It’s Your Credit Card, You Should Decide

September 22, 2008

You’ve probably never seen it. You’ll probably never use it. However, the cost of building the county’s new performing arts center on Rainbow Drive in southern DeKalb jumped from $11 million to $17 million this past year. That’s $17 million of your tax dollars just to build the facility. The county isn’t sure how it is going to fund the ongoing operations of this performing arts center once it opens its doors.

Decisions like this help explain why your county property tax bill increases every year. Decisions like this also help explain why county spending has jumped 40 percent in the past eight years, far outpacing DeKalb’s 10 percent population growth during that same period.

To finance the amount this project has exceeded its original budget, the county is proposing to use a clever bond financing scheme. They propose to have the DeKalb County Development Authority (a quasi-governmental entity not accountable to voters or taxpayers) float an additional $4.3 million in bonds. After construction, the Development Authority will own the performing arts center, lease it to the county, and the county will use our tax dollars to pay the principal and interest on the bonds as rent payments to the Development Authority.

In 2007, I authored and the General Assembly passed House Bill 181, which subjects this type of bond financing scheme to a referendum requirement. DeKalb taxpayers will be paying the principal and interest on the arts center bonds for years to come. The premise behind HB 181 is simple: Before using your credit card, the county should ask your permission in a referendum.

The DeKalb County Government and the Development Authority have decided to disregard your right to vote on these bonds and challenge HB 181 in the courts. As an attorney, I am donating my legal services to make sure this law is upheld.

The case is currently in DeKalb County Superior Court and probably will be appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court. Between writing briefs and making in-court arguments, the donated time will equal at least two or three weeks. It is well worth every minute to preserve your right to vote on how the county uses your tax dollars.

County Commission May Decide Ashkouti Rezoning

September 22, 2008

Here is an update from the Merry Hills Homeowners Association on the Ashkouti proposal for a 385-unit high-density development on North Druid Hills Road. The county commission could make a final decision on the proposed rezoning for this project at their meeting on Tuesday, September 23:

This Tuesday evening September 23 at 6:30 p.m., the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners will be holding a meeting to make final decisions concerning various zoning issues including the Ashkouti proposal for North Druid Hills.

As you know, their application has been denied by the community council and the DeKalb Planning Board. However, these two groups merely make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners who ultimately make the final decision. This will take place this Tuesday evening at 6:30 in the Maloof Auditorium at 1300 Commerce Drive in Downtown Decatur.

There are other issues that they will be deciding and there is no way to know exactly when the Ashkouti proposal will come before them. However, as with the other two meetings, our appearance is of the utmost importance. Our commissioners value our input and look to see how the neighborhood feels about proposed development plans. Therefore, we respectfully encourage at least one member from each household to be present at this meeting.

It is also the case that other potential developers look to see how involved the neighborhood is in these issues. A large turnout on our part sends a strong message to both our elected representatives and other potential developers that we are concerned and involved in our community. This will serve to help US shape the future of OUR neighborhood.

Trifecta of Community Events

September 8, 2008

This is just a friendly “heads up” about three community meetings and events occurring in the near future.

The first is Tuesday’s DeKalb County Planning Commission meeting to review the Ashkouti Development proposal to build a 385-unit mega project that would raze two of the single-family homes on the cul-de-sac at the end of North Holly Lane in the Merry Hills neighborhood.

The second is an organizational meeting this Sunday for the Ashford Alliance, the umbrella community association for the neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, Nancy Creek, and Silver Lake.

The third is a fun “Open Mic Night” sponsored by the Chamblee Arts Alliance later this month.

A copy of the notice I received about each event is found below.


As you all know the Ashkouti Development Co. is trying to gain approval for a 385 unit project on North Druid Hills Road. Gaining approval is a three step process. Step one took place the other week when the Community Council denied their application. The next step will be on Tuesday Sept. 9th when the DeKalb Planning Commission will be reviewing their request. After the Planning Commission it will go before the Board of Commissioners. Once again our presence at the Planning Commission next week is of great importance. Although they were denied by the community council, that in no way guarantees what the Planning Commission will decide. Therefore, a strong showing from the community will send a loud and clear message to our elected officials. I therefore respectfully suggest that all who are able to attend do so. Details as follows:

Tuesday September 9 th – 6:30 PM
Dekalb County Planning Commission
Auditorium in the Maloof Building
1300 Commerce Drive


I just wanted to make you aware that the Ashford Alliance Community Association is having a meeting that is open to our neighborhoods to discuss and receive your feedback on how the organization can best strengthen our voice on important issues impacting our homes, neighborhoods and this community. The purpose of this Sunday’s meeting is to ensure everyone has the ability to have a voice through the Ashford Alliance Community Association so that these issues can continue to be addressed effectively for the entire community.

The meeting will take place:

This Sunday, September 14, 2008
D’Youville Club House
4148 D’Youville Trace
3:00 – 6:00 p.m.

The D’Youville neighborhood is located directly across the street from Chamblee Methodist Church on Chamblee Dunwoody Road.

Our DeKalb County District 1 Commissioner Elaine Boyer and Bob Lundsten, longtime Board Member of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association and DeKalb County Board of Zoning Appeals will be special guests. Each of them can impart a valuable perspective on some of the important issues coming our way which necessitate the need to have a strong community voice. They will also offer some insight into how some other civic associations in DeKalb County have grown and strengthened their voices.

Below are a few observations I have made which reinforce the need to engage the issues and consider the impacts to our property, neighborhoods, schools, parks and infrastructure in a community wide forum like the Ashford Alliance Community Association:

-The City of Dunwoody transitions into operation in December 2008 and they will be defining land use, transportation and growth policies which impact our neighborhoods and quality of life;

-DeKalb County will be undertaking to revise their Zoning Ordinance beginning some time in the next 6 months;

-Neighborhoods from Huntley Hills to Keswick Park and all the way to Ashford Dunwoody Road on the west and Harts Mill Road as a northern boundary are considering annexing into the City of Chamblee;

-DeKalb County will have a new CEO beginning in January 2009;

-The General Assembly is likely to take up transportation funding in the 2009 legislative session;

-The Cities of Doraville, Chamblee, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs and DeKalb County all have significant growth policies for the areas on the periphery of our neighborhoods and our community;

-Redevelopment and in-fill housing continue to occur at increased rates in our immediate neighborhoods and community, notwithstanding current slow to moderate growth in the economy as a whole;

-We have a new substation and Georgia Power may not be done looking in our community for new locations for additional substations;

-Our schools have recently transitioned and are experiencing increased enrollment, increasing traffic, pedestrian and neighborhood impacts;

-Our private schools are looking at changing facilities to keep pace with other private school facilities in the Atlanta Metro Area.

I’m sure you all have more observations of impacts and issues and hope that you share them with your neighbors through the Ashford Alliance Community Association.

I hope you consider these issues and find the time in what I know are very hectic family, work and community packed schedules to participate in the AACA when you can and attend this Sunday’s meeting.


Poets, Writers, Singers, Comedians, Politicians!

Open Mic Night
Tuesday 7:30 – 8:30 pm
At Get Coffee
5336 Peachtree Road, Chamblee 30341 (at Pierce)

Meet your neighbors and fellow artists. Bring your biz cards and network.
To schedule a 5 minute slot, contact Brian Baker, 770.986.0907 or [email protected]

Toco Hills Meeting with County Commissioners

September 1, 2008

DeKalb County Commissioners Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon are hosting a meeting on Tuesday, September 2, to discuss the high-density development projects proposed for the Toco Hills area. Please consider attending this important meeting, as it is a chance to share your thoughts with the county commissioners who will make the final decision on any zoning changes that would be required for the proposed development projects. Here are the meeting details from an e-mail message from the North Druid Hills Residents Association:

You are invited and encouraged to attend a Community Meeting with DeKalb County Department of Planning and Development staff, and Commissioners Gannon and Rader concerning the Williamsburg Apartments, LeCraw Proposal, and Toco Hills Town Center boundaries. Copies of the Toco Hills Town Center map will be available at the meeting.

Toco Hills Town Center Planning Meeting
Tuesday, September 2, 2008, 6:00pm
Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive, Decatur


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