Clifton Community Partnership News
September 20, 2013 – By Martha Pacini
The Clifton Community Partnership meeting on Thursday, September 12, included significant updates on the next phase of the Emory Point development and cityhood discussions, as well as two upcoming community events.
Emory Point Phase 2
As many in our neighborhood may have noticed, the Emory Inn, and sadly, Le Giverney, are now closed. Demolition starts next week for Emory Point Phase 2, which will be 307 units and around 40,000 SF, making it roughly half the size of the current development. As with the first phase, it will have ground level retail and a similar appearance. The developers are hoping to lure a high-end prepared foods/grocery store as one of the tenants. They reported that roughly 90% of the renters in the phase I part of the development are studying or working on Clifton Road. The parking is “de-coupled” from the rent, so if someone wants to have a car, they have to pay a separate amount for parking. This was done to encourage people to avoid cars and to use the Emory shuttle system instead. Construction will disrupt pedestrian traffic on that side of Clifton Road. We have requested a construction schedule, which we will post on the COVE website once we receive it. There is no night construction planned. If neighbors are interested, we can arrange to have the developer meet with us to review the project and the construction process.
Justin Critz, the president of the Druid Hills Civic Association discussed that group’s recent town hall meeting and the cityhood and annexation options. He also stated that he is doing an analysis of property taxes in both the unincorporated DeKalb section of Druid Hills and in the City of Atlanta section, basically comparing comparable properties. They will post this information on their website, where they have also posted the presentations from their recent meeting–http://druidhills.org/cityhood-annexation-options/. COVE has also posted the pdf versions on the COVE website. Atlanta Annexation Presentation to Druid Hills Growing Cities – Growing Georgia
Please take note of the City of Atlanta presentation, which includes a map that shows a potential City of Atlanta annexation border running right between Victoria Estates and the Emory Conference Center. Victoria Estates should pay close attention to this–at this point Emory does not yet have an official position regarding annexation by the City of Atlanta.
City of Atlanta and Druid Hills Combined Boundaries
Close up of City of Atlanta and Druid Hills Combined Boundaries
The DeKalb County charter commission idea is of great interest to several groups in the Clifton Community Partnership. It came out at the recent meeting between Emory and several DeKalb County Commissioners. To move this idea forward, the community will need to work with the legislative delegation.
In addition to the Emory Point and cityhood updates, two upcoming community events might be of interest to our neighborhood.
On Sunday, September 29, Open Streets DeKalb will reclaim the streets of Emory Village for a few hours and the road will be closed to vehicles. The streets will include a variety of activities–a large game of chess, anyone?–and is the first Open Streets in the county. Our neighbor Debbie Schneider has been very involved in helping make this event possible. The fun starts at 3 and ends at 6. The mission of the event is to have people explore Emory Village.
Map of Open Streets – Emory Village
Also, our friends at Zonolite are planning First Friday, a Zonolite Road Experience on October 4, 5:30-8:30 pm. There will be food, beverages (rumor has it that a whiskey tasting is part of the plan) and exhibits by Zonolite area merchants.
Mark Your Calendar! – Wednesday October 2, 2013
Lee May to Meet Victoria Estates and Mason Mill Neighbors
Please plan to attend as we engage our interim DeKalb CEO on important topics impacting our neighborhood. We will be addressing some of the same questions put to commissioner’s Gannon and Rader in our last COVE meeting (refer to the article Gannon Rader Meeting Recap – Part 2, in this addition of COVEReport).
Send us any questions you might have for the CEO.
The location is currently being confirmed and will be updated on the COVE website.
WE WILL BE MEETING AT THE INTOWN COMMUNITY CHURCH
Gannon Rader Meeting Recap – Part 2
September 20, 2013 – By Carl Lange, Pat Killingsworth
County Commissioners Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader met with citizens of Victoria Estates and Mason Mill at the Intown Community Church on August 29. Pat provided a recap of the meeting in the August 30 COVEReport. The meeting included an update on recent improvements to the area, cityhood, infrastructure, the county form of government, zoning code, and the culture of corruption in county government.
Of particular interest to the attendees was the discussion concerning a possible charter commission to study the county government.
Additional Information from our Commissioners
1) Roads – There is a street rating system in place to determine which roads are repaired first. Host revenues have been eroded through the legislature. The county is about 200 miles of road behind in repair and is only repairing roads at a rate of 20 miles per year. This is not very promising for Victoria Estates. While funds are not readily available for street repairs, staff is. Commissioners suggested neighborhood requests for fixing individual pothole problem areas would have a much better chance of success than a request for overall street repairs.
2) Water and sewer – Rates have increased annually on average by 11%. Of the 1.3 billion for the water replacement project, 700,000 million is only for the sewer, the rest is for water main replacement, and more capacity in sewer treatment plants. This has not been substantially impacted by the corruption scandal we have been reading about. The majority of contracts do not have evidence of corruption.
3) Commissioners’ Support – Their staff are available to assist constituents. In particular, if you are having trouble navigating through the county government, they are available to assist. They understand the network and know how to get things done.
4) Sidewalks – Another not-so-promising attitude prevailed concerning our ability to get our sidewalks repaired. Currently only new sidewalks are addressed with host money. COVE will continue to pursue this issue for the neighborhood. Once again, patch work is our recommended option.
5) Tax base – An interesting figure was the break even cost for a residential unit to contribute to the county tax base. It takes $450,000 or more. Business centers provide the greatest percentage of support. In the 70s and 80s the development of malls and business centers is what contributed to major county growth.
6) Zoning Code – A major concern has been the rewriting of the current zoning code. Neighbors have heard rumors that our designation in the empowerment tax zone as low income (due to all our students) if mismanaged, could be manipulated by developers and county officials to place commercial and other non-compatible construction near/in our neighborhood. Gannon clarified that the tax zone and the zoning code are independent and that there is no risk here. However, there are still potential issues with the zoning code that should be closely followed.
7) Things You Can Do to Support Good Governance – The commissioners were clearly unhappy with the haphazard approach to cityhood development and the impact to the rest of the county. Without comprehensive planning, unincorporated areas would increasingly be burdened with increased taxes and decreased services, creating a downward spiral. An important consideration is that even if you end up in a city, 2/3 of your tax bill will still go to/be managed by the county. Commissioners recommended the following actions for neighbors:
a) Petition the legislature, particularly the Republicans who are in the majority. This includes Fran Miller. Unfortunately the entire state legislature rules over the local legislature representatives in this matter.
b) If neighbors prefer not to be in Lakeside, speak in a unified voice to be removed from the proposed city boundaries (for our Mason Mill neighbors)
c) County Charter Commission – This had the most buzz and interest as it could address the concern for an objective and comprehensive study of the county government, including municipalities, government transparency and controls. This moves the discussion beyond the CEO vs. non-CEO structure and to the heart of the corruption and poor governance issues. A recommendation was for neighbors and possibly COVE to get together and send a letter to the legislature requesting a charter commission.
Many of the questions provided prior to the meeting were addressed as a part of the dialog with the commissioners. The questions submitted prior to the meeting are….
1. Why have our County officials not been involved with the cityhood debate to point out how this may damage the County? And how can citizens who are against all these divisive cities and would like to keep the County as large as it is now make their opinions heard?
2. What we can do to get our streets repaved, including Houston Mill and LaVista, sewers repaired, and water mains replaced?
3. How can we get a stop sign at Rainier Falls and Castle Falls?
4. I’ve personally witnessed the culture of incompetence and corruption at the DeKalb planning department. My last experience was a few years ago. Are you aware of any major changes to the culture since then, and if not, how could this be achieved?
5. The grand jury indictment against former CEO Ellis details a widespread culture of corruption within the county government and recommends a major overhaul. Change in structure does not necessarily ensure change in culture. The CEO structure has functioned successfully in counties in other states. What recommendations do you have to change the actual culture of corruption in a sustainable way?
6. The grand jury indictment recommended your county commission positions should be made full-time to provide better oversight over county employees. How would you see this working and are you in support?
7. We have experienced a serious wave of crime surrounding the Toco Hill shopping area. This includes theft at gunpoint, people being followed home, and car break ins. What can be done about this?
8. How do you see the recent corruption scandal centered on the Department of Watershed Management, impacting its ability to function? What is the status of the Capital Improvement Plan in response to the Clean Water Act mandate?
9. I recently had to deal with the DeKalb water department. It took 3 very long phone calls and 2 in persons visit just to transfer service. Even then, they got it wrong and our water was cut off. I believe the water department needs a complete overhaul. How could you help facilitate this?
10. We’ve heard from a political supporter of the City of Lakeside initiative that approval of that plan is a done deal at the Capitol. With a Republican political majority, what are our opportunities for insuring we have a fair review of other options including a countywide review of city boundaries, staying unincorporated, City of Briarcliff, or annexation by Atlanta?
11. When can the County repave Rainier Falls Drive from Houston Mill for about 2 blocks west as the street is old and crumbling and terribly uneven and bumpy?
12. Have you requested or considered the county getting a study re: the implications of prior and future city carve outs? If not, why?
13. How do you monitor the county infrastructure impacts (cost, quality, time) of managing so many contractual agreements? More specifically, how has the need to manage recent (Dunwoody, Brookhaven) and old (Atlanta in DeKalb) city/county contracts impacted headcount and operating costs (recurring and non-recurring)?
14. Would you support (or preferably proactively advocate) a legislative moratorium on cityhood initiatives until a full study, preferably statewide (or at least for the large metro counties that are not geographically isolated and that tend to share infrastructure), could be done to recommend best operating structure that addresses both quality issues and cost implications.
15. Has the county discussed with the City of Atlanta the possibility of the annexation of Druid Hills, Emory, or any other location currently in unincorporated DeKalb County by the City of Atlanta? If so, what is the county’s current position on the matter and, specifically, how would the county anticipate an annexation to impact the school system?