October 2019 - Sandy Springs Reporter

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OCTOBER 2019 • VOL. 13 — NO. 10

Sandy Springs Reporter COMMUNITY

Dueling lawsuits filed over City Springs construction P4



Eminent domain settlements cause council concern


Book festival brings celebrities




money likely goes into the coffers of the wrong jurisdiction. That could mean tax revenue is being misdirected not only locally, but statewide. The problem is rooted in ZIP codes, such as Sandy Springs’ 30328, that the United States Postal Service generically labels

The City Council is balking on some settlements for right of way acquisition for city road projects, claiming the costs are too high and calling for a fuller explanation. City Attorney Dan Lee blames the prices on Sandy Springs land costs increasing exponentially. While the city is mainly acquiring strips of land for a long-anticipated streetscape project, there have been two settlements involving entire properties for land-banking purposes. One of those parcels now contains a gravel parking lot for city vehicle parking. The Sandy Springs Circle streetscape project is a $7 million redesign of Sandy Springs Circle between Hammond Drive and Mount Vernon Highway. It will convert four travel lanes to two, plus a turn lane and on-street parking, and add sidewalks and a multiuse path. At a Sept. 3 meeting, the council denied an eminent domain settlement offer for a small piece of land at 6010 Sandy Springs Circle, saying the price is excessive. The $499,750 recommended by staff as a settlement is for 0.146 acres the city would use for the project itself and 0.309 acres the city would temporarily own for

See MORE on page 22

See EMINENT on page 31

Starter opera P24


The previous site of Randy Beavers’ insurance agency, which the city demolished for its streetscape project and settled an eminent domain lawsuit in August for $862,500, across from the City Springs development. The land now lies unused.

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

More major retailers found charging wrong sales taxes BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Two more major retailers have been found incorrectly charging Atlanta’s higher sales tax rate within Sandy Springs. And the state Department of Revenue is acknowledging that, barring an audit or formal complaint, such incorrectly calculated sales tax


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2 | Community

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Sandy Springs councilmembers and residents took very different stances on proposals for two self-storage facilities at a Sept. 17 City Council meeting. The council approved one on Northwood Drive for hitting “high points,” but denied another on Roswell Road for doing quite the opposite. “Clearly, you have seen apples and oranges on self-storage facilities at this meeting,” said Ronda Smith, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods. The facility proposed for Northwood Drive won approval previously from both city staff and the Planning Commission due to the unit supporting “positive” redevelopment, while the other proposed for Roswell Road was recommended denial for doing just the opposite. The council approved the proposal for a three-story self-storage facility at 120 Northwood Drive, whose development would involve demolishing the current building and displacing several businesses, a church and three nonprofits. But the site also would provide a new city park and bring back the current nonprofit organizations. “This one does hit on a lot of the high points,” District 6 Councilmember Andy Bauman said of the proposal. “The developers have taken the necessary concern for the neighbors…for the nonprofits…for the children,” District 5 Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said. “Hopefully it is the start of an improvement along Northwood Drive.” The city unanimously denied the second proposal heard at the meeting, a three-story self-storage facility in the north end of the city at 8040 Roswell Road, which would have replaced the long-vacant Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range. Many North End residents spoke in opposition to the proposal at the meeting, saying they want to see a better development for their neighborhood. “Please do not turn our neighborhood into a gigantic closet,” one resident said. “This is not what I had envisioned for the North End revitalization,” District 1 Councilmember John Paulson said. “I am not in favor of this right now.”


The city has approved the purchase of iPads and ballistic shields for the police department through an annual grant program. The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program is a source of federal funding from the Office of Justice Programs to state and local jurisdictions. For 2019, Sandy Springs was given $11,389, based on the population and crime statistics of the city, according to city documents. With the approval of the council at a Sept. 3 meeting, the SSPD will now send in an application for the allocation of the funds. Pending approval of the application, the SSPD will spend $2,273 of the funds to purchase six iPad mini computers for the City Springs district bike patrol officers. The bike beat includes not only City Springs, but the larger downtown district. The officers ride as far south as Cliftwood Drive and as far east as Boylston Drive. iPads would give officers the ability to work away from their vehicles but still answer calls for service, according to Deputy Chief Keith Zgonc. “It would make things a little more efficient for them,” Zgonc said at the meeting. The other $9,200 will be used to purchase four ballistic shields “in order to be certain that officers are fully prepared for an emergency response call involving an active shooter,” city documents read. The request for comes after two officer-involved shootings in May of last year, one in which officers crouched behind shields as they approached the suspect holding a gun.

CITY SPR ING S S EL L S ‘FLY I NG P IG P O P C O R N’ IN NOD AT C I TY HI S TO RY The city of Sandy Springs has introduced its own brand of popcorn, “Flying Pig Popcorn,” to be sold in the Performing Arts Center at City Springs. The name is a nod to the city’s

Community | 3


2005 incorporation. In founding Mayor Eva Galambos’ autobiography she says state Sen. Vincent Ford said “Pigs will fly when Sandy Springs is a city,” though he denies the claim. True or not, the flying pig became an unofficial mascot of the city, already being the name of a conference room at City Hall and appearing on city anniversary pins, among other uses. “The Flying Pig became a unique and cheerful symbol of our city after we took a legislative comment intended as derogatory and turned it into a badge of honor,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. The popcorn is available at concessions in the Performing Arts Center inside of City Springs, 1 Galambos Way. The bag the popcorn is served in describes the story behind the name. The logo also was designed in-house at no additional cost to the city. There are two flavors: “Sweet and Spicy Crunch,” which is a caramel and sharp cheddar blend, and the fruity “Rainbow Blast.” Flying Pig Popcorn launched Sept. 13 at the premiere of “Mary Poppins: The Broadway Musical,” the first performance for the City Springs Theatre Company’s second season.

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The City Council approved a design contract for the Hammond and Boylston Drive intersection realignment project at a Sept. 3 meeting. The contract was awarded to Calyx/NV5 for $279,550. The contractor will present a design for a project that will realign the Boylston and Hammond Drive intersection. The project will also provide on-street parking, sidewalk, pedestrian lighting and landscaping along Boylston Drive. Once the project is completed, it will provide a pedestrian walkway from Hammond Drive to City Springs. The project is one of many upgrades funded by a transportation special local option sales tax.


The City Council on Sept. 3 approved a contractor to construct a long-demanded sidewalk along Brandon Mill Road. The contract was awarded to developer A1 Contracting, LLC for $1,042,500. The sidewalk will run from Lost Forest Drive to Marsh Creek. For years, residents have insisted on a Brandon Mill sidewalk and the council has long prioritized it. The project required four temporary construction easements before beginning construction, which have since been settled, and construction is planned to begin within the next two months, according to city documents. The sidewalk is one of many upgrades funded by a transportation special local option sales tax.

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4 | Community

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City and construction company sue each other over City Springs work BY HANNAH GRECO hannah@reporternewspapers.net

Building flaws in City Springs, Sandy Springs’ year-old civic center, have spawned dueling lawsuits between the city and its construction company. Holder Construction, the company that built the complex, is suing for $2.6 million in overdue payments. And the city is counter-suing, claiming Holder breached its contract, built with negligence and committed fraud. The city is also suing Rosser International, the project’s design firm, which appears to have gone out of business. “We had worked with the city many months,” said David O’Haren, Holder’s chief financial officer, about the lawsuit. “They were just not forthcoming.” “We did not get what we contracted for,” City Attorney Dan Lee said. “There is a disagreement over the quality and delivery of the item that we contracted.” Holder was hired in June 2015 as the construction manager for the public parts of the civic center, which includes a City Hall, the City Green park and the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. The complex, budgeted at roughly $229 million, opened in phases in 2018.


The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center at City Springs.

Holder filed suit in August for $2,569,164, the remaining money from the contract, saying that is the amount the city failed to pay between September 2018 and January 2019, plus a monthly interest rate of 1.5%. That includes money for work on a cistern — an underground

tank that captures rainwater — and the low-voltage wiring systems used in the building. The countersuit claims Holder did not properly construct the cistern and intentionally forged the tests for the low-voltage wiring system, as well as not repaired a leak in the roof, so the city chose to withhold money pending repairs. The city’s counterclaim was filed in the name of the Public Facilities Authority, which is the members of the City Council operating as a separate entity for legal reasons so it can manage public property. Lee says its contract with Holder allows the PFA to withhold payment until all work is successfully completed. “While these deficiencies represent only 1% of the overall project, we want 100% of the work done correctly,” Mayor

Rusty Paul said in a press release. “That is where it really hit a snag — basically where the city was saying, ‘We’re not going to pay any more,’” O’Haren said. “Holder finished the project and is owed all the money,” Joe Henner, an attorney representing the developer, said. “An owner cannot withhold money for warranty work.” The city’s lawsuit claims the cistern was deficient and that repairs will cost more than $750,000. The cistern captures stormwater and separates it from clean water, which is meant to circulate through the fountains outside of City Springs. The wall was not properly waterproofed and is now leaking, so the cistern has since been shut off, according to Lee. Lee says the high cost for the repairs is

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Community | 5


because the cistern is an unusual product and Holder is having a hard time repairing it, but because they are the hired contractor, it is their job to do so. “They have found a tough time finding somebody to fix it,” Lee said. The city hired Rosser International to create a design of the cistern, and Holder was only in charge of building what was on the drawings, O’Haren says. “They seemed unhappy,” O’Haren said. “We were simply doing what was on the design.” Because Rosser appears to be out of business, the city has sued Rosser’s insurance company, filing a claim against the liability policy, but Lee says the city has not heard back since the suit was filed on Sept. 18. The suit also claims the low-voltage wiring system was not installed correctly and that Holder’s installation subcontrac-

tor submitted falsified reports. “The wiring was intentionally installed to a substandard,” Lee said. “Holder has admitted it.” Holder could not be reached for immediate comment on whether or not reports were falsified. The wiring is being replaced by Holder on every floor and the repairs are being done at night so they will not affect city business. Lee says the repair is taking twice as long as Holder said it would. Low-voltage wiring involves Wi-Fi, automatic door locks, security measures, and some sources of lighting in the building. Lee says the Wi-Fi has been noticeably bad since opening the building. “It is better as they progress through repair but it has been terrible,” Lee said. Lee also says Holder has yet to fix a leak in the roof of the building. “We contracted for a roof that didn’t



We did not get what we contracted for. There is a disagreement over the quality and delivery of the item that we contracted. CITY ATTORNEY DAN LEE

leak,” Lee said. The overall cost of the repairs is still unknown, according to the city. Upon completion of the building, the construction was inspected by Holder and the city trusted their vetting process. “We relied on them,” Lee said. Even with these needed repairs, Lee says the city has no safety concerns related to the building, calling it “sound [and] safe.” Paul says the PFA was disappointed to see a lawsuit filed. “Frankly…we believed we were making solid progress with Holder in negotiating a resolution to these issues,” Paul said. However, O’Haren said the city does not seem to want to solve the issue. “We are a little frustrated we have had to get to this point,” O’Haren said. “The city just did not seem to want to get this resolved.”

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6 | Community

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City Council delays vote to choose contractor for Lake Forrest Dam BY HANNAH GRECO

program’s manager Tom Woolsey, the di-

Sandy Springs City Council member who


vision has not filed any lawsuits to date.

lives near the dam, called on the coun-

“Our property values are being dimin-

The Sandy Springs City Council delayed a vote to choose a contractor to design plans for the “high-hazard” Lake Forrest Dam repair at a Sept. 17 meeting after some neighbors said they were not fully briefed on the plan. “We decided to back off and wait to speak to more residents,” City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said. The state Safe Dams Program has ordered repairs because of the dam’s condition and its placement on a list of “highhazard” dams, meaning that if it failed in a worst-case scenario, the flood would likely kill people downstream. The repair has been a slow process because of complex co-ownership among Atlanta and Sandy Springs governments, as well as several private residents from Three Lakes Corporation, a homeowners association that uses the pond behind the dam. The state has the ability to take dam owners to court for lack of compliance with repair orders. But according to the


“The Environmental Protection Divi-

cil to defer, saying she feels she and her

ished by our loss of views due to the con-

sion continues to work to bring this dam

neighbors have not been given the same

struction of the dam and loss of the forest

into compliance,” Woolsey said. “Our in-

privilege as others to be briefed on the de-

now covering it,” McEnerny said.

vestigation is ongoing.”

sign alternatives.

Following McEnerny’s comments, Dis-

The council was to vote on a design

“Only actual owners of the land under

trict 5 Councilmember Tibby DeJulio mo-

contract that would create concrete box

the lake and dam have been fully briefed

tioned to remove the item. District 6 Andy

culverts, which would construct tunnels

on the plans despite our continued efforts

Bauman seconded the motion and it

to carry the stream under Lake Forrest

since 2015 to be included,” McEnerny said.

passed unanimously with no discussion.

Drive, the option preferred by both cities.

She referenced a page about the dam

DeJulio said the decision was not di-

City staff recommends Schnabel En-

repair on the city’s website, which she

rectly tied to McEnerny’s concern, but he

gineering be awarded the contract for

also pointed out has not been updated

has heard from several residents that feel

$756,800, according to city documents.

since September 2017.

they need to be more involved in the deci-

The alternative would require Lake

The last update provided on the page

Forrest to be closed for construction, as

said “design alternatives were presented

According to city spokesperson Sha-

the dam runs directly beneath it, but the

to representatives of other dam owners. A

ron Kraun, a meeting was held via the

timeline of the closure is unknown.

meeting to present the alternatives to all

residents’ request on Sept. 23.

The city has kept dam owners in-

sion-making process.

dam owners will be scheduled.”

A work session is also planned for the

formed as part of the process with the

“The neighbors on the east side of Lake

Oct. 1 City Council meeting, which will

Georgia Environmental Department of

Forrest and east side of the creek that the

provide an overview of where dam own-

Protection, city spokesperson Sharon

spillway will be filling into are directly

ers and the state are with the project,

Kraun says.

impacted,” McEnerny said at the meet-

Kraun says.

But now, another issue has been raised.

ing. “Yet we have not been accorded the

It is still unclear when the vote will be

Residents nearby feel they have been left

same opportunity to be briefed as…own-

brought back to the council or when re-

out of the design process but should have

ers were.”

pairs will begin.

a say since it will affect them, too. Karen Meinzen McEnerny, a former

McEnerny is also concerned with her and her neighbors’ property values de-

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8 | Commentary

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SCORE helps small businesses for free in Sandy Springs Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

Owning a small business is not for the the jewel of SCORE is the free one-to-one faint of heart. According to the U.S. Small mentoring it provides anyone who owns a Business Association, 30 percent of new small business or is even thinking of startbusinesses fail during their first two years, ing one. 50 percent during their first five, and 66 Metro Atlanta has two SCORE chapters: percent during their first 10. Atlanta and North Metro Atlanta. North Despite the risks, for many of us, ownMetro Atlanta has three branches, one of ing our own business theis aAmerican which Fulton, covering Sandy CarolisNiemi marketing consultant who livesisonNorth the DunwoodySandy Springs line and99 writes about people whose lives inspire Roswell, Alpharetta Dream. According to JPMorgan Chase, Springs, Dunwoody, others. Contact herare at worthknowingnow@gmail.com. percent of America’s 29.7 million firms and Cumming. small businesses, with 88 percent of them Until recently, Sandy Springs had no having 20 or fewer employees. In fact, designated SCORE meeting space, and small businesses drive our economy, proDunwoody had only a part-time space in viding over half of all private-sector jobs. a small shared office. The options were Luckily, since 1964 the SBA has offered long drives to SCORE offices in Atlanta or an amazing free resource to help. Called in Cobb or Gwinnett. But as of August 23, SCORE (Service Core of Retired Executhanks to an agreement between the city tives), it’s a totally volunteer organization of Sandy Springs Economic Development of experienced, mostly retired business exoffice and the North Metro Atlanta Chapecutives and small business owners whose ter of SCORE, the Sandy Springs Library only goal is to give back. now provides a room for mentors and cliWith more than 300 chapters across ents to meet. the country, it has provided free mentoring Sandy Springs Economic Development and advice to more than 11 million entreDirector Andrea Worthy credits SCORE preneurs. Besides its workshops, seminars, mentor Bruce Alterman, former co-owner webinars, courses and library resources, of the much-loved but now closed Brickery

Grill & Bar. Since becoming a SCORE mentor two “He made me aware of the benefits years ago, he figures he’s mentored hunSCORE could offer our small businesses,” dreds of people, some in business looking said Worthy. “The only problem was they to grow and some just starting. He currenthad no place to meet.” ly has 20 regular clients, including a restauAlterman also credits Marc Froemelt, rant. vice chair of the North Fulton Branch of the “Our typical client is a person with a North Metro Atlanta Chapter of SCORE, for passion for something and an ability to starting the discussions, and Carolyn Daimplement but missing the knowledge of vis, who worked with Anhow to run the business,” drea to arrange the deal he said. “Where I can help with the library. is, I’ve got bruises in places In fact, everyone I you’ve never even thought spoke to credited someone of and can offer perspecelse for the deal. Generositive.” ty seems to be in SCORE’s Like other SCORE menDNA. Nobody’s looking for tors, Alterman meets just fame or fortune. They’ve once or twice with some already “been there, done clients. With others, he that” and work for free. maintains a regular onAlterman, owner of a going relationship, often SPECIAL business that enjoyed 24 talking by phone or meetBruce Alterman. years of success, is a prime ing for lunch. He emphaexample of a SCORE mensizes that his goal isn’t to tor. tell anyone how to run their business. “My father was a SCORE mentor. I “I’m not a paid consultant. I don’t tell saw the value he got from it and parked them what to do. I pose questions that it away in the back of my mind. After we make them consider options,” he said. closed the Brickery [in 2015], people asked To learn more about SCORE, research me if I missed it. I always replied, ‘No,’” he mentors or schedule an appointment with said. “We loved what we did, but I was fulone, go to https://northmetroatlanta.score. ly retired. What we did miss was 24 years of org. people coming through our lives.”







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10 | Art & Entertainment

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Book Festival of the MJCCA brings big names to Dunwoody The 28th annual Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA) is set for Oct. 26 to Nov. 18, bringing some of the nation’s bestselling authors to Dunwoody. This year’s event features

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nearly 50 authors, including

Open Monday through Saturday Noon until... Late Night Sunday Noon until 10 pm

“Sex and the City” author

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton in an already sold-out appearance Nov. 18. Some other guests include:

Cuban and Latin Cuisine Live Entertainment Jazz – Vocals and Tunes Friday 8 pm – 11 pm Saturday 8 pm – 11 pm New Lunch Specials 7 Days a Week Noon until 6 pm 16oz T-Bone or 12oz Ribeye Steak Special A la Cart $8.00

Candace Bushnell (Oct. 27); actor Henry Winkler and coauthor Lin Oliver with their children’s book “Alien Superstar” (Oct. 30); Jodi Kantor, one of the journalists who broke the story about movie producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault allegations (Nov. 5); novelist Alice Hoffman (Nov. 10); New York Times opinion editor Bari Weiss (Nov. 16); and Nikki Haley, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a former South Carolina governor (Nov. 17). Festival co-chair Deena Profis said in a press release that this year’s festival “features everyone from acclaimed actors and renowned political figures, to historians and award-winning novelists, to authors presenting award-winning cookbooks and riveting memoirs. We truly have something for everyone.” Most events will be held at the MJCCA, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Individual tickets and series pass-

Your home for all the college & NFL games Monday Night Thursday Night All Day Saturday & Sunday $4.00 Drafts, Drink Specials and Wings 6010 Sandy Springs Circle Sandy Springs, GA 30328 404-500-2483 Must be 21 or over Check out our Facebook page & website for all our daily events


es are available. Some events are free. For the complete lineup and tickets, call 678-812-4005 or see atlantajcc.org.

Education | 11

OCTOBER 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Graduation rates increase for Fulton, decrease for APS and DeKalb Graduation rates last school year increased for Fulton County Schools, while they decreased for DeKalb County and Atlanta public schools, according to data from the Georgia Department of Education.

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Statewide, the graduation rate rose to 82% in 2019 from 81.6% in 2018. The Fulton County School System’s rate slightly increased from 86.8% in 2018 to 87.2% in 2019, the highest rate it has ever been. Fulton continues to post the highest graduation rate for the metro area, according to the district. North Springs Charter High School, located on the Atlanta and Sandy Springs border at 7447 Roswell Road, had a 3.1 increase from 90.1% in 2018 to 93.2% in 2019. Riverwood International Charter School, located in Sandy Springs at 5900 Raider Drive, fell from 92.2% to 91.7%, according to the district. DeKalb’s graduation rate for 2019 was 73.4%, a decrease over 2018’s rate of 75%.

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Chamblee Charter High School, located on the border of Chamblee and Dunwoody at 3688 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, and Dunwoody High School, located in Dunwoody at 5035 Vermack Road, are two of nine schools in the district with rates above 80%. Chamblee Charter’s new rate is 82.7%, a slight decrease over 2018’s 83%. Dunwoody High’s is 88.9%, an increase over 2018’s 86.3%, according to the report. Atlanta Public Schools’ rate decreased to 77.9% in 2019. The rate in 2018 was 79.9%, which was an all-time high, according to the district. North Atlanta High School, located in Buckhead at 4111 Northside Parkway, fell from 92.5% to 91.1%, according to the report. — Hannah Greco

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12 | Community

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City’s pilot programs in affordable housing show big demand BY HANNAH GRECO hannah@reporternewspapers.net

In an effort to offer affordable housing amongst the skyrocketing rents and home prices in Sandy Springs, the city currently has two pilot programs with local apartment complexes. Since their implementation in 2018, the demand has proven to be high. “The city...supports opportunities to provide a mix of housing alternatives attracting those who work in the city to also live here,” city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said. While the city itself does not have inclusionary zoning, it has worked out a 10-year agreement with two apartment complexes, requiring units be set aside for workforce housing, which is intended to ensure housing for primarily middle-income, but also lower-income, households. The city also has units and houses set aside for discounted rent for public safety personnel. The North End Revitalization Task Force, which proposed redevelopment strategies earlier this year for the northern Roswell Road corridor, planned to produce a comprehensive affordable housing policy,but has not yet. “A major component of the North End initiative is developing affordable, middle-class ownership housing,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. “That is our biggest housing gap right now.” Paul also says the city is looking for more opportunities to add to its workforce housing inventory. Two apartment complexes in the city offer workforce housing under city agreements: The Cliftwood at 185 Cliftwood Drive and The Hill at 1160 John-

son Ferry Road. The management offices at each complex are required to submit compliance documents to the city in June and December of each year, Kraun said. The documents must include resident income eligibility, lease information and evidence of market-rate rent. The city Community Development department oversees the documents and keeps track of the programs at each complex, according to Kraun. The city also has discounted rental properties for public safety personnel at The Cliftwood as part of the zoning mandates, as well as four houses owned by the city on Hammond Drive. All four houses are currently rented at $500 per month. Three are rented by employees of the police department and one by an employee of the fire department. The renter is responsible for upkeep of the property and utilities, Kraun said. Houses on Hammond Drive bought in anticipation of a proposed project to widen Hammond from Roswell Road to Glenridge Drive is inspected for potential as a residence for public safety personnel. If needed repairs cost less than $15,000, the city will make the repairs and the house will be rented.

ees. The deal specifies that if the deal is broken, the city could prohibit further leasing at the apartments and file a lawsuit. As of June 30, the Cliftwood has all but one of the 10 units were rented, according to the city. The three public safety units include two one-bedroom apartments for $500 apiece, compared with the market rate of $1,480 and one two-bedroom apartment also for $500 compared with the market rate of $1,880, according to city documents. The remaining seven units are for workforce employees and are offered to households with incomes that are 80% to 120% of Fulton County’s area median income, or AMI.

The Cliftwood

The Hill

The affordability deal at 251-unit Cliftwood apartment complex was required as part of a zoning case and was implemented upon opening in late 2018. The agreement with the city will last 10 years and applies to 10 units, with three of the units required to be exclusively offered to public safety employ-

Reduced rents

A zoning agreement with The Cliftwood apartments designated a number of units to create affordable housing. Type

Number of units

Studio One-bedroom

Three $1,303


Two $1,639



One $2,400


Source: City of Sandy Springs

North American Properties has a 10year workforce agreement with the city at the Hill apartment complex, offering 30 of the 305 units exclusively to workforce employees at discounted rates. The agreement, part of the 2016 zoning approving the units, stipulates the workforce units are to be made available to households with incomes less

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than 120% of AMI and that rent cannot exceed 35% of the residents’ income. The complex must also show marketing efforts to hospital employees. The Hill is within walking distance to the medical center, which includes three hospitals -- Northside; Emory St. Joseph’s and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite -- as well as many medical offices. “In the medical district, it was the city’s desire to make housing available for those who worked at the hospitals, so they could live near where they worked, which would help reduce traffic congestion in that area,” Kraun said. As of June 30, 29 of the 30 units were leased at The Hill, with the workforce housing rents ranging from $1,295 to $1,370. According to the complex’s website, nonsubsidized rates range from $1,295 for a studio to $2,265 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. Because the first full documentation is not due until December, the city does not have exact numbers for the Hill as it does for the Cliftwood, according to Kraun.


Food & Drink | 13



Antico Pizza is no longer coming to Sandy Springs BY HANNAH GRECO

ing options open for future development.

na is no longer coming to Sandy Springs, at least for now, with the developer blaming city permit delays and the owner saying the company’s budget can’t handle it. “The





ly dead,” said Gerard Gunthert



Springs-based Cornerpoint Partners, the developer of the project that was intended to house the restaurant. Antico owner Giovanni Di Palma said he is disappointed to see the location not come to fruition. “We loved the location and we were very excited to be in Sandy Springs,



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“The door is certainly not closed on Sandy Springs and we are keeping options open for the right opportunity,” Di Palma said. Gunthert said he does not yet have a new


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that maximizes this unusual but excellent piece of real estate,” Gunthert said. Gunthert said a city intersection reconstruction project planned for Hammond Drive and Boylston Drive, the intersection where the restaurant was to go, remains unaffected by the change.

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its residents,” Di Palma said. “So it is disappointing.” Last year’s announcement of a Sandy Springs location for the prominent Atlanta-based restaurant chain drew local excitement. Antico was set to start construction in June and open at 336 Hammond Drive later this year. But Gunthert says due to the city’s permit process, it was impossible to meet the financial obligations and the delivery date to the restaurant. “As the owner of the land, we were disappointed at the length of time and complexity of the permit process with the city,” Gunthert said. Gunthert says the development was approved in September 2018 for the site plan, but as of Sept. 23, he still did not

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“Unfortunately, time kills deals,” Gunthert said. The city did not immediately respond to comment requests. Di Palma said that because another Antico location at the Battery at SunTrust Park in Cobb County opened quicker than anticipated, the Sandy Springs project no longer fit the company’s budget and timeline. But, he said, he is keep-

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14 | Community

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Arts Foundation to ‘reset’ mission and fundraising goal BY HANNAH GRECO hannah@reporternewspapers.net

A year after severing ties with the city and reorganizing as a private nonprofit, the Sandy Springs Arts Foundation is taking a “reset” on its mission and fundraising goal. “We are still in the process of figuring out how we are going to get back on the goal of raising money,” said Ken Byers, who chairs the foundation’s board. The foundation has backed off on its $7.5 million fundraising goal, lost and has yet to replace its executive director, and is no longer handling the brickbuying program for the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center at City Springs. However, it is still focused on the mission to subsidize arts programs, as well as marketing the naming rights for the entire building. The nonprofit foundation, established by the city government, began working in 2017 with a mission of subsidizing arts programs at the PAC. That included grants for programming subsidies and arts education, running a campaign where donors would get their names on brick pavers in the City Green park, and vetting naming opportunities for the PAC and other City Springs facilities. But the city has taken the reins and announced its own brick-and seat-buying program at a Sept. 3 Public Facilities Authority meeting. Byers says the decision to have the city, rather than the foundation, sell the bricks was made in a meeting with Mayor Rusty Paul and City Council at the beginning of the year. He said the decision came because the entities mutually agreed the program was more for the city since “the city owns the City Green and it is their bricks.” “But I hope the city sells some bricks,” Byers said. City spokesperson Sharon Kraun confirmed that in conversations between the city and foundation, it was mutually agreed that the city would oversee the program, but she could not confirm a specific meeting in which it was decided. The city has sold about a dozen bricks and marketing efforts to promote sales are being finalized for a fall campaign, according to Kraun. When the program was announced,

it was undetermined whether the naming donations would be tax deductible, but Kraun says it has now been determined they are. “It was determined by the city’s legal financial advisor that contributions made by a donor over the cost of a goods [or] services provided is entitled to tax benefits, subject to the advice of the donor’s tax advisor or attorney,” Kraun said. Now, the foundation is refocusing

We realized we were getting ahead of ourselves and that was not realistic, so we canceled that program. We were trying to run before we knew how to walk. KEN BYERS FOUNDATION CHAIR

its efforts on raising money for the PAC and its arts programs. “We have the same mission,” Byers said, “We don’t produce shows, but we want to support them.” “The Foundation continues to support programming at the Performing Arts Center,” Kraun said. Byers says this year, the Foundation gave $100,000 for education programs for City Springs Theatre Company, approved a $25,000 grant for an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra New Year’s Eve concert, helped fund the Aug. 24 Angelica Hale concert and the city’s Friday night concert series. In late 2018, the foundation board severed its ties with the city and reorganized as a private nonprofit for several reasons, including the reduction of possible legal conflicts and to shield it-


Community | 15


self from laws requiring open meetings and open records. The board hired its first executive director Emily Hutmacher in January 2018 but it was released that she started a new job as executive director of Playworks Georgia in August 2019. Hutmacher’s last official day with the foundation was July 15, but she gave her notice in May, according to Byers, who would not explain why she resigned. Byers says the foundation is using a firm called Our Fundraising Search to find a new director who fits the bill and currently has four dozen applicants. “The search is on,” Byers said. “I am sure we will find a great candidate.” Hutmacher was in charge of creating a strategic plan for the Foundation, which Byers says is on its way to being completed. “Four of our board members are working on that,” Byers said. “I really like the way it sounds.” As of now, the Foundation has 11 board members, with the possibility of more joining soon, Byers says. “I am excited about what we are going to get done,” Byers said. At its quarterly meeting on Sept. 25,

the foundation was scheduled to discuss how to present the new strategic plan to start raising money for the Performing Arts Center, according to Byers. At its formation two years ago, the foundation had a fundraising goal of $7.5 million, which Byers says the foundation decided to rethink. “We realized we were getting ahead of ourselves and that was not realistic, so we canceled that program,” Byers said. “We were trying to run before we knew how to walk.” Byers says the foundation raised around 30-35% of that goal by December 2017 but has not raised much since. “We are still reorganizing with a lot of resets,” Byers said. Byers says the foundation is still working on a marketing program for naming rights to the PAC, as well as individual pieces of the building such as the Studio Theatre, the balcony and the individual boxes in the Byers Theatre. “It has been a bit slow because of all the changes,” Byers said. “It has been frustrating but we are here.” Kraun also says the naming opportunity for the PAC remains open.

Sandy Springs Arts Foundation members Ken Byers - Chair Jan Collins Frances Creekmuir Bill Harrison Laurie Kirkegaard Sunny Park

Ray Persons Ross Rossin Connie Seacrest Robyn Spizman Meade Sutterfield

How to buy an engraved brick or seat at City Springs The city is now offering personalized paving bricks and theater seat nameplates, engraved with names or brief messages, at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center at City Springs. The bricks will be installed in the City Green park and the nameplates go on seats in the Byers Theatre. The tax-deductible donations are intended to support youth arts education and general events at the PAC.

Bricks are available for $300 Seats are available for $1,000 A package of both is available for $1,200 According to the city, the donations are tax-deductible.

To place orders, see citysprings.com/supportarts

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16 | Commentary

Reporter Newspapers

Our mission is to provide our readers with fresh and engaging information about life in their communities.

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Commentary: For active shooters, throw out the rulebook Dr. DaShanne Stokes, an expert on American politics, culture and civil

where they are going and die from

cape available, fighting may be the only

smoke inhalation.

option. First, do what you can do to bar-

rights, once said “Thoughts and prayers

He went on to say that in 1980, while

ricade the door, even pushing against

won’t stop a speeding bullet.” Isn’t it

staying at the MGM hotel in Las Ve-

it as a last resort. If that fails, think



gas, the hotel caught fire. Faulty wir-

through the urge to panic and fight.

have to plan for

ing caused a fire that spread quickly to

Surviving is a powerful motivation,

this? But it seems

other parts of the hotel. Thick smoke

sidelining your panic if you recognize

we do. The num-

quickly filled the hallways. He saw the

the threat at hand. Listen for gunshots.



fire advancing, but when he opened his

Are they coming closer or fading? If

caught in mass

door, he saw nothing but smoke. He

they are fading, then it is time to make a

Atlanta INtown www.AtlantaINtownPaper.com

shootings in pub-

knew that unless he moved quickly, he

break for it. If not, do you have a chance

lic places in our

would die.

to surprise the shooter? Can you posi-

Atlanta Senior Life www.AtlantaSeniorLife.com

country appears

Published by Springs Publishing LLC 6065 Roswell Road, Suite 225 Sandy Springs, GA 30328 Phone: 404-917-2200 • Fax: 404-917-2201 Brookhaven Reporter | Buckhead Reporter Dunwoody Reporter | Sandy Springs Reporter www.ReporterNewspapers.net

C O N TAC T US Founder & Publisher Steve Levene stevelevene@reporternewspapers.net



He recalled the direction and step-

to be rising. There countless

count to the exit. He wet a towel that he are Steve Rose is a retired theo-

ries as to what goes through the mind of someone

Sandy Springs Police Department captain, a former Fulton County Police Department officer, and currently a freelance writer.

tion yourself alongside the closed door to surprise and jump the shooter?

wrapped around his nose and mouth,

Remember the Gun Goober who

and then proceeded to move quickly

likes everyone to know he has a gun?

along the hallway, feeling his way along

He just may be the guy who stops the

the wall while he counted steps. Even

threat -- or perhaps the one who gets it

though he was unable to tell the differ-

first because the shooter saw him and


willing to shoot

ence between doors, he stayed with the

his gun. Too bad for him, but you can

Managing Editor John Ruch johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

numbers of inno-

step count until he reached the magic

only play the cards you are dealt, so if

cent people he does not know. For you,

number. He felt the door. It was not hot,

that card means you have seconds to

why the shooter stalks and then shoots

so he opened it to discover the stairs.

move away from the threat, then fight

INtown Editor: Collin Kelley Editor-at-Large Joe Earle

innocent victims is not important. Not being one of those innocent victims is.

He moved down the stairway and

the urge to panic and freeze, and start

eventually to safety. Eighty-five people

moving until you have no other choice.

Staff Writers Dyana Bagby, Hannah Greco

This year has been an overempha-

were not so lucky and died in that fire,

Then you fight.

sis of that point. I’ve had my fill of so-

many trapped in their rooms. His point

Creative and Production

called experts and pundits offering

was simple. Have a doomsday plan.

Creative Director Rico Figliolini rico@reporternewspapers.net

mindless lip service rather than con-

Do you have a weapon with you? This might be a good time to use it to

To survive something, what would

stop the threat. If you have no weap-

you do? Survival is the bottom line

on, then remember: create movement.

Graphic Designer Julie Murcia

Three things that I know about ac-

of going home or not. That’s why you

Moving targets are hard to hit.

tive-shooter incidents. One, if you have

should think of nothing but creating

Do yourself a favor when you go


prepared in any way, your chances of

your action to survive. No rules—none!

out to dinner or a movie. Did you look

Director of Sales Development Amy Arno amyarno@reporternewspapers.net

surviving increases. Two, if you remain

Panic will kill you. You need to force

to find the exits? And did you think,

stationary, you will die. And three, pan-

it back by concentrating on what you

“What if?” Remember to react and do

ic will freeze you and you will die.

need to do to survive.

your best to move away from the threat.

Sales Executives Jeff Kremer, Janet Porter Office Manager Deborah Davis deborahdavis@reporternewspapers.net Contributors Robin Conte, Kevin C. Madigan, Phil Mosier, Carol Niemi, Judith Schonbak, Jaclyn Turner

Free Home Delivery

structive and productive information.

Prepare. I met a firefighter who told

Look at the options available. Are

The good news? Chances are that

me an interesting story. He said that

there windows and if so, are they locked

you’ll never have to experience such a

when he traveled and checked into a

or unlocked? How high up are you? Sec-

horrific event. But in the back of your

hotel, he paced his steps from his room

ond floor? If you jump, you may break

mind, in a particular environment,

to the nearest exit, counting each step,

an ankle or leg. If you have the choice

large store, movie, public gathering or

knowing that in a fire, the thick smoke

of injuring yourself or being shot, I

festival, it would be a good idea if you

blinds and disorients the victim search-

would say most of you would soon be

took a mental note of how you would

ing for an exit. They crawl around but


clear a dangerous area.

since they cannot see, they don’t know

If you’re trapped, with no other es-

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Honored as a newspaper of General Excellence

2018 © 2019 with all rights reserved

Publisher reserves the right to refuse editorial or advertising for any


reason. Publisher assumes no responsibility for information contained in advertising. Any opinions expressed in print or online do not necessarily

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






Commentary | 17


A knife to remember, or forget I was summoned for jury duty over the summer, an occasion which happens with stunning regularity every five years. It reminded me of a situation that occurred decades ago, the first time I appeared for duty. After entering the courthouse with a stream of other ordinary-looking people and falling into the security line, I had put my purse and jacket on the conveyer belt for screening and waited my turn to pass through the metal detector. As I was waiting, I heard one of the security officers say to the other, “This one’s got a knife.” I gasped audibly, thinking to myself, “Who in the world would bring a knife into the courthouse?” Well. It was me. My Swiss Army knife was in my handbag. I used to carry it with me everywhere. I had purchased it while in college during my foreign-study jaunt through Switzerland, as a treasured reminder of cowbells and hot chocolate and train rides through green Alpine pastures to snow-capped mountains. It was a genuine Victorinox: a sleek red body, embossed with the white cross of Switzerland’s flag, that encased a wonderland of tiny tools. I remember deliberating at length over the variety of gizmo combinations available for purchase and finally settling on a nifty version that included two blades, a scissors, a can opener, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, a nail file and a pair of tweezers. Everything was made of quality stainless steel, except for an odd yellowish piece of plastic hidden in Robin Conte lives with her the end that I didn’t figure out was supposed to serve as a husband in an empty nest toothpick until a good 20 years later. in Dunwoody. To contact If you needed an apple peeled or a stick whittled, I was her or to buy her column your girl! If a screw was coming dislodged, I could tightcollection, “The Best of the en it with the top of my can opener! If you were lost in the Nest,” see robinconte.com. woods with nothing but a can of peas and a bottle of wine, I could free them both for you! If you broke a fingernail, I could provide you with a rough-edged piece of stainless steel that would help smooth it out a bit, after 30 minutes of rigorous filing! I think I even used it to carve a jack-o’-lantern once. I walked around with that thing in my purse for years, confident that I was equipped to field-dress an elk at a moment’s notice, should the need arise. It inspired in me an air of self-reliance, and, to be honest, a tinge of superiority, because, let’s face it, how many of my peers were packing such a useful, yet authentic, treasure? None were. That’s how many. It was as natural in my handbag as my lipstick and Tic Tacs. So natural that I hadn’t thought twice about walking into a courtroom with it. So natural that, never having learned my lesson, I forgot to remove it before I boarded a certain flight, and, crestfallen, I was forced to part with it forever. I did replace it, but, detached from the Alpine setting in which the original was purchased, the new knife was more utilitarian and less sentimental. Still, the security lines threatened it wherever I went until I finally removed it from my purse and tucked it into the console of my minivan, where it languishes still, because there aren’t all that many sticks begging to be whittled while sitting in traffic. But one day, that hidden toothpick just might come in handy.

20 W i To GA & 19, nn p Pr 20 20 er C e 1 18 ol ss 7 um A ni ssn st !

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They’re not exactly the latest thing in movies. Then again, that’s sort of the point. These films show where modern movies came from. And they show what movies used to be. That’s part of the reason Hylda Wilson comes to the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta to watch the movies shown through its Classics Film Club. “I like old movies,” she said. “They’re different. I don’t like the new movies. They’re not fairy tales.” Wilson’s 86 and says she’s been watching movies since 1937 or so. She lives in Sandy Springs now, but remembers going to see “picture shows – they weren’t called movies then” in small-town theaters when she was young. She was born in Atmore, Ala., a small town where her family ran a general store. The family moved to the larger nearby community of Valdosta, Ga., when she was a young girl and when they left, she said with a laugh, the Jewish population of Atmore dropped to zero. Movies were a big deal then. “I used to go to movies all the time when I was young,” Wilson said. “All we had to do was go to the movies.” But movies changed. She remembers seeing “Midnight Cowboy,” a 1969 classic about New York street hustlers, and being turned off. And that was just the beginning. “I don’t like bare butts and bare bosoms,” she said. “I don’t need to see ’em.” But she still like those old movies. She watches some on TV. And last year, she discovered the MJCCA’s Classics Film Club shows. The club started showing classic films in the fall of 2017 and now draws small groups of film buffs to its monthly Sunday afternoon gatherings. Andrew Hibbs puts the shows together. He usually works in the Marcus Center’s membership office, but when he heard that center staff members were thinking about showing classic films as part of the programming for people aged 60 or older, he volunteered to run the series. He’s a big movie fan. He started out wanting to be an actor. He did some acting, he said, “but the life of an actor is pretty tough.” In college, he started looking at movies more deeply, more like a director, he said, and got a deeper understanding of the artform. “Now, I’m more interested in the behind-the-scenes stuff,” he said. He picks the films the club shows and then researches them. He makes a short presentation on each film or on things going on in the industry at the time it was made. After the showing, he leads a discussion on the film. Last year, the club showed serious dramatic films, so this season, he decided to change things up a bit. “I wanted to do comedies,” he said. “I wanted to do something light and fun after having people sit through ‘Wild Strawberries’ and ‘The Bicycle Thief.’” For this round, he scheduled Buster Keaton’s “The General” for August; “Gold Diggers of 1933,” with song-and-dance numbers directed by Busby Berkeley, for September; the Marx Brothers’ “A Night at the Opera” for October; and director Howard Hawks’ “His Girl Friday,”


Commentary | 19


staring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, for December. One recent Sunday, about a half-dozen people, including Wilson and Hibbs’ dad, Stan, got together in the Marcus Center’s computer room for the screening of “Gold Diggers of 1933.” Hibbs used a computer to project the black-and-white film on a screen set against the wall. Although it’s included in the National Film Registry and was a hit in its day, “Gold Diggers of 1933” may be less well known now than the other titles in the Classic Film Club series. The film stars Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers. It included lots of snappy repartee and stuffy rich men being outwitted by worldly, if impoverished, chorus girls. It ends with a song called “The Forgotten Man” set against images of marching World War I veterans being reduced to living on the streets and eating from soup kitchens. “That last piece,” Stan Hibbs said, “was really…” “Dark?” Andrew Hibbs said. “Yeah, dark,” Stan Hibbs agreed. “It was hard times and a lot of films weren’t talking about it,” Andrew said. That’s part of the reason the younger Hibbs chose the film for the program. It speaks of and for its time. And it still has lots of dancing girls covered with coins and singing “We’re In the Money.” “It’s one of those things that a lot of people who love film really love,” he said. “It’s kind of a ‘guilty pleasure’ movie. It does have some interesting things to say… about the Depression. It’s also very specific to its time, to the Busby Berkeley era. You don’t see movies like that anymore.”

Andrew Hibbs watches the screening of “Gold Diggers of 1933 in the computer room of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta.

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20 | Community

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Alternative commuting needed for Perimeter Center’s traffic woes, experts say BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN “Help is coming” was the slogan of a Sept. 12 Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber of Commerce “Transportation Summit,” advertised with an image of the new I-285/Ga. 400 interchange that is now under construction. But the theme was how to help commuters help themselves, as the expert panelists said infrastructure improvements alone will not solve the area’s massive congestion woes. Ann Hanlon, executive director of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, told the audience at Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse in State Farm’s Park Center tower that her group’s work with companies on promoting such tactics as transit use and teleworking are making a difference. Panelists at the Sept. 12 “Transportation Summit” included, from left, Marlo Clowers of the Georgia Department of Transportation; Rosalind Tucker of the Atlanta Regional Commission; and Johann Weber and Ann Hanlon of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts. (Kevin C. Madigan) “I’ve had people tell me recently that Fridays and Mondays are feeling better,” Hanlon said. “Now, if we can get them thinking in a flexible way about Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, we can make a lot of progress. We are at a point where traffic is so painful that people realize they have to make changes internally.” Other panelists included: Marlo Clowers, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s project manager on

the “Transform 285/400” interchange project; Rosalind Tucker, who heads the Georgia Commute Options commuting alternatives program at the Atlanta Regional Commission; and Johann Weber, who manages the PCIDs’ “Perimeter Connects” commuting program. On the road-building side, Clowers gave an overview of the Transform 285/400 project, which is scheduled to finish most work about a year from now, and the toll lanes that GDOT plans to add along both highways over the next decade. Clowers did not bring up local controversies about the toll lanes, which include property takings, their efficiency compared to transit lines. On part of Ga. 400, the lanes are intended to carry MARTA buses as well as private vehicle traffic. Rick Carr, a local businessman, told Clowers he thinks the toll lanes will not reduce congestion. “HOV lanes are already there, but no one is using them,” he said. “It’s not going to work.” Clowers replied that the toll strategy adds more control over the flow of traffic. Clowers noted that the Transform 285/400 project includes a connection of a future extension of the PATH400 multiuse trail under I-285 along Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. “We are thinking beyond cars,” she said. Tucker said that alternatives beyond private vehicles are necessary as Georgia roads face increasing demand from delivery services and population growth. Metro Atlanta’s population of about 6 million is projected to reach 8 million by 2040, she said.

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“Technology and services that reduce the need and desire for travel are happening, but are competing forces for the roadway,” she said. “Three million people are ordering from Amazon. Someone has to get that to our doors.” Tucker said she orders all her groceries online for home delivery, and “although I may not be on the highway, I’m still perpetuating an increase of travel on our roadways.” But with challenges come opportunities, Tucker said. “More people are working at home,” she said. “If we can continue to really work with employers to see the great benefit in allowing their workforce to telework, we will continue to see great gains.” Hanlon said State Farm, MercedesBenz USA, and Cox Media Group are among the major Perimeter Center corporations already on board with incentivizing their employees to take transit, telework and offer flexible work schedules. “Each of the corporate owners is, I think, ready for behavioral and cultural change,” she said, adding the PCIDs is also approaching smaller companies. The PCIDs’ “Perimeter Connects” program works with local commuters on such options as transit, sharing rides and bicycling. “It’s a program to try to tackle traffic, and addresses other elements that are at play,” said Weber, the program’s manager. “We estimate that this year [our work represents] about 6,400 trips that aren’t happening each average day. If you take those cars and you put them bumper-to-bumper, 20 miles of high-

way would fill up.” Weber said “shift scheduling” is a key part. “If you get someone to work from home one day a week, that trip doesn’t exist anymore.” His company works with employers “to implement policies, programs, services, and other strategies… to change the geometry of traffic.” Tucker noted an option to support alternative commuting is a program called “Guaranteed Ride Home,” in which commuters can register for up to five free taxi rides annually in case of an unexpected event. The PCIDs is a self-taxing district of commercial property owners, and transportation improvement is its main goal. Increasingly, that includes new kinds of infrastructure to support alternative commuting. “We focus a lot on construction and building new stuff, but we also spend time on what Roz and Johann are doing, which is getting people out of their cars,” said Hanlon. As one example, she cited the recently opened pedestrian bridge across Nancy Creek between Dunwoody’s Georgetown neighborhood and Perimeter Center. The PCIDs contributed $200,000 to its construction. “Not a glamorous project, but it connects two places that were not connected before,” she said. “Now people can get somewhere without driving.” For more information about the PCIDs’ “Perimeter Connects” commuting alternatives program, see perimeterconnects.com.

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Education | 21

OCTOBER 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

Fulton Schools superintendent speaks about experience as high school dropout

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The new superintendent of the Fulton County School System, Dr. Mike Looney, speaking at the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber luncheon on Sept. 11.

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The new superintendent of the Fulton County School System, Dr. Mike Looney – a high school dropout himself – says he hopes to lower the dropout rates by partnering with local businesses. “In Fulton County schools, we have one student that drops out of school every six minutes,” Looney said at a Sept. 11 Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce luncheon. “That is way too many.” Previously, while working as a high school principal in Alabama, Looney partnered with a local retail business to help children struggling with math to get hands-on experience in balancing a cash register and calculating taxes. Looney wants to implement similar programs in the area to give children equal learning opportunities instead of choosing to drop out. “I am looking for opportunities to partner with you... to where we can bring our students to your business and figure out how to create this symbiotic relationship,” Looney said at the luncheon. Looney said being a high school dropout himself helps him understand what children are going through when making the decision whether to drop out of school. “I have yet to meet a student that really wants to drop out of high school,” Looney said. “What they are really saying is ‘I don’t know how to finish. I’m behind. I don’t know how to get to the finish line.’” Sandy Springs Councilmembers Chris Burnett, John Paulson and Steve Soteres were among those who attended the luncheon. Paulson asked what the dropout rates are driven by and how the community can change them. Dr. Looney says there are three “buckets” that usually drive a student to drop out. A student’s situation and the timeline of getting behind are both factors, but the most important one, Looney says, is the lack of real-life experience taught in schools. “Career technical education like it used to be has to come back,” Looney said. “Kids have to understand ‘Why am I learning this math concept and how does it relate to my real life?’”

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More retailers found charging wrong sales tax; experts see no easy fix Continued from page 1 as “Atlanta” even though they are entirely outside that city. Software used by companies to automatically calculate sales tax on purchases is often based on ZIP codes, and thus can be wrong in local cities without careful customization or replacement with modern mapping-based systems, which can be expensive to install and operate. Starbucks, Staples and, most recently, Home Depot are among retailers that the Reporter has found incorrectly charging Atlanta’s sales tax in Sandy Springs. The problems have compounded in the era of online sales, which are taxed based on the customer’s delivery address, resulting in a complicated sales tax system whose flaws raise the ire of local governments and retailers alike. “If Home Depot is having trouble with sales tax complexities, imagine the troubles that small businesses are confronting all over the country,” says Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice, a trade association of online and tech businesses.

Wrong local rates Stuck in the middle are customers like Marianne Shutzberg. She recently found

Atlanta’s 8.9% sales tax, rather than the local 7.75% rate, applied to online and delivery orders to her home in Sandy Springs’ 30350 ZIP code by the major home furnishing company Pottery Barn and The Walking Company, a shoe retailer. “I thought other people in Sandy Springs should know about this,” said Shutzberg. “I want to pay my fair share of taxes. I don’t want to pay more than my fair share.” Neither company responded to Reporter questions, but Shutzberg said that they provided some strange explanations for the incorrect sales taxes. A Pottery Barn representative, she said, claimed that part of the sales tax went to Cobb County – which takes in no part of Sandy Springs nor the 30350 ZIP code. And, Shutzberg said, an employee at The Walking Company’s brick-and-mortar store in Perimeter Mall told her the company charges Atlanta’s 8.9% sales tax on all online orders statewide because it’s Georgia’s highest rate and is simpler than calculating local numbers. The Reporter confirmed that The Walking Company’s website calculates Atlanta’s sales tax when a customer types in an address as far away

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as Albany in southwest Georgia, though it is unclear whether the company actually bills that rate on completed orders. William Gaston, a spokesperson for the Georgia Department of Revenue, said the state relies on local governments and businesses to provide accurate information for sales tax calculation. Asked where incorrectly calculated revenue goes, he essentially said it follows the incorrect report: “Sales tax is collected by the business and then reported and remitted to the DOR. The DOR then distributes sales tax to local jurisdictions based on what has been reported and remitted.” “I guess the real question is, what does a taxpayer do about it?” said Shutzberg. “Lobby for stores to improve the accuracy of their systems or try to recoup the tax from the state of Georgia?”

No easy answers It turns out there’s no easy answer to that question. Since it incorporated in 2005 within ZIP codes long known generically as “Atlanta,” the city of Sandy Springs has pushed for the Postal Service to rename the local codes, in part due to the tax problems. “Because the postal service has never acknowledged the creation of Sandy Springs and continues to insist we are ‘Atlanta,’ many of our residents inadvertently overpay sales tax on purchases,” said Mayor Rusty Paul in an email. “For businesses with millions in expenditures, the added costs are substantial. This isn’t just a Sandy Springs problem. It involves many of Georgia’s newly created cities.” But that could literally take an act of the U.S. Congress, which so far has been unsuccessful. “We are still hoping for either the Postal Service to fix the problem or our congressional delegation to introduce a bill forcing them to do so,” Paul said. The Postal Service did not respond to questions. Asked whether DOR has boosted enforcement or education to businesses about the Sandy Springs situation, given the many years of advocacy, Gaston only said that people can file complaints with the agency or the Attorney General’s office. Another solution is to stop using ZIP codes, which are mail delivery routes that were never intended to reflect local geography, despite often being named for cities. But there are complications there, too. A 20-year-old sales tax reform program still in effect – and signed onto by Georgia – is based on ZIP codes. And the expense of mapping-based systems is increasingly controversial, especially since a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed states to

tax online sales by businesses located elsewhere. Georgia began collecting such taxes this year. Scott Peterson is the vice president of U.S. tax policy and government relations at Avalara, a company that makes mapbased sales tax software. He previously directed South Dakota’s sales tax collections and was the first executive director of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, that ZIP code-based reform effort. “ZIP codes are just horrible” as a basis for calculating sales taxes among the U.S.’s roughly 12,000 jurisdictions, Peterson said in a phone interview. “In situations like this [in Sandy Springs], where you’ve got a city whose address is something else… That’s just a recipe for disaster.” But retailers may stick with old-fashioned software for various reasons, he said. The Streamlined agreement frees retailers from tax liability for local mistakes if they use nine-digit ZIP codes for calculation. And businesses may be willing to keep making errors if it’s cheaper than fixing them. A chief financial officer, Peterson said, might say, ““You want me to pay $15 million to avoid paying $65,000 over here?” For businesses trying to pay the correct online sales tax, the expense can be unavoidable. Bradley Scott, finance director at the Arizona-based jewelry supplier Halstead Bead, said his company has spent nearly $120,000 in hard costs and staff time since June 2018 installing sales tax software, despite using a “free” package. Since October 2018, he said, the company has charged roughly $2,370 in sales taxes to Georgia customers, but paid the state $2,898,” because the software’s “numbers routinely do not reconcile.” Scott said the new tax compliance costs are forcing Halstead to cut jobs and reduce its business. When local jurisdictions think about capturing sales tax, he said, they also need to think about losing corporate income and payroll taxes. “This boon to state coffers would better be described as the opening of Pandora’s box and its ensuing tidal wave of smallbusiness collapse,” he said. On the city side, local jurisdictions sometimes benefit from the errors, Peterson recalled from his time collecting taxes in South Dakota. “Sometimes cities would get money and think, ‘Hmm, this isn’t right,’ but keep it anyway,” he said. And on the other hand, sometimes audits caught the incorrect tax distributions and the cities had to reimburse the state. “In some cases, it was painful,” he said. “When I left, we had three cities that were on payment plans.”




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24 | Art & Entertainment

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‘Frida’ comes to Sandy Springs as perfect show for opera first-timers Where authentic Christian mission and academic excellence aren’t mutually exclusive

Catalina Cuervo as the title character in “Frida.”



BY JUDITH SCHONBAK If you have thought about going to an opera, but have been hesitant or intimidated by the high art and foreign languages, the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center has your chance to see what it’s all about. The Atlanta Opera’s “Discoveries” series, aimed at first-timers and audiences in search of new types of works, is coming to Sandy Springs Oct. 5-13 with “Frida,” the story of iconic Mexican artist, feminist and activist Frida Kahlo. “‘Frida’ is meant for a smaller venue,” said Catalina Cuervo, who sings the opera’s title role, in a phone interview from her home in Miami. “There is so much acting and it is important to be able to see facial expressions and hear the conversations in the story. Theaters like the Byers Theatre are perfect for this opera, and this venue is perfect for first-time opera-goers.” The series of which “Frida” is a part brings opera to alternative, smaller venues, like the Byers Theatre at the Performing Arts Center. And the Atlanta Opera offers tips to make your initiation into opera a pleasant occasion and, perhaps, a discovery that you really like everything about this genre of theater. First of all, wear something comfortable. There is no dress code. You will see a range of dress from jeans to evening clothes. Most audience members wear something in between, but if you want to strut your style, it’s your opportunity to do so. Operas are usually sung in foreign languages and often have complex plots. But, at virtually all opera venues, you will know what’s going on thanks to supertitles which the singing and action with English translations projected above the stage. One thing that may not be familiar to first-timers: If you arrive late, you’ll have to wait out the first act in the rear of the theater until intermission, when ushers will show you to your seat. The Atlanta Opera also recommends reading a synopsis of the opera beforehand to give you an understanding of the characters and story and what is happening onstage. “Frida” is a straightforward story that portrays the artist’s dramatic life from her youth to her death at 47 years in 1954. Kahlo is considered one of Mexico’s greatest artists, known for her folk art and surrealist style. She is equally known for her dramatic and tragic life, her affairs and her two marriages to famed Mexican artist/muralist Diego Rivera. “Frida was one of my heroes when I was a kid in Colombia,” said Cuervo. “My aunt, who was a painter and an artist in every way, introduced her to me and I learned about this woman, who, back in the 1930s and ’40s was living her life like a modern, independent woman.” With the role comes challenges and responsibility for Cuervo. “So many people


Art & Entertainment | 25


love Frida Kahlo,” Cuervo said. “She is Mexican. She is Mexico. Mexican people own her. Every time I sing this role, I need to be the best I can for Mexican women and for their country.” Cuervo said that when she steps onto the stage, “I am not Catalina. I am Frida, as a strong Latina woman and artist.” Known as the “fiery soprano,” Colombian-born Cuervo, made her Atlanta debut with The Atlanta Opera in 2017 as Maria in Piazzolla’s “Maria de Buenos Aires.” The biographical opera by composer Robert Xavier Rodriguez premiered in April 1991. It gained prominence in its revival in 2015 by Michigan Opera Theater with Cuervo as Frida. She performed the role again in 2017 with Cincinnati Opera. Rave reviews and sold-out shows continued for a number of shows in Florida this year. “Frida was pretty complicated,” said Cuervo. “She was probably bipolar and was very dramatic and intense. She goes against the rhythms of life, and Frida sings against the beat. The music incorporates all her moods and struggles, from love and happiness to confrontations and tensions. [Rodriguez] used all the tools of composition for the audience to feel all of this along with Frida.” Cuervo said she enjoys the musical challenges, too: “I love this opera. Its drama demands two voices for Frida – her romantic soaring soprano, the head voice when I go into ‘soprano-land,’ and her dramatic lower voice, the chest voice when I go into ‘contralto-land’. I sing three octaves during the performance.” But it’s also easy for audiences to enjoy. “This is not opera as you know it,” she said. “It is not Puccini, Verdi or Mozart. I think of it as a cross between opera and Broadway.” Cuervo said that at many performances of “Frida,” as much as 80 percent of the audiences are seeing opera for the first time. “There is big, beautiful opera singing, catchy music, and the story is easy to understand,” she said. “It is mostly sung and spoken in English and some Spanish with English supertitles. It is in an intimate space that allows a good experience. “I am excited to bring ‘Frida’ to new audiences, a new stage and a new city.”

A scene from “Frida.”



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26 | Art & Entertainment

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Friday, Oct. 18, 6:30-9:30 p.m. A haunted house event across the museum grounds, with gentler Halloween fun for the children in the main building. Tickets: $15 members, $20 non-members. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info: https://www.atlantahistorycenter.com/ programs/haunted-halloween-6

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Friday, Oct. 25, 6:30-10:30 p.m. With live music, costume contest, food trucks, psychic readings, fire pit & s’mores bar, facepainting (6:30-8:30 p.m.), safe trick-or-treating, and screening of the movie “Beetlejuice.” In addition, actors with North Springs Charter High School offer tours of a nearby historic cemetery every 30 minutes. Free; cemetery tours $20. Heritage Green, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org


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Saturday, Oct. 26, noon-5:30 p.m. Featuring live music and German food, raising funds for the Sandy Springs Education Force STEAM program and treatment of injured veterans at Buckhead’s Shepherd Center. Tickets: $10 adults, $5 children, $4 food tokens. Heritage Park, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: sandyspringsoktoberfest.com


Thursday, Oct. 3 and Friday, Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, 3 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. The Riverwood Theatre Department presents the classic play about Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller. Tickets: $10 Adults, $5 students. Riverwood International Charter School Auditorium, 5900 Raider Drive, Sandy Springs. Info: school.fultonschools.org/hs/riverwood/Pages/DramaTheatre.aspx


Saturday, Oct. 26, 5-7 p.m. Halloween event for younger children, with costumed characters, trick-or-treat stations, face painting and food for purchase. Free. Abernathy Greenway Park, 70 Abernathy Road, Sandy Springs. Info: https://www.visitsandysprings.org/spooky-springs/

Through Sunday, Oct. 13 The Stage Door Players perform the comedy about four Southern women, all needing to escape their day-to-day routines, who find themselves drawn together by fate. Tickets: $34. Stage Door Playhouse, 5539 ChambleeDunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: stagedoorplayers.net



Saturday, Oct. 26, 6 p.m. Decorate your bike and ride a portion of the Dunwoody Trailway before watching “Hocus Pocus” on the big screen. Bike ride at 6 p.m.; movie at dusk. Free. Brook Run Park, 4770 North Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodyga.gov


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Saturday, Oct. 19, 10 a.m-6 p.m Sunday, Oct. 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The annual festival features a juried show of art from over 140 artists from across the country, a classic car show, children’s art section, live music, food and beverages. Free. Apple Valley Road behind the Brookhaven/ Oglethorpe MARTA Station, Brookhaven. Info: brookhavenartsfestival.com


Saturday, Oct. 26, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; run at 7:45 a.m. The Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s Health and Well-Being Council hosts a day of healthy living in the community. At 7:45 a.m., the Sandy Springs Education Force will be hosting the Footprints for the Future 5/10K, followed by health and wellness vendors, fitness demonstrations and other activities. Free. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: business.sandyspringsperimeterchamber.com

October 18, 19, 24, 25, 26 8 p.m. October 27, 2 p.m. Oglethorpe Theatre presents Spring Awakening, a groundbreaking, Tony-winning rock musical about adolescent love, the trials of puberty, and the friendships that young people build in the face of an uncomprehending world. Admission: $20. Conant Performing Arts Center, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info: oglethorpeuniversity.thundertix. com


Friday, Oct. 4, 6:30 p.m. The final summer music concert features Joe Gransden and his big band performing music from Sinatra’s songbook. Free, no tickets required. Tables may be reserved starting at $40. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: citysprings.com/events.


Saturday, Oct. 5, 6-9 p.m. Sojourner plays American roots music, plus food from local farms and prepared by Chef Chris McDonald of Marlowe’s Tavern Dunwoody. Tickets: $75 per person, advance reservations required. Donaldson-Bannister Farm, 4831 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info and menu: dunwoodypreservationtrust. org/bluegrassfarmtotable


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28 | Art & Entertainment

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Women’s role in local history spotlighted by Heritage Museum JOHN RUCH

“Grit, Gumption and Grace” curator Keith Moore stands beside a display about Dr. Leila Denmark, who long practiced in Sandy Springs. Inset, a detail of an exhibit panel about Eva Galambos, the city’s founding mayor. (Special)

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Eva Galambos is arguably Sandy Springs’ most famous figure. She’s the activist who led the charge for the city’s 2005 incorporation and became its founding mayor. But she is among many women who helped shape the area since the 1840s, as revealed in a new exhibit at the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum. “Grit, Gumption and Grace: The Women of Sandy Springs,” a new exhibit scheduled to run until October 2020, shows

“how central women have been to the story,” says curator Keith Moore. The one-room exhibit is packed with displays and artifacts ranging from a heavy old-time clothes iron to a Bell Aircraft jumpsuit worn by a World War II factory worker. Women were often obscured from mainstream histories, Moore says, because they were legally barred from such influential practices as owning property or voting. That includes the women who were among the small number of enslaved people forced to work on area farms in the

1840s, and the women family members who “ran businesses during the Civil War when men ran off to join the Confederacy,” he said. Among those was Nellie Jett, who ran the family farm and mill in the area of today’s Mount Vernon Highway and Old Powers Ferry Road. Then there were the religious revival camps of the 1850s at what is now the Heritage site, whose spring became the center of the future city. “Women were such a grounding force for that, because they did all the hospitality stuff, making it fun,” Moore says. A century later, as Sandy Springs transformed into an Atlanta suburb, social organizations with mild-mannered names played a significant role. “Women groups in the 1950s were really leading the charge to build Sandy Springs out into what it is,” says Moore. One example: the Sandy Springs Woman’s Club, which raised $75,000 – a considerable sum at the time – to build the community’s first public library. Dr. Leila Denmark, a prominent pediatrician who practiced locally for decades and had a role in developing the whooping cough vaccine, gets a big spotlight in the exhibit. Her local ties were preserved only as oral history until 2017, when City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio recommended she be memorialized in the name of a new city street. Moore says he first learned of Dr.

Denmark from a Reporter inquiry at that time. Moore said the biggest surprise in his research for the exhibit was learning that Georgia did not ratify the U.S. Constitution’s 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, until 1970 – a half-century after it became the law of the land due to other states’ approvals. (Even in 1920, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, the Georgia legislature found a way to delay women’s right to vote in the state for another two years.) The Sandy Springs Garden Club, Moore said, celebrated the belated ratification by arranging a voter registration event. Tracing the changing attitudes and power balances about gender, the exhibit includes an oral history segment recorded by current state Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) and, of course, features Galambos.

Grit, Gumption and Grace: The Women of Sandy Springs Through Oct. 1, 2020 Heritage Sandy Springs Museum 6075 Sandy Springs Circle heritagesandysprings.org

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30 | Community

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Cities differ on private council briefings targeted by transparency advocates BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Local city governments vary widely in whether and how much they use a method of private, pre-vote briefings for city council members, a practice that transparency advocates say is a loophole in the state open meeting laws that should be closed. As the Reporter recently revealed, Sandy Springs regularly holds private staff briefings about significant issues for City Council members in groups that are smaller than a voting quorum. Sandy Springs offficials say such meetings are useful and in line with the state Open Meeting Act, which requires that gatherings of officials in groups constituting a quorum be opened to the public and advertised as such. The director of the Transparency Project of Georgia says quorum-avoidance is a legal loophole that enables government secrecy, and such meetings would be illegal under tighter laws in at least two others states: Massachusetts and Tennessee. The city of Brookhaven says it has an “occasional need” for such private briefings of council members, while Dunwoody’s city manager says his city “never has, never will” hold such private meetings. And the Atlanta City Council halted its practice of private committee member briefings, making them public instead, after a legal challenge in 2011. Matthew Charles Cardinale, a wellknown transparency gadfly who made that complaint, says he believes case law actually already bans such private briefings and could be used to successfully challenge the practice in Sandy Springs.

Dunwoody ‘never,’ Brookhaven ‘occasional’ In Dunwoody, City Manager Eric Linton said through a spokesperson that he has conversations with councilmembers from time to time. But in terms of private, fewer-than-a-quorum briefings, Linton said, “No, we don’t do that. Never have, never will.” However, city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher declined to elaborate on why the city has such a strong position against private council briefings. “We’ll stick with that,” she said of Linton’s

statement. “…It’s just not done.” In Brookhaven, city spokesperson Burke Brennan said, councilmembers are typically briefed through public “work sessions.” Those non-voting informational meetings, typically held immediately before the regular council meeting in the same council chamber, are open to the public and are streamed online in live video that is also archived. “However,” Brennan added in an email, “there is the occasional need to brief more than one Councilmember (but always less than a quorum) on issues that impact two adjacent districts.” Brennan emphasized the legality of such private briefings and said they are necessary for efficient government. “The city of Brookhaven believes strongly in transparent government and lives up to the letter and the spirit of the Open Meetings Act. The Act does provide certain exceptions to allow for governments to run efficiently,” Brennan said. “Having an advertised public meeting every time background information is to be provided to an elected leader (or two) would slow otherwise routine operations to a halt. “In many cases an informational meeting [or] briefing does not have anything to do with policy items to be deliberated in a City Council meeting,” he continued. “For example, a briefing to the district representative and the mayor on the technical progress of the Murphy Candler Lake dredging permit with the U.S. [Army] Corps of Engineers is not a policy discussion or a policy decision.”

Atlanta’s transparency battle Cardinale argues that many private briefings are illegal due to a previous Georgia court decision, but no court has ruled on his interpretation of the law. Cardinale is the publisher of the Atlanta Progressive News and an activist on Atlanta City Council transparency. In 2012, he gained fame by winning a state Supreme Court case –despite being a non-attorney who represented himself — against the city for a secret vote the council conducted during a retreat on the issue of restricting public comment at committee meetings.

But that was not his only successful transparency battle against the council. In 2011, Cardinale sued the city over private council committee briefings. At the time, the council’s seven committees held pre-meeting briefings, often involving many top city administration officials as well. Sometimes a quorum of council committee members

Having an advertised public meeting every time background information is to be provided to an elected leader (or two) would slow otherwise routine operations to a halt. BURKE BRENNAN BROOKHAVEN CITY SPOKESPERSON

was present and sometimes not. In his lawsuit, Cardinale said he had learned that the briefings dated back 20 years or more and had evolved “to include numerous council members and executive branch members discussing city policy, often in private.” Cardinale said in the lawsuit that several officials told him that they would give public notice about the briefings if a quorum were in attendance, but that was often determined at the very last moment or would change during the course of the meeting. Such short notice would not meet Opening Meeting Act requirements and there was no practical way for the public to know about the policy in the first place. After Cardinale filed the lawsuit, he said, the city offered a settlement where the council would agree to hold the briefings only with a non-quorum

number of members. He says he refused that offer. The lawsuit was finally settled with terms that Cardinale said he could not fully disclose, but the bottom line was that all of the committee briefings became public. He helped to draft a 2013 city ordinance that codified the openness of the briefings. Today, five of the seven committees have stopped holding the briefings at all. Cardinale said he believes that is partly because he pushed for the meetings to be videotaped, and partly because a new crop of councilmembers saw no point in spending time on yet another meeting prior to a voting meeting. The two committees that still hold the briefings are City Utilities and Finance/Executive, and the meetings are posted on the city website. City Councilmember J.P. Matzigkeit, who represents Buckhead’s District 8, is the current chair of the City Utilities Committee. He said the pre-meeting briefing has some practical usefulness. “It’s really, frankly, to be sure we’re all on the same page in terms of what legislation is coming before the committee…,” he said, and who might be speaking about the legislation and “are there any issues [or] questions.” “Those meetings are open to the public and they’re fully publicized,” Matzigkeit said. The settlement of Cardinale’s 2011 lawsuit left the underlying legal arguments unanswered. Cardinale said the city did not admit the briefings had to be public. And no court ruled whether Cardinale was correct in his interpretation of a 1994 Georgia Court of Appeals case called Jersawitz v. Fortson. In that case, the court ruled that an ad-hoc meeting of a government body should have been open to the public, even though it did not include a quorum, because its majority of attendees were government officials. Cardinale said that decision applied to the council committee briefings, and he believes to such similar meetings as those involving the Sandy Springs City Council. “They view it as a voluntary thing, and that’s fine,” Cardinale said of the Atlanta council. “But in point of fact, there is case law that a legal advocate could use [to challenge Sandy Springs’ private briefings].”


Community | 31


Eminent domain settlements cause council concern Continued from page 1 up to two years for construction. The unanimous denial came after the council deferred a vote on the settlement at an Aug. 20 meeting. The proposed compensation amount is because of the negative impact of the construction, which would take approximately six or seven parking spaces from the shopping center, according to city documents. Because of the denial, the settlement will go to court the week of Sept. 30 and Lee says the jury could rule the compensation should be the same, higher or lower. The council is concerned the price is too high when compared to an eminent domain lawsuit that was settled in August, in which the city paid $862,500 for Randy Beaver’s former State Farm insurance agency at 135 Mount Vernon Highway, only a few hundred yards away from the Sandy Springs Circle property. The city paid about $40 per square foot in that settlement, while the 6010 Sandy Springs Circle settlement proposal was nearly $80 per square foot, District 3 City Councilmember Chris Burnett says. “Isn’t this substantially more per square foot than we just agreed to pay for a superior-use property right across from City Springs?” Burnett asked at the Aug. 20 meeting. The six properties, if acquired at their

original appraisal, would have collectively cost $1,335,200. The total cost for the four settled properties is $1,489,471.96 in terms of the streetscape project, and two properties’ cost has yet to be determined. However, when including the total cost for 140 Hilderbrand, the total eminent domain purchase is $2,175,406.06. Officials estimated in 2016 that right of way acquisition for the entire project could cost $2.8 million to $3 million. Lee says the reason the settlement purchases are more expensive than the city anticipated is because of steadily increasing land value. “Sandy Springs land values keep going up,” Lee said. The council is also expressing concerns regarding eminent domain takings on the Johnson Ferry Road/Glenridge Connector Sidewalk Project. The project aims to improve the intersection at Johnson Ferry and Glenridge and is currently out for bids for construction. At a Sept. 17 meeting, the council deferred a purchase for property rights at 800 Johnson Ferry Road for $362,139.75. An appraisal previously estimated just compensation would be roughly half that amount, at $183,500. The property needed for the project is 0.04 acres, along with certain construction easements totaling around 0.06 acres, ac-

cording to city documents. “This is insanity,” District 1 City Councilmember John Paulson said. “I cannot support this.” “I am starting to see a pattern here,” Burnett said. Lee also pointed out that this is only for right of way and the settlement would be what is owed before utility line relocation and construction even begins. “Other than getting a sidewalk, what are we accomplishing spending that kind of money, just starting with the land acquisition?” Burnett asked. “You are getting a sidewalk,” Lee said. The council deferred the vote until Oct. 15 to have a chance to go over the settlement and review their options.


When the city purchased Beaver’s property at 135 Mount Vernon, a house dating to the 1940s and sitting on about a quarteracre, city staff recommended to purchase the entire parcel rather than just the small piece of land needed for the streetscape project in order to bank the land. “Taking down a house does not allow the city to gain the rest of the lot, so it left a major scar on the property and the city’s only use could have been to have the sidewalk expanded and prohibited any further or future construction on the property,” Lee said. The house has since been demolished,

but it is still undetermined what that development may be, Lee says. The city also chose at a June 6, 2017 meeting to purchase the entire property at 140 Hilderbrand and a lot of about fourtenths of an acre for $685,934.10, not just the small amount of property needed for the streetscape. This purchase was to bank land for a possible, undetermined redevelopment between City Springs and Heritage Sandy Springs. However, there have been no further talks of redevelopment at this parcel. The property was purchased as Antiques & Clocks of Sandy Springs, but has since been used as an office for the Performing Arts Center and, now, after being demolished, a parking lot for city vehicles. “When we have multiple large events taking place on the same day, we ask staff to use alternate spaces, including the gravel lot on Hilderbrand,” Kraun said. “This has successfully supported the additional parking needs.” The only property in private ownership left on the block is a business called Professional Cleaners and Gown Preservation. The city and the business did not respond to questions about the future of that property. The streetscape project’s right of way acquisition could also potentially impact the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum, where a stake indicates part of the front lawn will be taken.


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