Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fran Millar wastes everyone's time; Medlock appeals to House to rectify La Vista Hills boundary

MANA President Lynn Ganim sent the following letter to Representative  Rex Brockaway.
Dear Representative Brockway, 
Recently, Senator Fran Millar showed his contempt for the House by ignoring the agreed-upon northern border of LaVista Hills with Tucker.  Yesterday he showed his complete disregard for openly and fairly-agreed-upon changes in the southern border of LaVista Hills.  I was part of a group representing the Medlock and Mason Mill neighborhoods of DeKalb who met with a representative of LaVista Hills and staff for Senator Elena Parent and Representative May Margaret Oliver.  We were told that Senator Millar would incorporate our requests to have parts of our neighborhoods removed from the LVH map if the LVH representative agreed. These areas had never been on the LVH map before, and LVH does not even want them. As a result, we spent several hours with the map and amicably agreed on relatively minor changes which would have restored the wholeness of our neighborhoods and would, we thought, satisfy Senator Millar’s requirements. 
However, he changed his requirements and proceeded to run roughshod over our agreement for no understandable reason. This dishonorable behavior reinforces the public cynicism and distrust of government.  It’s as if he were a cat playing with a mouse, and we are outraged. There is no acceptable excuse for his actions.
Please defeat the Senate version of the LaVista Hills map, which reaches into Medlock and Mason Mill, and return to the original map agreed upon by your Governmental Affairs sub-committee or the map recently sent to you by Senator Parent. Doing so would be to take one small step towards restoring integrity to this process and the faith of citizens in their elected representatives. 
Thank you.

Lynn Ganim
Medlock Area Neighborhood Association (MANA)


Mary Hinkel, President, Mason Mill Civic Association
maryhinkel at comcast
Lynn Ganim, President, Medlock Area Neighborhood Association (MANA) lganim at bellsouth 404.735.2510

March 26, 2015


In spite of the fact that neighborhood leaders from Mason Mill and Medlock reached boundary agreements with LaVista Hills prior to the Senate's adoption of HB520 on March 25th, Senator Fran Millar (R-40th district) refused to delay action on the bill, thus splitting two neighborhoods in two for no apparent reason.
According to Mary Hinkel, President of the Mason Mill Civic Association: "We acted in good faith, following Senator Millar's instructions to Senator Parent on Monday, March 23rd, that he would make any changes LaVista Hills representative Steve Schultz agreed to.  We met the following morning and essentially agreed to the map that had already been approved in the House, with minor modifications.  The next step was to write the legal description of the boundary for inclusion in an amendment to be proposed by Senator Millar.  As it turns out, while we were meeting, Senator Millar was moving forward on his own.  I am shocked by his heavy-handed and cavalier approach."
While the Mason Mill and Medlock neighborhoods remained intact in the original House-drawn map, Senator Millar presented a new map to the Senate created by the Legislative and Congressional Reapportionment Office.  The office relies on census-block mapping techniques, rather than more up-to-date geographic information software.  As a result, in order to draw the commercial areas of Toco Hills and North DeKalb mall into the new LaVista Hills map, the office also had to include the residential properties in the same census blocks, thus splitting the neighborhoods.  
Legislative Counsel for the House and Senate assured Senator Parent's staff on Monday that a map could be used that included a boundary described by "metes and bounds" and not census-block mapping.
"We want to keep our neighborhoods unified.  To be thwarted by an antiquated mapping technique is outrageous in a time when every smart phone can create a highly detailed map." says Lynn Ganim, President, Medlock Area Neighborhood Association (MANA). "We ask the legislature to convene a conference committee to fix the southern borders as agreed, using metes and bounds."

Monday, March 23, 2015

Hello spring! March and April plant sales

Beth Nathan is always out there fighting to make DeKalb better via the Civic Association Network, and apparently she's also making it greener! Thanks for this wonderful list, Beth!!

Below are some Plant Sales that local gardening enthusiasts might be interested in.Note:  3/28 is also CAN's Embrace Our Greenspace Race (fundraiser for local parks, 9:30-noon, Oak Grove UMC). Beth Nathan, (North Briarcliff past president; parks activist)

MARCH 28, 8-3.  FERNBANK PLANT SALE. Science Center (not museum), 156 Heaton Park Drive, Atlanta, GA 30307.
A wide variety of trees, shrubs, and flowering perennials.  Many of the plants are native species that are often difficult to find elsewhere.  Sample plant list.

APRIL 11,  8-4 (or until plants are gone).  AMERICAN RHODODENDRON SOCIETY (Azalea Chapter) Annual Plant Sale. Grove United Methodist Church, 1722 Oak Grove Rd, Decatur
Regionally grown native azaleas, evergreen azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, mt laurel, companion plants not typically found in local garden centers.
Rain or Shine – Cash/Checks/Credit Cards.  New Joining Members Receive 25% Discount
APRIL 18, 8-1.  TREES ATLANTA's 3rd

Annual Native Wildflower and Vine Sale
Freedom Farmers’ Market at The Carter Center; 453 Freedom Parkway NE, Atlanta 30307
More than 1,800 plants of native wildflowers and vines available for sale, as well as much more available parking.
All major credit cards, as well as checks, and cash will be accepted.   Plant List

APRIL 18, 10-1.  DEKALB MASTER GARDENERs' Spring Plant Sale.
Oak Grove UMC parking lot: Corner of Oak Grove & Fairoaks, 1722 Oak Grove Rd, Decatur, Georgia  30033

APRIL 18, 10-2.  GEORGIA NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY Annual Spring Plant Sale.
McFarlane Nature Park, 280 Farm Road SE, Marietta.  For GPS use: Atlanta Country Club Drive, Marietta 30067
Thousands of sun and shade loving native plants: trees, shrubs, perennials and ferns for all growing conditions and to help attract wildlife.  Over 600 native azaleas.
Cash, Credit Card or Check.  Bring Wagons or Carts.  Not Handicapped-Accessible

3251 Panthersville Rd, Decatur, 678-891-2668.   ( Map & Directions)
Fridays:   March 27,  April 3, 10, 17, 24,  May 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
Saturdays:     March 28,  April 11, 25,  May 2, 16, 30
Sale Hours:    10:00 a.m. - 2 p.m.
We accept only cash or a check. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Splitting up the neighborhood: another brilliant idea (not)

via MANA President Lynn Ganim

Update on LaVista Hills’ Incursion into Medlock

According to Senator Parent’s office, the problem with the LVH map and Medlock is with the way census blocks are delineated. We have been told that state law will not permit those census blocks to be broken up in creating new cities, although that can happen with annexation parcels. (If anybody in the neighborhood truly understands the process of working with census tracts, please share it with all of us because this situation keeps getting crazier.) Most of our neighborhood is in one census tract. However, the short explanation is that LaVista Hills wants North DeKalb Mall, and part of our neighborhood is in the same census tract as the mall, a different one from the rest of the neighborhood. What all this means is that, as we understand it now, a part of our neighborhood cannot be separated from LVH because they cannot give up that area without losing the mall, which, of course, they will not do. IF the LVH referendum passes, that section could then ask to be de-annexed, which Senator Parent will help us do and which she believes will face no opposition from LVH. She is trying to work out an arrangement with Senator Millar, so once again everything could change in the blink of an eye.

We’re investigating how new cities like Brookhaven have worked with this limitation. The attached map from Senator Parent’s office shows in yellow the section of our area, not just the neighborhood, that is in a separate census block from the mall but was, I believe, added in the latest LVH map. The green is still LVH. This is most recent information we have. MANA is continuing to follow these developments closely and investigate our options. I can assure you that we have as many questions as you do. And, of course, we’re very curious about why this area and problem were not highlighted earlier during the many discussions of the LVH maps over the last year and a half.

Contact information for our legislators is available here. In particular please call Senator Millar's office, as he is championing this shenanigan while simultaneously blocking County-wide reform (that was put together by the DeKalb Co. Operations Task Force --of which he was a member-- and Blueprint DeKalb citizens work group). 

DeKalb Co. launches Consent Decree website

Below is a County press release regarding the Consent Decree (settlement) that was reached following a lawsuit by the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Georgia (Dept. of Natural Resources) vs DeKalb County, where the County was found to be in violation of the Clean Water Act.


Burke Brennan, Press Secretary
P: 404-371-6305  |  M: 678-201-7209
MaLika Hakeem, Administrative & Program Outreach Manager, Department of Watershed Management
P: 770-724-1457 |  M: 770-318-8435

March 16, 2015

DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management
Launches Consent Decree Website
Site includes communication tools designed to educate, inform public

DECATUR, Ga. – The DeKalb County Department of Watershed Management’s (DWM) Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Division announced the official launch of its new Consent Decree Program website ( The new site features general information about the program, its associated infrastructure improvement projects, and a user-friendly, interactive Project Finder feature that allows visitors to search for active DeKalb County CIP water and sewer construction projects. The Project Finder allows users to search for projects within a half-mile, one-mile or two-mile radius of a specific address, as well as by commission district or keyword. Information available on each project includes location, budget, schedule, description and current construction phase. DeKalb County has reached a Clean Water Act settlement in the form of a consent decree with the U.S. EPA and Georgia EPD.

“The new website is one of many communication tools we are using to ensure people are educated and well-informed about the projects included in the Consent Decree,” said Kenneth Saunders, Program Director, Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Division, Department of Watershed Management.  “Continuous communication with the residents and business owners affected by the improvement activities is vital to the overall success of this program.”

The CIP also launched the Consent Decree Connection quarterly electronic newsletter and a social media campaign via Facebook. The Consent Decree Connection features articles on current and recent projects, FOG (Fats, Oils & Grease), safety tips and interesting facts and figures about the County’s sanitary sewer collection system. Social media will be used as a real-time communication vehicle to disseminate information to the public. The website, newsletter and social media are linked together online for added convenience. By implementing the aforementioned communication tools, the Department of Watershed Management’s goal is to provide advanced notification of upcoming construction activity, traffic advisories and community meeting details, and update the public on the program’s progress on an ongoing basis.

The Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) Division is a unit of the Department of Watershed Management. Currently overseeing a 5-year, $1.345 billion countywide capital improvement program, which comprises the repair and upgrade of the county’s water and wastewater infrastructure, the division’s main goal is to create sustainable growth and development of the county’s $5 billion water and wastewater assets serving the county’s more than 700,000 residents.

DeKalb County is Georgia’s third largest county with more than 700,000 residents calling it home. Known for its business and education hub, growing international community and natural wonders, DeKalb County Government is administered by Interim Chief Executive Officer Lee May and legislative policy is set by a seven-member Board of Commissioners.

Follow news from DeKalb County at @ItsInDeKalb on Twitter and sign up for additional updates at or send a text message with the word ONEDEKALB to 22828 (message and data rates may apply).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Adopt a lucky charm!

St. Patrick's day is a state of mind, and this great deal runs all month.
Click to enlarge

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Atlanta Science Festival [Mar 21-28]

The Atlanta Science Festival is a week-long celebration of local science and technology, held March 21-28, 2015. Curious people of all ages will explore the science and technology in our region and see how science is connected to all parts of our lives in a variety of hands-on activities, facility tours, presentations, and performances throughout the metro Atlanta region. The Festival culminates in the free, family-friendly EXPLORATION EXPO - an interactive day of demos, hands-on activities, and stage shows at Centennial Olympic Park.

Go to and check out all the cool events they have scheduled for this year.

Plant a row for the hungry


Media Contact:
Angie Clawson
Office: 678.553.6010
Cell: 404.569.4945


ATLANTA- Spring is a time of renewal and new life. What better way to chase the chills of winter away than to bring warmth and enrichment to the lives of others?  If you are a gardener, garden club member, or farmer planning for your spring planting, you can help get healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables to those struggling with hunger.  Lend a helping hand and a green thumb to the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) as it kicks off this year’s “Plant a Row for the Hungry” campaign.

To participate in Plant a Row,  simply plant an extra row in your garden for donations, or just bag up any of your extra harvest. It’s easy to locate a designated drop-off site at

Plant a Row for the Hungry was launched in 1995 as a national, public service campaign of the Garden Writers Association (GWA) and the GWA Foundation. ACFB executed the first local campaign in 1996, yielding nearly 160 pounds of fresh-from-the-garden foods to benefit local hunger-relief organizations.

Since that first year, approximately 613,084 pounds of produce have been donated locally through Plant a Row. This would not be possible without our local gardeners and farmers who provide the fresh produce that is distributed to those in need. We would like to make this year our biggest year yet. We only grow if you GROW!

To learn more about participating in Plant a Row, visit or call 404-892-FEED (3333) x1216.


About the Atlanta Community Food Bank

The Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) began operating in 1979 from a small space at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. ACFB now distributes more than 50 million pounds of food and grocery products each year from a 129,600 square-foot facility in N.W. Atlanta. The product is accessed by 600 partner nonprofits that provide food assistance to families and individuals in 29 counties across metro Atlanta and north Georgia. ACFB leads seven distinct projects that reinforce its mission to fight hunger by engaging, educating and empowering our community: Atlanta Prosperity Campaign, Atlanta’s Table, Community Gardens, Hunger 101, Hunger Walk/Run, Kids In Need and Product Rescue Center.

ACFB is a member of Feeding America, the national network of more than 200 food banks. For more information on the Food Bank, visit, and for more information on Feeding America visit

About Garden Writers Association and Plant a Row for the Hungry
Launched in 1995, Plant A Row is a public service program of the Garden Writers Association and the GWA Foundation. Garden writers are asked to encourage their readers/listeners to plant an extra row of produce each year and donate their surplus to local food banks, soup kitchens and service organizations to help feed America’s hungry.

There are over 84 million households with a yard or garden in the U.S. If every gardener plants one extra row of vegetables and donates their surplus to local food agencies and soup kitchens, a significant impact can be made on reducing hunger. For more information on Plant a Row, visit

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

brief update on some Suburban Plaza store locations and expected square footage

via Tomorrow's News Today Atlanta:
"... HomeGoods will occupy a nearly 24,000 square foot space (basically, the former Big Lots.) Jo-Ann will occupy an approximately 20,000 square foot space (most of the former Hancock Fabrics.) (Hancock Fabrics has since relocated to Northlake Festival.) A nearly 150,000 square foot Walmart Supercenter, 25,000 square foot ROSS, 34,000 square foot LA Fitness and 1,700 square foot freestanding Starbucks are all already in the cards for the center."
See all our posts on Suburban Plaza here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Notes from Phase II community meeting: Fuqua's "Decatur Crossing" development

The meeting was held on March 2 at the North Decatur United Methodist Church to share information about Phase II of Fuqua's proposed development.

View from Medlock Park / Scott Blvd side. The structure in the middle is the proposed natural grocery store and associated parking. Phase I (approved) appears towards the bottom right-hand corner. The proposed green space / park is located between Phase I and the grocery store. Note the crosswalk at Blackmon Drive (with a matching one at the Suburban Plaza side); a new two-lane road connects them. Click to enlarge.
Phase I has been approved and Fuqua expects demolition of the old Scott Bldvd Baptist Church and houses on Barton Way to begin shortly. Details on Phase I, approved in April 2014, are available here. Phase II plans had been vague because there was no certainty about Fuqua's ability to purchase homes on Blackmon and extend the development; those plans had included owner-occupied town homes as a buffer between the new development and existing Blackmon homes. With the Blackmon houses under contract, Fuqua has decided to reshape Phase II to remove the town homes and include additional rental apartments built to specifications that, should the market later demand it, will allow conversion to condos. The developer acknowledged feedback from the Cross-Neighborhoods Committee.

Again, to clarify: Phase I is approved, Phase II is currently under consideration and in the public feedback phase.

Bird's eye view, now from a North Decatur Rd perspective. Note proposed "future connections" to Church Street.
Click to enlarge.
Key elements  [describing Phase I and Phase II combined]
  • 80,000 sq ft retail
  • 15,000 sq ft business space
  • 450 1-2 bedroom units in Phase II. Phase I includes 250+ units, which brings the total for the both phases at 700+ units
  • Rent is proposed at $1.65/sq ft; a 2-bedroom apt would be around 900 sq ft therefore, $1,500/month rent range
  • Includes a ~1 acre park open to the public
  • Parking for the residential units will be gated, in multi-level structures; parking assigned at same level where the tenant lives
  • Most parking will be hidden from view from N Decatur Rd. and Scott Blvd (some of the grocery/business parking will be visible). ~1.5 per apartment in addition to guest and employee parking 
  • Power lines will be buried
  • Includes a "natural groceries store" that has open parking (a requirement from the business to come to this location) 
  • Five-story apartment buildings
  • Interior sidewalks connect Scott Blvd to N Decatur Rd; sidewalks facing N Decatur Rd and Scott Blvd are 8' wide, and have 6' buffers separating them from the buildings and roadways
- 3 entrance/exits and "right turn in / right turn out" on Scott Blvd. side
- a 2-lane road will transect the development, connecting North Decatur Rd. and Scott Blvd. It will align to proposed light at Suburban Plaza. Another light and crosswalk will align with the Blackmon Drive entrance into the Medlock neighborhood
- Fuqua will conduct a traffic study. The audience highlighted the extremely high traffic at Blackmon as commuters cut through the neighborhood (a Blackmon resident noted that he has counted 400 cars/hours during peak traffic). Fuqua seemed amenable to adding Blackmon to their traffic study. 

- proposed light at Blackmon; Fuqua is contributing to other improvements at the 6-point intersection (as negotiated by the Cross-Neighborhoods Committee as part of Phase I)
- this development will not interfere with other potential improvements to the area (e.g. light rail, bus service)
- should the DOT decide to widen N Decatur Rd., Fuqua would adjust its footprint to allow sidewalks as described earlier
- audience member insisted Fuqua can do better in enhancing walkability by limiting surface parking. Interesting turn in conversation that certain population groups are averse to decked parking when shopping for groceries  and that millenials would rather park in deck and have nicer surroundings (instead of open parking). Noted that many grocery stores have parking requirements that must be met before they agree to sign contract. Fuqua also noted that millenials are not his target audience. Others noted that parking is not overwhelming and seemed in proportion.
- new ~1 acre park; grocery/business parking is not overly large; Fuqua will provide a comparison to other area shopping spaces that have a similar building to parking ratio.
- no interest in the idea that the grocery store share parking space in the decks (to eliminate ground-level parking)

- Fuqua stated they build to sustainable standards, use green practices but do not pursue LEED certifications
- will try to use natives in landscaping, not too far along in planning that
- County has stated that it has the capacity to support the proposed 700+ units in this development (County has capacity "at level of line and plant")
- asked if there would be a "Phase III", a chuckle and "yes, all the way to Church Street!" (with clarification that the BMW and Tesla car dealerships abut Phase II).
- asked "why build new retail space when there are so many empty shopping spaces around," Fuqua replied that development is now different and new buildings attract different types of retailers
- no plan for rooftop plaza or gardens
- delivery trucks for grocer, dumpsters for residents will all be out of sight 
- no big neon signs proposed, likely monument signage

- currently being developed in DeKalb Co.; if annexed to Decatur, current zoning would be grandfathered in
- Phase II would seek to
* rezone to OCR (Office-Commercial-Residential) designation [defined by DeKalb Co as "A district for establishing new mixed use developments of medium intensity which consist of a combination of office, commercial, and residential uses."]
* would need two SLUP (Special Land Use Permits): one to allow 5-story construction, and one for a drive-through [a bank, a restaurant]
* similar to Phase I, would seek to amend land use to town center
* no changes regarding parking
- the concern of "what if the grocery store fails, what if we end up with a strip club there?" was answered by saying that would require special zoning and the community would have input; the decision to not allow such a thing can also be done by the property owner

- pedestrian traffic; young adults and empty nesters
- in response to how this development will age relative to the area, Fuqua said that the Atlanta metro area can expect to grow by 2.5 million over the next 15 years. Single-family homes will be less available and there will be demand for apartments
- there are no plans for  senior or low-income housing

- zoning will begin to review Phase II plans in mid-March 2015
- summertime would be the earliest time for approvals
- construction would take ~18 months for Phase I. Phase II would take longer but assuming they can start building soon, it would go up concurrently with Phase I and would look "finished" while interiors are completed over a ~7 month period.
- Phase I: plan is approved, demolition of homes and church is approved and project should take 15-18 months to completion
- Phase II (focus of this meeting): just getting started with zoning
What the development may look from: street view of landscaping, sidewalks and building finishes.
Thoughts, ideas, worries? Send them to the