Thursday, June 30, 2011

Notes from millage rate meeting

The CHCA website has notes from the June 27 meeting with DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis on millage rate increases. The Board of Commissioners will vote on this proposal on July 12.

To put the discussion in context, the notes report that
A 4.35 mil increase amounts to $95 on an average home.
To review full meeting notes, go to CEO's mtg on taxes/millage rate.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cell Tower news

The North Druid Hills-Briarcliff Patch draws attention to continued opposition to the Medlock cell tower proposal, apparently reporting from statements made by Joanne Massey at last night's MANA meeting.

MANA would like to issue a correction to the following statement:

"That defense comes in the form of an attorney Massey has hired to represent the association’s interests."

MANA is indeed opposed to a cell tower at Medlock Elementary but, as noted in last night's meeting, the lawyer mentioned in the article is being paid for by the Masseys and several contributing neighbors, not by MANA.

June 29 Update: Patch has posted the following correction:

CORRECTION: This story said potential tenants at Medlock Elementary School have expressed dissatisfaction with the possibility of a cell tower at the school. No potential tenants have expressed concern. Massey said she was concerned some might. The story also implied that the association hired an attorney. The attorney was hired by a group of residents fighting the tower proposal, and the attorney doesn't represent the association. The errors have been corrected in the story.

This is a perfect opportunity to remind all neighbors to keep writing to the DeKalb County School System's Board of Education lest they forget how very opposed we are to a cell tower in the heart of our neighborhood. The wrong-headedness of this proposal is confirmed by Dan Drake's announcement that Medlock will be leased and used as school grounds in the next ~5 years.

As Commissioner Gannon reminded us last night, with the DCSS Board of Education controlling such a large percentage of property tax revenue, we need to hold them accountable and attend their meetings. MANA is keeping an eye on the meeting schedule, with July 11 as a potential date when the cell tower proposal will be discussed. Some neighbors are interested in attending and we will post a reminder as that date draws closer.

Meanwhile, you can register your cell tower discontent by signing the online petition (click on the monopole tower on the right margin) or directly by emails to the Board. You can grab those addresses from our previous post here.

MANA Meeting of June 27, part III: Comments and Q&A with K. Gannon

Kathie Gannon, DeKalb County Commissioner for Superdistrict 6, was kind enough to attend our meeting and take questions.

As noted in other reports here and elsewhere, she explained the county has been approached by Selig. Responding to a question of what was her "feel" about the Selig/Walmart proposal, Ms. Gannon said she had a sense they have been in talks for a long time. Ms. Gannon noted that the Walmart proposal would not need significant variances, just a parking variance and a setback on an already paved area; these requests would be handled by the zoning board of appeals and the community would be able to provide feedback at that point. The proposal calls for tearing down the structure from the thrift store to Picadilly Cafeteria, and for 3 curb cuts: one at Medlock Rd., one at North Decatur Rd., and one at Church St.

Ms. Gannon confirmed the proposal requested financial assistance from the county; all her statements suggested she is opposed. An audience member asked where are things now, Ms. Gannon said they presented their proposal, the commissioners listened, and that was about it. In response to "what did Walmart ask for", Ms. Gannon replied it was a TAD (tax allocation district) request, meaning that tax would be held at a certain level for a certain period of time, and that this only works if the school board is willing to be part of the process.

An audience member asked why property assessments went up so drastically for some people and went down for others? Ms. Gannon noted that new rules require that calculations take into account the number of foreclosures, which has never been done before.

On the topic of taxes, Ms. Gannon said the millage rate will go up, however, that people should be aware that this will be the first increase from the county in 10 years. All other increases have been driven by the Dekalb County school board, which receives the majority of moneys collected from property tax.
[N.B., a quick visit to the Dekalb County Tax Commissioner website shows that for year 2010, the county drew 16.86 mills, while schools drew 22.98 mills. As reported here, the proposed new millage rate will add 4.5 mills to the 2010 rate, bringing the county's millage rate to 21.36. If the word "millage" confuses you, remember it's just the property tax rate calculated per $1,000, instead of the more familiar percent (per $100).]

On a different topic, a neighbor asked about speed bumps on Sanford Rd. Ms. Gannon suggested the neighbor contacts Gannon's office for additional information on that process.

MANA Meeting of June 27, part II: Zoning and Medlock Elementary updates

Medlock Elementary Status Update

In a phone call to MANA President Kathryn Firago, Dan Drake (Director of Planning and Forecasting DCSS) shared that the current plan for Medlock Elementary is as follows:
1. a short-term lease (~2 years)
2. use of Medlock Elementary as classroom space for students displaced during the construction phase of a 900-student elementary school (aka Fernbank Elementary)
3. again make the Medlock school available for leasing

Also see below.

Zoning Updates

Our thanks to Theresa Same, MANA's zoning guardian angel! Below is her summary of the projects she is monitoring.

* North Dekalb Mall - They are planning to add a Golden Corral to the area - a free standing building at the NE corner best known as the location of the carnival rides. They are asking for a variance on parking and signage. Area is already paved and the sign variance has to do with going over the square footage as they want to do 3 signs.

* JD Byrider - Some of you may have noticed blue signs outside what was formerly JD Byrider. They are asking for a parking variance to add a medical building. Appears to be an improvement and an appropriate use of the property.

* Dash - If you aren't aware of this yet, Dash is at the corner of Woodridge and Scott where the Udipi use to be. They are permitted and zoned to be a restaurant, but are running the place like a night club. There are several neighbors in the area who are irate - rightly so and have been working hard to get it shut down or at least enforce restaurant hours. Several neighbors in the area working hard to get the County to do something about this problem and MANA is doing what we can to support them. Claire French has spearheaded this effort and has recently drafted a letter to Burell Ellis for the MANA Board. Upon approval by the MANA board, letter will be sent to B. Ellis.

* Suburban Plaza - Many of you may have heard the Walmart rumor by now. What we do know is that Selig (owners/developer) is in the exploration phase with Walmart, but that no deal has been reached. Selig met with Rader's office and is looking for public funding to redevelop the property (no promises of any type have been made by Rader's office). They are proposing to do an urban/smaller store with underground parking - big $$ investment. They have the zoning to put a big box store on this property, so the biggest thing standing in their way is money. This will likely be a long process and may not result in anything. I know that many folks are very unhappy about the prospect of Walmart in the area - some on facebook are saying the neighborhood should fight it. I have to admit it is not my first choice. But at this point I have not seen plans and cannot necessarily say it is a bad thing. The development Selig did on Howell Mill with a Walmart is not unattractive. Yes, any successful redevelopment of the property will increase traffic. I would hope that with the redevelopment of the area that we might be able to discuss improvements to the intersections and add pedestrian/bike friendly improvements. We are waiting to hear back from Selig.

* Medlock School Closing and Interviewing of interested parties - I have been working with Tanya, Patrick and Kathryn on the school closure and interviewing of groups interested in leasing the property. At this point, we've interviewed and supported the further exploration of leasing the property to the International School and Congregation Bet Havrim. Although there is some preference to keep the property a school, we thing either would be a good fit with the neighborhood and for the property. CBH is looking for a long term lease while ICS is willing to take a shorter term.

* Medlock School and T-Mobile Cell Phone Tower Proposal - It looks like the discussion and vote will likely take place in July. I would encourage folks to continue to write letters to the school board. It is important to not let up on this.

* Courtesy/Vol Repair - It looks like Vol Repair has moved into the new Courtesy dealership. They are an established business with many years under their belt. They do not require a zoning change, so the neighborhood was not notified. The good news is that for the size of the building/property, they are a small group. [Note: when this was discussed at the MANA meeting, audience members noted they've been doing business already they have no problems to report.]

* Intown Hardware - Some of you might have noticed that Intown Hardware has taken over the lawyers property and increased their garden center. I was so happy to see the Workers Comp billboard come down. I was able to help with this rezoning last fall. I think as time goes on, they will continue to make improvements to the parking and street front area.

* Watch for any movement at other dealerships

* Majestic Manor - Other wise known as that hole up on Lawrenceville Highway. No updates.

MANA Meeting of June 27: part I

We had a great meeting! Below are meeting notes by Beverly Monroe, MANA Secretary.

Additional coverage on zoning and the business fair will be available in separate posts a.s.a.p.--it's too much to fit in here!

If you are interested in volunteering or have questions, contact MANA at

Neighbors gathering before the business fair.

President Kathryn Firago welcomed everyone to the meeting, and introduced the
businesses represented at the business fair. Attendees then spent the first part of the
meeting circulating around the room, talking to the various people promoting their
businesses. [Look for business fair post(s) coming soon]

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to announcements, committee reports, and
news of the neighborhood and community. Kathryn reminded everyone that it was the
beginning of a new fiscal year, and invited them to join or renew memberships.

Yard Sale - Beverly Monroe
• October 1
• Recruiting those interested in helping plan

Budget and Membership - Judy Perras
• Treasury balance- $4,950.43
• Current spending to go to buying MANA shirts and vests

Neighborhood Watch- Barbara Dalton
• Considering providing stickers for homes, “No Soliciting – MANA”
• Possibly free to neighbors
(the audience liked this idea, MANA will follow up on it)

Newsletter – Stephen Perras
• July 1 deadline for articles
• Delivery- mid July

Senior Dinner – Kathryn Firago
• 50’s Theme- costumes, decorations
• Publix and Ace Hardware donated food and prizes
• Thanked Dave Butler for cooking

Social- Kathryn
• Pool Party- August 14
• Rain date- August 21

Zoning – from Theresa Same
Theresa compiled a very thorough list of updates of what's going on around the neighborhood. These appear in a separate post on zoning.

Cell Phone Tower -- Joanne Massey
Joanne Massey outlined objections to putting the cell tower
in our neighborhood.
1- visible to entire neighborhood
2- deterrent to viable tenant for school
3- lower property values and decrease in ability to sell homes
4- restricted land use
5- relatively little financial gain for school system
6- T-Mobile to join with AT&T?

Joanne reported that she and her husband have hired an attorney and 18 other
families have joined to help pay the attorney. They need more to join with them
and encouraged everyone to keep writing the Board of Education.
Joanne is looking into a Medlock overlay, a livable community initiative that
involves an application for a grant to bring about a vision for the future for
the neighborhood.

Kathie Gannon, Commissioner
• Encouraged neighbors to help pay for the attorney and to attend school board
meetings. July 11 is when they might vote.
• Currently issues are being identified for 2012 election of CEO and board members.
• Suburban Plaza Walmart- Kathie and Jeff Rader met with Walmart. The proposed plan is to
tear down stores to Piccadilly and build underground parking. The area is already
zoned, but they would need a parking variance. The Zoning Board of Appeals
meeting would be a time for community input. Walmart is asking for Economic
Development Incentive money.
• Community Based Plans Overlay- an application for funding through ARC grants.
These are federal funds matched by the county.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Public hearings on proposed milage rates

Comissioner Rader announces an opportunity to comment on proposed millage rate increases:
DeKalb County will host public hearings to discuss a proposed increase in property tax rates on Tuesday, July 5 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and on Tuesday, July 12 at 10 a.m. in the Maloof Auditorium, 1300 Commerce Drive in Decatur.

The DeKalb County Board of Commissioners has tentatively adopted millage rates, which will require an increase in property tax rates as listed below.
                               2011    Rollback Rate       % Increase

    Atlanta                    10.39       8.938            16.25%
    Avondale Estates           15.41      13.464            14.45%
    Chamblee                   13.71      12.223            12.17%
    Clarkston                  15.06      13.242            13.73%
    Decatur                    10.82      10.087             7.27%
    Doraville                  13.60      12.607             7.88%
    Dunwoody                   13.35      11.357            17.55%
    Lithonia                   15.33      13.280            15.44%
    Pine Lake                  15.61      13.541            15.28%
    Stone Mountain             13.90      12.980             7.09%
    Unincorporated             19.62      18.017             8.90%
Countywide Debt                 1.08       0.647            66.92%
Unincorporated Debt             0.66       1.631           -59.53%

This tentative increase will result in a millage rate of 21.36 mills in the unincorporated area, an increase of 4.50 mills.

These millage rates are prior to the application of the Homestead Exemptions and credits from the Homestead Option Sales Tax. In 2010, the Board of Commissioners granted a 56.6 percent HOST Credit for County operations and maintenance based upon the use of 97.3 percent of last year’s HOST receipts. In 2011, the Board of Commissioners has voted to use 80 percent for the HOST Credit.

The hearings are open to the public and citizens are encouraged to attend.

Quote above comes from

H/T DecaturMetro,

Suburban Plaza non-update

CHCA has a good summary of what is known so far, please go to

MANA inquiries to Commissioner Rader resulted in a pretty much identical email as noted above.

Druid Hills Patch has a rehash of CHCA's post and adds that coy surveyors from Wolverton and Associates have been spotted at Suburban Plaza. A quick visit to W & A's website shows that they provide the following types of site survey services: site feasibility studies, preliminary planning/ value engineering, public information meetings, zoning and land use requirements, complete site and hydrology designs, project cost estimates & specifications, securing permits & assisting with bidding process, as well as transportation, traffic, structural and subsurface utility engineering surveys.

Reminder: MANA Community Meeting, June 27

Monday, June 27, 2011, 7:00 pm
North Decatur Presbyterian Church (Scott Blvd and Medlock Road)

Please be reminded we are hosting a Business Fair where you will have a chance to talk to several local business people who live in the neighborhood. MANA business will be discussed starting at 8pm.

7:00-7:45 pm Business Fair

8:00 pm MANA meeting topics
  • Membership drive
  • Yard Sale
  • Treasurer's report
  • Zoning update
  • Medlock School update
  • Cell Tower update
  • Commissioner Kathie Gannon – update on county doings

Lightning claims Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve's tool shed

Last evening's storm certainly made for an intense downpour. Apparently water was not the only thing coming down. Per a report in the Medlock Park Neighbors facebook page, lightning hit Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve's toolshed, making it catch fire.

Screen capture from video, see link below.

Link to video:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

REUNITED Chocolate lab

Stella, the chocolate lab has been found and has been reunited with her family. Yay!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

MANA Yard Sale: Save the Date [October 1]


We are gearing up for our second annual Medlock Area Yard Sale. Last year we had a very successful sale with about 17 families participating. Proceeds are yours to keep or you can donate them to MANA if you would like. There is a small $10 participation fee per household to help cover costs (advertising, printing, maps, etc.). This year we are hoping to pair with Clairmont Heights to offer an even bigger sale area. More details will be coming soon about the actual sale and how to participate.

In the meantime, we are looking for VOLUNTEERS to help coordinate the overall planning of the event. In addition, we could use help with:

Advertising (newspapers, local businesses, Craiglist/online advertising, etc.)
Making signs
Putting out signs
Picking up signs
Getting printing done
Ordering balloons (for participating houses)
Delivering balloons to each participating house
Coordinating with a charity to pick up what does not sell that people would like to donate
Replenishing maps to designated areas throughout the neighborhood before and on sale day

If you would like to volunteer for any project, large or small, we would greatly appreciate any time you have to offer. It's a fun way to be involved with the community and meet your neighbors. Please contact either Deb Elkin (, 404-320-6063) or Bev Monroe (, 404-321-9683) to volunteer or with any questions or ideas you might have.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Walmart and Suburban Plaza: status updated to RUMOR

It appears that this is not a done deal.

MANA is also making inquiries. As usual, MANA will bring neighbor concerns to any discussion that takes place.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Good News: DCSS did NOT vote on cell tower proposal tonight

MANA attended the DCSS BOE meeting this evening. We are pleased to share with community that the vote on the cell phone tower did not take place tonight. It will be taken up again at future date to be determined.

In the interim, neighbors who oppose the tower will have more time to write the BOE, sign the petition, and hopefully attend the meeting when the proposal is on the agenda again.

Walmart coming to Suburban Plaza?

Read about it here

That article also provides an interesting graph by Selig (property owner) about income levels for the area surrounding Suburban Plaza.

DCSS must table the T-Mobile cell tower decisions until July

The text below is edited to correct errors in a previous version. 

It appears that the cell tower proposal discussion is on the agenda today, June 13, 6pm, and has not been delayed, as MANA was informed late last week.

Calls from MANA to Mr. McChesney have not been returned. The Secretary of the BOE explained that the Board does not meet with citizens on business meetings, only on working meetings.

The Board meets at 4pm today to approve the agenda, therefore, there is still time for the DCSS Board to do the right thing and for you to nudge them along. Here are the Board and Interim Superintendent's addresses:

To view the DCSS Board Meeting Schedule and Agendas, go to
and under today's 6pm meeting you will find Action Item G5. T-Mobile Wireless Tower Placements.

If you have not done so already, email the DCSS Board and share your concerns. Also ask that they delay the T-Mobile Cell Tower proposal decision to allow the community to address the Board.

And it's not just us: the DeKalb School Watch blog also questions DCSS's wisdom in pursuing the cell tower proposal.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Petition Against Installing a T-Mobile Cell Phone Tower at Medlock Elementary

MANA is disseminating the following petition on behalf of its many neighbors' concerns over DCSS's cell tower proposal:

Signatures will be sent to the powers that be.

- - - - -

We, the undersigned, appeal to the DeKalb County School System's Board of Education and to interim superintendent Ramona Tyson that you abandon the proposal to lease school ground space to T-Mobile for the installation of cell phone towers. In specific, we oppose the tower proposed for Medlock Elementary School in Decatur, GA. Our reasons are many:

- Medlock Park neighbors are dealing with a property value triple whammy:
* The closing of Medlock Elementary and loss of one of our neighborhood's selling points ("walk to school").
* A large, empty building in the middle of our neighborhood. We have no information of how the property will be maintained.
* The prospect of an inescapable 150-foot tall eyesore.
The specter of increased millage rates simply compounds the above.
- While DCSS stands to gain financially via a long-term cell tower lease, Medlock Park neighbors get nothing we want or need.
- Cell tower decisions should wait until DCSS's long-term plan is revealed in full. T-Mobile's financial targets and deadlines are neither Medlock Park's nor DCSS's problem.
- Neighborhood leaders have attempted to work with DCSS to find desirable tenants to lease the school building and generate income for DCSS. Although our efforts to help have been stonewalled, our offer stands.
- Leasing school property to cell tower companies does not address the source of DCSS's fiscal problems. We reject this "Band-Aid" approach as the distraction it is.

- Some neighbors worry about health impacts. So might potential leaseholders (in particular if their business tends to young children).
- We worry this is but the tip of the iceberg. If one tower makes money, why not two? What other businesses or structures are being considered? As long as the land remains part of the DCSS (i.e., government-owned), it remains exempt from zoning restrictions that protect neighbors.

- We have yet to see any environmental impact assessments. We are in particular concerned about the known dangers that communication towers pose to migratory birds. Does the site's elevation present additional dangers to birds beyond those calculated for a "typical" 150-foot tower? Medlock Elementary is located near water sources that attract birds, and is surrounded by multiple wildlife corridors and parks that provide habitat for many native bird species.

We hold and will continue to hold our DCSS and DeKalb County elected officials accountable, in particular as additional taxes are proposed for the November ballot (i.e., SPLOT).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cell Tower Proposal To Be Discussed by DCSS on???

6-9 UPDATE: There may be changes to the agenda discussed below. MANA is seeking clarification about when the cell tower proposal will be discussed by the DCSS Board. It currently appears discussion will take place in July. Will share additional information as it becomes available.

According to the preliminary June 13 meeting agenda distributed at the June 6 DCSS Board meeting, the cell tower proposal will be discussed later this month:
Action Item G.1.
T-Mobile Wireless Tower Placements
Presented by: Mr. Steven Donahue, Executive Director, Plant Services
The meeting will take place at
Administrative and Instructional Complex
J. David Williamson Board Room
1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd
Stone Mountain, GA  30083
June 13, 2011 6:00 PM
DCSS posts their meeting agenda online, on the day of the meeting. You can find recent meeting agendas here, see right margin, under "Board Meetings."

Please continue to contact DCSS Board Members and the Interim Superintendent to convey your feelings about the cell tower proposal. See this post for their contact information

And if you can attend the meeting on June 13, please do.