Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Community meeting summary [Oct 27]

These are very informal notes so we can report on the meeting asap.

We had a great meeting and very well attended: around 135 people showed up to hear about our schools, zoning and yes, annexation.

Acting president Lynn Ganim acknowledged the many volunteers that worked on the annexation survey.

Schools Update (by Tanya Myers, MANA Schools Liaison): Brian McKinley, neighborhood resource coordinator at Laurel Ridge Elementary, gave a brief history and update from the school. Test scores have risen across the board from 2012-2013 in reading, science, math, and social studies. He also described a plan to set up a mini park/gathering area with a bunch of Little Libraries. Home Depot has donated materials for the libraries, benches, arbor and some landscaping material as well. Volunteers are welcome for grounds days (always the first weekend of the month, next one is Nov 8th from 9-1) and site prep day for the Little Libraries (Nov 15th from 9-1)! Laurel Ridge's Fall Festival is coming soon on November 15th.

Preliminary results: annexation survey
based on mid-afternoon, Oct 24, with 224 surveys in.

NOTE: THE SURVEY DEADLINE IS NOW EXTENDED TO OCTOBER 31. Same rules apply: complete online or mail in/drop off @ UPS store at Emory Commons (full info included in the newsletter/survey packet that MANA distributed door to door).

Preliminary survey results:
tiny so you can't read them  but
know we discussed them :) Full
report coming soon!
I. On the individual questions regarding whether the respondent would choose a certain option vs. remaining in unincorporated DeKalb County:

- Join City of Decatur ( 66%) vs Remain unincorporated ( ~34%)
- Join City of Atlanta (~45%) vs Remain incorporated (~55%)
- Join new city (Briarcliff/Lakeside) ( 60%) vs Remain unincorporated ( ~40%)
- Legislature decides now ( ~39%) vs. 1-year moratorium on all new cities and annexations ( ~61%)

II. On the question asking people to rank our various options, those options are listed below
1. Join City of Decatur [highest interest]
2. Join new city of Briarcliff/Lakeside
3. 1-year moratorium on new cities and annexations
4. Remain unincorporated
5. Join City of Atlanta [lowest interest]
Standing room only: House Representative Oliver addresses the audience. Around 135 people attended.
Guest speaker: Mary Margaret Oliver
(these are not complete notes nor a transcript)

Mary Margaret Oliver (no longer our rep, but still a member of the House of Representatives as well as Government Affairs Committee) and Elena Parent (our newest Senator, effective January 2015) were both at the meeting and answered questions about our concerns with annexation. It was a very informative session, thanks to both for attending.

It was a long meting but Ms. Oliver's message was strongly in favor of
1) deciding what we want
2) keeping on fighting for what we want, whatever that may be, by contacting the elected officials who stand to make decisions
Ms Oliver said our survey looked great and that other communities are doing surveys as well.

Ms Oliver answered questions about annexation to City of Decatur:

Q: How can we be talking about Decatur as an option if Decaur said they are not interested?
A: "it ain't over", do not accept defeat today

City of Decatur is likely to get commercial areas but there is an unspoken rule that commercial annexations should also include residents

We would need Representative Rahn Mayo to write legislation to propose that our neighborhood be annexed to City of Decatur. Even if the legislation is approved and a referendum is mandated, the Decatur Commission could still say no.

As to schools, Ms Oliver said that her personal opinion is that by refusing to vote on the highly supported Druid Hills Charter Cluster, DeKalb Schools have given the organizers a very good argument for approaching Atlanta. Atlanta sands to gain a new $79 million school (Fernbannk): if they get the kids, they get the school.

Q: What would happen to our neighborhood if we lose Druid Hills High School to Atlanta?
A: DeKalb Co Schools would reopen a closed middle school or high school to meet the need.

Ms Oliver offered that our neighborhood has desirable resources such as the Medlock Elementary site: is that something that City of Decatur might want for future use? What is valuable to Decatur that we have?

Ms Oliver briefly touched upon property taxes and who those might change due to annexation and she said that annexation to Atlanta or a new city would bring increases but nothing in the magnitude we can expect if we annexed to City of Decatur.

Q: What can we do to fight City of Decatur's annexation of commercial property?
A: Ms Oliver answered that this is a political rather than a legal battle. Last year, Decatur backed away based on strong arguments from commercial owners and voters.

Ms Oliver said the trend seems to be smaller government that is closer to the voter but that is also costlier in terms of property taxes. However, that because of inefficiencies within DeKalb County, it is possible that smaller local municipalities can provide the same services at a lower cost. On taxes, she said that very roughly speaking, there should not be huge changes except if annexed to Decatur. Each municipality has different senior exemptions, for example.

Regarding annexation to City of Decatur, Ms Oliver stressed that City of Decatur needs to hear from us: we need to make a financial case--what is in it for Decatur? We in the Medlock neighborhood have assets. The more folks speak out, the greater the leverage.

Q: How can we leverage the results of our survey?
A: Ms Oliver said that the key is is to be politically strategic and effective. We could put together a legal team, use the survey, make the arguments.

There were many questions from concerned seniors about how their property taxes may go up and create hardship.

Q: Why did the Briarcliff proposal team back away and allow City of Decatur to claim all this commercial property?
A: (Alan Venet answered) When the process began, the cityhood planners were given some rules. One was that they cannot draw maps that create islands. Another guideline, not a rule, was that they were advised to "politically respect reasonable annexation plans" in order to get a hearing for their plans. The question was asked: was Briarcliff told that they would not be heard at the legislature if they did not honor the "reasonable plan" that City of Decatur proposed? THERE WAS NO CLEAR ANSWER.

Ms Oliver again stated that we have more leverage than we think.

At the end of her enjoyable back-and-forth with the audience, Ms Oliver asked for a show of hands as to how those present felt about the options available. The results (with 1 having the highest show of hands and 5 having the lowerst):
1. City of Briarcliff/Lakeside (amusingly referred to as Briarpatch throughout the meeting)
2. City of Decatur
3. moratorium/wait a year to decide what we want to become
4. City of Atlanta
There was a strong message, be the squeaky wheel. That means contacting the elected officials that represent us but also those who don't directly represent us but stand to make decisions that do affect us (e.g., City of Decatur council members, state legislators who sit in key committees such as the Government Affairs Committee). So hold the WD-40 folks, here we come!

To join Ms Oliver's e-newsletter, go here: http://marymargaretoliver.org/
To join Ms. Paren'ts e-newsletter, go here: http://www.elenaparent.com/about/

Zoning Report (from Theresa Same, MANA Zoning Chair): 
Walmart construction has begun. Moe's, hearing aid shop, Pizza Hut are staying; bowling alley not confirmed. Starbucks and LA Fitness confirmed, additional junior anchors should be announced soon. So, not too many updates since the last Medlock Matters newsletter, which you can read online

Friday, October 24, 2014

Reminder to complete your MANA survey

Dear neighbors,

Doodle says "Read the newsletter and complete the survey. Or you get no kisses!" :)

Just a reminder that the survey closes on Oct 28 and that we will report on preliminary data at the MANA community meeting on Oct 27. If you have questions, email medlockassoc at gmail.

Doodle is a rescued puppy who now has a MANA newsletter delivery route. Photo by Barb.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The way we were, in plaid and stripes

Ruby found a photo in the Medlock Elementary alumni group on Facebook that just has to be shared and saved for the Medlock history books. It's the 3rd Grade class at Medlock, circa February 1953.
Click to enlarge.

1953 fashion favored plaid and stripes and ruffles, and these Medlock kids wore them well. Looks like it was a nice day, with a high in the low 60's.

Now, when we look at the great 1950's aerial views of the neighborhood that Greg Germani shared in the Atlanta Time Machine (Medlock page), we can also picture the kids who lived, played and grew up in our neighborhood... back in the day when our houses were new and our trees were little.

For a list to all our posts on Medlock history, including some fun strolls down memory lane by long-time residents, click here.
Click to enlarge, see full-size image at the Atlanta Time Machine.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Clifton Corridor light rail gets a second wind

h/t Anne

The failed T-SPLOST wounded it, but did not kill it: The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that MARTA, in conjunction with the Federal Transit Authority, will launch a study to explore the Clifton Corridor light rail project.

Per the statement in the Regulations.gov website, the study will review a no-build option (no light rail) and two light-rail scenarios:
"No-Build Alternative: The No-Build Alternative includes all transportation improvement projects within the Clifton Corridor project area that are programmed in the Atlanta Regional Commission's Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) with the exception of the Clifton Corridor LRT project. The No-Build Alternative serves as a comparison baseline for the project build alternatives. 
Build Alternative 1: Build Alternative 1 is a new LRT line that was previously referred to as the LPA following the 2009 AA study and includes segments that are at-grade, tunnel, and on aerial structure. From Lindbergh MARTA station, the alignment for Build Alternative 1 would parallel the existing MARTA heavy rail transit (HRT) line to the CSX railroad corridor, then continues eastward adjacent to the CSX railroad right-of-way, then along Clifton Road, adjacent to and under the CSX railroad corridor and Clairmont Road. The alignment would then proceed along Scott Boulevard, North Decatur Road, DeKalb Industrial Way, and North Arcadia Avenue to Avondale MARTA station. 
Build Alternative 2: Build Alternative 2 is a new LRT line that includes at-grade and aerial segments only. From Lindbergh MARTA station, the alignment would parallel the existing MARTA HRT line to the CSX railroad corridor, then continues adjacent to the CSX railroad right-of-way and then along Clifton Road, N. Decatur Road, DeKalb Industrial Way, and North Arcadia Avenue and finally on to Avondale MARTA station."
Public commentary will be welcomed at two sessions, each to take place from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. as follows:
Thursday, December 4, 2014 at the Westminster Presbyterian Church located at 1438 Sheridan Rd. NE., Atlanta, GA 30324.  
Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at the Emory University Student Activity and Academic Center (SAAC), Room 316, located at 1946 Starvine Way, Decatur, GA 30033.
We have kept an eye on this project, as a potential Suburban Plaza stop could bring light rail service closer to Medlock Park. To see our previous reports on the Clifton Corridor with an emphasis to the light rail option, click here.

POTENTIAL Suburban Plaza Station CONCEPT by MARTA (as proposed in 2012)
As illustrated in this MARTA document with visualizations for the potential Clifton Corridor light rail (pdfcirca 2012), the proposed Suburban Plaza station could deliver folks right to the steps of the gym and coffee shop that are included in the current redevelopment plan for Suburban Plaza (see below).

ACTUAL year 2014 plan for Suburban Plaza redevelopment (corner of North Decatur Road and Church Street corner) showing LA Fitness and the future Starbucks ("Shop J").

Monday, October 20, 2014

Great show @ Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve

Thanks to the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve volunteer crew for organizing another wonderful harvest festival. Great turnout and the perfect weather to walk around the preserve, say hello to neighbors, partake in some s'mores...

... and enjoy great music by The Higher Choir.

Check out The Higher Choir's website here. Photo by Tanya.

Pumpkins with an attitude :)

An even higher choir :) -- these fellas were honking as they headed towards the harvest festival around 5:40 pm. 

2nd Annual Avondale Estates Garden Club Tree Walk [Oct 25]

Click to enlarge.
From Nancy Martin
"Mother Nature will reveal the newest colors in her fall collection during the second annual Avondale Tree Walk on Saturday, October 25th from 10:00 am- Noon. Sponsored by the Avondale Estates Garden Club as a conservation project, this year’s walk will include beautiful specimens chosen by the Tree Walk Committee to strut on the catwalk of Avondale Estates. 
Local arborists who will lead the walk include Mark Livingston, Arborguard; Gretchen Musser, Elements of Landscape Design; Neil Norton, ISA Certified Arborist; Gary Peiffer, Dekalb Co. Extension Agent; Steve Sanchez, HGOR; and Joan Scales, U.S. Forestry Commission. 
Tree Walk Guides will point out the enormous benefits trees add to the urban environment, such as: 
• For every ton of new wood that grows, about 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide is removed from the air and 1 .3 tons of oxygen is produced;
• One recent study reported that urban trees could be about 10 times as effective as forest trees for lowering carbon dioxide in cities;
• Trees provide climate control & moderate the “heat island” effect of the urban setting;
• Trees protect soil and water quality. 
To take part in this free event, meet in the parking lot of the Avondale Community Club at 59 Lakeshore Drive at 10:00 am. A new feature of this year’s walk will be the opportunity to ask a panel of experts about any concerns homeowners have with trees in their landscapes. The Avondale Estates Garden Club is a member club of The DeKalb County Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc., The Garden Club of Georgia, Inc., the Redbud District of GCG, and the National Garden Clubs, Inc."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Annexation Round-Up: DeKalb County Edition

A City of South DeKalb? This week (h/t to Deanne!), our representative Rahn Mayo (D - Decatur. District 84) issued a press release through his email list on his stance on annexation,

"Generally speaking I support a community in pursuit of self determination. My reluctance to supporting additional new cities in DeKalb County is based on the lack of cohesiveness with which new cities are often created. In the past, there has been a tremendous disconnect between DeKalb citizens, and political leaders driving cityhood efforts. In my opinion, cityhood plans have provided very little concern for the impact on the DeKalb County as a whole. 

I have witnessed what appears to be "cherry picking" of valuable commercial assets by newly formed cities and communities sponsoring annexation plans. Furthermore, there are often contentious boundary disputes with maps and exclusion of neighborhoods bordering proposed cities, which often feel neglected and without input regarding their fate. 

Currently, there are several proposals for annexation and incorporation in DeKalb County. I recently requested a feasibility study (on behalf of organizers) from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, for a proposed City of South DeKalb. My current position is to carefully review the feasibility and equity concerns of each cityhood and annexation plan and consider the overall fiscal impact on DeKalb County as a whole."

Brookhaven favored? The City of Briarcliff, in conjunction with the City of Lakeside leadership, protested a move by North Druid Hills Rd businesses east of I-85 to requested inclusion into Brookhaven. These businesses have been part of the Lakeside Initiative's map and would be important in providing services for a new city in north central DeKalb (aka the expected  Lakeside/Briarcliff combined city proposal).

Briarcliff and Lakeside tango! Briarcliff/Lakeside Briarcliff and Lakeside continue to struggle towards compromise, but Reporter Newspapers says that they are not ready to release a combined map yet.

A Tale of Two Cities? Even after the 2014's messy legislative session, compromise in map-making was stalled.  Late in August, State Representative Mike Jacobs (R-80, Brookhaven/Chamblee), with the blessing of the House Government Affairs Committee, set a November 15 deadline for finalizing new city and annexation maps. The Brookhaven Post reported that State Representative Scott Holcomb (D-81, Northlake/Brookhaven) guesses that when five-member House Government Affairs sub-committee meets, they will propose a two-city solution for North DeKalb: Tucker and the expected combination of the Briarcliff and Lakeside proposals.

Charter helter-skelter.  The Druid Hills Charter Cluster withdrew its petition amid allegations that the DeKalb County School System illegally log-jammed the review and approval process, and stated that the organizers would "step away from our efforts in order to give life to other active processes underway in our communities that affect our constituency, such as annexation and city-hood." Druid Hills residents have been pondering the possibility of annexation into the City of Atlanta; in that eventuality, Druid Hills High School, Briar Vista and Fernbank Elementary schools would join the Atlanta Public School System. Update: WABE/NPR reports on this issue.