Friday, October 28, 2011

DeKalb's Superintendent Dr Atkinson Visits Dunwoody

As advertised, new DeKalb Schools superintendent showed up at Dunwoody High School and listened to questions and comments from the audience.  To be fair, she has only been on the job for a month or so, so she's not really equipped to answer all questions.  Overall she came across as a pleasant person. I hope she is a person who can improve our school system. I've seen lots of PR type things lately from the school board, but actions speak louder than words.  Let's see her on the job performance for a year prior to approving a SPLOST.

I'd say about 125 people showed up, maybe half were from Dunwoody.  The crowd was a mix from many areas of the county, and brought up a wide range of issues from cell towers to bus routes to magnet schools.  Attend enough school meetings and you will always find parents of kids in the magnet program (Kittredge and Chamblee) hanging around.

I was second to the microphone and asked a very direct question:

Cedar Grove recently received funding for an ‘emergency’ track replacement, costing nearly $400,000 dollars.  The Peachtree Middle track was damaged by contractors during its rebuild several years ago, and I consider it a bigger emergency than Cedar Grove.  When can Dunwoody residents expect an emergency replacement? 
That's right, while we are having our kids text or click links for Clorox ( Dunwoody School Daze ) to try and get a track, someone at the school system sneaks in funding for "emergency' repairs at Cedar Grove.  How about the Peachtree Middle School track?  The track at Peachtree is just as much an emergency as Cedar Grove, right? Yet another reason to vote NO on SPLOST.


See the link HERE:  Go to page 35 (last page)
Notification of Emergency Purchases
REQUISITION NUMBER VENDOR JUSTIFICATION DESCRIPTION CHARGE CODE AMOUNT
752.00469                   Hellas Construction, Inc.
The current PE track has aged and deteriorated to the point of being potentially dangerous to the health and safety of the students. Remove the existing asphalt PE track and replace with new rubberized track surfacing on manufacturers' approved base.

Total $ 380,188.00

Coralwood, serving about 200 kids, is receiving a new $10 million dollar wing.  That $10 million was originally set to replace and repair tracks across the county.  But some power broker pushed the Coralwood project.  Yet another reason to vote NO on SPLOST.

All in all, there were about 20 speakers tonight.  Here's a brief summary on some of the comments:

1.  Speaker wants more stringent checks on residency when students enroll.  Said many out-of-county tags dropping off kids every day.

2.  Speaker complained about lottery system for Kittredge.  Said Kittredge not all magnet kids, and some kids winning the lottery should not be there.

3.  Speaker complained about cell towers going up on school properties.  Asked superintendent if she agreed with the program.  Atkinson dodged the question and said she was not focusing on past decisions, but focusing on unmade decisions.  Speaker was not pleased with that answer and rephrased, "Do you think it is a good idea to put cell towers on school properties?" (or something pretty close to that was asked, but it was a direct 'yes' or 'no' question).  Atkinson did not answer directly  and said she was putting her energy elsewhere. Maybe she can sit under a 4G cell tower for an hour a day and recharge her inner energy. I suspect the anti cell tower posse will follow Atkinson to all of her upcoming speaking engagements.

4. Speaker (candidate Lynn D. of Dunwoody).  "The system (DeKalb) is broken from the bottom to the top" (or something close to that).  "We are in dire need of quality school leadership".  Lynn told Atkinson that she feels the county suffers from bad principals.  Note:  As a former teacher, Lynn is right on this issue.  A school principal sets the tone for staff.  A good principal recruits and maintain the best teachers they can find.  A bad principal (as Lynn noted) will fear strong teachers and run them off.  I know it's not possible, but if DeKalb could swap out every principal for principals from Cherokee and Cobb, we'd see an immediate change in our school system.

5.  Speaker praised the Lord a few times, spoke about some (allegedly) corrupt school board members, thanked the Lord a couple more times, then said, "It's all about the money, not the children."

6.  Speaker complained about block scheduling. Said she moved to Dunwoody middle of school year, and block schedule is horrible for new students.  She is 100% right.  I think block scheduling is one of the worst ideas since Outcome Based education,'new' math and spiral math.

7.  Speaker talked about the north south divide.  Said schools on south side not as good as north side.  Drives 300 miles a week to bring kid north.  I give the mom credit for doing all that, but her blame is misplaced.  A school is nothing more than stacked bricks.  The community can make a school good, and a community can make a school bad. For a school to be successful, you need strong parental involvement  disciplined children, a strong principal, and decent teachers.

8.  Speaker (my opponent, Robert W.) spoke on how DeKalb is a huge district, with many dynamics.  Said the district should have inner 'clusters', like a Dunwoody cluster.  Said this would encourage more community involvement.  I'll agree.  Of course, I'd like to take it a step further (and so would 95% of Dunwoody) and have our own school district.  But that's not in our immediate future.

9.  Speaker ( a local celeb named Lisa V) asked a very pointed question to Atkinson:

Super Clusters 1 and 2 show impressive growth over the next decades, based on the county’s projections.  Yet SPLOST IV many new buildings outside of Clusters 1 and 2, where population is dwindling.  This makes no sense.  The school system wants to build $20 million schools were people are fleeing.  We need not a replacement school in Dunwoody, but rather an additional elementary school in Dunwoody, and will need an additional middle school soon, based on projections. Why should Dunwoody vote for SPLOST when we will deal with trailers for another ten years while shrinking parts of the county get new schools?
Atkinson answered, "I don't have an answer for that."

The event lasted about an hour.  One item to note is that attendees were greeted by four DeKalb School System police officers.  The four officers remained on site, positioned at the auditorium's points of ingress/egress (doors).  They then escorted her out of the building.  Very comforting for her, but a bit Vernon Jones like.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vote NO on DeKalb e-SPLOST

Dear Dunwoody Voters,

What's to our benefit, and what's to our detriment in the upcoming e-SPLOST vote?

First, a background on SPLOST.  Every time you make a taxable purchase in DeKalb County, including Dunwoody, 1% of the 7% tax you pay goes to the DeKalb School System.  This 1% generates approximately $90 million a year.  The SPLOST is on your ballot every five years, with that five year date being in two weeks (Nov 8, 2012).  The DeKalb school board comes up with a list of how the SPLOST funds will be spent.  For example, last SPLOST the Board spent $33 million for a new central office.  Dubbed "The Palace" by critics, the central office is home to what I feel is the most bloated central office staff in the State of Georgia.  Imagine what good that $33 million could have done at your local school. 
Millions of dollars were wasted and spent improperly by the school system.  Ongoing legal actions from the current SPLOST (it expires this year) continue to cost students millions of dollars. It’s no secret that DeKalb has not handled our money well.  With the exception of a few individuals, many of the people who mishandled SPLOST funds the past few years still work for DeKalb. We have a new superintendent, but I’d like to see she does on the job for a year before handing over half a BILLION dollars.  Let’s see the new superintendent clean house at the central office and rid the system of bad teachers and principals before handing over half a BILLION dollars.

What does SPLOST mean to the Dunwoody resident?  First off, it means you will continue to pay 1% on taxable purchases in DeKalb County to "benefit" the DeKalb School System if SPLOST passes this November.  If SPLOST fails, you will pay 1% less sales tax in DeKalb.  More specifically, the next SPLOST calls for a new Austin Elementary school to be built.  Why Austin?  Although our school board representative Nancy Jester insisted on neutral language calling simply for "a new elementary school" in Dunwoody, other members of the Board insisted on specifying a school.  They chose Austin as that specific school due to Austin having the lowest rating in a recent site inspection.  Make no mistake, the Austin facility is not perfect, but it is not the worst elementary school in Dunwoody.  Why did Austin receive the lowest score then?  It's a complicated formula, but in summary, Austin 'earned' the lowest score because it does not have doors on the classrooms and it has a small library.  The school was built using an open classroom design.  Has this design affected student performance at Austin?  The answer to that is obviously 'no'.  By comparison, the Chesnut Elementary school is in much more need to be replaced. 

What about the Chamblee High School / Magnet school?  The SPLOST lists Chamblee as a project, but this is not entirely true.  Chamblee High School will be built if SPLOST fails or passes.  The school system borrowed funds from a Federal program to build a new Chamblee.  The SPLOST funds would be used to repay the Federal loan. 

What about the new state law that reduces the DeKalb board from 9 to 7 members?  It is true that as currently written, the Board would not be reduced to 7 members if SPLOST fails (due to the current language in that Bill).  Our legislators who successfully passed that piece of legislation are fully prepared to amend the language to make sure the Board is reduced to 7 members should SPLOST fail on the November 2012 ballot.

What if SPLOST passes?  If SPLOST passes, a new Austin elementary school will be built within five years, most likely within two years.

Where would it be built?  That is a tough question to answer, with a few moving parts.  First, we in Dunwoody are voting on a land acquisition bond.  If that land bond passes, the City of Dunwoody may acquire a 19 acre tract of land off N Shallowford Road; referred to as the Emory hospital site (it has a pending contract on the land, contingent upon the passing of said bond).  This piece of land is about 2.5 miles south of Austin, near '285'.  If that land bond fails, then there is a chance the school system would acquire this 19 acre tract of land for the 'new' Austin.  The land is vacant and easy to build on without disrupting classes at the current Austin.  There are obvious concerns moving a school out of the current neighborhoods.  The entire Dunwoody cluster would go through another redistricting.  If the city's bond passes, there are very few other tracts of land available large enough for a new school.

How much land is needed for a new school?  Based on the 900-student model, the State of Georgia requires 14 acres.  The State has granted waivers in the past, but no guarantees. You will hear from some people that “a State official” says Austin can be rebuilt on site.  Okay, sounds good, but the DeKalb School Board makes that decision, not a State employee.

Why 900 students?  DeKalb has decided to build 900-student sized elementary schools to maximize student funding. Until the State's funding method changes, don't expect DeKalb to change its mind.  Our current governor has said he will review the funding formula, and local State Senator Fran Millar has said he will work to change the funding. But this takes time.  I don't see anything changing at the state level for at least two years.

How big is the current Austin campus?  10.4 acres
How big is the Chesnut campus?  12.4 acres

If SPLOST passes, could Austin be rebuilt at its current location?  Yes, but two, perhaps three things need to happen.  One, the State needs to grant a waiver to build a new school close to the GA Power electric lines.  Two, the State needs to grant a waiver for the school to be built on a smaller site (DeKalb received a waiver for the Chamblee High School rebuild).  Three, keeping Austin may require the acquisition of four homes on Holly Bank Circle.  Read HERE from something posted back in June on this topic.

If SPLOST passes and the school system can find 14 acres for $200,000 an acre, look for Austin to be relocated.  This will set the wheels in motion for redistricting, for everyone in the cluster.

What happens if SPLOST is voted down?  I would expect a revised SPLOST plan to be on the ballot for 2012.  In 2012 a SPLOST passes easily since it is a Presidential election year, bringing out more voters across DeKalb.  This year, Dunwoody voters will be out in big numbers to elect a new mayor and council, vote on bonds, Sunday alcohol sales, and the creation of a TAD.  In summary, if Dunwoody turns out in big numbers to oppose SPLOST, it may fail.  But it will pass in 2012.  Would Austin be named specifically in a 2012 SPLOST?  I doubt it.  If SPLOST fails, the school board will examine why it failed (Austin is but a small part of the SPLOST pie, there are many other areas opposed to SPLOST for various reasons) and make changes for the 2012 version.

If a new 900-seat Austin is rebuilt at its current site, would we still have redistricting?  Yes.  Most likely you would see some students currently zoned at DES and even Vanderlyn moved to Austin, but it would not likely affect Chesnut or Kingsley.

What can you do to vote down SPLOST?  The obvious is to vote 'No'. The next step is to encourage friends and neighbors to vote no. 

Does voting for the city's land acquisition bond help keep Austin where it is now? I've been asked that question a few times. I would say ‘maybe’.  If the 'land' bond passes, the 19 acre tract the city has under contract is no longer available to the school system.  By no means do I suggest voters vote 'yes' for the bonds simply for this reason.  The city will not be able to buy every property in Dunwoody that could be home to a school, nor should it attempt to do so.  The school system still owns unused property in Dunwoody and that property becomes trade bait with the city and other interested parties.

Will our property taxes go up if we vote 'no' to SPLOST? Yes, you will see a $57 increase.  That $57 goes to pay for Chamblee's rebuild and for other general fund expenses.  If SPLOST passes in 2012, your taxes would be reduced by the $57.  What does 1% sales tax mean to the average Dunwoody resident?  That answer depends upon how much money you spend in DeKalb County.  How much do you spend a month at Costco?  At Wal-Mart?  Are you buying a new car?  $57 is one percent of $5,700.  Do you spend $5,700 a year on taxable goods in DeKalb County?

I am running for city council.  Why would I even bring up this issue while running a campaign to win a seat on Dunwoody City Council?  Should I not be focused only on city issues?  After all, a councilman has no control over school decisions.  I bring up this issue because school issues are as important as city council.  I will not sit back and avoid sensitive issues.  Our schools are very important to Dunwoody, and I will voice my opinion on important school issues like this SPLOST vote.

If SPLOST does pass, I plan to be very vocal and fight to keep Austin at its current location.  I don’t have a vote on the school board, but I do feel it is important to voice my concerns.  With a large amount of kids living on the north side of Dunwoody, we need to keep a school on the north side of our city.  Building another school anywhere near Womack is not what is needed for Dunwoody. 
If SPLOST fails, I will work to make sure the school most urgently needing replacement is replaced, using a sensible rating system.  We will need seats in Dunwoody soon as our schools are overcrowded now.  There may be a need to keep Austin at its location, build a new Chesnut, and then plan now for another elementary school and another middle school.

Vote NO on the e-SPLOST

·       $33 million from last SPLOST wasted on central office

·       Funding for improvements to county tracks removed and replaced with $10 million addition to a school that serves less than 300 students

·       Millions of dollars wasted on legal fees and poor construction 

·       Proposed SPLOST is pork project, building more schools in areas where student population is in drastic decline, neglecting high growth areas

·       Dunwoody’s new school location not determined, and we are not replacing the worst-condition elementary school in Dunwoody

·       New superintendent needs to show signs of fiscal responsibility by reducing bloated central office staff and putting more dollars into classrooms

·       Most of the people involved inappropriately allocating funds from the last SPLOST are still employed by DeKalb – nothing has changed!

Dunwoody High School
In other school related news, I expect to hear that Dunwoody High School, after re-tests last summer, passed the No Child Left Behind benchmark and will be eligible to be a receiving school next year for students in failing DeKalb high schools. But there is a sliver of hope the State of Georgia will be exempt from all or part of the NCLB rules soon as Georgia filed with the US Dept. of Education for a waiver.  Don't look for the Feds to act soon on this.  I expect the waiver issue to drag into next fall, becoming campaign material for the Presidential candidates.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dunwoody City Council Recap

Public Comment
Bill Grant, Chamber of Commerce:  Attendance at Dunwoody Music Festival was a disappointment.  Plan to go ahead again with the event next year - three weeks earlier.  Mr. Grant is soliciting input on why attendance was off.  He is a dedicated volunteer in our city and the Dunwoody Music Festival is one of the many events he is passionate about.

Thanks for asking, Mr. Grant. A few reasons why attendance was low this year:

1.  No Chili cook-off.  Nearly all chili cookers last year were Dunwoody residents.  Each tent had, on average, four people.  These chili cookers invited their friends and neighbors.  I estimate the chilli event brought in 400 people, easy.  These people ate food, drank beer, and listened to music (not necessarily in that order).  This year the event organizer opted not to have this fund raising event.  Look for a chilli cook-off in 2012 during the music festival.

2.  No Dunwoody food vendors

3.  No Bad Neighbors band (Redfield), but The Branches band, Family Trucksters, was there

4.  Soccer games, baseball games, other festivals, tennis matches.  Lots of kid events this time of year keep parents busy.  I have two kids, and both had some sporting event (or two, or three) last weekend.  With a fall festival, this may be unavoidable.



5.  Were there any Dunwoody or Chamblee high school student bands asked to play?  Teenagers like to hang out with teenagers.  Teenagers spend money.

6.  Arts and Crafts vendors were inside the fenced area, had to pay $5 to get in to shop.

I want to cover the council meeting so I'll stop here.  I attended the event and enjoyed the music.  Hopefully next year the event date will be better attended.


Mr. Chimney:  The debate over the chimney by Ravina continues.  Mr. Chimney demands that Starbucks and the city show the 1850  1899 1950  1980? circa chimney its due respect.


The Chairman:  Opposed spending $10,000 for new chairs for the courtroom/city council chambers.  Unfortunately the Chairman won his battle over seating. 

SignMan:  A frequent visitor to council meetings spoke against the proposed ice  plastic skating venture. SignMan had a prop (a scaled rendering of the plastic 'ice' skating rink compared to a regulation ice rink) and got his point across to council.  SignMan said no way could city sell enough sponsorships and fit 33 kids an hour on the small rink.


CVB Report
Convention and Visitors Bureau gave a presentation.  I did not take many notes, but recall they are promoting a Girlfriend Getaway campaign.  The idea is for all Dunwoody (and metro Atlanta) girlfriends to go spend money at the mall, at local spas, and eat at local restaurants.  The CVB is looking for  a new home, and hope to move into the lobby of Two Ravinia Place.  How about the old train station house (former home to the Chamber of Commerce and a cell phone store) or the FarmHouse?  Not swanky enough, most likely.  I think they want to be in the PCID area so they can get to Cafe Intermezzo easily for lunch and Cheesecake Factory for dinner. Best of luck to the CVB in putting heads in beds. Focus on our 2500 businesses - they have clients and employees coming to town every week.

Unfinished Business:
2012 Budget - the discussion at times resembled an Abbott and Costello routine, or was it a Laurel and Hardy routine? Either way, no one could really explain the ChatComm funds for 2011 and 2012. After someone asked "Who's on first?", I quit listening.

New Starbucks for Ravinia
The Hines Group (Ravinia complex) wants to put in a new Starbucks.  There is a stand-alone chimney at the proposed site for the new Starbucks.  No one is sure if the chimney was built by Hernando De Soto, Ponce de Leon, Georgia Governor George R. Gilmore, or Grandpa Elias Redfield Spruill Donaldson Chestnut. The story of the chimney varies, but here is my take:  A chimney stood on the grassy knoll near '285' and Ashford Dunwoody Road.  The chimney, at some time, was attached to a structure of some sort.  At some point in time, the structure was destroyed but the chimney remained. Hines, when developing Ravina, decided the chimney was a decent item to keep around, so they took it upon themselves to move it, restore it, and place it across from Perimeter Mall.  Were it not for Hines, that chimney would have been nothing more than firm footing for the asphalt now known as Ashford Dunwoody Road. (they probably now regret saving the chimney).

According to local legend, a revealing conversation took place in a kitchen in 1980.  Whose kitchen? I'm not sure.  But I am fairly sure Great Grandma Donaldson Chestnut Peeler Spruill had a couple jugs of Dunwoody moonshine, some fried apple pies, and a bag of Kaolin on the kitchen table.  So a story was told about the now once-again famous chimney - how it was part of some sharecropper shack or something to that affect.

So here we are in 2011 and Starbucks wants to sell some coffee.  They decided to incorporate the chimney into its design.  Enter Mr. Chimney and the Dunwoody Preservation Trust.  They want to preserve the chimney.  Well, that is understandable.  Were it not for old stuff around Dunwoody, there would be no Dunwoody Preservation Trust - they need stuff to Preserve, it's part of their name.  Like Pizza Hut will always need to sell pizza.

I thought the Starbucks design looked great.  A guy named Art Vandelay, an architect, gave a nice presentation. Starbucks is not new to designing stores and drive-thrus. and Hines is not going to allow coffee sellers to ruin Dunwoody's premium office/hotel location. But the council at times came off as very anti business.  The tension between the Hines representative and some on council was quite obvious.  When the PCID folks come to chat up some new store the tone is much more pleasant. This stack of rocks, aka the most famous Dunwoody chimney ever, has become a hot topic in some small (very very small) circles.  At this same meeting council approves a huge zoning change on public private roads, to make happy a new business for Perimeter, then hassle the heck out of a developer over a drive-thru lane that will hold 12 cars.  If council spends nearly an hour on a small Starbucks, I hate to see what happens when some real development gets going.  If elected to council, I promise to keep the community's best interest in mind, but I will also listen carefully to expert opinion.

So Art talked of how this Starbucks would have a 'FarmHouse' feel to it and promised a nice 2' x 2' bronze plaque on the chimney.  For good measure he tossed in a History Wall, another Starbucks first.  I was waiting to see what this guy pulled out next of his bag of tricks, but he stopped there.  Rule #1 of sales is stop talking once you seal the deal.  I was expecting a stack of gift cards to accidentally 'fall out' of his pocket, into council members' laps, but it did not happen.

Proposed ideas for the Chimney Plaque (Dunwoody Patch has an online poll, vote now)


Dunwoody Village Parkway
Somehow this road project came up for discussion. This project was set to break ground in 2012, now it is 2013.  This is the road by Ace and Village Burger, connecting Mt Vernon and Chamblee Dunwoody Rd Main Street. The new plan calls for extra wide sidewalks, bike lanes, and reducing traffic from four lanes to two.  Dr. Bonser said she was opposed to reducing the lanes here.  No one else commented.

Add Four More Police?
At the last meeting the addition of a special crime unit (four new officers, about $500,000) was removed from the 2012 budget.  King John (Mr. Heneghan) brought this item back to life.  It suffered the same fate as it did at last meeting, a defeat.  The specialized unit focus on crime prevention and is supposed to pinpoint hot spots for traffic and crime.  I can do that for a lot less than $500,000.

#1 Perimeter Mall.  50% of crimes in Dunwoody in this area.  We could add 16 officers to the force and people will still attempt to steal two handbags and a pair of wedge heels from Nine West. Malls attract shoplifters. Until we employ Paul Blart, that will never change.  The Perimeter business district may supply 25% of all tax revenue to the city, but that area requires more than 50% of our police coverage.  Next time you don't see a police officer in front of your kid's school, it is because they are down by Perimeter Mall cuffing a shoplifter or writing an accident report.  The area attracts people, and with people comes the need for police.  No way to avoid it.

I think if Chief came to council and asked for two officers, two officers dedicated to working the school zones during the day shift, it would have passed 5-2.

I recall mention that the ChatComm E-911 center will supply us with data in regards to crime and accident frequency.  Perhaps Chief can use that data.

Signs and Monuments
This item was discussed again, with Robert and Mr. Shortal wanting it removed from budget. It stays in the budget.


Ice (Plastic) Skating Rink Attraction for Dunwoody Village
The cost jumped from $70,000 to $92,000.  This thing melted quicker than Frosty the Snowman locked in the Brook Run greenhouse. If you want to skate this winter, head to the Cooler in Alpharetta.

Game Changer for Parks Bond?

There are two issues people have with one or both of the proposed bonds on the November ballot.  One is taking on debt.  Naysayers are concerned that council would spend the $33 million on land acquisition quickly.  Those naysayers had their suspicions confirmed at Monday night's city council meeting as Council and city manager revealed a tentative agreement to spend $19 million on 42 acres in southeast Dunwoody.  The $19 million, in addition to the potential 'hospital' tract purchase, puts 75% of the $33 million of the land bond in the 'spoken for' column.

The other issue some people have had with the bonds is the lack of specificity in the bonds.  Those wanting to see and hear more got what they wanted - 42 acres for sports fields.

Will this new plan be the boost pro-parks folks were looking for to get that 50% (plus one) of voters? or will it fuel the anti-debt crowd?  Which side will get their folks to the polls?

Here is the official press release:

Dunwoody Moves Forward with New Sports Field Complex
Purchase of 42 acre parcel contingent on parks bond passage

Dunwoody, Ga. - October 24, 2011 - The City of Dunwoody has concluded negotiations with Cortland Partners, LLC and plans to acquire 42 acres of land for $19,000,000 on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard for the development of a consolidated sports complex. The new sports complex would replace the existing 519 unit Dunwoody Glen apartment complex. In addition to the new sports complex, in the Letter of Intent, Cortland Partners agrees to demolish and redevelop the adjacent 266 unit Lacota Apartments Complex into owner occupied housing in concert with the development of the sports complex. The total site includes 63 acres and over 785 existing apartment units.

"This purchase sets in motion the accomplishment of many of the goals in our adopted Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan," said Mayor Ken Wright. "It provides us with adequate space for a much needed sports complex to meet the needs of our youth as well as freeing up Dunwoody Park for the expansion of the Dunwoody Nature Center."

Mayor Wright continued, saying, "The City regrets the need to displace residents (785 apartment units), however, in a built out environment like Dunwoody, we have found it challenging to locate a sufficient amount of vacant land for the athletic facilities desired by the community. The City will work with Cortland Partners on a transition plan for the current residents, which includes 560 school age children who are in the Dunwoody cluster; all current leases will be honored without the threat of early cancellation."

This purchase is contingent upon the passage of the Parks Bond for Acquisition (Nov. 2011).
If the referendum fails, the City will drop the contract without financial penalty.

City Manager Warren Hutmacher explained, "Combined with the 19 acres under contract on
North Shallowford Road, with this purchase the City has identified for the voters 61 acres of property that will be purchased if the Parks Bond Acquisition referendum passes. This deal provides an assurance to the voters for how over 75% of the bond funds ($25,000,000 out of $33,000,000) will be spent."

Mr. Hutmacher continued, saying, "The remaining bond funds will likely be spent on some smaller neighborhood parks and the acquisition of land for a Town Green' in Dunwoody Village. This purchase provides transparency for the citizens of Dunwoody; when the voters go to the polls, they will now know what properties will be purchased if they approve the Parks Bond Acquisition referendum."
an active park is planned for the 42 acre site, if the land bond passes

This is a simple rendering of a possible layout.  This is very early on to speculate what would be built (your next city council would decide that, should the bond(s) pass. But the intent is clear - a sports complex offering a variety of active uses.  This plan sends a signal that Brook Run would most likely remain a passive park.  It also sends the message that the ball fields on Roberts would be moved, and the newly proposed Nature Center expansion / playground plans move forward.
new Dunwoody Nature Center with new amenities and playground

What impact would this have on schools?  The city's press release indicates 560 school age kids reside in the apartments in the area the city wants to convert to a sports complex park.  Hightower Elementary would lose about 240 kids.  Peachtree Charter Middle School would lose close to 160 kids, and Dunwoody High School would lose perhaps 165 students, maybe.  Students could relocate with their families into vacant apartments in other areas of Dunwoody, or their families could purchase homes in Dunwoody.  Or, the students and families could relocate in Doraville, Chamblee, Brookhaven, who knows where. Some people will see this as a positive move to help relieve overcrowding at Peachtree Middle School and Dunwoody High School. 
Elem/Middle/High # enrolled 2009



The '193' area shows elementary school kids going to Hightower living in the apartments planned for a park
affected apartments feed into Peachtree Middle and Dunwoody High School

This press release, coming just two weeks before the November 8 election, is sure to increase the discussion of the land acquisition bond especially.  However, the 'improvements' bond could possibly be used to fund this purchase.  Both sides of the bonds issue have fresh information to spread among their supporters. 

Some people will be pleased to see nearly all the $33 million spent before a vote is cast.  They can identify with the projects and now know the intent of the $33 million.  Others will see this as a spending spree.

According to DunwoodyTalk sources, this property has been eyed for a long time.  A deal was reportedly in the works the past few months.  As the election approaches, the property owner was most likely motivated to ink a deal prior to November 8th. 

The Dunwoody Patch has a piece up on this already as does the Dunwoody Reporter.  Look for the Dunwoody Crier story here sometime today.

Rick Callihan