Friday, April 19, 2013

The City of Decayed-Wood, Georgia

DunwoodyTalk is known for stirring the pot, but also known for suggesting not only a new pot, but a better one.  Today our staff met with high-level officials from Dunwoody and Decatur - the end result is both cities will lobby residents of both cities to join forces.  This new city, DecayedWood, will be a joint venture of Decatur and Dunwoody.

The good news is that the children of Dunwoody will no longer be ignored educated by the DeKalb County School System. But before we jump ahead to schools, there is a road map we need to follow.  First, the City of Dunwoody Charter is burned on the FarmHouse balcony in an emotional ceremony.  Speakers from around Dunwoody can give tear-jerking speeches about the Dinky railroad, the steam car wash, Mellow Mushroom (home to cold beer and fresh hot pizza, made with spring water), and the Major Dunwody (one "o", thank you) himself. The old saying, "When Pigs Fly" will be carved into the large oak at the FarmHouse as Decatur and Dunwoody merge to DecayedWood.

Once the Charter's ashes are swept into a Dahlonega-gold lined urn and buried behind the Georgetown Kroger, the residents of Dunwoody and Decatur will vote to become ONE.

A thin line (2.4 mm) joins Decatur and Dunwoody

And why would these two opposite-ends-of-the rainbow join forces?  After all, Decatur is the left-leaning granola chompin' cousin to Berkley, CA and Dunwoody is the alleged Smart City, conservative cousin to Provo, UT.  Or so we're told.

First let's look at schools.  Dunwoody folks desperately want out of the corrupt and failed school system known as DeKalb County School System.  Thurmond is the same as Lewis, Atkinson, and Tyson. Thurmond could care less about Dunwoody today, and could care less about Dunwoody tomorrow.  As long as the money flows in from the Dunwoody tax base he is happy.  Dunwoody taxpayers have confiscated contribute approximately $150 million dollars to the DeKalb School System.  It costs about $80 million to operate the Dunwoody cluster.  Decatur has a great school system, operating on a budget of $39 million for 3500 students.  Dunwoody has about 9700 school-aged students (about 7500 in DeKalb schools, the rest in private school or home-schooled or paying tuition to Fulton County schools. Yes, you can pay tuition to attend a Fulton school).

Decatur, by annexing Dunwoody, could cut their school tax rate by at least 25%, and still increase their school budget to $60 million, lowering class size and raising teacher salaries.  Hear that Decatur parents?  Pay 25% less in school taxes and get lower classroom sizes and increase spending on the arts and music programs (you know they love the arts in Decatur so we need to entice them with increased spending in this area).  You can also spend more for athletics, debate team, chess club, and every other program.  All budgets will increase 50% just by Friending us on Citybook.

And what does Dunwoody get? Well, we are no longer part of the DeKalb School System.  That alone wins many votes, but there is more. We would have a charter system like Fulton County schools.  We control the checkbook for the new Decatur-North School cluster.  We hire and fire staff.  We reduce class sizes and we have clean bathrooms.  We have a track without potholes.  We have accreditation and we do not have Ramona Tyson as our SACS liaison.   Sounds too good to be true.

And get this, Decatur has a 4th 5th grade academy.  That brings back some memories.  Decatur can open enrollment to the 4th 5th grade academy to those who so cherished Dunwoody's short-lived version.

So we currently bring in $150 million for schools, but we will decrease the millage rate slightly.  We need $100 million (we need to improve what we have currently and $20 million will do that) to operate the Decatur-North cluster and contribute $21 or so to Decatur main school cluster. Decatur parents and teachers and board members - imagine what you can do with $21 million more a year in your school budget!

Two school boards operating independently, but one school system  Problem solved.

Now to the city government. This gets tricky. Both cities operate with around $20 million.  So the new city operates at $40 million.  Decatur is not afraid to borrow money and its residents pay a higher tax rate than Dunwoody.  But there is common ground; Decatur has a Resource Conservation manager (yeah, really) and we have a Sustainability Committee.  Decatur is managed mainly by a powerful city manager, so is Dunwoody.  Decatur operates under something called a city commission, not a city council.  The City of DecayedWood will have one mayor and one council. Dunwoody has 50,000 residents, Decatur only 20,000.  So obviously Decatur North (Dunwoody) would have a majority on council.  But fear not Decatur voters, we have Save Dunwoody to help protect Mother Nature and Her 4" diameter pine trees of Brook Run.

Decatur has its own fire department and we do not.  We can have Toni as our new fire chief and Stephanie as our fire marshal.  We really do need our own fire marshal.  The police forces can join and we can finally resolve the E-911 issue by working with Decatur.  The people of Brookhaven will be so jealous.

The people of Decatur would really enjoy Lemonade Days, Light Up DecayedWood, The DecayedWood Arts Festival, and other gigs.  Decatur has no shortage of entertainment and we can get those London taxi cars taking us back and forth until we get "Old Buck" and that narrow-gauge rail line connecting north and south DecayedWood back in action.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lemonade Days Dunwoody Preservation Trust

Dunwoody families, Wednesday evening is opening night for Lemonade Days.  Come out and join the fun.  Wednesday and Thursday are the best nights for rides and the weather looks to be perfect.

Click HERE for Discount Coupons for Lemonade Days

Brook Run Park.  Buy an armband and ride all night.  Eat some cotton candy and funnel cake.

Rumor has it there is a new ride, the Ring of Fire.

Dunwoody Lemonade Days, The Best Event in Dunwoody

Dunwoody has many great events.  The Margarita thing, the Butterfly thing, the Arts Festival Lady gig on Mother's Day weekend, Light Up Dunwoody, Tree Cutting Day, Taste of Dunwoody, all nice events.  But no event brings out more action than Lemonade Days by the Dunwoody Preservation Trust.

Lemonade Days is the #1 event of the year for kids 5-15.  Peachtree Charter Middle School is the biggest supplier of attendees, but all the local elementary and middle schools contribute.

TIP #1
If you enjoy the rides you really need to go Wednesday and Thursday nights.
On Saturday night it will be a 30 minute wait for the big rides.  Wednesday night there is no wait.  Thursday night a couple of minutes wait.  With the DeKalb schools having CRCT testing this week, that signals the end of the school year.  The CRCT scores are irrelevant to your kid's future so let them attend Lemonade Days during the week.  A recent SACS study showed attending Lemonade Days reduces test anxiety.

If you want to hang out and be seen among the elite of Dunwoody teens and tweens, Friday and Saturday nights are best.

Dunwoody PD has a nice presence at this event and I've never seen any issues.  Lots of parent around.

This year Lemonade Days takes it to the next level with more FREE music:

Live Music

This year's Lemonade Days has a great lineup of FREE music! The performing stage will be set up inside a tent partly funded by the Dunwoody Visitors and Convention Bureau, providing shelter and seating for all guests. The tent and seating will be available for families seeking a break from the heat or a quieter place to eat lunch during the day, before the music starts. Admittance into the festival grounds at Brook Run Park in Dunwoody is free of charge. Concerts are also free; guests will have the opportunity to make a special donation to the Donaldson-Bannister House if they choose.
5:00 - MJCCA Little Sparks gymnastics team
5:00 - Missing Cat, Already Taken
7:30pm - The Affenders
8:30pm - Blind Crush - A band that plays a wide variety of music from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s.

1:30 Distortion
2:30 Jeannie Caryn
4:00 - Suessical the Musical
4:30 Vanderlyn Dancers
8:00pm - The Bruce Jones Band - Truly a band for everyone, the BJB simply rocks the house and covers the best songs throughout time.

12:00 PCMS Blue Shadow Jazz Band
1:00 ADHD
2:30 MJCCA Ballerinas
3:30 Housebroken- Atlanta's power rock classics

Monday, April 15, 2013

How Chick Fil A and the Curb Cut Relate

Much ado many moons ago about DHA and others opposing a Chick Fil A restaurant at a certain site in Dunwoody.  Not many people read deep enough to see the issue was not about opposing a fast-food restaurant, it was about changing the zoning on a property.  To allow the Chick Fil A at the originally requested site meant changing the entire parcel's zoning condition.  The zoning change would have permitted many more things than a Chick Fil A.  "But Chick Fil A will be there forever, it's a non issue" we heard.  Well, believe it or not even Chick Fil A closes stores.  And while waffle fries and chicken sandwiches are the rage today, people who change zoning need to be careful and look long-term and think worst-case scenario.  As time moved by, Chick Fil A found a new home within 200 yards of the other site.  All is well.

Now let's take a look at the proposed curb cut for the Sterling property on Ashford Dunwoody Road.  The truth is that the homeowners east of N Peachtree, north of Mt Vernon, and south of Womack (no need for acronyms) could care less about a curb cut leading into a hotel and white tablecloth steak house.  All Most of are not foolish skilled enough to ride a bike on Ashford Dunwoody Road (sorry Joe) and we all try to avoid the area during peak travel times of 6 AM through 8:15 PM.  The curb cut will increase the stop and go traffic and lures drivers to cut across traffic to do a u-turn.  But hey, it brings jobs and tax revenue and its in the PCID and they are not building apartments, so who among us really cares?

However, the issue is not a curb cut, the issue is conditional zoning and setting a precedent.  Allow the curb cut and establish policy that conditional zoning means nothing, then watch High Street come in and request 3000 apartments and 3000 "condos".  Just so you know, the High Street project by the mall is crawling out of the cobwebs and coming back to life.  Conditional Plans for that site call for 1,500 apartments and 1,500 condos.  But according to some at city hall Conditional zoning/plans are irrelevant.  They mean nothing. These things can be changed with no penalty (actually they can't anywhere else in Georgia, but at least two Dunwoody staffers think can).  So why play the give/take game of zoning and conditions and site plans if your city staff is going to allow changes to agreements?

In summary, by allowing a curb cut for a developer on Ashford Dunwoody Road mayor and council may open the door for High Street and others to modify (at will) agreed upon plans.  Will a curb cut lead to another 1,000 or 2,000 apartments?

The developer wants to build on this site.  They are not walking away because of a curb cut.

DHA Meeting Curb Cuts and Hotels

Brookhaven is getting a new full-service Hyatt hotel, just inside '285'.  Sandy Springs is getting a new fancy hotel or two as well.  What about Dunwoody?  Well, a developer wants to put in a Hampton Inn and some other retail along Ashford Dunwoody Road (across from California Pizza Kitchen, aka CPK).

This project is a good sign and one I hope gets built.  No issues with the project, except they want a curb cut onto Ashford Dunwoody Road.  For those of you not in the know on infrastructure and street-scape lingo, a curb cut is a way for people to turn in and out of a lot onto a street.  It is where there is no curb.  You know Publix across from Mellow Mushroom?  It has a curb cut - a bad one.  People can enter and leave Publix onto Chamblee Dunwoody Rd (aka Main Street) to the left or right.  That particular curb cut should be right in and right out only.  That one change would do a lot to improve traffic in the area.  If you want to go north toward GA 400 from Publix you should be forced to go to the traffic signal by the new Chase Bank. 

Curb cuts can slow traffic and increase accidents with pedestrians and bikers.  But curb cuts do allow easier/quicker access to a business.  Too many curb cuts (Chamblee Dunwoody Road and Ashford Dunwoody Rd) and you have increased traffic issues. New street projects limit curb cuts.

So back to the new hotel planned for Ashford Dunwoody Road.  This property used to have a curb cut guaranteed to it based on a land swap back in the 1980's.  Then in 2008 the property owner wanted some zoning changes made to the property.  In exchange for these zoning changes they gave up the curb cut.  The site plan on file today allows for a hotel and retail, but not the curb cut. But the developer says the hotel folks insist on the curb cut.  The develop also said the curb cut is a make or break part of the development deal.  I say the city calls their bluff.  A curb cut is NOT a make or break item for a property like a hotel.

How many readers out there book hotels?  How do you book your hotel?  First you seek a location.  Okay, Dunwoody is your location.  You have business in the area (or all the downtown hotels are booked and you need a room for the Final Four or SEC Championship game).  You've decided on Dunwoody.  Next you think about brand loyalty. Are you a Marriott Rewards member? Or Perhaps a PriorityRewards member via IHG.  Or maybe you look at Trip Advisor or Expedia (sorry CVB, most people do not search the CVB for hotels, unless you are linked to an event web site).  Then you check pricing, amenities, and availability.

Amenities?  What do people look for in a hotel?  Free breakfast, free Internet, parking rates, swimming pool, bar, restaurant.......  How about curb cut?  Nope.  People don't look for a curb cut.  If a Hampton Inn opens in Dunwoody it will sell rooms based on location, brand name, price, and reputation.  Have you ever read a review on Trip Advisor stating, "The hotel was excellent, just as we hoped.  Our entire party had a great time.  The rooms were quiet and clean, water pressure was excellent, and the free breakfast was awesome. I'd give this hotel 5 stars except it does not have a curb cut onto Main Street.  4 out of 5 stars  :)  "

King John took some video of the Sunday's DHA meeting.  Be sure to with the part with Farmer Bob. He even gets a comment in about the Community Council.  And SaveDunwoody, why are you not protesting this curb cut?

a screenshot from Kayak (the curb cut amenity is not really there, just so you know)