Ashford Dunwoody Consensus Reached

August 29, 2011

I want to extend my gratitude to the Ashford Alliance Community Association for hosting a meeting last week about the possibility of $5 million in improvements to Ashford Dunwoody Road, and to the many citizens who attended this meeting.

The consensus of the attendees was that the funding should be pursued and the project should focus on improving the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry Roads, synchronizing traffic signals where possible, and improving the sidewalks along the entire corridor from I-285 at the north to Peachtree Road at the south.

There remains opposition to the concept of imposing the regional T-SPLOST sales tax in the first place. I acknowledge this opposition, but note that we are only talking about the T-SPLOST project list at this point. You’ll get to cast a vote on the sales tax at the ballot box in July 2012. Ultimately, whether or not there is a T-SPLOST is in your hands.

Ted Rhinehart, DeKalb County’s Deputy COO for Infrastructure, will be developing a scope for the potential Ashford Dunwoody project. If you have any further thoughts, you can e-mail them to David Pelton, who works with Mr. Rhinehart, at [email protected]


Chamblee Annexation & Local Governance Meeting

January 16, 2009

This Monday, January 19, the state legislators from North DeKalb will be holding a town hall meeting for residents of Huntley Hills, Gainsborough, and Sexton Woods, as well as the North Brookhaven neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, West Nancy Creek Drive, Harts Mill Road, and Silver Lake, concerning local governance and the City of Chamblee’s proposal to annex certain neighborhoods. This meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall of Chamblee United Methodist Church, 4147 Chamblee Dunwoody Road.


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.

1. FROM THE MERRY HILLS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION:

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
Decatur

2. FROM THE ASHFORD ALLIANCE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION:

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.

3. FROM THE CHAMBLEE ARTS ALLIANCE:

Poets, Writers, Singers, Comedians, Politicians!

Open Mic Night
9/23/08
Tuesday 7:30 – 8:30 pm
At Get Coffee
5336 Peachtree Road, Chamblee 30341 (at Pierce)
678.580.2263

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]


Where I Stand on Dunwoody, and Why

March 19, 2008

Senate Bill 82, the legislation to create the new City of Dunwoody, will come up for a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives today.

While I don’t represent any areas inside the proposed City of Dunwoody, I do represent neighborhoods around Murphey Candler Park, Harts Mill Road, and Silver Lake, just south of I-285 and the proposed city.  In fact, I live in this area.  Some of my constituents are very supportive of cityhood, and some are very opposed.  Most don’t feel strongly either way.

The purpose of this column is to discuss my position on Dunwoody cityhood.  Before I do that, however, it is necessary to dispel a rumor that is floating around the unincorporated community south of Dunwoody.  This rumor claims that, if Dunwoody becomes a city, homeowners in unincorporated DeKalb County will lose our homestead exemption from the Homestead Option Sales Tax (HOST), which serves to reduce our property tax bills.

That is not the case.  The rumor concerns legislation which passed the General Assembly last year aimed at allowing DeKalb’s cities such as Chamblee, Doraville, Decatur, and a new Dunwoody to share in the 20 percent of total HOST revenues that are allocated for infrastructure improvements.  The other 80 percent of total HOST revenues are the funds used to provide homestead exemptions in both the unincorporated and city portions of DeKalb County.

All consumers in DeKalb County, including those who shop outside and inside of DeKalb’s cities, pay the HOST penny sales tax on all taxable goods.  All homeowners in DeKalb County, including those who live outside and inside of DeKalb’s cities, receive a homestead exemption from the 80 percent of HOST that is used for property tax reduction.  However, DeKalb’s cities do not share in the 20 percent of HOST that is used for infrastructure.  City residents subsidize infrastructure projects in the unincorporated areas and receive no benefit from this 20 percent.

Simply put, last year’s legislation seeks to allow residents of DeKalb’s cities to receive their fair share of this 20 percent.  Will that legislation work?  It might not.  The original 1997 legislation that created HOST created it “for county purposes.”  The referendum that approved HOST also contained the limiting language “for county purposes.”  DeKalb County has vowed to file a lawsuit to prevent a new City of Dunwoody from sharing in HOST’s 20 percent infrastructure component.  That lawsuit, however, will not affect the 80 percent of HOST that is used for property tax reduction.  We will continue to receive our full HOST homestead exemption.

What makes me confident of that?  The 20 percent of HOST that is used for infrastructure already is the subject of litigation between DeKalb County and DeKalb’s existing cities.  While that lawsuit rages on, DeKalb homeowners continue to receive the full HOST exemption.

With respect to the upcoming House vote on the City of Dunwoody, I will vote yes.  Local citizens should be able to determine how they are governed at the local level for local services.  That is a principle in which I firmly believe, and I remain committed to it.

Some DeKalb residents and elected officials have objected to the inclusion of the DeKalb portion of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts (PCID) north of I-285 in a new City of Dunwoody.  I have yet to hear a compelling argument as to how PCID north of 285 isn’t located in “Dunwoody.”  It is in Dunwoody, just as surely as the Sembler development adjacent to Oglethorpe University is in Brookhaven and Emory Village is in Druid Hills.  The Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association fights all the zoning battles in this part of PCID.

I actively opposed city limits proposed last year that would have brought the City of Dunwoody slightly south of I-285 to include the Perimeter Summit office complex, where the former HP tower is located.  That complex, which comprises the southernmost portion of PCID, is not in Dunwoody.  It is within the boundaries of the Ashford Alliance Community Association.  The proposed City of Dunwoody boundary was restored back to 285.

Our county commissioners work very hard and are good public servants.  Nevertheless, it is clear that DeKalb County suffers from what I call a “scale of representation” problem.  Each of the five regular district commissioners represents approximately 148,000 people.  That’s more than three times the size of my State House district, which stretches from I-285 all the way south to Toco Hills.  The two super district commissioners each represent approximately 370,000 people.  That’s more than eight times the size of my State House district.  The CEO, who controls the day-to-day administration of “local” services, represents all 740,000 DeKalb residents.

The vast majority of the DeKalb legislative delegation remains unwilling to reform the current DeKalb governance structure.  If local citizens in any part of DeKalb County want something different, and wish to form a city (or hopefully someday, a township) to choose truly “local” representatives who live in or near their neighborhoods, I am unwilling to tell them no.

A version of this post was published in the March 18 edition of the Dunwoody Crier.


A Line in the Sand: No to Defoor

March 8, 2008

Perimeter Summit, where the former HP office tower is located, and the office buildings on the eastern side of Ashford Dunwoody Road across from Perimeter Summit, constitute the southern boundary of Perimeter Center. Everything south of there is the strictly residential North Brookhaven-Murphey Candler-Ashford Alliance enclave many residents of our community, including me, call home. Or so we thought.

Franco Defoor Properties has purchased six parcels of residential property at the entrance to the Oak Forest subdivision, located at Ashford Dunwoody Road and Oak Forest Drive. They intend to build an assisted living facility and an office building. They have applied to the county for rezoning of these parcels from single-family residential to office-industrial, a type of zoning that is prevalent in Perimeter Center.

At a recent meeting hosted by the Ashford Alliance, I was appalled at the dismissive tone of the developer’s lawyer toward the concerns of the community. He talked at one point about the residential land uses along Ashford Dunwoody Road needing to be upgraded. At another point, he discussed how these new large-scale development projects would be a much-needed “step down” between Perimeter Center to the north and the residential neighborhoods to the south.

I stand with the residents and neighborhoods in our community that have contacted me in opposition to the effort by Defoor Properties to push the boundary of Perimeter Center further south along Ashford Dunwoody Road. Once that boundary between commercial and residential uses moves south, another developer surely will come along wanting to move the line southward yet again.

It is time the residential neighborhoods of the Murphey Candler area demand and receive the respect we deserve. Young families are moving in. New construction is sprouting up here and there. The area is doing very well as a residential community.

Furthermore, for residents of Oak Forest, the supersized Defoor projects simply are not appropriate for the entrance to their neighborhood.

DeKalb County Commissioners Elaine Boyer and Kathie Gannon ultimately will decide whether or not this rezoning is approved. Please contact them via phone or e-mail and let them know what you think. You can find their contact information at www.co.dekalb.ga.us. Also, please consider attending the various zoning meetings that will occur during the next couple months.

Whether our residential community remains residential hangs in the balance. Perhaps the types of “infill” cluster homes and townhomes that have popped up along Chamblee Dunwoody Road and Harts Mill Road in recent years would be appropriate for this Ashford Dunwoody location. What Defoor has proposed clearly is not appropriate.

It’s time to draw a line in the sand on Ashford Dunwoody Road.

A version of this post was published in the February 20 edition of the Dunwoody Crier.


Township of Brookhaven? Toco Hills?

November 26, 2007

Does it really make sense for every aspect of local governance in every neighborhood in unincorporated DeKalb County to be controlled from Downtown Decatur?

This is one of the issues we will discuss during my town hall meeting on local government reform to be held this Thursday, November 29, at 7:00 p.m. in the Talmage Room of the student center at Oglethorpe University, 4484 Peachtree Road, in Brookhaven.  The student center is best accessed using the side entrance to Oglethorpe located off of Woodrow Way.  Another issue that will be discussed is reining in the excessive power of the DeKalb CEO via House Bill 899, House Bill 894, or Senate Bill 52 (click for more information on each bill).  Please tell your neighbors.  I hope to see you there.

Arguably, services like planning, zoning, land use, code enforcement, building permits, and alcohol licenses that can be controlled by local neighborhoods at a very low cost, and have an immense impact on the quality of life in our neighborhoods, should be controlled more locally than the county level.

Like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, I am fed up with listening to the county CEO tell us what must happen in this neighborhood or that neighborhood for the betterment of the “tax base” of DeKalb County.  When we choose to live in a neighborhood, we choose the great neighborhood that it is, not the cash cow for county coffers that it could become.

I am working with Representative Edward Lindsey of Buckhead on a new township bill that would give DeKalb County communities local control over planning, zoning, land use, code enforcement, building permits, and alcohol licenses, as well as enable presently unincorporated communities to control — by public referendum, and without further action by the General Assembly — whether they would like to become a full-fledged city at a later date.  Under this proposal, townships also would be allowed to exist within large municipalities, such as Buckhead in the City of Atlanta, but not permitted to subsequently form a separate city from the existing municipality.

If this township legislation passes in 2008, I am interested in introducing for the 2009 legislative session a bill to create a new Township of Brookhaven, which will include neighborhoods in the Brookhaven and Ashford Alliance/North Brookhaven areas.  Here is a potential map of a Township of Brookhaven (click for map), although these boundaries certainly would be subject to extensive community input and revision before being finalized.  I also am open to creating a township in Toco Hills, another area I represent, if citizens are interested in it.

While the possible funding mechanisms for townships may need to be flexible in order to accommodate the various communities that have expressed an interest in this new form of local government, what I am considering for DeKalb communities is a penny sales tax, or some fractional amount not to exceed a penny, rather than property taxes.  Any such sales tax would have to be approved by public referendum.

A sales tax may result in surplus revenues.  Citizens of a township also would be empowered to decide via referendum what would happen with any surplus revenues.  They could be applied as a rebate on residential property tax bills, like HOST, or contributed to infrastructure improvements in the local community.

The amount of professional staff that a township could hire would be strictly limited by law, so that a township cannot grow its bureaucracy.  The governing council of each township would elect a chair and vice chair from within its own ranks, rather than having an at-large chairman or mayor.

Townships originally were proposed by Senator David Adelman during last year’s legislative session.  That proposal was a good first step, but is more limited in scope than the proposal outlined above, which will be specifically designed to address concerns brought forward by individual members of the House of Representatives who have specific locations for townships in mind.

The unresponsive and sometimes arrogant approach of DeKalb County bureaucrats who are too far removed from our neighborhoods can yield disastrous results.  Consider the following nightmare that is occurring right now in Dunwoody Forest, which despite its name actually is located south of I-285 in the Ashford Alliance/North Brookhaven area, just outside the Chamblee city limits:

Patrick Ejike, director of DeKalb County’s planning department and an appointee of the CEO, made a unilateral decision to subdivide two lots into three using bizarre property lines.  The neighborhood obtained a decision from the DeKalb County Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBOA) that Ejike’s unilateral variance was improper and should not stand.  Ejike then decided to disregard the ZBOA decision, and construction on the subdivided parcels continues to this day.  The neighbors filed a lawsuit to enforce the ZBOA decision against the county and the developer, and now are defending against counterclaims by the developer for — among other spurious allegations — intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The biggest, but not only, benefit of a township is that each member of a town council will represent a small handful of neighborhoods, rather than one-fifth or one-half of the 710,000 people in the state’s third largest county.  Those are the current, unwieldy population sizes of county commission districts.

Townships are not an additional layer of government, because the county no longer will exercise powers which are delegated to the township.  Rather, townships will give local communities the exclusive power to shape and control their own destiny.


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