Sandy Springs Reporter

Page 1

DECEMBER 2020 • VOL. 14 — NO. 12

Sandy Springs Reporter


Mapping Biden’s win in local communities P11

More green space, shorter buildings added to North End concepts BY BOB PEPALIS

with many of the suggestions participants in the first round of Civic Dinners made to increase inclusion and diversity in the city. The city sponsored 44 Civic Dinners with 341 attendees in July and August, using a virtual platform and questions provided by a private company called Civic Dinners. Participants discussed what they saw as the city’s strengths and weaknesses in belong-

Consultants and city staff will present City Council on Dec. 15 with final concepts for redevelopment of four shopping centers in the city’s North End. On Nov. 5, consultants released the final concepts and posted them online at northern. The concepts added green space and reduced building heights in some concepts to reflect public comment on their initial ideas. “We’ve added more green space in particular on North River Village and North Springs,” said Sarah McColley of TSW, consultants in land use, zoning, urban design and outreach. The North End revitalization project kicked off in March with 200 community members participating in a public meeting. A virtual pop-up meeting had 162 participants. In August and September city staff and consultants presented multiple concepts for each of the four shopping centers that varied from following all zoning requirements to more extensive rezoning and building code changes to achieve. The community participated in virtual meetings for each shopping center and added comments through interactive websites. After the council meeting, the final plan document will be completed by Dec. 31. McColley said the consultants learned that the community wants a mix of housing options. Overall feedback themes included: ●Need for a mix of housing options that are attainable at many price points, including single-family homes and different

See TWO on page 16

See NORTH on page 22

Holiday Events P5 ROBIN’S NEST

A thankful farewell to readers P13


One of the concepts for redeveloping North River Village shopping center proposes taller mixed-use buildings whose density helps make creating green space plaza areas possible.


CAC leader’s legacy of helping others

Two councilmembers call for improving diversity in city programs, leadership BY BOB PEPALIS


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Incumbents win most local races; state House seat flips BY JOHN RUCH, BOB PEPALIS AND MATT BRUCE


Incumbents won most Nov. 3 races local to Sandy Springs, while a remaining Republican-held state House seat flipped to Democratic representation. Meanwhile, voters face another major election Jan. 5, when runoffs are held for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats. Republican incumbent David Perdue faces Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff in one race; Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler, a Buckhead resident, faces Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock in the other. In House District 52, which represents parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, Repub-

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lican incumbent Rep. Deborah Silcox lost to Democratic challenger Shea Roberts Nov. 3 by fewer than 400 votes. Silcox had yet to concede at the Reporter’s press time, while Roberts prepared to take office by meeting with the Democratic House Caucus. The official results show Roberts won the seat, which represents parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, with 17,069 votes (50.56%) to Silcox’s 16,692 (49.44%). Roberts’ victory completes a Democratic flipping of local state House districts that began in the “blue wave” of 2018. Silcox was one of the few local Republican legislators

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But Silcox has not made a concession statement to the public or to Roberts. Silcox said Nov. 6 that she had been advised not to concede. Asked via text message Nov. 14 whether she would concede or attempt a challenge to the results, Silcox said, “No comment at this time.” Roberts’ margin of victory, while slim, is still above the 1% threshold at which candidates can call for a recount under state law. The law allows other grounds for recounts, such as claims of errors. In races for Congressional and other state legislative seats representing Sandy Springs, as well as the Fulton County Commission, incumbents of both parties won. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, a Democrat, will keep her 6th Congressional District seat af-

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a rematch of 2018, when McBath ousted Handel from the seat. The district also includes parts of Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Cobb County and north Fulton areas. In state Senate District 6, representing parts of Buckhead and Sandy Springs, Democratic incumbent Jen Jordan pulled 61.51% of the vote to beat Republican challenger Harrison Lance. In state Senate District 32, Republican incumbent Kay Kirkpatrick defeated Democratic challenger Christine Triebsch with 55.96% of the vote in a second rematch since she won the seat in 2017. The seat also represents parts of Cobb County.


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In state Senate District 40, Democratic incumbent Sally Harrell defeated Republican challenger Garry Guan with 60.5% of the vote. The seat includes Dunwoody and parts of Brookhaven and Sandy Springs. In state Senate District 56, Republican incumbent John Albers won a relatively close race against Democratic challenger Sarah Beeson, pulling 51.09% of the vote.

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In state House District 51, Democratic incumbent Josh McLaurin drew 55.26% of the vote to defeat Republican challenger Alex Kaufman in another second-rematch race. In state House District 80, which represents parts of Brookhaven and Sandy Springs, Democratic incumbent Matthew Wilson took 58.76% of the vote to defeat Republican challenger Alan Cole. In the race for the District 2 seat on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, representing northern Sandy Springs, Republican incumbent Bob Ellis fended off a challenge from Democrat Justin Holsomback with 53.72% of the vote. SS




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City presents concepts for park networks along Chattahoochee River BY BOB PEPALIS Consultants and city staff will present concept plans for a network of parks along the Chattahoochee River to the City Council at its Dec. 15 meeting. “As we all know, the Chattahoochee River is one of the city’s greatest natural resources. However, despite improvements to its use, it’s still an underutilized element in the city,” Carlos Perez of Perez Planning and Design, one of the city’s consultants on the plan, said during a virtual public meeting on Oct. 26 that shared the latest concepts. Perez said the final vision plan for the river access parks will be completed in December. City Council will determine how it wants to proceed with the park proposals before having staff issuing any requests for proposals to construct any of them. The early draft concepts presented during a virtual meeting drew mostly favorable comments, he said, though some residents saw parking and development in ecologically sensitive areas as negatives. Catherine Mercier-Baggett, sustainability manager for the city, said the concepts are high-level concepts and much work needs to be done before the city can

would include Morgan Falls Overlook Park, Morgan Falls Dog Park, the Georgia Power Morgan Falls Hydro Plant, Steel Canyon Golf Course, Sandy Springs Recycling Center and Morgan Falls Athletic Complex. The concept divided the project into three areas, including the overlook and two activity areas in Morgan Falls Meadow. The concept would expand the overlook area and add a pier for more access to the river. Relocating the dog park would enable moving the road and parking areas away from the river. The river edge would be restored with access to the water provided in an ecological sensitive way, he said.

Roswell Road Riverfront

The Morgan Falls Overlook Park would offer river access at the existing park and add the neighboring golf course property and Morgan Falls athletic fields to create a 200-acre interconnected park.

make cost estimates. She said it’s a vision for 20 years or more in the future. Each of the three parks – Morgan Falls, Roswell Road and Crooked Creek – have proposed trail connections to tie into trails that are part of the city’s master trail plan, she said.

Morgan Falls Riverfront Regional Park

The Morgan Falls Riverfront Regional Park concept proposes creating an interconnected 200-acre regional park. That

The Roswell Road Riverfront concept considers creating a network of nature trails, docks, natural river drop-in areas and river overlooks. These would be anchored by a mixeduse commercial/recreational development where the Metropolitan River Protection Act allows it, he said. Each of the three alternatives would include a drop-off/staging area and 14 onstreet parking spaces along an access lane separated from Roswell Road by a median on its west side. A controlled intersection with crosswalks at Roswell Road and Roberts Drive is proposed. Access to a separately planned pedestrian and bicyclist bridge over the Chattahoochee River would be gained through a multi-purpose trail that would go under the Roswell Road bridge. Where the plans differ is how the commercial/recreational development would be accomplished. The first alternative proposes a one- or two-story, 3,000-squarefoot building. The second alternative proposes docking a river boat or barge along the banks of the Chattahoochee River for that use. The third alternative suggests constructing two buildings three to five stories tall for that use.


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Crooked Creek Conservation Park’s vision looks to connect four adjacent sites through a network of trails: Crooked Creek Park, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Garrard Landing and Holcomb Bridge Park across the road in Gwinnett County. That would create an integrated 50-acre conservation and educational park, though only one of the sites is city property. The concept builds on the existing trail and parking lot being constructed along Crooked Creek with two river overlook boardwalks. The concept would add permeable multipurpose trails, nature trails, exercise stations, a floating multi-purpose trail across the Chattahoochee River to connect to Garrard Landing, which is in Roswell, and a pedestrian bridge to connect to adjacent sites. The plan only details the parkland being created in Sandy Springs. SS


Art & Entertainment | 5

Holiday Events

A float from last year’s edition of the Sparkle Sandy Springs Parade.


The annual display of decorated miniature houses returned to City Springs, 1 Galambos Way, on Thanksgiving and will remain up through New Year’s Day. A drive-thru version of the Sparkle Parade -- with stationary floats and the audience passing through in their vehicles -- is scheduled for Dec. 6, 6-8 p.m. Info:


6-8:30 p.m., will showcase a variety of businesses on Peachtree between Lenox and Piedmont roads with hot chocolate, cocktails, carolers and local musicians. For tickets and more information about the events, see livablebuckhead. com/holiday. — John Ruch, Bob Pepalis and Holly R. Price


The annual lighting of a holiday tree and a menorah at Blackburn Park was scheduled to become a virtual event streamed on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. at Extending the holiday celebration is a citywide yard decoration contest for residents and businesses. The contest was scheduled to be judged Dec. 7, with winners to be announced Dec. 14. Explore Brookhaven, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, will create driving maps of all entries and publicize it in surrounding towns to bring others to Brookhaven for a socially distanced viewing. To download the map, go to


Livable Buckhead is holding a variety of holiday events in the Buckhead Village and Lenox Square areas under the theme “Miracle on Peachtree.” Nearly 40 Christmas trees will be on display at Charlie Loudermilk Park at Roswell and Peachtree roads Dec. 11-14. Drive-in and walk-in -- or “sleigh-in” -- movies will be shown in a parking lot at 309 Buckhead Ave. within the newly renamed Buckhead Village District shopping complex. The movies include “Elf” and “Die Hard” on Dec. 11; “Home Alone” and “A Christmas Story” on Dec. 12; and “An American Tail” and “Love Actually” on Dec. 13. Tickets range from $10 for walkers to $40 for multiple people in a vehicle, and spaces are limited. A “Hot Chocolate Crawl” Dec. 13,

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Community | 7

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As Civic Dinners booms, some question diversity, open meetings issues BY JOHN RUCH


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Civic Dinners is enjoying a boom in the meeting business that has made the Atlanta-based start-up virtually synonymous with post-protest racial dialogues in such local communities as Sandy Springs. Governments and other organizations praise it as an off-the-shelf method for quickly gathering hundreds of people to discuss tough topics and inspire new policies. But some participants question Civic Dinners’ own diversity and expertise, especially on racial issues. And its inherently private structure may run afoul of state open-meetings laws and other government transparency guarantees. Civic Dinners has been a “highly successful” engagement method, especially for millennials, at the Atlanta Regional Commission, according to Malika Reed Wilkins, director of the organization’s Center for Strategic Relations. “It was certainly an innovative way for us, the ARC, to get input on some of the key regional issues,” Wilkins said. One Civic Dinners participant, a Black woman who asked to remain anonymous, said that, especially on racial issues, the method is too “mild and conservative” and fails to challenge preconceptions of those who join. “We live in a racist society, and not everybody agrees on that point whatsoever,” the participant said. “...I think the thing that’s most appealing for governments [about Civic Dinners] is, it’s easy. And easy is not going to solve it.” Jenn Graham, Civic Dinners’ founder and CEO, says she piloted the “structured dialogue” program in 2014 at the ARC while working as a consultant. It uses a dinner-party format, with a volunteer host attempting to gather a small but diverse group, each member of which voices their answer to pre-selected topical questions. The method is rooted in dinners in private homes, but has been expanded to large conference-style meetings. In the pandemic, the business has shifted to a virtual platform that Graham says will remain available long-term. Graham did not invent the dinner-meeting concept. In the mid-1990s, “Chicago Dinners” about race and racism were held by a social-justice nonprofit in that city. The Chicago model has inspired other programs, such as the “Dinners by Design” conducted by Yale University psychologist Dietra Hawkins. Civic Dinners began its own “Inclusive Series” about bias and diversity due to the interest of corporate clients, Graham said. Those topics are helping to drive Civic Dinners’ boom into an international business. Earlier this year, the city of Sandy Springs began an ongoing racial dialogue using Civic Dinners, which drew about 250 participants and is already credited with inspiring a city “inclusion and diversity commission.” For next year, Graham said, the business has been hired to facilitate Atlanta policing meetings involving the Atlanta Police Foundation and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Civic Dinners is also the platform hired by a similar but separate program called Equitable Dinners that began last year in Decatur but is also expanding rapidly to national programming. Equitable Dinners is inspired by Hawkins’ model and is focused on “dismantling racism,” says Adria Kitchens, the program’s manager. An affiliate of Out of Hand Theatre, it incorporates a brief theatrical performance to jumpstart the dialogue. It was set to hold 500 dinners in Atlanta this year before the pandemic postponed the plan. In Sandy Springs and elsewhere, some participants have questioned the diversity of the dinners themselves and the reliance on amateur hosts instead of expert facilitators and note-takers, who can be hired but are not part of the basic package. In Atlanta’s activism scene, some organizers have noted that Civic Dinners is itself a White-led organization whose method may encode biases and assumptions, such as preferring “inclusion” to systemic change. The anonymous participant, who joined a Civic Dinners discussion about White privilege roughly two years ago, said she felt “uncomfortable” with answers given by White participants who appeared to view their mere attendance as a “badge of courage.” The method prohibited participants from questioning or challenging each other on such topics as diversity terminology or claims to have abandoned racist beliefs, she said. “People were just sharing, and that was it,” she said. “There was just not a learning moment.” Graham said that the diversity of her own staff is something she thinks about “all the time” and is “high on my list” to improve. “Right now, we have only two African Americans on our team out of 14,” she said, though that small team also includes three people who are Asian, one who is Latino and four who identify as LGBTQ. Continued on page 8

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As more governments employ Civic Dinners, an emerging issue is conflict between the dinner-party concept, with its presumption of privacy and intimacy, and laws that ensure open meetings, open records and other public accountability. Sandy Springs initially denied the Reporter access to its racial dialogue meetings, claiming the media would cause a “chilling effectâ€? on discussion. The city relented only after attorney David Hudson, a board member of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, advised that denying access violated the state Open Meetings and Open Record acts. The city of Brookhaven also considered using Civic Dinners to host racial dialogue meetings, but instead is using the platform for a still-mysterious series of municipally funded input meetings. The city refused to let the Reporter attend the first such meeting, held by City Manager Christian Sigman in September, and also refused to record it for later viewing. “The purpose of a civic dinner is to create an intimate platform in which a small group can share their unique perspectives,â€? said city spokesperson Burke Brennan in an email. “It is supposed to be a safe atmosphere for people to express themselves openly to their neighbors and their local government.â€? In response to a formal complaint from the Reporter, Georgia Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Colangelo said it appeared that Brookhaven’s Civic Dinners meetings might be exempt from the Open Meetings Act, but also that the lack of case law about this new form of gathering made it impossible to say for sure. The Civic Dinners makes for “an uncertain question of law,â€? she said, indicating that litigation would have to resolve it. Graham said she had not thought about possible Open Meetings implications of Civic Dinners, but that the company “highly encouragesâ€? media participation. “We actually encouraged Sandy Springs to invite reporters and allow reporters to come‌,â€? she said. “I think participants especially, when they know media is showing up, they get so excited, because they’re like, ‘Hey, this is what this is all about.’â€? Equitable Dinners and the ARC said they have opened their meetings to the press as well. Graham said she did not know about Brookhaven’s meetings and that the city might be using a free version offered on the website, which would leave the company itself unaware. She said the company discourages free users from using the “Civic Dinnersâ€? term for such meetings. “We also want to be cautious about our brand name,â€? she said.

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Community | 9

Planning Commission OK’s preschool at former church with 60-student enrollment cap BY BOB PEPALIS The City Council will consider St. Martin’s Episcopal School’s plan for a private preschool and daycare at a former church on High Point Road at its Dec. 15 meeting, which will be held in person at the studio theater at City Springs and virtually. The conditional use permit won a recommendation of approval by the Planning Commission on Nov. 18, but only with an enrollment cap that is lower than requested. The only issue commissioners and neighborhood representatives had was a last-minute request to increase the student cap from 60 to 100 students. Commissioners stuck with the city’s Zoning and Planning Department staff recommendation of 60 students. The conditional use permit request for the former Highpoint Episcopal Community Church at 4945 High Point Road moves to the City Council with five staff recommendations. In addition to the cap on students at 60, the conditions require St. Martin’s to follow the site plan, which only uses the existing building; a maximum lot coverage of 28% of the site; a building limit of one story; and a stipulation that carpool stacking remain on the site, with information provided on whether deceleration or left-turn lanes are necessary. “Since at least the early ’60s, the property has been used for worship as well as educational opportunities,” said Alexandra Horst of the city’s Planning and Zoning staff. The plan by St. Martin’s is to move its early childhood program from the school at 3110 Ashford-Dunwoody Road in Brookhaven to the High Point property. Children from 8-weeks to 5-years-old would attend the school. Minor exterior and interior work would be done to prepare the 16,500-square-foot building, including creating five classrooms inside. The school plans to transfer 15 administrative workers to the site, which is located on 7.54 acres. Den Webb, legal representative for St. Martin’s, confirmed that drop-off and pickup of students would occur with vehicle stacking within the 108-space parking lot, with curb cuts designated as a separate entrance and exit. While St. Martin’s would move an existing program, it also wanted the ability to increase the attendance over time. Webb said that “we need some groom to grow over the long term. The cost of operating the school increases about 3% every year.” Without the flexibility to increase, adding a few students at a time, the school would have to increase its tuition, Webb said. That also would impact St. Martin’s commitment to diversity, eliminating opportunities for scholarships, he said. But Ronda Smith, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighbor-

hoods, said the community has supported St. Martin’s based on the cap of 60 students. Smith said the community hasn’t experienced traffic of note on the two-lane road originating from the church property for at least 10 years. St. Martin’s can always come back to the city and request an increase to the student cap in the future, she said. Former church member Duffy Hickey spoke as a neighbor and as president of the High Point Civic Association. “Both I personally and the civic association want this thing to work,” Hickey said. The civic association’s primary concern was the cap on students at 60. St. Martin’s would operate the third school within 0.6 of a mile of High Point Road, he said. Those include High Point Elementary School at 520 Greenland SpringsDerma-PressAd-DecIssue.pdf Road and Atlanta Jewish Academy at 52001

Northland Drive. Another nearby school is the Chaya Mushka Children’s House Preschool at 5065 High Point Road. Webb asked that another school zone sign with reduced speed be installed at Maryland Place, just south of the southernmost curb cut of the property. 11/19/20 9:35 AM

The former church property as it appears in Fulton County property records.

Commissioners voted to send the staff recommendations with suggested conditions – including the student cap of 60 students – to the council.











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10 | Commentary

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Metro Atlanta’s suburbs hold the future of Georgia politics in their hands Right now, I feel like we’re living in the most interesting state in the world, to adapt a line from a popular beer commercial. Not only does Georgia, with its two Senate runoff elections, hold the fate of the Senate, and hence of the balance of power in Washington, in its hands, but it’s also the only state in the Deep South to have voted for Joe Biden. What’s more, two of the very few bright spots for Democrats at the Congressional level were Lucy McBath’s retention of the local seat she flipped in 2018 and Carolyn Bordeaux’s flipping of another suburban seat. How we got here is, I think, an interesting and illuminating tale. Everyone’s easy answer is to credit Stacey Abrams with the feat of “turning Georgia blue,” as one headline inaccurately put it. She certainly had a hand in it, working to register and mobilize hundreds of thousands of voters. But as one observer recently noted, none of what Abrams accomplished would have been possible without Atlanta, whose economic dynamism attracts people from all over the country. Consider these numbers. More than half the almost 5 million votes cast in the presidential election came from counties in the Atlanta metro area. Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties alone accounted for about 1.7 million votes, giving Joe Biden a 625,000 edge over Donald Trump. Of course, the picture gets a bit more clouded when you factor in all the other metro counties, but it’s clear enough that the Atlanta metro area makes Georgia competitive. No other major Southern city has the same effect on its state’s political complexion. Not Charlotte, not Nashville, and certainly not Birmingham or Columbia. The closest southern analogue to Atlanta’s outsized influence is the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., where Joe Biden’s 500,000 vote margin (out of roughly 1.5 million votes cast) overcame Donald Trump’s slight 50,000 vote edge in the rest of the state. Since 2008, Virginia and Georgia have followed similar trajectories. Barack Obama added nearly a half-million voters to the Democratic columns in both states back then. Joe Biden duplicated that feat this year, adding 431,000 votes in Virginia and 594,000 votes in Georgia.

This comparison takes a bit of luster away from Stacey Abrams’s accomplishment. Virginia Democrats were not exactly lost without her in 2020. Also, Georgia Republicans have a much larger margin outside Atlanta than their Virginia counterparts do outside the D.C.

Joseph Knippenberg is a professor of political science at Oglethorpe University in Brookhaven.

suburbs. But they shouldn’t rest too comfortably on that cushion, not only because it didn’t produce victory at the

Republicans have to hope that they can retain their appeal to non-metro voters while distancing themselves from the Trump persona in the metro area. presidential level in 2020, but because that’s not where the state’s voting population will grow in the future. Retaining the non-Atlanta base is necessary, but not sufficient, for long-term Republican success in Georgia politics In a word, the Atlanta metropolitan area holds the future of Georgia politics

in its hands. Both parties have strong incentives to improve upon their performances ITP and OTP. For Democrats, the two keys are holding onto the affluent, White voters who moved from splitting their tickets in 2016 to voting “D” in more races in 2020, and increasing turnout among Black and Latino voters. Since Donald Trump will not always be around to help them with the former effort, they will have to find ways to differentiate their candidates from the louder progressive voices that tend to dominate the national party. We can expect to hear more of the intraparty debate that has been evident in the aftermath of the disappointing results below the presidential level. As for the other challenge, I will restrict myself here to saying that claims of voter suppression are a better mobilizing tool than they are a description of facts on the ground. There are lots of votes to be gotten from people of color, but those who aren’t already voting are going to be very difficult to get to the polls. Republicans have to hope that they can retain their appeal to non-metro voters while distancing themselves from the Trump persona in the metro area. In the January special elections, the task is straightforward, for they can argue that the only way that President Biden can be the moderate he claims to be is if there’s a Republican Senate to balance a Democratic House. After that, the test will be whether Georgia Republicans and their national counterparts can articulate a nationalist and populist message that isn’t as abrasive and offensive as that offered by the current occupant of the White House. I take it for granted that there’s no going back to the party of Mitt Romney, however much some of those who would be in the executive suites if they weren’t working from home would want it. That party doesn’t win enough votes outside the metro area to counterbalance its inevitable deficit around the Perimeter. None of us really wants to pay much attention to politics for the next two months, but we can’t avoid it. Democrats and Republicans have a lot at stake, in the short term and in the long term. For Georgians, the question is whether purple is a stop on the way to blue or a condition that we’ll, so to speak, enjoy for the foreseeable future. SS


Community | 11


Local communities were Biden country in Nov. 3 election among local communities. Biden took 93.1% of the vote in 06Q, a precinct in the Armour and southern Lindbergh neighborhoods. Trump’s best performance -- 58.2% -- came in the Kingswood and Randall Mill neighborhoods in western Buckhead. Trump also prevailed in some precincts in North Buckhead and in neighborhoods along West Paces Ferry Road. Among those was Tuxedo Park, whose residents include Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Republican who faces Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock in one of Georgia’s two nationally spotlighted runoff elections for U.S. Senate seats coming Jan. 5. In a handful of local precincts, neither Biden nor Trump won a majority of the votes, including some areas in northern Dunwoody, southern and western Sandy Springs, and Buckhead’s Paces neighborhood. Biden and Trump weren’t the only presidential candidates on the ballot. Libertarian Jo Jorgensen drew small numbers of votes in local precincts. The local Libertarian hotspot? Brookhaven’s Cross Keys High precinct, where Jorgensen won about 2.5% of the vote. For an interactive version of the precinct map, showing vote totals and percentages for each candidate, see


This color-coded map shows how strongly precincts in local communities leaned toward either major-party presidential candidate. The darker the blue, the higher the vote for Democrat Joe Biden, and the dark the red, the higher the vote for Republican Donald Trump.

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BY JOHN RUCH AND MAGGIE LEE Local communities of Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs were Biden country in the presidential election, joining other metro Atlanta suburbs in flipping Georgia blue for the first time since 1992. Democrat Joe Biden earned about 61.1% of the total votes in those four communities, while Republican incumbent Donald Trump won only about 37.5%, according to official precinct-by-precinct results mapped and analyzed by the Reporter. (At press time, a recount requested by Trump was pending, but was not expected to significantly change the results following a previous review that combined aspects of an audit and a recount. That previous review did not alter any local results.) Biden handily won each of the communities as well, with the following approximate percentages: Brookhaven



Sandy Springs

Biden 64.5% Trump 34%

Biden 60.7% Trump 38.1%

Biden 59% Trump 39.6%

Biden 60.8% Trump 37.5%

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As the Reporter’s map shows, Trump lost every precinct in Brookhaven and polled no higher than the 50% range in Dunwoody. (Numbers for Brookhaven are approximate because precinct lines capture some voters outside of the southern city limits.) Sandy Springs had only two precincts that leaned Trump: one in the eastern panhandle above Dunwoody and another in southern High Point around Windsor Parkway. Buckhead won the distinction of both the bluest and the reddest voting precincts SS

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12 | Commentary ■

After Trump, the blue deluge hits suburban Republicans

Around Town

The way Fran Millar sees it, the big change shouldn’t surprise anyone. You could watch it coming. It showed right there in the numbers as election followed election. The much-talked-about “blue waves” that swept away Republican red ground in north DeKalb, Sandy Springs and Buckhead has been building for the past couple of elections. “The wakeup call was in 2016,” Millar said recently as he surveyed the local political landscape after the 2020 election. Support for Republicans eroded that year, he said, and continued to disappear in 2018. This year, once the big wave washed through, only Democrats were left standing. The surprise isn’t necessarily that more Democrats won local elections, but where they won them. Although Republicans still control the state Legislature, candidates with a “D” after their names

ta suburbs that once elected big-name Republicans such as former U.S. Congressman Newt Gingrich, former state Sen. Tom Price and former state Rep. Wendell Willard. And, of course, Millar himself. “The Democrats have taken the hill,” said former state Rep. Ed Lindsey, a Republican who represented a chunk of Buckhead for about a decade. “Whether Republicans can have a resurgence is yet to be seen.” Millar served in the state Legislature for 20 years. He was a state rep. for a dozen years and a state senator for eight more. He said he won 10 of 11 elections he ran. In his Senate elections, he regularly claimed more than 60% of the vote. Then, in 2016, “the Democrat who ran against me did nothing but a Facebook campaign” and still collected 44% of the vote. “I knew that wasn’t good.” Two years ago, he lost to Sen. Sally

have claimed districts once considered safe harbors for Republicans. Democrats now represent parts of the north Atlan-

Harrell. “I went from 62% [of the vote in 2016] to 45% in ’18,” he said. “That pretty well says it.”

What changed? Demographics, he said. Dunwoody’s just not the same place it was when he moved there 40 years ago. Back then, it was part of the “Republican Suburbs,” mostly White communities filled with cul-de-sacs surrounded by single-family houses lined up like guards. No more. Nowadays, he said, Atlanta is like Chicago or New York or other big cities scattered around the country where the suburbs politically have become an extension of the city and “most of the area is blue.” “What I didn’t see was the population shifting so quickly, the demographics shifting so quickly,” he said. Millar’s quick to say that by “demographics,” he doesn’t mean exclusively race. That’s part of it, but not all. Other factors he cited include the changing politics of some suburban women, including blowback against President Don-

and the groundswell of new voters organized by former gubernatorial candidate and Georgia voting rights champion Stacey Abrams. But Lindsey, a lawyer who’s 61 and who spent nearly a decade in the state House and was the Republican whip, believes local Republicans’ problem in his old Buckhead district was simply Trump. “In large part it is, quite frankly, President Trump,” he said. “It’s a matter of turning off from the president, to be candid,” he said. “He simply wasn’t well-regarded in this area. I don’t see a shift in people’s attitudes about policy so much as a shift in attitudes about leadership style.” At age 70, Millar, who runs a small marketing firm, misses doing the kind of work he did in the Legislature and working with other lawmakers. “I do miss doing legislation on things that matter,” he

ald Trump; the rise of the tech industry and the younger people who work in tech; the spread of multifamily homes;

said. “You just don’t turn it off after 20 years.” But he has no plans to try to try for elected office again. After all, it might not be as much fun as it used to be. DeKalb is very divided, he said, and local politics sometimes devolve into the kinds of divisions that now regularly split the country. “I’m old-school,” Millar said. “I can sit down and do a deal with Michael Thurmond [DeKalb’s Democratic CEO].” After the 2020 elections, Republicans appear likely to do a little soul-searching both nationally and locally. Lindsey argues the challenge facing both parties in Buckhead will be to nominate candidates who can appeal to conservative voters. “The question is now that we’ll be living in a post-Trump era, will those folks migrate back to Republican candidates who are right of center, or are they in the Democratic camp?” he said. “That’s going to be the challenge for the Democrats and that’s the challenge for Republicans.” Millar argues that for Republicans, a change needs to come. “I think you have to appeal to people with things that matter -- find issues that matter to people. I’m pro-life, but I don’t think abortion and guns are the way… Traditionally, people vote their paychecks. They didn’t this time because of the pandemic and the personal issues of the president. … You’ve got to adapt. You can’t do the same-old, same-old.”

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Commentary | 13

A resolution kept, and a seasonal farewell While negotiating this surreal season of masked Santas and mugs of egg-

“Don’t eat the cake!” “But I want the cake!”

nog clinked 6 feet apart and


“Go run three miles.” “But


it’s cold outside.”

year itch response built in here. But it’s

my 8-year-old son ordered alligator,

not them, it’s me. To them, to my edi-

which blew my mind because I couldn’t

tors, my publisher, to all the staff and

get him to eat broccoli.

board of the Reporter, I offer my ut-

with hand sanitizer, I’m

“Time to write the col-

looking ahead to 2021

umn!” “Be quiet. I’m texting.”

Truly, writing this column has been

and the resolutions that

Simply put, resolutions

a privilege, as has been working with

are commitments to a goal.

all of you. For my part, even though I

Most of us proba-

Here I come to the real pur-

didn’t make it a full decade, this seems

bly figure that the trials

pose for focusing on this top-

like the right time for me to close the

of 2020 granted us a 10-

ic: writing this column has

year pass to forget res-

been the realization of a goal


olutions and indulge in

that I have held for years,

may come with it.

whatever vices we might possess, just to even the score. But as it is typical at the end of a year or the beginning of a new one to revolt against our

Robin’s Nest

Robin Conte lives with her husband in an empty nest in Dunwoody. To contact her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the Nest,” see

one that I am ever grateful to have had the opportunity to meet. But as this year ends, so will this column. I’ve decided to embark on other goals. Maybe I’ll finally learn to

bad habits, we might still

stand up straight. Maybe I’ll

find ourselves entertain-

be a nicer person. Maybe I’ll

ing the idea of resolutions. And what

learn to belly dance (and pick up with

are resolutions, after all, but our own

the lessons I started 20 years ago).

personal battles? We have constant little skirmishes with ourselves:

It occurred to me that it has been seven years since I was taken on by the Reporter. So perhaps there’s a seven-

most respect and gratitude.

And since I’ve got about 150 words to go, I’m going to leave with a few musings that might have once been fleshedout into fully formed columns, but for now will be bones on the page: ■ People say that your true personality shows when you’re drunk. I disagree.

I think it shows when you’re

driving in traffic.

■ Have you ever watched a movie and then had to go to Wikipedia to figure out what happened? ■ I waited all day for my kids to get home to change the TV channel. And then I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved when they couldn’t do it, either. ■ Someone called me “precious” once, which I believe she meant as a compliment. I didn’t take it that way, though. “Precious” is an adjective reserved for cats and old people. And I’m not a cat. And here I will deftly transition from “old” to “auld” to “auld lang syne,”

■ Do you ever wonder why you’ll

and use that phrase to offer my farewell

spend 15 minutes rearranging the

and best wishes to all of you who have

plates in the dishwasher rather than

read and enjoyed (or not!), for the sake

stopping and washing the dish?

of seven years gone by.

■ During a trip to Disney World,

And most of all, thank you.

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14 | Community ■

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Mayor Rusty Paul says he is undecided about seeking a third term in next year’s city election -- a step back from previous comments that he is likely to retire from political life. “I will make a decision in Q1 [the first quarter of] 2021,” Paul said in an email when asked whether he intends to run for re-election. Paul is the second mayor to serve in the young city and first won the office in 2013. He was re-elected in 2017 unopposed after a challenger dropped out. The election itself was canceled, allowing Paul and unchallenged City Council members to take office without a formal vote. During his 2017 re-election campaign announcement, Paul, who had just turned 65, said it would “likely be my last campaign.” He spoke in terms of retirement from political life, saying that after a second term as mayor, he would “ride off into the sunset and play with my grandkids and work on my farm and play with my bees.” Earlier in 2017, Paul also considered but ultimately decided against a run for the 6th Congressional District seat, a decision he announced with similar comments about nearing the end of his political career. Paul has previously served as a Georgia state senator, chair of the Georgia Republican Party, and an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, among other positions. The 2021 election is nearly a year away and is officially nonpartisan. But Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow presidential victory in Georgia over Republican Donald Trump, a shift anchored in Sandy Springs and other metro Atlanta suburbs, is already stirring talk of possible political effects on local races. Some participants and observers said the Democratic “blue wave” of 2018 affected the outcome of the 2019 mayoral election in neighboring Dunwoody.

City gives nonprofits another $630K to help pandemic-hit residents BY BOB PEPALIS Three nonprofit agencies that provide services to Sandy Springs residents affected by the economic impact of COVID-19 will get another $630,769 in federal relief funds with the City Council’s approval on Nov. 17. Madalyn Smith, a Community Development planner for the city, told the council that the money supplements a first round of Community Development Block Grant funds received in the spring. The new funding also will be awarded to local nonprofits to assist Sandy Springs citizens who are low- to moderate-income. Funds will go toward continued educational programming, food and rental assistance. The money also will support new programs targeting Latino youths and provide the Community Assistance Center, a local nonprofit, with part-time aid to process the increase in requests for services. The CAC will receive the bulk of the funds, with $535,769 being used primarily for rent relief for residents who suffered job losses due to the pandemic. Mayor Rusty Paul said he’s been visiting the three nonprofits to see how they are doing and who they serve. He spoke with Tamara Carrera, the CAC’s executive director, on Nov. 16, and heard that their biggest need now is rental assistance. Many people are donating food and supplies. “So far they’ve been able to, using these funds, prevent a lot of people from being forced out of their homes in Sandy Springs,” he said. Carrera told him that CAC needed more funds because they are running out of money to provide rental assistance. Los Niños Primeros continues its education program with a $60,000 grant. The nonprofit’s mission is to prepare underserved Latino pre-school children for educational success by providing opportunities to develop their language, cognitive, social, and motor skills. Sandy Springs Mission will receive the remaining $35,000. The nonprofit will use the funds to help Latino students at North Springs and Riverwood International Charter high schools whose studies have suffered with the added burdens placed on them by the pandemic. The joint program with Los Niños Primeros will work to help the students overcome the setbacks including struggles with remote learning.



Community | 15

City funds $1.2M in small business COVID-19 relief grants BY BOB PEPALIS The City Council has approved a program to offer $1.2 million in grants to businesses with fewer than 100 employees for COVID-19 relief. The funds became available after the city was reimbursed $4.56 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds from Fulton County. Insead of putting the reimbursement back in the General Fund, City Council on Nov. 17 made a budget amendment for the Small Business Relief Grant program. The city set three tiers of support for small businesses, starting with a single employee ($5,000), 2-10 employees ($10,000) and 11-99 employees ($15,000), City Manager Andrea Surratt said. With approval in place, Economic Development Director Andrea Worthy will work with the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce and City Attorney Dan Lee on some details of the existing plan, said city spokesperson Sharon Kraun. The city will announce the three-week online application period sometime after the Thanksgiving holiday. The application will include information showing how the business has been affected by the pandemic. A review panel will assure that the businesses plan to use the funds for costs related to COVID-19 response and not offsetting regular operating revenues. Surratt said businesses could use the grant funds to reimburse the cost of business


interruption due to the pandemic as a result of required closures, voluntary closures to promote social distancing or decreased customer demand. The application process and a review panel will ensure that the funding is used for specific additional costs related to COVID-19 response and not offset regular operating revenues. And the city will have the right to audit the business to make sure the grants are used properly. Lee said businesses awarded grants have to maintain the provisions to receive the money or they would have to pay it back. Councilmember Tibby DeJulio said the size of the grants will not keep any business operating for very long. A $15,000 grant to a business with more than 11 employees won’t cover a single pay cycle, he said. The principal use might be rent for two or three months, Councilmember Chris Burnett said. He expects some kind of federal Payroll Protection Program relief at the start of the year, with the city’s grants serving as a Band-Aid to get them through the next few months. “It is a very small Band-Aid. But it might help through some rent payments for a couple of months, two or three months, on a couple of our small businesses,” he said. In other pandemic relief efforts, the council also approved $220,000 in grants to nonprofit agencies and $80,000 to Visit Sandy Springs to run a marketing campaign intended to revive the flagging hotel industry in the city.

16 | Community ■

Two councilmembers call for improving diversity in city programs, leadership Continued from page 1 ing and inclusion. City spokesperson Sharon Kraun presented a report on the Civic Dinners at the Nov. 3 City Council meeting. In the report, most participants said the city needs to schedule more of the virtual meetings to continue the dialogue. “I think the Civic Dinners in and of themselves are a great example of the kind of activity that can facilitate dialogue and understanding amongst democratic groups,” Bauman said. Burnett said the discussions started the process and got people engaged. The city will use ideas from the discussions as a framework for any changes that are warranted and for a broader dialogue, he said. Some participants said the city’s leadership should have participated in the Civic Dinners. Bauman said at the Nov. 3 City Council meeting and again when interviewed that he was disappointed that city staff and representatives of Civic Dinners kept them from joining the discussions. Kraun explained during her report to the City Council that councilmembers

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were kept from taking part in the first virtual sessions to make the residents feel more free and open during discussions. The city plans to host more Civic Dinners in 2021, during which city leaders will get a chance to participate. No dates have been scheduled, Kraun said. Residents said they want more diverse programming in the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center and more programs to “highlight the communities’ rich tapestry,” Kraun’s report said. Bauman said the city can follow the example of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival to engage with a diverse set of communities. He serves as co-chair of the festival’s engagement committee. In that role he helps direct engagement with the Muslim community, the Black community, the LGBTQ community and others in its programming. The issues of inclusion do not just involve racial and ethnic backgrounds, he said. It’s also true of socioeconomic backgrounds. Kraun said many participants in the Civic Dinners want more diversity in City Hall. Bauman said the City Council hired a new city manager, Andrea Surratt, in part because she has a track record of hiring, promoting and training women to leadership positions. The city’s previous head of public works was Black. The city adopted an equal employment opportunity policy that expanded beyond what federal law requires, he said. And he points out the city was the first in metro Atlanta to pass a hate crime ordinance that he sponsored in 2019. Many participants in the discussions want the city to put money into affordable housing. Bauman and Burnett cited a housing needs assessment currently being performed as a step the city is taking to address the issue. The lack of affordable housing makes even hiring a more diverse city staff difficult, Burnett said. The housing needs assessment is showing the challenges of more affordable housing, especially single-family housing. He said it can be difficult for an employee with a family. “And it’s hard to find those homes in Sandy Springs for them to purchase because we have gotten to be an expensive market,” he said. Both councilmembers agreed with Civic Dinner participants that the city leadership should reflect the city’s diversity. They agreed that current leaders should reach out to community leaders who are minorities to ask them to consider serving. With the exception of one woman – Councilmember Jody Reichel – the City Council and mayor are all White males, Burnett said. “The question really is how do we engage more diversity of candidates so that we’ll get a broad representation of our community that’s willing to run and willing to serve,” he said. Burnett agreed that as elected officials they need to look to the next generation of leaders to evaluate and help bring more diversity to elections. Much of that will happen through their individual connections in the community, on charitable boards, school boards and other places where they serve outside of their roles as council members, Burnett said, where they’ll get to know a diverse base of people. “And then, you know, we, we go to someone and say, ‘Hey, I understand this particular seat is going to be coming available. I think you ought to run,’” he said. It’s a big request of people to campaign and run for a race, he said. He said that grooming candidates from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities through the development authority, planning commission and ethics commission could give them a stepping-stone to council positions. A large number of Civic Dinner participants want the city to establish a diversity committee. Mayor Rusty Paul responded to that request by announcing at the Nov. 3 meeting that he is making plans for a “diversity and inclusion commission.” Paul said he hopes to have it established in January. Burnett said this commission is a step in the right direction to make the city more inclusive. He suggested the city may follow other communities’ lead to increase diversity through addition of an arts and cultural commission and an environmental sustainability board. The mayor nominates the members for the boards and commissions, with the City Council approving the appointments, Bauman said. Paul recently appointed Ed Ukaonu, a businessman who is Black, to the board of the Sandy Springs Development Authority. The mayor is authorized to make such nominations, with council approval. “I’m very hopeful that we will continue to do that, continue to look for members of our community to get them engaged if they’re so inclined to serve,” Burnett said. The challenge for a council member or mayor is the amount of time it takes. Many people can’t afford to take the time out of their professional lives to hold public office, Bauman said. SS


| 17

Communities of Faith A Night of Christmas Worship Wednesday, December 23rd, 7 pm in the Sanctuary at First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs

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18 | Community ■



Spirit of unity, suburban impacts are lingering questions after presidential election BY JOHN RUCH Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory over Republican incumbent Donald Trump is being greeted with different emotions among some local political observers — but also with common hopes of Georgia and America moving forward in a spirit of unity. It remains to be seen whether such a spirit can emerge from a contentious election that Trump refused to concede amid lengthy audits. And activists in both par-



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ties were bracing for two momentous runoff elections Jan. 5 for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats that could decide that chamber’s partisan control. Another outstanding question: How the presidential election and the Senate battles may trickle down

10 AM – 5 PM

into local politics in the Atlanta suburbs that appeared to drive Biden’s victory. “You can’t be expecting me to think with words in a moment of such intense emotion,” said Valerie Habif of Sandy Springs, a co-founder of a grassroots political group called the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon, on Nov. 7, the day media organizations projected Biden as the winner. “…In the midst of the nightmare that we were living, could we ever have dreamed that Georgia would do this? And now what’s ahead of us is greater than what was behind us,” she said, referring to the Senate battle. J. Max Davis, a Republican who was Brookhaven’s founding mayor and whose father long served in the Georgia House of Representatives, voted for Trump. But he purchase of $25 or more

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ing day after day of election counts. “I know people that are upset. I’m slightly upset,” said Davis. “But when it comes down to it, we’re all Americans. We just all need to understand that withdrawing from a friend or castigating your neighbor because of their politics is really a little bit infantile.” Davis said he is reminded “the world is not coming to an end tomorrow” and that “we all have to row this boat together.”

Division and unity For activists like Habif, Biden’s victory is a triumph over the Trump’s insulting manners and approving comments of White supremacists and neo-Nazis in a time that saw an increase in reports of anti-Semitic incidents and violence. She said she wishes election numbers had a bigger margin and “had been a more resounding re-




pudiation of Trump.” But it will do. “Look at us. We have the first Black vice president, and the first female Black vice president, and the first Indian American vice president,” Habif said, referring to Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. “There’s a Yiddish word… kvell. It’s when you’re filled with pride, filled with joyous pride. What we’re doing is, we’re kvelling.” Davis said he understands why Trump turned off many voters as a person.

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“I voted for Trump. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he said or did,” said Davis. “I know he’s crass. I know he’s bombastic like the salesman that he is.” But, Davis said, Trump had many good policies and successes on the economy, China trade and remaking of international free trade agreements. On the other hand, “I think Biden has a little of that in him as well,” Davis added. “I don’t dislike Joe Biden at all. … He’s a good person. I think he wants what’s best for the country,” though his advisors and Democratic Party officials might be a different story. Davis’s perception comes from a visit he made to the Obama White House for a U.S. Conference of Mayors event while he was leader of Brookhaven. Davis said he

4700 Chamblee Dunwoody Road | Dunwoody, GA 30338

ended up sitting with the then vice president — at one point even serving as Biden’s

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support when he stood on a chair to give a speech — and spent 25 minutes speaking one-on-one with him.


Community | 19

“I came away thinking, ‘This guy — I could almost vote for this guy,’” Davis said

other side of the aisle, whether you agree with it or not. … There’s always somebody

with a laugh. Among the topics was Biden’s own brief past as a Republican. “He was

who has an intelligent counterpoint… and when you don’t have that check in there,

so engaging. He’s a natural politician.”

I just think that leads to corruption and it leads to bubble thinking, and we do not need that in DeKalb County.”

Local political fallout

For Habif and her 1,500-member Democratic group, the election showed the pow-

Trump’s divisive manner, on the other hand, likely cost him votes in Atlanta’s

er to sway local voters in longtime Republic strongholds. Democrats did not flip

increasing blue northern suburbs, and that can be bad for political diversity, Da-

many seats this time — but they already did two years ago in local Congressional

vis said.

and General Assembly races and retained them this time. But in Buckhead and San-

“There are a lot of people in Brookhaven who aren’t necessarily blue, but Trump,

dy Springs’ House District 52, Republican incumbent Deborah Silcox lost by under

his personality may have turned them off… They just couldn’t conscience voting for

400 votes to Democratic challenger Shea Roberts. Habif said that race shows San-

Trump,” he said. “It was a personality referendum, in my mind, not necessarily an

dy Springs politics continue to change and that it could affect the city’s municipal

ideological referendum.”

elections in 2021.

He believes one of the casualties was Nancy Jester, a Dunwoody Republican who

“This organization was always about local change,” Habif said of her Democratic

lost her District 1 seat on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners to Democrat

women’s group. “But at no point did we ever believe that what we did locally would

Robert Patrick. The board will be all Democrats. “That fact that Nancy Jester lost,

have a national impact. And when we look at not what happened in the country but

to me, is a tragedy. … That hurts me just about more than anything else,” said Davis,

what happened in Georgia … think about the power of one. When the vote gets that

calling her a “watchdog.”

close, it’s the power of one. And when many ones come together, that’s about the

“I wouldn’t think the Georgia Legislature would be good if it was… all one party.

power of us.

I wouldn’t want that if I could,” said Davis. “You always learn something from the

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20 | Commentary ■


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Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at

CAC leader leaves a legacy of helping others Carol is a marketing consultant who on thethe DunwoodyAfter 23 years as CEO ofNiemi the Community Inlives 2012, Community Action Center Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire Assistance Center, Tamara Carrera has anbecame the Community Assistance Cenothers. Contact her at nounced her intention to retire. Her legacy ter (still CAC) to facilitate fundraising and will be hard to equal. more accurately reflect its CAC was founded in Sanmission. dy Springs in 1987 by 10 lo“‘Action Center’ was a cal congregations to adterm from the 1960s for social dress growing poverty in the work organizations funded community. For the next six by public money, not 501(c)3’s years, it operated out of the like us,” she said. “When I scout hut at one of the memwent to foundations for monber churches. Then in 1993 ey, they said, ‘We don’t fund along came Carrera, a bilinfederal organizations.’” gual native of Ecuador new CAC has changed in the era to Atlanta, with an MBA of COVID-19. Its main buildin nonprofit management ing is temporarily closed, and a desire to get involved. its thrift store and food panSPECIAL Her family joined Holy Intries are open only on certain Tamara Carrera. nocents’ Episcopal Church, days, and interviews are conwhere on Mission Sunday ducted by phone and email. she encountered CAC and signed up. The people served have changed, too. In “It was basically all volunteers then,” the beginning, they were mainly families she said. “Neighbors helping neighbors.” in extreme poverty with no savings. Now She soon went from volunteering once many are families that had savings but a week to joining the board of directors. By have used them up. 1997, she was CAC’s fourth CEO. “People we would have never seen be“I started part-time, for basically no fore,” she said. money,” she said of the organization that This year, for Thanksgiving and Christprovided food and clothing to 280 families mas, instead of baskets of food, which rea year with an annual budget of $24,000. quire over 100 volunteers to pack, CAC is She soon realized it wasn’t really a partgiving gift cards from grocery stores and time job but believed in the mission and stores that sell toys. told the board she would work as many Since becoming CEO, Carrera has seen a hours as necessary for the part-time salary. multitude of changes. After the 1996 Olympics, many of the “Early on, we were just trying to orgathousands of people who had come here to nize and define ourselves,” she said. “We work were left jobless but stayed. The comknew the need was there and we were a munity was growing rapidly. So was the Band-Aid, but we had no idea if we were need. Carrera became a fundraiser. having an impact because we didn’t have “That’s when we started strategic planthe resources to do follow-up.” ning,” she said. In 2005, after moving to Hightower Today CAC is the local community Trail, they began creating individual plans emergency assistance agency, every year for each family and following up. serving more than 6,500 individuals in “Now we follow families at 30, 90 and 3,000 households. It has an annual budget 180 days to see if we’re making a differof over $5 million, 18 staff members, three ence,” she said. “We know we’re essential. locations and more than 500 regular volIf we disappeared, it would be devastating unteers supported by 28 religious congreto a lot of people.” gations and numerous individual, corpoCAC is all of this and more. It’s a place rate and foundation donors. where people in need, who are often emCAC prevents homelessness and probarrassed to receive assistance, are treated motes self-sufficiency by providing needwith dignity and respect. ed food, clothing and emergency financial Anyone who has ever been involved assistance. To qualify for assistance, people with CAC, as I was when I served on the must live in one of six ZIP codes in Sandy board, knows that the astonishing success Springs, Dunwoody and part of Doraville. of the organization is the result of dediSince its founding, it has helped more than cated teamwork but ultimately due to the 20,000 households cope with financial commitment and leadership of one person hardship. -- Tamara Carrera. CAC operates out of three buildings: its Dedicated as always, she has promised headquarters at 1130 Hightower Trail, its to stay until the board finds her replacefood pantry and thrift store at 8607 Roment. swell Road and a part-time food pantry at “CAC has been my life for a long time,” 5 Dunwoody Park South in Dunwoody. A she said. “It’s what I was meant to do.” second Sandy Springs location inside 285 For more about CAC, see is currently closed for renovation.


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22 | Community ■

North End shopping center redevelopment concepts get more green space, shorter buildings Continued from page 1

forms of multi-unit buildings. Desire for parks, plazas, green space and connected parks and trails. New buildings should not be taller than 5 to 6 stories, but can go taller to support more housing options Support for public funding of infrastructure, such as streets and public spaces, and parks to accommodate higher-quality redevelopment, “attainable” housing and more green space. Jonathan Gelber of the Bleakly Advisory Group said his team studied the financial feasibility for each concept, looking at the sites the same way a property developer would look them. That included buying the site; demolishing existing buildings; designing and site preparation for development, and building roads, stormwater systems and other infrastructure. To a question on the possibility that all four sites would be redeveloped at the same time, Gelber said that is unlikely. The North End of the city has gone 30 or 40 years without any significant building or demolition and the demand won’t suddenly change, he said. TSW’s Bill Tunnell pointed out existing obligations at several of the sites. “Especially North River, it has existing leases in place that will make it very unlikely it would get redeveloped in the near term anyway,” Tunnell said. “What we’ve had for the last 40 years… is the status quo,” Gelber said. “Very little product of any type has been added.” Asked about affordability, one of the outcomes sought in these redevelopment concepts, his response was not optimistic. “From a market perspective, very few people are lining up to do these at market rates,” Gelber said. “Right now, we aren’t even doing it with zero affordable housing.” COVID-19 has had two major impacts on development, he said. First, the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries have taken a huge hit in the short term. Housing has taken a huge hit also, especially apartment housing. Most of the job losses have been in moderate- to lower-income ranges. “These are the workers who have been put out of work by COVID. They generally live in apartments,” Gelber said. But a huge demand has existed for housing everywhere in the region as an underbuilding of housing has existed for 20 or 30 years, he said. A lot of pent-up demand for housing exists, with the city’s demand for 300 to 500 units of housing annually. With major retail centers to the south, southeast and north, including Perimeter Center and Roswell, little demand exists for more, he said. The redevelopment concepts need to feature space for local, quality retail opportunities and not try to create destination shopping, Gelber said.

North River Village (87658897 Roswell Road) The 12.7-acre shopping center has a significant grade change with the south-

ern end of the site farthest from the Chattahoochee River is about 30 feet above the building pad with existing buildings. “It does have existing tenants, some of which are doing reasonably well even during COVID,” said Bill Tunnell of TSW. Two of the redesigned options add a 1-acre public park, he said. The first option would add 524 residential units with a density of 41 units per acre and more than 133,000 square feet of commercial space. Tunnell said rents attainable at all four shopping center sites would make it difficult to justify the expense of structured parking. A second option trades the five story multi-family buildings for more townhomes. It also trades a public park for more townhomes to make it work financially. The third option answered questions on what would happen if the site went to taller buildings, as high as 10 stories. The 892 residential units made possible bring the density up to 70 units per acre. This option would require higher rents than the market supports to include structure parking.

River Springs Center (8610 Roswell Road, former Loehman’s) As this property sits behind other commercial property obscuring its view from Roswell Road, consultants determined the site was better suited for residential development. The first option limited buildings to three stories with small areas of green space between buildings. It would create 385 multi-family housing units, just under 32,000 square feet of commercial space and 2.1 acres of green space. Limiting buildings to three stories makes building a parking deck financially difficult. The second option adds “missing middle” housing, defined as multi-unit housing types such as duplexes, fourplexes and bungalow courts that are not bigger than a large house. Multi-unit buildings would add 24 units, adding to the 72 townhomes, 28 townhomes over flats and 19 single-family homes. Green space would drop to just under an acre in this concept. But this concept does not work financially as the possible revenue from resale of lots falls short of land acquisition and site preparation costs. A neighborhood center was chosen as the third option for River Springs Center. It adds more mixed-use housing, with 314 multi-family units, 25 townhomes and 10 live/work units. Commercial space of 18,000 square feet comes mainly in retail and office on the Hightower Trail side of the property. This concept could be financially feasible with rezoning and other modifications to zoning requirements. A variation to this concept would replace the 314 multi-family units with 63

townhomes. Twenty-two of the townhomes would be over flats. Tunnell said this strategy is one other cities tried to pursue and how Atlanta used to build. But McSolley confirmed this concept doesn’t work financially either based on land and site prep costs.

Northridge Center (83318371 Roswell Road) “This center has 13 existing tenants, one

three stories on the southern part of the site. The added density – up to 68 units per acre – makes this option feasible, he said.

North Springs Center (7300 Roswell Road, former Big Lots) A large green space was added to the north end of all options for this redevelopment concept in answer to public comments. Another change was limiting building heights to a three-story maximum,

A mix of taller buildings of 8 or 10 stories for multi-family housing may fit the Northridge shopping center as it is near a 12-story office building and other multi-family housing to the east and northeast.

that is currently in the old Kroger space,” said TSW’s Ryan Snodgrass. He said after receiving public comment on the initial concepts, none of the revisions saves the Goodwill store. All concepts look to connect to a green space with an active stream on the north side of the property with a trail. With limited visibility to the site from either Roswell or Northridge roads, consultants focused on residential uses. The first option includes 148 units, limited by sticking to current zoning that restricts buildings to three stories. “The buildable area for the site is relatively light because we do have a lot of topography that is restricting that,” Snodgrass said. But with so few housing units with a density of 14 units per acre, the concept is not financially feasible for private development. The second option doubles the density with 28 units per acre and 298 units total. Aller buildings allow a bit more plaza space. Snodgrass said with a 12-story office building to the east and other multi-family units nearby, increasing building heights fits on the site. Even doubling the number of units wasn’t enough to make the concept financially feasible with land and site prep costs, plus structure parking. “Developers want to see in the range of 300 units before they start relying on structure parking,” Snodgrass said. A third option creates 720 housing units in two different types. Multi-family buildings reaching eight and 10 stories are part of the concept, with smaller buildings of


McColley said. The first option creates 198 multi-family units and 15 townhomes, with 44,400 square feet of commercial space and almost 5 acres of green space. That green space is closer to a public park. But based on market assumptions this option is not feasible. Rents would not support the cost for structured parking. Reducing the green space by a little over an acre down to 3.75 acres, the second option adds more mixed-use housing, though the total number of units is nearly the same. Multi-units drop to 166, with townhomes rising to 34 units and four singlefamily units get added to the site. Commercial space increases to 57,300 square feet. With enough modifications and concessions, this concept might work financially. A public/private partnership with the city to help with housing, the green space or some of the public infrastructure might achieve that. A third option reduces and splits the green space to fit more housing units. Multi-family would include 117 units, with 31 townhomes, another 40 townhomes over flats and two single-family homes. Commercial space falls slightly to 51,450 square feet. The green space, though split, is almost the same as the second option with 3.73 acres. But this concept also would need modifications and concessions to make it financially feasible. “We do know that there are some environmental issues on the site,” said Andrea Worthy, the city’s economic development director. SS




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Drive-Thru Parade will be December 6 from 6–8 PM. Sparkle Village, Menorah, Christmas Tree, and Holiday lights will be on display through January 1, 2021.



son F erry

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Drive-Thru Parade Route


This area will be affected by road closures. Visit for more information and times




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