Friday, February 1, 2013

The New Brook Run Park

Buying 15 more acres for recreation is okay with me, but let's not forget about the 100 acres WE already own. Yes, WE own it. 

Water runoff?  No problem.  Let's build a retention pond/lagoon and bring in some native water fowl.  We will need to remove several acres of trees for this project, no doubt. 

Let's get this Brook Run Park ready for the children of Dunwoody.  Forget the walking trail and let's put in some synthetic turf fields as soon as possible.  Just think of the lower emissions in Dunwoody because parents are no longer driving to Brookhaven and Sandy Springs. 

Ready Mix Concrete Truck Wreck in Sandy Springs

So what happens when a truck weighing approximately 60,000 pounds allegedly takes a corner too fast?  It flips over and traffic in Dunwoody becomes a nightmare.  Thus was the case last night (Jan 31, 2013).

The truck tipped over conveniently during rush hour, in front of a Sandy Springs fire station.  I am not sure of the condition of the driver (he is alive, I know that much), but no other vehicles were involved.

The Sandy Springs police took quick action.  They had at least three officers working traffic control.  First they closed Spalding northeast bound from Pitts Rd to Roberts, making all drivers turn left onto Pitts Rd and cross over GA 400 to Sandy Springs.  Those of you driving on Pitts from Sandy Springs had to turn right onto Spalding, headed toward Chamblee Dunwoody Rd to Dunwoody's most dangerous intersection.

Sandy Springs also had cones and an officer (yes, they actually get out of their cars in Sandy Springs to direct traffic) at Roberts and Spalding/Dunwoody Club.  Those headed north on Roberts Dr from Dunwoody Village area had to turn right onto Dunwoody Club or Spalding.  I am sure 78% of those people got lost.  There appeared to be room for vehicles to continue north on Roberts for GA 400 (at least until the cranes started to lift the truck) but that's not what the person in charge decided was safest.

In summary, traffic was a mess, but the police were there to keep cars moving away from the scene.

Lifting a truck full of Ready Mix is no easy task, but the heavy-duty mobile cranes did the job.  Some onsite engineering by the crane operator was worth the price of admission.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dunwoody Sports Complex?

New Hotel Tax
for Arena?

The former GoldKist HQ site could become a sports complex, featuring ALTA-rated tennis courts, soccer, and lacrosse fields. (Good luck getting the soccer fans to respond to "quiet please' from the tennis refs.) That is, if the Mayor of Dunwoody's vision comes to fruition.
Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis exclusively shared his plan for the GoldKist building at 244 Perimeter Center East with us. He wants to propose raising the Dunwoody hotel tax to 8% and use the extra proceeds (projected to be more than $1M/year) to buy the 262k SF empty office building that sits on more than 15 acres fronting I-285. The city would then raze it to make way for the sports facility that could house up to 20 tennis courts, Mike says: "Every time I drive by that property, I think, 'Boy, it would be good for the city to own it." The site could be ideal to draw big tennis events, Mike says, given its proximity to MARTA, surrounding hotels, retail, and restaurants. (Imagine Roger Federer strolling down the streets of Dunwoody before a match.) "I don't think we consider it an albatross. I think we consider it an opportunity."
gold kist
Mike spoke with us yesterday morning after participating in a Jones Lang LaSalle panel focused on economic development and outlook at the St. Regis. The former GoldKist HQ (above)—which was vacated by the company last year after its merger with Pilgrim's Pride and placed on the market with Binswanger—is one of the last big blocks of contiguous office space left in Central Perimeter. And as such, it has generated interest from both potential users and investors, some of whom have eyed it as a potential multifamily site.

Vanderlyn VanderDash 5K Dunwoody

Registration opens on February 1st with the 5K and 1 mile Fun Run on Saturday, March 23, 2013.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beware the MARTA TOD

The Dunwoody Patch covered a recent meeting where Perimeter Community Improvement District (PCID) spokesperson Yvonne Williams spoke on the importance of MARTA.  The Patch article is HERE.

In the article we learn that MARTA is a critical component of growth in the PCID.  Although not mentioned, MARTA is also key to the growth of the Dunwoody Police Department and key to the growth of the Perimeter Mall Loss-Prevention (Mall Cops, Inc.) team. But we can save that issue for another time.

I don't disagree that having a MARTA presence is important for businesses.  I am sure Ms. Williams is correct when she says employers want MARTA nearby.  Well, guess what?  We have three MARTA stations already in the PCID.  
According to the PCID web site FAQ section: 3 strategic MARTA stations are located within the PCIDs boundaries with two more in close proximity
So why the chatter on MARTA?  It makes no sense to add another MARTA stop in the PCID area.  Three serve the area well.  The answer is, expect the PCID to apply big pressure to Dunwoody council and the city manager and to the leaders in Sandy Springs and Brookhaven.  What the PCID wants is a TURD TOD, the Transit Oriented Development. And they want it in Dunwoody.  Who is 'they'?  The leaders of the PCID is 'they'.  And how many of 'they' live in Dunwoody and drive our streets and have kids in our schools? 

Of course Sandy Springs may welcome the TOD in their part of the PCID.  I doubt Brookhaven is interested.

Here are a few prior posts on the TOD topic and impact fees:  One   Two   Three

In summary the TOD is the total opposite of life in the Dunwoody suburbs. A lot of people crammed together, no need for cars, no need for grass yards, no need for trees or gardens, no need for anything except a MARTA Breeze card and a pair of sneakers.

From the PCID web site:
What is a Livable Centers Initiative? A Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) is the program sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission that promotes quality growth in the region by providing funds that create more opportunities for mobility and livability within existing employment areas. At Perimeter, LCI grants are used to create activity centers within the Fulton and DeKalb Perimeter areas that support the "smart growth" concept of live, work and play in the community. The PCIDs has successfully obtained over $6 million in LCI grant funds. 

Simply Google the term 'Failure TOD' and you'll find some interesting reading.

Any Transit Oriented Development in the Dunwoody/Sandy Springs/Brookhaven PCID will be a joint venture with MARTA, HUD, PCID, and the FTA.  How much say will our Council have once we sign the dotted line of a TOD in Dunwoody?  Not much.  One issue with the TOD is the required set-asides for 'work force housing'.  Well, Work Force Housing doesn't sound so bad, does it?  Sounds like a starter house with 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths and a small front yard.  Not quite.  Work Force Housing is actually government speak for poverty shelters.

According to MARTA:
Workforce housing, in turn, is defined as rental housing affordable to households earning 60% to 80% percent of the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area Median Income (“AMI”)
That is pretty much the same as Section 8 housing (actually it is Section 8 housing and lower)
From the HUD web site
Section 8 rental subsidies are provided to project owners on behalf of families that are eligible low-income families at the time of their admission by the project owners to the program. Under the Housing Act, "low income families" are defined as those families whose annual incomes do not exceed eighty percent (80%) of the median income for the area in which the project is located, adjusted for family size, as determined by HUD at least annually 
The opposition to the TOD is not just based on the unfair housing practice of set-asides, it also has to do with school congestion.  The schools in this area are severely overcrowded.  Add in a few thousand more apartments and we have a bigger mess.  When the PCID builds an elementary and middle school in DeKalb, maybe then we can talk about a TOD. Better yet, how about a PCID school system for all those Board members' children and grandchildren?

Ask your mayor and council their opinion of having Dunwoody having a TOD in the city limits.  The PCID gang is full of smooth talkers and have lots of cash for developers and fancy steak dinners to give away.  Funny thing is they don't live  here, we do.  Beware the TOD.

Abernathy at Peachtree Dunwoody Road, Year 2021

DeKalb County Georgia Schools

From Nancy Jester's site:

A Hearing or Not a Hearing?

I’ve received many questions about the January 17, 2013 proceeding with the State Board of Education (SBOE).  As you know, the outcome was to postpone and then reconvene the hearing on February 21, 2013.  Most of the questions I’ve received assumed the proceeding on the 17th was a hearing.  I am of the opinion the proceeding did not meet the definition of a hearing in both construction and adherence to procedural requirements.  Why do I hold this opinion?
  1. The SBOE must conduct a hearing pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-73.
  2. The hearing must be conducted subject to SBOE Rule 160-5-1-.36.
  3. The “Notice and Order” sent by the SBOE required both parties (SBOE and DBOE) to file witness and document lists by 1/11/13.  It is my understanding that it was acknowledged that neither party had adequate time to prepare complete lists as necessary to conduct a formal hearing.  Furthermore, former board members who had received the Notice were instructed that their presence would not be required on the 17th.
  4. If a formal hearing was anticipated, given that the 3 former board members would have pertinent testimony, they would not have been released from attending the proceeding.
  5. Furthermore, there are many documents to admit into evidence and witnesses to testify to various matters discussed in the AdvancED/SACS Special Review Report on behalf of both parties.  Neither party had produced a comprehensive list of witnesses or documents.  Certainly, staff members from DCSD and AdvancED would need to be present, along with documents, to discuss the issues in the report.  Staff members and documents were conspicuously absent.
  6. The statute provides that the hearing must be held no later than 30 days after receipt of the report from AdvancED.  Given the prerequisites for a hearing were not met, why wasn’t the proceeding officially begun and immediately set to reconvene at the next available date?  Knowing in advance that the requirements to hold the hearing were not met, why was the public not informed that the hearing would be adjourned to reconvene in February?

I know many of you took time away from family responsibilities and work to attend the proceeding.  Many of you obtained childcare so you could be present.  As no action could be taken on the 17th given the procedural constraints, I wish the SBOE had notified you in advance that the proceeding could only culminate in a hearing at a later date.
It was interesting to note several SBOE members testified that the DeKalb BOE should be more “aggressive” in getting information from the DCSD administration about various issues, including financial data.  This seems at odds with statements in the AdvancED/SACS report.  I’m in agreement with the SBOE.  Board members must have a full and unobstructed view of the facts.  Well paid administrators shouldn’t be prickly or sensitive about questions from the board.  If board members had been more aggressive over the past decade, we wouldn’t have found ourselves in this mess.  Sometimes the “governance team” paradigm that is held up as a model of unity makes me wonder what “team” everyone is playing for.  What if the “governance team” sells mediocrity as success and avoidable financial disasters as simple errors?  Today’s citizens are savvy enough to see through that type of spin and rightly demand much more.  Food for thought.
School Choice Week – Empowering Parents in DeKalb
This week is National School Choice Week.  School Choice is about parent empowerment.  If we return the power to parents to govern schools alongside principals and teachers, the cause of education will be well-served.  It also turns schools into innovation laboratories.  It dislodges the bureaucratic hold on budgets and policy.  It allows teachers to teach unencumbered by one-size-fits-all programs, paperwork and creativity-killing dictates.  It allows principals to develop policies that are right for their school.  It minimizes the footprint and potential entanglements of district-wide financial problems.  I’m an advocate for implementing this type of real local control in DeKalb.  It would be a reforming and sustainable model for successful outcomes for kids.   This model is called the Portfolio Strategy.  It empowers parents and gives them choices.
If you support empowering parents, communities and teachers, please join me at the School Choice Rally at the Capitol on Thursday at 10am.  For more details, go to this website: .  You can also show your support for reforming our district by reading my Declaration of Parent Empowerment and sharing it with other parents and leaders.