Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The best trick-or-treating on the north side is in Dunwoody North's, Briers North Subdivision.

Trick-or-treating will be welcomed in Briers North Subdivision
from 6 pm to 8:30 pm on Wednesday, October 31.

Once upon a time, a family at the corner of Briers North Drive and Tilly Mill Road decided to add some larger-than-life decorations to their home for Halloween. A number of people stopped by to admire them. They also did some trick-or-treating in the quiet neighborhood.

The next year, encouraged by the positive response, more families decorated their homes, and wore costumes themselves to give candy to trick-or-treaters. Even more visitors came by to play and trick-or-treat that Halloween.

And so the tradition grew year after year until the number of visitors in 2004 was estimated in excess of 5,000. Halloween @ Briers North brings visitors from around Georgia, and even a few from outside of the state.

The community's households all contribute to the celebration: whether it is distributing candy, adding decorations, or paying for the cost of DeKalb Police to direct traffic and keep everyone safe. You may even find a haunted house or two! Please check out the Briers website for more information.

Compliments of SDOC Publishing

Monday, October 29, 2007

DeKalb - Lack of Open Records regarding Brook Run Park, Dunwoody

Funny how in my earlier entry Rep. Jill Chambers would make it felony offense to deliberately violate the state’s Open Records Act and just yesterday DeKalb Commissioner Kathie Gannon informed me that in DeKalb County, it was the responsibility of the DeKalb Department heads who report only to the CEO, therefore the CEO and his legal staff are ultimately responsible for these open records requests.

Below is an e-mail I sent late Sunday evening to Ms. Marilyn Boyd Drew, Director of DeKalb County Parks and Ms. Viviane Ernstes, Asst Deputy County Attorney; expressing my frustration at both DeKalb Counties disregard for Georgia’s Open Records Act but also the way the $500,000.00 contract extension was added to the DeKalb Board of Commissioners agenda without public notice. What is not published below are my three previous requests, dated September 23, October 2, October 14; all asking for basically the same information. I am hopeful that they will provide me the basic records for which I am asking for since I am sure the Commissioners reviewed the exact same documentation in order to quickly approve a contract extension of $500,000.00.

Dear Ms. Boyd Drew & Ms. Ernstes,

On September 23, 2007 I made an open records request for correspondence between the demolition contractor at Brook Run Park & the DeKalb Parks Department. On October 2nd I was forced to make a second request because the County failed to even acknowledge my initial request and Mr. Billups then stated that he would have to talk to Ms. Kristie Swink for guidance. On October 5th, I met with Mr. James Stamps of the Contracting Office who provided me contracting documents, mostly documents from the final completion of the Skate Park and change order number 1 for an additional 60 days to complete the rear of the park at no additional charge to the County. Mr. Billups was not available to meet at that time and neither were the documents available that I requested from his Parks Department. Mr. Stamps informed me during our meeting of October 5 that Mr. Billups would be getting back in touch with me in the near future. On Oct 14, I again send another request asking for documents and several days later (Oct 17th?), when I still hadn’t heard from Mr. Billups, I called him at his office and he stated that there were no other documents or reports available regarding the work at the back of the park.

When I reviewed the published Board of Commissioners agenda for the October 23rd meeting prior to the meeting, item E11 Change order number 2 for 07-900545 with Dore & Associates was not listed. It appears that this item was placed on the agenda the day of the meeting, most likely not allowing the Commissioners an ample amount of time to review the details of the contract and the related documentation, nor did this last minute addition allow the public to have input of any type.

This is the point I really do not understand. How is it that on October 17th, the County Parks Department had no construction / demolition reports, or any correspondence between the Brook Run contractors & the county. Yet on October 23rd, the county approves a $500,000 contract extension on a project initially bid for $1.3 million dollars. Why do I have the feeling that I was possibly mislead regarding the lack of correspondence between demolition contractors & the DeKalb Parks Department? Maybe it is just me, but if no documentation existed on October 17th, and the CEO who sets the initial BOC agenda a week prior wasn’t aware of the need to change the contract, the County must have had extensive documentation provided to them just prior to the BOC meeting in order for them to spend $500,000 dollars so quickly. (I guess that will just come out of the 11.5 million dollars promised for Brook Run Park in the last Bond Referendum.)

Why did DeKalb fail to place a $500,000 addition to an existing $1.3 Million dollar contract on the Board of Commissioners agenda until the morning of the meeting? Was it because someone was trying to hide this fact from the public? Where is the proof that this asbestos now found on the site actually exists and is that a fair price for the work involved? Was a detailed environmental assessment completed and where was that report when I asked for public records on September 23rd, October 2nd & again on October 14th?

This evening I met with Commissioner Gannon and I asked who in County Government was ultimately responsible for Open Records Requests and she replied the various Department heads who report only to the CEO, therefore the CEO and his legal staff are ultimately responsible. Ms. Gannon asked if I copied the DeKalb legal staff on my e-mail? I stated that I had and as you see Ms. Viviane Ernstes name is visible on the messages below. I hope that Ms. Ernstes or Mr. Linkous of the Legal Department will be able to assist the Parks Department to finally fulfill my renewed request for public information regarding the back of Brook Run Park so that I may post all of the documentation to my website as a service to the community.

I then asked Kathie if the County Government had an independent auditing arm which followed up on and investigated instances of waste, fraud & abuse and she said that they did not. With a budget of $625 million plus various other bond revenues, I can not understand why the county does not? From the video of the BOC meeting, I remember someone stressing the fact that the lowest bidder was chosen for this project therefore this $500,000 dollar addition was acceptable and still within budget. It is this type of thinking that upsets residents watching good money being wasted if this project is going to be done hastily with no consideration of the price of the project.

I understand the reasoning to go forward with the project if it needed to be done, but I hope that due diligence was conducted in allowing this huge increase in the price of the project.

I have attached an open records request for records concerning the back of Brook Run Park and I look forward to hearing from you in the very near future.


John Heneghan, President
Dunwoody North Civic Association

Jill Chambers proposes to make Open Records Act violations a felony

The Associated Press -- Mon, Oct. 29, 2007

ATLANTA -- A Georgia lawmaker says she wants to make it a felony to deliberately violate the state's Open Records Act.

State Rep. Jill Chambers, R-Atlanta, said she plans to introduce a bill to make the law easier to understand and possibly eliminate some exemptions. Chambers said she would make "willfully and knowingly violating" the Open Records Act a felony, with a fine of up to $5,000. Under current law violations are a misdemeanor, subject to a $100 fine.

The law requires public officials to allow citizens to view and photocopy most government documents. Exceptions include medical or veterinary records, confidential police and prosecution investigative files, individuals' Social Security numbers, and others.

Chambers said she believes the law is confusingly written and that many violations result from misunderstanding it. "Just trying to read it and understand it would be a major accomplishment," she said. "It's so hard to find what you need in the law, and then once you do find it, it's so hard to understand.

"There will always be people who flagrantly violate the Open Records Act. But there are also people who violate it because they don't understand it."

Hollie G. Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, said there is "room for improvement" in the Open Records Act, but her main concern is not that the law confusingly written. Manheimer would like to see the law encourage, rather than discourage, citizens from filing Open Records Act requests.

As the law now stands, individuals are rarely awarded attorney fees in lawsuits based on Open Records Act claims. "Right now, big media companies are the only ones who can afford to bring these lawsuits," said Manheimer, who practices law in Decatur with Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield.

Chambers said she wants the law to keep its exceptions for Social Security numbers and credit card information. "We've got to be careful with that kind of information because of the rise of identity theft," she said.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Proposed Dunwoody School Boundaries

On September 24th, DeKalb County announced the proposed attendance boundaries for the new Dunwoody Elementary School scheduled to open in the 2009 / 2010 school year as well as the other surrounding schools in the area.

The maps provided to the public at the meeting can be found at the link below.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Brook Run speeders may see blue lights

By Bill Florence for The Crier

One man’s crusade to have DeKalb County police officers put the brakes on speeding drivers in Brook Run Park soon may result in more police patrolling the park’s roadways.

Increased police presence within the park would be good news to dog owners who use Brook Run’s popular dog park and who have expressed growing concerns about park safety after several break-ins last month to cars in the parking lot adjacent to the dog park.

Brook Run currently has one full-time security officer, an employee of a private security firm, who is responsible for monitoring safety issues within the 102-acre park from a small security booth located at the park’s entrance on North Peachtree Road.

John Heneghan, president of the Dunwoody North Civic Association, lives three blocks from Brook Run. He and his family are park regulars, and he keeps a close eye on everything that’s happening within the park.

“I was at Brook Run in July, towards the back end of the park, when I saw a speeding car come over the top of a hill and swerve at the last second to narrowly miss hitting a young boy on his bicycle,” said Heneghan. “I thought, ‘something needs to be done about this.’”

The incident spurred Heneghan to contact DeKalb officials about the lack of speed limit signs within the park. The county subsequently put up signs placing a maximum 15 miles per hour speed limit throughout the park.

Heneghan then asked DeKalb police to actively monitor the speed limit within the park using speed detection devices, such as radar or laser speed guns, or just parking a patrol car in a conspicuous location along the park’s main road to serve as a warning to speeders.

He was surprised when police officials told him they weren’t authorized to use speed detection devices within the park, citing a state statute that requires counties to apply to the Georgia Department of Public Safety for authorization to use speed detection devices to enforce a posted speed limit.

According to Heneghan, DeKalb officials have initiated the process of requesting permission from the state to use speed detection devices within Brook Run.

State law also stipulates that police can’t make a case based on a speed detection device unless a driver is caught speeding more than 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.

The law does make exceptions for strict enforcement of speeds using detection devices in properly marked school zones, historical districts, and residential zones, and Heneghan thinks state legislators should amend the law to include one additional exception.

“Roads within, or adjacent to, a park should added to the list of exceptions requiring strict enforcement of speed limits,” said Heneghan. “In a public park full of children, where speeds should be lowered, it’s ridiculous that current law penalizes police officers using detection devices and allows an extra 10 miles per hour of speed before someone can be charged with speeding.”

Heneghan said he is encouraging north DeKalb’s state legislators to change the state statue to improve safety within Brook Run and other local parks throughout Georgia.

He also spoke last week with Maj. Gerald Horner of the DeKalb Police Special Operations department about the feasibility of placing an electronic speed monitoring sign in the park, as well as having police officers regularly sit and monitor speeds within the park’s interior.

Dog lovers who use Brook Run’s off-leash dog park also are actively seeking help from the police to increase park safety and security.

Members of Just A Walk In The Park (, an organization of more than 160 individuals who use Brook Run’s Henry Jones Dog Park, have organized a meeting at the dog park with the DeKalb Police October 30, at 10 a.m. to express their concerns about park safety.

In other park news, demolition of the old Brook Run hospital buildings is proceeding as planned, although DeKalb County recently gave the project contractor another 60 days for additional “site restoration” work on flat, usable land, and on parking lots and roads.

According to Heneghan, Parks Department officials have told him the park’s rear 30 acres will be ready and open to the public in mid-December or early January.

“Like all of us, I’m looking forward to the opening of this remaining piece of Brook Run,” said Heneghan. “The work appears to be coming along, and I’m hoping the final result will be a big, beautiful park we can all enjoy.”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

State Speed Enforcement Laws on DeKalb County Park Property, part 2

Rep. Jill Chambers gave me her opinion regarding State law and Major Horner of DeKalb Police, Special Operations promised to look into this further. Whether or not speed enforcement can ever take place at Brook Run, the DeKalb Police Department is now aware of the problem and I trust they will do what they can with the resources available to address my concerns.

Below is the text of the e-mail I sent to our State Representatives, County Police & Legal Officials as well as our County Commissioners.

Thanks for your reply Jill but the issue at hand is that DeKalb County is stating that they can not do speed enforcement in county parks supposedly because, State law prohibited it. The speed limit currently set in the park by county statute is appropriate and not an issue. No one could ever claim that DeKalb County has attempted to gain revenue by citing an excessive amount of speeding violations; if that were the case they would have more then the 15 or so (a guess?) radar / laser units assigned to only the motorcycle patrols and you would see them constantly (think of Doraville) on the roadside. 40-6-180 does mention the special hazards and the need to generally slow down for them, however; I do not believe this to be relevant to the current situation. Since you & I both agree that parks do include the special hazard of children playing & biking in close proximity to traffic, much like a school, maybe 40-14-8(b) should be modified as I suggested to include roads adjacent to or inside a park?

If the State Legislators aren’t able to figure out why the County can’t do speed enforcement in a park; maybe the County Police & Legal Staff could inform us why they think they are unable do speed enforcement? If a traffic engineering investigation needs to be conducted on Brook Run or an application for a permit needs to be sent to the Department of Public Safety prior to any speed enforcement; these are both valid and understandable reasons since no one has raised this subject previously and the park is still relatively new. If this is the case, I ask that these items be proposed.

I understand that Brook Run with its 102 acres with a main street (seven tenths of a mile long) that twists and turns, up and down with the contours of the land is very different from many of the other county parks and is therefore a challenge to operate, secure & patrol.

Major Horner of DeKalb Police Special Operations sent me a note stating that he is investigating this subject and I trust his management team together with DeKalb Legal Staff will do what needs to be done to get speed enforcement on County property (Brook Run in particular) if it is possible to do so. If for some reason, speed enforcement is not allowable because of the road grade or another technicality, then Majors Horner & Calhoun have other enforcement tactics that can easily be taken inside and around the park.

Thank you all for doing what you do. As elected officials and/or public servants, I’m sure you do not hear that enough but your service to the community is truly appreciated, thank you.

John Heneghan

Friday, October 19, 2007

State Speed Enforcement Laws on DeKalb County Park Property

Dear Fran, Dan, Jill & Mike,

A couple of months ago I witnessed a car speeding to the back of Brook Run Park heading for the dog area which just missed a young boy on a bicycle. At the time, there were no speed limit signs and at my urging the county has installed new speed limit signs in the park. When I have the opportunity to talk to the DeKalb PD, speed enforcement in the park is one of the many subjects I usually bring up. Last night I talked to Major Horner who is in charge of Speed Enforcement for DeKalb County and was again informed that it was a State regulation that speed enforcement was not allowed in the park. I have mentioned this subject twice in my blog (links listed below) and would like your opinion if this is a state regulatory problem or a county enforcement misunderstanding.

As you know, Brook Run was state property up to a few years ago and it is now county property designated as a County Park. Since there were no speed limit signs until a month or two ago, I doubt that the county has applied to the Department of Public Safety for a permit to do speed enforcement in the park. Is that all the county needs to do under State Law to start doing speed enforcement? Is it the issue that the park is “Private Property” or that the streets are not thoroughfares since there is only one entrance in and out of the park? Captain Yarbrough of the North Precinct stated that he was going to look into this issue from the counties perspective on the enforceability of a County Ordinance (DeKalb Code 17-113 Maximum Speed in Parks). I have copied the County Attorney, Mr. Bill Linkous who’s office may also be of assistance with the interpretation and/or application of this county ordinance.

I am no attorney but have reviewed some of the State Law on the subject and have copied some it below as well as the link to bill hb631 which some of you have sponsored this session. I see that school zones are protected in 40-14-8 from the 10 mph over rule and ask that we think about roads adjacent to or inside a park also be allowed for strict enforcement. Since the posted speed limit in Brook Run is now 15 mph, I guess 40-14-8 might allow it to be considered a residential district; but it is a huge stretch since the roads are within a declared a park with no residential homes in sight.

DeKalb is pointing the finger at the state regulations saying that speed enforcement cannot be done in Brook Run. I welcome any and all guidance on the subject in order to change this situation.

Thank you, John Heneghan, President
Dunwoody North Civic Association

I wasn't called upon during the meeting (it was crowded) but talked to Major Calhoun the new Commander of the North Precinct after the meeting about Brook Run & speed enforcement regulations. It was at that point that I was referred to Major Horner the Commander of Special Operations, in charge of speed enforcement who was standing right behind us. Major Horner stated that State regulations mandated that only specific stretches of road which were pre-approved by the State were allowed to have speed enforcement and that Counties & municipalities were stuck to abide by these now ancient rules. We then discussed the fact that these regulations were written upon the books years ago when radar was first coming on board but now because of the high tech laser systems, the regulations may need to be revised to match the technology. (Dan, Fran, Jill & Mike are you aware of these rules?)

I asked about speed enforcement in Brook Run Park and you “Major Gilstrap” and Captain Yarbrough both stated that you were not allowed to do it there because of the way that the laws was written. I questioned this on various legal angles, I even quoted park regulations which prohibit speed in excess of 20 miles per hour in County parks (DeKalb Code 17-113 Maximum Speed in Parks) but you stated that you would have to research this subject and get back to me. If you report that you are not allowed to do speed enforcement in the County Park based on a specific regulation, I will personally petition the Board of Commissioners to change the law so that you can then perform this important function throughout the County.

Proposed change in the law on speed enforcement.

Current Georgia Law

§ 40-14-3. Application for permit; use of device while application pending
(a) A county sheriff, county or municipal governing authority, or the president of a college or university may apply to the Department of Public Safety for a permit to authorize the use of speed detection devices for purposes of traffic control within such counties, municipalities, colleges, or universities on streets, roads, and highways, provided that such application shall name the street or road on which the device is to be used and the speed limits on such street or road shall have been approved by the Office of Traffic Operations of the Department of Transportation. Law enforcement agencies are authorized to use speed detection devices on streets and roads for which an application is pending as long as all other requirements for the use of speed detection devices are met. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to affect the provisions of Code Section 40-14-9.

§ 40-14-8. When case may be made and conviction had
(a) No county, city, or campus officer shall be allowed to make a case based on the use of any speed detection device, unless the speed of the vehicle exceeds the posted speed limit by more than ten miles per hour and no conviction shall be had thereon unless such speed is more than ten miles per hour above the posted speed limit.

(b) The limitations contained in subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply in properly marked school zones one hour before, during, and one hour after the normal hours of school operation, in properly marked historic districts, and in properly marked residential zones. For purposes of this chapter, thoroughfares with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or more shall not be considered residential districts. For purposes of this Code section, the term "historic district" means a historic district as defined in paragraph (5) of Code Section 44-10-22 and which is listed on the Georgia Register of Historic Places or as defined by ordinance adopted pursuant to a local constitutional amendment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Brook Run's back 30 acres are taking shape.

Just one of five building being demolished.

The DeKalb County Parks Department has notified me that the contract on the demolition of the old hospital buildings at Brook Run Park has been extended for 60 days in order for the contractor to do a proper job of "Site Restoration". If all goes well, the park will be reopening the rear 30 acres to the public in mid-December or early-January.

About a month ago, I started asking questions of county officials regarding the definition of site restoration as it related to flat usable spaces and the amount of parking and roads that were to be left intact in the back area.

I understand from talking to construction personnel on site that the plans just recently changed, saving several of the back roads and parking areas. In fact, new curbs were being installed the other day where construction equipment had been driving over the areas they thought were going to be demolished. Though I was not allowed to enter the property, I have attached several photos that I took over the fences that shows that the county is making a valid effort to transform this property into relatively flat usable park space.

Maybe the county and the contractors on site would be willing to open the back of the park for a short guided tour of the progress? I'm sure that "The Crier" and other interested news organizations would be happy to report of the efforts of the county.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chief Bolton: "North Precinct is going to get a lot more "officers" then was originally proposed"

At Tuesday night's pubic safety meeting hosted by Commissioner Jeff Rader at the Chamblee Public Library, Chief Bolton and his staff came out to sell the "Road to Success Action Plan" for major changes to the police department. They also took questions, many of which were surrounding the operating hours of late night drinking establishments and Bolton (who does not make policy) did a pretty good job of deflecting the the questions.

During the last official question, the staffing levels of the north precinct were challenged and Bolton clearly stated that the numbers in the original proposal would be revised to increase staffing levels in the North Precinct in order to have proper zone coverage.

.wav file of the question and Chief Bolton's promise for increased staffing.
(2 minutes - 7 MB file size)

.wav file of the entire question & answer session
(59 minutes - 38 MB file size)

I wasn't called upon during the meeting (it was crowded) but talked to Major Calhoun the new Commander of the North Precinct after the meeting about Brook Run & speed enforcement regulations. It was at that point that I was referred to Major Horner the Commander of Special Operations, in charge of speed enforcement who was standing right behind us. Major Horner stated that State regulations mandated that only specific stretches of road which were pre-approved by the State were allowed to have speed enforcement and that Counties & municipalities were stuck to abide by these now ancient rules. We then discussed the fact that these regulations were written upon the books years ago when radar was first coming on board but now because of the high tech laser systems, the regulations may need to be revised to match the technology. (Dan, Fran, Jill & Mike are you aware of these rules?)

I talked to Chief Bolton about the use of police vehicles to be taken home as a benefit to the officers as he had proposed. I specifically asked what is the percentage of DeKalb Police Officers who actually live in DeKalb County so that the vehicles and officers would be visible on DeKalb's streets? He stated that the current number was very low and I asked if it made sense to offer County Residency incentives to those officers who lived in the county in order to defray any additional cost of living in DeKalb vs a lower cost area. We discussed that topic for quite a while whereby he explained that his implementation plan called for dispersing the vehicles to the officers who live in county first and then outward to a reasonable breaking point. Jeff Rader & I had the same discussion about officers living in the county and he thought there definitely should be some incentives for affordable housing for officers who also want to live here in DeKalb.

If County officers want to serve & protect us here in DeKalb, maybe they should be encouraged (required) to live here as well? If we need to sweeten the financial incentives to do so, I believe the County should be looking into this option to both stabilize the department and the communities the officers serve. Just my opinion.

On a final note, I met the new Communications Director who I figured had the duty of maintaining the DeKalb County Police Site and asked when would it be updated? She stated that the site is being completely reworked and will be relaunched in mid-November.

Nominations Open - 2007 Dunwoody Mom / Dad of the Year

The Dunwoody Homeowners Association would like to honor the Dunwoody Moms and Dads who have contributed to the community. During Light Up Dunwoody (November 18, 2007), DHA will announce the 2007 Ms. Dunwoody Mom and Mr. Dunwoody Dad. If you would like to nominate someone, please fill out the form on the DHA webpage by November 2, 2007.

As the husband of the 2005 Ms. Dunwoody Mom; I highly encourage you to nominate your friends and neighbors who deserve such an honor.

In this busy world of ours, think of those in the community who are able to step up and volunteer in small ways to make Dunwoody a great place to live.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Turn off the automatic sprinklers & think about your overall indoor use too.

As we are all aware, basically all out door watering is now prohibited and my dying fescue lawn is proof that I have turned off the spickets at my house.

I have heard rumblings from neighbors who are complaining to me that their next door neighbors automatic sprinkler system runs every morning at 6 am. If this is your issue, please either talk to your neighbor or just leave an anonymous complaint on the DeKalb County Water hot line at 770-270-6243 or after hours at 770-621-7200.

Please also remember that indoor water use is typically 80 percent of all residential water use. On an annualized basis, outdoor water use only accounts for approximately 20 percent of all residential water use. An outdoor watering ban does nothing to limit most residential water use and waste; which happens inside the home. An outdoor watering ban only addresses the most visible element of our use and we all need to remember to conserve the water we use indoors as well.

Please thank about that aspect the next time you turn the faucet on for any reason.

Examples of what is and isn't allowed under the new outdoor water ban:
— Outdoor watering by commercial establishments such as a bank or apartment complex, or by homeowners association watering neighborhood common areas? PROHIBITED.

— Non-profit fund-raising car wash? PROHIBITED.

— Homeowner watering plants or grass seed that they installed themselves in the last 30 days? PROHIBITED.

— Homeowner (or professional landscaper) watering plants or grass that a "certified or licensed" professional landscaper installed in the last 30 days? ALLOWED. But a homeowner should have proof, such as receipts, showing the materials were professional installed.

— Water running in a fountain, including ones that recirculate the water? PROHIBITED.

— Washing a car? PROHIBITED, except at a commercial car wash.

— Using water from the hose to play in or slide down on a Slip 'N Slide? PROHIBITED.

— Watering outdoors with used bathtub water? ALLOWED.

— Watering outdoors with Unused water from a bathtub faucet? PROHIBITED.

— Pressure washing outdoors? PROHIBITED if you are a homeowner, whether or not the washer is rented. ALLOWED if it is being done by a commercial professional washing business.

— Watering a personal food garden? ALLOWED

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What kind of Dunwoody does the current residents envision?

The following editorial written by Mr. Bob Dallas of the DeKalb Planning Commission was published by the Dunwoody Crier in a condensed version several weeks ago. In light of the major projects that are being proposed in Dunwoody, while the County refuses to pass impact fees that would directly affect traffic & infrastructure improvements; I thought that this article needed to be shared.

Dunwoody is at a crossroads that can best be described as a tale of two cities. The question is: as more people move to Dunwoody, will it remain family oriented or will it shift to a singles orientation? As a 24 year resident of Dunwoody and 10 year member of the DeKalb County Planning Commission, I believe we should maintain our family friendly orientation. But it is the collective opinions of those who live in Dunwoody which matter and should be voiced to our public officials that will set the course for Dunwoody’s future.

Today, one part of Dunwoody can be described as being mostly made up of family homeowners with kids who want to attend the good schools serving the community. The other part has been the Perimeter market that is made up of the Atlanta region’s largest office market and a high end shopping district. This mix has traditionally worked well because the family environment readily mixed with the retail and the office market was convenient to the family breadwinners. Neither of these nonresidential uses produced significant negative impacts on the family uses.

That mix, however, is changing. As estimated by the Atlanta Regional Commission over 2.5 million new people will move to the Atlanta region over the next 20 years. Much of that influx of residences will be absorbed by areas where work and transit centers are located. As the largest office market, that places Perimeter in the bull’s eye of residential growth. Estimates of this growth range from 10,000 to 50,000 to 100,000 additional people moving into the Perimeter area. The increase is also guided by the two MARTA rail stations which are designed to encourage higher density uses within their vicinity.

Over the past five years we have already seen this impact in Dunwoody and Perimeter. Including the units under construction, approximately 5,000 apartment and condominium units have been built. That translates to approximately 7,500 or more additional people. These projects have tended to be relatively small, with less than 450 units per project.

As you have read, the two projects before the Planning Commission and DeKalb Board of Commissioners are substantially larger. The GID-High Street project across from the Dunwoody MARTA station includes 1,500 condominiums and 1,500 apartments; The Novare project cattycorner to the Dunwoody MARTA station includes 900 condominiums. On top of these projects, in the offing are two more projects—that we know about—which will add an additional 730 residential units. This does not include the projects on the Sandy Springs side of the Perimeter area and projects that are now just whispers, but sure to come. Many of the residential units will be 30 stories and the projects, if designed and built correctly, will include many pedestrian friendly features, grocery stores, and open spaces that support this level of density. Envision cities like Boston, Denver, Portland and Vancouver that have many people living within walking distance of where they work and play to understand the level of density being proposed.

A basic tenet of high density residential growth is ensuring a cross section of age demographics live in the area. Simply stated, it is important to ensure one age demographic does not dominate the growth. This is because the alternative result produces too many negative consequences.

For example, if all the residential units were designed for young singles, you also get a preponderance of businesses that cater to them, namely the night clubs, bars and events that naturally go along with this market demographic. Think of Midtown Atlanta or Buckhead for nearby examples of catering to the young singles market. Unfortunately when such uses dominate an area, they become incompatible for families, kids and empty nesters. They also create public safety issues, e.g. impaired driving, which the community is then forced to address.

In contrast, with a mix of age demographics development becomes more balanced. Uses friendly to kids temper uses designed for singles and encourages uses designed for empty nesters. In other words, you end up with a mix of residential and commercial uses working together, not to the exclusion or detriment of the others. Fortunately, Dunwoody and Perimeter have the potential to attract all age groups. This is not a case where the market can only attract one age demographic.

Some have suggested families will not want to live in high density residential. I only point to the above referenced cities for examples of just that, e.g. business professionals and medical residents with kids wanting to live near offices and Pill Hill and not wanting the obligations of a yard and house maintenance. Remember, it wasn’t long ago when people suggested families wouldn’t live in town homes. We now see they do, just as they will in the higher density units.

The other major impact of residential growth is experienced by the local schools. This has been ameliorated in part by the Dunwoody Homeowners Association’s, Planning Commissioners’ and Board of Commissioners’ insistence that the majority of residential units remain owner occupied. This helps to ensure our new neighbors have a more than a transient interest in our community. The parents and kids of the new homeowners are just like the parents and kids of the homeowners who currently live in Dunwoody; educated and interested in ensuring their kids receive a good education.

While the DeKalb County School Board has not been responsive to the growth, we should not let this tail wag the bad development dog. This would occur if we simply gave the School Board a pass by saying all future development should be designed for young singles. As noted, we would then have to contend with the non-family oriented lifestyle that will follow.

Arguably, the reason the DeKalb School Board has been unresponsive is because we have not held it to the same standard of scrutiny as developers. Think how Dunwoody would be today if the DHA had said 20 years ago “you can’t fight developers, so just let them build what they want”. We should hold the DeKalb School Board to the legal standard it bears, namely it must build adequate school facilities to accommodate the growth. If it does not, then just like we have successfully sued developers in the past, we should bring suit to force construction of adequate school facilities.

Eventually the new Dunwoody elementary school will be built and with 900 seats, it should eliminate the trailers at Vanderlyn and Austin elementary schools. By definition, the new school will involve redistricting of these schools lines. But the new school alone will not accommodate the anticipated growth. What is needed is to draw the Perimeter school lines, before the residential units are built, into the closer Nancy Creek and Montgomery elementary school districts. This would allow these current under-capacity buildings to be utilized and not entail any of the existing Vanderlyn and Austin area from having to be redistricted except as to the new Dunwoody school.

It is also important that the new Perimeter construction be as energy efficient as possible. While many worry about global warming, very real electrical power substation expansion has already hit home. Crier readers are very familiar with Georgia Power’s construction of a new power substation at the intersection of Ashford Dunwoody and Perimeter Summit roads and the neighborhood’s unsuccessful effort to prevent its construction. This substation is being built to accommodate the above referenced growth. Only by assuring the new development is as energy efficient as possible will it be possible to delay or eliminate another substation from being built in the future—perhaps in Dunwoody.

Fortunately, the GID High Street project has agreed to over 25 DHA imposed conditions. The Planning Commission requested and the applicant agreed to the following: 1) 25,000 sq. ft. community center(s), with a minimum 8,000 sq. ft. coming on line with the first phase. The community center(s) would be owned and managed by the residential (both rental and owner occupied) associations; 2) 20% of the owner occupied residential units are to be 3 bedrooms or above; 3) 40% of the residential units shall have balconies, with 70% of the residential units on the forth floor or lower having balconies; 4) the buildings shall be LEEDS or GA Power Energy Wise (or comparable) certified. The Planning Commission unanimously approved this project with the foregoing conditions.

In contrast the Novare project has not agreed to any conditions. At the DHA’s board meeting, its representative stated “the project is designed for singles and is not suitable for kids.” Novare was opposed to the following conditions: 1) 20% of the owner occupied units are to be 3 bedrooms or above; 2) tadd at least 25,000 retail to the stand alone parking deck to accommodate a grocery store and to shield the look of the parking deck; 3) to be pedestrian friendly, eliminate the 32 pull in/out parking spaces in front of the retail and replace with one row of parallel parking spaces and expand the amount of open space (with either hardscape or landscape) in front of the retail; 4) the buildings shall be LEEDS or GA Power Energy Wise (or comparable) certified (although Novare did agree as to the office spaces). The Planning Commission voted to defer this application for a full cycle.

There are some who say we should simply let the market decide what gets built. That is a red herring and if they were honest, they would say there should be no zoning controls in the first instance. The only question is whether Novare (and subsequent projects) will change its product to be family oriented. The statement only the market should determine what gets built goes against DHA’s requirement that limits apartments, DHA’s adding conditions of zoning to the GID (and others) project, DHA demanding WallMart not operate as 24 hours per day, DHA demanding an overlay district to protect the Georgetown look of the Dunwoody commercial district, to name a few.

Finally, while inclusion of singles into the mix is a good idea, having the products dominated by singles (or any other age demographic) is not. I can assure you what will follow the exclusive singles product is the singles night life which has permeated Buckhead and Midtown, and all of the public safety issues that go with it. In contrast, family orientation will incorporate a sustainable mix that includes a variety of retail uses.

With this development at Dunwoody’s front door, we have a choice. We can make it the best of times for Dunwoody’s future. Or by doing nothing, it will become the worst of times. That is why it is important you voice you opinion by calling our DeKalb Board of Commissioners and let them know you want each and every project to be family friendly and that the Novare project has to change to meet Dunwoody’s family, not the other way around.

Bob Dallas is a District 1 Planning Commissioner for DeKalb County.

Another new commander for North Precinct

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 11:15 AM EDT
By Dick Williams
For The Crier

Major Tommy Gilstrap, commander of the DeKalb police North Precinct in Dunwoody, has been replaced. Chief Terrell Bolton, in a meeting Sunday with the board of the Dunwoody Homeowners’ Association said Gilstrap had been replaced by now-Major D. Calhoun, a 20-year veteran of the department.

“You’ve had a good organization over time,” said Bolton, “but there comes a time when you have to bring in fresh faces.”

Since Vernon Jones was elected county chief executive in 2000, DeKalb has had five police chiefs, each of whom has shuffled the command staff. Calhoun becomes the third commander of the North Precinct in three years.

The North Precinct change was part of several promotions announced Sunday by Bolton, including a new deputy chief over the North and Tucker precincts and with responsibility for code enforcement. Bolton also named DeKalb’s first female deputy chief.

Calhoun has been with the department for 20 years. He has experience in Youth and Sex Crimes, Narcotics and is a chartered member of the Community-Oriented Police Program. Calhoun received a bachelor of arts degree from Winston-Salem State University.

Bolton briefed the DHA board on his three mobile precincts - motor coaches that move a 50-person command anywhere in the county. They were purchased with confiscated drug funds.

Citing what he called a national standard of 2.7 police officers per 1000 population, Bolton said DeKalb has only 1.3 per thousand.

“That interpolates,” he said, “into a need for 800 more police officers for a major urban city.”

He said he was working with the DeKalb County commission on a plan to add 200 officers in each of the next four years, but said competition for trained personnel from counties such as Gwinnett and cities like Atlanta will make it difficult.

Bolton also responded to reports that the expansion of the North Precinct’s boundaries had reduced the number of officers on patrol in Dunwoody and Brookhaven.

He said nine additional officers were reallocated to the area so that current patrols are maintained.

The chief also pledged to work with the DHA on code enforcement. One of Bolton’s deputies said code enforcement force was well understaffed, but hiring was underway.

Monday, October 8, 2007

7th most influential? Yeah, I just ask silly questions and post everything I find on-line.

For a little neighborhood blog, I guess I had a good couple of weeks?

Two things drive me to do the things I do.
When I have the ability to make a difference,
I have a responsibility to do so.

Transparency in Government breeds self-corrective behavior.

Tomorrow, I am expecting news out of Dunwoody regarding the DeKalb Police Department. I am also hoping for a response to questions and an open records request which is already over due from the County Parks Department as well as a possible update on park security improvements requested by residents who use the dog park. We'll see what happens?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dunwoody Rotary Club’s "Clear Vision" Cause for Kids

Do you have a pair of children’s prescription glasses that aren't being used any longer? See “green” and donate them to a worthy cause. Dunwoody High School and Peachtree Charter Middle School are supporting an international service project sponsored by the Dunwoody Rotary Club.

In February 2008, a team of volunteer eye doctors from Dunwoody will travel to Costa Rica, administer free eye exams to Costa Rican children, and give away appropriate prescription eyeglasses from the donations they have received. Boxes have already been placed in the Front Offices of DHS & PCMS where you can donate children's eye glasses (please put in Ziploc bags). In the coming weeks there will also be a collection box in the office of Chesnut Charter Elementary School as well. Once the eye glasses are received, they will be analyzed for prescription.

The drive will continue through January 15, 2008. Give a child the gift of vision by allowing him or her to see the world more clearly. Direct questions by e-mail to Rick Otness of the Dunwoody Rotary Club at

Benefit Dunwoody Nature Center While You Shop At Bloomingdale's!

On October 25, 2007 Dunwoody Nature Center will be part of the Bloomingdale's Shopping Day at both Lenox and Perimeter Malls. You may purchase your ticket for $10 at Dunwoody Nature Center, with all $10 going to DNC. Shop anytime from 10 am to 10 pm on October 25, and receive a 15% to 20% discount on top of the sales prices in the store. Not only that, a bonus of $5 will be paid to DNC for every ticket presented at the door.

Last year, many DNC supporters shopped and walked out with stacks of items and hadn't spent $50! Don't miss it! You will see special presentations, entertainment and appetizers all over the store. Come join the fun - all this for $10 to a favorite cause, Dunwoody Nature Center. Everyone benefits! For more information, call Dunwoody Nature Center at 770-394-3322.

Get your tickets today!

Dunwoody Nature Center
5343 Roberts Drive
Dunwoody, GA 30338

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

DeKalb Police Cancels "Meet the Chief" in Dunwoody

This morning the DeKalb Police Department put out a notice that they have canceled the "Meet the Chief" scheduled for October 27th at Perimeter Mall.

Maybe it's due to the request of the dog walkers and others in the community so they can reschedule it for the Auditorium at Brook Run Park?

When that meeting is rescheduled, I will be asking if the Police are receiving daily reports from the one contracted security officer for suspicious activity or incident reports. DeKalb Facilities Management and the DeKalb Parks Department oversees this contract and should be demanding daily door & window security checks for the vacant buildings. This wasn't happening in the past and the buildings they were trying to save were being badly vandalized. I thought that this was corrected by requiring the security officer to actually get out of the car but maybe it isn't? 07.pdf

Canceled - MEET the CHIEF “A New Start … A New Beginning”

Chief Bolton will meet and greet DeKalb citizens and will share his vision for the future of the DeKalb County Police Department. Meet the North Precinct Commanders and Staff. Meet Representatives from various Police Services and Departments.

10 am – 2pm

PERIMETER MALL parking lot corner of
Ashford Dunwoody Road & Perimeter Center West

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Brook Run Thieves caught by tip from dog walkers

By Rob Suggs For The Crier

Just a walk in the park—nothing could seem safer or more pleasant on a weekend morning. Yet some Dunwoody residents are discovering that even such a public, outdoor setting may not be that secure. The Henry Jones Dog Park at Brook Run, a fenced area where unleashed animals can enjoy the outdoors, is a popular destination for pet enthusiasts. The area is situated at the rear of the park, however, far from traffic and the on-duty security guards who monitor daily activities at Brook Run.

On September 22, a Dunwoody woman was walking her two dogs at the park when she noticed a suspicious man near one of the park's unused dorm buildings. The man had backed his blue GMC pickup truck close to the facility. As soon as the dog-walker, who prefers not to be named, became curious, a second individual materialized. This one, a woman driving a Nissan, struck up a vague conversation on the subject of dogs.

“It occurred to me that this woman was trying to distract me while her partner did whatever he was doing,” said the regular park user. “Then I saw the man carrying something out of the building, and I just decided I didn’t want to be around anymore.”

The following morning, however, she decided to walk her two dogs again. She immediately noticed the same two people and their vehicles, and she checked in immediately with the security guard.

“They claimed to be joggers,” the guard told her. “But they seemed a little suspicious to me.” The guard called 911, and the call resulted in five arrests; the original two individuals, who were taking items from the abandoned building, had brought three additional accomplices on Sunday morning.

Items removed included copper wiring and air-conditioning equipment. DeKalb police investigator S. Jones said that apparently the thieves were crystal methylamphetamine users desperate to procure anything they might sell for drug money.

The incident has once again raised the issue of public safety in North DeKalb parks. Laine Sweezey, president of Just a Walk in the Park (, a volunteer organization of Henry Jones Dog Park supporters, voiced a growing concern about the questionable location of the pet area, distant as it is from traffic and park security.

“It’s not uncommon for dog park visitors to find themselves alone in the park,” she comments. “The isolation is a little scary sometimes. We’re aware that no one would hear screams for help.”

Sweezey also said out that she has found the police and even the park security guards very slow in addressing problems that come up occasionally. She is currently renewing her efforts to arrange safety training by local law enforcement officials.

News of the recent arrests has left a number of park users nervous about their use of the outdoor areas—especially those who haven’t heard the news may be more at risk, for they may not realize that even a walk in the park should be undertaken with common-sense caution.

“I’ve been out there early in the morning, all by myself, too often,” said the woman who surprised the thieves. “We all need to just be a little more observant.”

Monday, October 1, 2007

DeKalb Police - Road to Success Action Plan

In the previous post, the County had a total of 966 officers in 2005.
The table above shows only 563 officers working in the precincts in 2008. Is the police administration and Special Operations that top heavy or have officer losses been that drastic?

Below are the highlights of Chief Bolton's Road to Success Action Plan, but the complete plan found in the link above shows 57 pages of information including proposed organizational charts, prospective costs, statistics on manpower, crime rates, and the use of deadly force.

This “Road to Success Action Plan” is a comprehensive roadmap that details the needs of the department (capital needs not included) to meet the demands of DeKalb County citizens. The police department can not continue operating at minimal levels. The department has to implement a long range strategy that is consistent with growing trends. This proposal outlines the essential tools needed to accomplish this effort.

Organizational Structure
First, a well defined organizational structure ensures operational objectives are met and provides effective communication and accountability. The structure must overlay the department’s transitioning from Traditional Policing to Interactive Community Policing. In doing so, the department will need to add positions that will support this new direction. The new structure implemented on June 15, 2007 is included within this report.

Additional Police Officers
Secondly, the staffing shortage within the DeKalb County Police department is at a critical stage and must be addressed. The department is understaffed by more than eight hundred (800) officers according to the national average. The national average is 2.7 officers per 1000 residents. DeKalb County currently has 1.4 officers per 1000 residents. The department should hire two hundred (200) police officers per year for the next four (4) years to improve staffing and provide police presence in the community.

Pay Enhancement
Thirdly, recruiting and retention will also be paramount during this process. In an effort to compete with other agencies, it will be imperative that the department develop an attractive compensation package for officers. In addition to an annual merit increase, the department is proposing an eight (8%) salary increase for sworn personnel over the next three (3) years.

Reinstatement of Tasers
Fourth, in an effort to preserve life, the department is seeking an additional alternative to using deadly force. After thoroughly researching the pros and cons of Tasers, the department has decided to redeploy Tasers to patrol officers. Currently, the department has one hundred thirtyfive (135) Tasers. An additional four hundred forty three (443) Tasers are needed to equip all patrol officers.

Video Cameras in Patrol Cars
Fifth, transparency is paramount as the department seeks to restore the public’s trust. Video cameras and audio systems installed in all patrol cars will provide a record for investigations for both police officers and citizens. This advanced technology will also enhance training throughout the department.

Take Home Car Program
Sixth, as the department transitions to Interactive Community Policing, it will be imperative that officers are readily available, equipped to address problems and react to community concerns. Providing officers with take home cars will not only satisfy this need, but also help retain seasoned officers.

Mobile Storefronts
Seventh, fighting crime and keeping DeKalb County citizens safe is the department’s number one priority. Adding three (3) additional Mobile Storefronts, used as mobile police precincts, will help combat crime, the fear of crime and allow the officers and the community to find new solutions to address crime. Finally, as you review this comprehensive “Road to Success Action Plan”, please note that the department is critically challenged on many levels and there is an immediate need for rapid improvements.

North Precinct meets with Dunwoody North to discuss staffing

In 2005, DeKalb Police reported having 966 officers.

On Tuesday September 18th, I posted questions I had regarding changes made to the police precincts especially as it related to the quality of services for the Dunwoody area. In the posting, I stated that I would follow up with the police department for clarification. On Friday, I met with Major Gilstrap of the North Precinct for an hour and a half who clarified the press release maps which I thought showed the Dunwoody Area going from six patrols down to three.

The reality is that there are only three patrols normally assigned to Dunwoody and the other patrol assignments shown on the old map were just radio log in numbers for those times when a second officer is actually assigned to the area. I have copied all of the e-mail correspondence between the Dunwoody North Civic Association & the DeKalb Police Department into the comments of the original post.

Much of our time was spent discussing the manpower challenges & Chief Bolton’s “Road to Success Action Plan”. I have attached a copy of the full 57 page document on line.