NOVEMBER 2019 - Brookhaven Reporter

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NOVEMBER 2019 • VOL. 11 — NO. 11

Brookhaven Reporter Perimeter Business

Old-school bowling rolls on at Funtime Bowl P5

In a building boom, city ponders how to save trees



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A surveyor measures one of two grand oak trees at 1515 Grant Drive. The owner of the house is seeking to rezone the property so it can be subdivided into two lots for two new houses. The city is asking for a tree preservation plan first.

Special tax districts to be created for annexations


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Pressure coming from property owners around the new campuses of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Emory Healthcare in Executive Park has city leaders looking to create special tax districts for future annexations. Those areas would continue to pay DeKalb’s higher tax rates to cover costs for road, stormwater, parks and other infra-

structure repairs. As more property owners in unincorporated DeKalb County seek to become part of a city, including Brookhaven, due in part to lower taxes, city officials say they must find a way ensure any potential annexations are not “draining the current tax base” to cover infrastructure repairs. Last year, a developer tried to get annexed after failing to receive county approval for a project at the busy Bri-

See SPECIAL on page 30

Many new, 2-story houses line Grant Drive, a short street that stretches in a curvy pattern from Dresden Drive to a cul-de-sac at Alta Vista Drive. But the street also includes many older homes being eyed by developers wanting to profit from the city’s residential building boom. One such house is 1515 Grant Drive. The 2,100-square-foot teardown home was built in 1948. Mary Alice Bell Hedden, who owns the half-acre lot the house is on, grew up there. Her brother lived there until he unexpectedly died in December. She is asking the city to rezone the property so it can subdivided into two lots and have two new houses built there. But the City Council balked at its September meeting, pushing back the vote on the request to Nov. 26. There are two towering oak trees in the front yard and a thicket of trees in its backyard. And as the city prepares to pay a consultant to rewrite its tree ordinance next year to directly address that kind of rezoning, Councilmember John See IN on page 31


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Community Briefs




An illustration of the new Emory Healthcare Musculoskeletal Institute under construction in Executive Park. The building is scheduled to be finished in 2021.


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Emory Healthcare’s new Musculoskeletal Institute is expected to be finished in 2021 as part of the first phase of a planned multi-year project to work to transform the outdated office complex into a $1 billion contemporary “live-work-play health innovation district.” Emory and Brookhaven officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new building Oct. 4. The approximately 180,000-square-foot facility is to serve as Emory’s central location for musculoskeletal services and research on bones and muscles. No start date for actual construction to begin is known, but the building is expected to be finished in 2021. The institute is the beginning of what is expected to be about a 15-year buildout of approximately 60 acres of Executive Park. Proposed plans for the site also include a hospital, a hotel, multifamily housing and medical and office space. Emory is seeking a rezoning request from the city for the proposed future projects and is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission on Nov. 6. Emory University purchased 60 acres of Executive Park in 2016. The Emory Sports Medicine Complex, a partnership with the Atlanta Hawks, opened on the site in 2017. Toll Brothers, through its Toll Brothers Apartment Living subsidiary, built a 348-unit apartment building named Oleander in Executive adjacent to the sports medicine complex. Besides the existing Orthopaedics & Spine Center, Brain Health Center and Sports Medicine Complex, Emory’s other facilities at Executive Park include medical science education and health information technology.


Oglethorpe University is supporting young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide on President Donald Trump’s decision to end the program. The university this month joined more than 160 colleges and universities from across the country to sign onto a “friend of the court” legal brief supporting the approximate 700,000 young immigrants known as “Dreamers” who came to the U.S. as children with DACA. President Barack Obama implemented DACA in 2012 to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation and to require they register every two years for a work permit. In 2017, President Donald Trump announced he was revoking the program. Several lawsuits challenging Trump’s decision were filed, and the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on DACA on Nov. 12. DACA does not provide a path to citizenship and Dreamers are not eligible for state or federal financial assistance to pay for a college education. In February, Oglethorpe became the first college or university in Georgia to partner with TheDream.US to offer scholarships to qualified immigrant students. “Dreamers are among our most accomplished students and young alumni,” said President Larry Schall in a written statement. “I’ve stated before that Oglethorpe stands firmly in support of Dreamers, and we would take all possible steps to protect and support them. Partnering with TheDream.US was part of that commitment, as is signing on to the amicus brief now.”

Community | 3


Council greenlights new movie theater for Northeast Plaza



A new NCG Cinemas movie theater plans to open in Northeast Plaza by December, in time for the opening of the new “Star Wars” blockbuster, according to managers of the Buford Highway shopping center. The City Council on Oct. 22 approved rezoning Northeast Plaza to allow for a 734-seat theater with 10 screens in what is now a vacant building in the southeast corner of the shopping center near Buford Highway and Briarwood Road. “This signifies a revival of the shopping center and the area and is a wonderful sign of progress in Brookhaven,” Councilmember Linley Jones said. Brixmor Property Group, owner of the 42-acre shopping center at 3307 Buford Highway, asked the city to rezone the property from C-1 (local commercial) to C-2 (general commercial). Large assembly businesses such as a movie theater are allowed in general commercial but not local commercial. Renovations are taking place inside the building and only small aesthetic enhancements will be added to the exterior of the movie theater. The theater will only have an NCG Cinemas logo on the exterior and no marquee or billboard. A Brixmor representative told the council plans are to open by Dec. 20 when “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” opens. Plans are to show first-run movies and test the market with international films to attract local residents, the representative said. The theater is being added to an existing 44,700-square-foot building.

The building was once home to the 12-screen Northeast Plaza Cinema. The space was then the Atlanta Peach Ballroom nightclub until it shut down in 2016 and the building has been unoccupied since. NCG Cinemas is the brand name for Neighborhood Cinema Group, a movie

theater chain headquartered in Michigan. Brookhaven’s location will the seventh NCG Cinemas location in Georgia and the first inside the I-285 Perimeter. NCG Cinemas’ other theaters are in Acworth, Marietta, Peachtree Corners, Peachtree City, Snellville and Stone Mountain.

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A sketch of the front exterior of the NCG Cinemas movie theater coming soon to Northeast Plaza.

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LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance is revived BY DYANA BAGBY

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The city is reviving efforts to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance to include protections for LGBTQ people. The ordinance could be passed by the end of the year. The announcement was made during the Oct. 16 Brookhaven Reporter mayoral candidate forum by John Ernst, who was seeking reelection, when asked if he supported such an ordinance. “Yes, of course, and we’re already currently working on it,” Ernst said. “[Councilmember Linley] Jones is taking the lead on it and we’re expecting something in the next month or two to take care of that. It’s a no-brainer. It will get done.” Jen Heath, who challenged Ernst, said she also supported a nondiscrimination ordinance to prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people. “These are our neighbors, friends and family,” she said. “We are all grown adults and we have respect for each other. You may not agree with someone’s position or lifestyle, but it doesn’t mean they are less than a human.” A nondiscrimination ordinance bans local, privately-owned businesses from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Nondiscrimination ordinances also prohibit discrimination based on other classes such as race, religion, disability, national origin and sex. Jones asked the city attorney in April for a legal opinion on whether Brookhaven should consider such an ordinance after Richard Rhodes, 81, a gay Brookhaven resident, asked the council to do so. Rhode’s request came in the wake of similar ordinances being passed in the surrounding cities of Doraville, Dunwoody, Chamblee and Clarkston. Atlanta passed its nondiscrimination ordinance in 2001. Georgia currently does not have a law prohibiting businesses, employers or landlords from discriminating against groups of people and the General Assembly has failed to act on a statewide nondiscrimination law including LGBTQ people. Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, is advocating municipalities pass their own local ordinances to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people. The General Assembly’s ongoing attempts to pass a so-called religious freedom law would lead to businesses being able to discriminate against LGBTQ people, according to the organization. Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said the state’s inability to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people has led to more activism in local communities. “The fight for LGBT equality has moved to the suburbs … as their established communities gain political strength,” he said. “That is where so much action has moved to and rightfully so.” Graham said Rhodes was working almost singlehandedly to get a nondiscrimination bill passed in his home city when he died on July 21. Since then, Georgia Equality has started working with other LGBTQ residents to lobby for its passage. Rhodes, who moved to Brookhaven in 1988, was a former state House candidate and LGBTQ activist, He spoke to the City Council during public comment in March urging them to pass a local nondiscrimination ordinance. “All politics is local,” he said at the time. “It’s up to cities to include LGBT people in a nondiscrimination ordinance.”

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Focusing on business in the Reporter Newspapers communities

Fall 2019 | Inside: CBD business boom

Old-school bowling rolls on at Funtime Bowl BY DYANA BAGBY

The rumble of balls rolling down the lanes and crashing into pins together with the laughter of friends are the sounds of a night at Funtime Bowl. “This is a classic bowling experience,” said Jaqui Flynn, 33, of Lenox Park, on a recent Thursday night. Flynn was there with a crowd of people who work in the nonprofit world and bowl in the Charities of Atlanta United through Sporting Events, or CAUSE, bowling league. The overhead screens keep scores, but no one is really paying attention. Neon orange, blue, green and yellow shapes painted along the back wall reflect on the oiled bowling lanes. Pitchers of beer are on several tables. The thump of loud pop music encourages some to shake their hips. “It is always hopping here on a Saturday night and you have to wait to get a lane,” Flynn said. “I just really like the laid-back atmosphere. The food’s good and cheap.” Flynn works at the Boys & Girls Club and bowls for the Knucklers. Other teams totaling about 30 people in the league include the Carter Center’s Gutter Fingers and Trees Atlanta’s Shady Dealers. “Funtime is like the classic bowling alley,” said Duncan Ross-Kinzie, who works at the Carter Center. “It’s a little dingy, has cheap beer… You come here and all you do is bowl.” DYANA BAGBY

Continued on page 10

Trees Atlanta employee Dana Russell rolls for a strike at Funtime Bowl for her team the “Shady Dealers” as part of the Charities of Atlanta United through Sporting Events (CAUSE) bowling league for nonprofit organizations.

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Wonder chemical and confusing craze: Inside the CBD sales boom BY EVELYN ANDREWS Cannabidiol – better known as CBD – is the wonder substance of the moment, showing up everywhere from dog treats in Sandy Springs to an oil-selling booth at Perimeter Mall to craft cocktails in Buckhead. Retailers say the hemp extract can help treat pain, anxiety and insomnia. But some medical experts say the booming business causes confusion with marijuana products and that CBD needs more safety research, regulation and enforcement of existing rules. The Georgia Hemp Company, a store specializing in CBD products, opened last year at 290 Hildebrand Drive in Sandy Springs. Its sells CBD oil, as well as infusing it in gummy candy, beauty products and seltzer water, among many others. Joe Salome, the company’s managing partner, said he believes the increase in CBD use is due to people hearing anecdotal stories through the internet about how it can help with their conditions. “There’s a lot more access to knowledge and positive stories about cannabis,”

he said. Ira Katz, owner of the Little Five Points Pharmacy in Atlanta, is concerned about CBD businesses proliferating without regulation. “There are hundreds and hundreds of companies that have come out of the woodwork — in the last six months, even the last year — with all kinds of CBD products,” said Katz. “I’m leery of that,” he said. “These companies are manufacturing products without any regulation or control. I recognized the value of CBD early on, but it should be from a qualified company that does the assays -- the testing -- and one that’s regulated.” Companies have introduced a wide variety of CBD products, including candy, coffee and dog treats, but officials say that food uses are banned under little-enforced federal law. And in a time when some states are legalizing marijuana for recreation or medi Continued on page 8

H ol id a y on t h e Tow n

CANNABIS: A PLANT WITH RELATED STRAINS, INCLUDING THOSE KNOWN AS MARIJUANA AND HEMP Hemp: Hemp is a cousin to marijuana that contains lower levels of THC, the compound that produces a “high.” Hemp sold is required by federal law to contain an “extremely low” amount of THC – no more than 0.3%, according to the FDA. Industrial hemp and marijuana are both varieties of cannabis, but they have been bred for different uses and can be distinguished by their chemical and genetic compositions. Marijuana: Marijuana contains much more THC than hemp and can produce a “high” when used. The plant is currently illegal in Georgia, most other states and federally. CBD (cannabidiol): CBD is a chemical that occurs in cannabis; the kind sold in stores is typically an extract of the hemp plant. CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, but only when it’s above 0.3% in potency.


Joe Salome, the managing partner of The Georgia Hemp Company, explains the store’s products to a customer.

Low-THC oil: Low-THC oil is derived from the marijuana plant and contains no more than 5% THC by weight. LowTHC oil was legalized in Georgia in 2015 in a law that allows only registered users to obtain the oil for use to treat select conditions, like cancer and seizures.


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Wonder chemical and confusing craze: Inside the CBD sales boom Continued from page 6 cal uses, some experts say, the CBD craze is building off confusion about the various chemicals and plants involved.

The cannabis connection

Cannabis is a plant that contains CBD as well as THC, which is the substance that causes a “high.” Cannabis has different strains, including marijuana, known for its high THC content, and hemp, which has a low-thc content. All CBD products are required by federal law to contain no more than 0.3% THC, and so CBD comes from the hemp plant, according to a Harvard Health Publishing article, one of its medical school’s publications. Dr. Vinita Singh, the director of cancer pain at the Emory Pain Center, said she believes there was a spike in interest in CBD following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of one drug containing the chemical. But that doesn’t mean all CBD products have been marked as safe, and much more research is needed into long-term effects of using the chemical, she said. There is no sign that CBD is habit-forming, Singh said. That makes it a

promising option for pain management, she said. But there is still a lot that is not known about CBD, including how safe it is, Singh said. “It has the potential, but we’re still not sure about its effects,” she said. “There is a lot of research going on.” Dr. Cynthia Rudert, a Sandy Springs gastroenterologist, says she thinks many sellers of CBD are “cashing in” on confusion with a different substance with known medical benefits: Low-THC oil. “People are confused and think they’re interchangeable. People don’t know the difference,” said Rudert. “…You’re seeing signs pop up all over, saying, ‘Come in this gas station and buy CBD.’” Rudert said she sees many patients who use CBD oil to manage stomach and digestive issues and is authorized to prescribe low-THC oil once it becomes available. Low-THC oil comes from marijuana, not hemp, and was legalized by the state in 2015 for certain conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, cancer and seizures. Georgia residents with a registration card will be able to buy low-THC oil when it becomes available from local producers, though that could be a year or more away. When people are able to obtain the

low-THC oil in Georgia, it remains to be seen whether it will affect CBD sales. Salome at the Georgia Hemp Company doesn’t see low-THC oil as a replacement or better version than CBD because many customers are using it to relieve other problems that can’t legally be treated with the oil, he said. But many customers remain confused about the differences and laws regulating them and marijuana, he said. Salome acknowledged that claims about how CBD can help have not been proven or evaluated by the FDA. People are only relying on anecdotal information at this point, and literature distributed by Salome’s company states that its CBD products are “not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition.” Adding CBD to food products is currently unlawful due to FDA regulations, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture. “The state of Georgia follows the rules established by the Federal Food and Drug Administration, and FDA has been very clear that CBD is not currently permissible for inclusion in food and dietary supplements,” Commissioner Gary W. Black said in an April statement.

Julie McPeake, a state Department of Agriculture spokesperson, confirmed the practice is still illegal, but added the state department only enforces the rule when it is in a product manufactured in the state. If it is a product shipped to Georgia to be sold, the state leaves it to the FDA to regulate. “It is rampant issue at this point. There are a lot of products out there,” McPeake said. “There’s not enough enforcement capabilities.” The FDA warns that it is important to talk with a doctor before using CBD to treat a disease, as it has not been proven to be effective or safe. The agency says it is working to study the effects CBD could cause in the body, because it’s unclear what the effects are when people are using it far more widely than the single medication with CBD that the FDA has approved. The FDA also formed a working group in April to “explore potential pathways for dietary supplements and/or conventional foods containing CBD to be lawfully marketed” as interest in products containing CBD continues to grow, according to the agency’s guide. Salome confirmed that he sells food products with CBD added, but said he’s

Perimeter Business | 9

NOVEMBER 2019 ■ “not concerned” about enforcement.

Local retailers

The Georgia Hemp Company, which has a wall decorated with a design of hemp leaves, carries CBD in a wide range of forms other than the traditional oil. There’s brownie mix, bath bombs, coffee, gummy candy, kombucha, seltzer water, lotion and pills. The store also sells vape pens that allow CBD oil to be inhaled, and such supplies for pets as dog biscuits. Most of Salome’s customers use CBD to relieve anxiety, inflammation, pain or insomnia, he said. The company saw a boom in pet products around July 4, when many pet owners were looking for ways to keep their dogs calm during holiday fireworks, Salome said. He also believes the millennial generation is increasingly looking for options other than traditional pharmaceuticals. Celebrities have begun endorsing it, and

The Georgia Hemp Company sells CBD-infused gummy candy, on the left, and chocolate, right.


big box retailers like CVS and Walgreens are introducing it in stores. Mari Geier, the co-owner of Nuts ‘n Berries Healthy Market, a health store in Brookhaven that has sold CBD since 2015, said she thinks it will become increasingly important as more businesses sell CBD to pay attention to the quality of the products and “not get duped in marketing.” Some businesses use words like “full-spectrum” and “broad-spectrum,” but they don’t mean much when it comes to what the product actually is, she said. “You should not be buying CBD oil from a gas station shelf or on the internet from a business you don’t know,” she said. Geier said the store started selling CBD products in 2015 after they begin seeing a small demand, starting with one trusted supplier. The store has since expanded to carry over 30 brands and beauty products and edibles. “We thought we could help people by providing CBD,” she said.

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H I G H ■


Old-school bowling rolls on at Funtime Bowl Continued from page 5

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Funtime Bowl opened in 1958 in the Northeast Plaza on Buford Highway and thrived during the bowling industry’s golden age of the 1960s and ’70s, when millions of Americans joined leagues, professional bowlers made more money than NFL players and pro tournaments were regularly broadcast on network TV. There were approximately 12,000 bowling centers operating across the country in the mid-1960s, according to White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group. The Kansas City architecture and development firm’s research includes the bowling industry. The sport’s popularity waned beginning in the 1980s as people quit joining leagues and bowling centers began shutting down. Today, there are approximately 3,700 bowling centers in the U.S., according to White Hutchinson.

Affordability is key

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Luke Brundidge, 60, has worked at Funtime Bowl for 25 years. He started as a counter employee and is now the manager. Competitive leagues kept the center packed when he started working in 1994. “Originally, bowling was about teambuilding and camaraderie,” he said. “But then leagues started to go by the wayside.” In the early to mid-2000s, a revival of the sport was underway. Arcade games, big-screen TVs, music, strobe lights, updated chairs and tables were added to Funtime Bowl to attract new customers. “Cosmic bowling” with black lights and glow-in-the-dark balls and painted walls now happens every weekend. “You have to have it to survive,” Brundidge said. Children’s birthday parties were packaged. And the menu expanded to include craft beer and $5 well drinks. Affordability is key to Funtime Bowl’s success. Prices range from $2.75 to $4.50 per game; shoe rental ranges from $2.75 to $3.25. A plate of chicken fingers costs $6.50. For $6.75, you can get a hamburger and fries or tater tots. Owner Ellen Brown if Dunwoody said business is good and she caters to leagues to create a niche for Funtime Bowl where bowling remains the focus. One league has bowled there every Wednesday for 20 years. Her major concern is what the city of Brookhaven wants for Northeast Plaza. The city is constructing the Peachtree Creek Greenway behind the shopping center. The multiuse path that plans to eventually connect to the Atlanta BeltLine is intended by city officials to bring redevelopment to Buford Highway. City officials secretly bid on the second Amazon headquarters in 2017, paying an architectural design firm more than $45,000 to create dramatic drawings as part of a bid named “Project Passport.” The illustrations showed a major campus at Northeast Plaza and a smaller campus at Corporate Square. “I believe Brookhaven is trying to up-

scale the area,” Brown said. “I’m not sure what they’re going to do with that center.”

Before it was Funtime Bowl

When Brundidge started working at Funtime Bowl, the center was named Jim Maxey’s Tornado Lanes for an owner who purchased the center in 1990. Before then, it was named Northeast Plaza Lanes. The bowling center’s original name in 1958 was O’Neil’s Bowlerama. Maxey was a well-known competitive bowler who earned a spot in the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in 1984. The USBC is the national governing body of bowling. Brundidge said Maxey only competed regionally “because he had a business to run.” Other bowlers urged him to go national and join the Professional Bowlers Association because of his skill, but Brundidge said Maxey was dedicated to running Tornado Lanes and his other bowling businesses in Chamblee, Decatur, Fayetteville and Forest Park. “He was Mr. Bowling in the Southeast,” Brundridge said. After Maxey died, his wife sold off the businesses, Brundridge said. Ellen Brown purchased the bowling center in 2005 with her now ex-husband. The bowling center’s official name registered with the Secretary of State remains Jim Maxey’s Tornado Lanes. Joanne Taylor, 76, has worked at Funtime Bowl’s concession stand for more 20 years and cooks up pizza and pours beer three times a week. She started working there after she lost her job at the JCPenney’s department store in Northeast Plaza when it closed. “I’ve just always enjoyed working with the public,” she said Another longtime employee is Cesar Quezada, 33, who has literally worked behind the scenes for 12 years oiling and tinkering with the massive machinery behind the back wall. When a ball gets stuck, a pinspotter malfunctions or a sweep bar takes someone’s spare, Brundridge speaks into a microphone at the front counter and announces the problem to Quezada over the loudspeaker. It is almost deafening in the narrow passageway where Quezada works as balls loudly crack into pins and against the back wall of the lanes. “I’m used to it, but it’s loud,” he said. Born in Nicaragua, Quezada moved to the U.S. when he was 19. Quezada said he’d only been exposed to bowling through the TV show “The Simpsons” before he started working at Funtime Bowl. He lives on Buford Highway and was walking through Northeast Plaza in 2007 when he saw the “Bowling” sign over the doorway. Curious, he walked down the stairs and asked about a job. He was told to come in the next morning to start. He continues to walk to work.

A market for luxury lanes

The bowling industry shifted its focus

NOVEMBER 2019 ■ even further than “cosmic bowling” to become “family entertainment centers” or “boutique” bowling venues in recent years. The newer centers cater to young professionals and upper-class families with disposable income. This class of bowlers expects clean carpets, a menu with something other than fried food and their beer served in a glass. And they want options other than bowling. Stars and Strikes opened its first family entertainment center in Cumming in 2005. Its Sandy Springs location is packed with arcade rooms, laser tag, bumper cars and escape rooms. There is also a private VIP bowling room with eight lanes. At Stars and Strikes, an adult party costs $26.99 per person for two hours on the lanes. The Painted Pin in Buckhead opened in 2014 and describes itself as an “upscale boutique bar, bowling and entertainment venue” where visitors can play giant Jenga if bowling is not their game. It costs $25 per hour per lane to bowl at the Painted Pin on weekdays and $35 per hour on weekends. Shoe rental is $4.50. The menu includes wood-fired pizzas for $14 and such signature drinks as the Buckhead Betty. At Bowlmor in Chamblee on the Dunwoody border, a plate of lamb lollipops can be delivered to a lane when hunger strikes. Online reservations at Bowlmor for a party of five adults and four children begin at about $152, not including food and drinks or credit for the arcade games.

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The trendier, high-end bowling centers are not for everyone, however. “That’s not what we want,” said Dana Russell, 26, sipping her cup of beer. “I like it here because it’s cheap and it’s fun.” “That’s not what bowling is,” Brian Marafino, 26, said. “Bowling is beer, french fries and friends. Here, it is a nice, simple, enjoyable atmosphere … the Painted Pin is extra. It’s pricey.” Mike Vinciquerra, 48, said he grew up bowling as a child of the 1970s. Funtime Bowl’s “old-school style” and cheap prices keeps him coming back. And for Mary Johnson, 45, who comes from Cobb County to bowl once a week, Funtime Bowl “has a lot character.” “Even the paintings are quaint,” she said of the center’s mural-style art. “It’s not like those more modern ones.”

LOCAL BOWLING CENTERS Bowlmor 2175 Savoy Drive Chamblee Funtime Bowl 3285 Buford Hwy in Northeast Plaza Brookhaven Stars and Strikes 8767 Roswell Road Sandy Springs The Painted Pin 737 Miami Circle NE Buckhead


12 | Home & Real Estate ■


5 clever ideas for home storage









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An electrifying idea for narrow cabinets: “We add outlets to the vertical pull-out drawers in vanities for storing and using hair dryers and other small appliances.”

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When you already have closet space, you can make it look better, too. “Instead of a boring 6-foot-wide wide closet with sliding doors, we made this one look like an English wardrobe closet.”


Home & Real Estate | 13


Awkward spaces can become useful with a different door. “We have also used doors that slide up for easier access to the contents -normally this client puts her hair dryer, hair spray and other items in the area out of sight.”

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A standard pantry with large shelves can get a boost with handy pullout drawers. “[The clients] wanted a lot of open storage, but we added the pull-out drawers for snacks. They wanted their four children to be able to run in a grab snacks to pack to take with them.”

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14 | Community ■

Community members share thoughts on diversity at ‘Civic Dinner’ BY DYANA BAGBY

Seated around a table while eating a plate of Middle Eastern food, several people from the Brookhaven community shared their thoughts and ideas on how to make the places they work, worship and study more welcoming to all people. The group included representatives from the local mosque and a local synagogue, the owner of Buckhead Fight Club in Northeast Plaza, the outreach director at the Cowart Family YMCA, a senior at Marist School and an affordable housing expert. They were invited to participate in the Sept. 18 “Civic Dinner” by City Councilmember Joe Gebbia. The dinner was held at a community center in Clarkston as part of the “One Region” metro Atlanta initiative sponsored by the nonprofit Welcoming America organization with guidance from the Atlanta Regional Commission. Decatur-based Welcoming America and its designated Welcoming Cities, including Brookhaven, Atlanta, Doraville, Clarkston and Decatur, seek ways to ensure refugees and immigrants are included in their communities through policies and programs. But time must also be taken for people to sit face-to-face and share a meal and un-

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derstand their neighbors as real people and understand their experiences, Gebbia said. The dinner was held during “Welcoming Week” that highlights immigrants living in local communities. “This is not the end of this story,” Gebbia said following the dinner. “From this one dinner event alone, commitments were made to continue the conversation within our community. This, in my opinion, is the real story that makes this effort truly amazing.” Gebbia said he wants the City Council to find various ways to foster a stronger, connected community. Sponsoring community events at the city’s parks, for example, is just one way the city tries to achieve that. The city’s proposed 2020 budget includes funding similar dinners designed to encourage civic discourse and build bridges among community members. During the Sept. 18 dinner, Rabbi Hayyim Kassorla of Or Ve Shalom Temple shared how seeing police guards at his synagogue makes him feel excluded and afraid. The fear caused by anti-Semitism and recent attacks against Jewish communities is real, he said. Terri Moss, owner of the Buckhead Fight Club, said many of the boxers who practice and work out in her gym are undocumented immigrants.


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Those attending the Sept. 18 Civic Dinner are, seated from left, Marybeth Bucklen, Brookhaven Park Bond Liaison; Maj. Renan Lopez de Azua, Brookhaven Police Department; Rabbi Hayyim Kassorla of Or Ve Shalom Temple; Jeff Thompson of Acacia Realty; Corinna Joyner, a senior at Marist School. Standing from left are, Anis Sherali of Masjid Abu Bakr; Kendra Fuentes-Llaurador, outreach director at Cowart Family YMCA; City Councilmember Joe Gebbia; and Terri Moss, owner of Buckhead Fight Club.

“Being welcoming is a big part of who we are,” she said. “If you can connect with an individual, that is how you make change.” Corinna Joyner, the Marist High School senior, said students there tend to hang out with people who look like them and are in the same socioeconomic class due to “fearing differences.” Some make fun of her Asian friend at lunch because of ethnic food she brings to eat. She said she hoped to encourage classmates to be willing to talk to others outside their established groups. Anis Sherali of Masjid Abu Bakr, the Muslim Center, said people from 30 countries attend the mosque. He said he wanted to educate Brookhaven residents about Islam to try to end negative stereotypes of the religion that can be seen in the media as well as furthered by some politicians. About 26% of Brookhaven’s more than 53,000 residents are Hispanic and many live along Buford Highway. The city in 2017 unsuccessfully pitched the area as a site for the new headquarters for Amazon, which would seemingly wipe out that entire community and the many immigrant-owned businesses. The pitch appears to contrast with the city’s promise to build relationships with this community. In a separate interview, Gebbia said the $45,000 the city paid to create the pitch was mostly just an economic development exercise to promote the city to the construction community. “I don’t think we really had a chance and it was more of an attempt to get our name recognition out there, to let builders know we’re serious,” he said. “We were still a young city and needed to make a statement, and it turned out that way.” Mayor John Ernst hosted his Sept. 19 town hall at the Latin American Association on Buford Highway as part of “Wel-

coming Week” and as a nod to recognize the city’s large Hispanic population. There was one question on how the city was working to keep housing affordable on Buford Highway to the many immigrants now living there. He said the city is the first city in metro Atlanta to adopt a citywide inclusionary zoning ordinance that requires 10% of new multiunit residential housing projects be defined as workforce housing. The citywide zoning requirement ensures there are not “islands of affordability” to make sure diverse economic groups can live throughout Brookhaven, he said. Housing affordability affects “everything else in our city,” including traffic, Ernst added. Finding ways to allow people to live close to where they work is one way to relieve traffic congestion, he said. He also said that Buford Highway is one of most dense areas of the city, but the road does not have a great deal of traffic because most people who live there walk and use public transportation. In an interview about the Amazon bid, Ernst agreed with Gebbia the city’s chance of winning it was a long shot, but he also believed it would have benefited the immigrant community. The city’s strong stance to ensure affordable housing is built in the area based on the income levels of those living there and not the wider metro Atlanta region. “Like I’ve said all along, how do you replace the buildings but keep the people?” he said. “We have held the line when it comes on ensuring affordability components [in new developments] … there’s been a lot of property there that didn’t need rezoning and townhouses were built. That’s a shame. That’s not good for the Hispanic community, or any communities. It’s a great balancing act.”


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16 | Commentary

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Commentary / Is paying college athletes fair or foul? The rules appear to be changing when it comes to who benefits financially from college sports. The National College Athletic Association’s board of governors has decided to allow college athletes the chance to be paid for the commercial use of their images, names and likenesses. The board adopted the change Oct. 29 after California lawmakers adopted new law called the “Fair Play To Play Act.” Under that law, California would have become the first state to allow college athletes to be paid for use of their images or identities in commercial ventures such as video games or if they sign endorsement deals. Players would not be paid by their colleges for playing in games. Before the NCAA governors’ vote, Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain) planned to introduce a version of the “Fair Pay to Play” legislation in the next Georgia General Assembly. The Reporter asked Mitchell why he thought of the NCAA policy change was needed and also asked long-time Marist Football Coach Alan Chadwick for his thoughts on the subject.

An idea whose time has come When the National Collegiate Athletic Association was originally formed in 1906, with the stated goal of creating and governing eligibility Rep. Billy Mitchell (D- rules in intercolStone Mountain) repre- legiate sports, its sents District 88 in the founders could Georgia Legislature. not have contemplated that the day would come where college athletic teams would be such a revenue generator that it would sustain multi-million dollar buildings, facilities, commercial dealings, media contracts, athletic administrations, coaches, conferences and even the NCAA itself. The NCAA currently prohibits athletes, who make the entire enterprise possible, from receiving payment for competing, working with an agent or permitting the use of their name or likeness for commercial products or services, although virtually everyone around the athlete are able to

profit, and profit handsomely. Illustrative of the incongruent treatment of scholarship athletes, is the fact that there are no similar restrictions for academic scholarship students. Nothing in the rules prevents them from writing books, giving paid speeches, etc. Similarly with scholarship band students. No rules prevent them from performing in a band to work weekends, sell their music, being paid for their appearances, etc. Why the disparate treatment of scholarship athletes? Georgia and other states are replete with examples of scholarship athletes being suspended and/or having their eligibility challenged for such infractions as selling a game jersey or autographing memorabilia. Some will say that is an easily understood temptation when you place some students from impoverished backgrounds into situations where their own game jerseys and posters are available for sale in the bookstore, but they themselves cannot afford to purchase them. Some are placed in a situation where they cannot travel home and back to school on long breaks or to go to a movie with friends.

Will wonders ever cease?! I had planned to file a bill this upcoming legislative session that is modeled after California’s “Fair Pay to Play Act,” which was recently signed into law that would allow college athletes to be compensated in certain situations. Just a few weeks ago, the NCAA was threatening legal action and bemoaned that this was a threat to amateurism in collegiate athletics. But as a result of the most recent NCAA Board of Governors meeting held in Atlanta and their unanimous vote to allow athletes to be compensated for the use of their image and likeness, it renders mine and other state’s legislative efforts unneeded! I do agree with the NCAA’s leadership that a patchwork of states law addressing this issue from various different perspectives could have created more problems. This clearly was an idea whose time has come, and am grateful to them for recognizing my legislation as part of the reason for them addressing this issue so quickly and I am therefore glad to withdraw my efforts in support of the NCAA’s efforts to do what my legislation proposed.

Amateur sports are worth saving The recent approval of the NCAA board of governors to consider allowing college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, imAlan Chadwick is the ages and likenesshead football coach es for marketing at Marist School purposes will no doubt have ongoing ramifications on several interesting issues. First and foremost, is this a step toward a “pay for play” policy that the NCAA, the nonprofit organization that regulates college athletics, has tried to avoid for so many years? If it does indeed become the first step in that direction, then college athletics for male and female athletes could see sweeping changes in its entire landscape and structural balance. The NCAA governors were reacting to the recent passage in California of a new law allowing college athletes to receive payment for use of their images, names and

likenesses. Lawmakers in other states, including Georgia, were planning on considering similar legislation. Former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL player Tim Tebow was recently quoted as saying the California law could change the way people view college sports. “If I could support my team, support my college, support my university, that’s what it’s all about,” he said, according to various news reports. “But now we’re changing it from ‘us’ -- from being an alumni where I care, which makes college sports special -- to then, okay, it’s not about ‘us,’ it’s not about ‘we.’ It’s just about ‘me.’” But schools are not going to sit by and let others raid their states of the best athletes without some sort of response. “I know we live in a selfish culture, where it’s all about us, but we’re just adding and piling it on to that, where it changes what’s special about college football,” he said. “We turn into the NFL, where who has the most money, that’s where you go.” This type of ruling could also affect the recruiting landscape of high school athletes, although it is uncertain at this time how much and how large an effect it may

generate. Still, it there’s no doubt that some schools could view pay for endorsements as creating an unfair advantage when it comes to signing five-star athletes. Whether the potential changes are for the better or worse, only time will tell. Remuneration of college athletes is a very heated topic that is not going to be enacted easily and without much controversy. Colleges and universities make millions of dollars from the work of unpaid athletes and many people think it is only fair to compensate them for their efforts on behalf of their school. But others feel that doing so lessens the amateur status of college athletes and simply makes them paid performers like those on the professional level. Personally, I feel that this will open up a whole great magnitude of issues and problems for intercollegiate athletics. Once you let the cat out of the bag, how do you get it back in? College athletics, although not perfect by any means, has been a huge part of the fabric of American life for 150 years. The amateur status of college athletes, in my opinion, is worth saving.

Commentary | 17


In and out of the Facebook conga line I have a November birthday. You may not know this, but Facebook does, and if you follow me on FB, you’re bound to be given that information because my name will pop up in your inbox next to a birthday cake and a cheery reminder to let me know you’re thinking of me. People often note that one thing Facebook gets right is birthdays, and it’s true that this particular social network provides ample reminders to its users of the birthdates of fellow users. But, as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once said, with great power comes great responsibility. Once you are equipped with the powerful knowledge of the birthdates of your 983 Facebook friends and friends of friends, you are faced with the responsibility of wishing all of them a happy one. And let’s face it: this takes time. Even if Facebook’s helpful algorithm created a special video of you and your birthday buddy floating on a hot air balloon over a field of flowers bursting into bloom, you still have to type a personal message and post it on the timeline, and then inevitably, you’ll start reading all the other birthday messages that your friend’s friends have left. Before you know it, your coffee’s cold and you’ve got to get back to work. And this sets the stage for my current situation. Several months ago, a friend sent me a chain letter Robin Conte lives with her cleverly disguised as a Facebook post for the literary-minded. husband in an empty nest She nominated me to post the name and cover of a favorite in Dunwoody. To contact book every day for seven days, and each day ask a friend to her or to buy her column join the challenge. It was honestly kind of her to think of me, collection, “The Best of the because I do like to read, but then paralysis of choices took Nest,” see over and I never followed through, and then I was so disappointed with myself for having broken the book-challenge chain that I was compelled to slink quietly away from Facebook, and THEN I became too embarrassed to show my cyber-self there again. But in my hiatus the birthdays amassed, compounding daily like a 30-year mortgage at 8.75%, and even though I often toyed with the idea that the occasional birthday greeting might help reduce the debt, I finally admitted that there was no hope of amortization. I had missed five months of birthday greetings and 146 notifications, and it would take me a solid 267 hours of posting to break even. So, I filed for birthday bankruptcy with Facebook. And then I began to enjoy my retreat. It was like slipping away from a Sandals resort to a quieter beach and hearing the faint strains of the conga line across the bay and being kind of glad that you’re not part of it. I ditched the conga line and spent more time with Instagram. Instagram is a no-strings attached relationship. There are no birthday reminders. There are no videos created for you that someone somewhere hopes you’ll enjoy. There is no post of you and a random neighbor spinning in a canoe together, reminding you of your FB friend anniversary. Nope. All Insta asks of you is that you scroll and like. And I scrolled and liked in the Intsa way for a couple of months, but then I began to miss my friends in the Facebook conga line, so I cha-cha-cha-ed my way back in. Now I move through my days scrolling and liking and dancing and kicking, and every so often I stop and wish a friend a happy birthday.

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18 | Commentary ■

Around Town

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

Pioneering members of an all-girl scout troop aim to be Eagles

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OK, let’s get this out of the way right at the start: Yes, these girl scouts have sold cookies. Not those familiar Girl Scout cookies in their brightly colored boxes. No, these scouts raised money for their new troop by selling chocolate chip cookies and brownies they’d baked. After all, they’re not Girl Scouts. They’re scouts who happen to be girls. JOE EARLE They’re members of Members of BSA Troop 398 gather around the troop flag. They are, back row, left to right: Vivian Works, Greer Crow, Emi Troop 398, a new gathering of girls organized at Reina and Lela Ganske; front row, left to right: Emily Holman, Della Bohlen; standing at right, Laurel Anne Alexander. Northside United Methodist Church under the scouting program created by the 109-year-old Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts announced in 2017 that it would allow girls to join its iconic scouting program for youngsters aged 11 to 17. It changed the program’s name to Scouts BSA and this year, the once boys-only Boy Scouts started allowing the creation of all-girl BSA troops. In February, when the new program opened for business, Troop 398 filed for a charter. Now it counts 10 girls as members. “I think it’s awesome,” said Troop 398’s scoutmaster, Brian Bohlen, who’s also an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 298, Northside UMC’s boy scout troop. “My daughter came along and did everything my son ever did when he was Cub Scout. … She was pretty bummed when he graduated to Boy Scouts and she couldn’t do things with the boys.” But it’s 2019. Who needs boys? Now Della, Bohlen’s 13-year-old daughter, can do anything in scouting that her brother does. That includes collecting merit badges, camping and working toward the rank of Eagle Scout, the BSA’s top award, an honor only a small percentage of scouts achieve. Several of the girls in Troop 398 say the chance to be Eagles played a significant part in the allure of the BSA program. They want to be part of the first flight of girl Eagles. “It’d be cool to be one of the first girls who are Eagles,” said Greer Crow, who’s 12. “It would be cool to be one of the girls the younger girls look up to.” “It’s a big accomplishment in scouting,” said Troop 398’s senior patrol leader, Laurel Anne “L.A.” Alexander. “Especially for girls.” L.A. turns 14 this month. She said she tried Girl Scouts when she was younger, but it didn’t take. She was attracted to Troop 398 by the chance to do more camping and outdoor activities, she said as she and several other girls grilled hot dogs and roasted marshmallows over an open fire built in a pit in the dark woods behind the church. Bohlen said the troop had been on campouts eight or 10 times since it formed. “My family has always been outdoors,” L.A. said. “My dad hikes the Appalachian Trail and my brother is in scouts in a different troop. I really like camping and hiking… and cooking.” The new troop caught the attention of some dads, too. Rod Ganske said he worked all the way through the Scout program when he was boy. As an adult, he let scouting drop because he had daughters, but no sons. Then his daughter Lela, who’s 12 now, joined Troop 398. “Last year, when girls could join, I dived back in,” he said, pointing to the knot badge on his new, adult-sized scout shirt that showed he’d earned his own Eagle badge when he was young. Troop 398 joined an expansive scouting program at Northside UMC. The church’s Scout Hut, which features a large stack-stone fireplace and canoes hanging from its ceiling, also hosts meetings of a 68-member boys BSA troop, a Cub Scout pack with 157 boys and six girls, and a couple of Girl Scout groups. The boys in Troop 298 haven’t complained about sharing space with the new girls’ troop or the presence of girls in scouting, Troop 298 Scoutmaster Lee Mann said. The two troops keep their activities separate for the most part, he said, but they have held some joint merit badge classes. “At least for now, things are great,” he said. Several parents said the girls did face some boyish taunts during a regional scout gathering, but they didn’t let it bother them. They gave as good as they got. Scoutmaster Bohlen says one thing he’s noticed about Troop 398’s girls is that they’re eager to make their marks in scouting. “They’re super into ranks,” he said. “The girls have something to prove. Because they’re pioneers.”

Community | 19


Nearly $46M city budget proposed for 2020 BY DYANA BAGBY

The city’s millage rate remains 2.74. The budget includes a new category that focuses on funding sustainability efforts in the city. Some of the sustainability efforts planned for 2020 include sponsoring recycling events; spending $24,000 to perform an updated tree canopy assessment; converting some streetlights to LED lighting; and $50,000 to fill in gaps on multiuse paths and sidewalks to provide better bike and pedestrian connectivity. Ernst praised the city’s 35% contingency fund, or what some call a “rainy day fund.” That total is $9.7 million and represents 35% of the city’s operating expenses, according to the city. Ernst also praised the reduced general fund budget.

The city is proposing a $46 million budget for 2020, including an approximately $28 million general fund that is a nearly 11% decrease from last year, according to city officials. City Manager Christian Sigman presented the approximately 300-page budget document to Mayor John Ernst and the City Council at the Oct. 22 City Council meeting. The general fund, which covers day-to-day operations of the city, is proposed at $27,687,281. Sigman said that amount is a decrease of approximately $3.4 million from last year’s general fund budget.



million for city parks preservation projects. Another $100,000 would go toward bicycle striping and improvements. The police department budget is proposed at nearly $10.5 million, an increase of more than $1.3 million from 2019. The budget increase is largely due to the significant raises approved by the council early this year to retain officers. Public hearings on the budget will be held at the Nov. 12 and Nov. 26 City Council meetings. A final vote on the budget is expected to take place Nov. 26. The public can view document at Residents can submit comments via email at


r e B e

R I S E™

An introduction to the budget explains the city’s largest revenue source is real property tax revenue. During 2019, the real property tax digest as determined by DeKalb County’s appraised value of all property in the city, was forecasted to increase 6%. “However, the actual growth rate in 2019 was close to zero,” according to the budget document. “This lack of real property tax digest growth in 2019 resulted in a loss of $442,044 in budgeted 2019 property tax revenues. It is anticipated that this shortfall in 2019 will be made up via increases above budget in other revenue categories.” Proposed funding for capital projects includes $2.2 million for paving and $1.1





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20 | Public Safety â–


kley pulled out in a hurry, nearly striking the officer, and sped to

I-85, where police pursued her before the chase was called off due to

The woman charged with nearly striking a Brookhaven Police officer with her car while fleeing a Sept. 19 traffic stop was arrested in Las Vegas. Essence Barkley, 24, of Brookhaven was arrested Oct. 14 by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. She eluded capture in Brookhaven on Sept. 19 after leading police on a 20-mile, high-speed chase and is wanted on various charges by police in Atlanta, Brookhaven and Chamblee. She now faces several other charges in Las Vegas. She will face those charges before being extradited to Georgia, according to a Brookhaven Police press release. In Brookhaven, police said Barkley was pulled over Sept. 19 by Brookhaven and Chamblee police officers near an ATM in the Northeast Plaza parking lot. Police said she was driving a stolen Mercedes with a stolen license plate. When a Brookhaven officer approached the car, police said, Bar-

public safety risks. Barkley is charged in Brookhaven with aggravated assault on a police officer; theft by receiving stolen motor vehicle; and theft by receiving stolen property, the license plate. She is also charged by Chamblee Police with one felony count of fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer in the Sept. 19 incident. The Atlanta Police Department has charged Barkley in a May incident with theft by receiving stolen property, fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer, reckless driving and driving while license is suspended. In Las Vegas, Barkley faces two counts of burglary, two counts of BROOKHAVEN POLICE

Essence Barkley.

possession of credit cards without owner’s consent, possession of stolen property and attempted theft.

Art & Entertainment | 21



‘Little Things’ make for a big show at the Swan Coach House



Ed Howard, Joe Sears & Jaston Williams



Topher Payne

The Swan Coach House.



BY JUDITH SCHONBAK When the opening night crowd surges through the Swan Coach House Gallery red door on Nov. 14, they will be greeted by an array of more than 240 artworks filling the walls. The much-anticipated “Little Things” show is up. The “Little Things” exhibition celebrates its 20th year this holiday season. Two decades ago, the gallery’s first curator, Marianne Lambert, initiated the small works concept with a modest show of sketches from artists’ sketchbooks. It quickly expanded to include a broad array of mediums and styles to become an annual tradition which, today, draws large crowds ranging from new and veteran collectors to art lovers and gift-seekers. “It’s our biggest night of the year,” said gallery general manager Michelle Laxalt. Lambert, who retired in December 2018 and is now curator-in residence, came out of retirement to curate the 2019 show. Long active in the Atlanta art scene, she consulted her lengthy scroll of Georgia artists and invited some 120 to bring three to five pieces apiece to deck the walls. The works are a mix of paintings, drawings, mixed media, 3-D wall pieces and photography. Images may be no larger than 8 inches on any side, and, if framed, no more than a 2- to 4-inch frame. There are mini-sculptures as well. “’Little Things’ is a way not only to showcase a great variety of art by emerging, mid-career and established local artists, but also to give many artists a space to display their work and to present works affordable for the general public,” said Lambert. As pieces are sold, they are replaced by another 200-plus works waiting for their turn on the walls of the 864-square-foot gallery. Shows of small works is now a concept that is popular in many galleries during the winter holiday season. The Swan Coach House – which includes an art gallery, restaurant and gift shop -- is located at 3103 Slaton Drive, at the back of the 33-acre Atlanta History Center grounds in Buckhead. It is the original carriage house for the Edward Inman estate known for its historical Swan House mansion built in 1928, which is considered a masterpiece of renowned Atlanta architect Phillip Trammel Shutze. Edward Inman died in 1931, and his wife Emily, with family members, lived in the house until 1965. A year later, the Atlanta Historical Society acquired the house and grounds and has since maintained the home as a historic house museum and expanded the campus to include the Atlanta History Museum, Smith Family Farm House, Wood Family Cabin, Atlanta Cyclorama, Veterans Park, gardens, trails and woodlands. Enter the Forward Arts Foundation. Founded in September 1965 as a non-profit organization by 12 dedicated arts patrons and community-minded women, the group selected the carriage house as its home. The Forward Arts Foundation renovated the Swan Coach House, creating the restaurant, then considered a tearoom, and the gift shop, and opened to the public in 1967. The gallery opened in 1985 and serves as an outreach program for the Foundation. All proceeds from the Swan Coach House entities, along with several major annual fund-raising events by the Foundation -- Flea Market, Fashion Show and Swan Ball -- go to support the visual arts in Atlanta. In 1999, the organization established the annual Emerging Artist Award, now called the Edge Award, to recognize an outstanding up-and-coming artist in the greater Atlanta area. The mission of the Swan Coach House Gallery is to engage the Atlanta community through art exhibitions and educational programs, said Michelle Laxalt. “We support and promote Georgia artists and curators. “We focus on education, not the commercial aspects of a gallery, and that gives us a lot Continued on page 22

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Visitors attend the 2018 “Little Things” show and sale.


Continued from page 21 of freedom to bring in a wide variety of shows in all mediums from paintings, photography and sculpture to textiles, ceramics, folk art, installations and more,” she said. “We can present exhibitions that are more conceptual and experimental and that are often more challenging. What makes us special is that we continue to evolve.” Laxalt is one of a four-member team of curators and gallery staff and each is an artist in her own right. Karen Tauches, former manager, is part-time creative director and curator; Carson Keith is part-time curator and assistant gallery manager; and Maria Bruckman is gallery and exhibition assistant. In addition to curating, the team develops programming for the year. In a September meeting, the curators pitch their passions for the next year’s shows and vote for what will be a good mix of exhibitions. “There are way more artists than we can include, and so much talent out there,” said Tauches. “Deciding is a big challenge.” The schedule is set for 2020, and it includes shows curated by members of the Swan Coach House Gallery curators as well as invited emerging and career curators in Georgia and artists from around metro Atlanta and the state. Adjoining the gallery, just a few steps through a doorway is the Swan Coach House Gift Shop, currently decked out in holiday array. It is chock full of decorations and ornaments along with gifts for everyone from babies, youngsters and teens to brides and grooms and everyone else. Shoppers can find jewelry, home décor, pottery, kitchenware and place settings, and there is a special section of clothing and shelves of handbags. And, of course, swans. Swans in all sizes SPECIAL Works by Leisa Rich on display at and material; more than you are likely to see the 2018 “Little Things” show. in any one place. Swans show up in the Swan Coach House Restaurant, too, in paintings and as a decorative touch atop a classic dessert favorite. The restaurant foyer is just a few steps down from the gift shop to the foyer or you can enter from outside through the red door. “We are on our third generation of family members and of bridal and baby showers,” said Jonathon Betti, general manager of the restaurant. “For many, lunch here is a tradition.” The clientele has expanded in more recent years as tour groups from around metro Atlanta as well as from out of town visit the Atlanta History Center and want to experience the Swan Coach House Restaurant. The menu is expansive and updated with seasonal items. The homemade soups and casseroles are popular, noted Betti, but the favorite, by far, even for return diners, is the classic chicken salad (secret recipe) with a frozen fruit salad and Coach House cheese straws. And that signature dessert? Chocolate mousse served in a meringue cup swathed in whipped cream with a whipped cream swan gracing the top. A word of advice: If you hope to have lunch or especially a banquet or special event S WA N C O A C H HO US E in one of the private rooms, make your reservations well ahead of time. 3130 Slaton Drive, Buckhead Holidays, especially the Christmas season are very busy, said Betti.



Art & Entertainment | 23


An artists’ haven celebrates 65 years of teaching and sharing art BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN The aptly named Art McNaughton, president of the Atlanta Artists Center, just got elected to another term as the nonprofit organization celebrates its 65th anniversary. The Reporter paid a visit to him at the AAC’s home at 2979 Grandview Avenue in Buckhead to find out about the nonprofit’s past and future. For more information, see atlantaartistscenter. org. Q. What was the genesis of the Atlanta Artists Center? A. The organization has been around since 1954 and started out as a watercolor group -just a small group of people who were living here in Buckhead trying to find different places to paint. They were renting small rooms anywhere they could, frustrated at not having a place to call home, so they formed an organization, pooled their money and eventually bought this building -- a 1920s house -- in the early ’70s. Buckhead was still pretty reasonable then. The membership started to grow. It wasn’t just watercolors anymore; they started to involve other artists, and in 1990 added studio space in the back so they could have meetings and bring in models to draw and sketch. The front part turned into the primary gallery space where they could show artwork.

you pay five dollars for the model; you don’t have to register or anything - just bring your materials and draw. You pay a small fee, $30, to submit three pieces of your work. It gets juried by someone with credentials in our industry, and we have ongoing exhibits every six weeks so you get to display your artwork in Buckhead. There are very few places you can do that. We focus on life drawing primarily, so we have live models. Another benefit is if you sell any pieces here, we take only a 30% commission, which is significant. With most galleries it’s a 50-50 split. I’m the exhibit chair and we look at everything that gets submitted, and sometimes I’m amazed at what doesn’t get chosen -- really high-quality stuff. We have another show in which we’ve already juried in all the submissions. That will go up mid-November.

Q. So is the AAC the oldest arts organization in Georgia? A. It’s a safe bet we are the oldest in the Southeast. It’s a well-kept secret. In June we had a 65th anniversary celebration. It was relatively successful, but there were people here from right down the street, our own neighbors, who had no idea what this was or who we were. Q. You are an artist yourself, right? A. Yes, I still paint, but my duties as president have cut into that a little bit. I’m hoping to change that. Q. What is the hardest part about running the show? A. It’s an all-volunteer organization, so trying to get such a diverse membership engaged... Some of them are elderly, set in their ways, then we have younger people who want to push the envelope and do things differently, so making sure everyone is marching in the same path -- that’s tough. Q. How does being a member of the AAC work, and what are some of the benefits? A. We have workshops that go on constantly. We have sketch groups five days a week:


Atlanta Artists Center president Art McNaughton.

Q. What else should people know about the AAC? A. We are open to anyone. We have a gallery that shows great artwork any time of the year. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so we do some charitable work: we are looking at bringing disabled veterans here for some drawing sessions. We also have a program that covers memberships for individuals who have the desire to attend classes but are unable to pay.

Q. What’s next? A. We are having a holiday fundraiser here on Dec. 7. Some benefactors have already donated to us, which is awesome. In January, at the W Hotel in Buckhead, we’re sending an artist over to do some demonstrations, and we will have an exhibit there. On Wednesdays there is an evening group for sketch class that comes here. I want to do more in the evenings to engage young professionals and students who can’t come in the middle of the day, so I’m going to add a Thursday night and probably a Saturday.

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Monday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m. A ceremony at the Veterans Memorial, presented by the Dunwoody VFW Committee. Free. Brook Run Park, 4770 North Peachtree Road, Dunwoody. Info:


Monday, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. The Atlanta History Center’s Veterans Day Program includes a keynote address from Rear Admiral Wendi B. Carpenter, U.S. Navy (Ret.), the first woman Navy aviator to be promoted to flag rank; a performance of the national anthem; and a presentation of the colors. Free. Atlanta History Center’s Veterans Park, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info:


Monday, Nov. 11, 11:30 a.m. With keynote speaker U.S. District Court Judge J.P. Boulee, a former captain in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps who founded DeKalb County’s Veterans Treatment Court. Free. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


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children under 18. Dorothy Benson Center, 6500 Vernon Woods Drive, Sandy Springs. Info:


Saturday, Nov. 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 3, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Fine art and crafts from over 185 vendors, a children’s area, acoustic music and food vendors. Free. Chastain Park, 4469 Stella Drive, Buckhead. Info: chastainparkartsfestival. com.


Saturday, Nov. 9 and Sunday, Nov. 10 The Dunwoody Preservation Trust’s annual celebration of local history. Nov. 9 events at the Donaldson-Bannister Farm, 4831 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody, include: “History Alive” presentation on frontier life, 9:30-11 a.m. (admission $5); Villagefest with historic demonstrations, crafts and games, music, artisan booths and children’s activities, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (free); and “Sunset Serenade” picnic and concert with local bands, 6-8 p.m. (free; table available for $50). The Nov. 10 event is a free twilight tour of the 1859 Stephen Martin Cemetery at 244 Periemter Center Parkway, Dunwoody, 4-5 p.m. Info:


Saturday, Nov. 9, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Over 240 vendors of handcrafted gifts, art, jewelry and artisan foods, with food and raffles. Tickets: $5 and include reusable tote bag. Marist School, 3790 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven. Info:

Friday, Nov. 8-Sunday, Nov. 24 Performed by Act3 Productions, the musical examines how parents-to-be experience the emotional stresses and triumphs, as well as the desperate lows and the comic highs. Tickets: $16-$33. Act3 Playhouse, 6285-R Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Info: act3productions. com.



Saturday, Nov. 9-Sunday Nov. 10, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The Sandy Springs Society market feature 90 local and regional artisans in gifts, art and food. Proceeds promote the arts, heritage, education, the environment and social services in Sandy Springs. Tickets $5. City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info:


Thursday, Nov. 14 through Monday, Dec. 23, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Works of art and handcrafted gifts by local artists. Spruill Gallery, 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: holidayartistsmarket.


Sunday, Nov. 17, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Annual event by the Swedish Women’s Educational Association showcases the culture and holiday traditions of Sweden with crafts, gifts, food and more, plus children’s activities and performances. Admission $2; free for

Thursday, Nov. 21- Saturday, Nov. 23, 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 24, 2 p.m. Oglethorpe University Theatre and RRC present Larry Kramer’s searing drama about public and private indifference to the AIDS plague and one man’s lonely fight to awaken the world to the crisis. Recommended for ages 14 and older. Free. Conant Performing Arts Center, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info: oglethorpeuniversity.thundertix. com.


Wednesday, Nov. 20, 7:30-8:30 p.m. The launch of a new student symphony, with music by Karl Jenkins, Edvard Grieg, Jean Sibelius, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Free. Oglethorpe University, Lupton Auditorium, 4484 Peachtree Rd, Brookhaven. Info:

Art & Entertainment | 25



Thursday, Nov. 21, 7:30-8:30 p.m. Peformance by Oglethorpe University’s jazz ensemble. Free. Oglethorpe University, Lupton Auditorium, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info: events.


Through November 18, 2019 This year’s Book Festival repertoire of more than 45 authors, including headlining authors such as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, Nikki R. Haley, Jodi Kantor and Adam Rippon. Prices vary. Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta (MJCCA), 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Info: atlantajcc. org/bookfestival.


Wednesday, Nov. 6, 6:30-7:30 Author, lawyer and Sandy Springs resident R. Craig Henderson shares his second book in the “Solemn Vows” Series, a fast-paced thriller set in rural Georgia, as part of the “Titles @ Twilight” author series. Free. Heritage Sandy Springs administrative building, 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info:


Tuesday, Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m. The authors discuss the story of Richard Jewell, a heroic security guard who was falsely suspected of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing. Admission $10 non-members, $5 members. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info:


Monday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m. Jean-Pierre, a former Obama White House

staffer and now the chief public affairs officer for, discusses her memoir with CNN Newsroom Anchor Natalie Allen. Admission $10 non-members, $5 members. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info:


Nov. 19 through Jan. 14, 2020, 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Works by Jamaican-born Cosmo Whyte, who currently splits his time between Montego Bay, Jamaica and Atlanta, where he is a professor at Morehouse College. Tickets: $8 Adults, $5 Students/Seniors. Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, 75 Bennett Street, Buckhead. Info:


Through Sunday, Dec. 15 Selected works from the permanent collection of the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art that align with current course offerings will be exhibited, ranging from 14th century Japanese sculpture to contemporary abstract works. Tickets: $5 adults, free for children under 12. Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. Info:


The genealogy columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has unraveled the truth of how Wieuca Road got its name, separating myth from fact, in this presentation to the Buckhead Heritage Society. Tickets: Members $10, non-members $15. Cathedral of St. Philip, Gould Room, 2744 Peachtree Street, Buckhead. Info:


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26 | Education ■


A former student was inducted into the Riverwood International Charter High School 2019 Athletic Hall of Fame on Oct. 18. The ceremony was held on the school’s campus at 5900 Raider Drive in Sandy Springs. Alexis de Groot, 24, is one of the youngest people to ever be inducted in the Riverwood Hall of Fame, according to a press release. Groot was the captain and a four-year starter for the Riverwood varsity soccer team and helped them qualify for the State Playoffs 2010SPECIAL 2013, according to Riverwood Athletic AssociaAlexis de Groot at the tion President Mike McQuary. Riverwood Lady Raiders’ soccer Her accolades included Rookie of the Year, state play offs in 2013. Player of the Year and the Raider Award, McQuary says. Her senior year, Groot was named one of the state’s top eight players. She went on the play soccer at Elon University, where she was the team captain and on the All-Academic Colonial Athletic Association conference team.


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Chris Brodnan.jpg From left, Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning Commissioner Amy Jacobs presents Chris Brodnan with the 2019 Georgia Afterschool and Youth Development Leadership Award.

A Buckhead resident was recognized for her work serving Atlanta’s disadvantaged children by the Georgia Statewide Afterschool Network at the second annual Georgia Afterschool and Youth Development Awards ceremony on Oct. 19. Chris Brodnan was presented with the 2019 Leadership Award. This award is given to one Georgia afterschool and youth program professional who has contributed significantly to their community, according to a press release. Brodnan is the regional program director of Horizons Atlanta, an affiliate of Horizons National, a nonprofit that provides tuition-free summer learning programs for underprivileged children. Before this role, she was the Site Director for Horizons Atlanta at Holy Innocent’s Episcopal School, according to Horizons Atlanta’s website. Brodnan’s implemented a continuous improvement strategy which resulted in a 67% improvement in literacy and a 64% improvement in reading for Horizon students, the release said. “My wish is to use my skills and knowledge to support communities most in need in ways that are most impactful and sustainable,” Brodnan said in the re-

lease. “We are honored to recognize fantastic leaders across the state,” said Katie Landes, director of GSAN. “Chris Brodnan exemplifies the kind of leadership needed in the youth development field to lead Georgia’s youth to brighter futures.” The GA ASYD initiative was created in 2012 as a partnership with by GSAN and Gwinnett United in Drug Education, Inc. to create a unified vision for afterschool and youth service programs in Georgia. To learn more about the GA ASYD initiative and awards, visit



U.S. Rep. John Lewis attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Brookhaven elementary school named for him on Oct. 4. The ceremony was held at the new school, John Robert Lewis Elementary school, 2630 Skyland Drive, Brookhaven. The 900-seat public school opened at the beginning of the school year, on Aug. 5. “I feel blessed, more than lucky, blessed. These children are beautiful and smart,” Lewis said. “They will help save America.”

Education | 27


Three Riverwood teachers honored for garden BY HANNAH GRECO

Three teachers led Sandy Springs’ Riverwood International Charter School to bringing an award-winning outdoor garden and classroom coming to fruition. The garden won the District 3 Fulton County Citizens Commission on the Environment award on Oct. 16. The teachers involved included Patti Lawrimore, chair of the science department; Elissa Oliver, a chef and culinary arts teacher; and Isaac Seals, a science teacher and coach. “The garden project is the consummate opportunity to bring a diverse group of students together to learn important...lessons with real-world applications, while also benefiting the school and greater Sandy Springs community,” said Lawrimore. “We are grateful to receive recognition for this project.” The garden features raised beds, herbs and annuals, vegetable plants and fruit trees and serves as an outdoor educational space for all Riverwood students. The award was given by the FCCE, a citizen advisory group appointed by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners that aims to increase awareness of environmental issues. Awards are given to those who have excelled at improving the environment within Fulton County. Due to the construction of new buildings at Riverwood, a previous outdoor garden closed in 2015. Seals and his students wrote and submitted a proposal and budget for a new garden. With support from the Riverwood Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the school’s efforts, and grants from both the Lowe’s Toolbox for Education program and the Whole Kids Foundation by Whole Foods, the new, advanced garden space broke ground in May 2018. Lawrimore, Oliver and Seals worked together in conjunction with the Riverwood Foundation to seek additional funding to sustain and expand the garden, and in 2019, the garden got further grant funding from Fiskars Project Orange Thumb and Scott’s Gro More Good Grassroots.


current garden and were involved in the actual groundbreaking and building.


solving the problem by developing a solar power irrigation system and a water collection system off of the dugouts. Oliver: Keeping up with all the products that come out of the garden and keeping up with it outside of school hours. Culinary gives all compost for the garden and so there is close to zero waste. Seals: The demolition [of the original garden] created a hardship because it was done without any warning after my environmental science classes had planted their fall garden. This demolition also destroyed the irrigation system, which was not replaced in the new garden. Q: What is your favorite memory involving the garden? Lawrimore: I loved the construction phase, the kids using tools to build and layout the garden. They were so collaborative and their problem-solving skills were amazing. Oliver: The day we got our first grant and got to break ground! Seals: When my...students wrote the proposal for and designed the layout of the

Q: What is next for the garden? Lawrimore: [We] are hoping to expand into a walking trail and native plant areas and seating areas for small group instruction [and] discussing, and developing the retention pond and making the outdoor learning accessible for the entire campus. Oliver: New fall [and] winter crops and we just received another grant to expand. Seals: I expect that each class will be creative in learning about the process and how it all relates to the environment around us. Q: What do you hope the students learn from the garden? What do you think gardening teaches students? Lawrimore: I hope they get an understanding of the interconnectedness of our world: the soil, food, pollinators. Even understanding that diversity is so important for resilience and stability in an ecosystem then translating that into the human realm. Oliver: I think it teaches them time management, discipline, and where their food comes from. I hope they learn that planning, planting, growing and harvesting your food is a cool thing to do. It is econom-


From left, Chef Elyssa Oliver, Coach Isaac Seals and Science Department Chair Patti Lawrimore with the District 3 Fulton County Citizens Commission on the Environment award for Riverwood International Charter School’s garden.

ical and makes an impact on our Earth. Seals: The curriculum and garden teach sustainability, ownership and pride in their work, physical activity, healthy eating and changes in their lifestyle. They actually get to plant a bulb and a seed and see that grow into a plant.

BEYOND EXPECTATIONS At Galloway, students are inspired to be fearless learners, to embrace challenges, and to discover more about themselves and the world around them.

Q: How did you get involved with the garden? Lawrimore: When I started at Riverwood five years ago, there was a small garden. When construction demolished the site, we decided to scale the project up from four to 16 beds, 14 fruit trees, a pollinator garden and an [Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant] raised garden annex. Oliver: We had the idea to collaborate...and create a farm-to-table experience. Seals: Lori Leech, Riverwood’s first environmental science teacher, came up with the idea for the garden about 15 years ago. Lori and I worked together on the initial garden and I have been involved with it since that time. Q: What has been the biggest hardship and success with the garden? Lawrimore: We do not have a convenient water supply, but the kids are working on

Join us for Discover Galloway Open House Dec. 8, 1-3 p.m. AGE 3-GRADE 12 GALLOWAYSCHOOL.ORG

28 | Community ■

Parents not pleased with Doraville school redistricting options BY: HANNAH GRECO

DeKalb County Schools is recommending redistricting nearly 900 area students when it opens a new elementary school next year in Doraville, but some parents say plans to move only a small number of Brookhaven children to the new facility would do nothing to relieve overcrowding and instead break up neighborhoods. Parents were presented with two redistricting options for the new 950-seat Doraville United Elementary School at an Oct. 16 meeting at Chamblee Charter High School. The new school is set to open next fall at 3630 Shallowford Road and is expected to alleviate overcrowding at Ashford Park, Cary Reynolds, Dresden, Huntley Hills and Montgomery elementary schools. One option calls for moving 47 Montgomery Elementary students to the new school and the other option recommends moving 20 Montgomery students. Both options recommend only 18 students from Ashford Park be redistricted to the new school. “It is so few students, why move them at all?” one parent said at the meeting. The first option focuses on relieving overcrowding at Cary Reynolds, a school built for 587 students but currently has 784 enrolled; and at Dresden that was built for 747 students but has a current enrollment of 1,020. The second option presented focused on alleviating overcrowding of the Dunwoody cluster by redistricting 106 students from Hightower Elementary to Doraville United. Hightower’s enrollment is 752; the school was built for 568 students. Dunwoody’s overcrowded elementary schools are Austin, Dunwoody and Vanderlyn. “We are all a little more pro-option-two because it had less of our kids going to the new school,” a parent whose child attends Montgomery Elementary School said. “But it is still a con because it breaks us up.” Another parent also praised the second option over the first because it benefits Dunwoody schools. “Option two offers significant relief for three very overcrowded schools: Cary Reynolds, Dresden and Hightower,” the parent said. “I think incorporating Hightower into the redistricting does offer some relief for more schools within the Dunwoody cluster.” It is possible that students will be redistricted from one overcrowded school to another, not just to the new school, according to DeKalb Schools official Dan Drake. School officials said that students rising into grade 5 will have the option to continue in their current school, but with no transportation provided. The first of three public input meetings about the redistricting process of changing school attendance zones was held Sept. 25. During a small group session, parents mainly expressed concern about safety and traffic patterns, and that neighborhoods should stay intact within the new districts. One of the potential solutions presented on Sept. 25 from the district in response to overflowing school populations was to redistrict the Oakcliff Traditional Theme School in Doraville as a neighborhood school, the public school assigned by attendance zones. This would allow more student enrollment but would take away its theme school title. Theme schools are schools that offer a certain instructional program and may have admissions criteria. In Oakcliff’s case, parents are required to serve volunteer hours throughout the year. Three elementary schools feed into Oakcliff, including Cary Reynolds, Dresden and Pleasantdale. After hearing community feedback strongly opposing redistricting Oakcliff to a neighborhood school, the district has decided to leave Oakcliff as is. The district will explore the feedback given and present a final redistricting plan at a third meeting on Nov. 19 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Chamblee Charter High School, 7977 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road. Above, option one of two presented at a DeKalb County schools Doraville United redistricting meeting Oct. 16. Right, option two presented at a DeKalb County schools Doraville United redistricting meeting Oct. 16.

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30 | Community ■


‘Special tax districts’ to be created for future annexed properties

Each January, we feature students from Intown’s public schools, private schools and colleges who have given back to their community in a significant way. Over the last ten years, we’ve featured students who have created their own nonprofits, have given up summer vacation to work domestically and abroad to help the less fortunate and one even helped build a library by collecting books. The 12th annual 20 Under 20 will appear in our January 2020 issue and we

Continued from page 1

sary niver 25th An

are now seeking nominations of students ages 19 and younger who have committed themselves to service to the community. Nominations are welcome from teachers, counselors, administrators, parents, siblings, fellow students or community leaders. Here’s the information we need:

JANUARY 2019 Vol. 25 No. 1 ■








• Nominator (name, relationship to nominee and contact information) • Nominee (Name, age, grade, school, parent or guardian names, contact information) • Characteristics and service: Please provide a paragraph describing why this nominee deserves recognition. Include service projects, goals, interests and areas of interest to help illustrate your point. The deadline for nominations is Nov. 15. Please email your nominations to editor Collin Kelley at

arcliff and Clairmont roads intersection. “We want to make sure any annexed area into the city is not draining the current tax base,” said Councilmember Joe Gebbia. Gebbia said he pitched the idea to the council. Gebbia represents District 4, south of I-85, the only area that is adjacent to unincorporated neighborhoods. “There have been rumblings over the years … about what would a map look like if DeKalb is fully municipalized,” Gebbia said. “We need a policy now on how to handle taxes, so it doesn’t encumber our current property owners.” Property owners annexed into the city of Brookhaven will be put into a “special tax district” and pay DeKalb County’s higher tax rates for one year to cover costs for infrastructure improvements in their neighborhoods. City leaders say the new policy ensures tax dollars from existing property owners aren’t used to fix what the county failed to do. City staff members are now working to determine a funding formula to implement the policy when considering an area for annexation after the City Council approved the policy to create the special tax districts in September. The idea is that after an area is annexed

into the city, the property owners continue to pay their same unincorporated DeKalb tax rates for one year. The unincorporated DeKalb County total annual millage rate is 43.890, while Brookhaven’s total annual millage rate is 40.114, according to an analysis by the city. For example, the newly annexed areas would continue to pay 4.775 mills for DeKalb Police services even though they would no longer get that service. Those tax dollars would then be used specifically to pay for any needed maintenance and repairs. Those city standards will be based on assessments city staff would have just one year to complete after an annexation is made. The city does not seek to annex areas but considers requests that have signatures from at least 60% of homeowners and 70% of registered voters. No requests for annexation are currently being considered by the city. Gebbia said the idea of having the former DeKalb residents having their tax dollars go directly to making infrastructure repairs is “pretty original and forwardthinking.” “We want this to be addressed as equitably and fairly as possible,” he said.


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Community | 31


In a building boom, city ponders how to save trees

A surveyor works at the house at 1515 Grant Drive. The City Council asked for a site plan and a tree preservation plan for the property before the vote on a rezoning request.

Continued from page 1 Park asked Hedden and her husband to come up with a tree preservation plan to present at the November meeting. The lot was previously two lots and Park said he felt comfortable making the request of the couple. “In exchange for giving them the zoning back, we want to preserve trees,” he said. Hedden said she was disappointed but is fulfilling the city’s request. “I’m a property owner who is grieving my brother’s death,” she said. “I’m seeking closure. But I’m willing to do whatever the city wishes me to do.” Currently, a developer only has to pay into a tree fund to cut down all the trees on the site at 1515 Grant Drive. The city’s hot real estate market has led to an increase in the rezoning of older residential neighborhood lots into smaller lots. In the past two years, more than 200 houses in the city have been torn down and replaced with new homes, Park said. “This is a growing problem because there has been a lot of redevelopment in District 2 of houses built in the ’50s,” he said. “It will become an even bigger problem when developers start looking at houses built in the ’60s and ’70s in District 1,” he said. Payment into the fund for a “speci-

men tree” is $200 per inch of the tree’s circumference from about 4.5 feet above the ground. The city doesn’t clearly define what a specimen tree is in the ordinance. Generally speaking, they are trees planted to be a focus of attention on a site, such an oak in the middle of a yard. On a recent afternoon at 1515 Grant Drive, the sun shined through the branches thick with green leaves of the two oak trees standing some 30 feet into the sky, casting long shadows over the house, yard and across the street. Two surveyors hired by the Heddens were on the property measuring boundaries. One surveyor measured the circumference of the oak trees. One was 34 inches around at chest height, the other 32 inches. New houses mixed with a few older houses line both sides of the street. Bright orange erosion control fencing surrounded the barren front yard of a house under construction across the street. Allowing developers to pay into the tree fund is called “alternative compliance” and is the bane of the city’s current tree ordinance, Park said. A new tree ordinance could require developers to submit a “tree save” plan as part of rezoning request. Such a plan would include any shifts in a site plan needed to build outside required setbacks to save trees on the property.


Tying tree protection to rezoning also gives the city enforcement authority, Park said. Developers often decide to pay into the tree fund instead of seeking a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals because going before the ZBA can be a months-long process, Park said. Requiring developers to submit a treesaving plan to the city as part of rezoning request would streamline the process, he said, because the City Council could then grant variances needed to build outside setbacks to save trees. “We [the city] would like to basically save trees with new regulations, and public debate and education,” he said. “But there will be a tradeoff because [homeowners] won’t be able to have the perfect suburban plot anymore.” Don Neustadt, a home-builder, lives near Grant Drive and spoke in support of the Heddens’ request to rezone the house at the September council meeting. He said he was disappointed the council put off the vote for two months because they have a builder interested in the property. “Trees have nothing to do with zoning,” he said. “As a property rights’ advocate, what they did stomps all over me.” Neustadt said he knows many people in the community are upset about trees being cut down for new houses.

“Unfortunately, that’s how it is,” he said. “Our parents lived in houses that had trees cut down, our parents’ parents’ lived in trees that had trees cut down.” He said the city’s tree ordinance is strict enough. Hitting developers with more restrictions affects affordability as well as stepping on property rights, he said. “The city is treading on thin ice,” Neustadt said. Sandy Murray of the Brookhaven Tree Conservancy said 90% of the city’s tree canopy is located on single-family residential lots and protecting them must be a priority. Besides the buy-out option, her main issue with the current ordinance is that it requires developers to keep a maximum 120 inches of trees per acre. For a half-acre, that’s 60 inches and as the lots become smaller, the inches become fewer. “If you want to build on a quarter-acre lot, that leaves little room for trees,” she said. But what the new ordinance must do more than anything, she said, is plan for trees at the beginning of the development process. “We want trees to be planned for before any permits are given, that [developers] get nothing until they have a plan for every tree on their lot,” she said.

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