Monday, September 30, 2013

Lost Dog now found

Buster Bear is back home. Yay!!!

I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords

Big girl: the ovipositor is around 3" long,
plust another 2" for the wasp herself,
then give or take an inch and a half
of antennae. Splendid!
Terrifying as she looks, the giant Ichneumon wasp is rather gentle. Megarhyssa macrurus uses her stupendous ovipositor to find the larvae of another wasp (burrowed in tree bark) and inject a few eggs. Her babies will then dine on their host, the larva of the pigeon tremex horntail wasp. For more information on how these species interrelate, see Parasitoid wasps...

It sounds simple enough but really, how does she do it? It's even weirder-looking than expected:

Giant Ichneumon (Megarhyssa macrurus) Ovipositing from Uzay Sezen on Vimeo.

Friday, September 27, 2013

North Decatur Road Safety Audit: community meeting notes

Big thanks to the North Decatur Presbyterian Church for lending their facilities to this meeting.
Close to 60 people gathered to learn about the safety audit and discuss North Decatur Road's future. 

September 26, 2013.
This  meeting was part of the North Decatur Road Safety Audit that began in July (click here for all our N. Decatur Rd. safety audit posts) and provided an opportunity for local government to respond to the audit report and for community members to ask questions and offer feedback.

The meeting was led by Joe Greear (area resident), Rebecca Serna (Atlanta Bicycle Coalition) and Leah Yngve (Emory University's Rollins School of Health). Following an introduction and a presentation of audit findings and recommendations, Commissioner Jeff Rader, Patrece Keeter (Public Works, Transportation Division) and Peggy Allen (Deputy Director of Traffic Engineering) provided DeKalb County's response. Representatives from the City of Decatur and Emory University (Bike Emory, Emory Police), PEDS, and Commissioner Kathie Gannon's office were also present.

Audit Recommendations:
The audit suggested three possible ways to improve safety:
1) a complete street conversion ("road diet") to reduce North Decatur Road from 4 lanes to 3, by creating a center turn lane and bike lanes. Study of this option suggested.
2) create a multi-use trail to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists
3) widen the street to create a "complete street boulevard" (which includes 2 traffic lanes and a center turn lane, dedicated bike lanes on each side, and dedicated pedestrian sidewalk on each side)

Local government response:
Commissioner Rader noted that North Decatur Road predates the Civil War and as the area developed, this road was designed as a residential street--with lanes for traffic and some space for residents to park in front of their homes. As the area grew and traffic increased, the road was reconfigured as a four-lane road. The presence of Emory University, CDC (and other large area employers such as the VA Hospital and DeKalb Medical) draws many people to an area that lacks direct access to large-volume highways. This is the reality that we have to work with. This audit brings the opportunity to look at "big picture" ideas but these projects are costly.

Patrece Keeter shared that she has been working on our traffic and safety concerns, including working on trying to reduce the speed limit on Scott Blvd (after the Ponce de Leon section) to 35 mph vs the current 40mph (likewise for Medlock on the City of Decatur side, and for Sycamore). She shared Rebecca Serna's concerns that the complete street conversion sounds ideal but our current traffic levels may exceed that proposal's target. One of the concerns in the audit was the lack of ADA-compliant ramps and Patrece said they will do a ramp inventory, and will begin by adding them where none are available.

In regards to vegetation posing visibility threats, Patrece and Peggy Allen both mentioned that the County has limited resources and the crews that do such clearings work other jobs with the County full-time; in other words, they are not landscapers and when they are called to clear an area, they will do exactly that. This can create friction because often, property owners have grown used to depending on that same vegetation bank as as a visual or sound buffer from nearby traffic. Thus, they recommend that  property owners get together to discuss how to control vegetation in a manner that balances public safety and their privacy concerns then pitch in to maintain the area to their satisfaction.They can also communicate with the County to oversee more targeted vegetation control (but obviously this would require volunteers on site to coordinate with the work crews).

Another innovative possibility from the audit was to improve traffic flow at the N. Decatur Road / Clairmont intersection by using Webster Dr. to route traffic from N. Decatur Road to Clairmont. This kind of approach is being used in other areas to good effect and would require new signage to educate drivers about how to navigate the area. Residents of Webster Dr. of course are concerned about increased traffic under this proposal, and Fred Boykin (owner of Bicycle South and Cit of Decatur Commissioner) noted that this area is experiencing an increase in foot traffic because more young families and children now reside in the area (Emory Woods in particular) and more people are overall choosing to walk to restaurants and grocery stores (Publix, Rainbow). Thus, (1) it makes sense to pay attention to current demographics of the area, and (2) the Webster Drive proposal would require careful study to ensure pedestrian safety and limit impact on residents.

Patrece was also excited to report that

1) the Wolverton pedestrian improvement study commissioned by Selig Enterprises (owner of Suburban Plaza) is now available

2) she has been negotiating across agencies to try to improve the 6-way intersection (N. Decatur Road/Scott Blvd./Medlock Rd.). She still needs to submit a permit application but has negotiated a collaboration as follows:
- GDOT's Maintenance will do crosswalk striping
- GDOT's Regional Traffic Operations Program will help with signals
- DeKalb County will take care of the ramps

 MARTA planned transit expansion,
Clifton Corridor. From pdf document page 187 of
DeKalb County 2014 Transportation Plan.
Patrece also asked everyone to visit the DeKalb County 2014 Transportation Plan website, and attend the final meetings to take place in November. The website includes a link to the existing conditions and needs assessment plan [large file, but see pdf document page 185 for discussion of the Clifton Corridor Transit Initiative]. Previous meetings narrations are available on the website as well. Technical analysis is in progress, whereby they are interconnecting this study with other area concerns (LCIs, active living, City of Decatur initiatives). The list of projects being evaluated includes pedestrian and bike improvements to North Decatur Road.
Bicycle and/or Pedestrian Potential
Future Demand, per pdf document page 228
DeKalb County 2014 Transportation Plan.

One audience member asked if the County has looked into storm drainage on North Decatur Road. As is, when it rains, it really floods suddenly; drivers may hit the brakes suddenly or hydroplane, and large amounts of water are also splashed by traffic, hitting yards and pedestrians alike. Currently, water just drains into the creek. Patrece answered that if we get to the point where N. Decatur Rd. is improved, drainage would be part of the development plan.

Peggy Allen added that the County's resources are limited for doing necessary improvements. For example, the County has ~2,000 miles of roads but, with a $120 million resurfacing shortfall, the budget only allowed for the resurfacing of 35 miles of roads. Patrece added that road maintenance is HOST based, so, the County splits available funds with its cities.

Regarding signalized crosswalks, Peggy noted that these can be quite expensive and can be as costly as signaling for major crossings. For example, a HAWK signal costs ~$100,000; flashing beacons are less costly but also less effective.

Commissioner Rader again stressed budgetary constraints and how the County will be continuing to contribute to safety by clearing vegetation and adding short stretches of sidewalk but overall, the community needs to be thinking of the big picture and big solutions that can really address the magnitude of our traffic capacity problems.

ADDENDUM 1: September 28, 2013, from Joe Greear:
I found it encouraging that the County did not immediately reject the concept of a Complete Streets conversion (aka "Road Diet") and in fact is going to study the possibility for this stretch of N. Decatur. If a Complete Streets is to be done, then the intersections of N. Decatur and Clairmont and N. Decatur and Scott need some attention. The Road Audit had some recommendations for these intersections that the County is going to review.
In the short term, Jeff Rader and Patrece Keener said that the County is actively working on making the pedestrian crossings at the Scott/Medlock/N. Decatur intersection more pedestrian/bike friendly including re-striping, re-timing the walk signals, and updating the signal buttons. The County is also going to work on the existing sidewalk on the North side of N. Decatur including cutting back the vegetation and providing ADA ramps where there are none. Also in the short term, the County is going to study where to place signs on the South side of N. Decatur to warn pedestrians that the sidewalk ends ahead. There was some discussion of placing a crosswalk at Clairmont Circle so that pedestrians can cross to the North side. 
 Jeff Rader mentioned installing a sidewalk from Landover to Superior Ave. so that pedestrians on the South Side would be able to cross from the south side to the north at a signal.
The long-range solutions will require further study. Jeff and Patrece mentioned that residents of our neighborhoods have influence of what projects are implemented by participating in the DeKalb County 2014 Transportation Plan meetings. There are meetings in November where we can help put N. Decatur on the top of the list.
ADDENDUM 2: September 30, 2013. Presentation slides added.

ADDENDUM 3: October 1, 2013.  We encourage readers to visit DecaturMetro to join the ongoing discussion of this road safety audit. Your comments help capture concerns and suggestions that can help North Decatur Road more accessible for all.
A big thanks to the individuals and organizations that have driven and continue to publicize this safety audit, and to our municipalities for being responsive.

Selig releases "Pedestrian Improvement Study for the Scott Boulevard at N. Decatur Road Signalized Intersection"

Images via report prepared by Wolverton and Associates for Selig Enterprises, Inc., November 2012.

For the full report, see
Pedestrian Improvement Study for the Scott Boulevard at N. Decatur Road Signalized Intersection

Lost cat: Duskie [Sept 26]

Our beloved cat Duskie ("Do-ski") has gone missing. His collar was found early on 9-26-13 in front of our house on Vistamont Drive. He had only been outside for just over 2 hours early in the dawn. I found some fur belonging to him right at the foot of our driveway. I think, if he is hopefully still alive, he may be badly hurt somewhere. If you have any information, please contact 774-263-2722 (Tom) or 508-965-2829 (Natasha). 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Expansion announced for the "Big Kroger"

Tomorrow's News Today - Atlanta,  has a great write-up about changes planned for the North Decatur Square Kroger (corner of DeKalb Industrial and N. Decatur Rd.):
"The expanded Kroger will include a new and relocated pharmacy (moving to the front left, where Spin Cycle laundry was) that will feature a drive-thru.  Other expanded offerings will include a Starbucks twice the size of the current one, a doubled natural foods section, relocated bank, additional self check out lanes, and a number of individual department expansions. The store will also increase school supplies merchandise as well as kitchen accessories offerings." The article has much more information, read the rest here.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Commissioner Rader's reflection on cityhood

New City bills for DeKalb popped up like mushrooms after a rainstorm in the waning days of this year’s General Assembly.  There are bills for new cities called Tucker, Lakeside, LaVista Hills (aka Briarcliff), Stonecrest, and the City of DeKalb, not to mention a bill prohibiting new cities within 5 miles of an existing one. ... Read the rest at
For the bills mentioned above, see

Tucker (unnamed) 2013-2014 Regular Session - HB 677
DeKalb County; incorporate a new municipality
Introduced by Billy Mitchell 88th district {Stone Mountain}, Michele Henson 86th district {Stone Mountain}, "Coach" Williams 87th district {Avondale Estates}
Final status: Mar/26/2013 - House Hopper

Lakeside 2013-2014 Regular Session - SB 270
Lakeside, City of; DeKalb County; incorporate
Introduced by Fran Millar 40th district {Atlanta}
Final status: Mar/26/2013 - Senate Read and Referred

LaVista Hills (aka Briarcliff) 2013-2014 Regular Session - SB 275
Lavista Hills, City of; DeKalb County; incorporate
Introduced by Jason Carter 42nd district {Decatur}
Final status: Mar/28/2013 - Senate Read and Referred

Stonecrest 2013-2014 Regular Session - SB 278
Stonecrest, City of; DeKalb County; incorporate
Introduced by Ronald Ramsey, Sr. 43rd district {Decatur}
Final status: Mar/28/2013 - Senate Read and Referred

City of DeKalb 2013-2014 Regular Session - SB 277
DeKalb, City of; DeKalb County; incorporate
Introduced by Ronald Ramsey, Sr. 43rd district {Decatur}, Gail Davenport, 44th district {Jonesboro}, Emanuel Jones 10th district {Decatur}
Final status: Mar/28/2013 - Senate Read and Referred

5-Mile Prohibition 2013-2014 Regular Session - HB 22
Incorporation of municipal corporations; certain requirements and standards; provide
Introduced by Oliver, Mary Margaret 82nd district {Decatur},  Henson, Michele 86th district {Stone Mountain},  Mosby, Howard 83rd district {Atlanta},  Kendrick, Dar'shun 93rd district {Lithonia}
Final status: Jan/16/2013 - House Second Readers

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Safety alert: black Toyota

via Facebook & Nextdoor

Please be on the lookout for the vehicle pictured: a black older-model Toyota, license plate DV 891X. The driver has been seen in the neighborhood on various occasions, including this weekend (driving recklessly, possibly impaired). He has also made inappropriate comments to women that he has approached. The driver has been booked several times for battery and criminal trespass misdemeanors. DeKalb police is aware of the situation and encourages us to call 911.

Driver's description: "white male with dark tan, probably late 50s, white/grey hair and some facial hair."

Sept. 19 update: spotted in Avondale Estates, still driving erratically

Friday, September 13, 2013

Atlanta Gas Light warns of scam (Marietta and Decatur areas)
ATLANTA – Sept. 13, 2013 – Atlanta Gas Light is warning customers of a scam, currently occurring in the Marietta and Decatur area, in which a person is reportedly impersonating utility employees in an attempt to obtain customers’ account and personal information. 
This week, Atlanta Gas Light began receiving reports from several customers who said that a man claiming to be a company employee knocked on their doors and stated he could lower their natural gas costs if they showed him their gas bills. According to the customers, the impersonator, described as a male between 25 and 30 years of age, was persistent and got irritated when customers refused the request. 
Atlanta Gas Light is working with local authorities as they continue to investigate these incidents. The company also is warning residents to take the necessary precautions to ensure their personal safety and protect their identity. 
Below are recommended guidelines:
  • Atlanta Gas Light will never dispatch a representative to your residence to view your natural gas bill.
  • Whenever a field service representative or contractor is conducting business on behalf of Atlanta Gas Light, they will provide official company identification.
  • If you any have concerns about someone claiming to be a utility representative, please contact our Customer Care Center at 1-800-427-5463 to confirm that an Atlanta Gas Light representative has been scheduled to perform work at your premises.
  • Customers who believe they are a victim of this type of scam should contact their local police departments.  
  • For more information, visit

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fuqua requests deferral on Scott Blvd. Baptist Church redevelopment

Latest Scott Blvd. Baptist Church plan, presented on September 10, 2013.
 Click to enlarge or view full-size image here.
For a larger view of the site calculation text on the right, go here.
MANA Zoning Chair Theresa Same attended the September 10, 2013 Planning Commission meeting to continue tracking the redevelopment of the Scott Blvd. Baptist Church (SBBC) property. Fuqua Development presented a new site plan (that they had not shared with area neighbors prior to the meeting) and requested a deferral on their plan to redevelop the Scott Blvd. Baptist Church site. The Planning Commission recommended a full-cycle deferral. Full-cycle referral means that Fuqua's updated proposal will be reviewed again by the Community Council, the Planning Commission and finally the Board of Commissioners. During this period, Fuqua is supposed to discuss its plans with the community.

This latest plan reduces the number of residential units to 18 and building height to three stories (vs. 200+ units and five-story height in previous proposals) and introduces a new road connecting the SBBC site to Blackmon Drive. We are obviously concerned about the impact this road would have on the quality of life of Blackmon Drive residents.

The image below compares plans that Fuqua has released, which we are calling Plans 1, 2 and 3. Note that there was another plan (let's call it "2.1"), not depicted here, that was presented by Fuqua's representative at the August 20, 2013 Community Council. That site plan
- no longer included a 5-story apartment building,
- placed the 35,000 sq. ft. anchor tenant on the existing church property and
- left the houses on Barton Way intact (though Fuqua was still asking to include them in their land use plan change for future redevelopment).

Plans 1, 2 3 as presented in various planning meeting.  The newly proposed road connecting to Blackmon Drive, presented on Sept. 10, 2013, is highlighted in light yellow. Click image to enlarge.
NOTE: Plan 1 caption updated 9/12/2013

For all posts relating to the redevelopment of the Scott Blvd. Baptist Church, click here

Addendum: For context on the developer behind this project, see Creative Loafing (Sept. 12, 2013):  Jeff Fuqua: Atlanta's Most Controversial Developer 

UPDATE: on September 24, 2013, the Board of Commissioners voted in favor of a full cycle deferral.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Woodridge Road Closure on Sept. 16 and on -- Atlanta Gas Light

from Atlanta Gas Light:
Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation as Atlanta Gas Light has installed the Eastside Pipeline through the Medlock Area community. We recognize that this project has created inconveniences for residents in the area of work and for others around the neighborhood. 
We wanted to update you on construction activities around Woodridge Road that will involve a road closure late later this week. The contractor’s traffic plan is attached so neighbors can see the exact location of the closure and the planned detour around it. Signage will be posted in the neighborhood to alert pedestrians and motorists of the road closure. 
Atlanta Gas Light’s independent contractor Latex Construction is preparing to “pull back” approximately 1,100 feet of pipe in the area of our easement that crosses Woodridge Drive (between Alberson Court and Larry Lane) to complete the installation to Lawrenceville Highway. Residents may have noticed the pipe that was strung out in the easement north of Woodridge Drive. 
The pull back is scheduled to begin September 16 and may last up to 48 hours. It is a continuous process, and to protect the integrity of the pipe it cannot be stopped once it has started. During this time, there will be a higher level of construction noise and constant activity, including generators, portable lights, and other equipment.  If necessary, this work can continue around the clock until the pull back is complete. The affected areas will be restored once all of the equipment has been removed. 
Should there be any changes to the schedule because of weather or other factors, Atlanta Gas Light will update residents as soon as possible. If you have additional questions, please contact us at (404) 584-3130 or 
Again we thank you for your continued patience during construction and your willingness to work with us as we improve the system.

Atlanta Gas Light

GA Naturalist Rally at Stone Mountain & Native Plant Sale [Sept 14]

The Georgia Naturalist Rally is coming to Stone Mountain!
GA Naturalist Rally wins cutest logo ever!
"Whether you are an seasoned naturalist or someone new to nature, this day-long event offers something for any lover of the outdoors.  Throughout the day, we are providing a variety of walks, hikes, and other activities throughout the park’s natural district.  Experts will lead you through forests, fields, lakes and , of course, on the mountain while focusing on a variety of natural topics.  Activities for children (with their parents) are also a part of the fun.  
$12 registration covers lunch, your choice of sessions, and parking."
Sign up for the rally via and view the event schedule here.

As to rally topics, expect information on beekeeping, birds and wildlife, and gardening with native plants. The GA Native Plant Society will be there too, holding a plant sale 9am - 1pm.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Friday, September 6, 2013

Missing cat, Willivee Rd. [Sept 6]

This hansome red and white male cat snuck out today and is missing from Willivee Drive near Hunting Valley Place. If you have any information, please contact his family at 770-289-3120.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

North Decatur Rd. Safety Audit: notes from Sept. 5 meeting

Road Safety Audit focus: North Decatur Road (purple) and Clifton Road (blue). Orange bursts highlight problematic intersections (Clairmont, Wendan, Scott/Medlock). Click to enlarge.
For those who could not make this afternoon's meeting, the September 26 meeting will also cover the audit's recommendations. The audit is an incremental process where new comments and concerns are added to the study as more community members chime in. The September 26 meeting will also include comments from representatives from involved municipalities (DeKalb Co., City of Decatur).

Many thanks to Leah Ingve (Emory School of Public Health) and Rebecca Serna (Atlanta Bicycle Coalition) for leading this audit and today's presentation. The meeting was well attended and there is great energy to work together and start the process that will improve safety and quality of life in this high-traffic corridor.

A few highlights from the meeting:

Previous traffic counts estimated ~19K cars/day for the North Decatur Rd. area between the Scott Blvd and Clairmont intersections. The presenters update these counts as follows:
~17K at Suburban Plaza (North Decatur Rd / Scott Blvd. / Medlock intersection)
~23K at Wendan and North Decatur Rd
~16K at Emory Village

The unexpectedly high count at Wendan (which also shows highest travel speeds) may make a road diet less effective. The emphasis on improving traffic flow relates to lowering risk at intersections (where most accidents happen) and making roads safer so that cyclists use the road rather than take to the sidewalk, where their presence increases pedestrian accidents.

Unsurprisingly, the Medlock/Scott/North Decatur Rd intersection was perceived to "not work on foot or bike." At the very least, there is a need to complete striping on crossroads, improve pedestrian signals, and make sure the light timing is long enough to allow a pedestrian or cyclist to cross. Ramps are also needed. The intersection requires further study. As we have heard many times, this is the busiest intersection in the County. GDOT does not want to implement changes that interfere with vehicular flow, and that is the very thing that is necessary to ensure safe passage for pedestrians  and cyclists.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition will post an updated version of the slides used in today's presentation, which will include details on recommendations by area (Clifton Rd., North Decatur Rd at Wendan, Clairmont and Scott Blvd.).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

North Decatur Road Safety Audit: Community Meeting to Discuss Recommendations [Sept. 26]

As noted elsewhere, concerned citizens and local organizations have come together to conduct a road safety audit of North Decatur Road.

The recommendations from the audit will be unveiled on September 5.

The next step in the process is to invite comments from the community in response to these recommendations. Joe Greear asked MANA to help schedule a venue for this meeting, during which Commissioner Rader, DeKalb County traffic planners, Bike Emory and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition will present the audit and discuss what the County can do to make N. Decatur safer.

This meeting is now scheduled for
September 26
Fellowship Hall of North Decatur Presbyterian Church
611 Medlock Road
Decatur, GA 303022

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Lost dog now found [Sept.1]

Macho is back home, yay!

WABE reports on Suburban Plaza development

from the MANA Board:

WABE recently posted an item titled Walmart Talks About Suburban Plaza Plans. The item states that "One of the largest neighborhood groups, the Medlock Area Neighborhood Association, endorsed construction." Because the article's title and text focus on Walmart, this statement could be misconstrued to indicate that MANA endorsed the inclusion of Walmart in this development.

We would like to clarify that, as stated on our website, MANA supported a parking exception that would allow for less paving. Any discussion about the pluses or minuses of Walmart was pre-empted by the property already being zoned for a "big box" development such as Walmart.

Representatives from MANA and other area neighborhoods have met to discuss and negotiate about the development at large, which is expected to also include a Starbucks, LA Fitness, Ross Dress for Less, Home Goods and JoAnn Fabric and Craft Stores.

MANA continues to respect the diversity of opinion in our neighborhood and acknowledges that 100% of our residents are capable of choosing where to shop.