Monthly Archives: August 2013

COVEReport – August 30, 2013

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martha

 

Dear Neighbors,

I’ve been attending the Lee May – Town Hall meetings and have spoken to the interim CEO about issues impacting our neighborhood.  Here are my notes from the August 22 – Town Hall Meeting in Tucker.

1.      The CEO’s “office” has been moved to be in the same place as the commissioners’ offices, which Interim CEO May sees as crucial to achieving better cooperation and collaboration.

2.      May still believes the CEO office should be changed in favor of a professional county manager form of government.

3.      May has three priorities:
a.      Public safety — There are too many vacant positions and he wants these filled as quickly as possible.  By way of example, May says there are 1000 positions funded, but only 915 filled.  As a side note, May pointed out that the response time from when the police were notified about the issue at Ronald McNair Discovery Academy and when they arrived was 2 minutes and 27 seconds.
b.      Economic development infrastructure – Interim CEO May wants a strategic plan for economic development and said they are going to hire a “third party” removed from politics to do it.  May said the permitting department has issues and it is a business deterrent (i.e., permits take too long to get done).
c.       Legislative agenda at the state capitol — The incorporation and annexation push has left DeKalb County with legacy costs, especially in the area of pensions and healthcare, that run into the millions.  May also stated that he wants legislation that doesn’t allow new city boundaries to be drawn any which way.  When the boundaries are being drawn to grab the commercial property, it leaves a greater share of the legacy costs to be carried by residents outside the cities.

4.      There were many, many questions about education.  The audience seemed to understand that it is a separate group and that there is no formal connection. Nonetheless, several audience members pushed Interim CEO May to establish a formal liaison with the schools, because while the county isn’t in charge of education, it does have a vested interest in it.

There were several examples of county planners issuing permits for new developments without consulting the school district or the school district putting in schools without consulting with development.

The consensus of many in the audience was that the county and the school district simply need to collaborate better between the two organizations.   May seemed to agree with the audience, but he issued one caveat–the focus of the school system needs to be on getting off of probation, and May doesn’t want to do anything that will divert them from that mission.  May has met with the superintendent and school board members in an effort to begin working better together.

5.      Sanitation seemed to get a gold star from everyone.  People in the audience expressed that the county has done a good job in that area.

6.      Commissioner May stressed the importance of the budget, especially the 2014 budget.  He underscored its importance in terms of funding high priority items.  May wants to raise reserves, because that affects bond ratings, and he would like to have 3-5 year budget forecasts so that they can plan better for the future instead of just year to year.

With gratitude,
Martha Pacini
President, Citizens of Victoria Estates (COVE)

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New Building at Houston Mill and LaVista – Mazal Tov!

 

Our neighbor, Young Israel of Toco Hills has broken ground for its new building at the corner of Houston Mill and LaVista.

According plans on the Young Israel of Toco Hills website  the one story building will face LaVista with a single entrance aligned with Houston Mill.  The property runs along LaVista between Merry Lane and Christmas Lane.

The building will have a sanctuary, social hall, classrooms, office and kitchen.   Normal seating capacity for the sanctuary is 274 but can be expanded to 415 for holidays.

The site plan shows the building set back approximately 100’ from the LaVista curb with a total of 67 parking spaces on the two sides and rear of the building.   A new right turn entrance lane will be created going west bound on LaVista.

The architect of record is indicated as Warren Epstein and landscape architect – Anderson Design.
The Young Israel of Toco Hills is a modern Orthodox congregation founded in 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Site Plan, Building Rendering, Floor Plan

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Gannon – Rader Meeting Recap

County Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader met with citizens of Victoria Estates and Mason Mill at the Intown Community Church last night to discuss issues specific to our neck of the woods.  The meeting was well attended and lively, with a great deal of information and a lot of positive energy exchanged.  The commissioners discussed a number of recent improvements to the area, including major upgrades at Kittredge Park and Mason Mill Park, where a new senior center is being built.  The county has also received a grant for improvements along North Druid Hills Road between Briarcliff and Lawrenceville Highway.  Questions encompassed issues surrounding cityhood, infrastructure, the pros and cons of changing the form of county government, zoning and changing the culture of corruption in DeKalb County in a sustainable way.  A more detailed report of the questions posed and answers will follow in the next newsletter.

Of particular note, neither commissioner believes that changing the form of county government will solve the issues we are now facing.  Commissioner Rader noted that the performance of governmental duties has more to do with transparency, accountability and culture than with the structure of the model.  And neither commissioner supports the current method of creating municipalities.  Commissioner Gannon stated that the process currently used to create cities is unfair, particularly noting that it destabilizes the rest of the county.  They are both in favor of obtaining a countywide study prior to more cities being created.    They specifically support a plan to work with Georgia State University to create a public service model that would make all of the possible configurations of cities or townships in the county available for study.

Regarding the matter of changing the culture of corruption of this county in a sustainable way, Commissioner Rader outlined proposals for developing a new procurement policy, a revamping of administrative procedures, the hiring of an independent auditor (although funded, the post has remained vacant since its inception), and the creation of a Charter Commission.  The Charter Commission proposal created a lot of buzz, and it looks like this meeting may have paved the way for the citizens of our neighborhoods to make a real and lasting difference in the way this county is governed.

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Druid Hills Meeting

Forwarded from COVE cityhood chairman Ron McCauley are links summarizing the August 20 meeting sponsored by the Druid Hills Civic Association.

He says “This meeting hosted by the Druid Hills Civic Association was extremely well attended.  It was estimated that over 500 people gathered to get information.  Among the speakers were our own Allen Venet, (President of Citizens of Briarcliff Initiative), Lee May, (Interim DeKalb County CEO), and representatives from the office of the mayor of the City of Atlanta.

News links:
http://druidhills.org/2013/08/22/town-hall-meeting-draws-a-big-crowd/

http://vahi.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/association-druid-hills-cityhood-survey-results-favor-briarcliff-proposal

Mason Mill Civic Association president John Bugge also forward an article from the Emory Report.
http://victoriaestates.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Druid-Hills-residents-hear-cityhood-options.docx

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Burrell Ellis Grand Jury Report

The yearlong investigation into former DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis was unsealed on Wednesday, August 21.   The special purpose grand jury examined the bidding and contract management of the Department of Watershed Management.  Review began based on the reports of “…incompetence, patronage, fraud and cronyism…” occurring during the Vernon Jones administration.  The investigation expanded to the administration of Burrell Ellis.

This investigation relates to the $1.35 billion Capital Improvement Plan for the county’s water collection system, a response to a court ordered decree concerning DeKalb’s violation of the Federal Clean Water Act.  The project includes 80 plus construction and rehabilitation projects on the county’s approximately 5,000 miles of water and sewer lines intended to ensure public health and protect rivers and streams in the county.

In addition to the indictment of Burrell Ellis, recommendations for criminal investigations of Vernon Jones and others were made concerning:

  • awarding of contracts to fictitious “front” companies with no real employees, assets, or experience
  • paying over 2.6 million to a contractor with a single contract for $50,000
  • placement of county employee family members and friends in high paying contract positions for which they had no qualifications

Improper activities by Burrell Ellis sited in the report include:

  • requiring campaign contributions from vendors with pending or new contracts with the County
  • directing the cancellation of contracts for punitive and political reasons
  • dictating which individuals should be placed on selection committees with the intent to influence
  • interfering with and/or altering a selection committee’s final recommendation (prior to submission to the Board of Commissioners) in favor of vendors with a history of significant campaign contributions for Mr. Ellis

The jury also recommended the fundamental restructuring of the DeKalb County government including:

  • shifting more oversight power from county employees to county commissioners by making the commission positions full-time and adequately compensated
  • eliminating the public safety director position to reduce bureaucracy in the police department
  • reorganization for the purchasing and contracting department to include subject matter experts
  • revising of contracting and procurement policies including elimination of the Local Small Business Enterprise program which is described as a vehicle for fraudulent practices

A copy of the report is here Report.  The report describes in detail a seemingly clear and sad story of corruption.

I converted the file from an image to searchable text.  If you have any problems opening the file I have a larger file that should work for all PDF viewers.  It was too big too post to the website so send me an email here for a copy,  communications@victoriaestates.info.  – Carl

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Cityhood

Citizens of Victoria Estates (COVE) has been working hard to stay on top of the ongoing cityhood debate that impacts our neighborhood and county.  Within a few weeks we’ll be adding opinion columns that address the five considerations that we’re aware of:

  • Stay in unincorporated DeKalb
  • Comprehensive study of how the county can be divided into cities
  • Inclusion or annexation into the proposed City of Lakeside
  • City of Briarcliff
  • Annexation by City of Atlanta

City of Briarcliff Initiative Meeting – Thursday, September 12
The public is invited to a meeting of the City of Briarcliff Initiative on Thursday, September 12, at Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, 1995 Clairmont Rd., at 7:30 p.m. For more information on this group, you can visit their Web site:
http://briarcliffga.org/

DeKalb CEO Meeting – Clairmont – September 19
Town hall meeting with interim CEO Lee May
Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, 1995 Clairmont Road, Decatur, GA  30033
7:00 – 8:30 pm

Lakeside City Alliance Meeting – October 14
Community meeting at Briarcliff United Methodist Churchleafleafleaf

Victoria Estates Sidewalk Problems

Yesterday COVE board member David Woolf completed a neighborhood survey to add to the list provided by neighbors (after a long rain delay).

“Fun fact: If you walk all of our sidewalks in our neighborhood on both sides of the street, the total distance is just under 5 miles (according to my pedometer).” – David

David marked up one of our neighborhood maps here, which is being converted to spreadsheet format for an update to the county.   There are no guarantees, but hopefully our collective request will get a better response than individually.  We’ll continue to stay on top of this for the entire neighborhood until the county gets the job done!

VE sidewalk problems

COVEReport – August 23, 2013

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COVEReport – August 23, 2013

Dear Neighbors,

Citizens of Victoria Estates (COVE) was formed this summer in response to the many existing and pending local issues that can affect our neighborhood.  Examples of our activities include the upcoming neighborhood meeting with Commissioners Rader and Gannon—a smaller forum than large town hall meetings that will provide more of an opportunity to speak directly to our elected officials—and the work to address our crumbling sidewalks with a unified approach.

COVE has three primary missions:

  • to provide a resource for neighbors to stay informed about or engage with governmental, institutional and civic groups that have an impact on the neighborhood
  • to keep the broader community informed about Victoria Estates so that the neighborhood is included in discussions that affect our quality of life
  • to provide a resource for neighbors who need to access local government for services or assistance

As part of fulfilling this mission, this weekly newsletter—the COVE Report—will provide an at-a-glance summary and a look-ahead at issues and events that have an impact on our neighborhood.

The intent of COVE is to complement the Victoria Estates Civic Association, which identifies four specific responsibilities of organizing social activities, creating the neighborhood directory, maintaining the island at the entrance to the neighborhood and disseminating email communications.

COVE’s communication platforms will include this weekly newsletter, a website www.victoriaestates.info and Facebook page VictoriaEstatesAtlanta.

You can join COVE online
Click here
Join the conversation!

With gratitude,
Martha Pacini
President, Citizens of Victoria Estates (COVE)

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News

Cityhood

Cityhood is one of the hottest topics for our neighborhood and DeKalb County this year.   Following the incorporation of Sandy Springs, John’s Creek, Dunwoody and Brookhaven to our north, in February, the Lakeside City Initiative touched off a round of initiatives and debates over the future of our neighborhood and county.  The cityhood movement is a trend that has accelerated since the legislature created the current means to incorporate in 1993.

This year there are two competing new-city proposals that affect our neighborhood, City of Lakeside and City of Briarcliff, on track for review by the Georgia Legislature, with a ballot measure potentially coming in June, 2014.  Two other proposals in Metro Atlanta are Tucker and Stonecrest.  This will be the first time that the legislature has had to consider multiple, competing, overlapping cityhood proposals.

Making sure Victoria Estates has a seat at the table in this important debate is considered a top priority for COVE.  This includes previous meetings for Victoria Estates and our sister neighborhood Mason Mill on June 5 (Briarcliff), July 29 (Lakeside), and next week’s August 29 DeKalb County commissioners Gannon and Rayder meeting.

The process to cityhood has/will include:

  • Citizens formed 501c organizations to promote a city concept, selecting a name, proposed boundaries, and services to be offered by the city, and to raise necessary funds for a study
  • Placeholder bills were made in the Georgia General Assembly
  • Official feasibility studies are being completed (Carl Vinson Institute).  This is where we are now in the process.
  • A committee of the Georgia General Assembly will review the completed study recommendations and may make changes to the proposal(s) including city boundaries
  • Possible committee actions are approving a proposal, approving a proposal with modifications, combining the two proposals, or taking no action.
  • If a proposal comes out of committee a vote of the entire Georgia legislature is taken
  • The approved bill becomes a referendum.  Only voters within the proposed city boundaries get to vote with 50% plus one approval required for success.
  • The governor assigns a representative to a task force which organizes the new city and the state issues a city charter.

There have been many opinions expressed concerning city or no city, proposed boundaries, political motivations, and the potential impact to our neighborhood and the county.

Currently there are four possible outcomes for our neighborhood:

  • Remain in unincorporated DeKalb
  • City of Briarcliff
  • Annexation/redraw of boundaries in the legislature to be included in City of Lakeside Annexation by City of Atlanta

COVE has taken no position on cityhood initiatives but will continue to work to insure our neighborhood has a proper place at the table in this important decision.

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DeKalb County Zoning Change

DeKalb County is undergoing a major update to its zoning code.  This update is intended to “create a user-friendly document and to balance greater design standards.”

Land-use regulation or zoning is a key component to the regulation and development of quality growth.  While many people are averse to being told what they can or cannot do with their property, land-use regulation has provided the means for the protection and collective betterment of municipalities throughout the U.S.

Some sections of the proposed DeKalb code have been identified as potentially problematic.  These include the regulations for cell towers in residential areas as well as the potential for our neighborhood to be included in a special empowerment tax zone, permitting non-residential uses such as commercial and industrial construction.

It’s important that the potential impacts to our neighborhood and county are understood, prior to the code being adopted.

The next draft of the code will be published on the DeKalb County website on September 15 and there is a public October 7 meeting.  You may find more information here:  DeKalb Planning

Commissioners Gannon and Rayder to Meet with Victoria Estates and Mason Mill Neighbors

Thursday, August 29, 7:30 pm @ Intown Community Church – Room 205
Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader will meet with Victoria Estates and Mason Mill neighborhoods.  The purpose of the meeting is for residents of our neighborhoods to discuss county issues that are on their minds with their county commissioners, including the important topics of city-hood and zoning.

 

Welcome to the Website!

We’ve launched the new COVE website.  There you’ll find a calendar of events, cityhood news, contact information for COVE officers and committees, archives on neighborhood news, useful links, and soon to come – an online forum for neighbors!

Some of you may also be aware of the Facebook page VictoriaEstatesAtlanta created by COVE organizer Erika Birg.

One of the catalysts for organizing COVE was the desire for neighbors to have greater opportunities to communicate directly with each other.  Multiple communication channels provide an easier opportunity for our neighbors to stay informed and importantly, discuss and organize around their particular topics of interest.

This is a work in progress and we look forward to your input, volunteering, and most importantly, check it out and Join the Conversation!

Carl Lange

COVE Communications Chair

 

Let’s Get Our Sidewalks Fixed!

As you may recall, last year neighbors Susan and Roger Rochat marked our broken sidewalks with bright orange paint after another neighbor had a bad fall.  Since that time, sidewalks have remained unrepaired by the County (except where required for the recent water main breaks).

The newly formed COVE board acknowledged this as an important safety issue and contacted the county for help.   We heard back promptly with a request for a list of property addresses.  An email on 8/5 went out to the neighborhood and a compiled list was created and delivered on 8/9.  We received the following response that day:

From: Anderson, Michael
Sent: Friday, August 09, 2013 4:14 PM
To: Stevenson, Shirley J.; Knight, Jacqueline D.; Dalrymple, Mark
Cc: Enloe, Caroline; Edmonds, Nakisha M.; Edwards, Douglas T.; Edmonds, Nakisha M.; Dalrymple, Mark; McKinney, James; COVE
Subject: RE: Victoria Estates sidewalk complaints

Shirley:

Please get these locations inspected if no history.

Jim:

Please work these into your schedule based on condition and your current work assignment.

Yesterday COVE board member David Woolf completed a neighborhood survey to add to the list provided by neighbors (after a long rain delay).

“Fun fact: If you walk all of our sidewalks in our neighborhood on both sides of the street, the total distance is just under 5 miles (according to my pedometer).” – David

David marked up one of our neighborhood maps here, which is being converted to spreadsheet format for an update to the county.   There are no guarantees, but hopefully our collective request will get a better response than individually.  We’ll continue to stay on top of this for the entire neighborhood until the county gets the job done!

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Druid Hills town hall debates cityhood, annexation

Here is a Creative Loafing article summarizing the Druid Hills cityhood town hall meeting a couple nights ago.  – Carl

1377116635-city_of_briarcliff__2_.pngPosted by Sonam VashiDruid Hills town hall debates cityhood, annexation  

Druid Hills residents last night filled Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church to hear representatives from Atlanta, the City of Briarcliff Initiative, and DeKalb County discuss possible cityhood and annexation options for the neighborhood.

Hundreds crammed inside the church to learn more about the options for Druid Hills, a historic neighborhood of more than 14,000 residents. Notable elected officials in attendance included Georgia Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur; Atlanta City Councilmen Alex Wan and Aaron Watson; and DeKalb County Commissioners Jeff Rader and Kathie Gannon.

Briarcliff is one of the newest proposals in what has been a feverish influx of cityhood plans throughout DeKalb. According to Druid Hills Civic Association President Justin Critz, it’s a trend influenced by DeKalb’s recent political scandals and “unwieldy” management.

The options presented to the audience last night were fairly simple: form the new City of Briarcliff, become annexed into Atlanta, or remain in unincorporated DeKalb.

The City of Briarcliff proposal was largely formed in response to the City of Lakeside, a dueling cityhood proposal that’s been gaining momentum and would encompass parts of Tucker and much of proposed Briarcliff. Both cities can’t exist together with their current proposed borders.

DeKalb Interim CEO Lee May told residents that recent cityhood debates had turned “messy,” divisive, and forced citizens into “territorial maneuvers.” He’s got a point – while Lakeside doesn’t include the Druid Hills neighborhood, it does include Toco Hills, a nearby commercial district. Mike St. Louis, chair of the Committee to Explore Druid Hills Cityhood Options, said that Toco Hills’ inclusion “reduces the economic viability of remaining unincorporated DeKalb.”

About 90,000 residents would live within the proposed City of Briarcliff, which would encompass unincorporated land bordered by the Spaghetti Junction to the north, Fernbank Museum to the south, I-85 to the west, and I-285 to the east.

Residents are now waiting to see which plans will survive the arduous cityhood process and make it to the referendum. Druid Hills had previously considered creating its own city, but neighborhood leaders decided it didn’t have enough commercial property to raise tax revenues.

“I want to wait for more information, especially about Briarcliff,” Druid Hills resident Bill Hilmes said. “But another level of government is another level of taxes.”

To become a city in Georgia, Briarcliff must sponsor a $30,000 financial viability study to see whether the city is feasible, have the Georgia legislature pass a law to authorize a referendum, and then allow voters to cast a ballot on the matter.

 

 

 

Druid Hills Cityhood Meeting

The agenda has been set for a Town Hall Meeting on Cityhood & Annexation to be held on August 20, 7-9pm. Speakers will include Allen Venet, chair, City of Briarcliff Initiative; Duriya Farooqui and Hans Utz of the Office of the Mayor, City of Atlanta; Lee May, acting CEO, DeKalb County; and Matthew Lewis of the Druid Hills Charter Cluster.

Presenters will be available to answer questions from the audience, said Mike St. Louis, chair, Committee to Explore Druid Hills Cityhood Options.  The meeting will be held in the sanctuary of Glenn Memorial Church (1660 N Decatur Rd  Atlanta, GA 30307). Please attend and bring your neighbors!  This issue is critical for our community!

Interim CEO Lee May Town Hall Meetings

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DeKalb County residents and stakeholders are invited to meet Interim CEO Lee May during a series of town hall meetings to share their concerns and ideas as he develops plans to move the county forward.

Join CEO May at any of the following town hall meetings throughout the county.  The three closest appear to be LaVista, Briarwood, and Clairmont, which are marked on the calendar  :

DATE

LOCATION

Thursday, Aug. 22

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Tucker-Reid H. Cofer Library

5234 LaVista Road

Tucker, GA 30084

Monday, Aug. 26

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Stonecrest Library

3123 Klondike Road

Lithonia GA 30038

Tuesday, Aug. 27

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Memorial Drive 
Presbyterian Church

5140 Memorial Drive

Stone Mountain, GA 30083

Thursday, Sept. 5

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Dunwoody United 
Methodist Church

(Fellowship Hall)
1548 Mt. Vernon Road
Dunwoody, GA 30338

Monday, Sept. 9

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Welcome Friend Baptist Church
3198 Bouldercrest Road
Ellenwood, GA 30294

Thursday, Sept. 12

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Fairfield Baptist Church
(Family Life Center)

6133 Redan Road

Lithonia, GA 30058

Monday, Sept. 16

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Porter Sanford III Performing 
Arts & Community Center

3181 Rainbow Drive

Decatur, GA 30034

Tuesday, Sept. 17
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Briarwood Recreation Center
2335 Briarwood Way
Atlanta, GA 30319

Thursday, Sept. 19

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Clairmont Hills Baptist Church
1995 Clairmont Road
Decatur, GA 30033