12-14-18 Brookhaven Reporter

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DECEMBER 14-31, 2018 • VOL. 10 — NO. 25


Brookhaven Reporter



► Highway toll lanes plan draws more anxiety, and some envy PAGE 4 ► Looking into 2019’s political crystal ball PAGE 10

City breaks ground on Greenway’s ‘model mile’

BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net


Peachtree Creek Greenway supporters tossed shovels of dirt at a Dec. 12 groundbreaking ceremony for the first ‘model mile’ of the multiuse path in Brookhaven. From left are U.S. Rep.-elect Lucy McBath; City Manager Christian Sigman; Peachtree Creek Greenway Inc. Chair Betsy Eggers; Project Managers Patty Hansen and Moe Trebuchon; DeKalb County Commissioners Gregory Douglas and Jeff Rader; state Sen. Elena Parent; Mayor John Ernst, Councilmember Joe Gebbia; state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver; Councilmember Linley Jones; state Sen. Fran Millar, and Councilmembers John Park and Bates Mattison.

OUT & ABOUT Bring on the holidays with ‘Candlelight Nights’

Q&A Joe Gransden, the jazz man around town Page 18

Page 16

Construction of the “model mile” of the Peachtree Creek Greenway is now underway with plans to complete the first link of the planned 12-mile regional trail within nine See CITY on page 14

Brookhaven pioneers an affordable housing requirement BY DYANA BAGBY

I believe that when our airwaves are filled with holiday music, we are all bolstered with a little jolt of brotherhood. ROBIN’S NEST



Brookhaven is the first city in metro Atlanta to adopt a mandatory citywide inclusionary zoning ordinance as one way to tackle housing affordability. The new regulation is being praised by an Atlanta city councilmember who is working to create regional affordable housing policy guidelines, but is also being knocked by building proSee BROOKHAVEN on page 22

2 | Community

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Top, a design of the building showing glass windows and including outside patio spaces. Left, an illustration of the building with the planned Peachtree Creek Greenway at the bottom right.


The new Brookhaven public safety building to be built behind Northeast Plaza overlooking the Peachtree Creek Greenway includes outside patio areas and walls covered in glass windows. The building will house the police department and municipal court facilities and include public restrooms and a community meeting space. The preliminary designs of the two-story and nearly 34,000-square-foot building were presented to the City Council during its Nov. 27 work session by representatives from Rosser International Inc. The city awarded Rosser an $800,000 contract for architecture and engineering of the new facility. Because Georgia Power easements and power lines stretch along the approximate four acres where the building will be constructed, more work is necessary to determine the grading of the new building. Most of the parking for the building will be located under the power lines. The site is near where a signature trailhead on Briarwood Road is to be located. There will be a connection from the Greenway to the building, but that design is still being worked out. The lower level will include an area for inmate intake and evidence storage. A separate area on the lower level includes a public restroom for those coming off the Greenway and a community room. The public will only be able to access the restroom and community room through the front door of the building. The main level will include the atrium lobby, offices for police administrators, a workout room and training area, the courtroom and judges’ chambers. City Manager Christian Sigman said the building could also serve as a “back up” for City Hall. No date for a groundbreaking has been set. Early talks were to complete construction in 2020. The City Council voted in May to locate the new facility on the 19-acre tract of land off Briarwood Road. The city purchased the property for the Greenway trailhead for $2 million after failing to acquire it through eminent domain. Total cost for the new building is estimated at $12 million and will be used with special local option sales tax money. The City Council voted in May to issue general obligation bonds against the SPLOST money to pay for construction. The city expects to bring in $47 million over six years through the SPLOST.


The City Council recently transferred ownership of a Buford Highway gas station purchased this year for $1.7 million to the city’s Development Authority. The Brookhaven Development Authority will now pay back the purchase price to the city using money from its own coffers. Earlier this year, the city used $1.7 million from its budgetary reserve to purchase the shuttered QuikTrip station at 3292 Buford Highway at the North Cliff Valley Way intersection. City officials said at the time it was a strategic purchase to ensure quality redevelopment along Buford Highway as outlined in the city’s 2014 Buford Highway Improvement Plan. The plan calls for more mixed-use development, economic development, implementation of a bike and pedestrian plan and connectivity to the Peachtree Creek Greenway. BK

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Brookhaven broke ground on the Peachtree Creek Greenway at the end of 2018 to cap off a busy year. The city purchased two properties on Buford Highway as “strategic” buys for future redevelopment, an overhaul of the city’s zoning code was adopted, and a new tourism agency and the Economic Development Department took up major city branding initiatives. Voters also approved a $40 million parks bond.


A $40 million parks bond was approved Nov. 7 by 60 percent of the voters in a landmark decision that harkened back to the 2012 cityhood vote. A Yes for Brookhaven Parks campaign headed up by a former mayor and former interim city manager spent more than $13,000 to urge voters to approve the bond. An opposition effort surfaced in the final days of the campaign, with an anonymous mailer and an anonymous website. Three members of a parks funding task force also publicly opposed the parks bond. The parks bond comes with an average $98.34 a year property tax increase to the homeowner with a home assessed at about $466,000, according to city officials. But city officials said other taxation changes essentially eliminate the tax increase. The parks bond will be paid off over 30 years.

City Council eventually voted to eliminate the $100,000 fee.


Shovels went into the dirt to officially break ground on the first section of the Peachtree Creek Greenway, between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road. Money to pay for construction is coming from a $12.4 million revenue bond. The bond is being paid off using additional hotel-motel tax revenue created by a tax increase. The Greenway is a 12-mile multiuse trail that is planned to connect Brookhaven to Chamblee, Doraville and to Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb. The Greenway is also expected to connect to PATH400 in Buckhead and eventually to the Atlanta BeltLine.


Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta continues to build out its medical campus at I-85 and North Druid Hills Road. The Center for Advanced Pediatrics building opened and construction of a parking deck and two office buildings along the I-85 frontage road is now under way. Plans are to relocate CHOA’s support staff now working in the existing CHOA office park on Tullie Circle to those buildings when completed. The current office park would then be torn down to make way for a new $1.3 billion hospital expected to begin construction in 2020.


The city became the first in the region to approve mandatory citywide inclusionary zoning in its zoning ordinance to address a lack of affordable housing. New residential multi-unit developments will be required to include 10 percent “workforce housing” units based on federal housing numbers. The new code also created a new Buford Highway Overlay District and new mixeduse districts while also making provisions for “tiny houses” or backyard cottages. Approval of allowing variances attached to rezoning requests to skip approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals and go only through the Planning Commission and City Council was another major change adopted in the new code. The new code also banned short-term rentals like Airbnb from most residential areas.


A new alcohol code went into effect at the start of 2018 that prohibited numerous Buford Highway venues with a DJ, dance floor or stage from selling alcohol on Sundays and requiring them to pay a new $100,000 alcohol license fee. Last call was also rolled back from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m. on weekdays and to midnight on Sundays. Three venues sued the city in federal court, alleging among other things, discrimination. They said it was unfair to allow the Pink Pony strip club to stay open until 4 a.m. due to a 2014 “exit agreement” with the city. That lawsuit is pending, but a judge’s initial ruling stating the different hours were unfair led the city to enforce earlier last call at the Pink Pony, too. The BK

Community | 3



Brookhaven began an aggressive marketing and branding campaign, including buying ads in major sporting event guides and other local and national magazines as city officials try to create a regional and national presence. Large granite monuments were constructed at the city’s borders and the city continued to work with Discover DeKalb to market the Cherry Blossom Festival as a destination event with national music acts.


July’s fatal shooting of a wedding guest at the Capital City Club on the Brookhaven/ Buckhead border resulted in four teens facing murder charges and raised serious concerns from residents. Prosecutors held a community meeting and talked of reforming a system of private probation. They also blamed much of the crime on drug gangs. An apparent drug deal gone bad led to a fatal shooting in November at the Mille Brookhaven apartments with one suspect charged with murder. A triple shooting at Northeast Plaza in August resulted in one death and suspects were believed to have fled to Mexico, according to police.


City officials spent more than $3 million this year to buy two properties on Bu-

ford Highway — a shuttered QuikTrip and an abandoned parking lot — as “strategic” buys to guide future redevelopment along the corridor. Each property is less than one acre. Ardent Companies and city officials broke off negotiations of a proposed mixeduse development off Buford Highway over a massive tax abatement request and a dispute over defining an affordable housing component. The city offered financial incentives to the DeKalb County School District to construct the new Cross Keys High School on Buford Highway, but school officials went with property the system owns at the former Briarcliff High School site.


Juan Grullon, the former deputy police chief, resigned after he was accused of sexual harassment by a female officer. None of the allegations were proven and an investigation into the complaint was closed without a finding when Grullon agreed to resign. No criminal charges were filed.

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Highway toll lanes plan draws more anxiety, and some envy BY JOHN RUCH AND EVELYN ANDREWS The state’s plan to build massive toll lanes along I-285 and Ga. 400 continues to raise anxiety about local impacts, most recently from Fulton County Schools over possible land-taking. But in the world of transportation advocacy, the plan is drawing some envy, too – especially for using toll prices that vary with driver demand and for including a bus rapid transit line on Ga. 400. “Honestly, if you had BRT running on dynamically priced roads with real stations … Atlanta will be a national model,” says Chris Dempsey, the director of the Bostonbased advocacy coalition Transportation for Massachusetts. “People from Boston will be coming to Atlanta to say, ‘Teach us about transit,’ which is probably not what people from Atlanta are used to.” But before that happens over the next decade or so, the state must figure out how the “express lanes” will fit into neighborhoods. The early concepts have already rattled some officials in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs for possible land-taking and the idea of putting the lanes on ramps towering CHRIS DEMPSEY 30 feet or higher over neighborhoods and DIRECTOR plugging into new interchanges onto such TRANSPORTATION FOR local streets as Mount Vernon Highway. MASSACHUSETTS Fulton County Schools is the latest institution to voice concerns following a private Oct. 22 presentation from the Georgia Department of Transportation that showed possible toll-lane land-taking at Sandy Springs facilities, including a playground at Woodland Elementary and parking spaces at the district’s own headquarters on Powers Ferry Road. “It’s … concerning information that we want our schools and community to be aware of,” Superintendent Jeff Rose said at a Nov. 6 Board of Education work session. GDOT says that its toll lane plans are in the early concept stage and will change over time. In the case of the Fulton schools, GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale said, the property-takings were rough estimates done to fulfill a federal environmental study requirement. “The info we showed to them is all subject to change,” Dale said. “Based on the conversations, we are already looking at changes that may avoid some of the schools altogether.” So far, GDOT has held no general public meetings about the toll lanes, saying the concepts are not ready enough. However, GDOT has met off-and-on privately with “stakeholders,” such as the school system and the city of Sandy Springs, for over a year to get feedback on some details. GDOT also says it will meet with any local organization, such as a homeowners association, but it does not proactively notify residents who might be affected. The public meetings are finally coming in 2019. The Ga. 400 toll lane meetings will begin in the “first quarter” of the year, Dale said, and the I-285 toll lane meetings later in the year. The presentations will include concepts and alternatives, including a “no-build” option, Dale said. The public will not be presented with a done deal, she said. “There is still the flexibility,” Dale said. “We are not going to go to the public with a concrete, [set] in stone” version of the plan.


People from Boston will be coming to Atlanta to say, ‘Teach us about transit,’ which is probably not what people from Atlanta are used to.

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The toll lanes are part of a metro-wide network GDOT is gradually building. One section, called the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, opened earlier this year along I-75 and I-575. The intent is to allow drivers to speed through congested highways on entirely separate lanes in exchange for paying a toll whose rate varies based on demand — a system called “dynamic pricing” or “variable tolling.” GDOT is currently rebuilding the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange to improve traffic flow and safety. The toll lanes are a separate project that would add even more lanes — four

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Community | 5


on each highway — in construction that could take a decade. The Ga. 400 toll lanes are tentatively slated to come first, with a construction start in 2021 and opening in 2024. They would run between I-285 — or possibly a bit farther south at the Medical Center area — and Alpharetta’s McFarland Parkway. The lanes are also intended to carry a new bus rapid transit route operated by MARTA, which would work similar to a streetcar line, with large buses at platform-like stops. That involves building bus stations and interchanges at sites to be determined. On I-285, the toll lanes would run between I-75 in Cobb County and I-85’s Spaghetti Junction, with other segments to the east and west extending near I-20. Construction could start in 2022 and opening could come in 2028. The Northwest Corridor lanes are getting good reviews from drivers, according to media reports. That has caught the attention of Dempsey, the transportation advocate in Massachusetts, which doesn’t have the dynamic tolling system. He’s been sharing the Georgia stories on social media. As a former assistant secretary of transportation in his state’s government, and now director of a 70-plus-member transportation coalition, Dempsey has spent a lot of time thinking about how to deal with ever-growing traffic congestion. Dynamic tolling fits right in, he says, with the modern road-planning mantra that “we shouldn’t be building more lanes. Let’s manage the lanes we have better.” The idea is that letting some drivers pay to avoid congestion will reduce that congestion for everyone, and brings in revenue from a highway system that is currently heavily subsidized by everyone’s taxes. While toll lanes have some unfairness — they’re more affordable to wealthier drivers — Dempsey says some states use the money to subsidize tolls for lower-income drivers and to pay for public transit. And putting BRT on the Ga. 400 toll lanes would make commuting life better for everyone, he says, noting similar models have worked in such cities as Los Angeles. “You should be rooting for it,” he said. At the same time, Dempsey said, it’s important for communities to ask questions about local impacts like traffic and pollution. And he had his own question about GDOT’s specific model, going back to that mantra about managing lanes rather than expanding them. The current trend, Dempsey said, is to first place tolls on existing lanes, then see whether there is truly a demand-related need to add more lanes and “eminent domain and take people’s back yards — and that’s the right approach.”

Reporter Newspapers to change format, delivery in January Starting in January 2019, the print edition of the Reporter will move from biweekly to monthly, transforming into a bigger, two-section newspaper. At the same time, the four Reporter community editions will arrive by mail direct to local homes, while still being available for pick-up at many local businesses. “We think the larger, direct-mailed Reporter will better serve our readers in both convenience and content,” said publisher Steve Levene, who is also the founder of parent company Springs Publishing LLC. “These changes are also designed to better position the printed publications in a digital media environment.” In the past year, the Reporter group has accelerated efforts to turn the ReporterNewspapers.net website into a daily news source for Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. The new frequency and format are intended to complement the digital platform. “The new print edition will aim to help readers understand the big picture of those daily stories, and give some more breathing room to stories about the people and culture that make our communities great,” said Managing Editor John Ruch. “However, one thing won’t change: Our writers will still be at government meetings, community celebrations and the scene of breaking news, which are still at the core of our award-winning coverage of our communities.” Reporter Newspapers, a 60,000-circulation community newspaper group, was started in 2007 by Springs Publishing LLC. The parent company also publishes Atlanta INtown and Atlanta Senior Life.


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Time flies when you’re having fun.

And the past decade has been a blast. Happy 10th Anniversary, Dunwoody.

Learn more at discoverdunwoody.com

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Community | 7


Dunwoody marks a decade of cityhood BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

At midnight on April 1, 2009, dozens of people gathered in the parking lot at 41 Perimeter Center East to witness officers with the Dunwoody Police Department drive out on their first patrols of the newly formed city. Blue lights flashed and sirens wailed as the local residents cheered. “I’ll never forget it,” Ken Wright said of that night. “The sights and sounds and excitement were incredible.” Wright stood with the crowd that night as Dunwoody’s founding mayor. Just four months prior, on Dec. 1, 2008, nearly 82 percent of voters went to the polls and voted “yes” to create their own city. Wright and a team of volunteers and other council members quickly took on the job of forming a city from scratch, from hiring a police chief and police officers to awarding bids for management services to signing the lease for City Hall. “I’m proud of the foundation we poured for Dunwoody and future leaders,” Wright said. “There were a lot of tough decisions, tough conversations, as we tried to make the right decisions on behalf of our community.” Dunwoody’s path to cityhood and creating a new government was not an easy one. State lawmakers and DeKalb County officials at the time, led by the controversial and colorful CEO Vernon Jones, successfully fought off the cityhood efforts by Citizens for Dunwoody and Yes Dunwoody organizations for three years. Opponents to Dunwoody argued the majority black DeKalb County would lose a sizable chunk of its tax base if the wealthy, mostly white community of some 35,000 people in north DeKalb broke off to form its own city and government. The loss in tax dollars would result in reduced services for the more than 700,000 county residents, they argued. Cityhood proponents claimed their tax dollars were being wasted by a county government mired in controversy and scandal, including the CEO being accused of illegally using campaign funds in 2005 to promote passage of a $95 million parks bond referendum. Desire for more local control of zoning, better police service and more infrastructure improvements, such as paving, were among the driving forces to create Dunwoody, said state Sen. Fran Millar. “The number one thing was to get the services we were not getting,” Millar said. “It was not about race.” Millar was in the state House at the time and assisted former state Sen. Dan Weber in getting the legislation to incorporate Dunwoody approved in the General Assembly. “Dan Weber was the guiding force. It was his vision,” Millar said. “Vernon [Jones] made it easy, but Dan deserves the credit.” Wright said he was also inspired by

Eva Galambos, the founding mayor of Sandy Springs, to take up the fight to create Dunwoody. When he was president of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association and “she was trying to get pigs to fly” in neighboring Sandy Springs, Wright said Galambos would often attend DHA’s annual meeting to give updates about the lengthy legislative battle to put the city of Sandy Springs to a vote. The “when pigs fly” reference is popular in Sandy Springs lore as a comment former state Sen. Vincent Fort supposedly said about the chances of Sandy Springs becoming its own city. Sandy Springs was finally approved in 2005, becoming the first city to split from Fulton County control. Their success spurred Dunwoody to follow suit and after three years of tough battles, Dunwoody became the first city to separate from DeKalb County in 2008. “We were the first to break the mold,” Wright said. “It was a firefight for two to three years.”

The next 10 years

It was apparent Millar was still stinging from his loss to Democrat Sally Harrell in the November election as he talked about the city’s changes over the past 10 years. A Dunwoody resident for nearly 40 years who represented the city at the General Assembly for 20 years, he only won the city by a few points. People living in single-family dwellings were the backbone of the cityhood movement starting in 2005, Millar said. But single-family homeowners no longer dominate the city’s population of 50,000, and more and more residents are living in multifamily housing, he said. “And you see changing demographics, obviously,” Millar said. “It’s a different Dunwoody going forward. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing,” he added. Current Mayor Denis Shortal was on Dunwoody’s inaugural City Council and said the mission of the city today is the same as it was 10 years ago. “To continue the enhancements of quality of life for our citizens,” he said. “The emphasis is to make sure all citizens know they are important. And the whole key is

Above right, Mayor Denis Shortal and Bev Wingate, who both worked to create Dunwoody 10 years ago, cut a birthday cake at a small ceremony Dec. 10 at City Hall. (City of Dunwoody) Top left, state Sen. Fran Millar. Bottom left, Ken Wright, Dunwoody’s first mayor. (Special)

to keep in perspective the finances we have. “The spirit of citizens that live here … they feel things are better, that’s my feeling,” Shortal added. Major developments on the horizon in Perimeter Center will shape Dunwoody into the next decade, Wright said. The massive High Street mixed-use development, approved by DeKalb County a year before Dunwoody incorporated, is set to break ground next year. The development is expected to have 1,500 apartments and 1,500 condominiums as well as a hotel, a new office tower and retail space spanning 10 city blocks and 8 million square feet. Grubb Properties’ planned redevelopment of Perimeter Center East, where the former City Hall is located and where the Dunwoody Police Department’s officers rolled out on their first patrols on April 1, 2009, includes 900 condominiums and a new office tower. “The evolution of our business center brings with it a lot of new expenses, a lot of new potential police, strains on our infrastructure … things that go along with growth that the council will have to deal with,” Wright said. Millar said that Perimeter Center will always be the city’s, and the region’s, economic engine. But the residential neighborhoods and communities surrounding the business center will remain the heart and soul of the city for years to come, he

said. “The bulk of our residents continue to see Dunwoody as a bedroom community,” he said. “We don’t consider ourselves an urban nexus. “But much of Dunwoody is new and fresh and young people new and fresh,” he added. “That’s fine. You go with the flow and see what people want. That’s the world we live in.” The bitter battle between Dunwoody and DeKalb County that raged a decade ago has mostly subsided, Millar said. He noted his work with DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond to get a special local option sales tax and a freeze on property taxes approved. “The relationships are pretty good, much better than the previous regimes,” Millar said. Wright, who lost a bruising battle with Democrat Mike Wilensky for the state House seat once held by Tom Taylor, said he believes it is important for current local leaders to make sure national political attitudes don’t impact local policy and elections. “The political divide 10 years ago was not as harsh as it is today,” Wright said. “Keeping that divide away from our local governments — I hope that can be maintained. It’s nothing but harmful.”


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Commentary / Looking into 2019’s political crystal ball As 2018 wraps up and a new year looms, we asked a dozen local newsmakers to peek into their crystal balls and see what’s ahead. Here’s are their thoughts on 2018 and their ideas for what’s to come in 2019.

ularly having to do with traffic and transportation … think MARTA! We will also benefit from the coalition’s relationship with City Hall to be selected for the futuristic Smart Cities Program, bringing “Buck Rogers”-type innovations into play.

Sandy Springs City Councilmember Chris Burnett

Dunwoody City Councilmember Pam Tallmadge

In 2018, our city, state and nation continued to enjoy the benefits of a strong economy and while I expect some slowdown in 2019, I remain optimistic that Sandy Springs and metro Atlanta will continue to thrive, given the significant desirability of our region. Locally, through top-quality performances and culturally intriguing programs, we will position City Springs and the Byers Theatre as the premier destination for our citizens to gather as a cohesive community. Transportation needs are always a crucial initiative and transportation-sales-taxfunded road projects will continue in earnest in 2019. Next year, we also expect to formalize a strategic plan to economically stimulate the northern end of Sandy Springs with a focus on affordable housing for empty nesters and for the first responders, teachers, medical and service personnel that are crucial to our community. Finally, we will continue work on infrastructure improvements, such as road paving, sidewalk installation and park and greenspace projects, to further enhance our quality of life and we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the city of Atlanta to improve the reliability and cost of our water system. 2019 will be another busy year for Sandy Springs and I am personally excited about what the future holds for our great city.

Brookhaven City Councilmember Linley Jones

2018 was a banner year for the city of Brookhaven! Years of public input and effort paid off as voters went to the polls and approved a park bond that will fund top-notch parks throughout our city. 2019 promises to be equally exciting as Brookhaven undertakes these major park improvements along with significant projects from the Ashford-Dunwoody Corridor study, including a constantlyflowing right turn lane from Ashford-Dunwoody Road southbound onto Peachtree Road. These projects will, of course, incorporate the sidewalks and paths that are assured to provide us all with great connectivity and mobility in the years ahead. The city is also preparing to break ground and start construction on the Peachtree Creek Greenway, the beltline path that will one day connect our city to paths throughout the metro area. These projects and many more promise to make 2019 yet another banner year for the city of Brookhaven!

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell

As the Buckhead Coalition celebrates its 30th anniversary, we must confess use of the wellknown adage, ‘build it and they will come,’ for that’s exactly what we urged when organizing in 1988 … and it happened. Described back then as a sleepy bedroom community, Buckhead caught the attention of some of the country’s leading developers satisfying the hunger for such an address. We went through the need for office space that provided millions of square feet, a phenomenon that scared the inexperienced, and economically dampened some of the plans. But, following the downtimes described by some as recessions, we came out of it with even those at the end of the cycle renting up to 90 percent capacity. More recently, we experienced the boom in rental apartment construction, which has increased our inventory some 150 percent in the last seven years. This expansion has been satisfied, so we’ve moved on to the next phase, that of hotel and specialty space (such as assisted living, self-storage, medical). What’s next for Buckhead? Probably more of the same. The community is so successful, our attention is turned to governmental partnerships. This is coming into being with all levels -- city, county, state, federal – finally showing interest in infrastructure, partic-

Parks: I look forward to the new amphitheater at Brook Run Park. This facility will be an outdoor venue to revitalize music, drama and dance programming; it is an outdoor focal point for all our citizens’ activities. I stand by the Dunwoody Nature Center and Donaldson Bannister House building projects, educational programs and events. I will continue to support Spruill and Stage Door Players in talks of expansion and design. I cannot wait to see the new Perimeter East Park designed, developed and finished. Trail Connectivity: There is a grand plan to have all the city connected by multi-modal trails. The key deliverables are: the Peachtree-Dunwoody Road Pathway provides interconnection from the Hammond Drive area northward to major employers such as Cox Communications. The Ashford-Dunwoody Road Pathway, along the Perimeter Mall frontage, connects the Dunwoody MARTA station with numerous office developments on the east side of Ashford-Dunwoody Road to restaurants and shops to the north of Perimeter Center West. In the pipeline is connectivity from Georgetown to Perimeter Center East. Village Overlay: I believe it is crucial that the village has a makeover. My dream is added greenspace, less asphalt and walkable entrances. My wish for 2019 is for everyone to get involved somewhere, somehow. Join a committee or club … the list is endless.

Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris

Property taxes will continue to be a major issue in 2019. While many appealed sharp increases in 2018 and will therefore not see increases in 2019, property values will continue to increase in many neighborhoods. New voter-approved homestead exemptions will apply in 2019, providing relief to many: the so-called “floating homestead exemptions” for the city portion of our bills within Atlanta and for Fulton County Schools’ portion within Sandy Springs; the increase in basic homestead exemption for Atlanta Public Schools’ portion within Atlanta; and the new $50,000 senior exemption for the county portion. The General Assembly may look for other ways to provide relief, especially for seniors struggling to stay in their homes. We will continue in 2019 to shine transparency on issues that tend to shift burdens from commercial owners to homeowners, including Tax Allocation Districts, possible commercial property undervaluation, and tax abatements provided by development authorities.

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader

DeKalb will be focused on delivering on the promise of Special Local Option Sales Tax-financed infrastructure improvements, now that the program is at last underway. The negotiation of a new EMS transport contract will test our ability to integrate the DeKalb Fire Department’s first-responder role with the full spectrum of medical transport responsibilities of a third party contractor, to deliver consistent high coverage and affordability Countywide. The unknown prospects for more municipalization will challenge the sustainability of service delivery strategies, as the uneven distribution of tax base and service demand across DeKalb complicates maintenance of uniform service levels. Continued investment in the water/sewer system will increase pressure for a rate increase, so DeKalb must meet the demand of new customers to offset our system rehab costs. Finally, our growing reserves must be maintained, but a property tax cut should soon become a priority. BK

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Commentary | 11


State Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs)

As we begin a new legislative session in January, I believe one of the most important decisions we will make is to help choose and appropriate the funds for a new election system. We must have integrity in our elections. Transit will also be an important topic as we begin implementing House Bill 930 from last session that creates the new Atlanta Region Transit Link Authority or “ATL” for the 13-county metropolitan region. The recommendations of the Senate School Safety Study Committee will also be a significant topic this session, and I hope will result in significant safety improvements for all students in Georgia.

State Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell)

I am confident 2019 will be another great year for Georgia. My communities of North Fulton and Cherokee County are consistently ranked as the best places to live, work, raise a family, enjoy public safety, etc. This is a testament to the hard work by our first responders, educators, elected officials, business owners and citizens. Continuing to build upon our strong conservative foundation will allow our communities and state to thrive. My prediction for 2019 is a renewed kindness and professionalism to rise from the ashes of rhetoric. As the No. 1 place to do business for the past six years, Georgia will continue this trend by allowing people to fulfill the American Dream. We are truly blessed and should all recognize the abundance by serving others joyfully and more often.

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State Rep.-elect Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven)

This is going to be an interesting session under the Gold Dome. With so many new faces and perspectives, not to mention a new governor, there will be a lot of uncertainty about which issues the leadership will choose to tackle this year. Clearly, we need to focus on what we all promised we would do and strengthen our public schools. Governor-elect Kemp promised to raise teacher pay and I am all on board, but it will take a coalition of both Republicans and Democrats to get it done. There is, of course, plenty more work to be done to determine how the state can better equip our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed. I am also hopeful we will truly expand access to healthcare and continue the good work of late on transit. These are all priorities for which I will be advocating, and I am ready to get to work.

State Rep.-elect Mike Wilensky (D-Dunwoody)

This session will be unique. For the first time in 20 years we have a new governor and lieutenant governor starting in the same year. We have over 30 new state representatives and about six new state senators. Also, because of the Super Bowl, this session will finish later than normal, likely ending sometime in April. With all these changes, we must prioritize Georgia businesses and stay away from legislation that discriminates. We must make sure our local public schools retain their current funding and work to increase funding through adjusting outdated legislation. Creating sensible gun laws that prioritize the safety of our children and families is crucial. Advancing our voting system technology must also be a top priority. Last, with the creation of the ATL board, we must continue what has been started and prioritize transit both financially and through proper planning and construction.

State Rep.-elect Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs)

We’re a nation suffering from division. Many of us have felt firsthand how painful this division can be in our families and communities. But we’ve also woken up to the reality that we must engage with our neighbors more and in better ways if we want to have a healthy democracy. We can’t hide behind our computer screens and nurse anger at each other and expect to see change. Thankfully, so many people have begun to participate in civic life these last few years by voting, meeting their neighbors, and joining civic organizations. In my view, this renewed engagement is our only hope for a brighter future for our children.

Kevin Abel, former Congressional candidate and Sandy Springs resident

The Sandy Springs North End Revitalization Task Force has spent the last year struggling with how to revitalize the northern stretch of our city, including the question of affordable housing. As they approach the end of their study period and make their recommendations to the Sandy Springs City Council, no consensus has been reached. Developers and some wealthier citizens would like to see low-rent apartments give way to higher-end housing and retail. Advocates for affordable housing would like to see improvements to existing developments and a recognition that the city must accommodate all of its citizens and workers, not just the upper end of the economic spectrum. In order to be the progressive city of the future that we citizens of Sandy Springs aspire to be, we must ensure housing options exist for the full economic spectrum. Those who work in our hospitals, restaurants, schools and other local businesses deserve no less. BK

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12 | Commentary

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Being a Santa for everyone is more than a job

Around Town

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

As Santa Rick sees it, putting on the red suit “It’s not about anything other than the and the white beard and ho-ho-ho-ing your children, and innocence, and believing in way through the holidays isn’t just a job. It’s the best the world has to offer. That’s really much more than that. what Santa is about to me.” “It’s the most amazing thing you’ll ever exRosenthal, who held various kinds of jobs perience,” Santa Rick said, “And it makes you through his life, decided to embody Santa as a better person. ... It changes you, and it’s the a career after his dad died in 2011. He was biggest responsibility you’ll ever have because close to his father (“I had the best dad in the it touches everybody. It’s not a job.” world,” he says.) and, following tradition, Santa Rick — the name Rick Rosenthal puts didn’t shave after his dad died, he said. His on his business cards and website (SantaRick. beard grew in white. He kept it for months. com) and the name people called him as the One day when he was shopping in a north DeKalb resident chatted over lunch of Home Depot store, he realized a young boy matzo ball soup at a Toco Hills deli one recent was watching him from another aisle. The afternoon — has been the living embodiment boy appeared awestruck. Rosenthal suddenof Santa for years. ly realized the boy thought the man with the He’s Santa all the time. At age 66, he apbushy white beard must be Santa. pears as the holiday spirit at parties and events “He was staring right at me like a deer in year-round at such places as Children’s Healththe headlights,” Santa Rick said. “I walked care of Atlanta;, spreads holiday cheer on TV, over to him … and said, ‘Don’t tell anybody at baseball games and photo shoots; and even you saw Santa in Home Depot buying tools operates his own school to teach others how to for the elves.’ The kid just froze. I knew what properly portray Santa. he was thinking. I said, ‘That’s it. I’m Santa.’ “It’s important people realize what a big reI knew it was a sign.” sponsibility being Santa is,” Santa Rick said. Through the years, Santa Rick has devel“He’s different from anybody in the world. He oped rules for portraying Santa. He’s welldoesn’t live forever, but your grandparents dressed and well-kempt. “Santa is very regal knew him and sat on his knee, too.” and pristine,” Santa Rick said. And he has plenty to say about Santa. For And, of course, he’s a good listener. “Peoone thing, Rosenthal, an Orthodox Jew himple will tell you things they won’t tell your self, argues Santa isn’t just a Christian symbol. spouses, good and bad stuff,” he said. “PeoSanta Rick obviously has thought this through. ple are very open and raw, actually, and they When he starts talking about Santa, his words trust you 100 percent because you’re Sanrush out in a tumble. ta. I can’t tell you how it feels to have peo“Santa is different from Saint Nicholas,” ple unconditionally love you because you’re PHIL MOSIER he said. “There are two camps in Santa World. Santa. You’re that guy.” Santa Rick in his holiday best. One camp thinks Santa is a religious figure There are only a few things, Santa Rick and he should tell everybody the reason for the said, that he absolutely would refuse to do season. Another camp, that I happen to belong to, says that Santa is a toymaker and as Santa — serve divorce papers, for instance, or hand out dismissal notices when that he should provide hope, love and inspiration … employers are firing people. But the people who would ask Santa to do those kind of “Santa is a toymaker. That’s who he is. He loves you and he wants the best for evthings surely belong on his “naughty list” anyway. “I wouldn’t do that because I’m erybody. He wants the best for you. … It doesn’t have anything to do with a specific Santa and Santa wouldn’t do that. religion. ... Santa, he gets around. He’ll visit people of all religions. … “Santa is very real,” Santa Rick said. “Give him a chance, you’ll know it.”

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DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Commentary | 13


Canned or classic, Christmas tunes give a jolt of brotherhood

Robin’s Nest


of the Vince Guaraldi Trio playing the soundtrack from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I have some collections that are unique enough to escape constant replays at the malls and thus remain untainted: the hammer dulcimer album discovered at a grocery store in north Georgia, the Christmas with Reindeer jazz duo that sounds like a classy cocktail hour, the German albums our family obtained while living overseas. As I push “play” each December, it’s like hearing the voice of a dear friend who visits for a few months each year. These tunes ground me and keep me centered. I’ll be rushing to buy or wrap, decorate or bake, when my playlist rolls to “Some children see Him almond-eyed.” So, I stop and smile. The music transforms my bustling about into a kind of prayer. The “Still, Still, Stills,” the “Silent Nights,” the “O Come, Emmanuels” transport me to a place where Christmas is truly still, where Christmas Eve is sacred, where Advent is spent in reverent anticipation. And though I think that we can agree that they start it way too early (and in spite of the fact that while we’re pushing a cart through Target, Jimmy Boyd is bound to see mama kissing Santa Claus), I believe that when our airwaves are filled with holiday music, we are all bolstered with a little jolt of brotherhood.





Photo by Daniel Pattillo

For one season a year, whether we like it or not, we’re all living to the same soundtrack. There might be a million and one different versions of “Deck the Halls” and every conceivable malefemale duo trying a hand at “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but we’re all hearing essentially the same 20 tunes, played over and over again. Stores evRobin Conte lives with erywhere been her husband in an emp- have hammerty nest in Dunwoody. To ing us with contact her or to buy her canned new column collection, carols for “The Best of the Nest,” months in see robinconte.com. an attempt to ramp us all up into the holiday gift-buying spirit. But after a few weeks of the pounding, it backfires. After all, there are only so many times you can hear Andy Williams belting out “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” without going full-on bah-humbug. And it’s a shame, really, because there are, in fact, wonderful images and recollections wrapped up in the holiday tunes. Songs evoke memories. And the songs of December might evoke the clearest memories of any. I grew up on the Kingston Trio’s “Last Month of the Year” album, and I truly became weepy-eyed when I recently found that album again on Spotify. When I was young, my siblings and I used to bounce around the living room of our split-level house while the Trio sang a rollicking rendition of the title track: “You got July, August, Sep-tember, October anda November. Was the twenty-fifth day of December, was the last month of the year!” Hearing that song again allowed me to reach out and touch those memories as if I were dusting off a yellow-edged photograph. Even though the tinned tunes of commerce are grating, our personal collections are soothing. Our own melodies conjure images of firesides and sleigh rides, of comfort and joy, of family gatherings and holiday feasts. Once I escape the blaring of the malls, I slip into my own Christmas music like a comfy robe. That’s because my home is a risk-free music zone. In my house, no grandma of mine or anyone else has ever got run over by a reindeer, and Wham will never sing about Last Christmas. Jingle Bells will not be barked, meowed or quacked, and the only Madonna allowed in is not singing to “Santa, Baby.” Instead, I cozy up to the warmth of Rosemary Clooney crooning “White Christmas” and de-stress to the strains

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14 | Community

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City breaks ground on Greenway’s ‘model mile’

Above, a 14-foot-wide concrete path is to be built where a dirt road now runs along the north fork of Peachtree Creek behind Northeast Plaza. (Dyana Bagby) Inset, a new illustration of the bridge to be built as part of the first phase of the Greenway across Peachtree Creek behind the Corporate Square office park. (City of Brookhaven)

Continued from page 1 months. City officials are also set to invest $200,000 in a future bridge in Buckhead to ensure the Greenway connects to the Atlanta BeltLine. A ceremonial groundbreaking of the first 1.2-mile section of the Greenway between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road was held Dec. 12. Officials from Atlanta, Chamblee, Doraville, DeKalb County as well as state lawmakers and federal officials were on hand for the ceremony held on a portion of the 19-acre Briarwood Road property the city purchased for a future trailhead. “To me, the Peachtree Creek Greenway is synonymous with people collaborating to achieve goals,” Mayor John Ernst said. The dream of the Peachtree Creek Greenway has been around for nearly 20 years when it was included in a DeKalb County multiuse trail master plan. But work to make the trail a reality ramped up after Brookhaven was incorporated in 2012. Councilmember Joe Gebbia, who has

served on the City Council since the city’s founding, represents District 4 where the Peachtree Creek Greenway is being built along Buford Highway. He said at the Dec. 12 ceremony he envisioned a path along the North Fork Peachtree Creek while standing on the overpass on North Druid Hills Road and looking down on the water. That’s when a “seed was planted,” Gebbia said. But the city needed a nonprofit, he said, and the volunteer Peachtree Creek Greenway organization headed up by Betsy Eggers stepped up to advocate for its creation. “This [Greenway] has always been an impetus for how we handle redevelopment along Buford Highway,” Gebbia said. “And this will be a statement park for the region.” Once considered a linear park, the Greenway has evolved over the years to become part of a regional trail plan for all of

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metro Atlanta. The Greenway master plan includes a 12-mile multiuse trail connecting Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville, Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County and eventually the Atlanta BeltLine. Those are the “A, B, C, D’s” of the Greenway, Ernst said at the Dec. 12 groundbreaking event. To ensure the Greenway connects to the BeltLine, the City Council last month approved a resolution to invest $200,000 on a “confluence bridge” that would be at least 10-feet wide and designed by the South Fork Conservancy. The bridge is planned to be constructed north of I-85 and between Piedmont Road and Lindbergh Drive, where PATH400, the BeltLine and Greenway meet, at an expected cost of $2.38 million. The Buckhead Community Improvement District earlier this year approved $200,000 to fund widening the bridge that was originally expected to be 8 feet wide. But as more trails connect to the bridge to get to the BeltLine, the BCID, Brookhaven and the South Fork Conservancy want the bridge to be at least 10 feet wide to handle the expected foot and bike traffic. Brookhaven’s funding of the bridge is dependent on the city of Atlanta’s support of the completion of the Peachtree Creek Greenway from the Brookhaven city line to the planned Buford Spring Connector to the bridge, said Greenway Project Manager Patty Hansen. “This is a trail of regional significance and this is a critical gap [between Brookhaven and Buford Spring Connector],” she said. “We feel positive with the cooperation of groups working on this that we can move forward.” But if Atlanta does not step in to help fund that link to the bridge, the city would

not invest $200,000 in the bridge, she added. “There’s no reason to help with the bridge if we can’t get there,” she said.

From concept to groundbreaking

In 2016, the City Council approved a $36 million Greenway master plan. Since that time, city officials have been acquiring land along the North Fork Peachtree Creek to make way for the a paved 14-foot-wide path to be used by walkers and cyclists. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta last year purchased Tullie Road and Tullie Circle for $10 million from the city as part of its buildout of a private medical campus at North Druid Hills Road and I-85. That $10 million is being used for the Greenway. The Salvation Army also donated 2 acres of its property on the Northeast Expressway along the creek for the Greenway. The city worked with state legislators last year to get a bill passed in the General Assembly to raise the city’s hotel-motel tax. The new revenue from the hotel-motel tax increase is expected to fund construction of the city’s entire 3-mile portion of the Greenway that will extend to the Atlanta and Chamblee borders. In October, the City Council awarded a $7.99 million contract to Lewallen Construction. But before all that, there were “community champions” who helped with cleanups, fundraising and political support, said Eggers, chair of the nonprofit Peachtree Creek Greenway organization. “This is 1.2 miles of a 12-mile and growing trail that will connect to the BeltLine and to I-285, and beyond to Spaghetti Junction,” she said at the Dec. 12 groundbreaking. “Now, onward.” BK

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Community | 15


Daycare center plan raises Ashford Park traffic fears BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Ashford Park residents are raising concerns about traffic and qualityof-life impacts they say could result if zoning is approved to allow a daycare center on Clairmont Road near DeKalbPeachtree Airport. Foundation Academy’s plan for a two-story, 14,000-square-foot center serving up to 260 children was the subject of a Nov. 29 community meeting at Clairmont Baptist Church. A handful of residents attended to ask about parking, traffic and how the center would be buffered from nearby homes. “This is like trying to stick an 800-pound gorilla in a chicken coop,” said Joe Miller, who lives on Georgian Drive. Miller said the neighborhood is pedestrian friendly, especially for users of Georgian Hills Park. Putting in a highuse facility such as a daycare center could damage the desirability and character of the neighborhood, he said. Foundation Academy representatives said staggered drop-off times, road improvements and a new brick wall would address many of the residents’ concerns.

The Christian-based daycare center is proposed for the corner of Clairmont Road and Bragg Street on the Chamblee border. The developer is seeking rezoning for 3702, 3708, 3712, and 3718 Clairmont Road to office industrial. The 1-acre property is currently zoned residential and office industrial and includes four single-family detached houses with two buildings operating as office space. Single-family homes are to the north and west of the proposed development. The proposed facility would stand two stories and comprise 14,000 square feet. The developer is asking for variances to reduce the required parking from 70 spaces to 46 spaces and to reduce the required buffer from 50 feet to 20 feet. The main entrance would be from Bragg Street into the daycare center’s parking lot, a definite sticking point for the residents and homeowners living in the area. They say traffic would creep into the neighborhood streets as parents come to drop off and pick up their children and urged the developer find a way to put the main entrance on Clairmont Road. Jason Smith, civil engineer for the project, said after talking with city

staff, the consensus is that the entrance needs to be located on Bragg Street. He added there are talks to possibly put in a right-turn lane on Bragg Street to alleviate any potential backing up of traffic. “No parking” signs would be installed on Bragg Street, he said. Tim Burpee is the owner of Foundation Academy with other Georgia daycare centers in Warner Robins, Perry, Bonaire and Cornelia, and is the applicant seeking to open the new daycare center in Brookhaven. The Brookhaven daycare center would enroll up to 260 children between the ages of six weeks to 12 years. Burpee said at the Nov. 29 meeting that children would be dropped off and picked up at different times of the day rather than at set times like a traditional school. Through staggered dropoff and pick-up times, the likelihood of traffic jams at the daycare center are reduced, he said. Burpee also said there is higher demand for daycare for children between ages 5 and 7 and he expected not many would be 12 years old. He said he expected realistically the number of children enrolled would be in the 220 range. Tuition for infants would be about $400 a week, he said.

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A basement play area is also proposed as part of the daycare as well as an outdoor playground. Burpee said there would not be 200 children on the playground at one time when asked about noise concerns. Burpee said a brick wall, 6 to 8 feet high with decorative posts, would be built along one side of the development to provide a visible buffer between the daycare center and the residential neighborhood. Landscaping would be included around the entire facility. The city would also require the developer to build a 10-foot-wide multiuse path along the property on Clairmont Road as part of the city’s bicycle and pedestrian master plan and sidewalk master plan. Five existing trees are to be saved, according to site plans for the development. The city also requires a developer to plant in the parking lot one tree for every eight parking spaces, for a total of six trees if the variance for 47 spots is approved. The proposed development is set to go before the Planning Commission on Jan. 9. The Planning Commission deferred a vote on the proposed development in November.

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16 | Art & Entertainment


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






Monday, Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m. Mount Vernon Presbyterian School presents a family friendly celebration of Christmas featuring choirs, bands, dance troupes, string ensembles and actors aged 8 to 19. $9$19. Byers Theatre, Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center at City

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Friday, Dec. 21, 5:30-9:30 p.m. The gardens and grounds of the Atlanta History Center will be decorated and illuminated by candlelight, with a holiday market filled with local crafts and exhibits of holiday traditions from the pioneer days, the Civil War era and the 1930s in three historic houses. Santa visit, improv comedy show, storytelling and musical performances. $20 adults; $15 members; $10 children. Food available for purchase; cash bars. 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info: atlantahistorycenter.com.


Saturday, Jan. 5, 1-2 p.m. The Dunwoody Nature Center holds a bowl burning ceremony, where written statements are burned as a way to move on. Enjoy s’mores around the fireplace. 5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodynature.org.


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Ongoing through Saturday, Jan. 12 Georgia Ensemble Theatre remounts its 2017 show, the Tony Award-winning musical, “Million Dollar Quartet,” at Oglethorpe University. Based on true events, the show was inspired by the recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. Tickets start at $40. Senior/student discounts available. Conant Performing Arts Center, 4484 Peachtree Road N.E., Brookhaven. Schedule and more info: get.org or 770-641-1260.

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018



Ongoing Fridays through Dec. 28, 8:30-9:30 p.m. Bring your flashlight and join the Heritage Sandy Springs Outdoors Club for a 3-mile hike through scenic areas of Sandy Springs. The walk starts and ends at the Sandy Springs Cinema & Taphouse, where an optional movie begins at 9:30 p.m. The walk is free. Movie admission is $11.50 for adults and payable at the cinema. Advance registration is highly recommended. 5920 Roswell Road, Suite C-103, Sandy Springs. Info: facebook.com/groups/hssoutdoorsclub.


Wednesday, Dec. 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Shop at the monthly book sale held downstairs in the Brookhaven Library. All proceeds benefit the Friends of Brookhaven Library. 1242 North Druid Hills Road N.E., Brookhaven. Info: dekalblibrary.org.


Tuesday, Dec. 25, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta offers a day of inflatables, movies, sports, swimming, crafts and JCC Maccabi Games. Community service projects will also be offered, in partnership with The Packaged Good. Free. MJCCA-Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Registration: atlantajcc.org.


Thursday, Dec 20, 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Atlanta World War II Roundtable will hold a luncheon meeting featuring the topic “The Athletes in WW2.” Future meetings are held monthly on third Thursdays. Military speakers are featured at each meeting. $20 individual; $35 couple. Dunwoody United Methodist Church, 1548 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. RSVP requested: atlantawwiiroundtable.com or 770-457-4409.


Saturday, Dec. 22, 2-3 p.m. Weaving instructor Elaine Bradley teaches the traditional Scandinavian craft of weaving a snowflake or star which can be displayed as a table favor, hung from a ribbon, filled with mistletoe or attached to a gift package. Supplies will be provided. For adults. Free. Funded by Friends of the Dunwoody Library. 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: dekalblibrary.org.


Thursday, Dec. 27, 11 a.m. to noon Take your new phone, tablet or laptop and your questions about them to the Brookhaven Library which says it can help you get them up and running. For adults. 1242 North Druid Hills Road N.E., Brookhaven. Info: dekalblibrary.org.


Mondays, Jan. 14, Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, 7-9 p.m. Marist School presents three evenings of courses for adults taught by the school’s faculty and staff. Course topics include religion and spirituality, art history, ceramics, photography, college planning, history and culture, poetry, self-discovery, and more. $95 (by Jan. 5); $110 (after Jan. 5) Marist School, 3790 Ashford-Dunwoody Road N.E., Brookhaven. Register: marist.com/eveningseries. Onsite registration will be available Jan. 14 from 6-7 p.m. in Marist’s Whitehead Cafeteria.



Art & Entertainment | 17

18 | Art & Entertainment

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Joe Gransden, the jazz man around town

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On any given night, Joe Gransden draws a crowd. The musician figures he plays more than 340 gigs a year throughout metro Atlanta, the Southeast and in New York and California. On Nov. 29, Gransden played at the White House tree-lighting in D.C. The trumpet virtuoso, singer and bandleader is a name in jazz and big-band music, and he has a passion to make the music and to share it with established and up-andcoming musicians, including through a jazz camp. At 46, Gransden has made a name for himself and his 16-piece band. He also has a trio, quartet and even a sextet. He has released 14 albums, the latest in April. Called “Go Getta,” it features award-winning saxophonist Kenny G. Gransden counts among his fans Clint Eastwood, the legendary filmmaker, musician and jazz aficionado. “Joe is a young man with an old soul and a classic voice,” reads a quote attributed to Eastwood on Gransden’s website. “He is a great new talent with a wonderful sense of humor to boot. And don’t forget, he plays a hell of a trumpet!” The Joe Gransden Big Band plays twice a month at Café 290 in Sandy Springs, where the band has played for nine years for a fervent following, and Wednesdays at the restaurant Valenza in Brookhaven. Gransden’s packed holiday schedule includes New Year’s Eve performances at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and with singer Francine Reed. For more information, visit joegransden.com. The Reporter recently caught up with Gransden on his busy touring schedule and

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DECEMBER 14-31, 2018


Art & Entertainment | 19

asked him about his life in music.

Q: You were known as a trumpet player and did not sing in the earlier days of your career. What led you to become a vocalist?

A: Singing was not on my performance radar. I considered myself a trumpet player, but survival came into play. About 20 years ago, I had a trio — piano, bass and trumpet — and we played twice a week at a now-closed Italian restaurant in Midtown. We earned $50 and a plate of the house special per night. One night the manager told me that he really liked our music, but wanted a singer, so he was thinking of looking for another band. My on-the-spot response was that I could sing. And I found out I could. The next show, I sang, and everyone seemed to like it. Tips got better, too. Q: Where did you get your inspiration to sing? A: I guess I always sang, but never thought of performing as a vocalist. I fell in love

with the trumpet listening to my grandfather play when I was a kid. He gave me my first horn. Music is in my DNA, so I guess it was inevitable. My grandfather, William Gransden, was a freelance top trumpeter and played with many of the big bands of the 1930s and ’40s. My dad, Bob Gransden, is a piano man and a singer. He is still going strong and plays four or five gigs a week.

Q: Since your dad is a vocalist, did he help you when you added singing to your performances? A: My dad gave me a lot of pointers. Among the most important, he said, “Be true to the song. In other words, don’t mess with it.” And, “Let the song tell the story.”

Q: You formed your big band in 2009. What prompted you to take that plunge? A: When I was 20, I was in my second year studying trumpet at State University of

New York in Fredonia, New York and I got a call to audition for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. I got the job and left school to join the orchestra. It was life-changing. I was the youngest guy in the band, and for a year we traveled all over the U.S., Europe and South America. I remember sitting on a stage in Europe with that band. I loved the sound, the music and the bond with the musicians. I thought, “Someday, I am going to have a band like this.” The popularity of big bands comes and goes over the years. I had been going back and forth between New York City and Atlanta. I had ties to Atlanta having gone to Georgia State and my parents had moved to Roswell. I moved to Atlanta after 9/11. In 2009, it seemed the time was right. I had been playing with all the top guys over the years and I called them to ask them to join my band. They are an incredible group. Big band is enjoying another run of popularity. People are dancing more and the club scene is strong in Atlanta and New York. While we play mostly in Atlanta, we are likely going back this summer to the popular Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.

Q: You became friends with Clint Eastwood after a friend suggested sending your CDs to him and other celebrities. What created a bond between you?

A: We hit it off right away over golf, jazz and music. He loves music and plays both the trumpet and piano. And he has lots of great tales to tell about my heroes, like Miles Davis, Chet Baker, [Frank] Sinatra and others. We enjoy hanging out together over a couple beers. He has invited me many times over the years to play at parties, and we get together when he is filming in Atlanta. I visit his set sometimes and he pops into Café 290 when my band and I are playing. It has helped my career a lot. I’ve met his friends and they have hired me. He is a real fan of mine. He introduced me to Kenny G and suggested we play together. Our first duet was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” We wrote and recorded an album together, “Close to My Heart,” and he is featured on my latest album, “Go Getta.”


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Our assisted living is accredited for two reasons. You. And your family. Because having the confidence and peace of mind of accreditation is important. That’s why The Piedmont at Buckhead is accredited by CARF International, an independent organization that sets exceedingly high standards for care and service. It’s a lot like an accreditation for a hospital or college. Or a five-star rating for a hotel. So if you’re looking for assisted living services, take a good look at The Piedmont. We think you’ll find that our CARF accreditation is only one of the many reasons you’ll like what you see. Please join us for a complimentary lunch and tour. Call 404.381.1743 to schedule.

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20 | Education

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DeKalb Schools’ redistricting plan gains residents’ support BY EVELYN ANDREWS

gether, residents said. “One of the previous options carved out a portion of the neighborhood. I appreciate that this plan is keeping Ashford Park together,” Residents largely approved of the revised another said. Brookhaven school redistricting plan presented The changes would allow the district to remove at a recent public meeting, saying it better keeps 17 “portable classrooms,” or trailers, which one together key neighborhoods and would successresident said is a “huge pro.” fully address overcrowding at some schools. Others said the district seems to have worked “They listened from the last meeting,” one resout a better way to address traffic patterns. ident said. “I’m really pleasantly surprised.” “It seems to be more efficient with how far peoThe Nov. 27 meeting was the final public input ple have to travel up and down Clairmont Road session for the DeKalb County School District’s and Buford Highway,” a resident said. “It seems to redistricting process to fill the new John Robert minimize that as much as possible.” Lewis Elementary and relieve overcrowding at Under this plan, Lewis Elementary would be at Brookhaven schools. The plan presented would 94 percent capacity, which one resident said may move 607 students to different schools. mean the redistricting “doesn’t go far enough.” Lewis Elementary has over 500 open seats, vaDan Drake, the district’s interim chief operating cancies that the school district hopes to use to officer, said that the district needs that buffer to curb overcrowding at nearby schools in the Cross ensure it doesn’t go over capacity and need portaKeys cluster. Named for the congressman and ble classrooms. civil rights leader, the school is currently operatNearby middle and high schools are also mildly ing in a temporary location on North Druid Hills affected. Eight students would move from ChamRoad and will open in a new building on Skyland blee Middle to Sequoyah Middle. Fourteen would Drive in August 2019. move from Chamblee High to Cross Keys High. Most redistricting changes in the staff-recomThese moves would keep each student moving mended plan would move students to Lewis Elefrom elementary to high school in the set feeder mentary, except for 62 students that would move patterns, Drake said. from Briar Vista to Woodward and three from These changes would slightly increase the Fernbank to Montclair. Moving to Lewis Elemenutilization of Sequoyah Middle and Cross Keys tary would be 22 students from Ashford Park, 93 High, which are both over capacity. However, new from Montclair, 210 from Fernbank and 195 from schools are in the pipeline to address their overWoodward. crowding. DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT The school district has held two prior meetStudents who would move and are rising into A map shows the DeKalb County School District’s redistricting plan. ings, gathering input and presenting two options the final grade at each school would be able to stay residents generally liked. But some questioned with no transportation provided, the district said. the methodology behind some choices and expressed concern about longer travel disSince the middle school and high school changes would increase the overcrowding, tances and splitting up neighborhoods. one resident said that keeping every student on the exact feeder pattern may not be necThe single staff-recommended plan came out of that feedback and was presented at essary and the district should take a second look at that practice. the final public meeting. The superintendent will now adjust the plan based on further inHe said the district should be better at communicating how new schools would alleviput and submit it to the school board for approval, scheduled for February 2019. ate that problem. New schools in the pipeline include a new Cross Keys High and convertThe public can still provide input through an online survey and at future school board ing the current high school to a middle school. meetings. Nothing is in the pipeline for Ashford Park Elementary, which would still be over caThe redistricting changes would go into effect when the school year begins and Lewis pacity by more than 100 students, but Drake said it is likely to become part of the Cross Elementary opens in the fall of 2019. Keys cluster once the new middle and high schools open. The school is currently part of The main points of the plan were presented by Hans Williams, the district’s director of the Chamblee cluster. planning, before the residents split off into breakout sessions to provide feedback, which Addressing overcrowding at Dresden Elementary, which is also part of the Cross Keys was generally positive. cluster, will come in 2019, ahead of the opening of Cross Keys North Elementary, a workThe plan would completely relieve Montclair and Woodward overcrowding, and parting name. ly alleviate Ashford Park Elementary. Dresden Elementary is not addressed in this plan. For more information, visit dekalbschools.org/redistricting. “I think they achieved the number one goal, which is addressing the overcrowding,” one resident said in a breakout session. Residents were supportive of the revised plan keeping more neighborhoods together. Chunks of neighborhoods that would move seem to be more unified instead of pieced toevelyn@reporternewspapers.net

Education Briefs


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An artist who did illustrations for major works such as a spin-off comic for Marvel’s “Black Panther” series visited Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs to mentor students. During a three-day visit in December, Afua Richardson, who has done illustrations for other Marvel comics and for U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ upcoming graphic novel, provided advice to middle school art students on their graphic novel projects, a school press release said.


St. Martin’s Episcopal School’s Head of School Dr. Luis Ottley was recognized by the diocese for increasing diversity at the school. Ottley was awarded the Bishop’s Cross at the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta’s annual council meeting in November for his work advancing the diocesan mission to “draw the circle wider,” according to a press release from the Brookhaven school. In his two years at the school, Ottley has hired a director of diversity and inclusion and more people of color as faculty and staff, enhanced the multicultural education committee, diversified the board and increased the diversity of the student body, the release said.

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Classifieds | 21


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22 | Community

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Brookhaven pioneers an affordable housing requirement Continued from page 1 fessionals who say a mandate could hurt future development efforts. The City Council adopted its new zoning code at its Nov. 27 meeting that states when a special land use permit or rezoning is approved anywhere in the city for a multi-unit residential housing project, then 10 percent of the residential units must be defined as workforce housing. Residential housing projects include new construction, rehabilitation of a current apartment building or converting apartments to condominiums and can be built out in phases. The inclusionary zoning was first sought just along Buford Highway, but the Planning Commission asked the City Council to consider it citywide. Councilmember Bates Mattison voted against the zoning code because of its workforce housing mandate. He suggested creating a housing authority or looking at tax abatements for developers as ways to encourage more affordable housing in the city, saying the city’s zoning code was not the proper place to address affordable housing issues. “I do not believe the plan we have is a realistic solution for the city of Brookhaven,” he said. Councilmember Linley Jones agreed Brookhaven has not yet reached a final conclusion on how best to address the affordable housing crisis being felt across the country. But the city has delved into the issue extensively, she said, including the appointment of an Affordable Housing Task Force that studied the issue over several months last year. “I believe what we have is an answer. A darned good answer,” she said, adding it was “better than nothing at all.” Councilmember John Park recalled how the Affordable Housing Task Force asked the city to consider affordable housing as part of the city’s DNA. “It needs to be part of everything we do as a city,” he said. “This

is one step.” Atlanta City Councilmember Andre Dickens, who has been trying to create a regional coalition to tackle housing affordability, praised Brookhaven’s new policy. “By passing this law, Brookhaven’s leadership is showing they have the best interest of all Brookhaven residents and businesses in mind today and for developments coming in the future,” he said in an email. Dickens worked with others for three years to get the city of Atlanta to approve a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy for multifamily housing built within a halfmile of the Atlanta BeltLine. The policy, believed to be the first of its kind in Georgia, was approved last year and requires 15 percent of units be priced at rates affordable to middle- or moderate-income households. Talks of expanding the policy citywide and to include for-sale residences is under way. “Their policy, along with the one I passed a year ago, demonstrates that housing challenges and solutions are often multi-jurisdictional,” Dickens said of Brookhaven’s new zoning requirements. The Council for Quality Growth, a nonprofit organization that works with local governments on issues like zoning and economic development, as well as the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors and the Atlanta Apartment Association voiced opposition to Brookhaven’s mandatory inclusionary zoning. They said such a requirement could infringe on property owners’ rights and could dissuade developers from wanting to build apartments in the city. All three groups in letters to the council and in public statements suggested voluntary, incentive-based measures to developers as better options. Other ideas they suggested include tax abatements, land acquisition and rental rehabilitation incentives. “While we are disappointed that the affordable housing provision fails to em-

brace non-mandatory, incentive-driven approaches, we appreciate that the city operated in a spirit of cooperation and transparency in all regards,” said Taylor Morison, director of Policy and Government Affairs for the Council of Quality Growth, in a written statement.

Incentives offered in Buford Highway, Peachtree overlays

The inclusionary zoning does provide incentives for multi-unit developments in the new Buford Highway Overlay District and in the Peachtree Overlay District. A developer is granted one bonus story of building height for each 10 percent of workforce housing over the 10 percent mandatory minimum in the Buford Highway Overlay. For example, if the developer agrees to set aside 20 percent of units for workforce housing, the developer can build one additional story. Building heights within the Buford Highway Overlay vary according to zoning classification. In the Peachtree Overlay District, which includes Peachtree Road and Dresden Drive, developers are granted one additional story of building height for every 20 percent of units set aside for workforce housing. Buildings along Peachtree Road have a height limit of 6 stories as part of the recently approved Peachtree Overlay District. Along Dresden Drive, there is a 4-story maximum, and where the BrookhavenOglethorpe MARTA station is located, the maximum height is 12 stories. All can be increased if granted a special land use permit by the city. The reason for the different percentages in the Buford Highway Overlay and the Peachtree Overlay is because the city wants more affordable housing components on Buford Highway where more redevelopment is expected, said Deputy De-

velopment Director Linda Abaray. Developers granted a height bonus for workforce housing units are required to make sure the units remain workforce housing for 20 years, either through deed restrictions or other binding agreement approved by the city attorney. The city is defining workforce housing as rental or for-sale units that are affordable to households earning no more than 80 percent of the median household income for metro Atlanta as determined by the federal and Housing Urban Development income limit table. According to the HUD table for 2018, the metro Atlanta median household income, known as AMI, is $74,781. Eighty percent of the AMI for a four-person household is $59,850; for a one-person household it is $41,900. The general rule currently accepted by many housing experts is that no more than 30 percent of a household’s income should be spent on housing. Thirty percent of $59,850 is just under $18,000 a year on housing, or $1,500 a month in rent; for a one-person household, monthly rent is $1,047.50. Deanna Parker, executive director of Los Vecinos de Buford Highway, an advocacy organization for those living in apartments on Buford Highway, thanked the mayor and City Council for taking steps to ensure equitable housing development in the city. She shared how she lived with her family in a Brookhaven apartment complex on Buford Highway for 15 years. Then three years ago a developer purchased the complex and she and her family were given a month to move out. She urged the council to find ways to preserve the affordable housing that already exists along Buford Highway and asked them to also find ways to preserve housing for the single mothers making less than $25,000 a year who are a “significant population in the city.”

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DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Community | 23


Short-term rentals banned from most residential areas BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Brookhaven residents wanting to rent out their homes to Super Bowl fans soon to be flocking to metro Atlanta are legally out of luck. The City Council voted Nov. 27 to ban short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, in most residential neighborhoods as part of the city’s new zoning code. Short-term rentals are allowed in areas zoned for multifamily housing developments but only through a special land use permit from the city. “The passage of this … will ensure that our peaceful residential neighborhoods will not be turned into commercial rental communities,” Councilmember Linley Jones said. Voting on short-term restrictions in the zoning code was a bit tricky. Councilmember Joe Gebbia’s son is co-founder of Airbnb, the largest short-term rental company, so he recused himself from discussion and vote on just this part of the zoning code. Councilmember Gebbia rarely speaks publicly of his son and likes to point out his daughter is an award-winning TV journalist. But he did say in a 2017 interview that he loaned his son some money to start Airbnb. The younger Gebbia paid back the loan, according to his father. Councilmember Gebbia said he was not an investor in the business, but that he regularly uses Airbnb when traveling and encourages friends to do the same. In a written statement, Airbnb said it was disappointed with Brookhaven’s new policy. “We are disappointed Brookhaven passed such a restrictive law and remain committed to working with officials moving forward to ensure that hosts can continue welcoming guests to the surrounding Atlanta area,” according to a spokesperson. Councilmember Bates Mattison opposed prohibiting residential homeowners from being able to rent out their homes as they wished. He said noise complaints and other issues could be handled through law and code enforcement. There are no plans to change enforcement of the new short-term rental restrictions. The city has responded to complaints and if ordinance violations are found, the city is able to cite the property owners and take them to court to face fines up to $1,000 for each violation. Mayor John Ernst, who voted on this portion of the zoning code with Gebbia absent, said the city would continue to have conversations about how to regulate short-term rentals. “I don’t know what enforcement mechanisms we have if it gets out of hand,” he said. Brookhaven’s decision comes after some City Council members said they were receiving increasing numbers of complaints from residents about short-term rental houses becoming homes to loud parties and driving heavy traffic into their once tranquil suburban neighborhoods. Last year, the owner of a house in north Brookhaven was cited for operating as a rental commercial business, a violation of city ordinance. The city of Atlanta is in the process of drawing up an ordinance to restrict shortterm rentals after several mansions in Buckhead were continuously being rented out through Airbnb for extravagant, nightclub-style parties, disrupting neighbors and making headlines. In Sandy Springs, short-term rentals must be registered and licensed with the city. Owners of short-term rentals are required to provide detailed records of rental activity to the city and give emergency contact information to everyone living within 500 feet. The hotel industry is also clamoring for government oversight. Short-term rentals are becoming stiff competition while avoiding the same taxes and regulations. In Georgia alone, Airbnb listings jumped from 9,000 in September 2017 to 14,000 listings a year later. Nearly 5,000 listings are in metro Atlanta alone. Jim Sprouse, executive director of Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association, said he is working with a state House study committee on crafting potential legislation to regulate short-term rentals in Georgia and is watching Atlanta’s ordinance process. As for Brookhaven’s decision to prohibit Airbnb and other short-term rentals in its residential neighborhoods, Sprouse said every city has the right to regulate its zoning. “We could not go in and drop in a hotel in a residential area without getting it approved,” he said.

Mayor directs staff to find tax relief for seniors, residents with disabilities Mayor John Ernst announced at the Dec. 11 City Council meeting he was asking city administrators to find property tax relief for senior citizens and residents with disabilities after passage of the city’s recent $40 million parks bond in November. The parks bond to be paid off over 30 years will raise the city’s 2.74 millage rate by half a mill, or an average of $98.34 a year to the homeowner with a home assessed at about $466,000, according to city officials. The millage rate is used to determine local taxes and is the amount taxpayers pay per $1,000 of assessed value. City officials have said the property tax increase is expected to be offset by other tax changes, including the recent implementation of the equalized homestead option sales tax and when a DeKalb County parks bond rolls off property tax bills in 2021. But Ernst said as part of the city’s affordable housing efforts, he wants City Manager Christian Sigman to bring proposals on finding tax relief by millage rate reduction and an increase in homestead exceptions to eliminate net property tax impact of the parks bond. The city recently adopted a new zoning code that includes affordable housing mandates for new multi-unit developments. Ernst also asked Sigman to create a mechanism to automatically increase the homestead exemption when the city’s tax digest grows in a way that does not hurt the city’s operating budget. “Affordable housing solutions are not just made through zoning, but also through economic and taxing policies,” Ernst said. “I’m looking forward to solutions being brought forward.” – Dyana Bagby






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