Sunday, October 28, 2012

Atlanta Gas Light Update

Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) representatives attended the MANA community meeting last week. They distributed information about the project [similar to the information they asked MANA to distribute last September] and noted that the Wood Trail Lane worksite is wrapping things up. True to their word...

Atlanta Gas Light site on Wood Trail Lane: most equipment is now gone.
Several audience members asked about repairs to North Decatur Road--will plates be removed, will the road be repaved? AGL representative Zach said N. Decatur Road areas affected by AGL's work will be "repaved by Christmas" and asked neighbors to call the hotline at 404-584-3039 if they have concerns about AGL's work on particular stretch of road.

View of work site on the other side of the creek (behind above view).

Friday, October 26, 2012

ICS United Nations Day [Nov 2]

via ICS...

Join the International Community School for UN Day on November 2!

Please join the International Community School in celebrating the rich diversity of culture and traditions in our student body and faculty at our annual UN Day event on November 2nd.  Watch the "Parade of Nations", where our children show their pride in their heritage and dress in the traditional costumes of their home countries, followed by a themed Assembly with song, poetry, and a reading of the declaration of UN Day.

The parade will depart from ICS at 9:15 a.m. and loop through the Medlock neighborhood, with the assembly beginning at 9:45 a.m. Please join other friends of ICS at †9 a.m. in our Library and Media Center for coffee and light refreshments, and be there to greet the children as they enter the Cafetorium for the assembly.

- - - -

Update: photos of the parade

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DeKalb County bans smoking in public parks, playgrounds, ATM lines

"On Tuesday, the county commission approved a plan to ban smoking at playgrounds, parks and public service lines such as lines for ATMs....The current smoking ban goes into effect on Wednesday."
For full text of the amendment, including definitions of common areas, outdoor recreational public place, playground, and service line see Amendment to the DeKalb County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. The ban covers "inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, e-cigarette, oral smoking device, or pipe, or any other lighted or heated tobacco intended for inhalation, in any manner or any form."

Update: AJC's coverage.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Scarecrows at North DeKalb Mall [through Nov. 5]

Photo and announcement courtesy
of North DeKalb Mall's Marketing Manager.

"Take one plain scarecrow plus lots of imagination to equal a spectacular scarecrow display at North DeKalb Mall. The display is brought to you by the art department of select DeKalb County Schools. Come out and enjoy the artistic display by the students from the DeKalb County School District.

Scarecrows included are “Candy”, Uncle Sam, Pirate,
Madea, FrankenJaguar, ScareOwl, Lion Vampire and Michael Jackson!

You can see them all at North DeKalb Mall now until November 5th at regular mall hours."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Decatur Emergency Assistance Ministry collection [Oct 28]

Click to enlarge.

Kids' Corner: happenings at our elementary schools

+  Kilometer Kid 1 Mile Mid-Week Fun Run
Wednesday, October 24th, 5:30 - 6:00: Coordinated with the International Community School, the Atlanta Track Club is organizing a 1-mile run for kids ages 7-12. Registration ended on October 2, but please come and cheer the runners on! Also, please be mindful of traffic in the area between Medlock Park and Medlock Elementary/ICS school grounds.
+  International Community School's Student Service Project
Ongoing: Fifth graders are collecting and boxing up donated toiletries for homeless individuals and people living with AIDS. You may drop off travel-size toiletry donations at the office. 
+ Laurel Ridge Elementary's Fall Festival
Saturday, November 3rd, 11am to 3pm: Vendors, food, fun!
+  International Community School's United Nations Day Parade
Friday, November 5, 10am:  Students will dress to represent many nations; the route begins at ICS and loops through Medlock Rd., Lancelot Dr., Scott Circle, Desmond Rd. Gaylemont Circle and back to ICS. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

MANA Community Meeting [Oct 22]


As usual, meeting takes place at the North Decatur Presbyterian Church, 811 Medlock Rd.

7pm: Welcome and acknowledgement of new and current MANA volunteers
  • Emily Mann- Volunteer Coordinator
  • Theresa Same and Hans Williams will be Co-Chairs of Zoning
  • Kathryn Firago and Deb Wilson will work on Senior issues
  • Kris Kane will remain as - Welcome Kit Chair
  • Tanya Myers will be Schools Liaison
  • Pat Camp will remain as - Newsletter Advertising Coordinator
  • Stephanie Ruffin will remain as - Newsletter Editor
  • Cathy Quinones will remain as - Website Editor
  • Casey Boudreau as Parks and Greenspace chair
  • Charles Forrest will work with Lynn Ganim of Legislative issues
  • Larry Diehl continues to serve as our Community Council Representative

7:15 pm: Aging in Place Village Concept: (30 min)
Karl Williams and/or Amy Tsu, from DeKalb’s Office of Senior Affairs
  • review of  concept to see if the neighborhood wants to pursue this grant.
  • the Aging in Place Village may include a yearly membership that provides services such as discounts or assistance with service information and repairs, home health care, transportation access, social and educational activities
  • this is a concept in progress so questions and suggestions are requested.

7:45 pm: Atlanta Gas Light (15 min)
Zachary Smith, with Eastside Pipeline Project overview and questions

8 pm: Committee Reports
  • Treasurer/Membership: Judy (5 min)
  • Volunteer Coordinator: Emily (5 min)
  • Neighborhood Watch (5 min)
  • Schools (5 min)
  • Zoning (20 min)

President: Bev Monroe
Vice President: Lynn Ganim
Secretary: still need a volunteer!
Treasurer: Judy Perras

Friday, October 19, 2012

ICS accepting donations for student service project

from ICS Director of Development Lauren Azoulai:
"Our fifth grade is working on a project to collect and box up donated toiletries for homeless individuals and people living with AIDS.  One of the girls who is leading the project wrote a beautiful letter to reach out to businesses and other volunteers.  That letter is attached. 
Items can be brought to the school during the coming weeks, but it seemed to make the most sense to try to make it easier and collect the items at [the October 22 neighborhood] meeting.  Please let me know if you can help with this.  Thanks so much. "
Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

LIttle Creek Farm Fall Festival Fundraiser [Oct. 200]

Little Creek Farm is a DeKalb County facility. If you have never visited, this is the perfect chance--it's a treat!
Via Little Creek Farm:
Bring your whole family to enjoy a beautiful, fun fall day at the farm! We will have activities sure to entertain folks of all ages including fabulous riding demonstrations, pony & horse rides (even adults who are kids at heart can enjoy!), carnival games, kids crafts, tasty food (chili, hotdogs, homemade booked goods, yum!), and an expansive silent auction offering items of every price range. We've got some other fun, free activities in the works, so visit back soon for more details! 
Cost: $5 admission (cash or check only), kids 5 & under get in free! Admission includes access to the barn, silent auction, fabulous riding demonstrations, and select activities. Bring additional cash or checks for activities such as pony rides, crafts, and carnival games. Credit cards will be taken at the silent auction via PayPal. 
The Good: All proceeds go to benefit the Little Creek Farm Conservancy and their efforts to remodel the outdoor arena.
Little Creek is another nearby treasure, located on Lawrenceville Highway across from North DeKalb Mall. Little Creek offers horse boarding and riding lessons. Little Creek offers self-guided tours as well as guided tours. From their website:
"The Mission of Little Creek Farm Conservancy, Inc. is to promote the stewardship of Little Creek Farm for equine activities, including educational, environmental and recreational outreach programs for the general public. 
Little Creek Farm is a facility of Dekalb County Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. "

Update: ALG meeting with Barton & Blackmon neighbors

The area in question sits on a slice of land between North Decatur Rd. and Scott Blvd.
From Hans Williams, MANA Zoning Co-Chair:
Notes from meeting with Atlanta Land Group:  10-16-12 
• Atlanta Land Group (AGL) is investigating the 17-acre neighborhood between Scott Blvd and N. Decatur road
• ALG would work on behalf of the homeowners to broker a deal with a developer, who in turn would deal with commercial retailers.
• ALG is working with North Decatur Baptist Church in the sale of their land.
• ALG is seeking to represent the Barton Way and Blackmon neighbors as a collective, and admits that a few homeowners holding out can prevent any deal from taking place. ALG's deals with homeowners are contingent on both everyone agreeing to sell and the land being rezoned.
• ALG is primarily interested in the residential properties.  If a potential developer is interested in including the commercial properties behind the residential neighborhood, those could be included, but it is the residential properties that represent the highest developable value.  The commercial properties are irregular in shape and not conducive to the standardization most commercial retailers demand.
• ALG has confidence in being able to find developers and retailers who are interested in the properties, and that a deal could go through if the residents were willing.
• ALG will spend the next week to ten days talking with residents one on one, gathering feedback and gauging interest.  Then they will send out an email and let the homeowners know what the general consensus they are hearing is.  If there is consensus from the homeowners to move forward, and they have a verbal agreement from the enough home owners, they will have everyone sign a listing agreement.  A listing agreement will allow ALG to represent the homeowners for a set number of days (90 to 100).  During that time they will broker a deal with a potential developer, otherwise the deal will not happen.
• Once a deal has been brokered and a contract is signed by all homeowners, it will still take time before closing.  It could take 12 to 14 months from when the community is first contacted until closing.  And the sale is still contingent on the development passing the rezoning process.
• This neighborhood is a desirable neighborhood.  Retailers are seeking to move into more in-town neighborhoods with established population bases.  The location near Suburban Plaza and the City of Decatur makes this area very attractive.
Most of the questions revolved around how likely this was to actually happen.  There was definitely a mix of reactions from “This is about my home, not just money” to “It is all about money.”  I did not notice any real negativity towards the idea of this deal happening, only concern that homeowners can remain whole and skepticism that this will be successful.  A few homeowners at the meeting have been through this before, and expressed concern over the inevitable conflicts such a deal, successful or not, brings to the neighborhood.
The meeting was mostly limited to residents who are directly affected; in addition to the MANA zoning co-chair,  a representative from Commissioner Rader's office was also present.

MANA supports the homeowners' right to decide whatever is best for their families. The MANA zoning team will continue to monitor potential developments.

Hunting Valley Drive Closures: Oct. 18 and 20

Click to enlarge.  Closures planned for October 18 and 20.
Sent to MANA:

I am writing on behalf of Atlanta Gas Light to update you on activities around the pipeline installation at Hunting Valley Drive that will involve some road closures later this week. We recognize this is short notice but work in the area went more quickly than expected.

The contractor’s traffic plan is attached so neighbors can see the exact location of the closure and the planned detour around it.

The drilling work at the site is almost finished, but to complete the installation, the contractor needs to cross Hunting Valley Drive twice with the pipeline shutting down a small section of the road during this process.

The first closure is planned for this Thursday, October 18 and is expected to only last for a couple of hours or less. The second closure is set for Saturday, October 20 and could continue for up to 12-14 hours. Once this part of the installation gets underway, it cannot be stopped. Please be aware that this schedule could shift out by a day or two and possibly push the work to Saturday and Monday. Should it extend further into the week, we will reach out the neighborhood again.

As noted on the traffic plan, signage will be posted in the neighborhood to alert pedestrians and motorists of the road closure.

The areas around the drill sites will be cleaned up and temporarily stabilized once that work is complete in anticipation for the remainder of the pipeline installation currently scheduled to get underway in the neighborhood in December.

Thank you very much for your help in getting the word out to the community during this brief disruption.  We look forward to meeting with you all on Monday.


Zachary Donald Smith
Consultant | Atlanta Gas Light

Monday, October 15, 2012

Discussion on the GA Charter School Amendment [Oct 17]

Via CHCA...
Event Date and Time:  10/17/2012 - 9:15am
From the Emory Lavista Parent Council, Cosponsored with eduKalb.
Join us at 9:15 am  (refreshments begin at 8:45 am), Wednesday, October 17, 2012, at the International Community School (Formerly Medlock Elementary), 2418 Wood Trail Lane, Decatur, GA 30033.   
The Georgia Charter School Amendment: The Devil is in the Details.   
Rep. Scott Holcomb will provide an overview of what led to the amendment being proposed and then join Mark Peevy, former Executive Director of the Georgia Charter School Commission and Margaret Ciccarelli, Legislative Services Manager and Attorney, Professional Association of Georgia Educators  for a discussion of the proposed Georgia Charter School Amendment and how it will affect our schools and choices.
As you probably know, the November 6 election will include a vote on a constitutional amendment to modify how charter schools are established in Georgia. The amendment is not about voting yes or no on whether charter schools can be established, but is about control over how they are established. Voting yes would amend current law to allow the Governor and a politically appointed commission to approve new charter schools. Voting no preserves the current system, whereby local school boards,  in conjunction with the State Board of Education, make determinations over charters in their districts. This decision is being watched closely because it may set precedents for other states to follow.

This is a rather contested decision, as Governor-approved charters would compete for public funds.

A search of AJC online articles turns up a number of items on this ongoing debate. Creative Loafing,  the AJC's Get Schooled blog, and the Huffington Post all have featured this issue in recent weeks.

Pro and Con Arguments

YES: Proponents argue that the amendment will enhance school choice and preserve local control of schools (since schools are run locally). The GA Chamber of Commerce has issued a pro-amendment position statement.

NO: Detractors argue the move is dangerous because it removes power from local, elected school board officers and grants it to a non-elected independent board located elsewhere. The VoteSmart Georgia website argues against the amendment. There are also serious concerns about commercial interests influencing the decision:

Developer wants Blackmon Drive and Barton Way homes [Info Meeting on Oct. 16]

Dear Neighbors,

the letter below was distributed to homes on Blackmon Drive and Barton Way. There is a meeting scheduled at the Scott Boulevard Baptist Church meeting hall on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7:30pm.

This is all the information that is available at this time. Please attend the meeting if you can, and support our neighbors.

Click to enlarge.
Update: unknown connection to this proposed development.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Early voting reminder

A reminder, from DeKalb County's Voter Registration and Elections office.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mulching and Fall Harvest Festival @ Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve

The Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve (CSNP) will host its annual Harvest Festival this Sunday.

In preparation, they are sprucing up and they need help spreading two large loads of mulch. Routine mulching keeps the paths open and easy to walk on.

CNP President Chris Beck notes that
"Over the past couple of years, the number of volunteers from the neighborhood has dwindled. In fact, more than half of the board does not live in the neighborhood. 
It would be great to have more neighborhood involvement."
So please come help with the mulch-a-thon on Saturday... and then come back on Sunday for the Fest!

SATURDAY: October 13 from 9-noon: volunteer day at the Preserve.

SUNDAY: October 14 from 4-7pm:  annual harvest festival with food, crafts for kids, bonfire, s’mores, and live bluegrass music by Culliton, Dean and Lloyd.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tax increases looming for DeKalb County?

The AJC has another thought-provoking item on annexation, where April Hunt describes how the establishment of new cities impacts us, as unincorporated DeKalb residents:

1) The math will not be pretty for our area because our home property values have fared better than other areas of the County, which means the County must depend on our property taxes to compensate for shortfalls, if services for all County residents are to be protected.

It is important to remember that although our side of DeKalb County boasts very large employers (Emory University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Veteran's Administration Hospital), these organizations are not commercial and therefore do not pay taxes to the County. These organizations are critical to the County (they create jobs, fuel property values for nearby neighborhoods, and by drawing people to the area, create commercial opportunities that feed back into the County's coffers) but, by virtue of their size and the population density they create, they also place significant demands on the Country's infrastructure. City residents derive great gains simply by living close to these employment centers.

2) The removal of commercial tax income unequally impacts County residents.  The formation of new cities such as Brookhaven, or annexation plans such as those proposed by the City of Decatur, (which targets Suburban Plaza and Emory Commons shopping centers) reduces the County's income via commercial property. To cope, the County must increase property taxes, reduce services, and find additional economies. Ms. Hunt's article addresses some changes already being considered (closing a police precinct).

How much of a shortfall is the County facing? Per the AJC:
... Cuts would need to be deep to cover the spread the county already expects. DeKalb projects to start its budget on Jan. 1 with 7 percent less to spend than this year’s $557 million budget. Adjusting for another year of likely property value drops and health insurance increases could further erode the budget.
The formation of Brookhaven alone will cost about $25 million in lost property taxes, business fees and other taxes. If voters just outside Brookhaven’s borders agree to be annexed into Chamblee in November, DeKalb stands to lose an estimated $5 million more.
3) Nearby annexation targets

How would City of Decatur's commercial annexation goals impact the County? Per a document posted on the CoD's website, which the Decatur-Avondale Patch summarizes, Decatur would wind up with
Added population: 2,028 (2010 census was 19,237 for the current city).
Added number of students in the City Schools of Decatur: 230 to start with, 400-430 in eight-10 years (Current student population is 3,627).
Added property tax for city government: About $1 million yearly, without exemptions.
Added property tax for city schools: About $1.7 million yearly, without exemptions.
Total added value: $175,879,561 billion (About $62.8 billion in land, $113.1 billion in buildings.)
Added costs for city government and the school system: Not determined.

This paints a different picture from another document in CoD's annexation page [see questions 20 and 21] that minimizes the impact to the County by saying that annexation lightens DeKalb County's service burden. What does it mean for a municipality to "gain" such 

When City of Decatur (yr. 2011 population of 19,555) sequesters commercial property tax from DeKalb County (yr. 2011 population of 699,893), it is not exactly an equal exchange for all County residents. Another
The article highlights another disturbing reality: the need for better planning. In order to fully understand the situation, we (whether city or county residents) need accurate figures of existing vs. projected needs, and well-considered plans for addressing shortfalls. But the AJC warns us that
... One outside observer said any major changes need to be done only when DeKalb takes time to do some math that it, and other metro counties, don’t do. Simple but time-consuming calculations would reveal how much it costs, per taxpayer, to have a police officer on patrol or keep a library open, said Barbara Neuby, a professor of public administration at Kennesaw State University. 
“If you can’t answer those kinds of questions, you have bigger problems than income,” Neuby said. Neuby has offered to train officials in any county in the math that needs to go into such calculations. So far, no one in DeKalb has taken her up on it... continue reading @ AJC
Is there anything we can do?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

This trash is your gas: go green DeKalb!

As reported elsewhere [1, 2, 3, 4], DeKalb County has a methane-harvesting facility that (yeah science!) is projected to generate $1 million dollars a year in compressed natural gas (CNG) sales.

The first station opens this week:
And for people able to fuel up their Honda Civics or Dodge Rams that run on CNG, there will be some bragging, too. The price for a gallon of the fuel at DeKalb’s station: $2.10. 
“You tie the environmental savings and financial savings together and it’s hard to come up with a reason not to do it,” said County Commissioner Kathie Gannon, who has pushed for DeKalb to be a leader in environmental sustainability. “I think demand will rise as more people see this is out there.” continue reading @ AJC
The AJC article also has the horrifying statement that
“... Our trucks only get 2 miles per gallon because they make 1,000 stops a day,” Malone said."
But on the bright side,
"... Already, 40 of the 306 trucks in the department run on CNG. (The rest use diesel.) Over time, the county plans to have at least 70 CNG-run trucks. That will save $3 million on fuel over the eight-year life of the trucks, said Billy Malone, the county’s assistant sanitation director.
For some great images of CNG-powered DeKalb County trucks, see this Flickr album.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

General election voting registration deadline is Oct. 9

As reported by DeKalb Neighbor,
Those intent on voting on election day must be registered by Oct. 9. Early in-person voting begins Oct. 15. ... Those wishing to make any changes via mail must submit required documentation postmarked Oct. 9 at the latest. Residents can register to vote at the board’s office at 4380 Memorial Drive in Decatur from 8 p.m. to 5 p.m. 
For all information relating to voting, visit the State of Georgia's Elections Page.

Work day & Fall Festival @ Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve [Oct 13 & 14]

Locust borer beetle joins the goldenrod nectar food festival
@ Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve
The Clyde Shepherd Nature preserve is a volunteer effort that benefits us all. Please mark your calendars for the coming Fall Festival and work day:

1) Neighborhood workday at the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve.

Saturday, October 13 from 9am-noon.

We need everyone's help getting the Preserve ready for the Harvest Festival.

2) Fall Festival 

Crafts for the kids, Girl Scout bake sale, other food, campfire, s'mores, bluegrass music by Culliton, Dean and Lloyd.

All coming your way on Sunday, October 14 from 4-7pm at the Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve

Come celebrate Fall at the Preserve.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book donations for Africa Library Project accepted at ICS [Oct. 4 and on]

via neighborhood Facebook page:

"ICS Brownie Troop 9585 is collecting new or gently used childrens books for a school in Lesotho as part of the Africa Library Project.  
There will be a collection box placed in front of the ICS main office by this Thursday, Oct. 4. So stop by the school with your books if you can't make the collection booth at the weekend's Pine Lake LakeFest Event.  

Here are some suggestions:
  • Baby board books
  • Paperback easy readers
  • Paperback children's picture books
  • paperback juvenile literature/chapter books
  • K-8 textbooks (English, math, geography and science)
  • Encyclopedias and atlases (post 1990)
  • paperback dictionaries
This collection is part of Pine Lake's LakeFest event on Saturday Oct 6th from 10am-6pm and on Sunday Oct 7th from 12pm-5pm. This 2-day festival includes artist booths, live music, a regatta race, and a sand sculpture contest. ICS Brownie Troop 9585 is collecting children's books for the African Library Project. Their goal is to collect 1,000 gently used children's books for an elementary school in Lesotho. Book donations may be made at the Troop 9585 booth. If you cannot make it to this first book collection event, there will be another one in October. Questions? E-mail"