Sunday, June 17, 2012

MANA Community Meeting notes

Notes from our June 16 meeting... with bullets by Bev Moore.


See local media and MANA website for information.

2) Annexation, Cityhood movements
Among many topics, Commissioner Rader discussed recent redistricting and encouraged us to educate our (effective January 1) House Representative, Rahn Mayo, to ensure that he is aware of our neighborhood's needs and concerns. Mr. Rader also talked about commercial properties in our area of DeKalb County that are important to the tax digest (in addition to Suburban Plaza, the Farmer's Market, Toco Hill, Executive Park, the news Emory Pointe development, etc.) and how annexation by nearby cities can harm our interests. There were some comments about what might be best for our area, and Mr. Rader mentioned an interesting case per a precedent set by the city of Gainesville, GA, where they annexed some residential properties but excluded their participation in their school system. Mr. Rader also clarified that as far as City of Decatur annexation desires, only residential property owners would get to vote (commercial property owners do not, neither do other nearby residents).

• Explained loss of some of his precincts to redistricting and gain of one, Brookhaven.
• July 31- Brookhaven cityhood vote. Gave history of legislative guidelines and described area that would become new city, if passed.
• Low density, single family household areas don’t generate enough tax base, so commercial areas are included in cities, which takes away higher value tax areas from county.
• Police, firefighters, and parks and rec would suffer budget pressure.
• Higher value tax bases are not distributed evenly across county.
• DeKalb County citizens need a way to address issues, including cities’ ability to annex commercial areas.
• Decatur mayor interested in annexing Suburban Plaza with new Walmart, Emory Commons, and Kroger shopping areas. Would not have to include residential areas in school system. Only residents of areas would have a vote.
• DeKalb has many tax exempt properties.
• City of DeKalb would stave off cityhood attempts, but legislature not likely to pass.
• We need to familiarize new legislators with these issues.

Those concerned about the many issues facing our county should attend the Candidate's Fair on July 9, sponsored by the Civic Association Network of Central DeKalb.

3) Board of Education 

Marshall Orson, who is running for the District 2 Board of Education seat currently occupied by Don McChesney, talked about why he wishes to represent our district. Highlights from Mr. Orson's presentation:

• Current board is epicenter of problems
• Special grand jury to investigate money mishandling
• New superintendent almost didn’t come because of fractious board.
• Too much money spent dealing with lawsuits and not enough emphasis on student


Dr. Laurent Ditman, Principal of the International Community School (ICS), expressed his excitement at the school's upcoming move to Medlock Elementary. Dr. Ditman explained that ICS is a charter school, a semi-autonomous school that has the approval of DeKalb County School System, but reports to a Board of Directors. ICS is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school that has served students grades K-6 but is now moving to K-5 (elementary school). A defining characteristic of ICS is that it was conceived as a school where American and refugee children could study together. ICS has been in operation for 10 years. It has signed a lease with the DCSS that begins in July 2012, and runs for 10 years.

ICS will be moving out of its current locations at the end of June; as with any move, there is a lot of packing at the old location, and sprucing up at the new location. ICS recently received a $500,000 award from the Woodruff Foundation which will help with with maintenance. There are no major structural issues; they are working/will be working on many cosmetic touch-ups,some roof and ceiling repairs, painting and a new sign is coming. Keller Williams recently had a work day to tidy up the children's garden, for example. Windows will likely be the next big project but that would be "phase II". It is expected that some children will be dropped off by parents and others will arrive via school buses (contracted with the County); expecting ~3 buses in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. As a charter, ICS is not a "feeder" school to DCSS middle and high schools, however, there is a lot of interest by all parties in aligning curriculum to ensure a smooth transition.

Dr. Ditman noted that ICS wants to be a good neighbor and will need our help. Also, that this is a big project and he recognizes there will be inevitable "bumps" on the road, which is why either the or one of the school's assistant principals will attend MANA meetings. As additional information is available and calls for volunteers are made, we will make sure to post them in the MANA website.


Theresa Same (MANA zoning chair ) had the following updates:
- Proposed RaceTrac gas station (across from QT on Lawrenceville Hwy) is opposed by residents of that area and by the Little Creek Farm Conservancy. This development is outside MANA; McLendon residents seem to be pretty unified in their opposition.
- development of the former JD Bi-Ryder property has slowed down but will continue; it will be offices for the Family Practice of Atlanta doctors.
- MANA is contacting Vol Repairs (MANA boundary on Lawrenceville Highway) to request improvements to landscaping around the site. Another problem is speeding (in spite of speed bumps): if you notice vehicles speeding on Larry Lane as they come/go from Vol Repairs, please call them and report the problem at (404) 320-9705.  You can also email them via this link.
- Suburban Plaza: as reported previously on this website, Selig and Walmart have filed for permits. Theresa explained this is the first of many permits and the process typically goes like this: the developer submits permits, the County reviews them and provides feedback, and the process continues until the County is satisfied. 2013 remains the expected target for any actual demolition to begin. In response to a question, Theresa clarified that remodeling and new construction would happen simultaneously, however, that the permits for remodeling should be pretty straight-forward and unlikely to encounter any delays. Selig has not given notice to current tenants yet. Someone asked about the "second" underground parking lot noted in the latest set of design drawings and this would be in the space currently used by Backstage Atlanta and others. As to the bowling alley, Selig would like them to remain, with hopes of redeveloping that space into a "whole family" center that would include bowling as well as other gathering/social space. The owners are still considering. There was a question about cut-through traffic and whether Emory University, CDC, VA Hospital (as major employers and therefore major users of local roads) are talking to CHCA or MANA as to how to address ensuing problems. Theresa replied that Selig has offered an unknown quantity to help address problems at the Medlock/Scott/N. Decatur Road intersection, however, that we must remember that Lawerenceville Hwy. is a state road (vs. county road). Their concern is to get cars through that intersection and this is in conflict with OUR desire to facilitate pedestrian uses. Commissioner Rader noted that the T-SPLOST includes funds for sidewalks. Another audience member asked about the traffic study prepared by Selig can be trusted; Mr. Rader replied the County is still studying it but again, that the zoning for the development was set a long time ago (i.e., developer is not responsible for traffic) and that if we see changes and improvements, they will likely come from traffic signals and controls and road access improvements. Theresa reminded all that we have been talking about cut-through traffic for a long time and that some ideas have been floated but it's always a trade-off. For example, if the Medlock light was longer, drivers may see congestion ahead and cut through the neighborhood even more than they already do. Or, that we could close or semi-close Blackmon to prevent left-hand turns, however, residents may complain that they will have to drive farther to exit the neighborhood. There was a question about a neighborhood-wide study we all worked on a few years back and a reminder the the County was not supportive. There was also a question about light rail to Suburban Plaza; Theresa clarified that assuming T-SPLOST is funded, it would support rail from Lindbergh to Emory; the section connecting Emory to MARTA that includes a stop at Suburban is but a plan at this point and is at least 20 years in the future.
- Good Growth DeKalb is now seeking meetings with Selig and Walmart representatives.
- MANA president Sharon Johnson reports she is seeking to talk to the County about how MANA residents may have more of a say about the maintenance and future of Medlock Park. Also, several properties on Scott Circle have met demolition criteria per FEMA (demolition probably won't happen until after the end of the year, at least) and this land will be added to Medlock Park. A neighbor commented on overgrowth along the bridge near the park and it was noted that is the responsibility of the Sanitation Department.

Dave shared lots of great information on tree health. Due to length, this information will appear in a separate post later this week.