it’s not an issue.” Natural Born Tillers not only plants edible landscaping but also offers ongoing maintenance, replanting and programming. The pricing depends on the size and complexity. Planting can run anywhere from $2,000 to $100,000, Mosser said, and monthly maintenance could be $500 to $2,000. “It’s more expensive than traditional landscaping,” he acknowledged, but offers many benefits, and can come with such additional programming as presentations from guest chefs or local farmers. “It’s not just about, ‘Oh, we’ve got a fig tree out here,’” he said. For corporate clients, “It’s a great team-building exercise,” he said. And for employees, there’s always the big plus: “having excuses to go outside.” For more details about the landscaping service, see And for information about EpiCity and Armour Junction, see



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30 | Perimeter Business ■


The following businesses recently opened in Reporter Newspapers communities Aviva Plastic Surgery & Aesthetics, 110 Johnson Ferry Rd N.E., Center Pointe 2, Suite 470, Sandy Springs. Info: Boardroom Salon for Men, Buckhead Court, 3872 Roswell Road N.E., Buckhead. Info: Expedia CruiseShipCenters, travel agency, 4505 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info:

Bhavin Vadgama, left, and Hiral Vadgama celebrated the opening of their Rush Bowls restaurant at 1110 Hammond Drive, Suite 25, Sandy Springs on May 23. Info:


HOTWORX, fitness, 6115 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Sandy Springs. Info: Ron Self & Associates, Allstate auto insurance agency, 2498 Jett Ferry Road, Suite 102, Dunwoody. Info: Wallis Bank, 1710 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. Info:


Dunwoody Mayor Denis Shortal holds the bow while owner Daniel Wu cuts the ribbon, joined by restaurant employees and local government and Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce officials, at the opening of the FUGU Express Hibachi & Poké restaurant at 1165 Perimeter Center West, Suite 303, Dunwoody on May 17. Info:

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Special Section | 31


The Red Barn Cafe at Tiger Mountain Vineyards After a weekend tour of Tiger Mountain Vineyards, relax on the patio over a meal. The café is open May through November for Friday and Saturday night dinners as well as Saturday and Sunday lunch/brunch. The menu includes soups, salads, small plates, entrees and desserts. 2592 Old 441 South, Tiger. Information:

you there. 76 Forge Mill Road, Morganton. Information:

61 Main▲ This farm-to-table restaurant serving up quail, grouper, rabbit and shrimp is located inside the historic Jasper Theater building. 49 S. Main St., Jasper. Information: 61main. com.

The Dillard House ► Famed for serving up Southern and country cooking, The Dillard House Inn and Restaurant doesn’t skimp on breakfast either. Whether you’re checking in for a getaway or just want some homestyle cooking, you’ll find out what’s been drawing hungry visitors for more than a century to Dillard. 768 Franklin St., Dillard. Information:

Bodensee Restaurant If you’re soaking up the charms of Helen’s Bavarian village, be sure to try some authentic German favorites like spätzle, Weiner Schnitzel, and house-made sausages. There’s also a great outdoor patio to en-

Wild Thyme


Try these acclaimed restaurants in Georgia and North Carolina when you head for the hills

The Black Sheep

The Sawmill Place ▲

Beechwood Inn ► Check in for the weekend and enjoy panoramic views of Black Rock Mountain from your room and the restaurant, which offers

The Orchard▲ Set in a century-old farmhouse, this Cashiers, NC favorite serves up local fish, beef and a big selection of wine and beers to enjoy while gazing out over the orchard. 905 Highway 107 South, Cashiers Valley. Information:

joy the view. 64 Munich Strasse, Helen. Information:

Blairsville residents and visitors alike swear by the big breakfast served at The Sawmill Place. We’re talking homemade biscuits, bacon, baked apples and much more. You can also grab lunch there, too. 1150 Pat Haralson Drive, Blairsville. Information:

This gourmet restaurant in Highlands, NC serves up an American menu with Asian influences, not to mention a wine list praised by Wine Spectator magazine threeyears running. 343-D Main St. Information:

The restaurant serves up new American dishes, including local beef and veggies, with private label wine and a giant outdoor patio with raw bar and craft cocktails. 480 W. Main St., Blue Ridge. Information: award-winning cuisine prepared from local food and the inn’s own wine list. 220 Beechwood Drive, Clayton. Information:

◄Harvest on Main

turkey. Don’t forget the Brunswick Stew! 4971 Gainesville Highway, Blairsville. Information:

Hofer’s Bakery ►

Consistently named one of North Georgia’s best restaurants, Harvest on Main uses seasonal products from local farmers ¬– grass-fed beef, veggies and trout – to craft its menu. 576 E. Main St., Blue Ridge. Information:

Enjoy breakfast and lunch in the Bavarian dining room, featuring entrees specially prepared European staff and breads baked in a stone hearth oven. Deli sandwiches are perfect to pick up for picnics or hikes and there’s also an outdoor biergarten. 8758 N. Main St., Helen. Information:

Jim’s Smokin’ Que

La Pizzeria at Cucina Rustica

If it’s barbecue you’re hankering for, head to Blairsville for smoked baby back ribs and expertly smoked pork, chicken and

If you’re in the Blue Ridge Mountains but craving a taste of Italy then La Pizzeria’s menu of wood-fired pizzas will take

Table 64 If you’re in Sapphire Valley, be sure to have dinner at Table 64 with its unique tapas menu and diverse wine selection. 3093 Highway 64E, Sapphire Valley, NC. Information:

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Mountain Events

Music, tennis, wine and more things to do in August in North Georgia and North Carolina Concerts at Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds Head to Hiawassee for concerts by Vince Gill (Aug. 9) and Sawyer Brown & Exile (Aug. 31). For tickets and information: Mountain High BBQ Festival and Car Show

2019 Events Blood, Sweat&Tears Vince Gill Sawyer Brown and Exile

August 2 August 9 August 31

2019 Dailey&Vincent Landfest

Sept. 12-14

Georgia Mountain Fall Festival

October 11 -19

Appalachian Brew, Stew&Que

October 26

This two-day event, Aug. 10-11, featuring authentic, mouth-watering BBQ, live entertainment, a car show, crafters and tastin’ tent will be held in Franklin, NC. Information: Georgia Mountain Tennis Championships The 9th annual tournament will be held at Young Harris College Aug. 23-25. Divisions will include singles, doubles and mixed doubles for juniors, adults and seniors. Brackets will be determined by age and skill level. Information: Helen’s 50th Celebration Street Dance ▼ Head to Helen, GA on Aug 24 to mark the Alpine village’s 50th anniversary with a host of events including a big street dance

Mountain Country Christmas in Lights Opens Thanksgiving Night

Highway 76 West


Hiawassee, GA I 706-896-4191


in downtown from 6 to 8 p.m. Information: Crush Festival ▼ Head to Ellijay’s Cartecay Vineyards on Aug. 24-25 for grape stomping, live music, vineyard tours, food, fun and more. Information:

Village Square Art & Craft Show Now in its 14th year, the Aug. 25 event features regionally-made fine art, crafts and rustic furniture. The festival is held in Kelsey-Hutchinson Park in Highlands, NC. Information: Blairsville Mountain Heritage Festival Mountain music, arts and crafts, and living history activities are featured at the Heritage Festival held Aug. 31 to Sept. 1 on the town square. Information:


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Blue Ridge’s Only Golf and River Community

New Home Construction, 18-Holes of Extraordinary Golf Ready to Play this Summer, and a Growing Membership, the timing couldn’t be better to visit Old Toccoa Farm. For more information:

OLD TOCCOA FARM REALTY, LLC 596 Curtis Switch Road, Mineral Bluff, GA 30559

Real Estate 706.946.4663 | Membership 404.277.4980 | Golf Tee Times 706.946.4653 Obtain the Property Report required by Federal law and read it before signing anything. No Federal agency has judged the merits or value, if any, of this property. This is not intended to be an offer to sell nor a solicitation of offers to buy real estate in Old Toccoa Farm by residents of Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania or South Carolina, or any other jurisdiction where prohibited by law. No offering can be made to residents of New York OLD TOCCOA FARM, LLC AND ITS PRINCIPALS TAKING PART IN THE PUBLIC OFFERING OR SALE ARE NOT INCORPORATED IN, LOCATED IN, OR RESIDENT IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK. THE OFFERING IS NEITHER MADE IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK NOR MADE TO THE RESIDENTS OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK. THE OFFERING IS NOT DIRECTED TO ANY PERSON OR ENTITY IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK BY, OR ON BEHALF OF, OLD TOCCOA FARM, LLC OR ANYONE ACTING WITH OLD TOCCOA FARM, LLC’S KNOWLEDGE. NO OFFERING OR PURCHASE OR SALE OF ANY PROPERTY SHALL TAKE PLACE AS A RESULT OF THIS OFFERING, UNTIL ALL REGISTRATION AND FILING REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE NEW YORK MARTIN ACT AND THE NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL’S REGULATIONS ARE COMPLIED WITH; A WRITTEN EXEMPTION IS OBTAINED PURSUANT TO AN APPLICATION IS GRANTED PURSUANT TO AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH COOPERATIVE POLICY STATEMENTS #1 OR #7; OR A “NO-ACTION” REQUEST IS GRANTED.

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Chasing Waterfalls

Georgia State Parks offer recreation, beautiful sights

While exploring for that new home in the North Georgia mountains, be sure to drop by one of Georgia’s State Parks to check out some impressive waterfalls. Not only are they beautiful, but the parks also offer amazing recreational amenities, too. ◄ Amicalola Falls State Park The tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast, Amicalola Falls towers above the surrounding greenery at 729 feet high. The falls supply various vantage points for visitors to view the scenery, including a hardsurfaced trail perfect for strollers and wheelchairs. Climb the more challenging staircase to the top for unprecedented views of the falls. AmicalolaFalls. Cloudland Canyon State Park Cloudland Canyon is one of the largest and most scenic state parks in Georgia’s repertoire. Within the park one can find canyons, sandstone cliffs, caves, waterfalls, creeks, dense woodland and abundant wildlife. One of the most popular hiking trails includes the two-mile Waterfall Trail leading to two scenic falls that cascade over sandstone and pour into beautiful pools at the bottom. ◄Tallulah Gorge State Park One of the most impressive canyons in the southeast, Tallulah Gorge is 1,000 feet deep and roughly two miles long. The gorge contains numerous paths and overlooks for visitors to view the six waterfalls cascading through the bottom of the gorge. To gain access to the floor of the gorge and “Sliding Rock” (Bridal Veil Falls), visitors must acquire a permit available at the visitor’s center. Passes run out quickly, so it’s important to get an early start on the day for the full experience.

▲Black Rock Mountain State Park Located within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Black Rock Mountain State Park is located at the highest elevation of any Georgia State Park. The rugged terrain and fresh mountain air are home to Ada-Hi Falls. A short but steep trail and staircase lead to this small, secluded waterfall. Vogel State Park Vogel State Park is one of the nation’s oldest state parks, and rests at the base of the beautiful Blood Mountain. Located directly below Lake Trahlyta, this stepping stone waterfall cascades 40 feet. ►Moccasin Creek State Park Moccasin Creek State Park sits on the shores of Lake Burton and is a central location for visiting multiple falls in the area. The park’s two-mile trail Hemlock Falls Trail leads to the beautiful Hemlock Falls of Rabun County. The trail is kid-friendly, offers glimpses of the waterfall along the way and supplies a beautiful pool of water at the base of the falls.


Special Section | 35



192 Delphi Hills Lane 24 acres on Fightingtown Creek 5BR/4BA | $2,495,000

858 Adra Road Lake Blue Ridge Estate 6BR/4.5BA | $2,400,000



4 Stuart View Drive MINERAL BLUFF - MOUNTAIN VIEW 3BR/3BA | 1.28 AC | $434,900

41 Hall Street Intown Living - Blue Ridge 4BR/3.5BA | $699,000



153 Johnson Mill Road Executive Home - Ellijay, GA. 6BR/5BA | $400,000

Lot 9 Aska’s Grand Vista BLUE RIDGE - NEW CONSTRUCTION 4BR/3.5BA | 1.68 AC | $599,000



370 Enchanting Circle 1.8 AC lodge style cabin with long range views 5BR/3.5BA | $429,000


388 Shawnee Trail Overlooking the Cohutta Wilderness 4BR/3.5BA | $450,000


2185 Macedonia Church Road 43 AC Farm adjoining USFS 4BR/3BA | $589,000

396 Hideaway Road 1 AC Lake Blue Ridge cottage with easy walk to dock | 2BR/1BA | $749,000

Your Luxury Connection to the

Blue Ridge Mountains

Kim Knutzen cell: 770-402-1908

| office: 706-632-7211 #1 Agent Blue Ridge Office #1 Agent in Total Units Companywide Luxury Marketing Specialist Senior Marketing Consultant Life Member - Million Dollar Club


OLD TOCCOA FARM Fly Fishing & Golf Communtity Resale Lots $117,500 - $225,000


2941 Mobile Road - Will Subdivide 192.47 AC - $2,400,000 63 AC - $749,000

Harry Norman, REALTORS® Blue Ridge Office | 252 W. Main Street | Blue Ridge, GA 30513 The above information is believed to be accurate but is not warranted. Offer subject to errors, changes, omissions, prior sales and withdrawals without notice.

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Cabin Life

Even laundry, cooking and cleaning feels like a vacation in the mountains BY ROBIN CONTE I don’t usually do nothing. I’m not a donothing person. But here, in the mountains in our house built of logs, I feel like I have not only permission but almost an obligation to do nothing. If it’s pouring outside, I can spend the day listening to the rain on our metal roof while lying on the couch with a good book. If it’s warm outside, I can choose the hammock. In the morning, I sit on the deck perched on a tall chair with a cup of coffee, watching as the mist rises like steam over the river below and lifts to reveal layers of mountains disappearing into the horizon. I sit again at night in an Amish rocker as the air cools, and I listen to the call of the whippoorwill. I plant flowers. I sweep floors. I wash clothes. I make meals. I always plan on writing, but

I usually get distracted by doing nothing. When I’m here in the mountains, even when I’m doing something, it feels like a vacation. I organize the pantry, clean out a closet, schedule for repairs. If it’s a long weekend and I have time, I’ll boil sugar water and put out a hummingbird feeder. I buy fresh, local peaches in the summer and apples in the fall, and in the spring I’ll get strawberries by the gallon, little glistening red gems that are so sweet they’re like juicy lumps of sugar.

Escape to Extraordinary. Escape to Blue Ridge. With a cabin vacation from Escape to Blue Ridge, premium amenities are as important as creating priceless memories. Year-round adventures are as abundant as picturesque mountain views. And making an escape isn’t just accepted, it’s encouraged.

Discover why our vacation cabins are North Georgia’s finest at 855-885-4894


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My daily exercise is a hike along the river or through the mountain trails. I call the drug store, and the pharmacist answers immediately, in person. When I stop by later to pick up a few things, there are no lines, there is no waiting. I go to the local nursery to buy plants and it’s like walking through a candy store. I salivate all the while over the bright, luscious blossoms, and I get gorgeous potted arrangements at bargain prices. I drop by our post office to mail a letter, and there is a box of tiny green army soldiers and a sign that says, “Please take one and remember to pray for our service men and women.” We go to church, a small one-roomed chapel, and afterwards we walk to the local grill to have dinner with friends from the congregation. Someone always picks up the tab for our priest. We built the place almost 20 years ago, now. We hunted for a couple of years, driving from Greensboro to Hartwell to Hiawassee and back down to Ellijay, looking for just the right spot for a family retreat. Did we want to be in the mountains or on a lake? Those are your choices if you’d like an easy two-hour drive from Atlanta. Our compromise was a North Georgia river, and our river is the Toccoa. We planned the design and the details of the cabin together, as a family. Our general contractor went AWOL when it was time to pour the foundation, and, with the encouragement of my builder, I ended up GC-ing the job. I went through two electricians and three masons. I chose the logs for the structure, the rocks for the fireplace, the nails for the floor, and handled everything in-between. The place seems more like ours because of it. When we’re here in the mountains, we are an undistracted family. We play board games and card games together. If there’s something good showing, we’ll go to the drive-in theater—one of the last of its kind in the U.S.—where the kids used to buy funnel cakes and toss footballs or Frisbees while waiting for the sun to set. My husband built a tree house with the twins when they were young, and all of our children have taken turns blazing trails with him. We go kayaking and canoeing and wading, when the river is down. We watch birds. We pick blackberries. We bake apple pies in the fall and berry cobblers in the summer. We churn ice cream. We chop wood. We roast marshmallows for s’mores. We look for tracks in the snow. We sit in rocking chairs and stare at the mountains and the river and the wide open sky. And mostly, we do nothing. Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her new column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” visit


Happy Bear

92 Pinehurst Court MLS #89044 Beautifully furnished 4 bedroom, 4 and a half bath timber frame home in Old Edwards Club at Highlands Cove! The Master is on the main floor with two walk-in closets. Comes fully furnished.

Beautifully furnished 4 bedroom, 4.5 bath home. Kitchen includes Viking Professional appliances with Cambria countertops, gas log fireplace in the living room, and wood burning fireplace on the deck. Temporary club membership is available.

Highlands Cove Realty specializes in luxury North Carolina mountain homes, breathtaking homesites, condominiums, cottages, and vacation rentals at Old Edwards Club and in the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountain communities.

Starting at $775/night



14 Old Wagon Trail MLS #L87047A Make your vision a reality by owning two new lots located inside the gates of the prestigious Old Edwards Club. These lots provide the best of all worlds, featuring exceptional mountain, golf course, and lake views!

Absolutely stunning, designer furnished modern, mountain condominium that has an amazing mountain and golf course views! Lower level floor plan with two master suites plus an additional guest bedroom with its own bath.

With an average high temperature of 78° in the summer, the gated community of Old Edwards Club at Highlands Cove offers the restorative experience of mountain living along with year-round access to a wide range of activities like rock-climbing, whitewater rafting, hiking, exploring waterfalls and best small-town specialty shopping, rated by USA Today. Whether you plan to spend your days exploring nature or enjoying world-class amenities from golf, fine dining to shopping, we’ll help you find your oasis.


Starting at $375/night Barnell

Whether your passion is exploring nature or reading by the fireplace, this 3 bedroom, 3.5 bathroom home is the perfect place to spend your vacation! All of the bedrooms have been updated and outfitted with new mattresses and top of the line linens.


Discover the Mountains


Starting at $575/night Roostica Cottage







The quaint town of Highlands is located in the beautiful Western North Carolina mountains. Just 2 hours from Atlanta, and in close proximity to interstate 85.


Starting at $425/night

Ed Hillis

Jennifer Blake

Bill Gilmore

Letty Murphy


75B Burning Bush Lane MLS #86753 Price reduction of $20,000.00. Seller is motivated to sell! This 3 bedroom, 3 bath condo features a floor plan that is all on one level and has hardwood floors throughout.

Roostica Cottage was recently featured in Cottage Journal Magazine! This beautiful home includes 2 main floor suites and sleeps 8. Cottage is across the street from the largest lake in Highlands – Lake Sequoyah.

95 Raleigh

410D Highlands Cove Drive MLS #90842 One of a Kind 3 bedroom, 3 bath condominium has tons of upgrades and comes fabulously decorated! RAREUpper unit with only a few steps going in with exceptional views of both the mountains and the golf course.

William Peavey

Toll Free: 833-456-4150

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Call us to help you find your place on Lake Lanier! 770.235.6907

Selling Lake Lanier Lifestyles since 2001!

7095 Shadow Lane

$1,595,000 6BR| 6FB| 2HB | Pvt dock

Bill Stewart designed south lake retreat

Mountain Fitness

Stay fit with kayaking, trail biking and rock sliding If you’re planning to make the move to North Georgia and wondering how you’ll stay fit without your local gym, the state parks have some interesting and unusual ways to get your regular exercise. With only a $5 parking fee, you can visit multiple parks on the same day and stay fit year-round.

4345 Mceachern Drive $1,495,000 4BR| 3FB| Pvt dock

45 acre private Lake Lanier Estate

Hike with your dog 5954 Nachoochee Trail

7360 Pine Valley Road

New Low Country Style home

Young Deer area, South Lake, Tennis court

6746 Gaines Ferry Road

377 Night Fire Lane

$1,495,000 5BR| 4FB| 1HB | Pvt dock

$1,595,000 5BR| 5.5BA | Pvt dock | Pool Elegant South Lake home

8545 Anchor On Lanier Ct $649,900 3BR| 3FB| Pvt dock Forsyth County

$1,250,000 5BR| 5FB| 1HB | Pvt dock

Georgia State Parks just launched the new Tails on Trails Club, geared toward dog owners and their pups. While all of Georgia State Parks’ trails are dog-friendly, the Tails on Trails Club encourages dog owners to complete seven designated hiking trails for a reward. Upon completion of all seven trails, dog owners will receive a T-shirt and dogs get a bandana. Participating parks include Fort Mountain, F.D. Roosevelt, Don Carter, Sweetwater Creek, High Falls, Fort McAllister and Red Top Mountain. Find out more at

$979,000 6BR| 6FB| dock available On the Chestatee Golf Course

5500 Truman Mountain Rd $1,495,000 4BR| 3FB| 2HB | Pvt dock Fabulous open water views

Sheila Davis Group is part of the Norton Agency

Paddle lakes and rivers Don Carter State Park is the only state park on the northern edge of 38,000-acre Lake Lanier, making it the perfect paddling spot for stand-up paddleboards or paddling. For a challenging workout, take a three-mile trip to Flat Creek Island, the northernmost island of Lake Lanier. Don’t own a boat? Canoes and/or kayaks may be rented seasonally at more than 20 state parks. Join the Park Paddlers Club and paddle 22 miles of scenic waterways to earn a T-shirt reward. More information:

434 Green St, Gainesville, GA 30501

Sheila Davis 770.235.6907


Cycle the trails If biking is your thing, get on the trails at Fort Mountain State Park near Chatsworth,


Smithgall Woods State Park and Unicoi State Park near Helen, Don Carter State Park in Gainesville and Tallulah Gorge State Park. Find out more at

Splash in state parks Those looking for a more daring dip into nature can make a splash at Tallulah Gorge State Park and Watson Mill Bridge State Park, both of which provide summer swimmers with a unique opportunity to experience a natural waterslide made of “sliding rocks.” Get more information at Swimming. Find out more about where to get fit at

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Your mountain Retreat

just an hour north of Atlanta

Find out what happens when you get away from it all

In today's nonstop , fast-paced world, time is our most precious gift. Big Canoe's convenient-yet-secluded location means less time spent driving to your mountain retreat and more time spent breathing the clean mountain air, teeing off, casting a line, lounging lakeside, reading a favorite book and sharing moments worth remembering with the ones who matter most. It's the private residential getaway you're looking for and it's only about an hour outside the city.