Just the Facts on Cityhood, Part 1

January 29, 2012

The owner of the Old Five Points shopping center (a.k.a. “Gary Mesh Corners”) at the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry Roads is posting flyers on front doors across our community containing some personal attacks and a great deal of misinformation about the Brookhaven cityhood issue.

I will not respond to the attacks, but feel it’s important to correct the misinformation. This is part of a series of responses to do just that.

For example, one flyer makes this statement:

“Why did the [Carl Vinson Institute] study ignore the impact on DeKalb County, and thus our taxes, of the ‘new city’ taking PDK airport? DeKalb County Police must pay a $2 million fine to the FAA. We, the taxpayers, would lose $2 Million right off the bat! Plus the fuel tax would be taken from DeKalb County!”

This statement is false. PDK airport is no longer within the boundaries of the proposed city (click here to see the map). However, even when PDK was within the boundaries, there was no $2 million fine that DeKalb County would have owed to the FAA. The fact that this fine does not exist was confirmed with the airport director, Mike Van Wie. In addition, no fuel taxes would have been diverted to the proposed city.


Addressing the Brookhaven Boundary Concerns

October 21, 2011

Citizens in the neighborhoods of the Dresden East Civic Association (DECA), an area between I-85 and Buford Highway, Clairmont Road and Chamblee Tucker Road, have voiced opposition to the study map that Citizens for North DeKalb (C4ND) has been using for the Brookhaven feasibility study.

This opposition concerns two parcels. The first parcel is Century Center, the office complex on the east side of Clairmont Road just north of I-85. The second parcel is bounded by Clairmont Road, Buford Highway, and the Chamblee city limits, and includes Plaza Fiesta and the southern half of PDK Airport.

C4ND has decided to exclude Century Center from its final map of the Brookhaven study area that was released to the public yesterday. Click here to view the map.

When the City of Dunwoody was created, I worked with Senator Dan Weber and Representative (now Senator) Fran Millar to exclude the Perimeter Summit office complex, located just south of I-285, from the City of Dunwoody. This complex has a vital connection with the Murphey Candler and West Nancy Creek neighborhoods directly to its south. If these neighborhoods were to control their own destiny – as is currently happening – the entire area needed to remain intact.

In my own opinion, Century Center is to DECA what Perimeter Summit is to Murphey Candler. After listening to the affected neighborhoods, C4ND made a decision in the interests of fairness and equity to exclude it from the Brookhaven study area.

Century Center is estimated to have been worth substantial net revenue to a City of Brookhaven. By contrast, the PDK parcel is more of a wash from a revenue standpoint. It is mostly comprised of tax-exempt property and may have some significant expenses associated with it.

The PDK parcel will remain in the Brookhaven study area for a different reason. Some citizens in the Ashford Park and Drew Valley neighborhoods have made a compelling argument that this parcel is inextricably connected to their neighborhoods.

First, putting the airport aside, the heaviest development on this parcel is along Clairmont Road, directly across the street from Ashford Park and Drew Valley, and includes late-night clubs that sometimes negatively impact the adjacent neighborhoods.

In addition, Ashford Park has airport-owned property located directly in their neighborhood. This property, a roughly 30-acre parcel known as a runway protection zone (RPZ), is vacant. It is anticipated that the airport no longer will need this property once it shuts down the runway that the RPZ is intended to serve.

As we draw closer to the 2012 legislative session in which the Brookhaven city charter (click for information about House Bill 636) could move forward, I want to continue talking with citizens in the neighborhoods adjacent to the PDK parcel about its inclusion in these boundaries. Please feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] with your thoughts.

You also may have heard that Commissioner Jeff Rader is asking the county commission to ask the General Assembly to impose a moratorium on new cities in DeKalb County. Then, he wants a study committee of the General Assembly to be formed to “develop a rubric for determining reasonable boundaries for the existing or new cities using theories of urban organization.”

This proposal is not likely to gain any traction in the General Assembly. It is a delay tactic. The county commissioners who will be voting to make this request do not actually support creating new cities in DeKalb in the first place.

Here is the bottom line on cityhood: After the feasibility study is done, and if HB 636 is passed, you will get to vote on whether or not Brookhaven becomes a city. It will be in your hands.

I trust you to make the best decision for our community. Some of our county officials do not.


FAA Meetings Regarding PDK Airspace

February 28, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is planning to lower the Hartsfield Jackson flight ceiling over PDK Airport and the surrounding Northeast Atlanta neighborhoods by 3,000 feet, from 8,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level, or just 4,000 feet above actual ground level.

This change will lower the altitude at which aircraft using PDK can fly. It also means that passenger jets using Hartsfield Jackson Airport will be flying lower over our neighborhoods.

The management at PDK opposes this change by the FAA. Click here for a PowerPoint presentation that PDK officials have put together about the proposal. Also, click here for an article entitled “The Sky Is Falling” that PDK officials have been circulating in public meetings.

The DeKalb County Commission also has taken a position against it. Click here to read the resolution that the Commission has adopted.

However, the proposal is receiving mixed reviews in the broader community. Click here for a synopsis by StandUp DeKalb that was posted on the Clairmont Heights Civic Association’s website.

If you would like to get some information directly from the source, the FAA is hosting back-to-back-to-back information sessions on Monday, March 1, at 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00 p.m. at the Chamblee Civic Center, 3540 Broad Street, which is located between Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and the MARTA tracks.


PDK Airspace Meeting

February 15, 2010

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is planning to lower the Hartsfield Jackson flight ceiling over PDK Airport and the adjacent Northeast Atlanta neighborhoods by 3,000 feet, from 8,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level, or just 4,000 feet above actual ground level.

This change will lower the altitude at which aircraft using PDK can fly. It also means that passenger jets using Hartsfield Jackson Airport will be flying lower over our neighborhoods.

The management at PDK opposes this change by the FAA.

PDK Watch and several neighborhood organizations are hosting a community meeting this Wednesday, February 17, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Clairmont Baptist Church, 3542 Clairmont Road. A representative of PDK Airport will be on hand to explain the FAA’s plans and how they will affect air traffic at PDK.


Weekend Happenings

May 27, 2009

PDK’s “Good Neighbor Day” Open House and Air Show is this Saturday, May 30, from noon to 5:00 p.m. at DeKalb Peachtree Airport. Admission is free. Parking is $5 per car. Please click here for more information.

The Dunwoody/Northeast Georgia Soap Box Derby is this Saturday, May 30, at 9:00 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta at North Peachtree Road and I-285. Gates open at 8:15 a.m. Please visit www.dunwoodysoapboxderby.org for more information.

Also, in the Murphey Candler area, there are two upcoming outdoor movie screenings for kids:

Chamblee First United Methodist is hosting a family movie night for free on Friday, May 29, at 8:30 p.m. The movie is Fly Away Home and the entire community is invited. Feel free to bring a picnic and come and join your neighbors before the movie begins for a variety of family-friendly activities. In the event of rain, the movie will be moved inside to Fellowship Hall. For questions, please contact the church office at 770-457-2525.

DeKalb County is hosting a free Movie Night on Saturday, June 6, at the Murphey Candler Pool on Candler Lake West. They will be showing Surf’s Up and the movie will begin at 8:30 p.m. Feel free to bring a picnic and a lawn chair. You can swim while you watch the movie (lifeguards will be on duty). Entry to the pool is free for this event. For questions, please contact Jackie Swain at 404-371-2990.


PDK Open Records Loophole Now Closed

April 14, 2009

In August 2005, DeKalb citizens scored a major victory for openness and transparency in our county government. That was the month Judge Robert Castellani granted summary judgment in Feltus v. DeKalb County to a group of citizens who were seeking records concerning the flights into and out of DeKalb Peachtree Airport (PDK).

That sort of openness and transparency should be guaranteed. It shouldn’t require a lawsuit that costs citizens hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees in order to obtain the records they are seeking. In fact, Judge Castellani found that DeKalb County had been stubbornly litigious and ordered DeKalb to pay the citizens’ legal fees as a result.

DeKalb’s legal defense in Feltus was based in part on an exception in the Georgia Open Records Act that provides public records may be withheld from disclosure if “specifically required by the federal government to be kept confidential.” Abusing this exception, DeKalb claimed that a confidentiality clause in a contract the county had negotiated with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was the basis for hiding the PDK records. In essence, the county was saying they could sit down behind closed doors and write a contract with the FAA that would negate the Georgia Open Records Act.

That’s not the way the “federal government” exception is supposed to work. The exception is only meant to exempt records “specifically required by federal statute or regulation to be kept confidential.” The exception is intended to codify a basic legal principle known as preemption, i.e., that the provisions of federal law preempt state law.

With help from Senator David Shafer and my colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee, I amended Senate Bill 26 (click for bill text) during this year’s legislative session to fix the language of the “federal government” exception once and for all. Now, it will say exactly what it means, thus only allowing public records to be withheld if “specifically required by federal statute or regulation to be kept confidential.”

By striking two words and adding three — a minor change in the law — we have disarmed one weapon in the litigation arsenal that DeKalb County frequently uses to frustrate the will of its citizens. This limited exception to the Open Records Act should never be used to force citizens and taxpayers to spend large sums of money in a legal dispute over public records, related to PDK or otherwise, that should have been disclosed without hesitation.


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