08-30-18 Brookhaven Reporter

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AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018 • VOL. 10 — NO. 18


Brookhaven Reporter

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Local moviemaker attracts stars to ‘inspirational’ stories PAGE 20

AROUND TOWN: Cheers to the geeks at Battle and Brew PAGE 11

City to consider annexing more land south of I-85

Racing for kids’ sake

BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net


Youngsters are off and running in the children’s part of the “Hot Pursuit” evening 5K run and walk at Murphey Candler Park on Aug. 25. The second annual event was a fundraiser for the police department’s “Shop with a Badge” program, which provides holiday gifts to underprivileged children.

Perimeter Business

Transit and 285/400 the focus of new PCIDs master plan PAGE 4GE 4

Atlanta United’s greatest impact is having made soccer ‘cool’ beyond its normal supporter realm. ... Kids from all sports backgrounds are now supportive of the team. SCOTT SNYDER VARSITY BOYS’ SOCCER COACH, THE WESTMINSTER SCHOOLS

See COMMENTARY, page 10

OUT & ABOUT Japanese comic theater group comes to Dunwoody Page 16

The City Council is slated to consider in September annexing more than 15 acres of commercial and residential property south of I-85 at the busy intersection of Briarcliff and Clairmont roads. The request comes after Brookhaven developer Jay Gibson failed to get approval from the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners to construct a new 24-hour RaceTrac gas station and convenience store, a Wendy’s restaurant and an Express Oil on the northwest corner of the intersection where an old auto repair store and several dilapidated buildings now stand. But DeKalb Commissioner Jeff Rader said Gibson is just “shopping the zoning” to Brookhaven and he and fellow Commissioner Kathie Gannon have asked the city to deny the request. Gibson is seeking to annex several parcels totaling approximately 4 acres. GibSee CITY on page 22

Civil Rights history marker may come to Lynwood Park BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Fifty years ago, the nine-room Lynwood Park School was closed as desegregation finally made its way to DeKalb County more than a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. To commemorate that anniversary, Councilmember Linley Jones is working with residents and former students at the school to apply for a historical markSee CIVIL on page 14

2 | Community

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City eliminates Alcohol Board amid nightclub lawsuit BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

The City Council voted Aug. 28 to eliminate the Alcohol Board, which has in recent months overturned city administrators’ alcohol license suspensions and denials that have sparked a lawsuit from nightclubs. The five-member board will be replaced with a “hearing officer” to be appointed at a future date by the mayor and approved by the council. The Alcohol Board was disbanded immediately following the vote. City Attorney Chris Balch said a pool of hearing officers could be appointed by the mayor. It was necessary to eliminate the Alcohol Board because, in part, it was difficult to regularly get a quorum, he said. Councilmember Bates Mattison raised concerns about not having a citizen board participating in oversight of the alcohol ordinance. “I have real issues with changing to having a hearing officer for our city,” he said. “I do believe in having our citizens have a voice.” The elimination comes after two recent high-profile cases in which the board overturned the city’s denial of an alcohol license. In July, the board overturned the city’s suspension of Arif Lounge’s alcohol license.

The city suspended the license because officials said the venue is now required to pay a $100,000 fee required because it should be classified as an “entertainment venue,” which are businesses with a dance floor, stage or DJ. Representing Arif Lounge was attorney Cary Wiggins. In that ruling, the board said the city did not prove the business had any of the three amenities despite Balch presenting police body camera footage city officials said clearly showed a dance floor and DJ booth. The city’s fire marshal also testified he did not see a dance floor or DJ booth in Arif Lounge, a popular hookah lounge. In November, the board also overturned the city’s decision to revoke the alcohol license of Medusa Restaurant & Lounge. Balch argued before the board that a known Bloods street club gang member regularly hung out at the nightclub in Plaza Fiesta. The city attempted to pull the alcohol license following a shooting in Plaza Fiesta parking lot involving Medusa attendees and the alleged gang member. Wiggins also represented Medusa in this appeal. But the board ruled the city did not produce credible evidence of employees at the club acting illegally. In February, the board upheld the city’s suspension of alcohol licenses for Medusa, Josephine’s and XS Restaurant & Lounge.

The city said these venues are “entertainment venues” and must pay the $100,000 alcohol license fee. Wiggins represented all the clubs in the appeal. After losing the Alcohol Board hearing, Wiggins and his clients sued the city in federal court claiming the alcohol ordinance is unconstitutional. That lawsuit is pending and led to another change in the alcohol ordinance on Aug. 28. After several minutes of confusion and a 20-minute closed-door executive session, the council also voted to delete the subsection of the ordinance that prohibits sexually oriented businesses from selling alcohol. Currently the Pink Pony is the only such business in the city doing so. The council raised some concerns during a work session that new strip clubs could start popping up in the city if the subsection was eliminated. Mayor John Ernst said after the vote he expected the current code — such as the $100,000 alcohol fee for entertainment venues — would keep out any other strip clubs. The subsection is expected to be put back in 2020. Wiggins filed the civil rights lawsuit for Josephine, XS Restaurant & Lounge and Medusa Restaurant & Lounge. The three venues claim the city is discriminating against the black-owned clubs. Their argument in part states the new ordinance vi-

olates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause because it allowed the white-owned Pink Pony to stay open until 4 a.m. seven days a week. Last call for all other clubs is 2 a.m. Because the Pink Pony was included in the federal lawsuit as an example of the city discriminating against certain venues, eliminating the small provision concerning sexually oriented businesses temporarily brings the code into compliance with the judge’s ruling, according to Balch. The U.S. District judge agreed the city wasn’t treating all nightclubs fairly. But rather than allow all clubs to stay open later, the city decided to shut down the Pink Pony at 2 a.m. like the others. Pink Pony owner Dennis Williams made a special appeal to the council during public comment to delay last call until 3 a.m. rather than 2 a.m. until the federal lawsuit is decided. The Pink Pony was at first considered exempt from the new alcohol ordinance because of a settlement agreement it reached with the city in 2014. The agreement came after several contentious court battles when the city tried to permanently shut the club down and prohibit sexually oriented business from locating in the city. Under the terms of that exit agreement, which expires Dec. 31, 2019, the Pink Pony has paid the city $225,000 annually and was able to stay open until 4 a.m. and sell alcohol on Sundays. The strip club is expected to close at the end of 2019 as part of its exit agreement. The club can request to remain open but would then be required to follow the alcohol ordinance that in 2020 will begin banning sexually oriented business from selling alcohol. Pink Pony owner Dennis Williams spoke during public comment at the Aug. 28 meeting, pleading for the council to revert to the 3 a.m. last call for all nightclubs until the federal lawsuit is decided. “My hours are taking a beating … and we’re having some financial hardship on our staff and employees,” Williams said of the earlier closing time. Williams further blamed “outsiders” – the nightlife venues suing the city – for “muddying the waters.” “Some outsiders won [a preliminary injunction] and the Pony is getting punished,” Williams said. Ernst said following the vote that the federal judge in his recent ruling forced the city’s hand to make a tough decision. “We need to comply with the law and correct all areas,” he said. “I very much would not like to see the proliferation of any sexually oriented businesses in the city … and this law I believe would still contain those protections. “But we have to treat everyone equally … and that comes with the choices we have to make in the future,” Ernst added. BK

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018


The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Aug. 27 that the makeup of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics is unconstitutional because most members are appointed by non-governmental entities. In the unanimous ruling, Justice Harold Melton wrote for the court that the “private entities do not answer to the people as required by our Constitution” and “are not authorized to wield the power to appoint public officials to the DeKalb County Board of Ethics.” The state high court’s decision upholds last year’s same ruling by DeKalb Superior Court Judge Asha Jackson. The challenge to the makeup of the board was brought by former DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton, who, in 2016, faced ethics complaints against her while she was in office. Sutton challenged the constitutionality of House Bill 597, a referendum approved by more than 90 percent of DeKalb voters in 2015, that allows four members of the sevenmember volunteer board to be appointed by outside groups, such as the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, Leadership DeKalb and DeKalb universities, including Brookhaven’s Oglethorpe University. The new law was intended to create an independent Board of Ethics; prior to the overwhelming approval of HB 597, the Board of Ethics was made up of members appointed by the DeKalb CEO and Board of Commissioners. State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta), whose district includes portions of Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville, was the House sponsor of HB 597. “The Supreme Court has spoken and now we need to fix it,” he said in an interview. Holcomb said there are two options to fix the bill: a constitutional amendment or passing legislation that requires the legislature to approve the member appointments from outside groups. He added the state will also need to study the scope of numerous boards across the state impacted by the ruling. State Sen. Elena Parent (D-Atlanta), whose district includes Decatur and a portion of Brookhaven, sponsored the HB 597 in the Senate. She agreed with the two options to fixing the legislation. “I’m disappointed in the ruling because best practices on a lot of ethics boards like this allow some independence … so as to not concentrate power,” she said. She also noted the issue was “bigger than DeKalb” and affected several ethics boards across the state including in Atlanta and Gwinnett County. Mayor John Ernst is a former chair of the DeKalb Board of Ethics, serving from 2013 through 2015. He resigned to run for mayor.


The city scored a victory in its federal lawsuit against an adult-oriented store when a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion Aug. 10 that the business must comply with Brookhaven’s ordinance and stop selling sex toys. The appeals court denied claims by Stardust, a store at 3007 Buford Highway, that the city’s ordinance is unconstitutional and infringed on its First Amendment right to display sexual devices. City Attorney Chris Balch praised the appeals court opinion. “The city of Brookhaven is committed to having constitutionally sound and enforceable ordinances to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents and guests,” he said in a prepared statement. Cary Wiggins, attorney for Stardust, said he and his client are “exploring all options.” To comply with the city ordinance, the shop is no longer allowed to display more than 100 sexual devices. The ruling is part of a legal battle that has ensued since the days of the city’s incorporation in 2012. Weeks after the city was incorporated, Stardust began selling “sexual devices” which the city contends violated city ordinance. The city began code enforcement against Stardust for selling sex toys, which it deemed as illegal under its ordinances. In 2013, for example, Stardust was cited by code enforcement more than 500 times. The city states Stardust cannot operate legally because of its close proximity to another sexually oriented business, the Pink Pony, and because it did not clearly define what kind of business it was when it applied for a business license. Representing the city in the Stardust lawsuit is Scott Bergthold, a Tennessee attorney who specializes in municipal laws cracking down on sexually oriented businesses. Bergthold represented Brookhaven in its lawsuit against the Pink Pony that resulted in a 2014 settlement in which the strip club agreed to close down in 2020 while also payBK

Community | 3


ing the city $225,000 a year to cover police costs. Judge Jill Pryor wrote the 11th Circuit opinion and said the city’s code can comply with the First Amendment if it leaves open alternate avenues for a display of sex products. The city has identified 73 other locations in the city limits where Stardust can operate legally, according to the opinion. Michael Morrison, owner of Stardust, is also involved in a heated legal battle with the city of Atlanta over his Tokyo Valentino club on Cheshire Bridge Road. Wiggins is his attorney in this suit also. The city and a federal court say Tokyo Valentino, a club that caters to LGBTQ people, has been in violation of city ordinance since it opened in 1998. Wiggins is taking this case to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. A federal judge issued an injunction against Tokyo Valentino earlier this year prohibiting the club from operating video booths.


The City Council has approved spending $99,300 to begin the second phase of the Murphey Candler Lake shoreline restoration project. The lake is located within Murphey Candler Park. The project was started in early 2017 where 100 feet of eroding shoreline was restored with limestone and granite stones. The stones created a tiered seating area along the lake shore and also slow the erosion process, according to Parks and Recreation Director Brian Borden. The second phase will add more limestone and granite to the lake’s newly installed pedestrian bridge. Willow Construction Inc. will do the work after the final stream buffer variance is received from the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

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4 | Perimeter Business

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Perimeter Business

Focusing on business in the Reporter Newspapers communities

Fall 2018 | PCIDs master plan

Transit and 285/400 the focus of new PCIDs master plan BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Nearly two years into a major reorganization, the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts is poised to unveil a new master plan that is laser-focused on better transportation in the booming business district. In a new preliminary project list approved by the self-taxing business group, the PCIDs is shedding old ideas that aren’t transportation-related, including a sister business association and a long-planned new park at the Dunwoody MARTA Station. Topping the new todo list: New multiuse trails, mass transit planning and grappling with towering new toll lanes that will transform neighborhoods along the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange in the next decade. “This is our lane. We’re going to stay in it,” said PCIDs Executive Director Ann Hanlon about the transportation focus during a recent interview in the group’s office in Sandy Springs’ Northpark complex. “The fact that our work plan is a list of just [transportation] projects speaks volumes about the direction we’re heading in.”

The new “managed lanes” for Ga. 400 run on elevated ramps in this sample concept design from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The PCIDs’ board approved the project list on Aug. 22. With budgets and timelines attached, the list is the basis for the new master plan, which is scheduled for a board vote Sept. 26. Hanlon says the master plan will be a “glossy document,” but with a technical and practical focus. “This is not propaganda for the district,” she said. “This is meant to be a tool to guide our actions. … This is a real work plan.” The PCIDs consists of two separate but jointly operated districts in Perimeter Center, one on the DeKalb County side and one on the Fulton County side, whose members voluntarily pay extra taxes to fund local improvements. The PCIDs fell into turmoil in September 2016 with the surprise resignation of its previous executive director, a change that exposed some doubts about the group’s focus and organization. Hanlon said the PCIDs, which had a record revenue last year of about $8 million, lacked a solid budget or work plan. One of the PCIDs most attention-getting acts in recent years was a $10 million contribution to the state’s I-285/Ga. 400 project. While Hanlon doesn’t directly criticize it, PCIDS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR she made it clear that sort of unrestricted donaAnn Hanlon. tion won’t be happening in the future. The PCIDs had a backlog of 66 projects and studies that dated as far back as 10 years and were “all over the place,” Hanlon said. For the master plan, that list was whittled down to about 37 projects, prioritized under the categories of “access,” “mobility” and “sense of place.” Aside from getting a budget and timeline, each project will have a “fact sheet” laying out its goals and partners. In part, that aims to avoid paperwork problems that last year led to the embarrassing situation of the city of Sandy Springs suing the PCIDs, a case that was later settled. While the project list got trimmed, the PCIDs itself might expand. Hanlon said the group would welcome more property owners and likely would seek to add them to carry out other transportation-related projects, such as extending the PATH400 multiuse trail from Buckhead. Also possible is a change in the self-taxing millage, but for now it is staying the same at 4 mills.

Transit and 285/400 Discount doesn't apply to member rate


Transit and the I-285/Ga. 400 highway changes are first among equals on the new project priority list.

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Perimeter Business | 5


“Realistically, I think transit is the future here,” says PCIDs project manager John Gurbal, who spends a lot of time figuring out how to move commuters in and out of Perimeter Center. For the PCIDs, that means planning better access and rider options. Perimeter Center and the Medical Center already boast four MARTA stations. But so-called last-mile connectivity – getting riders to and from the stations and their destinations – remains an issue. That’s why multiuse trails are among the priorities. The locations include Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Peachtree-Dunwoody Road and the Medical Center. “I think I’ve heard from my board pretty loud and clear they want to get some shovels in the ground and start building these things,” said Hanlon about the trails. The biggest transportation project right now is highwaydriven. The state is in the midst of reconstructing the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange, but that’s only the beginning. The state wants to SPECIAL add toll lanes on elevated ramps A design of the once-planned park at the Dunwoody MARTA Station. 30 or more feet high around the interchange over the next 10 years. That has sparked questions about effects on mass transit options and quality of life in the area, though the concepts remain little-known to the general public. Hanlon says the highway project is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to wrangle some localized transportation improvements. It also shows the importance of having a master plan for “exploring what in the world we can do to affect that,” she said. On Aug. 22, the PCIDs board approved contributing $15,000 to a multi-jurisdictional study of transit options along I-285, an idea spearheaded by Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst. With the toll lanes, Hanlon said the state has been “guarded” with information, but the PCIDs is thinking about ways to approach them. “Some board members really want us to prioritize the aesthetic part of it” and help “those big overpasses look better,” she said. “We call it extreme bridge makeover.” Others are interested in the increasingly controversial topic of where the lanes would connect to surface streets. The PCIDs is among the backers of adding such lanes to Johnson Ferry Road in the Medical Center. Less settled options previously discussed by local leaders include Hammond Drive and Mount Vernon Highway. On both aspects, Hanlon said, the PCIDs will work to “shape them into what is going to help the district.”

What’s out of the plan

Among the projects that didn’t make the master plan cut is what Hanlon calls a “kind of grandiose idea of a park” under elevated tracks at the Dunwoody MARTA Station along Perimeter Center Parkway. Unveiled in 2014, the plan involved turning a drainage ditch into a park-lined stream with a lawn on land owned by the city of Dunwoody and Perimeter Mall. “The price tag was very expensive,” says Hanlon, and the group has “board members who feel PCIDs shouldn’t be in the parks business.” The PCIDs might still create a multiuse trailhead there, she said, but a park would be left to the city or other groups. Also meeting its end is the Perimeter Business Alliance, a kind of sister organization founded in 2012 by PCIDs board members. The PBA’s purpose was fuzzy and the group was most visible to the public as host of luncheon speakers on business and development topics. Hanlon said the PBA will be formally dissolved as of Dec. 31, but it’s defunct and its logo was already removed from the lobby wall in the PCIDs office. Even some projects that made the final cut may not happen for other reasons, Hanlon said. One example is a proposed Perimeter Center Parkway extension between Lake Hearn Drive and Johnson Ferry Road in the Medical Center area along the Brookhaven/ Sandy Springs border. Hanlon said there is “recognition on our board that this is not a popular project” after talking with Brookhaven city officials.

Business Briefs


State Farm’s regional headquarters stands in the background of where a new 16-story office tower is now under construction on about 4 acres of former Perimeter Mall parking lot adjacent to the Dunwoody MARTA station. Plans are also to build a 10-story hotel on the site. Both are expected to be completed in 2020.


Construction has started on the new transit-oriented 16-story office-tower next to the Dunwoody MARTA Station named Twelve24 for its address on Hammond Drive. The office tower will include 335,000 square feet of Class A office space and 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail and restaurants. Developer Trammell Crow is also working with Concord Hospitality Enterprises to develop a 9-story, 177-room Hyatt Place hotel directly connectDUDA PAINE ARCHITECTS An illustration of the new Twelve24 office tower with the ed to Twelve24. Hotel Dunwoody MARTA station and tracks in the foreground. guests and Twelve24 The building is expected to be completed in 2020. tenants will share the elevated outdoor terrace level between the two buildings. The hotel is expected to open in mid-2020. Tenant occupancy for the office building is expected to be available in early 2020, according to a press release from developer Trammell Crow Company. National staffing company Insight Global Insight has already announced plans to relocate from its curContinued on page 6

6 | Perimeter Business

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Business Briefs

Continued from page 5

rent headquarters building at the Ashford Green building at 4170 Ashford-Dunwoody Road in Brookhaven to the Dunwoody office tower. “Given the transit-oriented, mixed-use environment neighboring a combination of restaurants, retail, office and hospitality businesses, Twelve24 creates an exceptional work space atmosphere in a location where tenants can connect, innovate and advance their businesses,” said Brandon Houston, principal with Trammell Crow’s Atlanta Business Unit, in the release. The 3.94-acre site is located on an unused portion of the Perimeter Mall parking lot purchased from the mall’s owner, General Growth Properties. Trammell Crow also purchased the west parking deck once used by the Dunwoody MARTA station. MARTA had been leasing it from General Growth Properties but said it was never fully utilized. The new building also located across the street from the massive State Farm regional headquarters now going up. The entire project is expected to cost $140 million. The Dunwoody Development Authority approved a tax abatement on the project with the value of the abatement expected to be $9.4 million over 13 years of the abatement, according to city officials. The Twelve24 building is a development project of Trammell Crow Company and a joint venture partner advised by CBRE Global Investors, according to the press release. Duda Paine Architects is the design architect, and Wakefield Beasley & Associates is the architect of record. Brasfield & Gorrie is the project general contractor.


A Hyatt House extended-stay hotel is planned for a site in Sandy Springs’ “Pill Hill” medical center area, part of a long-stalled office park redevelopment. The nine-story, 186-room hotel would replace a parking lot in the Peachtree Dunwoody Pavilion office park at Lake Hearn Drive and Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. The project passed a hurdle on July 10, gaining approval with conditions from the city Board of Appeals for zoning variances related to setback and pedestrian access.

The hotel would be built by Atlanta-based Legacy Ventures, which also developed the Hyatt Regency at Villa Christina in Brookhaven and manages the Hotel Indigo in downtown Atlanta, among other notable hotels. According to city applications, the hotel is still considered to be part of a mixed-use redevelopment of the 20-acre Pavilion office park by the Midtown-based Simpson Organization. After various renditions, that plan was withdrawn from city consideration in late 2016 over traffic and parking concerns. The hotel’s zoning variance application says the overall Pavilion proposal now includes: an eight-level, 1,010-space parking garage with a restaurant built in; a seven-level, 480-space garage; 230,000 square feet of new office space; more than 26,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space; and a 300-plus unit multifamily housing building by Toll Brothers. SPECIAL Previous verA conceptual drawing of the Hyatt House extended-stay hotel from a city zoning variance application. sions of the plan included a hotel of up to 300 rooms. Boyd Simpson, head of the Simpson Organization, did not respond to phone and email messages about the status of the overall proposal. Earlier this year, the City Council approved a zoning code change allowing extendedstay hotels with various requirements to ensure they are high-quality. Hyatt House is a wellknown sub-brand with existing locations in Cobb County’s Cumberland area and in downtown Atlanta. Hyatt is expanding the extended-stay brand rapidly, with other Hyatt Houses proposed in Colorado and Missouri this week alone, according to media reports. Hotels have become a popular component of mixed-use projects around the world. The Pill Hill hotel would have 2,500 square feet of meeting space; a pool; a fitness center; and 96 on-site parking spaces as well as space leased from the office park. A sign and abstract sculpture currently located at the Lake Hearn/Peachtree-Dunwoody corner would be “displaced,” according to a city zoning application.


To Learn More, Visit PerimeterCID.org or Call 770-390-1780

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Perimeter Business | 7


Ribbon-cuttings: Business openings Celebrating the ribbon-cutting for Russell Cellular, left, a Verizon-authorized retailer in Dunwoody, on June 1 are, from left, Jennifer Howard; wireless sales representatives Elexus Fulton and A’Sheriah Jackson; store manager Torre Davis; district sales manager Drickson Toussaint; wireless sales representative Darnell Garner; Patrick Halverson; Chirag Patel; and Stephanie Freeman, president and CEO of the Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce. Info: russellcellular.com. SPECIAL

Bottom left, Great Expressions Dental Center at 4920 Roswell Rd in the Fountain Oaks Center celebrated its opening on Aug. 21. From left; Suzanne Brown, Christine Ritchie, Wendy Flanagan, Ursula Ray, Dr. Daniela Lemoine, Wanda Hill, Lisa Jackson and Ashley Williams. Info: greatexpressions.com SPECIAL

Dr. Caroline Ceneviz, second on right, cuts the ribbon on August 10 to open Chamblee Orthodontics, located at 5070 Peachtree Blvd. SPECIAL

The following are some of the new businesses that recently opened in Reporter Newspapers communities. Dunwoody Christian School, 2250 Dunwoody Club Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: dunwoodycs.org. Frutta Bowls, restaurant, 4920 Roswell Road, No. 46, Sandy Springs. Info: fruttabowls.com. Gastroenterology Atlanta, 5669 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Suite 240, Sandy Springs. Info: gastroenterologyatlanta.com. Hollywood Feed, pet food, 3535 Northside Parkway, Suite 8B, Buckhead. Info: hollywoodfeed.com. Industrious Atlanta-Perimeter, coworking offices, 7000 Central Parkway, Suite 1100, Sandy Springs. Info: industriousoffice.com. La Quinta Inn & Suites Atlanta Perimeter/Medical Center, reopened after renovation, 6260 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Sandy Springs. Info: laquintaatlantaperimeter.com. North Georgia School of Ballet, 8610 Roswell Road, Suite 710, Sandy Springs. Info: ngaschoolofballet.com. Puppy Haven, 230 Windsor Parkway, Sandy Springs. Info: puppyhavenatl.com. Russell Cellular, 2458 Jett Ferry Road, Suite 200, Dunwoody. Info: russellcellular.com. Sandy Springs Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 6100 Lake Forrest Drive, Suite 100, Sandy Springs. Info: sspediatrics.com. Savi Provisions-Pharr Road, 308 Pharr Road, Buckhead. Info: saviprovisions.com. Sheri’s Finishing Touch, 1155 Mount Vernon Highway, Suite 440, Sandy Springs. Info: sherisfinishingtouch.com. She Sparks, branding agency, 400 Northpark, 1000 Abernathy Road, Suite L-10, Sandy Springs. Info: shesparks.com.

8 | Education

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Erica Holmes Dunwoody High School A junior at Dunwoody High School has focused the past two years on helping young students who speak English as a second language, locally and in Costa Rica. Erica Holmes’ project, “Beyond the Backpack: Removing Barriers to Education,” aided students in the Chamblee and Doraville area with a backpack distribution event on Aug. 3 at Cross Cultural Ministries, a Doraville-based organization that provides free tutoring and English classes. At Erica’s event, the students received a backpack full of school supplies, a dental hygiene kit, a personal hygiene kit and fresh produce, including vegetables Erica grew in a garden. Erica’s interest in helping students started in March 2017 when she began learning Spanish in preparation for a Costa Rica trip where she taught girls how to sew skirts they needed for school uniforms. She was able to use this community of people that she knew so closely as a mandatory project to achieve her gold award for Girl Scouts. Erica spent 200 hours and most of her weekends for 18 months preparing for her March 2018 trip, which helped her achieve the Gold Award from the Girl Scouts. She took lessons on how to sew and worked with her project advisor to make a basic pattern for the skirts. “We had to get the pattern as simple as possible then write out its steps,” Erica said. Her Sundays consisted of working with a Spanish tutor to put the steps in Spanish, and then they would work on the teaching of the steps in Spanish. Erica says that the best part of the project was seeing the girls’ faces when they finished the skirts. “When they went into the bathroom and came out with the skirt on smiling and twirling this was the reward. I did not simply give them a skirt to wear to school,

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they made the skirt for themselves, which I think was empowering,” she said. Erica later learned that some of the girls she taught are using their newfound sewing skills as a source of income for their families. When Erica returned from Costa Rica, she began working on a community garden at Cross Cultural Ministries, tending to the garden and taking produce over to the organization. The garden project later spurred the backpack distribution event, which was held in early August. “The kids were so excited to get their pack,” Erica said. Most of us take a new backpack and school supplies for granted, but the joy on their faces was rewarding knowing I helped with that.” Sherri Vultaggio, Eri-

Erica Holmes poses with a student at Cross Cultural Ministries.


Erica Holmes, center, taught young students how to sew during a March 2018 trip to Costa Rica.

ca’s project advisor, was tremendously proud of her work with her projects as she had the opportunity to watch her grow along the way. “Erica has become amazingly confident in her abilities to teach and lead. I watched her work with her peers here with confidence teaching in both English and Spanish the items that would be made in Costa Rica,” Vultaggio said. “She has a contagious spirit that translates into people seeking her out to assist in whatever project she starts,” she said.

What’s next?

Erica hopes to attend Lee University in Tennessee, and later work with students in special education or English as a Second Language, or both. This spring, she plans to tutor students in English at Cross Cultural Ministries to help teach English and help them become academically successful. This article was written and reported by Kaitlyn Garrett, a student at The Lovett School.

Education | 9

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net


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In an effort to draw students who don’t consider private colleges due to the cost, Oglethorpe University will begin matching the tuition of flagship public schools in all U.S. states, the Brookhaven private college announced. The matched tuition will be available to students who qualify for a merit scholarship program open to students across the country. The school plans to start the program for freshmen starting fall 2019. “Many students and their families believe they must attend a large state school because they can’t afford a private college education,” said school President Larry Schall in a press release. “Because of perceived costs, many of those students never even apply to a small private college like Oglethorpe. We want to change those misconceptions,” he added. Tuition at Oglethorpe is close to $38,000 a year, according to the school’s website.



Fulton students will stay home from school on Election Day this November due to safety and security concerns. The Fulton Board of Education unanimously voted at its Aug. 16 meeting to make Nov. 6 a teacher workday. The board previously discussed the change at a June 12 meeting, where Board of Education Vice President Linda McCain cited parents’ safety and security concerns as a reason to close schools. The board voted at the same time to change March 8, 2019 from a teacher workday to a regular school day, meaning students will not lose any instructional time due to the Election Day closure, according to the board agenda. Fulton joins the DeKalb County School District and Atlanta Public Schools in having Election Day be a teacher workday. The Atlanta Public Schools board voted to amend the school calendar Aug. 6 due to traffic and security concerns, the district said in a press release. The DeKalb Board of Education made Election Day a teacher workday when it approved the 2018-2019 calendar at its January meeting, according to the district.

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All Fore One Dunwoody, a nonprofit group that supports local public schools, plans to host its second annual golf and tennis tournament to raise funds for capital and education improvements Oct. 1. The first tournament, held last year, raised $20,000, which was donated to the “Game On” campaign supporting Dunwoody High athletics, the press release said. The group behind that campaign held a ribbon-cutting Aug. 19 on the first phase of improvements, which included 1,000 new spectator seats, a new track around the athletic field, storage facilities, a walkway and landscaping. SPECIAL The funds this year are planned to be put toThe logo for the All Fore One ward improvements at Dunwoody High School and Dunwoody organization. Peachtree Charter Middle School, the release said. The competition will be held at Dunwoody Country Club, at 1600 Dunwoody Club Drive. For more information, including registration and competition start times, visit allforeonedunwoody.org.

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The Epstein School, a private Jewish school in Sandy Springs, announced it has raised more than $5 million that will be used to improve science and math educational programs and address affordability concerns. The funds will be used to launch an affordability program called “Pay It Forward” in the 2019-2020 school year. The program will reduce tuition for current and new families who are just starting their careers, the press release said. The school plans to grow its science, technology, math, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM programs, throughout the year, with a new STEAM coordinator overseeing integrating hands-on learning into all subjects and expanding coding instruction, the release said.

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10 | Commentary

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Commentary / Atlanta United gives soccer a cool factor early teams lacked How has Atlanta United’s popularity affected high school soccer in metro Atlanta? Reflection on this question could not be done without reflecting on the recent history of professional soccer in Atlanta. While I am a fairly recent transplant to the area, arriving in 1999, I was aware of previous professional teams from having former teammates and friends play or coach for some of Atlanta’s various iterations, as well as playing against their indoor component myself when I played on a similar team, the Chattanooga Express.

The Atlanta Chiefs Since Atlanta has emerged as a true international city in recent years, the profile of soccer has grown in the area. The largest impact from this early era — the late 1960s to early 1980s — came from the Atlanta Chiefs, Atlanta’s NASL team, which won the league championship in 1968 and were runners-up in 1969 and 1971. The NASL was the first soccer league to have national impact, having famous foreign players come over and ply their trade in the U.S. Other notable teams such as the New York Cosmos, Los Angeles Aztecs and Tampa Bay Rowdies all helped to push soccer forward. The Chiefs were early champions in the league and the best league commissioner, Phil Woosnam, was their former manager. Perhaps the best memory of the team is that they beat Manchester City twice in international club friendlies. According to ussoccerplayers.com, “The team even went as far as to use a woman on horseback around the city’s streets declaring, ‘The British are coming! The British are coming!’” The team “gained unprecedented coverage in the sports pages.”

Atlanta’s Olympics and the Silverbacks The Chiefs’ demise left Atlanta without a real soccer presence, which was not filled until Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics in 1996. Soccer was given a big boost with the championship game being held at UGA’s Sanford Stadium. This led to new attempts for Atlanta to have a professional team, and they were in the running to have one of the original 10 MLS franchises. When this petered out, Atlanta forged ahead with many various semiprofessional teams, with the most prominently known team being the Atlanta Silverbacks. Notable facts from that era include making it to the league championship in 2007; having former U.S. World Cup stars play or coach for them (John Doyle and Bruce Murray as players and Eric Wynalda as a coach); and having a former member of the 1994 Bulgarian World Cup team that reached the

semifinals (Velko Yotov). With all of this said, the Silverbacks went the way of all the other professional soccer attempts and suspended operations in January of 2016.

Atlanta United

Scott Snyder

This brings us to the story of Atlanta United, is the varsity boys’ which has well exceeded all expectations for sucsoccer coach at cess. The “Five Stripes” The Westminster Schools. have led the league in attendance since their start and they show no signs of slowing down. While the city’s previous professional teams had their good days of support, they all struggled to find a lasting fan base beyond the ardent soccer supporters, and this was a main reason they did not last. They simply were not able to build a connection to the city, and this is where Atlanta United has changed the soccer dynamic. It does help that they are investing in the local soccer scene and have brought in some young local talent, including Andrew Carlton, Lagos Kunga and George Bello, who currently play on their reserve team. Kunga was a member of Paideia School’s 2014 state championship team. With all of this said, Atlanta United’s greatest impact is having made soccer “cool” beyond its normal supporter realm. This has filtered its way down to the high schools, as kids from all sports backgrounds are now supportive of the team. While I am a soccer coach at heart, I also help coach ninth-grade football and work the clock at the varsity basketball games, and I see as many kids wearing United gear as I do with my soccer team. Younger fans support United not because they necessarily love soccer as much as because Atlanta United is cool. This in turn has had a ripple effect on the sport as a whole. The student base is much more knowledgeable about the sport in general and this has made them more willing to come support their classmates during the high school season.

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AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Commentary | 11


Around Town

Joe Earle is editor-at-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at joeearle@reporternewspapers.net

Cheers to the gaming bar geeks at Battle and Brew

– an “esports bar,” Sanders calls it – and is packed with TV screens showing video games being played by customers sitting in front of them, groups of patrons and even by people in other parts of the world. One recent Friday night, Neil Patel, a 27-year-old pharmacist from Brookhaven, was sitting at the bar watching a TV screen showing some of the world’s top players compete in the video game


Enjoying some gaming at Battle and Brew on a recent night are, from left, Austin Wright, Keraline Morales and Julia and Steve Watson.

It’s a bar, but it’s no Cheers. Battle and Brew doesn’t look a thing like that cozy neighborhood tavern made famous on TV. Battle and Brew is a place where patrons go to interact with TVs. “In 1983, bars were like Cheers,” Battle and Brew’s general manager Nate Sanders said. “In 2018, a bar can mean a lot of things.” So, how does he describe the place he runs, which is tucked into the Parkside Shops shopping center on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs? “We’re a geek bar,” Sanders said. In other words, it’s designed to attract folks who would proudly describe themselves as “geeks” or “nerds” or other members of the “geekdom,” the culture that has sprung up around video games, science fiction, technology and fantasy literature and takes in anything from Japanese cartoons to the “Star Wars” movies, from Dungeons & Dragons games to the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” from the TV series “Stranger Things” to even stranger things. It’s the culture celebrated by the tens of thousands of fans who gather in downtown Atlanta for Dragon Con every Labor Day weekend. If you can name the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or get in a heated debate over whether Han Solo shot first, you might be a geek, or at least know one. What’s the difference between a geek BK

I could do that…’ ” On the other side of a big room filled with towers of TVs and computers, Austin Wright, Keraline Morales and Julia and Steve Watson had settled in on a couch facing a TV and were firing up a computer game. Battle and Brew rents its couch and gaming machines by the hour. Julia Watson said she and her friends come to the bar to be “around fellow gamers.” “People like us,” Morales added. Sanders, who grew up in Marietta, said he started playing electronic games when he was 5. He says that although many people play alone, video games don’t divide. “I feel that it’s a misnomer to think that gaming is antisocial,” he said. “I‘ve got folks I get together with … and we game five, six or eight hours together. It’s more fun to be sitting next to the person. That’s what we offer – that ability to have a social connection as well.” Battle and Brew got its start in 2005. It outgrew its original location in Marietta, Sanders said, and looked for a place that would provide easy access to I-285 and more parking. The bar opened in Sandy Springs on a Friday the 13th in 2014, he said, in a space four times as large as the one it occupied originally. “It’s kind of the geek cultural hub of metro Atlanta,” said Sanders, a 36-yearold whose bushy beard reaches his chest and whose forearms are covered with tattoos. Customers come to the Sandy Springs bar “from all over,” Sanders said. “We get people from downtown. We get people from north of Kennesaw and from south of the airport. … We’re a welcoming safe space. We offer a fun, accessible place to get lost in. My idea of the perfect bar is a place where you can go on vacation. We want you to forget about the outside world and enjoy yourself.” Maybe it’s kind of like Cheers after all.

and a nerd? “Basically, a geek is some“Dota 2.” Teams from China and Europe one who appreciates STEM [science were playing in Vancouver, Canada, in and technology],” said Brian Smawley, a tournament offering $25 million in the marketing manager for Battle and prize money. Brew, “whereas a nerd is someone who “I like to watch the pros play,” he consumes culture at such a level they said. “I also play soccer and I watch the get obsessed by it.” premier league every weekend. When Regular folks, Smawley said, might the NBA finals are on, I watch that. say, “I like ‘Lord of the Rings.’ ” “A nerd,” This is no different from that. You can he said, “is someone who says, ‘I like see what the pros do and say, ‘Oh, I wish “Lord of the Rings” and my favorite character is [so-and-so] and on page 873 …’ They’re hyper-focused.” The decor of Battle and Brew reflects that culture. A mural of a mutant ninja turtle snarls from one wall. Paintings with sci-fi subjects cover other walls. They were done by customers, Sanders said. One depicts a one-eyed space cat saying, “I’m from Meowter Space.” The bar’s bathrooms lie hidden behind a blue police call box like the one that provides entry to Doctor Who’s Tardis. Battle and Brew’s patrons come to drink cocktails or fancy beers, but mostly they come to play games. Or to watch other people play games. The Nate Sanders, general manager of Battle and Brew, sits at a gaming computer in the bar. place looks like a sports bar


12 | Community

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U.S. Rep. Handel talks tariffs, trafficking and more man trafficking.” That latter claim appears to refer to an ICE estimate that its child sex crime and pornography investigations division has “identified or rescued” more than 900 victims since 2003.

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel speaks to the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs on Aug. 20.

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel discussed tariff battles, human trafficking policy and more at an Aug. 20 appearance at the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs. Handel’s appearance at the Hilton Atlanta Perimeter Suites Hotel came the day after the Roswell Republican officially kicked off her campaign to defend her 6th Congressional District seat from Democratic challenger Lucy McBath. Handel’s commentary was not explicitly campaign-related and she never mentioned McBath. Another name notably never mentioned by Handel: President Donald Trump – though she did support his tariff negotiations and contradicted his claims that some or all of the press is an “enemy of the people.” The 6th Congressional District includes parts of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs as well as other sections of north Fulton and Cobb counties. Trade battles Trump is leading a new policy of rethinking “free trade” agreements and tariffs. When an audience member asked about these “tariffs wars,” Handel replied, “I’m going to call them trade tariffs disagreements and negotiations” and said they need time to bear fruit. Speaking prior to the Trump administration’s announcement that the U.S.

and Mexico have agreed to North American Free Trade Agreement revisions, Handel said the government was “very, very close” to resolving that issue. “Canada is a little bit harder,” she added, referring to NAFTA’s other partner country. “I am mindful that time is an important asset for companies,” Handel said about the economy uncertainty and price boosts that some parts of the economy have seen during the trade disputes. But, she said, it will be worth it in the end. She cited China as a “bad actor” in trade that must be confronted. “China, they extort companies and steal intellectual property and create such a barrier for entry into the market,” she said. Human trafficking Handel has put a policy focus on combatting “human trafficking” – a term for enslavement into forced prostitution. She said she considers herself lucky to have avoided it herself. “I left a troubled home when I was 17” in 1980, she said. “Candidly, it didn’t occur to me that trouble was waiting for me….” She touted her co-sponsorship of House Resolution 1865, a controversial bill that became law earlier this year. The law expanded criminal and civil liability of website owners for facilitating sex trafficking, which resulted in the shutdown of many sexual-related advertisements on such sites as Craigslist and Backpage, where authorities


had regularly found human traffickers. The bill was also widely criticized as abridging free speech, restricting consensual relationships and increasing the dangers of prostitution by driving it farther underground. Opioid crisis Handel recently held “summits” in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs about the opioid drug addiction epidemic, as part of an ongoing series of policy-related meetings. She said that long-term addiction recovery and mental health treatment coverage remain challenges in the epidemic. She said that one positive step was Congress’s full funding of the 21st Century Cares Act. That was a bill that controversially focused on speeding up the government’s approval of new drugs, but also had provisions to deal with opioids and insurance coverage of mental health treatment. ICE Opioids and human trafficking are reasons to support the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said Handel, indirectly criticizing recent “Abolish ICE” criticisms without addressing their origin in the splitting up of families detained by the agency on immigration charges. “For those that think abolishing ICE is a good idea,” Handel said, the agency helps to stop opioid trafficking at the “lawless” Mexican border, and its agents “rescued 900 children from hu-

Campaigning and media Julia Bernath, a member of the Fulton County school board, asked Handel about how to make political campaigning “more about the issues and make it less about trying to sling mud.” Handel did not answer directly, instead commenting on social media and news outlets in a “different climate.” “Not a week goes by when I don’t get a threat,” Handel said, complaining that her home address has been posted on Facebook twice. Without naming the avid Twitter user President Trump as the source of “enemy of the people” remarks about the press, Handel said she disagrees with it, though she criticized national media as biased. She said local newspapers are doing some of the best reporting, in contrast to national media that she claimed puts reporters in the middle of conflict by putting “opinion on the front page.” “I think Walter Cronkite is probably rolling in his grave right now,” said Handel, referring to the late CBS News anchor who was famous for a calm and trustworthy approach to the news – though also for delivering an on-air editorial opinion that America should withdraw from the Vietnam war. Economy and other issues Handel credited recent federal tax cuts with low unemployment and African-American business start-ups. “The tax cuts and rolling back onerous regulation was really what we needed to inject in this economy… And we are just getting started,” she said, as Congress moves to make the tax cuts permanent. Handel said Congress put “billions” into school safety. Citing the DeKalb, Fulton and Cobb districts, she said, “I’m am here to tell you … schools in our district are absolutely the safest they can possibly be.” Asked about transportation policy, she said local governments want to keep those policies local. She got applause for saying she helped to secure a grant to expand the Ga. 400 highway. Another audience question was about Rev. Andrew Brunson, an American pastor detained in Turkey on accusations of helping a 2016 coup attempt. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are among those who have called for his release. Handel rubbed her chin and said, “Well, we’ll see what happens with that.” BK

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Community | 13


Study committee begins investigation for possible new EMS zone BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

A state board’s study committee to review ambulance response times and service in Dunwoody and the rest of north DeKalb County held its first meeting Aug. 27, where members detailed the extensive questions they want answered. The five-member ad hoc committee met at Dunwoody City Hall. It is asking DeKalb County Fire Rescue department and its private ambulance contractor, American Medical Response, to answer dozens of questions as part of an exhaustive review of the quality of service in DeKalb County. Brookhaven’s assistant city manager was among those in attendance. Those serving on the five-member board are: Chair Richard Elliott, deputy fire chief for Clayton County; Chris Whitmire, assistant fire chief for Marietta; Jolyon Bundrige, deputy fire chief for Atlanta; Roswell Fire Chief Ricky Burnette; and Eric Nix, an emergency physician and medical director for Cobb County Fire. Questions to be answered range from number of ambulances in use to response times, contract incentives, fines paid and even ambulance mileage. DeKalb and AMR representatives are also required to provide information on violations of contract requirements, explanations for the violations and any steps taken

to eliminate the violations. The information will cover all of DeKalb County as well as specific information for Dunwoody and will include reports dating back to last August. The second meeting of the study committee is set for Sept. 5, also at Dunwoody City Hall. At that meeting, AMR will have the chance to make its case to the study committee. Dunwoody and other municipalities concerned about slow EMS response times will also be able to testify. A third meeting is slated for Sept. 20 to hear from DeKalb officials with the final meeting set for Oct. 4 when a report will be gathered and any recommendations to the full EMS Council will be made. The full EMS Council meets Nov. 8. Brookhaven Assistant City Manager Steve Chapman attended the Aug. 27 meeting. He said the city has no plans to testify. “We’re just there to observe and we look forward to the report they will put out,” he said of the committee. Brookhaven has recorded slow EMS response times in the past and was considering stationing an ambulance on Buford Highway at a gas station the city recently purchased. Nothing has moved on that plan, Chapman said, because the city still has not closed on the property. National standards set by state and local municipalities require 90 percent of am-

bulance calls respond in under 9 minutes. That’s the time AMR is contracted with DeKalb County to meet as well. In Brookhaven in all of 2017, AMR’s response times include a low of 8 minute 36 seconds out of 241 calls in January to a high of 11 minutes and 1 second over 211 calls in September. The remaining months consistently fall in the 9- and 10-minute range. According to data provided to the Dunwoody City Council, AMR responded to 1,026 calls in Dunwoody between January and November 2016. Average response time was 10 minutes, 45 seconds. For all of DeKalb County, AMR responded to 82,851 calls between January and November with a 9 minute, 26 second average response time. But mixed in those numbers are numerous 20- and 30-minute wait times as well. Dunwoody officials are expected to testify at the next meeting and Mayor Denis Shortal said he believes the city “has a pretty good case” for the creation of a new EMS zone. The EMS study committee was created Aug. 9 when the Region 3 EMS Council, which advises the state Department of Public Health about setting ambulance contracts and zones, met at Dunwoody City Hall to consider Dunwoody’s request to create its own EMS zone. In May, Dunwoody filed a “Declaration of EMS Emergency” with the Georgia De-

partment of Public Health asking the board to carve out a new zone for the city. The declaration followed years of complaints to DeKalb officials of slow ambulance response times. The final straw occurred in May when police body camera footage of an AMR employee hitting a Dunwoody teen patient was splashed across the airwaves. Dunwoody City Councilmember Terry Nall has led the charge to create a new EMS zone for the city. He said he expects the final report to show what is already known — AMR is not meeting its contractual obligations and DeKalb County should fire them. “The ad hoc committee is now looking at the ambulance performance in all of DeKalb County, as it is a single ambulance zone, which is part of the problem,” he said. “Neighboring large counties are split into multiple ambulance zones.” He also took a jab at DeKalb officials for not doing something sooner to address slow EMS response times. A big question is whether anything can happen before AMR’s contract with DeKalb expires on Dec. 31 — and what happens then. The county is preparing to issue a request for proposals for ambulance services, according to a spokesperson. The current contract between DeKalb and AMR allows for extensions approved by the Board of Commissioners.

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14 | Community

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Civil Rights history marker may come to Lynwood Park Continued from page 1 er from the Georgia Historical Society to recognize the school’s contribution to the Civil Rights movement in Georgia. At the Aug. 28 City Council meeting, the council readily voted to be a sponsor of the marker. The council also approved donating right of way at what is now the Lynwood Park Recreation Center on Osborne Road for the installation of a historical marker should the society approve the request later this year. Jones said it is important to remember Lynwood Park’s history so children today and in the future can understand what segregation really was. Jones, who represents District 1 including Lynwood Park, said the hope is to have the marker also included on the Georgia Civil Rights Trail. “We have several Civil War markers [in the city] but no Civil Rights markers,” Jones said. Kathy Wells, a former resident and student of Lynwood Park and a retired DeKalb School principal from Montclair Elementary School, spoke to the council and thanked several people who worked on the Historical Society

Councilmember Linley Jones, center, is surrounded by members of the Lynwood Park community and other volunteers, including former mayor Rebecca Chase Williams at far right, at the Lynwood Park Recreation Center.

application, including other Lynwood Park students and residents Barbara Scott Shaw and Gary McDaniel.

She also thanked local historian Valerie Biggerstaff, who wrote “Images of America: Brookhaven” with for-


mer mayor Rebecca Chase Williams, for helping edit the words to go on the marker.


e’re honored (again!) that Reporter Newspapers won 12 awards in its division in the Georgia Press Association’s 2018 Better Newspaper Competition. Added to last year’s recognitions, the four Reporter editions have now won a total of 24 awards for editorial excellence in GPA competitions, which are judged by newspaper professionals from around the country. Thank you to our readers, advertisers and peers who support our mission of providing trusted, hyperlocal community journalism.

MAY 12 - 25, 2017• VOL. 8 — NO.


Sandy Springs Reporter



Dunwoody Reporter

Perimeter Business

► New law is a boost to local beer, whiskey crafters PAGE 4 ► Cuban sandwich shop mixes tastiness with tenacity PAGE 5





► Eyed for trails, pipeline routes are serious business PAGE 4

Current City Hall site targeted for redevelopment


The city is proposing a $106 million operating budget for fiscal year 2018, an increase of about a half-percent over the current year, officials said at a May 23


Page 16


BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

From documentaries on diversity and inclusion to community partnerships on autism awareness, GPB is an educational lifeline to millions of Georgia students, teachers and residents. JAN PAUL

Chairperson, Georgia Public Broadcasting

Pages 18-19

percent decline. The police department would get a budget boost of more than 9 percent to about $22.8 million. Part of that is a salAbove, a a bird’s eye view of the proposed redevelopment in ary increase to remain competitive as Perimeter Center East includes, residential towers and a new office to the left, two new tower. In the State Patrol pay boost is attracting offiremain and have retail on the ground center are two current mid-rise office buildings that would floor. To the right are two new apartment Inset, an illustration of what the buildings. cers away from the department, city offistreetscape might look like in the development. cials said. The boost also includes hiring

Teaching literature Homelessness through life nonprofit Page 20 buys condos, displaces tenants

See Commentary, Page 14

Mary Hall Freedom House, a nonprofit that helps women with homelessness and addiction issues, has bought 33 units of a Sandy Springs condominium complex for use as transitional housing and possible redevelopment into a larger facility or headquarters. One of the two dozen tenants currently renting those condo units is complaining about the “irony” of losing her home to an organization that helps the homeless.






on ► MARTA’s CEO speaks response to I-85 disaster PAGE 5

► ‘The good, the bad the ugly’ of 2017 legislative session



City’s new medical center wants to grow BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net


OUT & ABOUT Storyteller ‘Rosie the Riveter’ comes to town Page 19 I want to see a competition that celebrates our everyday Home Kitchen challenges. ... The Chairman would be the Original Iron Chef’s Mother-in-Law. Prizes are a month’s supply of lasagna and a spa weekend. A chef wins if her kids eat her food. Robin’s Nest, page 15

See HOMELESSNESS on page 22

*Source: independent reader survey

A developer plans to build two residential towers and an office tower at Perimeter Center East, where Dunwoody City Hall now is located. Representatives from North Carolina-based Grubb Properties described their proposal, which is still in the concept stage, to the board of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association on May 7. The company owns about 19.5 acres in Perimeter Center East, with three mid-rise office buildings, one of which serves as City Hall. The property is behind the Ravinia complex off Ashford-Dunwoody Road. The city is relocating to a new City Hall See CURRENT on page 22

DeKalb CEO: EMS response time improves BY DYANA BAGBY



Ambulance response times in the city are improving after changes were made by the private company contracted by DeKalb County to provide the emergency service, including hiring more staff, according to county officials. The City Council in December raised serious concerns with the DeKalb Fire & Rescue chief and the regional director of American Medical Response over ambulance response times in the city, noting there were numerous instances of ambuSee DEKALB on page 13


on April 8 as part Corporate Boulevard page 19. of Peachtree Creek around For more photos, see a bank of the north fork “Sweep the Hooch” event. Volunteers clean up Riverkeeper’s annual of the Chattahoochee

EXCEPTIONAL EDUCATOR Passing on her culinary passion Page 27

OUT & ABOUT Get grounded with Earth Day events I believe [President 6

Trump] is strong enough to force Congress to break through this nonsense and get something done. DAVID PERDUE U. S. Senator

See PERDUE, page 21.


16, 2017 • VOL.

11 — NO. 5

Buckhead Reporter


BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

City Council meeting. The budget will take effect July 1. The council will hold public hearings on the budget on June 6 and June 20. The budget projects revenues of about $92 million, with money from a reserve fund balancing the expenditures. The revenue projection is about 1 percent higher than fiscal 2017. While most revenue sources are projected to increase, property taxes are expected to show a 2.2

OUT & ABOUT Lantern Parade will light up the Hooch


Picking up at Peachtree Creek


home of St. Joseph Maronite to the first Mass, held Sunday, May 14, at the new Rev. Dominique Hanna welcomes his congregation the former building of Apostles St. Joseph moved from an Atlanta location into Catholic Church at Glenridge and Hammond drives. attended St. Joseph’s debut. financial turmoil. More than 400 parishioners Church, a Lutheran congregation that closed amid

VOL. 9 — NO. 8

Brookhaven Reporter


City proposes $106 million FY2018 budget

Dawn of a new church

EDUCATION Top of the Class

APRIL 14 - 27, 2017 •

► Buckhead company keeps ‘quirky’ old-school sodas fizzing





► New progres sive attracts activist group s PAGE

gressional furiousPage are trying 28 didates in the large field from the pack. ly to separate themselves was at The latest public opportunity forum hosted by the April 9 candidate Association the Dunwoody Homeowners at Dunwoody High and Dunwoody Crier early voting in School. Voters are already seat that had been the election to fill the Tom Price, who reheld by Republican

See 6TH on page 18


reporternewspap ers.net


BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternew

[Students need] more ‘reallife’ education scenarios: finances, investing, budgeting. A lot of kids graduat e and don’t

know how to balance a checkbook, but know how to do some math problem with only symbols. ”

Residents grade schools on preparing students for careers and civic life See COMMUN ITY SURVEY Page 14

Newspaper Website

| P22-27

Buckhead mast plan to allow er more input on big ideas

Wearing glow necklaces and Garden Hills shirts with in the second annual Family reflective shoeprints, Garden Hills/Peach tree Park Friends Flashlight Fun Run, adults, kids of all ages, strollers and held Sunday Group volunteers, PHOTO BY PHIL MOSIER dogs evening, Feb. benefits Children’s 26. The nearly take to the streets of Healthcare 1-mile race, of Atlanta. More organized by pictures, page 18.►



Layout & Design /2 awards (Rico Figliolini)


Glowing for a cause

Classroom game from math to s, to the April 18 As the days tick down Shake Conthe open 6th speare special election to fill the 18 canDistrict seat, each of


Lifestyle Column /2 awards (Robin Conte)

► Historic locomotive makes tracks to Buckhead PAGE 4

of Atlanta is seekChildren’s Healthcare along the Northing to have 11.4 acres into the city of east Expressway annexed 8-story office Brookhaven for a proposed massive expansion of building as part of a at North Druid Hills its new 45-acre campus includes buyRoad and I-85. The expansion ing out a church. city officials say is It’s just part of what redevelopment commajor medical-related to the Execuing after years of anticipation tive Park area. request with CHOA filed the annexation is asking for a spethe city on April 5. It also for some of the propcial land-use permit the 8-story, 340,000erty in order to build on land currently square-foot building CHOA also wants zoned only for five stories. deck. parking to build a SLUP requests are The annexation and up by the Planning expected to be taken in June. Council Commission and City SLUP is approved “If the annexation and See CITY on page 20

6th District hopefuls squareEXCEPTIONAL EDUCATOR off in debate

News Photography /3 awards (Phil Mosier)

Local News Coverage


Little-known vet memorials | 8

Business Writing (John Ruch)

Enterprise Story (Dyana Bagby)

Your #1 preferred source for local news and information!* MAY 26 - JUNE 8, 2017 • VOL. 11— NO. 11

General Excellence

OUT & ABOU T A very special performance of ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Page 6


The Buckhead master plan on planning will keep for a while. A Feb. 27 community meeting for the “BUCKHEA D REdeFINED scheduled to ” plan was be the last, but now input will continue into April to hash out some controversial ideas, said Eric Bosman lead consultant of Kimley-Horn. clude ideas Those inlarge and small for Buckhead’s commercial core, from a new Ga. 400 terchange to ina neighborho od trail loop. A crowd of about 100 at the International School received Atlanta ing, 90-minute a sprawlpresentation rowed some that narearlier ideas, others, and elaborated introduced still more concepts, all new while mingling long-term plans. short- and Several of its steps” are already recommended “first ing the PATH400 underway, like finishtrail along Ga. 400; some See BUCKHEAD on page 16

Massell: Buckhead getting bigge r, busier, wealt hier





Buckhead is big, busy and wealthy. And by 2020, it’ll be even bigger, wealthier. busier and So said Buckhead Coalition president Sam Massell in his annual “State of the Community” address Feb. 23 at the City Club of Buckhead, hosted by the Business Association Buckhead . Massell listed branding points” several “bragging and projecting the the neighborho booms in od’s population , real estate See MASSELL

on page 17

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AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Community | 15


“The Lynwood Park community was the oldest and one of the most influential black communities in DeKalb County,” Wells told the council. “The history of the people in Lynwood Park is rich in strength, cohesiveness, determination, pride and values.” Wells said it was important to understand Lynwood Park was once a black community surrounded by affluent white communities. Today, the community has been gentrified and most black residents displaced as wealthy white Brookhaven residents moved in. Mayor John Ernst is a longtime Lynwood Park resident. “I applaud Brookhaven for embracing the history of the oldest black community in DeKalb County and the only black community in Brookhaven especially in today’s times of gentrification,” Wells said in an interview. DeKalb school desegregation began in 1967 under a “freedom of choice” plan that allowed students of any race to choose to attend any school. In practice, that meant some black students attending white schools, which often had better funding and facilities. The Lynwood Park school was forced to shut down in 1968 as part of “forced integration” into Cross Keys and Chamblee high schools, Jones said. In 2016, Jones reached out to Lynwood Park residents to be part of the city’s first Martin Luther King Jr. event. The annual program now honors the Lynwood Park “integrators” with a gala dinner. Last year the keynote speaker of the event was DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond. Lynwood Park’s first school goes all the way back to the 1940s, Wells told the

council at the Aug. 28 meeting, when a “well-meaning white lady by the name of Minnie Lee Cates” donated money to build the school. Then in 1949 residents of Lynwood Park saved their money and purchased 4 acres of land on Osborne Road for $1,500. The residents deeded the property to DeKalb Schools, Wells said. Black students from Brookhaven, Doraville and Chamblee attended the school until 1968 when the school desegregated, Wells said. That school is now the Lynwood Park Recreation Center owned and operated by the city. “I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors from Lynwood Park,” Wells said in an interview. “They taught us to endure, to love God, to value education, to stand strong and to love all people. It is our goal to preserve our history for generations to come long after gentrification ... we want our children and the children of those who reside there now to know the power and strength of a proud people.” The city is also prepared to sink nearly $11 million into Lynwood Park as part of the city’s $40 million parks bond going on the November ballot. If voters approve the referendum, Lynwood Park will get a new pool, splash pad, picnic pavilions, a parking space expansion, an open space field, natural play area, and basketball and tennis courts among other improvements and amenities. City Manager Christian Sigman said the reason to dedicate 25 percent of the parks bond funding toward Lynwood Park is because the park has been neglected in the past.

The Dekalb Small Business Loan Program is a joint venture between Dekalb Community Development and Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE).

Kathy Wells, a former Lynwood Park student who taught in DeKalb County schools, speaks at the Aug. 28 City Council meeting. BK


16 | Out & About


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Thursday, Sept. 13, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Sainte Jane, a new Americana duo, performs at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Picnics welcome, cash bar. Included with general admission. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org.


Friday, Sept. 14, Noon to 1 p.m. The Nomura Kyogen Group of Nagoya, Japan brings its first international performance of traditional Japanese comic theater to Georgia State University’s Dunwoody Campus Auditorium. The group’s founder is a 14th-generation Kyogen performer who appeared in the movie, “The Last Samurai.” Hosted by the Consulate General of Japan and partner sponsors, including the Japan Club of GSU’S Dunwoody Campus. Free. 2101 Womack Road, Dunwoody. Info: 404-926-3023.


Sunday, Sept. 9, 6-9:30 p.m. Ben Sollee, a cellist, singer-songwriter and composer known for his political activism performs at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Bring a blanket or chairs and have a picnic in this year’s final Sundays on the River concert. Cash bar. Doors open at 6 p.m., with access to CNC grounds until concert begins at 7 p.m. $12-$18; children 2 and under free. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org.


Ongoing Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Move your body, put on some boxing gloves and challenge yourself with agility ladders and other fitness equipment in this GEM event for active adults ages 60+ at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. $5 community; free for members. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: atlantajcc.org/gem.


Friday, Sept. 14, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Learn about activities that can improve health and reduce falls; get health screenings for issues that can make you more likely to fall; and learn how to minimize fall risks at an event in its fifth year at the Shepherd Center. Flu shots; hearing, vision and bone density screenings; Tai Chi demonstrations. Free. Sponsored by the Georgia Department of Public Health, Shepherd Center, and other partners. 2020 Peachtree Road N.W., Buckhead. Info: eventbrite.com/e/georgia-falls-prevention-awareness-day-atlanta-tickets-48350044284.


Sunday, Sept. 9, 7-8:30 p.m. Gates open at 5 p.m. Heritage Sandy Springs wraps up its Summer Concert Series with the funky soul of Bogey & The Viceroy. Picnic baskets and coolers welcome. Free. Food and beer, wine, sodas and water available for sale. 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org.


Saturday, Sept. 15, 8 a.m. to noon. Mary Hall Freedom House, a nonprofit that helps women break the cycle of poverty, homelessness, and addiction with recovery, housing and support services, celebrates National Recovery Month with a day of music, food, testimonials, games and a 2.5 mile walk. Free. Rivercliff Lutheran Church, 8750 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info: maryhallfreedomhouse.org.

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Art & Entertainment | 17




Tuesday, Sept. 11, 6-7 p.m. Local author Jerome John Dobson, who, with his wife, Bridget, was head writer for several soap operas, discusses his first novel, “Paricutin: The Miracle of Daniel Pulido,” in a wine and cheese event sponsored by the Friends of Northside Branch Library. “Paricutin” is a story about premonitions, the San Andreas Fault and love at first sight. Free. Northside Branch Library. 3295 Northside Parkway, N.W., Buckhead. Info: afpls.org/events.


Friday, Sept. 7 and Saturday, Sept. 8, 5-10 p.m. Sample barbecue from 60 teams competing for prizes in an event sponsored by The Rotary Club of Dunwoody. Event includes a kids’ area, local vendors and live music. The majority of funds raised support education and First Responders in the local community. Free. Perimeter Mall, 4400 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodybbqfestival.com.


Wednesday, Sept. 5, 9:30 a.m. Refreshments and social time are followed by a program featuring Amy Spanier, interior designer/owner of I.D.E.A Gallery in Chamblee. Free, and open to all artists. Spruill Arts Center, 5339 Chambee-Dunwoody Road, Room 4, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodyfineart.org.


Saturday, Sept. 8, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A reception will be held for an exhibit that observes and reveres the feline form at the Abernathy Arts Center. Free. Exhibit runs through Oct. 5. 254 Johnson Ferry Road N.W., Sandy Springs. Info: fultonarts.org.



Wednesday, Sept. 12, 9:30 a.m. Guest speaker Wayne Juers, aka “The Plant Doctor,” talks about creating interest in your garden with new plants and varieties. The garden club meets monthly on second Wednesdays from September through May at the Williams Room of the Dunwoody Library, 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodygardenclub.com.

CHEROKEE GARDEN LIBRARY LECTURE: LOUISE WRINKLE Wednesday, Sept. 12, 4 p.m. Louise Wrinkle discusses her new book, “Listen to the Land: Creating a Southern Woodland Garden,” in a conversation with her friend Jim Landon at the Atlanta History Center. The book is her memoir of tending a woodland oasis in Alabama according to her philosophy of allowing the land to speak for itself. Book signing and light refreshments follow the conversation. $10; $5 AHC members. Reservations required. 130 West Paces Ferry Road N.W., Buckhead. Info: atlantahistorycenter. com/programs.


Sunday, Sept. 9, 1-4:30 p.m. Dogs get their chance to cool off in the Murphey Candler Pool after city pools close for the season [Sept. 3] in an event sponsored by Brookhaven Parks & Recreation. Dogs under 35 pounds get the pool from 1-2:30 p.m. Dogs 35+ pounds can paddle from 3-4:30 p.m. $10 per dog. 1551 West Nancy Creek Drive, Brookhaven. Info: brookhavenga.gov.


Sunday, Sept. 16, Noon to 4 p.m. Meet farm animals and farmers, learn about local food, explore harvesting and join the Unity Garden Guided Hike at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Garden activities, native plant sale, live music. Bring a picnic or pick up food from a food truck. Included with general admission. 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. Info: chattnaturecenter.org.



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


Tuesday, Sept. 4, 10:30-11:30 a.m. Join the Literary Society’s book club discussion on the first Tuesday of each month. The next book selection is “Lights Out” by Ted Koppel. Free. Dorothy Benson Center Conference Room, 6500 Vernon Woods Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: 404-303-6130.

SEPT. 9 & OCT. 14


Saturday, Sept. 8, 11 a.m. Presenter Ann Bone offers tips on planning and planting a fall vegetable garden at this month’s Dunwoody Community Garden & Orchard Master Gardener Learning Session. Free, refreshments served. DCGO greenhouse complex in Brook Run Park, opposite the skate park. 4770 Georgia Way South, Dunwoody. Info: dcgo.org.

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.

18 | Art & Entertainment

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Award-winning Act3 prepares a new season of community theater

BY JUDITH SCHONBAK Fresh from winning five awards for last year’s offerings — including best musical — Sandy Springs’ Act3 Productions theater company is preparing for its 16th season, starting Sept. 7 with “Godspell.” “Community” is a word Act3’s directors use frequently in describing how they select a season’s worth of shows. “Important in all these considerations is what makes the season appealing to our audiences and to the actors who will audition and perform,” says Artistic Director Michelle Davis. “In a small space like Act3’s, the actors and audiences need to feel a connection. It is like being part of a community.” The community approach has the small black-box theater regularly in contention for local theater awards. Act3 took home five awards at the 2018 Metropolitan Atlanta Theater (MAT) Awards ceremony on Aug. 26, led by Best Overall Performance of a Musical for its 2017-2018 season production of “Into the Woods.” Act3 was nominated for 15 awards for last season. Act3 began in 2003 in East Cobb County and moved to Sandy Springs seven years ago. It was long the city’s only community theater company. It is based in what had been a nameless warehouse be-

hind all the retail shops and restaurants in Sandy Springs Plaza at the intersection of Roswell and Johnson Ferry roads. Now Act3 has theatrical neighbors virtually across the street with the birth of City Springs, a new civic center that includes the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, which opened in early Au-

gust. The new City Springs Theatre Company is performing larger-scale Broadway-style musicals at City Springs. Act3 aims to fill a smaller niche, and its youth troupe performed at the City Springs grand opening.

Act3 is a semi-professional theater company that presents a full mainstage season of five diverse shows — musicals, dramas, improvisation and original productions — in its intimate 100-seat playhouse. The company also operates its Act3 Arts Academy with year-round classes, workshops and performance opportunities for K-12 students. Act3 is opening its 2018-2019 season on Sept. 7 with the award-winning 2012 revised version of the hit Broadway musical “Godspell.” The Christian-themed musical, with music and lyrics by Stephan Schwartz, first took Broadway by storm in 1971; a hit film followed in 1973. The revised version features new arrangements by Schwartz and the injection of contemporary cultural references. In the play, a small group of people help Jesus tell different parables using games, storytelling, audience interaction and comedy. The eclectic songs include the international hit “Day by Day,” “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord,” “By My Side” and “Turn Back, O Man,” among others. The music ranges from pop and rock to vaudeville as the story of Jesus’ life unfolds from his public teachings to the Last Supper and, ultimately, his crucifixion. The company chose “Godspell” to open its season because it met Act3’s long

list of criteria for shows that will make a good season. Selecting productions that work together is a lengthy, multifaceted effort that starts almost a year before the first actor enters stage right. “Directors may pitch show ideas for the next season from Nov. 15 to Jan. 15, and we begin the selection process midJanuary,” said Davis. She and Mary Sorrel, Act3’s executive director and board chair, bring show candidates to the table. For musicals, they call on the expertise of John-Michael D’Haviland, music director for Act3 and instructor at the Cobb County Center for

Act3 Productions 2018-2019 season 6285-R Roswell Road Sandy Springs 30328 Info: act3productions.org ■ Godspell, Sept. 7-23 ■ The Graduate, Oct. 12-28 ■ Radio Christmas Carol, Nov. 30-Dec. 16 ■ Peter and the Starcatcher, Feb. 8-24 ■ Big Fish, April 12 - 28

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Art & Entertainment | 19


Excellence in the Performing Arts at Pebblebrook High School. “We look at our viable options, starting with a mix of shows that work well together,” said Davis. The selection process includes obtaining the license to produce a show. There are a number of small and mid-size theaters in metro Atlanta that may be vying to produce the same show; however, there is a 50-mile radius exclusivity rule, so the earlier Act3 can apply for a license,

the better. Act3’s season bookends are an opening production that is an attention-getter that will draw audiences, usually one with good name recognition and is a known hit, like “Godspell”; and a closing production that “will compel audiences to come back for the next season,” said Davis. For 2018-2019, that show is the musical “Big Fish,” which went from novel to Broadway hit to top-grossing film. In the mix of season shows, Act3 in-

cludes an edgier work — this season, “The Graduate,” based on the novel and hit 1967 romantic comedy-drama about a young man who has an affair with a married older woman and then dates her daughter. This season’s holiday production is “Radio Christmas Carol,” a sequel to “The 1940s Radio Hour,” an Atlanta favorite which ran for 25 years at the original Theatre in the Square in Marietta. Act3 also always offers one or two family shows, like the February production “Pe-

ter and the Starcatcher,” a prequel to Peter Pan and Neverland. Besides the mix of shows, there are physical considerations, too. The number of cast members and the orchestra, if it is a musical, must fit comfortably on the small stage as well as backstage. Act3’s entire stage and seating area is about 1,756 square feet in the 3,414-square-foot building. Generally, the cast ranges from 8 to 15.

20 | Art & Entertainment

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Local moviemaker attracts stars to ‘inspirational’ stories BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Harrison Powell loves romantic comedies — films like “Father of the Bride,” “50 First Dates.” “I’m the one that cries in those movies,” he says. But the 31-year-old Sandy Springs resident doesn’t just reach for the box of Kleenex. He also pulled out his wallet, getting into the moviemaking business himself. Now he’s producing a rom-com — as they call it in Hollywood lingo — that’s filming in metro Atlanta and starring Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn and “Godfather” icon James Caan. “Welcome to Pine Grove!” is based on Powell’s story idea, too. How did a local guy who studied finance at UGA get the mojo to make movies with stars? Speaking from Day 14 of the movie shoot at a retirement community in Duluth, Powell described a mix of work, luck — and, of course, money. In college, he “fell in love with venture capital and start-ups.” About four years ago, he started eyeing industries with “inefficiencies” that he thought could be improved at a profit. Healthcare and entertainment stood out. Then he partnered with a family friend, Rick Jackson, who runs a healthcare staffing and technology business in Alpharetta. Jackson’s a charitably minded entrepreneur and also had invested in roughly 20 films – about 90 percent of which lost money, Powell says. Powell and Jackson formed a production company to make religious — or “inspirational,” as Powell prefers — mov-

Above, sharing a hug on Day One of production on “Welcome to Pine Grove!” are, from left, producers Fred Bernstein, Dominique Telson and Sandy Springs resident Harrison Powell. Top inset, James Caan. Bottom Inset, Ellen Burstyn. Bottom left, Harrison Powell.

ies on a model of donating the profits to charity. “Not only telling inspirational stories, but making as much money as we can and giving it away,” Powell says. Their first effort, “90 Minutes in Heaven” (2015) gave away money in all the wrong ways. Despite starring Hayden Christensen of 1990s “Star Wars” fame, the film bombed. “I would say we ran out of toes, we shot ourselves in the feet so often,” Powell says. “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” released earlier this year, has performed better. It stars Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s controversial 2004 hit “The Passion of the Christ.” Also just released: “An Interview with God,” starring David Strathairn (“Good Night, And Good Luck”). With bigger films and more experience in mind, Powell teamed with Astute Films, founded in 2016 by Fred Bernstein, a former executive at Columbia and Universal studios. Also on the Astute team is Dominique Telson, former vice president of original programming at Showtime. Now Powell is branching out into more broadly “inspirational” movies. One coming soon to 1,500 screens nationwide is “The Best of Enemies,” based on a true story about a Civil Rights activist and a Klansman who became allies on a school committee, starring Sam Rockwell and Taraji P.

Henson. “Welcome to Pine Grove!” is a more personal effort. Powell says it’s based on his wife’s grandmother, who “begrudgingly moved into a retirement community in Jacksonville.” She found it was like “high school all over again,” with cliques set in their ways. But then she fell in love and married two years ago. Powell knew he had a great story for a movie — “the idea that it’s never too late,” he says. But it’s a long road from a story idea to hiring, say, Burstyn, who won a 1974 Academy Award for Martin Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” Other veteran stars in the film include AnnMargret (“Grumpy Old Men”), Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”) and Jane Curtin (“3rd Rock from the Sun”). Director Michael Lembeck previously helmed two of Disney’s “Santa Clause” movies and Dwayne Johnson’s “Tooth Fairy.” Bringing the $6 million budget to the table from the start helped a lot, says Powell. “If you have money, that is something that typically doesn’t happen in Hollywood,” he said, explaining that film funding usually works the other way around, trying to raise a budget based on the cast’s star power. Not only did he have the funding, but by filming in Georgia, the state tax credit will return 25 to 30 percent of it. A draw for the cast, he said, was the lack of leading roles for older actors in Hollywood. And he thinks the genre is a good selling point. “There’s not many heartfelt comedies anymore, especially


romantic comedies,” he said. He describes moviemaking as a tough and often “dysfunctional” business. “There’s a lot of egos and there’s a lot of mixed incentives,” he says, with crews wanting overtime and producers wanting the fastest possible shoot. (“Welcome to Pine Grove!” is planning a 23-day shoot.) And after assembling an 80-person cast and crew, a month or two passes and it’s time to start all over. “You’re constantly having to recreate yourself and your business,” he says. But getting the film into theaters is the hardest part, he says, especially in today’s endless viewing options online. “We need to be willing to jump on the coffee table and light our hair on fire because we believe in the story,” Powell said. “It can be so difficult to get above the noise.” Now that’s he got a taste of the artistic side by providing the movie’s story — though not the script — Powell wants to try his hand at playwriting. He said he’s inspired by Tyler Perry, the actor/director/playwright who runs an Atlanta film studio. The stage sounds like a good way to test out potential film scripts, Powell says. Of course, Powell is still a moviegoer as well as a moviemaker. Has working behind the scenes changed how he sees the silver screen? “It’s been hard to enjoy the story sometimes,” he says, as his mind starts calculating payrolls and shooting days. On the other hand, he says, “it caused me to appreciate the end credits a lot more.”

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Classifieds | 21


Reporter Classifieds

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Driveways & Walkways – Replaced or repaired. Masonry, grading, foundations repaired, waterproofing and retaining walls. Call Joe Sullivan 770-616-0576. Matthew’s Handy Services – Small jobs & chores are my specialties! Shelves, organizers, carpentry, painting, etc. Call 404-547-2079 or email: mwarren8328@gmail.com

Single Office for Rent – Located in Class A space in Sandy Springs overlooking Buckhead. Access to 400/285. Covered parking, Fitness Center and Cafeteria. Access to Break room, Conference room and Storage room. Call Jonathan at 404-983-1279.

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City to consider annexing more land south of I-85 Continued from page 1 son was the developer behind the Walgreens and Piedmont Health building on Peachtree Road in Brookhaven. Joining Gibson in the annexation request are the Florida-based owners of Camden St. Clair apartments at 3000 Briarcliff Road. The property includes 336 units on approximately 13 acres, including a small cemetery. Residents living in 271 condominiums at the Enclave on Briarcliff sitting on nearly 12 acres of land at 1100 Westchester Ridge N.E. are also separately petitioning the city to be annexed. Several special land use permits are needed for all the properties, including rezoning from DeKalb’s ordinance to the city’s ordinance. The Planning Commission is slated to take up the SLUPS at the Sept. 5 meeting, but only the council can vote on annexations. Attorney Carl Westmoreland represents Gibson and Camden St. Clair apartments. He said Camden St. Clair is seeking annexation because the owners believe being in the city would increase their property value. But Gibson also needs Camden St. Clair to be considered for annexation because its property borders Brookhaven and the land he wants to build on, Westmoreland said. City ordinance requires property

seeking annexation be contiguous. DeKalb County Commissioners Rader and Kathie Gannon sent a letter in July to Mayor John Ernst and the City Council asking they deny annexing property around the intersection. They say the property is better suited for a hotel rather than the small businesses Gibson is proposing. “This location is an important one,” the letter says. “Traffic to and from I-85 destined for points along Clairmont and Briarcliff roads increasingly congest these intersections. Congestion is expected to grow due to Brookhaven’s annexation and re-entitlement of the [Tullie] Circle properties of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for a new hospital, yet neither Brookhaven nor CHOA propose to upgrade the intersection to accommodate the traffic.” Last year, the City Council approved annexing approximately 20 acres south of I-85 to bring CHOA into the city limits. CHOA is currently building out a 70-acre medical campus at I-85 and North Druid Hills Road that will include a $1.3 billion hospital. CHOA promised Brookhaven as part of the annexation to put in $4 million of its own money for I-85 underpass improvements and up to $10 million in improvements to the North Druid Hills Road interchange. CHOA has promised millions more in transportation improvements, but only in

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A red arrow on the Google Map shows where the Camden St. Clair apartments are located on Brookhaven’s border. To the east of this site is four acres a local developer wants annexed into the city after failing to get approval from DeKalb County for a project.

the immediate area surrounding the campus. Gibson and the county worked together for more than six months trying to come up with an agreement. But Gibson said repeated deferrals by the commission forced him to move on. “We worked long and hard with Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader and we made the plan better,” Gibson said. “But I don’t know why they kept deferring.” Rader said a major reason for the deferrals was that Gibson could not reach any kind of agreement with the residents living in Riviera Terrace Condominiums at 3046 Briarcliff Road. This property includes 44 units. Gibson’s proposal to the county included encroaching on the 50-foot buffer around Riviera Terrace, Rader said. Residents there asked Rader to help them find ways to mitigate the noise, smell and bright light nuisances they expect to come from a drive-through fast food restaurant and a 24-hour gas station and convenience store being built next door to them. “For whatever reason, Gibson couldn’t reach an accord with them … not even to compensate them,” Rader said. Gibson was seeking special land use permits from DeKalb to sell beer and wine at the RaceTrac and to build a drive-through at the Wendy’s. The DeKalb Planning Commission recommended denial of the SLUPS

in May and Gibson withdrew his request in June. He submitted a SLUP and annexation request to Brookhaven in July. “At the last minute he withdrew his request and now it appears he is shopping the zoning to the city,” Rader said. “I guess he felt Brookhaven would be more lenient.” “Shopping zoning” is common, Rader said, especially where there are intensive negotiations. “Regrettably, the impact will be on those … who are not Brookhaven residents,” if the annexation is approved, he said. As county commissioners, Rader and the others are accountable to county residents and Brookhaven residents. Brookhaven elected officials, however, are only accountable to city residents. “The county has the interest of the stakeholders in the area,” he said. “Brookhaven elected officials don’t.” Gibson said his proposed development and annexation request would benefit Brookhaven. The area is currently blighted, he said, and new buildings at the site will clean up a visible intersection. His proposed project includes donating right of way for a new turn lane on Clairmont Road to try to ease congestion as well as adding some green space. “Brookhaven has to grow,” he added. “We are landlocked. I think it is critical the city continues to grow so we don’t become a victim of someone else’s growth.” BK

AUG. 31 - SEPT. 13, 2018

Public Safety | 23


Police Blotter / Brookhaven From Brookhaven Police reports dated Aug. 19 through Aug. 26. The following information was pulled from Brookhaven’s Police-2-Citizen website.

T H E F T A N D B U R G L A RY 2600 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 20, in the afternoon, a man was arrested

and accused of theft by deception. 2100 block of Druid Hills Road — On Aug. 21, in the early morning, a man was ar-

rested and accused of theft by receiving stolen property. 2900 block of Clairmont Road — On Aug. 21, in the evening, a forced-entry burglary

to a residence was reported. 500 block of Brookhaven Avenue — On Aug. 23, in the afternoon, a man was arrest-

ed and accused of shoplifting.

A S S AU LT 1300 block of North Cliff Valley Way — On Aug. 19, at noon, a man was arrested and

accused of family violence.

cused of manufacturing and distributing illegal substances. 3300 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 23, in the afternoon, a man was arrested

and accused of marijuana possession. 2000 block of Johnson Ferry Road — On Aug. 24, in the early morning, a man was

arrested and accused of marijuana possession. 3200 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 24, at night, a man was arrested and ac-

cused of failing to obey traffic control devices. 3100 block of Ashford-Dunwoody Road — On Aug. 25, after midnight, a man was ar-

rested and accused of driving under the influence. 3400 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 25, in the early morning, a man was ar-

rested and accused of driving with a suspended license. 1900 block of North Druid Hills Road — On Aug. 25, in the early morning, two men

were arrested and accused of manufacturing and distributing illegal substances. 1800 block of Northeast Expressway — On Aug. 25, in the morning, a man was ar-

rested and accused of public indecency.

2600 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 21, in the morning, a man was arrested

and accused of aggravated stalking. 2600 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 21, in the morning, a man was arrested

and accused of child molestation.

3300 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 25, in the evening, a man was arrested

and accused of public indecency. 2000 block of North Druid Hills Road — On Aug. 25, in the evening, a man was ar-

rested and accused of failing to use due care while operating his mobile phone.

4400 block of Memorial Drive — On Aug. 23, at night, a man was arrested and ac-

cused of aggravated assault.

2800 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 25, at night, a man was arrested and ac-

cused of driving with a suspended license.

3400 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 24, at night, someone was arrested and

accused of simple battery.

2800 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 25, at night, a man was arrested and ac-

cused of driving with a suspended license.

3300 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 26, in the afternoon, a man was arrested

and accused of terroristic threats.

4600 block of Peachtree Road — On Aug. 26, in the early morning, a man was arrest-

ed and accused of driving unlicensed.

3300 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 26, in the afternoon, a man was arrested

and accused of simple battery.

3100 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 26, in the early morning, a man received

a DUI.

ARRESTS 1500 block of Lake Hearn Drive — On Aug. 19, in the early morning, a man was ar-

rested and accused of violating probation.

3100 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 26, in the early morning, a man was ar-

rested and accused of public intoxication. 1000 block of Forest Lane — On Aug. 26, in the morning, a man received a DUI.

3800 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 19, in the afternoon, a woman was arrest-

ed and accused of driving unlicensed. 3000 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 19, in the evening, two men were arrest-

ed and accused of public intoxication. 3700 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 19, at night, a man was arrested and ac-

cused of driving unlicensed. 100 block of Executive Park Drive — On Aug. 20, in the morning, a woman was ar-

rested and accused of crossing the emergency lane. West Druid Hills Road — On Aug. 21, at noon, a woman was arrested and accused

of driving unlicensed.

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3800 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 21, in the afternoon, a man was arrested

and accused of obstruction and interference. 1300 block of North Cliff Valley Way — On Aug. 21, at night, a man was arrested and

accused of failing to use due care while operating his mobile phone. 3800 block of Clairmont Road — On Aug. 22, in the early morning, a man received

a DUI and was arrested. He was also charged with marijuana possession a few hours later. 3400 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 22, in the morning, a man was arrested


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3200 block of Buford Highway — On Aug. 23, at noon, a man was arrested and ac-

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