20th Anniversary Tour of Homes Set for December 6-7

2014 VHTH Logo_OL

Mark your calendars now for the 2014 VaHi Tour of Homes – the 20th anniversary of one of the best home tours in Atlanta - set for Saturday and Sunday December 6-7. This year’s tour will showcase seven homes and the Church of Our Saviour on N. Highland Ave. across from the firehouse, with each stop including a food tasting from one of your favorite local restaurants. It’s a great way to celebrate the holidays in the ‘hood. Tour, eat and shop…all right here in VaHi!

Click here for more information and be sure to like our Facebook page to receive important updates as the event approaches and to have a chance at giveaways including free TOH tickets as well as gift certificates to local businesses.

Battle of the Burgers Returns to VaHi

hamburgerThe Battle of the Burgers returns to John Howell Park this Saturday October 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

2014 marks the event’s fifth year as up to 25 of your favorite Atlanta restaurants fire up their grills and compete for the best burger title. Attendees can look forward to savoring signature burgers, while enjoying live music and cold beer. Prizes will be awarded for The People’s Choice Best Burger and for Judges’ Choice Best Burger.

Event organizers are also hosting a 5K road race starting at 9:00 a.m. at John Howell Park on the morning of the event.

Click here for more information including ticket prices, a list of participating restaurants – some from VaHi – and judges. You can also purchase tickets and sign up for the road race on the website.

Volunteers Needed for Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful Fall Clean Up

KVHB Fall Cleanup PhotoPassing along the following from our friends at Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful…

Join residents and business owners in a fall cleanup of the neighborhood. This is the kick-off for our efforts to having N. Highland Avenue looking in top shape for the upcoming holiday season.

For Volunteers:

  • Meet in front of American Roadhouse restaurant (coffee and biscuits will be served). If you can’t be there at 8:30 am, join us at any point in the morning!
  • Bring work gloves, rakes, weed spray, gas powered weed whackers, small scrapers for sticker removal, etc.
  • We will provide trash bags and latex gloves
  • Can’t make it on the 18th? Go for a walk in the neighborhood any day. Take a trash bag and pick up litter as you go.
  • Parents, please consider bringing (or volunteering) your teens to help. This would make a good volunteer project for any youth group or to meet high school volunteer requirements.

For Business Owners:

  • Volunteer staff to work alongside residents
  • Hire someone to do extra clean up around your business
  • Donate supplies or refreshments for volunteers
  • Consider what you can do to improve the appearance of your storefront – perhaps it’s time for some new planters and fall pansies. See Mica at Intown Ace Hardware for guidance on what to plant
  • Don’t neglect parking areas. This is often the first thing your patrons see driving into the neighborhood.
  • Partner with nearby businesses and hire someone to do regular cleanup of your whole block, or shared parking area.
  • Make sure trash is making it all the way into the dumpster and dumpster doors/lids are kept closed.
  • Have graffiti on your building? Contact the Graffiti Task Force for help. graffiti@vahi.org

Questions? Contact Kay Stephenson kay.stephenson@gmail.com (404) 431-2603, or Tim Langan t_langan@hotmail.com (678) 464-7268.

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KeepVirginiaHighlandBeautiful

 

It’s Almost Time to Tour!

2014-Tour-of-Homes-DatesYES! It’s finally Autumn in VaHi and the air is cooler, the leaves are falling AND the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes committee is in FULL SWING preparing for our neighborhood’s next big event. The 2014 Tour of Homes is set for the first weekend in December, Saturday and Sunday the 6th and 7th. Our committee has been working hard all year to ensure the success of this year’s tour.

This year’s line up of homes features seven incredible homes and one historic church. Each home is uniquely designed and decorated and represents the charming characteristics of our neighborhood. The Church of our Saviour is included this year, giving tour goers a special look inside a historic landmark and one of the oldest church communities in VaHi.

IMG_6360One of the highlights of the tour remains the delicious food tastings served in each home along the tour. Local favorites like LaTavola, Murphy’s, Highland Tap, Fontaine’s, Atkins Park, Timone’s, Noche, El Taco and San Francisco Coffee are back. New to the tour this year: Moore Farms & Friends and Tapa Tapa.

To make the tour more festive this year, we are very excited to have the Grady High School Chorus and Jazz Band performing live holiday music and carols throughout our community streets, restaurants and shops.

Each year the tour just keeps getting bigger and better. So many people make this fundraising event possible in order improve the quality of life in our community. The funds raised by the Tour of Homes go to support various projects in our neighborhood including playground/park improvements, sidewalks, safety, traffic concerns, planning and preservation and other community efforts.

DSC06097So far, 2014 ToH has raised $32,500 in sponsorships alone. This does not include tickets sales. Hopefully Mother Nature will provide the clear skies and perfect temps to bring out tour goers.

Please visit our website vahitourofhomes.org for more detailed information on the times, the homes, the sponsors and the restaurants. There’s a map of the tour and some “teaser” pictures of our featured homes. You can purchase tickets on the website, as well.

This is a great weekend to kick off your holidays. TOUR, EAT and SHOP in the charming neighborhood we all call home. Remember, ToH tickets make great gifts, day dates, girls trips and family memories!

Hope to see you all out & about,

Angelika Taylor

 

Agenda: October VHCA Monthly Board and General Meeting

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBFollowing is the tentative agenda for the Monday October 13 monthly Board/General meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association:

Call to Order

Adoption of Agenda

Welcome from Reverend Zachary Thompson

Police & Fire Dept. representatives: Zone 6

City of Atlanta officials; other public officials & municipal representatives

Variances

V-14--200; 841 Virginia Circle (SW corner of De Leon Ave.); the zoning is R-4 in the BeltLine Overlay.

Applicant Cathie Magnan Power (on behalf of owners Allan & Lori Levy) seeks a variance to reduce the required half-depth front yard setback (along De Leon Ave.,  on the west) from 17.5’ (existing) to 8’ to allow for a rear addition (with a garage underneath) to an existing single-family dwelling.

The addition will be level with the main floor of the existing home; garage access will be from De Leon Avenue.   A new terrace will act as a rain garden to capture stormwater.  Unrelated to this project, concrete from an old parking pad in the very rear of the lot adjacent to a very old oak tree will be removed by hand. Letters of notification were sent on 9/29/14 to 825, 826, 840, 843, & 844 Virginia Aves and 828, 840, & 846 Adair Avenue.

The Planning Committee unanimously recommended approval conditioned on the applicant’s provision of a revised site plan stamped by the City showing elevations and better tree details.

V-14-213; 815 Drewry St. NE.   Deferred at request of applicant.

V-14-197; 657 Cresthill; the zoning is R-4 

Applicants and owners Kasey Libbey seek a variance to reduce the west sideyard setback from 7′ (required) to 3′ to allow a new addition and deck on the rear of the property.

The proposed additions total 1081 s.f. and bring the lot coverage to 50%. Two boundary trees (a 36’ hardwood and a 24” pine) will be lost. Though the applicant’s infiltration test suggests that no formal mitigation is required by city regulations, they are adding a 65 s.f. rain garden at the southwest corner to accommodate new stormwater.

The Planning Committee unanimously recommended approval based on the applicant’s provision of a revised site plan matching that one signed at the Planning Committee meeting that included the rain garden. (Mr. Bulloch did not participate in this vote.)

2014/15 Committee Appointments:

  • Communication: John Becker, Chair; Lola Carlisle
  • Finance: Peggy Berg and Jack White (ex-officio), Co-Chairs; Lola Carlisle; Jess Windham
  • Fundraising – Summerfest: John Becker & Paige Hewitt, Co-Chairs, Lola Carlisle, Pam Papner.
  • Fundraising – Tour of Homes: Robin Ragland & Angelika Taylor, Co-Chairs; Lola Carlisle
  • Parks: David Brandenberger, Chair; John Becker, Lauren Fralick, Colleen Lysen, Jack White
  • Planning: (rotating chairs); David Brandenberger, Chip Bullock; Lola Carlisle; Karen Feigh, Jenifer Keenan, George Van Horne, Jack White, Jess Windham
  • Safety: Peggy Berg, Chair

Appointments to the Virginia-Highland Conservation League (VHCL) Board (term is three years): Genny Ferrero, Judy Potter, Jack White

ToH update – Angelika, Robin

Music Midtown update – Jack

JHP construction update – David

Calendar update – Lola

New Business

Adjournment

15th Annual Trees Atlanta Tree Sale Set for This Saturday October 4

image001This year, Trees Atlanta’s Annual Tree Sale—its fifteenth!—will be held at the nearby Carter Center. This new venue offers more space for the 1,500+ plants available for sale, as well as much more available parking.

The Tree Sale & Jamboree, held rain or shine, will offer trees, shrubs, perennials, and tree-safe vines for sale. It’s the best selection in town, including over 200 native and exotic species.

Click on the link below for more information.

15th Annual Tree Sale & Jamboree!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Freedom Farmers’ Market at The Carter Center

453 Freedom Parkway NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Druid Hills Child Development Center Celebrates 45th Anniversary

Passing along the following from our friends at the Druid Hills Child Development Center…

The mission of the Druid Hills Child Development Center is to develop children socially, emotionally and cognitively, to encourage their curiosity, and to help them realize their full potential. We define quality as an environment that inspires children’s natural curiosity and believe children learn best through doing. We partner with families to support them in their role as their child’s first and most important teachers and believe that through this partnership we create a foundation for a child’s future success.

Join us to celebrate Druid Hills Child Development Center’s 45th anniversary of meeting the needs of working families in the midtown Atlanta community! The evening will consist of a center tour, curriculum displays by our educational staff, and time to visit with new and old friends. We are proud of our history and want an opportunity to show you how the center has grown and developed over the years and to connect with current and past families as well as community members.

For further information please contact us at info@dhcdc.com. Visit us at www.dhcdc.com for a snapshot of our center.

Horizon Theatre Invites VaHi Residents to Check Out Their Current Production

detroit regular

Passing along the following from our friends at Horizon Theatre in Little Five Points…

Just down the street in neighboring Little Five Points, Horizon Theatre has been producing plays for Atlanta audiences for 30 years. Committed to connecting people and their communities, we are consistently on the front end, helping to carve out the local artistic scene. Horizon invites audiences to experience a wide variety of ideas and points of view with seasons full of regional and world premieres from playwrights both local and national.

Currently running at Horizon Theatre is Lisa D’Amour’s Pulitzer Prize finalist play, Detroit. In a suburb of a mid-sized American city, Ben and Mary see sudden signs of life at the long empty house next door and invite their young, hip new neighbors Sharon and Kenny over for a cookout. Upwardly mobile Ben and Mary are drawn to these live-in-the-moment recovering party animals like moths to a flame. As they bond over backyard barbecues, the neighborly connection they find threatens to unravel the lives they’ve built and change them forever. Ecstatic and dangerously funny, Detroit rips up the floorboards to reveal the racing heart under the suburban dream.

D’Amour writes, “What if two very different couples suddenly became neighbors, and decided to open themselves up to each other? Detroit, even with all its strange and startling turns, is ultimately a play about the potential within people to imagine, discover, and continually unearth secrets about each other and the world.”

We would love to have our neighbors from Virginia-Highland come down the street to enjoy an evening at our theater! Detroit runs until October 19th with performances Wednesday through Sunday. Please visit www.horizontheatre.com or contact Tim Harland at groups@horizontheatre.com for more information. Tickets may be purchased online or through our box office by calling (404) 584-7450.

Streets Alive Returns to VaHi September 28

Save the date for the next Atlanta Streets Alive: Sunday, September 28 from 2-6 pm.

The route (see map below) is a 4.5 mile loop on N. Highland + Highland + Boulevard + North Avenue — similar to the one that drew over 83,000 Atlantans to run, walk, dance and play in the streets last year! Five amazing Atlanta neighborhoods, connected by open streets for all.

Click here for more information on this great event organized by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. 

Click here for a list of road closures and locations where vehicles can cross the event route.

ASA_FALL-2014_MAP_071014-67-1024x765

Get Your Tickets Now for the 2nd Annual BeltLine Wine Stroll

logo-4Oenophiles and food lovers rejoice as the second annual BeltLine Wine Stroll will be held Saturday September 27. The mile-long wine tasting event will take place along the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine from 1 – 5 p.m. Attendees will visit twenty restaurants and businesses, from Poncey-Highland through Inman Park to the Old Fourth Ward, while enjoying sips of various vinos and discovering new venues along the iconic BeltLine.

Proceeds from the event will benefit phase two improvement projects at Springvale Park as well as the Inman Park Security Patrol.

The following venues will feature a selected wine and light appetizers:

Tickets for the event are $40 and can be purchased online. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit https://beltlinewinestroll.eventbrite.com/ and like us on Facebook.

Eclectic Music Announces Free, Live VaHi Performance

EclecticKidsAnybody up for some ‘busking’ late Friday afternoon?

A group of advanced students from VaHi’s own music school Eclectic Music will be busking – performing, in this case, music in a public place – from 5:00 – 6:30 PM at the intersection of Virginia and N. Highland Avenues. Look for them at the triangle island in front of Taco Mac.

Eclectic’s event coordinator Emma Gies explains how the busking is a win-win for the students and the neighborhood.

“We want to give our higher-level students the experience of playing in public, and playing on the corner is a fun, relaxed way to do that,” Gies says. “Most of the students live in or near the neighborhood, so by busking in VaHi they can work on their performance skills in a familiar setting, and at the same time contribute to the neighborhood’s lively atmosphere.”

Busk on, Eclectic Music performers!

2014 Annual General Meeting Recap

The SPARK Advanced Chorus performed before the meeting.

The SPARK Advanced Chorus performed before the meeting.

The 2014 Annual General Meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association was held Thursday September 18 at the Inman Middle School cafeteria. Approximately 75 residents were in attendance.

The meeting opened with a performance by the Music@SPARK Advanced Chorus under the direction of Ms. Brianne Turgeon. The chorus performed several songs that were warmly received by those in attendance. This is the third year in a row the annual meeting has opened with a performance by the SPARK Advanced Chorus and VHCA very much appreciates their participation.

The SPARK Advanced Chorus is directed by Ms. Brianne Turgeon

The SPARK Advanced Chorus is directed by Ms. Brianne Turgeon

Community Recognition

The following city officials were recognized and made comments at the meeting:

  • Atlanta City Council District 6 Representative Alex Wan was recognized for his thoughtful and steadfast support of the Virginia-Highland Master Plan.
  • Lawrence Jeter, with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Public Works, was recognized for exemplary and outstanding public service to the citizens of Atlanta and Virginia-Highland. Jeter was VHCA Board Member Peggy Berg’s primary city contact with respect to the sidewalk repairs made in Virginia-Highland over the past two years.
  • VHCA President Jack White presents Cory Rayburn, with the city's Department of Stormwater Management, with an award plaque.

    VHCA President Jack White presents Cory Rayburn, with the city’s Department of Stormwater Management, with an award plaque.

    Cory Rayburn, with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Stormwater Management, was recognized for exemplary and outstanding service to the citizens of Atlanta and Virginia-Highland for his work in creating and implementing the city’s stormwater ordinance.

Other elected officials in attendance:

  • Andre Dickens, Atlanta City Council, Post 3 at Large
  • Mary Norwood, Atlanta City Council, Post 2 at Large
PEDS Executive Director Sally Flocks accepts a grant for her organization. VHCA Board Member Peggy Berg on left.

PEDS Executive Director Sally Flocks accepts a grant for her organization. VHCA Board Member Peggy Berg on left.

Election of Officers

The VHCA Nominating Committee formally introduced the following candidates for seats on the 2014-15 VHCA Board of Directors. All candidates were confirmed in the election that followed and will serve for the upcoming board year.

  • John Becker (incumbent)
  • Peggy Berg (incumbent)
  • David Brandenberger (incumbent)
  • Lola Carlisle (incumbent)
  • Paige Hewell (incumbent)
  • Jenifer Keenan (incumbent)
  • Robin Ragland (new board member)
  • Angelika Hedlund Taylor (new board member)
  • Jack White (incumbent)
  • Lauren Wilkes Fralick (incumbent)
  • Jess Windham (incumbent)
VHCA resident Stephanie Coffin accepts a grant that will fund completion of the tile mosaic she started last year at Intown Ace Hardware.

VHCA resident Stephanie Coffin accepts a grant that will fund completion of the tile mosaic she started last year at Intown Ace Hardware.

Retiring board member Genny Ferrero was recognized and thanked for her three years of service.

Grants and Community Gifts Awarded

The VHCA announced the awarding of the following charitable grants for 2013. A total of $21,000 in grants and community gifts was awarded.

  • Grady High PTA: $2,000
  • Grady High College and Career Connection: $1,000
  • Inman Middle School PTA: $3,000
  • Springdale Park Elementary School PTO: $3,000
  • Atlanta Bicycle Coalition: $1,400
  • Open Door Community: $1,000
  • Church of Our Saviour: $750
  • Virginia-Highland Church: $750
  • Ponce de Leon Public Library: $3,000
  • PEDS: $500
  • Trees Atlanta: $3,800
  • Stephanie Coffin: $500

Click here to view a video of the meeting in its entirety.

Hope Hill Elementary Needs Your Help

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 1.32.55 PMPassing this along from Inman Middle School PTA Co-Presidents Regina Brewer and Alex Coffman…

Our neighborhoods are very fortunate to be home to some of the best schools in the state of Georgia. Grady Cluster schools are high performing and richly diverse which enhances the children’s education experience. Hope Hill Elementary School is one of the feeder schools to Inman Middle and Grady High.  Hope Hill is making incredible progress under the dynamic leadership of Principal Maureen Wheeler but it still faces many challenges for a school comprised of a student population of over 85% eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Inman Middle PTA is reaching out to the community to ask for assistance and mentoring for this school. Angela Lewis, Hope Hill and Inman Middle parent, provided us with a list of needs.  Please reach out to her at angela.dhati@gmail.com and help these wonderful kids to achieve success.

  • Functionality and Beautification
    • Redoing the foyer with a fresh idea and welcome, academic atmosphere
      • There are three trophy cases that need something nice displayed and a bulletin board that needs a welcoming display.
    • Photography–we need some candid shots of students and activities and put in frames around the school (black and white).
    • Need a flag for the flagpole
    • Need mini blinds for all classrooms and cafeteria replaced (they are very old and many don’t work)
    • Teacher workroom needs a facelift.
    • Need new planters in front of building.
  • Interaction with the Students
    • Need 3 volunteers on each of the following days: Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 1030-1230 in the cafeteria helping with the monitoring, the line movement, efficiency and cleanup
    • Tutoring children—Wednesday 2:45-3:45pm every week. If interested, please email John Child, our parent liaison at jc@mentalfitnessatl.org
    •  We are interested in providing after school clubs to our students and would welcome ideas and support.
  • Programs
    • Fall Festival, Friday Oct 17, 5-730pm
      • Need tons of volunteers and stations for games—we currently don’t have game, popcorn, rides, cotton candy stations, etc.
    • Career Day, April 24th, all day
    • Field Day, May 15th, 9-1pm
  • Financially
    • PTA has about $800 in the bank. Financial support could provide supplies to teachers and students and provide programs to our children.
  • Support
    • JOIN THE PTA
      • It is only $5 per person!
    • Provide dinner for one of the PTA meetings, once a month on Thursday.
      • We need Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, April and May; usually the 2nd Thursday of the month
    • Provide food for Terrific Thursdays, once a month
      • We use this to appreciate our teachers and encourage them with a free lunch

Road Closure Information for Music Midtown 2014

MusicMidtown2014-poster copyMusic Midtown returns to Piedmont Park Friday and Saturday September 19 & 20. There will be road closures starting as early as September 12 for festival setup and continuing through September 21 for tear down.

Click here for a text list of known road closures by date. For a Powerpoint presentation (pdf) showing the road closures, one page per day, click here.

VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers Set for September 18

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01The Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s annual general meeting and election of officers will be held Thursday September 18th in the Inman Middle School cafeteria, starting at 6:30 PM. Please be sure to bring your ID or recent utility bill in your name as proof of residency. Regular civic association business will be conducted at the VHCA’s monthly board and general meeting to be held September 8 at 6:30 PM at the public library on Ponce de Leon Ave.

The VHCA board consists of ten members and one alternate who are elected to one-year terms by residents at the annual meeting. There’s also an ‘Atkins Park designee’ board member who is chosen by the Atkins Park Homeowners Association prior to the annual meeting.

The alternate member has historically functioned as a full board member, but formally votes only if another member is not present. The VaHi resident getting the fewest votes of the top eleven residents receiving votes in the election serves as the alternate member.

Our neighborhood thrives because of a high level of volunteer involvement by residents in a variety of areas. The framework for much of this volunteerism is provided through VHCA’s committees: Budget, Fundraising (Summerfest, Tour of Homes), Planning, Preservation and History, Parks, Safety, Education and Communications.  Click here for a complete list of the association’s committees, their areas of responsibility and their current chairs/members.

Click here for a list of those serving on the current VHCA board. Any of these board members would be glad to talk with you about the responsibilities and time commitments associated with board service and will be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Many citizens reach the board after serving on a committee, but this is not a specific requirement for running.  If you’d like to run for a seat on the board, please send an email to communications@vahi.org with your name, contact info, a short bio, and a few comments on how and why you’d like to get involved. A list of all residents running for the board with bios will be published on vahi.org and included in The Voice e-newsletter prior to the September 18 annual meeting.

We encourage all VaHi residents to attend the annual meeting and make your voice heard. Again, please be sure to bring your ID or recent utility bill in your name as proof of residency. The more residents we have at the meeting, the more the VHCA’s 2014-15 leadership will reflect the collective thoughts and goals of our community.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at our annual meeting in September.

VHCA, Ansley, Midtown, MLPA, City Council Members Join to Study Event Impacts and Processes

By: Jack White

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBThe Virginia-Highland Civic Association is joining three other neighborhood groups around Piedmont Park and several City Council Members in sponsoring and paying for a study of the impacts of large events (such as this coming weekend’s Music Midtown) on traffic flows, parking impacts, and safety issues. Community groups do not commonly initiate such analyses, and the decision to do one in this instance was neither obvious nor simple; it was arrived at and took shape incrementally. Here’s some background.

Music Midtown’s entertainment lineup is extensive and popular, and many citizens from intown neighborhoods (including ours) will attend and enjoy it. So will tens of thousands of citizens from more distant neighborhoods. These visitors are always welcome – Piedmont Park is a great destination – but the accompanying traffic snarls and the inevitable and extensive closing or limited access to parts of (or entire) streets and disruption to work, school, and neighborhood life are real challenges.

While Music Midtown is a “Class A” festival – the city’s classification for its largest category (> 50,000 attendees) – and is staging its largest event ever (and anticipates its biggest crowds ever), these effects occur in varying degrees with other festivals, too. The impacts of the Dogwood Festival, the Peachtree Road Race, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, and the Red Bull Soap Box Derby are felt in adjacent residential neighborhoods in ways that are difficult to fully appreciate for those who don’t live there. Even events that consciously set out to be ‘green’ can’t escape producing most of these impacts.

Some amount of inconvenience may be viewed as a burden residents should accept in exchange for living near a nice park; that argument has a kernel of merit, but it is not limitless. It doesn’t address the reality that both the frequency and scope of such events have grown steadily over the last decade, and neither shows any sign of abating. Music Midtown’s projected attendance for this year, for example, is 80,000 compared to 50,000 last year.

More significantly, the methods of anticipating and mitigating the widespread local impacts – i.e., the basic planning processes – have not expanded to match the scope and complexity of the various events. Significant important pieces – particularly meaningful and effective neighborhood inputs – are not present in the planning stages; they are post-facto at best.

That reality was never more apparent than in an early August meeting of a number of relevant parties hosted by Council Member Mary Norwood, at which the sometimes conflicting and often only partially-defined responsibilities, views, knowledge, concerns, roles, and purviews of a variety of agencies – several APD units, Park Atlanta, Public Works, neighborhood planning agencies, the event applicants – were on full display. Trying to make all this coherent was the Mayor’s Office of Special Events Director Ebony Barley, a very bright and knowledgeable woman who diligently tried to bring order and clarity to a swirl of regulations and practices, both written and de facto.

There were a few head-slapping moments, among them learning that the city’s Public Works Department – home to its own official traffic expertise – has an extremely limited formal role in the review of such events. Challenges about other fundamental issues – how impact fees are calculated and their relationship to street and lane closures (if any), the goals of the safety plan, the adequacy of coordination with Atlanta Public Schools, the varying reliability of attendance estimates, the absence of incentivized mass transit and formal agreements and shuttles with existing parking purveyors, the impacts on closing the bike lanes on 10th Street, et al – abounded.

That an independent, outside review and a much more comprehensive approach to these (and many other challenges) were greatly needed seemed to us abundantly obvious. Ms. Barley’s support for more clarity and better coordination was quite plain to see.

We subsequently asked for suggestions from our longtime consultant, Aaron Fortner, who approached Nelson-Nygaard, nationally-known traffic analysts with an Atlanta office, and asked them to consider the task. That firm was picked specifically because they did the traffic study for the Atlanta BeltLine plan; they know the area, and the City of Atlanta Planning’s staff knows them.

Joel Mann of Nelson-Nygaard developed a proposal for a traffic and parking study that will use this year’s Music Midtown event as an exemplar to examine traffic and parking, study local community impacts, examine the City’s processes and agencies to see what improvements are possible, look at best practices from other cities, and make recommendations designed to improve the city’s approaches to such events.

Though noise is sometimes a complaint, this is not being studied, mostly because the complexity and amount of effort required for a comprehensive evaluation would have made the whole project prohibitively expensive. That topic will have to wait.

Also not being examined here are long-range impacts on the park, which can be extensive. While the sponsors typically pay the direct costs of repairs in such instances – as with last year’s Music Midtown “Mud Bowl” – the ‘cost’ to citizens of having the newly-sodded area in restricted use for a number of months was not evaluated at all, as best we can tell. Such costs – if desired – can be estimated and valued using a variety of means.

The goal of this study is not to ‘stop’ Music Midtown or any such event; it is to streamline and coordinate existing processes, improve traffic flows, improve timely communication between all parties (including event organizers and local citizens), identify and measure safety challenges, bring the city’s considerable existing resources into play as much as possible, and develop a more comprehensive and inclusive approach.

Such a study will not be inexpensive. Nelson-Nygaard’s proposal (revised after meetings with various local neighborhoods and council staffs) outlined a cost of $24,000. In August the VHCA Board kick-started the fundraising process with a $7000 allocation. The Ansley Park Civic Association and the Midtown Neighborhood Association are formally supporting the proposal, including financially.   Morningside/Lenox’s (MLPA) support is pending and anticipated.

Two City Council district members – Alex Wan (who represents VaHi, Morningside, and Ansley) and Kwanza Hall (who represents Midtown) are on board for contributions from their discretionary funds, as are At-Large Council Members Norwood and Andre Dickens. We thank them very much; the study could not happen without their contribution and belief in its value. We have asked for – and expect to receive – support from other council members; we will happily announce their decisions as they arrive.

Let’s be clear; no study – no matter how well done it is – will alone change the city’s approaches in this area. But what is certain is that the current rituals we all know so well – a proposal for a huge event, a traffic plan made without any neighborhood input, subsequent complaints from community groups, hastily-called meetings, dueling press releases, generally accurate but anecdotal claims about the event’s impacts, post-facto grumbling and relief (until it’s time to do it all again) – are not at all effective.  We’ve seen that approach year after year; it’s exhausting and unproductive.

The proponents of this study – both council members and neighborhood associations – believe that a study and recommendations from an established firm will provide the basis for a more systematic and effective approach to making changes. We understand that moving from recommendations to changes in practice is a separate journey and will not happen automatically. We want to use the recommendations of a professional agency as a tool to define what questions need to be addressed and to get the process going with the city’s administration and council. Improved outcomes may not be simple, and they are not certain; the report is a beginning, not an end. But we believe this will get the process started in a credible and fact-based framework.

That four local neighborhood associations are united in backing this effort (with the support of district and at-large council members) is significant and important. While all communities share some common impacts, some issues are more acute and specific in each area. Acting in unison has a much greater chance of effectively addressing the challenges than individual approaches. We respect and appreciate all three groups for being part of this.

In the same vein, that both district and at-large council members have already supported this indicates that they too know how much this matters to their constituents. We are all grateful and appreciative for that.

With all these partners and with a more comprehensive study and set of recommendations in hand, we are hopeful that progress can be made over the next year in addressing these seemingly intractable problems.

VHCA Announces Candidates for 2014-15 Board of Directors; Absentee Ballot Available

VaHi-Logo-Very-Horizontal-Small-RGBThe nominating committee of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association presents the following list of candidates, all of whom have declared their candidacy. Click on the candidate’s name to go to a page with candidate bio’s.

Members of the association (18 years of age residing within the official boundaries of Virginia-Highland) may vote at the Annual General Meeting to be held September 18, 2014 at the Inman Middle School Cafeteria starting at 6:30 PM. In order to vote, please bring a copy of a valid ID (GA driver’s license, e.g.) or a utility bill issued within 60 days of the meeting and showing your name and address.

Absentee Ballot

Members may also vote by absentee ballot. Your ballot along with a copy of one of the forms of identification mentioned above may be delivered to the offices of Tailfin Marketing (1246 Virginia Ave.) by noon on Thursday, September 18 or to the Annual Meeting by its start time at 6:30 PM. Please put your ballot in a sealed envelope with the identification documents separately sealed inside or stapled to the outside. (Please cross out specific account or driver license numbers.) After your residency is verified, the identification documents will be removed and destroyed. Your ballot will remain anonymous.

Click here for a copy of the absentee ballot.

2014-15 VHCA Board of Directors Candidate Bios

VaHi-Logo-Very-Horizontal-Small-RGBFollowing are bios for members of the 2014-15 VHCA Board of Directors.

IMG_6945 - Version 2John Becker 

I’ve lived on Rosedale Rd. in VaHi for 13 years and have been an active volunteer in the neighborhood since 2005. My first volunteer experiences were at Summerfest, and I also served as editor of the hard-copy Voice newsletter from 2006 until 2010. I’ve served as volunteer coordinator for Summerfest from 2012-2014, successfully recruiting and managing 200+ volunteers to support the neighborhood’s largest annual fund-raising event. This past year I served as festival co-chair, along with Pamela Papner and Paige Hewell. We hope to return in these roles again in 2015.

I was elected to the VHCA board in 2012 and since then I’ve served as chair of the Communications Committee. In this role I’m responsible for the vahi.org website, serve as editor and business manager for The Voice e-newsletter, manage our social media (VHCA, Summerfest and Tour of Homes Facebook pages and VHCA Twitter account) and generally promote the VaHi brand and raise awareness of association and neighborhood issues through various print and digital media. I also help out when I can as a member of the Parks Committee.

I hope to continue heading up the Communication Committee in 2014-15. We have a very active, involved neighborhood and it’s important that we use all available means to tell our story proudly and in all the right places. I’d also like to continue to provide leadership for Summerfest and to do what I can to preserve and improve VaHi’s awesome green spaces.

board_peggyPeggy Berg

I moved to Virginia Highland in 1984 and have a home, rental property and had a business in the neighborhood. My husband and I raised our two sons here and I served on PTAs for Morningside Elementary, Inman Middle and Grady High Schools. We have always been active in our neighborhood.

Our family is in the hotel business (we own the Hampton Inn Northlake Mall) and I have also been a partner in a consulting firm and an international CPA firm. I have a strong business background. I have chaired several industry and professional organizations. I recently completed a Masters degree from Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy.

I believe that our individual involvement is what makes our neighborhood such a good place to live so I served on the VHCA Board in 2012 and 2013. I work on sidewalks and streets. This year, the City has responded to requests from us with regard to pedestrian signs, street signs, traffic lights and other maintenance items on the streets. We have also been working on a program to improve sidewalks in Virginia Highland and expect to have 227 sidewalk segments replaced by year-end with collaborative funding from VHCA, the City and property owners.

LinkedIn BrandenbergerDavid Brandenberger

I have been a Virginia-Highland homeowner on Rosedale Road for fifteen years. I, my wife and my son, truly love our neighborhood and are committed to supporting, preserving and enhancing its character.

Since living in Virginia-Highland, I have been active with various local activities, including helping to organize block parties, street yard sales, volunteering at SummerFest and the Tour of Homes, and—at various times—working with the City, DeKalb County and other adjoining neighbors to try to remedy various rainwater and sewer-related runoff issues of concern to several homeowners on our street. I have a keen interest in preserving our unique intown neighborhood and the quality of life for all residents it provides.

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with family, gardening, cooking, coaching my son’s soccer team and enjoying our awesome neighborhood and surrounding communities. While serving on the Board this past year, I have had the pleasure to serve on the VHCA Planning Committee and the Parks Committee. I have been involved with and participated particularly in the ongoing renovation work started prior to my time on the Board at the West end of John Howell Park (volleyball court area) and look forward to helping to manage a successful project completion in the near term.

Looking forward, I would like to focus my efforts on the Board specifically with the Parks Committee—where I would be pleased to work with the rest of the Board on other ‘parks and youth sports field-related’ improvements to the neighborhood at John Howell Park, North Highland Park, Orme Park, and potentially the Inman Middle School fields.

Ultimately, I am eager to be of service wherever needed most upon being re-elected and am always open to communication and thoughts from neighborhood residents.  I appreciate your support.

board_lolaLola Carlisle 

I am currently on the VHCA board. I have volunteered with various organizations in Virginia-Highland since 1997. My husband, Tom Beisel, and I have lived in Virginia-Highland at 1030 N. Virginia Ave. since 1993, and are the second family to live at this address! We have a daughter who is 17 years old and has taken advantage of the amazing quality of life we all enjoy here in Virginia-Highland.

Over the years I’ve volunteered with VHMPA, VHCA History & Preservation efforts, PLAN – reporting to the City of Atlanta from Virginia-Highland as the zoning code was revised, the VHCA Planning Committee and various fundraising efforts of VHCA. Having a passion for preservation, I co-authored Images of America – Virginia–Highland history book with Karri Hobson-Pape. The Virginia-Highland History Center, while looking for a better permanent home, is housed at my offices – Tailfin Marketing. Feel free to stop by and talk history.

I hope to continue working with the planning and preservation committees helping to ensure that development in the area supports the neighborhood’s vision. Through proper planning and oversight, Virginia-Highland can represent the best Atlanta has to offer in a vibrant intown neighborhood.

angelika and flowers 4584x6Angelika Hedlund Taylor

Hi…I’m Angelika Taylor. My husband Joe and I moved to Virginia-Highland four years ago with our girls Ally, 16, and Kenzie, 14, to start a new life in the city! Two years ago, we welcomed a baby boy named Jack into our family.

We jumped right into Virginia-Highland headfirst. We bought a house in desperate need of love and affection. I have owned my own business as an interior designer for 14 years. Together, my husband and I run our own company, Taylor and Taylor Homes. We have a passion for renovating homes, selling them and changing neighborhood streets, one house at a time.

Our family is committed to our neighborhood and community. Our girls have both gone through Inman Middle School and are now at Grady High, and Jack attends International Pre School. We believe in shopping local and we can often be spotted at many of the restaurants, bars and shops around VaHi.

Three years ago I took on the challenge of chairing the Tour of Homes committee for the VHCA. TOH is the neighborhood’s second largest fundraiser and, since I’ve chaired the event, proceeds from the tour have grown from $15,000 to over $50,000.  This year should be even better.

If elected to the VHCA board, I’d like to continue my leadership of the Tour of Homes committee, and also look forward to finding new ways to serve the residents of the community that my family and I have grown to love so much.

PicCivicAssocPaige Hewell

I have lived in the neighborhood on Virginia Circle for over a decade. A native Atlantan, I grew up in Buckhead and had little exposure to Va-Hi. I truly love our community and sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of it. Leon, my puppy, is loving the neighborhood as well.

My professional background is marketing. I worked primarily in telecom for 10 years before following an old boss to healthcare. I’ve loved the challenges and education I’ve gained from the switch.

Though a latecomer to neighborhood volunteerism, I have really enjoyed working on the Summerfest organization committee. I became involved in many activities that I had never imagined I would, such as appearing in a TV promo and even fence building. I’ve gotten to know some great people whom I might not have met otherwise. I’ve loved every minute of it.

I look forward to continuing my involvement with Summerfest and serving on the board of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association.

Keenan-jeniferJenifer Keenan 

I am a mom, wife, lawyer, and community activist who has lived in Virginia-Highland for 10 years. I take great pride in our neighborhood and have been an active neighborhood advocate on the BeltLine and important neighborhood issues.

I served as the Secretary of NPU-F for 7 years and a VHCA Board member for 2 years. My service as NPU Secretary and on the VHCA Board have allowed me to develop a deep understanding of the issues facing our neighborhoods and the most effective ways to deal with those challenges. My neighbors, friends, work colleagues and fellow NPU and VHCA board members would all describe me as a “go-getter” – when I see something that needs to be improved or changed, I work hard to make it happen!

Since my election to the VHCA board in 2012, I have served on the Planning and Education Committees. In 2013-2014, I was the co-chair of the VHCA Master Plan subcommittee. The comprehensive Master Plan addresses many of the most important topics facing our community, including zoning and development, historic preservation, traffic, parks and open space, environmental issues. I look forward to serving on the Board for 2014 – 2015 term and plan to focus on implementing the Master Plan.

RBR-VHCARobin Ragland

After joining my husband in retirement in 2006, we relocated to Virginia-Highland from Gwinnett County. We arrived just in time to enjoy our first Dogwood Festival as locals, relax with our new Elmwood neighbors at the annual street party, and volunteer for, as well as have a blast at, our first Summerfest! I soon lost count of how many times we said “what took us so long to move here” while walking to local restaurants and shops. It quickly became apparent that a key component to keeping our neighborhood so vibrant is the continued contributions of volunteers organized and focused through the VHCA.

I’ve continued to volunteer for Summerfest each year in various capacities. In 2012, I began participating in fundraising for the neighborhood by creating items to sell from recycled Summerfest t-shirts. I joined the Tour of Homes committee in 2013, chairing the sponsorship sub-committee; we raised over $30,000! The tour committee is in the midst of preparing for the 2014 tour, and my sub-committee is once again on track to raise another $30,000 for the neighborhood. We are eager to show off our neighborhood during the 2014 tour, and create another great tour next year! I also look forward to expanding my participation in the VHCA by joining the board.

IMG_2755Jack White 

When my (then four-year old) daughter and I moved from Midtown to Virginia-Highland in 1984, we were the two youngest people on the half-block.  If I am not now the oldest, I’m pretty darn close. My particular interests are planning, parks, and public resources, particularly water use and stream issues, a field in which I’ve worked for several decades. Our neighborhood schools that both my kids attended are pretty high on the list too.

I’m grateful for the Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s role in helping shape the history of the community.  If the residents of the late 60’s and early 70’s hadn’t organized and stood together with their allies to the north and south, it’s very likely that most of us wouldn’t be living in – and might not even recognize – this neighborhood today.  The idea of a huge interstate highway cleaving the Old Fourth Ward, clipping the Inman School parking lot, splitting Orme Park, and blasting through our neighborhood and Morningside seems even more preposterous in retrospect than it did then, but I believe it’s accurate to say that the successful struggle to prevent that road’s construction represented the first defeat of its scope for the (then) Georgia Highway Department.  (Thankfully, there would be more, the original huge Presidential Parkway among them.)

It took endless energy and an almost illogical faith in the potential of citizen movements to stop that road.   The lasting gifts of that period include are a tradition of openness and a belief in the power of organization that are as important  today as they were then.  The challenges of our decade are not as obvious nor as dramatic, but the need for a strong and democratic community organization that capably advocates for the neighborhood remains very clear.

I’ve enjoyed serving on the board these last two years.  The experience has made me even more appreciative of the Association’s wide range of activities and the volume of effort that our volunteers expend.   The challenges and occasional frustrations have been more than counterbalanced by the chance to work with large numbers of energetic, humorous, and hardworking optimists who like to get things done.  I’d be pleased to serve another year.

Lauren Wilkes FralickLauren Wilkes Fralick 

Lauren and her husband Frank moved to the neighborhood in 2011. They live on Highland View with their dog Abner. Lauren works in Government Relations for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. On the weekends, you may find her working on one of the many “do it yourself” projects they have going on at their home.

Lauren has been a board member for two years and has been a driving force on the Parks Committee. Lauren looks forward to another year serving the neighborhood.

Jess at 4th and SwiftJess Windham

I recently moved to Virginia-Highland with my boyfriend after living in three other parts of Atlanta. This area is certainly the best. A transplant from Charleston, SC, I studied Historic Preservation and Community Planning at the College of Charleston and soon after earned an MBA at The Citadel. Now I’m working as a commercial account manager on an energy efficiency program across the state. I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, either with Lifecycle Building Center, ULI’s Sustainability Committee, or organizing Earth Day for my Green Team at work.

Since day one of moving to Virginia-Highland, I have been active with the neighborhood through the VHCA Planning and Historic Preservation Committees. I joined the committees earlier this year and have reviewed variances, gathered feedback from neighbors on issues, presented on behalf of VHCA at the NPU, and provided input at Board meetings.

In my free time, I like to walk to our great VaHi restaurants or over to Inman Park, Poncey-Highland, or Little Five. I keep my eyes peeled for free art Fridays around town and enjoy crafting, reading Atlanta news, and planning adventures. I have a diplomatic approach, a desire to contribute, and would appreciate the opportunity to serve the neighborhood.

I’d like to be involved on the board so that I can support the neighborhood with broad initiatives, from master planning to fundraising for our parks. Having served on the Planning and Preservation committees, I understand the time, patience, and dedication needed to create positive changes that keep the neighborhood vibrant. Change is inevitable and the desirability of VaHi is only going to grow. I’d like to be on the board to ensure the character and quality of life in Virginia-Highland continues to get better each year.

Local Businesses: Consider Advertising in The Voice

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01If you’re a local business looking to connect with your VaHi audience, consider advertising in The Voice, the VHCA’s e-newsletter. We publish twice monthly (1st and 15th), we email to approx. 3,100 email addresses, and our metrics are solid (~33% open rate; ~8% click rate). We have a few different ad styles to choose from, and now’s a good time to consider advertising because our premium skyscraper ad space – available to only a single advertiser at a time – has opened up. All advertising dollars go to covering the cost of newsletter production and defraying the cost of the many awesome programs and events sponsored by the VHCA.

For more information – including ad styles, rates, etc. – visit http://vahi.org/ads/. If you have any questions or are interested in advertising, contact us at ads@vahi.org.

Celebrate the Opening of Art on the BeltLine at the Annual Lantern Parade

Lantern Parade Image #2Art on the BeltLine – the annual celebration of visual and performing arts that’s become a regular fall fixture along the BeltLine – kicks off officially this Saturday September 6 with the fifth annual Lantern Parade.

The glowing procession of light, music and color travels the length of the Eastside Trail, starting at the trail’s current terminus at Irwin St. near Krog St. and ending up in Piedmont Park:

  • 7:30 p.m.: Parade line-up in the Atlanta BeltLine corridor between Irwin Street and DeKalb Avenue with a tailgate party in the parking lot at Krog & Irwin. Irwin Street will be closed between Auburn & Krog.
  • 8:30 p.m.: The parade steps off with The Seed & Feed Marching Abominables leading the way!
  • 8:45 p.m.: The Black Sheep Ensemble step off!
  • 9:00 p.m.: Mausuki Scales & the Common Ground Collective steps off!
  • 9:30 p.m.: Wasted Potential Brass Band brings it on home!

Lantern Parade Image #1Both Art on the BeltLine and the Lantern Parade are free to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend and participate.

Click here for more information on this year’s Lantern Parade.

Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade: What You Need to Know

Lantern Parade Image #1From our friends at the Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., here’s the essential 411 for anyone planning to attend this Saturday’s Lantern Parade:

The annual Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade will mark the opening of the fifth year of Art on the Atlanta BeltLine on Saturday, September 6. Parade-goers are encouraged to gather at 7:30 p.m. with their lanterns at the southern end of the Eastside Trail along Irwin Street / Lake Avenue. The street will be closed from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. between Auburn Avenue and Krog Street. The parade will begin at 8:30 p.m. and move from Irwin Street north to Piedmont Park. After walking the 2-mile Eastside Trail, the parade will guide into the green at Piedmont Park, where Park Tavern is hosting an event with live music and refreshments for sale. The parade will end two miles from the starting point.

Lantern Parade Image #2The interim hiking trail south of Irwin Street will be open for staging for the four marching bands and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, the parade leaders. The ramp from the Edgewood Avenue bridge will be open for use and participants may join the line-up from Edgewood Avenue, or may walk up Airline Street from DeKalb Avenue. After step-off, the parade will also be accessible from any access point on the Atlanta BeltLine, including the newly opened Eastside Trail Gateway from Historic Fourth Ward Park. See beltline.org/explore/maps/ or download our mobile app for Android and Apple phones for a map of the Eastside Trail and all access points.

th-11Parking is extremely limited, so alternative transportation to the parade is strongly encouraged. Many MARTA stations in the metro area offer free parking to transit riders. The Inman Park/Reynoldstown and King Memorial MARTA train stations are a few blocks away from the start of the event. The Midtown MARTA station is six blocks from the endpoint of the parade. For more information on MARTA train and bus schedules, please visit www.itsmarta.com.

HR-Lantern-websizedPaid parking is available in the Piedmont Park Parking Deck and the Park Tavern parking lot. Additional parking is available along neighborhood streets, including Edgewood Avenue at the beginning of the parade and 10th Street at the end of the parade.

Taking a cab, carpooling, and biking are also encouraged, though bicyclists will need to dismount and walk their bikes during the parade. Pets are welcome and must be kept on a six-foot leash.

Two EMTs and several officers from the Atlanta Police Department’s Path Force Unit will be present at the parade. Portable restrooms and trash cans will be available. NO fire is permitted at the event – all lanterns must be lit by LED.Atlanta BeltLine lanterns will be available for sale at the beginning of the event and provided with a pole. For more information, visit art.beltline.org/lantern-parade/.

Tired of Movie Mindlessness? Local Classic Film Group Open to New Participants

Stephen Whiteman lives in Ormewood Park and runs a cool classic movie group out of his home. The group’s in its eight year and Stephen reached out to the VHCA to see if any VaHi residents might be interested in joining. Here’s his group’s story. Get in touch with Stephen if you agree that life IS too short to watch lousy movies.

StephenWhiteman#1After a half hour of commercials and two hours of explosions at the multiplex, have you ever had the feeling that there must be a better way to spend a Saturday night?

The Ormewood Park classic movie seminar Life is Too Short to Watch Lousy Movies, now winding up its eighth year, has a few openings for congenial people interested in viewing, learning about, and discussing the greatest films of all time. Regular participation with guaranteed seating and space-available participation are both available, and there is no charge for the films or the programs.

StephenWhiteman#3The movies are recognized classics, the majority from Hollywood’s Golden Age, the rest from other eras or countries. For example, this year the group has screened Preston Sturges’ screwball comedy, The Palm Beach Story (1942), with Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert; Vittorio De Sica’s Italian Neorealist classic, The Bicycle Thief (1948); Vincente Minnelli’s groundbreaking Cabin in the Sky (1943), starring Lena Horne and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; and Nicholas Ray’s brooding film noir, In a Lonely Place (1950), starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, among others. Regulars are polled to ensure that the films chosen aren’t ones that everyone has already seen.  Programs include a cartoon and/or short subject, Coming Attractions, the feature film, and clips and commentary on personnel and genres, with thoughtful discussion interspersed.

StephenWhiteman#2The group meets on the first Saturday of every month and is conducted like a friendly, laid back seminar. Our membership includes both long-time film buffs and more casual movie fans – a background in film is not necessary. Attendees have ranged from as young as 10 to over 70. The group’s wide-screen, surround-sound home theater seats 15, and typical attendance is a dozen or so. Meetings are moderated by Steve Whiteman, a long-time film buff with a 12,000-item video library. Space allowing, screenings are open to all who show up when they say they will and who treat the movie and each other with respect.

Because the evening is more than just a “movie night,” new people should have a look at the group’s website, ClassicFilmAppreciation.webs.com, which explains how things work and includes detailed program examples, photos from meetings, and testimonials.  Then, if they would like to be notified of future films they can sign up for the mailing list as a space-available “Drop In” participant on the Contact Us page of the site. After attending a couple of screenings, signing up as a “Regular” gets you a guaranteed seat and additional benefits.  Steve can answer questions at ClassicFilmAppreciation@gmail.com.

As one of the regulars has said, “There is no better way to spend a Saturday evening in Atlanta!”

Making Your Home More Comfortable and Affordable

energyconservation1By: Jess Windham, VHCA Planning Committee

Homes in Virginia-Highland are as diverse as they come, but one thing is the same for everyone – we all receive a power bill. We spend money each month to keep the lights on, keep our homes air conditioned, and operate our appliances and electronic equipment. These days some of us might even plug in our cars for a charge. But how many of us actually feel ‘in control’ of our home energy consumption? It can be daunting to consider all the options. Should you spend a little more for an efficient HVAC unit or instead use those funds to purchase LED’s? Which energy investments yield the greatest ROI?

The first step for any home energy improvement is blissfully simple: hire a certified professional to perform a home energy assessment. The assessment will identify areas where your home is using – and, more importantly, wasting – the most energy. The audit will also provide guidance for what changes might resolve that draft in your living room or lower the spikes in your electric bill during the extreme temperatures of summer and winter.

th-10Finding a professional you trust is made a bit easier by the Building Performance Institute (BPI). BPI certifies contractors and companies to ensure a high level of understanding of how buildings function and how to make homes both comfortable and safe. They have a useful question and answer guide on their website, as well as a listing of certified contractors from which you can choose.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation with assistance from EPA has put together some special guidance for historic homes. That information can be found here.

Last but not least, there are financial resources for improving the energy efficiency of your home. Georgia Power offers rebates for its residential customers. More information on these rebates, including up to $200 toward a home energy assessment, can be found on their website or by calling 877-310-5607.

Trees Atlanta Kicks Off Planting Season

treesatlantalogoPassing along the following from our friends at Trees Atlanta:

With another successful planting season in the rear view mirror, Trees Atlanta is enthusiastic to begin the new planting season in September. To celebrate, Trees Atlanta has announced details for two kick-off fundraisers.

Trees Atlanta is hosting “Tailgate for Trees”, on Friday, September 12, 2014 at 7:00 PM at the Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center, 225 Chester Ave SE, Atlanta, GA, 30316. At the event, you will find your favorite tailgating activities, catering by Ibiza Bites, and a spirited silent auction featuring rare and unusual plants and trees. The auction will also feature incredible woodcrafts and art pieces by your favorite local artists. Tickets are $50 for individuals.

The nationally known non-profit is relocating The 15th Annual Trees Atlanta Tree Sale & Jamboree to a new location: the Freedom Farmers’ Market at The Carter Center, located at 453 Freedom Parkway NE, Atlanta, GA 30307. Each October, Trees Atlanta offers more than 1,500 native and exotic plants – including 200 species of trees, shrubs, native perennials, and tree-safe vines – for purchase by the public. The fundraiser will take place, rain or shine, on Saturday, October 4th, 2014 from 8 AM to 2 PM. Trees Atlanta donors of $500 or more are invited to attend a preview shopping night the evening before the sale. If a shopper wants a big tree but has a small car, Trees Atlanta can provide delivery, as well as planting assistance, within a limited area for a small fee.

All proceeds from both events benefit Trees Atlanta’s planting and education programs, helping our community plant approximately 6,000 trees and seedlings each year and provided educational sessions attended by more than 8,000 adults and children all around metro Atlanta. All of this was made possible by the support of people like you.

For more details visit www.treesatlanta.org.

Tentative Agenda for August Monthly Meeting of VHCA BOD

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBCall to Order 

Adoption of Agenda

Police and Fire Dept. representatives – Zone 6

City of Atlanta officials; other public officials & municipal representatives

Variances

V-14-141, 885 Adair Ave; zoning is R-4

Applicant and owner Nandita Koehler seeks a variance to reduce the (east) side-yard setback from 7’ (required) to 2.9’ (existing) for the addition of a patio with roof and to raise the roof over the kitchen area.

The existing rear porch will be removed, and the lot coverage will drop  to 49.9 %.  The appropriate neighbors (884, 892 Highland View; 881, 882, 888, 891, 892 Adair) have been notified; lots behind 885 Adair face Highland View and the lot beside is along Barnett.)  A Planning Committee site visit observed no impacted trees and no stormwater issues; the Committee unanimously recommended approval conditioned on a site plan stamped and dated by the CoA on 7-8-14.  (Mr. Bullock, who is married to the architect on this project, did not participate in this decision.)

V-14-158; 862 Ponce de Leon Place NE; zoning is R-4

Applicant Dan Hanlon on behalf of owner Adam Bane seeks a variance to reduce the front-yard setback from 35’ (required) to 30’ (existing in part) to allow an addition to a single-family residence.

The house front already sits at 30’ on the north half; the renovation will square off the front (making it 30’ at all points) and provide a second-story addition.  A Planning Committee site visit reveals that one tree is impacted; the arborist has approved its removal, as it is very close to the current foundation. The applicant agreed to route the additional stormwater from the 2nd-story to the amply-sized grassed rear yard of the lot.

Notification letters went out on Monday 8/4, and the applicants are speaking to the neighbors. (The required addresses are 856, 866, 863, 857 Ponce de Leon Place NE, 695 Pylant St., and – possibly -  089 Drewry St.)

The Planning Committee recommends approval of V-14-158 conditioned on provision of proof of mailing or other neighbor notification and the site plan stamped and dated 7-23-14, revised to note that the stormwater from the new addition will be discharged in the rear yard of the property.

V-14-153; 700 Park Drive NE; zoning is R4 in the Beltline Overlay District; original variance application was V-12-140

Owner Shannon Gaggero constructed a 52”-high inch solid fence (a wall under CoA Zoning regulations, which requires 50% open space and limits the height to 48”) without a building permit or variance application in the half-depth front yard setback (alongside the Elmwood Drive side of the house.)  Assisted by builder Barry Wright, she seeks a variance to make this nonconforming wall legal. The wall consists of alternating 1×6 and 1×4 vertical boards.

After discussion, the applicant agreed to remove every other 4” board from the wall, which will still provide some privacy and allow for the passage of light and air.  The Committee agreed to support this modification, conditioned upon submission of a revised site plan.

V-14-117; 1221 Monroe Drive (southeast corner of Amsterdam and Monroe); zoning is R4

Applicant Paul Durick (with designer Mark Knight) seeks a revised variance to reduce the half-depth front yard setback (along Amsterdam) from the required 17’5” feet to 3’ feet (existing) for a rear addition in line with the existing structure.

The applicant’s revised plans change the location of the parking pad and leave the final proposed site coverage at 49.97%.  There will be no changes (other than repair of surface deficiencies) to the shared driveway in the existing easement along the south boundary on Monroe. The existing 6’-high solid fence along Amsterdam behind the house will be removed and replaced with a compliant fence that is 3’ ft. back from lot line.  Three trees in the buildable area will be removed; one is DDH, and compensation will be paid for the other two. The increased stormwater form the addition (which will flow downhill away from Monroe easterly toward Orme Creek 150 yards away) will be gathered in 4 flow-wells to the east of addition; a Grasscrete©-style hexagonal paver system will used in the new driveway.  At the rear of the property, three new trees will be installed suitable for the wet and sunny conditions that exist there, which should support eventual large growth and provide significant storm water absorption capacity.  A new walkway shown as pea gravel on the new plans was intended to be mulch; that will be revised and remove that area from the impervious calculations.

The revised plans were submitted to the neighbors the day before the meeting; the rear neighbors to the east and the adjacent neighbors who share the driveway were present at the Planning Committee meeting and found the plans as presented and conditioned acceptable.  (Proof of notification is needed for 1222, 1218, 1217, 1229, 1230 Monroe and 633 Amsterdam. )

The Planning Committee recommends approval conditioned on proof of neighbor notification and the following modifications to the site plan stamped and dated 8-5-14: the pea gravel walk becomes mulch, the new fence is specifically marked as no greater than 42” high and 50% open, and the size and species of the new trees are noted.  (Mr. Van Horne lives next door and did not participate in this decision.)

Budget: Peggy Berg

Planning Comm: Master Plan update; Monroe Drive traffic calming; Music Midtown; IMS expansion and the Field of Dreams

Safety: Peggy Berg – Sidewalk ordinance; Jack White – SPARK Safe Routes to School

Grants: Peggy Berg, Jess Windham, Lola Carlisle

Parks Committee: David Brandenberger, Lauren Wilkes Fralick, Jack White – John Howell Park construction update

New Business and Announcements: Annual General Meeting – Sept. 18, 2014; 7 PM; Inman Middle School; Lola Carlisle – nominations for 2014/15 VHCA BoD

Adjournment

Volunteers Make a Difference at John Howell Park

The VHCA would like to thank Park Pride and MSL Group for providing 20+ volunteers who spent last Friday morning sprucing up parts of John Howell Park.

These awesome volunteers mulched around the plants along Virginia Ave., sanded a bench near the Phoenix Flies statue in the middle of park and pitched in to help complete an erosion control project between the eastern and central sections of the park. The volunteers – who work for Midtown PR firm MSL Group and were coordinated by Park Pride – went the extra mile in helping improve VaHi’s largest park and we really appreciate their time and efforts.

Thanks again to Park Pride, PP’s volunteer manager John Ahern and the generous, hard-working team from MSL Group!

Scroll down for some photos of the group hard at work last Friday morning.

Volunteers get their assignments and initial instructions from Park Pride's John Ahern.

Volunteers get their assignments and initial instructions from Park Pride’s John Ahern.

The VHCA's Jack White provides instruction on the fine art of bench sanding while David Brandenberger talks erosions control with volunteers.

The VHCA’s Jack White provides instruction on the fine art of bench sanding while David Brendengerger talks erosion control with volunteers.

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We love mulching!!

We love mulching!!

We love sanding benches!!

We love sanding benches!!

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Working on the goat path...

Working on the goat path…

Jack White supervising construction of the non-stairway that will eventually bear his name. Well, not really...

Jack White supervising construction of the non-stairway that will eventually bear his name. Well, not really…

Thanks for the help, MSL Group!

Thanks for the help, MSL Group!

What was once a goat path is now an erosion control zone!

What was once a goat path is now an erosion control zone!

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That bench is looking fine!!

That bench is looking fine!!

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Anyone else love John Howell Park??

Mulching along Virginia Ave.

Mulching along Virginia Ave.

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The bench after staining.

The bench after staining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VHCA Hosts BeltLine Overlay Information Session

DSC_0024By: Jess Windham

Over the past year, the city has been revisiting each section – or subarea – of the BeltLine overlay district to review and update the underlying zoning. Virginia-Highland is in subarea 6, which – along with subareas 2 and 9 – is next on the list for this public review process.  To prepare for the discussion, Virginia-Highland Civic Association hosted a public meeting at Church of Our Savior on Wednesday July 30.

At this meeting, we learned from planner Aaron Fortner of Market+ Main that a primary goal of the process is to better define and identify reasonable and appropriate heights, land uses and densities within the Beltline overlay district. For example, our neighboring subarea 5 identified tracts where buildings should not be above 102’ tall, or where truck stops, park-for-hire decks and lots, and mixed-use storage would be inappropriate within the context of the surrounding tracts. It is important to note that all residential parcels for single or two-family homes (R-1 to R-5) are exempt and won’t change in this process.

Another consideration in the review process entails creating the groundwork for a vibrant, walkable retail space. Storefront streets and land tracts will be identified in the process where this kind of development will be encouraged. For example, once a building is 60% or more removed or destroyed, the proposed guidelines would provide that new buildings use higher quality building materials (i.e. not vinyl), install windows to comprise 65% or more of the building’s façade, and employ other design guidelines that result in pedestrian-friendly retail.

Through this review process, we are being provided an opportunity to shape the future of Virginia-Highland. This fall the Beltline will be hosting public meetings for input on our subarea 6 and we will do our best to publish the details of those meetings. In the meantime, if you are interested in participating in discussions relevant to this topic, please contact planning@vahi.org.

For additional background on this topic, please read our July 10th article.

Click here for a copy of the BeltLine’s Subarea 6 plan.

Click here for current zoning designation maps for Virginia-Highland.

Virginia-Highland BeltLine Overlay Information Session Set for July 30

IMG_5835By: Jess Windham, VHCA Planning Committee

A significant element in the vision for a successful, vibrant BeltLine is the land use of the parcels surrounding it: land use and zoning guide usage (residential, commercial, etc.), building size, and density. Specific parcels of land retain their existing zoning status even if the building on the lot is demolished.

The City has defined a broad variety of zoning types. Here in Virginia-Highland we have what many consider a particularly healthy mix of commercial, residential, and multi-use zoning. We also have, on our western-most edge, a BeltLine Overlay District.

The BeltLine Overlay District was approved in 2007 and runs along both sides of the BeltLine; Barnett Street is its eastern edge in the southern half of the neighborhood. The overlay acts like an amendment to the underlying land use designations to allow for things that might not otherwise be permitted, and to encourage positive design techniques like pedestrian-friendly design and setbacks, live-work uses, and multi-family uses.

Over the past year, the city has been revisiting each section of the BeltLine to review the underlying zoning, and Virginia-Highland’s review is coming up. It is important to note that all residential parcels for single or two-family homes (R-1 to R-5) are exempt and won’t change in this process.

The VHCA has scheduled a meeting at which you can learn more about how the neighborhood is preparing for this upcoming review. The meeting will be held at Garrison Hall at the Church of Our Savior on the corner of Los Angeles and N. Highland avenues on July 30th at 7:00 pm. Urban planner Aaron Fortner of Market & Main, who guided us recently through the Master Plan process, will be on hand.

For more information on the BeltLine Overlay District, click here.

PEDS to Host July 30 Sidewalk Maintenance Forum

DSC_0009Passing along the following from our friends at PEDS. Unfortunately, this meeting is the same night as the BeltLine overlay district meeting for the VaHi area so you’ll have to pick your poison. The VHCA plans to have representation at both meetings.

The Atlanta City Council is considering an ordinance that will dramatically change the way sidewalk repairs are funded in Atlanta. If approved, the Public Works Department may no longer require property owners to pay for repairs to sidewalks that abut their property.

To give ourselves time to learn more about the proposed ordinance and its likely impact, we have rescheduled the Sidewalk Maintenance Forum.

When: Weds, July 30, 6:30 – 8:00 PM

Where: First Presbyterian Church, 1328 Peachtree Street (Half-block from Arts Center MARTA Station)

Please join us to learn more about the proposed policy changes and bond referendum, as well as innovative funding solutions other cities have adopted. You’ll also hear from Todd Fulk, who will tell us about low-cost ways other cities are using to eliminate tripping hazards.

If approved, the proposed ordinance will be a big step forward. Yet the ordinance doesn’t allocate tax dollars to sidewalk repairs, so much more is needed. Learn how you can make that happen.

5Arts FEST in Little Five Points Looking for Volunteers, Financial Support

Orange_Logo_smallEditor’s Note: We’re passing along the following from our friends at the 5Arts FEST. This festival is not affiliated with the VHCA or Summerfest, but we support organizers in their efforts to bring this first-year festival in a neighboring community to life.

On September 6th the inaugural 5Arts FEST will take place in Little Five Points. Organizers are looking for volunteers for the event and they’re hoping some Summerfest veterans out there might want to help out.

The 5Arts FEST will be an interactive activities festival celebrating the five ‘arenas’ of art: literary, visual, performing, recording, and arts & crafts. Each arena of art will have its own theme and immersive crowd participation activities, in addition to wonderful displays of artistry by partners like the Center for Puppetry Arts, The Pirates Guild of Atlanta, The Workshop and a collaboration of high energy circus performers.

The 5Arts FEST is expected to attract several thousand participants and the experience and generosity of experienced volunteers is needed. Whether it’s checking in vendors or artists, providing information and directions to festival- goers, or assisting in specific art arenas, organizers are hopeful many Summerfest veterans will want to be a part of this wonderful new annual event.

To register to volunteer please visit the festival’s volunteer page or sign-up at their VolunteerSpot page. For more information contact volunteer coordinator Tineka Salisbury at tsalisbury@5arts.org or call 844-695-2787, ext. 808.

Organizers are also seeking financial support for the festival. Attendance will be free to the public, but financial support for participating artists can be provided through a Kickstarter campaign. No amount is too small – there is actually a button to donate $1 and every donation helps. If the group doesn’t reach its goal, donors won’t be charged. Organizers thank you in advance for your support. To donate, click here.

City Council Adopts Virginia-Highland Master Plan

VaHi-Logo-Horizontal-Small-RGBThe Atlanta City Council unanimously approved the Virginia-Highland Master Plan at its Monday July 21 meeting. With the adoption, the plan becomes part of the City of Atlanta’s Comprehensive Development Plan.

The VHCA thanks the many residents whose input shaped the plan’s contents and whose support ensured its adoption. Ideas and concepts included in the plan – from street toppers to bike lanes – need your continued input and support to become reality. Anyone interested in helping see these ideas take shape should contact board@vahi.org.

Click here to view the final draft of the Virginia-Highland Master Plan as approved by City Council.

Highland Tap Gets a Makeover

HighlandTapGrand Re-Opening and Fire Station #19 Dine Out Benefit Set For August 20

In 1989, NightCap Food & Spirits opened Highland Tap, an underground hideaway, on the soon-to-become-fashionable corner of Virginia & North Highland avenues. Nestled between what was then Tim’s Ice Cream and Chao – now Winter Wren & Fontaine’s Oyster House, respectively – Highland Tap (https://www.facebook.com/highlandtap) quickly became a neighborhood favorite known for hickory wood grilled steaks and burgers, serious martinis and a wide array of draft beer.

Fast forward 25 years: Highland Tap still delivers the same value and quality VaHi has come to expect. Steaks are hand cut, burgers are ground in house and hand-pattied, and martinis are made to perfection. Service is dependably good and the bartenders mix up cocktails just the way you like them.

On August 11th, Highland Tap will close its cellar doors and begin a week long renovation to include a new draft system with 22 tap handles, new paint, new carpet, patio improvements, stone wall restoration and an updated menu.

To celebrate their re-opening, Highland Tap is hosting a Fire Station #19 dine out benefit on Wednesday, August 20. Highland Tap will donate 20% of total August 20 sales to Atlanta’s Oldest Fire Station (http://www.vhfirecompany.com) to commemorate its shared history with this historic landmark and the Virginia Highland community.

We hope to see you in late August at the brand new Highland Tap!

Atlanta Clean Power Plan Rally and Hearing Set for July 29-30

GA_EPAHearing_resizedYou can help make clean power and climate change history in Atlanta on July 29-30.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever national plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants. The EPA has announced public hearings to discuss the plan in just four cities around the country and Atlanta is one of them.

You can do your part to make sure the southeast – and the entire country – gets a strong plan to clean our air, protect our climate and expand the clean energy economy by attending the hearing and joining the Sierra Club and hundreds of other climate and clean energy activists at the Atlanta Climate March, 12:00 PM, Tuesday July 29 in Atlanta’s Woodruff Park.

For more information and to register for the march, click here.

Atlanta Young Singers Holds Auditions for New Members

Olivia Smile smallerAtlanta Young Singers is looking for the best young voices in Virginia-Highland!

Since 1975, AYS has been at the forefront of choral art in metro Atlanta and the U.S., thrilling audiences all over the world with innovative programming, professional performance, and exciting commissions. AYS nurtures the incredible artistic abilities of children, offering excellent choral and musical training in a challenging learning environment for boys and girls in grades 2-12 and currently serves over 200 singers all over metro Atlanta.

In the last two years alone, these singers have performed at Carnegie Hall, were awarded two Gold Diplomas at the 2012 World Choir Games and sang for President Jimmy Carter. In the last month, more than sixty of our singers went on tour to Latvia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

Celebrating its 40th Anniversary Season, AYS was the proud recipient of a gold and silver medal, as well as two gold diplomas at the 8th World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia (featuring over 470 choirs and 27,000 singers from 60 countries).

AYS helps begin an arts adventure that will last a lifetime and has been a part of the Virginia-Highland community for over 39 years.

Individual audition appointments will be held through August for each of seven AYS choirs – including Training and Treble Concert Choirs rehearsing close by at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. Meet new friends, travel the world, perform live, learn important music skills, and sing the future now with AYS.

Call AYS at 404.873.3365 or email audition@aysc.org to schedule your audition today.

Park Pride Celebrates Its 25th Anniversary with Free King of Pops at Orme Park

IMG_5777Park Pride’s 25th anniversary is this year and they’re celebrating by giving away FREE King of Pops at 25 different parks around the city. Thank you, Park Pride, for choosing Orme Park to help you celebrate!  Come to the park’s main entrance this Sunday, July 27th from 3:00 to 3:30 pm for your free pop. Supplies are limited and it’s first come, first served so get there early if you want a free pop.

Park Pride is committed to helping serve the community by improving local parks and green spaces. Park Pride has been a partner with Orme Park through Friends of Orme Park, which participated in Park Pride’s Park Visioning Program in 2007. Later, a partial grant for Phase I construction was awarded which helped cover the cost of moving the playground, and constructing new seating walls and our grand entrance.  Park Pride also provides volunteers and tools for Orme Park work days.

We hope to see you this Sunday from 3:00 to 3:30 at Orme Park!  Please help make this a green event by walking or biking over.

And, if you’d like to help make our park shine in the many pictures that will be taken at the event, please come by Saturday at 9:00 am for a quick park clean-up.

Thank you!

Orme Park Flier

BeltLine/Streetcar Transit Study Group to Meet in VaHi

Sorry for the late notice but we just found out about a meeting you might want to attend.

The Federal Transit Administration, in cooperation with the City of Atlanta, Invest Atlanta, and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., is conducting environmental assessments for extensions of the Atlanta Streetcar.  You’re invited to attend a public meeting to discuss the transit route options in designated areas along the east side of the Atlanta BeltLine corridor and in the Downtown & Midtown areas. There will also be discussion of MARTA connectivity options as well as education about the overall transit system plan and next steps.

The meeting is this Thursday July 17, 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Virginia-Highland Church, 743 Virginia Ave.

Here’s a link to the Atlanta BeltLine website page where we learned about the meeting.

Longtime VaHi Resident billie jo Passes

in-memoriam-kaarsenMother, Teacher, Artist, Poet, Virginia-Highland Activist

July 31, 1936 – July 7, 2014

By: Jack White, VHCA President

Longtime Virginia-Highland resident billie jo – she spelled her name with all lowercase letters and had legally changed it years ago to just ‘billie jo’ – passed away early this month following a battle with cancer.

billie jo was a neighborhood activist and VHCA board member who tirelessly addressed quality of life issues in the neighborhood, especially along St. Charles and Greenwood avenues. Those streets had a very different look in the 80’s and 90’s than they do today; prostitution and drug dealing were not hard to spot. billie jo confronted the problems both personally – by challenging those engaged – and systematically, by pressuring APD. Today we take crime reporting and police cooperation with neighborhoods for granted; neither was a normal practice when billie jo arrived.  Her unyielding persistence on both issues had a lot to do with changing the culture between law enforcement and Atlanta’s intown communities.

When APD declined to provide statistical reports, billie jo repeatedly visited the Zone 6 offices and demanded to see them; then she compiled reports herself and distributed them to residents. An embarrassed police force finally took over the job and started providing them at VHCA meetings, a practice that is routine today. Inside the community, she rallied and organized residents to pressure mayors and zone commanders for more active and community-oriented policing, themes that also sound quite familiar now but were then new and different. The public safety framework she initiated is reflected throughout today’s approaches.

billie jo’s other passions were art – painting, drawing, and tile mosaics (a love she shared with her friend and fellow VaHi resident Stephanie Coffin and other current practitioners) and parks; billlie jo never met a tree she didn’t love and she fought hard for the city to take its green spaces seriously, a particular challenge as the city slashed its recreational funding in the 1990’s. The civic association recognized her wide-ranging contributions with a presentation at its 2006 annual general meeting.

billie jo had a lot of faith in people and a sense of optimism that did not fade or falter during her illness. That confidence and her own personal warmth ensured that even those with whom she disagreed about policies liked her very much, as we all did.

billie jo (seated) watches while finishing touches are put on Stephanie Coffin's 843 Virginia Circle tile piece.

billie jo (seated) watches while finishing touches are put on Stephanie Coffin’s 843 Virginia Circle tile piece. Photo credit: Tom Coffin.

Stephanie Coffin tells the following story that goes a long way in capturing billie jo’s essence:

“I did a tile piece called Three Sisters for the homeowners at 843 Virginia Circle (so named because of the three sisters who lived there). It was a chilly December day when I went to finish the piece, and I asked BJ if she wanted to come along, which she was thrilled to do. We were served sparkling apple cider in plastic champagne glasses. BJ and the girls absolutely loved being a part of the piece’s “official” installation. BJ was so willing to do anything which is one of the reasons she was so dear to me.”

billie jo will be greatly missed. There will be a more formal remembrance in her honor at John Howell Park this fall.

billie jo’s family provided the following information:

Born to Joe B. and Bertha Mae Scott in Americus, Georgia, billie jo grew up in the Jacksonville, Florida area and graduated from Duncan Fletcher High School in 1954. She went on to attend Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia where she graduated in 1958. At Brenau she held several student government positions in addition to the presidency of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority her senior year. There she met her husband of 18 years, Steven Blihovde of Passaic, New Jersey, an engineering student at Georgia Tech. When he transferred to Clemson University, the two settled in the Greenville area and had two children, Elizabeth Dawn and Steven Erik.

Coming from a long line of educators (her mother taught school with Miss Lillian Carter) billie jo taught elementary school for many years in Clemson and Greenville. Always an advocate for the neglected and underprivileged, she worked passionately and tirelessly for a long list of social and political causes that included Project Head Start, the George McGovern campaign, the Project Hope Drug Abuse Center and the Women’s Stockade.

After her husband’s premature death in 1976, billie jo retired from teaching to pursue a second career in interior design. A woman ahead of her time, she purchased an old warehouse in downtown Greenville’s artists’ district where her new business thrived for 8 years. During this period she also taught interior design at Greenville Technical College and performed in local theatre productions, supported the local ballet and became an early member of the coalition that began the revival of the city’s downtown area.

In 1984 she moved back to the Jacksonville Beach area to be closer to her aging parents; there she continued her artistic and design career. This led to a new career focused on meeting the needs of senior citizens and keeping their lives relevant and active, a turn that brought her back to the Atlanta area, where she became the director of the Duluth Senior Center for Activities. She settled in her beloved Virginia-Highland and became an active member of the VHCA.

From the doors of City Hall to local parks and meetings, billie jo was a relentless force pushing for new street lights, a stronger and more visible police presence, and improved pedestrian crossings and stop signs. During this period she discovered a new passion for creating folk art from reclaimed and abandoned object d’art. Her condominium on St. Charles Avenue offered an ever-changing sunny and inspiring display for passersby to admire. She always found great inspiration from her favorite aunt and longtime Virginia-Highland resident, the late Marguerite Bridges, who was instrumental in breathing life back into the languishing Dogwood Festival in Piedmont Park as a Chamber of Commerce member in the sixties.

billie jo passed away last week after a struggle with cancer, one that she faced with her usual humor, determination, grace, and peace. She will be remembered as an unrelenting advocate for the quality of life of Virginia-Highland’s residents, and particularly for her tireless efforts with Trees Atlanta in helping to keep the community shady and green.

billie jo is survived by her daughter Elizabeth Riordan, her husband David of Hickory Flat, Georgia and her son Erik Blihovde and his wife Suzanne and two grandchildren Nathaniel and Ryan of Elk Grove, California.

Work Commences on John Howell Park Renovation

By: The VHCA Parks Committee (John Becker, David Brandenberger, Lauren Wilkes Fralick, Colleen Lysen, and Jack White)

IMG_6321Contractor Hutcheson Horticultural has begun the renovation of the western end of John Howell Park. The project will substantially alter the look of the park along Arcadia Avenue opposite Inman Middle School; new granite sitting walls topped by black steel fencing that matches that at the school will replace the rusting galvanized chain link and sandbags (now, sadly, gone forever.) The walls will stop the migration of sand down the street and into the sewer system; smaller versions of them on the courts’ eastern edge will provide both seating and more formally separate the competition area from the playground. Entrance steps will offer access from Arcadia; on that street’s corner with Virginia, a new plaza will house the park’s sign and offer a gathering place for the Inman students who sometimes wait there for late pickup.

The westernmost court will be moved slightly toward Virginia, providing more room for additional landscaping, which will be installed on three sides of that court. The new fencing and landscaping along Virginia Avenue will run between the granite memorials that mark the sites of homes demolished in the Georgia Highway Department’s unsuccessful late 60’s attempt to run an interstate extension through the area. The memorial columns themselves will be raised slightly in the process.

DSC_0008The project will cost a little more than $100,000 overall, with about half paid by the VHCA and the other half by a matching grant from Park Pride, to whom we are deeply grateful. The City of Atlanta Parks Department and the volleyball association are also contributors; Trees Atlanta has pledged trees and planting assistance. Peter Frawley – John Howell Park’s original designer – did the landscape architecture and was a stalwart at every stage.

Only partly deterred by the sobering and exhausting firsthand experiences associated with acquiring a building permit on public property – which were eye-opening in a way that made you want to close them – the Parks Committee is really excited to see this work underway and looks forward to seeing it progress. If the weather and construction gods are kind, the granite walls will be substantially complete by the time school starts, and the remainder of the work will be done in time for some early dormant season planting.

Click here for a July 2012 Voice article that provides the vision for the current project. Click here for a firsthand look at the plans.

A Thank You for Summerfest 2014

By: Jack White, VHCA President

IMG_6215On behalf of Virginia-Highland Civic Association, I’d like to personally thank this year’s Summerfest leadership team, volunteers, artists, vendors and sponsors for serving up another outstanding festival. I can’t tell you how many positive comments I heard from attendees, exhibitors and residents that the 2014 edition was one of the best Summerfests ever. From what I witnessed personally, these comments were spot on.

DSC_0104Summerfest is the VHCA’s most important fund-raising event of the year. Success with the event ensures that the association can continue to provide important programs, services and grants for the betterment of VaHi and its residents. The incredible contributions of time and talent made by our dedicated volunteers, partners and vendors are a key part of this success and you all delivered this year in spades.

As has come to be expected from Summerfest, this year’s artist market was an impressive array of some of the most outstanding art in the southeast; our music stages were busy with talented, entertaining performers; and our generous sponsors helped us deliver a festival that, by all accounts, was enjoyed and appreciated by all.

DSC_0114Special thanks go to festival co-chairs Pamela Papner, Paige Hewell and John Becker for providing the vision and leadership for Summerfest 2014. There are more moving parts to organizing and executing a festival of this size and scope than most could imagine, and your attention to detail in the important areas of sponsorships, operations, volunteers, and communications positioned us well for success.

As usual, the co-chairs put an outstanding team together around them and the following folks should be thanked for their outstanding contributions in key areas:

DSC_0149VHCA Summerfest Store: Suzanne Scully and Steve Voichick

Neighborhood Parade: Kris Smith

Community Dinner and Movie: Charlie LeFort and John Peter Casey

Artists: Nancy Musser and Julie Tepp

Road Race: Ed Williams

Tot Trot: Nancy and Bob Coomes

DSC_0141On-Site Operations/Coordination of Vendors: Rob Frazer, Premier Events Management

Musical Entertainment: Josh Antenucci

Sponsorships: Rick Kern and Brooke Anglin, MixIt Marketing

Signage Design/Production: Cornelia Gregory

Promotion/Social Media: Kelsey Walker, Liz Lapidus PR

Finance/Cash Coordination: Frazier Dworet and Peggy Berg

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also personally thank the 200+ volunteers without which we would have no festival. You are truly the heart and soul of Summerfest and you stepped up to the plate big time this year.

Thanks again to everyone involved in this year’s Summerfest.

Atlanta City Council Utilities Committee Schedules Study Session on Changes to Sidewalk Policy

DSC_0009By: Jack White, VHCA Planning Committee

The City Utilities Committee began consideration this past Tuesday July 15th of a bill introduced by nine members that would place legal responsibility for sidewalk repairs and maintenance upon the city instead of adjoining property owners, as is currently the case.

The Department of Public Works asked that the legislation be held so that the Legal Department could complete a review of the effect of such legislation on any separate and disparate part of the code. A couple of members have concerns about raising citizen expectations of repairs, given that the topic is not addressed in the new budget adopted last month.

Other council members – including many of the sponsors – pointed out that the city has consistently been held liable in local courts for injuries on sidewalks, existing statutes notwithstanding. Mary Norwood reiterated her belief – and that of other council members – that only the city could manage this challenge on a large-scale basis, and that it was neither cost-effective nor practical for individual homeowners to meet the many legal and permitting burdens imposed by the city upon private contractors. This includes – among others – a very high bonding requirement for contractors and negotiating with the Parks Department about tree impacts in the adjacent sidewalk strips, for which the city is responsible.

Norwood further voiced her concern that the idea of using bond monies (should next year’s contemplated bond issue be adopted) to make sidewalk repairs in various places absent a city-wide plan and the city’s full acceptance of the responsibility would prove divisive and dilute support for the entire bond proposal.

A number of other council members voiced agreement for these specific and broad arguments, while also suggesting that a careful approach that considered any comments from the Legal Department was a good idea. After deliberation, the committee decided to hold an August work session on the topic and re-address the legislation at its scheduled meeting on August 29th.

VHCA intends to be at the work session, and we’ll report its date and other developments as they occur.

City Council to Consider VaHi Master Plan in July

VaHi-Logo-Very-Horizontal-Small-RGBAfter unanimous adoption by the VHCA board in April and overwhelming support at the NPU-F vote in May, the Virginia-Highland Master Plan will next be considered at the Atlanta City Council Community Development Committee meeting on Tuesday July 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm. The meeting will be held at City Hall in Committee Room #2. This meeting is open to the public.

After review by the Community Development Committee, the Plan will be considered by the full City Council, most likely in August. Upon adoption by City Council, the Plan will then be added to the city’s official planning tool, the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP).

The City requires certain elements in a Master Plan: mobility, open space, recreation, safety, environmental issues, urban design, historic resources, public services, economic development, and education. All of these items were considered when assembling the VaHi Master Plan. Recommendations in the Plan also used as their starting point the existing plans and zoning code the City currently has adopted.

Atlanta City Council to Consider Changes to Existing Sidewalk Policy

DSC_0009By: Peggy Berg, VHCA Safety Chair

Nine Atlanta City Council members are co-sponsoring legislation to remove a city ordinance that requires homeowners to pay to repair sidewalk abutting their property. This legislation will be considered at the July 15 meeting of the City Utilities Committee, 9:30 am, Committee Room #2 on the second floor of City Hall, located at 55 Trinity Street. Click here to view a copy of the proposed legislation.

Enacting this law will put the City on a course to provide safe pedestrian access around Atlanta and to manage the sidewalk system on a large-scale, cost-effective basis. It will remove from homeowners and contractors the necessity of meeting an array of legal and permitting burdens that the city either does not face or routinely handles in the process of everyday governance. These include, among others, negotiating with the Parks Department about tree impacts in the adjacent sidewalk strips, and bonding and permitting requirements that make fixing individual sidewalks one at a time expensive and time-consuming.

The City daily manages such intergovernmental challenges in streets, parks, sewers, and safety; its Public Works Department already has the professional capability to handle sidewalks. With steady funding, it is realistic to think we can have a sidewalk system that is significantly better and continuing to improve within ten years. Next year’s contemplated City of Atlanta infrastructure bond would provide a great funding start to catching up on deteriorated sidewalks.

A few residents have asked if the proposed ordinance means we spent money unnecessarily in the Virginia-Highland sidewalk bundle. We emphatically believe that our sidewalk program is and has been a very good deal. Here’s why:

  • This proposed ordinance must work its way through the city’s legislative system before becoming reality, and it is unclear how long that might take. In the meantime, adjoining property owners are still responsible for making sidewalk repairs.
  • The City of Atlanta 2015 budget has been adopted and includes no budget for sidewalk maintenance. Changing the provisions about who is responsible for sidewalks does not itself fund sidewalk repairs like those we are doing in Virginia-Highland. Because of the bundle, the participating properties in Virginia-Highland are fixed now, a huge benefit in our pedestrian-oriented neighborhood.
  • If the City funds a program of sidewalk maintenance, it should do repairs based on a clear priority system. For instance, high-traffic sidewalks and those around hospitals, schools, transit stations, etc. would theoretically be high priority and repaired first.  Sidewalks on tertiary streets like ours may well have a low priority. Realistically, it could take some years to repair lower priority sidewalks.
  • Property owners who want safe, usable sidewalks were able to have the necessary work done at a below-market price through the bundles the VHCA has coordinated. In addition, property owners did not have to deal with contracting or permitting the work in the bundles.

For property owners who want to have good sidewalks, we think the bundle was a very good deal. We hope you do as well. Thank you to the property owners who paid for improvements and enhanced Virginia-Highland for all of us and our visitors.

Anyone interested in learning more or providing input is encouraged to attend the July 15 meeting at City Hall.  The VHCA will be there.

Maiden Trail Workday Recap

20140712_091609The alleyway that runs parallel to St. Charles and Ponce de Leon avenues, between Frederica and Barnett streets, received a big dose of TLC from local residents and student volunteers this past weekend.  A group of 30+ worked from 9AM to noon on Saturday July 12 to clear brush, collect trash and recyclables, and spread gravel to improve the alley known locally as “Maiden Trail”.

photo 2bNeighborhood residents most closely engaged with maintaining and improving the alley formed the Maiden Trail Conservation Group in late April.  The group’s goal was to apply for and win a ‘Love Your Block’ grant from the City of Atlanta, and the group was advised in late May that they’d been awarded $1,000. Some of the funds were used to improve the alley’s surface and overall appearance during this most recent workday.

20140712_093620A dozen bags of trash and recyclables were collected and 13 cubic yards of gravel was spread in just a few hours with the help of more than 20 college student volunteers.  These students are recipients of Gates Millennium Scholarships, which provide each student a full 4-year scholarship to use at the college or university of their choice. The students give back to the community through various volunteer activities.

Councilman Alex Wan of District 6 provided bottled water for the group and the Atlanta Community ToolBank lent shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows at no cost for the event.

photo 2aFuture plans for Maiden Trail include planting shade trees and perhaps adding address markers to help APD officers more easily identify locations along the alley when responding to assistance calls.

“The Maiden Trail Conservation Group encourages neighborhood residents to check out Maiden Trail and see how pleasant the area has become for walking the dog or just taking a stroll,” says organizer Christopher Juckins. “Gone is the overgrown brush and excessive mud that plagued the alley for several years. It’s great to see a huge decrease in the previous loitering and littering problems, but the help of vigilant neighbors is needed to keep the area clean and secure.”

Bring a Neighbor to Maiden Trail’s Upcoming Workdays

After_01a (Large)Passing along the following from VaHi resident Alicia Cardillo:

The Maiden Trail Conservation Group was recently awarded a Love Your Block grant from the City of Atlanta to further expand cleanup efforts for Maiden Trail. This group of neighbors began their efforts in January by hosting trash pick-up and brush-clearing workdays to make the area more accessible to cars, pedestrians, and dog walkers. We will host two workdays in the next two months to put these grant funds to good use:

  • Saturday, July 12 @ 9AM to spread gravel, clear brush growth and pick up trash (Rain date: July 13)
  • Saturday, August 2 @ 9AM to plant trees from Trees Atlanta (Rain date: August 3)

Please join us and bring your neighbors! Wear work clothes, comfortable shoes and work gloves; tools will be provided by the Atlanta ToolBank. Volunteers should meet at the alley entrance on Barnett Street where it intersects Maiden Lane.

We look forward to working side-by-side with you at these two upcoming workdays! Like our Facebook page to keep up with group activities: https://www.facebook.com/MaidenTrailATL.

United Methodist Children’s Home Auxilliary Hosts Flea Market

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe United Methodist Children’s Home Auxilliary will host a flea market July 11-12, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm at their location at 500 S. Columbia Dr., Decatur, 30030.

Come find treasures including furniture, jewelry, china, clothing (vintage, too), baby gear, toys, books and electronics. Find a great bargain and support our community’s children at the same time. Credit cards will be accepted.

For more information call 404-327-5820 or click here to visit the home’s website.

Trees Atlanta Announces TreeKeepers 2014 Program; Fruit and Nut Tree Panel Discussion

treesatlantalogoRegistration is now open for Trees Atlanta’s 2014 TreeKeeper Program. Trees Atlanta education coordinator Kate Baltzell says this is the 8th year for the TreeKeepers certification program and it’s sure to be the best program ever. The educational program includes seven different sessions and covers everything you’ve wanted to learn about trees:  identification, proper pruning, disease/pest identification, and ongoing care. Kate says the program’s enormously popular and will likely sell out soon. Click here to view a flyer with more information, or click here to register.

Also, Trees Atlanta will host a Fruit and Nut Tree Panel Discussion from 6:30 – 8:30 pm on Wednesday August 6. This panel discussion is free and open to the public and will be an excellent opportunity to learn about food bearing trees fit for growing in our part of the country. Click here to view a flyer with more information, or click here to register.

City Utilities Committee Holds Sidewalk Repair Price Increase

DSC_0009By: Peggy Berg

VHCA Safety Committee Chair Peggy Berg, VHCA President Jack White, and PEDS President Sally Flocks appeared at the Council Utilities Committee on June 24th asking that pending legislation 14-O-1240 be held. The proposed legislation reflected the Department of Public Work’s calculation that the actual cost of sidewalk repairs made by the city was $10.28 per square foot – the existing rate is $3.90 – and increased the charge to taxpayers accordingly.

While the Department’s methods of cost calculation were challenged (and left unexplained), that was not the only topic on the table. All three speakers pointed out that the key obstacle to successful sidewalk repair is that the city code makes each individual lot owner legally responsible for segments that abut their property, an approach that makes economies of repair and large-scale construction efficiencies impossible. The city also has stringent bonding requirements in place for individual contractors; that notion has merit, but it makes the cost of a contractor’s mobilizing for a small repair (like a lone sidewalk) extremely high. One of the results is that most of the legal sidewalk repairs undertaken by homeowners in VaHi are part of a larger renovation project.

Additionally, the city – through the Parks Department – has domain over the trees in the sidewalk strips (the area between the sidewalk and street). The city’s role in a healthy tree canopy is obvious and vital, but because those trees are not infrequently a factor in broken sidewalks, getting appropriate approvals for construction around them results in another administrative cost for private citizens.

All three speakers pointed out that there are huge efficiencies of scale available to municipalities that individual owners can never obtain, and that no large city in the nation has successfully maintained its sidewalks with such an approach. The speakers also noted that Georgia Tech professor Randy Guensler (himself a VaHi resident) and his grad students in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering are in the midst of a formal sidewalk evaluation project that could be used as a guide to an efficient and effective repair program.

The role of good sidewalks in a vibrant pedestrian community like Virginia-Highland is obvious; the importance of walking and biking were assets that many citizens cited through their input into the recently adopted VaHi Master Plan.

After the presentations, the Committee tabled the legislation in favor of a more comprehensive review of the entire issue. VHCA intends to be part of that ongoing discussion.

Thank you to our District 6 Council Member Alex Wan and our At-Large council member  Mary Norwood, who joined Committee Chair Natalyn Archibong, Howard Shook, Yolanda Adrean, and Andre Dickens in the unanimous vote.

BeltLine Moves Forward; Streetcar Approaches

By: Jess Windham

IMG_5835Living in Virginia-Highland, we have the good fortune of having nearby access to the BeltLine Eastside Trail. Whether you want to walk up to our newest, closest brewery Orpheus, bike to the soon-to-be-connected Historic Fourth Ward Park, or roller blade down to Chomp and Stomp for some chili, the BeltLine provides a fun, healthy and sustainable way to get to many of your destinations.

As much as we love the BeltLine now, there’s much more to come. The BeltLine aims to be more than a passive park loop for pedestrians and cyclists; there are plans for a light-rail transit corridor connecting both the first and future phases of the Atlanta Streetcar system, MARTA heavy rail, and the pedestrian/cycle trail we have grown to love. In terms of urban transit network development, using the BeltLine corridor for light rail will be the most feasible, attainable and affordable approach to developing Atlanta and Atlanta connectivity. You can find a full System Plan with map right here on the BeltLine’s website.

There’s much work yet to be done. For example, not all of the BeltLine’s 22-mile loop has been determined, funded, or acquired. Currently, BeltLine, Inc. is assessing possible transit routes in three specific focus areas: BeltLine East, BeltLine West and North Ave/Luckie Street.

Each focus area is undergoing an environmental assessment to vet alignment options and see what will likely work best for light rail functionality and the surrounding neighborhood. What looks reasonable on a map might not be feasible as you consider current car and cycle infrastructure, power and utility services, the surrounding neighborhood, and the always-present quandary of what the future holds. Current options have been narrowed down from a myriad of possible paths and now present practical, realistic routes for consideration.

ASC-Splash-VisionAs the transit goes, so, too, will the pedestrian and cycle track, with transit presenting the greatest logistical challenge. For BeltLine East, Hulsey Yard sits in the path of the straightest connection between the current terminus at Irwin Street and Bill Kennedy Way near Glenwood Park. Three options are being reviewed, each with its own benefits and drawbacks.

  • Option 1 follows future Streetcar expansion on Edgewood Ave., then goes south down Jackson Street to MARTA’s King Memorial Station. From there the line goes east down Memorial Drive.
  • Option 2 goes straight south down Krog St. with a modified or new tunnel to Wylie Street, then east toward the Eastside Trail.
  • Option 3 continues the Edgewood Ave. line to MARTA Inman Park/Reynoldstown Station then winds down Walthall to Wylie Street and the Eastside Trail.

While all of that is in the works and being discussed, Phase 1 of the Atlanta Streetcar aims to be up and running around September or October. They recently announced that over the next 60 to 90 days the rails will be tested to make sure the system is fully functional and safe before passengers begin riding the 2.7 mile loop.

Atlanta Streetcar’s first loop runs at 20 miles per hour in a counter-clockwise loop from Centennial Olympic Park, through Fairlie-Poplar Historic District, past Georgia State and Sweet Auburn Market, continuing up Edgewood Ave to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. From there, streetcars run west on Auburn Ave to Woodruff Park, up to Peachtree Center station, and back to Centennial Olympic Park.

For presentations and maps of the Transit Route Options, click here.

John Howell Park and Triangle Island Showcase Summer Color, New Plants

IMG_6321Has anyone else noticed the summer color exploding at the triangle island, and the wonderful new plants that have been installed at John Howell Park?

IMG_6344Thanks to the efforts of Nonie Daniels (landscape design and installation), Anthony DeVingo (weekly maintenance) and resident volunteers, the triangle island in front of Taco Mac and Murphy’s is looking great with lots of summer color coming out. Click here to read about the recent volunteer planting event that paved the way for what we’re enjoying now and will for weeks to come.

IMG_6341And special thanks to Walter Bland and crew for working hard to install many new plants at John Howell Park in the days leading up to Summerfest. There’s plenty of summer color to see around the JHP sign at Virginia and Barnett and new clusters of plants throughout the park.

Special thanks also to Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation employee Charles Hutchinson who spearheaded a comprehensive department effort to address the overhead lighting challenges that have plagued John Howell Park for so long. Thanks to Hutchinson and his crew, you should find it safer now to take a walk through the park during evening or nighttime hours.

Click here for an album of photos showing the new plantings at both locations.

Looking good, VaHi!!

A Conversation with Debra Markham of The Suzuki School

suzuki_cmyk_1DebraThe Suzuki School opened its doors locally in 1976, introducing a new age of early childhood education to Atlanta residents. The Suzuki approach took much from the philosophy and teachings of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, a world renowned music educator who revolutionized music education for the young with the belief that learning begins at birth, and that children can be taught to see learning as an enjoyable endeavor.  The Suzuki School later paired Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy with the educational approach and materials of Dr. Maria Montessori, merging the best from both of these early education pioneers.

Here’s a recent interview with Debra Markham, Head of The Suzuki School in Atlanta that provides insight into why Suzuki continues to be so successful.

What role does Suzuki play in a child’s development?

When the school was founded, I think that both founder Marlene Lerer and Dr Shinichi Suzuki instinctively knew how crucial the early years of a child’s life are to future development. Since that time, there’s been a tremendous amount of research on brain development that backs up these shared instincts. We now clearly recognize that in the first five years, everything happens: language, mobility, coordination, fine motor development, reasoning, sequential thinking, reading and writing – everything.  Foundations for a lifetime of learning are largely set before elementary school.

At The Suzuki School, we recognize that the development of executive function – planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering detail, managing time and space - begins in those first five years. Suzuki teachers create an environment in which the child can increase and refine all these functions, while at the same time building confidence and a love for learning.

092How does Montessori education fit into the Suzuki approach?

Well, this is my own journey. I was taught to be a traditional teacher, which means pre-planned lessons.  Some educators call this the factory model of education, and in reality, there is quite a bit of truth to this.  The American system of education was originally based on the Ford factory model, where efficiency was prized.

I had an epiphany after my own daughter was born. I understood that children in the first five years are not ready for this factory approach, and the traditional concept of tabula rasa – the blank slate – didn’t seem to me to be valid anymore.  My education in a traditional approach to teaching taught me that this blank slate must be filled by the parents and teachers in a child’s life but I realized, based on my awareness of my daughter in her early years, that the opposite was true.  The child creates herself and it is up to the adults to gain the knowledge of that development and to give her only what she needs, when she shows she needs it.  Vygotsky calls this scaffolding:  in an effective learning environment, the parent or teacher gives the minimum help required for the child to achieve mastery.  This help is gradually added, then modified, and finally removed altogether according to the needs of the child.   In a Suzuki/Montessori education, scaffolding is key.

In a Montessori environment, the classroom belongs to the children and their teachers assist them as they learn to care for it, rearrange it, set it up, learn in it, make friendships and resolve conflict in it.  It’s a separate environment from that of the home and that’s really important.

The windows of opportunity for learning – the sensitive periods, Montessori says – during the first two years are for order, movement, and language.  The windows for reading, writing, numeration and mathematics appear in the third, fourth and fifth year.  The child will never again be as open to the lessons that teach these skills as they are during these sensitive periods. Our teachers are trained to understand how the child’s brain develops, how their emotional and academic life expands, and to carefully observe in order to understand when it’s appropriate for certain materials to be presented. We are so dedicated to this approach that we have opened a Montessori Training Center, and are fully committed to having all of our teachers trained and certified in the Montessori system of education.

IMG_2037What are the most noticeable traits a Suzuki child will have?

Confidence!

The children almost universally develop enormous self-reliance and an ability to figure things out, to describe their needs, and to communicate what they think – they have ideas, they have opinions and they learn to respectfully communicate those opinions.

Another noticeable trait of the Suzuki child – he or she is highly verbal. That’s always been the case. I think it’s because they’re in a classroom where there’s always someone explaining something, and they learn to use a pretty large vocabulary to talk things over with their friends and with their parents and teachers.

How does The Suzuki School help realize a child’s true potential?

I attended a conference once during which a well-known early childhood educator actually stated that “the function of preschools is to get children ready to learn in the first grade.”  That’s an erroneous concept that I think many Americans hold. Suzuki and Montessori thought something entirely different: children are ready to learn in the womb. In fact, they are learning in the womb, and once born, it’s up to the adults in that child’s environment to understand what the child needs, to provide it, and then to step back. At Suzuki, we don’t have a lead and assistant teacher in the room; there are two or three teachers in a team, sometimes four. They teach together and they work things out together.  And what this collaborative approach really does is to bring the teachers’ various life experiences and teaching backgrounds together – what you get then is something quite remarkable. The family that will thrive at Suzuki is one that recognizes the enormous potential in the young child and is willing to make sure that this potential is developed.

What’s the benefit of the full day experience?

Well, it goes back to the classroom belonging to the children. The day is for working, because that’s what they see their parents do and of course, they want very much to emulate us. And evenings and nights are spent with their families. So the day starts with a meal, it begins with talking about what we want to accomplish in the day. Then the work begins. Astoundingly, considering the age of the children, this work cycle can last up to two and a half hours uninterrupted.

Our day also has a midday meal – preparing for that and sharing the meal with each other is another learning experience. After a short rest, the children can continue their morning work, or they can choose to work together in groups, join with friends, and develop socialization skills. Enrichment activities such as ballet or violin lessons also take place in the afternoons.

What happens after a child leaves Suzuki – what are they like in elementary school?

You know, they’re good at doing things. They tend to be advanced linguistically and mathematically and they are mature in their ability to care for themselves, organize their materials, follow directions, tackle new concepts, and concentrate. They know how to have a productive relationship with their teachers.

By the time they leave Suzuki, they are usually reading and writing. Their math ability – that’s astounding to me! We’ve always been able to teach children to read early on, but their math is just incredible. It’s due to the Montessori material – adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, and counting, specifically by units, tens, hundreds and thousands. They know place value, and can carry and borrow.  If I had been taught this way, I would’ve loved math, rather than doing everything in my power to just memorize and get through it!

So then, what kind of child would really flourish at Suzuki?

I actually can’t think of any child who wouldn’t thrive at Suzuki.

I think the world would be a better place if all children could learn with a Suzuki/Montessori approach because they would be happier, more confident, less dependent on peer pressure, and content with themselves and with what they know they are capable of achieving.

Montessori creates thinkers and innovators – for instance, there’s a disproportionate representation of Montessori-schooled entrepreneurs in the technological field.  If you want to learn more – Google “Montessori Mafia” (horrible name) and see what comes up!

We’d Like Your Opinion, Please

radar-sign-image-libraryThe VHCA is considering installing a solar powered radar speed sign in our neighborhood. You may have seen these signs along the Byway and on Lenox Road. They flash your speed at you as you pass but don’t record anything and don’t take photographs. You can learn more about the device we’re considering by clicking here.

We are interested in your thoughts. What do think about using this type of device in Virginia-Highland? Where do you think a sign might contribute to safer traffic flow? Peggy Berg, VHCA Safety Chair, would appreciate your input. Send your comments to safety@vahi.org.

NPU-F Takes Stand Against Sidewalk Repair Price Increase

DSC_0009At its Monday night meeting, NPU-F reacted strongly against the City’s proposal to nearly triple the price it charges to repair sidewalks. The proposed price is $10.28/sq. ft. compared to the current $3.90/sq. ft. In Virginia-Highland, where the VHCA has worked with property owners for three years to improve our sidewalks, this increase would surely impede our ability to make further improvements.

The proposed legislation enables the City to collect money for sidewalks without making any commitment as to how many months or years they would hold the funds before actually delivering the work. In addition, the legislation includes no reporting or accountability requirements. In fact, the City still has not implemented the recommendations from a recent study to reduce its sidewalk red tape, which is the major factor driving up the cost of sidewalk repairs.

NPU-F passed a motion against this legislation. However, City Council still has the option of passing it. You can let City Council know how you feel about this by emailing Alex Wan at awan@atlantaga.gov, and our at-large representatives adickens@atlantaga.gov, mnorwood@atlantaga.gov, mbond@atlantaga.gov and ccmitchell@atlantaga.gov.

Happily, the city has allowed a few additional properties to join the repair bundle currently being installed. If you have been considering repairing the sidewalk abutting your property, the current $3.90/sq. ft. price should be available until any new price is approved by City Council. You may wish to consider acting now rather than later. If you’re interested in learning more, contact VHCA Safety Chair Peggy Berg at safety@vahi.org or the city at ljeter@atlantaga.gov. 

Turtle Nest Found in Orme Park

DSC_0020While walking their dogs in Orme Park recently, Paige Cucchi and her husband Sean saw something you don’t see every day: a snapping turtle laying her eggs in the middle of the walking path on the park’s northeastern edge (across from 818 Brookridge).

The Cucchi’s placed some sticks and warning tape around the nest to protect it from being trampled by other walkers, then notified the VHCA. Volunteers rushed over and put up temporary plastic fencing to better protect the nest until the eggs hatch in late July or early August.

DSC_0019When the eggs hatch, the young turtles will most likely try to make their way to the nearby creek. During this time the young turtles will be very vulnerable to predators, including unleashed dogs. As the time for the eggs to hatch draws nearer, we will cut a hole in the fencing so the turtles can escape and erect additional fencing to protect and guide the turtles as they make their way to the creek.

Please do not disturb the nest or the fencing and ask your friends and neighbors to do the same.

DSC_0018If there are any residents who’d like to help discourage vandalism and increase the turtles’ survival chances by forming a watch committee, please let us know at parks@vahi.org. Might be something fun and interesting for the kids to do during the long, hot summer.

2014 Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle Tour Set for June 14

ABC LogoBeltline_logo_finalPassing along the following from our friends at the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership:

The Atlanta Beltline Partnership and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition are teaming up for the 7th Annual Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle Tour on Saturday, June 14, 2014. Featuring “The Full Atlanta BeltLine” 27-mile route and “Atlanta BeltLine East Meets West” 16-mile route, the Tour will celebrate cycling and the city while tracing the current and proposed Atlanta BeltLine corridor along paths, parks, and neighboring streets through 45 Atlanta neighborhoods. 

  • The Full Atlanta BeltLine (27 miles) - This route traces the entire Atlanta BeltLine corridor and will make you fall in love with Atlanta.  Some highlights include: the Eastside Trail, the Ormewood Ave railroad bridge, D.H. Stanton Park (and splashpad), the Oakland City Urban Farm site, the West End Trail, Mozley Park, the Lionel Hampton Trail, Washington Park, the Northside Trail, Tanyard Creek Park, and Piedmont Park.
  • Atlanta BeltLine East Meets West (16 miles) - This more-condensed option takes you along a section of the Eastside trail before crossing town to some beautiful parks along the Atlanta BeltLine’s west side.  Highlights include: the Sweet Auburn Historic District, Adair Park, the Oakland City Urban Farm site, the West End Trail, Mozley Park, the Lionel Hampton Trail, Washington Park, Centennial Olympic Park, and the Freedom Park trail.

“The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is pleased to partner with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to offer this popular event to Atlantans once again,” said Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Interim Director Rob Brawner. “The community has responded with tremendous enthusiasm to the Atlanta BeltLine Annual Bicycle Tour, as well as the many other programs and fitness classes we have to offer. It’s encouraging to see the project transforming lives and having such an immediate impact on our residents.”

“The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition started this event in 2008 to celebrate the Atlanta BeltLine’s role in making biking practical, popular, safe, and convenient,” said Atlanta Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Rebecca Serna. “Atlanta is becoming a more bikeable and walkable city, and this tour celebrates the potential.”

When:   June 14, 2014 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Arrive by 8 a.m.)

Where: Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark, 830 Willoughby Way NE, Atlanta, GA 30312

Registration: Advance registration is $35 adults ($30 for members of the Atlanta BeltLine or Atlanta Bicycle Coalition); On site registration rates (if ride is not sold out) are $45 adults ($40 for members of the Atlanta BeltLine or Atlanta Bicycle Coalition) and will take place beginning at 8 a.m. Staggered ride starts beginning at 9 a. m. Details and registration are available at atlantabeltlinebicycletour.com.

For any ride-specific questions, please contact erik@atlantabike.org.

Summerfest 2014 Photos

IMG_6215Anyone enjoy Summerfest this past weekend? We sure did, and by all accounts it was another successful festival.

Here are links to a few Google albums with photos from this year’s festival we thought you might enjoy viewing. Thanks to Lola Carlisle for contributing to this collection. We didn’t get to take as many pictures as we would have liked so if you have photos of the festival you’d like to share, send them to summerfest@vahi.org and we’ll upload them to one of our albums.

DSC_0114

Click on the appropriate link below for albums of:

Summerfest 2014 Community Parade and Dinner (Friday June 6)

Summerfest 2014 Day One (Saturday June 7)

DSC_0141Warren Bruno Celebration Ride at Summerfest (Sunday June 8)

Summerfest 2014 Day Two (Sunday June 8)

Looking forward to seeing everyone at Summerfest 2015!

 

VaHi Postal Worker Needs Your Help

IMG_20130427_161858Belinda Ferrell, a ray of sunshine in Virginia-Highland, is in need.

Belinda is one of the mail carriers in VaHi. Belinda’s Stockbridge home burned on May 20th, and she and her daughters lost all of their belongings. They are currently living in a hotel while the insurance details are worked out.

If Belinda is not your mail carrier you’re missing out. She is such a positive person and walks along our streets singing as she goes. Belinda has two daughters, 8 and 10 years old.

A GiveForward site has been started for Belinda if you’d like to offer support – kind words, offer of items you think might help and funds to help with supplies she and her girls will surely need. Click here if you’d like to help.

City Council District Six Newsletter

wan_190Here’s a link to City Councilperson Alex Wan’s latest newsletter,  which includes updates on:

  • ATLVision 2015 Infrastructure Bond
  • 2015 Budget Update: Millage Rate
  • New Monroe Dr. Crosswalk Protocol
  • Bike Boxes – What’s All the Green Paint About?
  • Love Your Block Grants in District Six
  • Jazz Festival Rescheduled for June 22
  • Neighborhood Spotlight: Virginia-Highland (yes, we’re kind of partial to this item)

Preview: 2014 Summerfest Store Merchandise

SummerfestLogo14Just to get you a little more in the mood for Summerfest – which, if you didn’t know, is this weekend – we thought we’d give you a glimpse at some of what will be for sale at this year’s Summerfest Store.

2014 Summerfest t-shirt logo

2014 Summerfest t-shirt logo (volunteers/staff)

In addition to the Men’s and Ladies Summerfest t-shirts featuring the 2014 logo, this year we’ll be featuring a collection of historic Virginia-Highland maps and photos suitable for framing. Our creative crew has also come up with a couple of fun posters featuring our new VHCA logo that we think you’ll enjoy. Signed copies of History of Virginia-Highland, written by VaHi residents Karri Hobson-Pape and Lola Carlisle, will also be available.

For increased convenience, there will be two Summerfest store locations this year: Booth #505 (south side of Virginia Ave., across from Maryland) and Booth #336 (north side of Virginia near Greencove – where the store’s been located the past few years).

See you at Summerfest!!

11" x 14" sepia collage of historic VaHi images ($30 ea.)

11″ x 14″ sepia collage of historic VaHi plat maps and images.

6" x 24" art print of the Virginia/N. Highland intersection looking west. The land is being cleared by oxen for the development of the Virginia Highlands subdivision established by Ben R. Padgett, Jr. of L.W. Rogers Realty. Circa 1923. Courtesy of Tom Catron. ($40 ea.)

6″ x 24″ art print of the Virginia/N. Highland intersection looking west. The land is being cleared by oxen for the development of the Virginia Highlands subdivision established by Ben R. Padgett, Jr. of L.W. Rogers Realty. Circa 1923. Courtesy of Tom Catron.

6" x 24" art print  of the intersection of Virginia/N. Highland looking north. Unknown date. Courtesy of Larry Santiago and Bonny Valente. ($40 ea.)

6″ x 24″ art print of the intersection of Virginia/N. Highland looking north. Unknown date. Courtesy of Larry Santiago and Bonny Valente.

History of Virginia-Highland book written by VaHi residents Karri Hobson-Pape and Lola Carlisle. ($25 ea.)

History of Virginia-Highland book written by VaHi residents Karri Hobson-Pape and Lola Carlisle. ($25 ea.)

 

VaHi poster featuring new VHCA logo ($30). If you like this poster, be sure to stop by the store to see a very creative second poster that we're sure all VaHi aficionados will love.

VaHi poster featuring new VHCA logo. Be sure to stop by the store to see an awesome second poster our creatives came up with that we’re sure all hard-core VaHi aficionados will love.

Men's logo t-shirt ($15 ea.)

Men’s logo t-shirt ($15 ea.)

Ladies logo t-shirt ($15 ea.)

Ladies logo t-shirt ($15 ea.)

Ride Your Bike to Summerfest and Park for Free!

ABC LogoimageIf you’ve attended Summerfest before, you know that finding car parking during the festival can be a challenge. So, why not bike to Summerfest? This year the VHCA is partnering with the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and the Virginia-Highland Church to provide FREE secured bike valet parking during festival hours on Saturday and Sunday, June 7-8.

imageThe bike valet corral will be located on the property of the Virginia-Highland Church, 743 Virginia Ave. The check-in station will be at the corner of Virginia Ave. and Ponce de Leon Pl., and cyclists can approach on Ponce Pl. from the south, Virginia Ave. from the west or Park Dr. from the north (no bicycles allowed on festival grounds).

imageFestival hours are 10 AM – 6:30 PM Saturday and 10 AM – 6 PM Sunday. Again, there is no cost to cyclists for the valet parking but space will be limited so arrive early to get your free parking spot.

Festival organizers are thrilled to offer this new service, which should improve accessibility to and increase the sustainability of the festival, and we’d like to thank our partners, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and the Virginia-Highland Church.

Orpheus Brewing Launches Midtown Tasting Room

1Passing this notice along from our new neighbors at Orpheus Brewing. Welcome to the ‘hood, gang!

The era of Atlanta being a one-brewery town feels so distant, it’s almost mythical. And with major growth in the last year alone, the craft beer scene in this city is becoming one of legends. That growth includes our newest Midtown beer hero, Orpheus Brewing, which is launching an impressive tasting room on Memorial Day.

Orpheus Brewing will follow the artistic vision of their founder and brewmaster, Jason Pellett. He began designing their brewing recipes in 2010 and officially teamed up with his partners, founders Andrew Lorber and Will Arnold in 2013. The team derives their name from the Greek mythological hero Orpheus, and their slogan of “Don’t Look Back” comes from his trials in retrieving his wife from the underworld.

3“I got obsessed with brewing beer and developing recipes in college, but it took on a new level about six years ago,” Pellett says. “There was always the long-shot fantasy that one day it would develop into a brewery, so I’ve always been developing recipes around core ideas that could actually constitute opening one. I don’t want to do beers that already exist. So we’re creating flavors that you can’t find elsewhere, and beers I’d actually want to drink.”

The forward-looking team at Orpheus plans to focus on flavor, and not trends, with two beers available year-round, as well as seasonal IPAs, sours and other special releases. In their heroine brew, Atalanta (a tart plum beer available all year), are traits of what Orpheus aims for in all of its beers: a piquant flavor that is deceptively robust and a bit on the wild side. The seasonal sour series will include beers like Serpent Bite, a dry-hopped, sour mash with a tart bite and notes of tropical fruit. The first Bone Tablet IPA Series will be the spring seasonal brew, Transmigration of Souls, an “irresponsibly” hopped Double IPA, bursting with life from an absurd amount of aromatic hops. Orpheus will also launch with Saison Calliope, the first of its Rotational Saison Series. It is a complex beer with strong melon overtones and a hint of sweetness and bready wheat.

xxxxxThe Orpheus team plans to introduce even more beers later this year, from the Lyric Ale (a saison hopped like an American-style IPA) to Wandering Blues (a sour pale ale aged on fresh Georgia blueberries) and the 12th Labor (a rich and complex Imperial stout) along with even more varieties of barrel-aged sours from the two on-site barrel rooms.

Orpheus Brewing plans to host tastings at the brewery, overlooking Piedmont Park and the Beltline. And as a proud new member of the local craft beer scene and a hero to all sours and saison-lovers out there, they plan to prove their loyalty by focusing on those in the local food service industry and arts communities.

Memorial Day hosts the launch of the Orpheus Tasting Room on Monday, May 26 from 1 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. The tour and tasting is free and merchandise will be sold, such as a Belgian-style glass for $12 and T-shirts for $15. Orpheus is focused on reaching consumers through Atlanta’s best bars, restaurants and retail outlets. The Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points is the first to offer the brews, as they host a special tasting event on Wednesday, May 28. Many other local beer aficionado destinations will add Orpheus’ distinct saisons, sours and IPA’s to their lists this season as well.

There’s no way to reflect on Atlanta’s landscape without a robust beer scene. And with the opening, there is plenty more excitement brewing on tap across this city. Orpheus Brewing is located at 1440 Dutch Valley Place NE, Suite 2001. For more information on Orpheus Brewing, visit orpheusbrewing.com.

Virginia-Highland Master Plan Approved at NPU-F

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-RGBThe Virginia-Highland Master Plan was overwhelmingly approved in a resident vote at the Monday May 19 meeting of NPU-F at the Hillside Center. The final tally was 72 votes for and 5 votes against.

Adopted unanimously by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association Board of Directors at its April 17th meeting, the Plan will move next to the City Council Community Development Committee and then on to the full Council for adoption and inclusion in the City of Atlanta Comprehensive Development Plan.

The Master Plan is the culmination of seven months of community outreach including a project website, continuous online input opportunities, public forums offered at various times of day and night, smaller focus group conversations, one-on-one conversations and a neighborhood steering committee. It provides a strategic vision in key areas like mobility, transportation, open space, recreation, safety, environmental issues, urban design, historic resources, public services, economic development and education. As a whole, the Plan will serve as a dynamic roadmap to guide future improvement projects in VaHi and will be a key document in securing funding from the City of Atlanta for such projects.

A team of urban planners from Market+Main, led by Aaron Fortner, guided the VHCA and residents through the process of gathering public input, drafting and developing the Plan.

The VHCA wants to thank those who attended Monday’s meeting and shared their thoughts on the Plan. Virginia-Highland residents care deeply about quality of life decisions made regarding their neighborhood, and that was never more evident than at last night’s meeting.

To learn more about and view a copy of the Plan, visit www.vahimasterplan.org.

VaHi Farm Animal Invasion: The Real Story (Part 1)

The Lanier Blvd. bovine - a Holstein, to be specific.

The Lanier Blvd. bovine – a Holstein, to be specific. Photo credit: John Becker

Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of Sara Zeigler.

We recently teased you with a report of a possible farm animal invasion of Virginia-Highland. A herd of goats had been spotted on Hudson Dr., and a huge Holstein cow, desperately in need of milking, popped up in the front yard of a home on Lanier Blvd.

What can we say? Sometimes we like to have a little fun here at The Voice. What journalistic integrity we do have, however, requires us to tell you the real story behind these interesting occurrences. Fortunately, the real stories are every bit as interesting as the one we made up – so here we go.

Goats on Hudson Drive

Sara Zeigler, Phil Amon and their two children Joshua and Cate live on Hudson Drive. At the rear of their backyard was a large and expanding area of English ivy and other invasive plants. Seeking a way to reclaim that part of their yard without chemicals or heavy equipment, the Zeiglers turned to a ‘greener’ solution: goats.

“We wanted to use an environmentally-friendly method of reclaiming the back portion of our yard,” Sara says. “Not only did the large area of ivy reduce the usable portion of our backyard, but it was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. We did some research and decided to give the goats a try.”

The goats arrive on Hudson Dr.

The goats arrive on Hudson Dr.

The Zeiglers’ livestock came from Get Your Goat Rentals. According to their website:

Goats thrive on poison ivy, poison oak, Kudzu, blackberries, nasty vines, and briers. The type of vegetation that ordinarily requires heavy machinery or toxic chemicals to manage…and they leave behind natural fertilizer. Renting goats for clearing is less expensive and less damaging to the landscape. Plus, it’s fun to watch!

For about $200 a day, the company provides 30-40 goats and a herding dog that protects the goats from predators like coyotes. Electric netting is used to restrict the herd to the grazing area (more on that in a minute). The company claims the goats make minimal noise and the dog barks only if it detects a predator, so impact on neighbors is minimal.

Prior to the goats’ arrival, the Zeiglers did a little outreach in the form of an email to their neighbors alerting them to what was going to happen. They shared pertinent info about using goats as an alternative to herbicides or machinery.

photo 3The goats arrived on Hudson Dr. on April 26 for what was estimated to be a 10-14 day stay. The Zeiglers were thrilled when the efficient herd completed its assignment in just 5 days.

“The goats just eat and eat,” Sara says. “We couldn’t believe how much they consumed in five days. They worked as a team to tackle small trees and then just inhaled the leaves.”

Sara says the goats were super-friendly and a big hit with both her kids and her neighbors.

image“A few of them would just follow you around and want their heads rubbed,” she says. “Joshua and Cate had a great time feeding them leaves. And it was great to see how excited our neighbors were about this method of getting rid of invasive plants. We even had a little ‘goat viewing’ potluck on Saturday night and invited neighbors over to ‘meet’ the goats. Everyone had fun.”

The goats’ stay on Hudson Dr. wasn’t without a little excitement, though. Two days into their stay, a large tree fell and took down the electric fencing. The goats escaped and began to search for new greens to eat. With the help of Zeigler’s neighbors, the goats were quickly recaptured.

Jailbreak! Goats loose on Rosedale Dr. Photo credit Kay Stephenson

Jailbreak! Goats loose on Rosedale Dr.! Photo credit: Kay Stephenson

The next day, though, one of the more daring goats decided to climb on top of the fallen tree and chance leaping over the electric fence. It seems if one goats leads, the others follow and at 7:30 AM on a Saturday morning the herd of goats stampeded over the fence, up the driveway of a condo complex behind the Zeiglers’ home and ventured onto Rosedale Drive. Residents woke to a herd of goats standing in their front yards eating their plants. Lucky for the neighborhood the goats can’t pass up fresh leaves and didn’t venture too far.

Cate's not sure she's ready for a goat kiss. Brother Joshua looks on.

Cate’s not sure she’s ready for a goat kiss. Brother Joshua looks on.

“The jailbreak on Saturday morning was pretty funny, thought it didn’t seem that way at the time,” Sara says. “Who would have thought the herd would make it three blocks away? I followed goat droppings all the way up Rosedale trying to make sure we’d recovered the whole herd.”

Overall, were the Zeiglers pleased with the results?

“We had never seen the ground nor walked on that part of our property,” Sara says. “Our back lot wasn’t a safe place for our kids to play. We still have a lot of work to do but the goats gave us a great start.”

Coming soon: the real story of the big bovine on Lanier Blvd.

Taste of the Highlands Returns to VaHi

homepage-logoThe 12th annual Taste of the Highlands will be held Saturday, May 17, 2014, from 2:00 – 5:00 PM at John Howell Park. Title sponsor Fifth Group Restaurants will participate for the eighth year in a row.

Taste of the Highlands benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, one of the leading pediatric health care systems in the country. Children’s is a not-for-profit that relies on the generous philanthropic and volunteer support of metro Atlanta communities to help kids get back to being kids.

In 2014, TOTH will also sell VIP tickets allowing patrons exclusive access to specialty beverages and snacks from area restaurants. The event features samples from area restaurants for a taste of what the neighborhood offers to the community, along with a variety of beverages to enjoy. Fifth Group Restaurants is the presenting sponsor of Taste of the Highlands, and Terrapin Breweries will be returning as the main beverage sponsor.

The 2013 event raised over  $39,000 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The monies raised will benefit the children’s hospital mission in research, education and pediatric care.

Price of admission covers all food and beverages at the event. Tickets are $40 in advance, $50 day of the event and can be purchased online. All proceeds benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

About Taste of The Highlands:

Taste of the Highlands is a 100 percent volunteer-run organization that partners with local restaurants and beverage vendors to provide a fun-filled day in Virginia-Highland to raise money for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

About Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a not-for-profit organization, is committed to enhancing the lives of children through excellence in patient care, research and education. Children’s offers access to more than 30 pediatric specialties and is ranked among the top children’s hospitals by Parents magazine and U.S. News & World Report. With generous philanthropic and volunteer support, Children’s has made an impact in the lives of children in Georgia, the United States and throughout the world. Visit www.choa.org for more information.

Volunteers Needed for VaHi Cleanup Event

DSC05672Passing along the following from our friends at Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful…

Join your neighbors – residents and business owners – on Saturday May 17 as we spruce up the neighborhood in anticipation of Summerfest. Meet at 8 AM at American Roadhouse for coffee and a biscuit to fortify you for your labors. Bring work gloves, scrapers (for sign and sticker removal), and if you have one, a gas powered weed whacker or leaf blower. Bags and water provided.

Special thanks to Emile (American Roadhouse) and Kristi (The Warren) for providing refreshments.

VaHi Master Plan on Agenda of Monday NPU-F Meeting

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBThe Virginia-Highland Master Plan – unanimously adopted by the VHCA board on April 17 – will be an agenda item at the next NPU-F meeting, to be held Monday May 19 at 7 PM at the Hillside Center, 790 Courtenay Dr. (just off Monroe Dr. across from the entrance to Piedmont Park).

The VHCA encourages VaHi residents to attend the meeting and participate in the process.

Residents who live within the boundaries of NPU-F are eligible to vote on all NPU issues.  Proof of residency is required for voting purposes – ideally a valid driver’s license indicating a home address within NPU-F boundaries.  A recent utility bill in your name mailed to an address within NPU-F boundaries may be accepted.

Access will be easier for those arriving early. Please allow some extra time – parking at the facility is limited. Our understanding is that the Master Plan will be early on the agenda, following presentations by local officials (which sometimes take a few minutes).

For residents attending the meeting, please consider carpooling or walking if you can; parking may be a challenge. The Hillside facility sits between Courtenay and Monroe Drives. Access is available from 1301 Monroe, opposite the CSO facility and the entry to the Piedmont Park parking deck. Some parking is available at that Monroe entrance, but those spaces often fill up early. Another option is parking along Courtenay Dr., near its intersection with Amsterdam, 150 yards off Monroe. The back gate to the facility will be open to allow entry from that side.

The Plan is a culmination of seven months of community outreach including online articles, VHCA newsletter articles, public postings, a project website, continuous online input opportunities, public forums offered at various times of day and night, smaller focus group conversations, one-on-one conversations and a neighborhood steering committee. The Plan provides the community with a strategic vision in key areas like mobility, transportation, open space, recreation, safety, environmental issues, urban design, historic resources, public services, economic development and education. As a whole, the Plan will serve as a dynamic roadmap to guide future improvement projects in VaHi, and will be a key document in securing funding from the City of Atlanta.

A team of urban planners from Market+Main, led by Aaron Fortner, guided the VHCA and residents through the process of gathering public input, drafting and developing the Plan, which was unanimously approved by the VHCA board at its April 17 meeting.

For more information and to view the Master Plan document, visit www.vahimasterplan.org.

Chilling in the Murphy’s Wine Shop with Michael Kunz & Bob McKechnie

shelvesEditor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series by VaHi food blogger Denise Romeo spotlighting the ever-popular Virginia-Highland eating establishment, Murphy’s Restaurant, located at 997 Virginia Avenue. Murphy’s is open Monday through Thursday 11:00am – 10:00pm; Friday 11:00am – 11:00pm; Saturday 8:00am – 11:00pm; and, Sunday 8:00am – 10:00pm. Look for conversations with Murphy’s owner Tom Murphy and Chef Ian Winslade in previous issues of The Voice. Photos courtesy of Denise Romeo.

Even on an otherwise quiet Tuesday afternoon, Murphy’s wine shop is bustling. Murphy’s Wine Consultants, Michael Kunz and Bob McKechnie, squeezed in a short interview between two meetings and preparations for the evening’s wine tasting.

What differentiates Murphy’s wine shop from full-service beverage stores like Green’s or Tower Package?

Michael: We view ourselves as wine concierges. We provide one-on-one service to our customers and track preferences and purchases so that we can make recommendations that suit each individual palate. We offer a boutique experience with a filtered selection of 30 or so wines that are traded out seasonally based on price, taste and variety. For example, the wine stewards just removed a large number of hearty reds from the shelves and replaced them with rosés which are seasonally more desirable and go better with dishes on Spring menus.

Bob:  Because we are part of a restaurant, we can have access to wines that others don’t. We can also order any wine available in Georgia. Most of the wines in our wine shop are available by the glass which gives patrons the opportunity to taste a more expensive bottle of wine before committing to a purchase.

placard2Are wine pairings with specific menu items critical, or do you find that customers order wines that they prefer instead? 

Bob: Each season when Chef Winslade updates the seasonal Murphy’s menu, Leslie Johnson, our Beverage Director, pairs wines from the wine shop with items on the menu. However, we do find that most customers tend to order wines they are familiar with and know they like.

Michael: The wait staff is very knowledgeable about which wines parallel with menu items for those that ask for specific pairings during their dinner service.

The Murphy’s wine shop has wine tastings each Tuesday. Who should attend these tasting events?

Bob: Everyone over the age of 21! Each Tuesday has a different theme, so it is a great chance to try three new wines each week.

Michael: Anyone who has an interest in learning a little bit about wines, or just wants to come and hang out and drink a good wine and eat some great Murphy’s food. Our wine tastings can be done either in the wine shop bar or any tables outside the shop. We have folks that come to the tastings for a girls’ night out and baby showers. It’s a great opportunity for neighbors to walk over and have a nice evening and walk home with no cars involved.

Bob: Reservations are required though. So folks need to remember to sign up at http://www.murphys-atlanta-restaurant.com/atlanta-wine-tastings before they head over on a Tuesday.

xavierOf your current stock, which wine do you feel is the best surprise for the money?

Bob: That is such a difficult question to answer, and not because I like them all (which I do), but wine preferences are so subjective and any time you introduce money as a qualifier, it gets challenging. Having said that, the 2010 Xavier Cotes du Rhone for $40 is an exceptional choice.

Michael: I agree with Bob. We have a wide variety of amazing wines offered at varying price points. It all depends on the customers’ tastes and budget. The 2010 Xavier is an excellent choice.

What else do you want your Virginia-Highland neighbors to know about Murphy’s wine shop?

Michael: The wine shop has its own mailing list to inform members of online specials, great offers on new releases, closeouts, and hand-picked standout wines before they ever (sometimes never) hit the shelves. Maybe learn a little, maybe laugh, and hopefully find some great wine. It is a great way to shop for highly-recommended wine without having to leave the house!

Bob: We also have a closeout rack in the wine shop with some amazing closeout deals on wines that we only have a few bottles left of.

Local food blogger Denise Romeo has lived in the Virginia-Highland area for 24 years. She and her husband, Dom, enjoy spending time together cooking and entertaining. You can read more from Denise on her award winning blog at We Like To Cook!

Volunteers Needed for 2014 Tour of Homes

247197_401058629963278_1840142934_nFor almost twenty years, our Tour of Homes has showcased some incredible homes, restaurants, and sponsoring vendors. In no small way, TOH has helped put our neighborhood on the map as one of Atlanta’s most sought after places to live. Each year the TOH committee works hard starting in March to plan and execute a tour that will not only be fun and exciting, but, more importantly, raise money for our neighborhood. The money raised directly benefits our community parks, sidewalks, safety, beautification and many other important ongoing projects.
 
Financially, the last three years have been record breaking and the trend continued in 2013. In fact, this year we truly blew it out of the water, generating an amazing $51,000 in revenue ($16,000 more than in 2012)! About 60% of the revenue came from sponsorships, with about 40% coming from ticket sales.
 
The TOH Committee has already begun it’s work on this year’s tour.  A number of homeowners have indicated their willingness to have their home on the tour, and several of our local restaurants have already signed up once again for food tastings.  We’re thankful to have many new committee members this year to help set us up for another great tour.
 
In order for us to repeat our record breaking revenue from last year, though, we need 2-3 more volunteers to help on our Sponsorship Committee.  This sub-committee raised almost $32,000 for the neighborhood last year, and is poised to repeat its success if we have a few more volunteers to help.  Our sponsorship drive will kick-off shortly after Summerfest. 
 
Please contact me at angelikataylor@me.com to find out more about these positions.  Tour of Homes is one of our neighborhood’s key fundraising events. Volunteering is a great way to get involved in Virginia-Highland and make a difference, all while re-connecting with old friends and meeting new ones.
 
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
~ Angelika Taylor, Tour of Homes Chair

Summerfest Tribute Ride: In Memory of Warren Bruno

SummerfestThere could be no better way to celebrate the man and avid cyclist who made Virginia-Highland Summerfest happen than with a celebratory ride through Atlanta’s favorite intown neighborhoods. That’s just what the staff of Atkins Park Restaurant & Bar and Ormsby’s is doing.

profile_warrenbruno122010.jpgIn fitting Warren Bruno style, the restaurants are hosting a bicycle ride during this year’s Summerfest. The ride starts at North Highland Park, at the corner of N. Highland and St. Charles Ave’s. The course continues to Little Five Points, through Old Fourth Ward and onto the BeltLine, into Piedmont Park and over to the Ansley Park Loop. The ride ends, of course, “at home” in Virginia-Highland just in time to enjoy the second day of the annual summer arts and music festival. Riders can take their choice of three loops – anywhere from 9.5 to 19 miles in total. To make sure the course is fun (and just a bit challenging) for all skill levels, the ride starts in waves according to ability, with plenty of markings to follow as well as ride leaders to help along the way.

As an owner of the flagship Atkins Park restaurant and now Ormsby’s, Warren Bruno was one of the founders of Virginia-Highland’s Summerfest. This annual tribute was created to honor and celebrate the man who never missed a chance to bring family, friends and community together – or the chance to enjoy the city by way of bike.

warren_bruno_sidewalk_spray_265hTo participate, riders must be registered with a number. To do so, register online. Fees are $5 for children and $20 for adults. Donations to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society are welcomed in honor of Bruno, and go directly to the Georgia Chain Gang team fundraising efforts. Founded by Bruno, the Georgia Chain Gang team rides in his honor to raise awareness for blood cancer research. Riders are also encouraged to bring their own water bottles, as refills along with food will be provided along the route.

Number pick-up and sign-in for the ride begins at 6:45 AM and the ride starts at 8 AM on Sunday, June 8. To register as a rider, visit the Warren Bruno Summerfest Celebration Ride website or visit the Facebook event page for more information. And, of course, get ready for the perfect celebration of Summerfest, community and the life of Warren Bruno!

Volunteers Spruce Up VaHi Triangle Island

DSC_0321

Our awesome volunteers.

A group of volunteers met Saturday morning to clean out the triangle island, plant some new greenery, put down fertilizer and pre-emergent weed control and spread pine straw throughout the area. Thanks to the volunteers who showed up and to Nonie Daniels for spearheading the effort!

If you’re in the area of the triangle island, please do all you can to keep folks out of the planted area (including the kids who congregate there after school on Fridays). We want this area looking as good as possible for Summerfest next month – let’s work together to make that happen!

Click here to view an album of photos from the cleanup.

Before...

Before…

After...

After…

Volunteers Needed to Help Spruce Up the Triangle Island Park

DSC06468The community triangle island park at the corner of Virginia and N. Highland Avenues is prepped and ready for spring planting! We need volunteers to help us plant annuals, a few perennials and to spread a topcoat of pine straw. Please join us on Saturday, May 10th at 10:00 AM for our seasonal beautification of this lovely community park. No real gardening knowledge is required. Bring garden gloves if you have them. We’d appreciate an RSVP but if you forget, just show up and we’ll put you to work.

For more information or to RSVP, please contact Nonie Daniel at info@noniesgarden.com.

Grand Opening Week at Bar Meatball

logo_barmeatball-e1395626733123Posting the following on behalf of Bar Meatball co-owner Joe Federici:

Virginia-Highland restaurant revelers and Italian meatball lovers are invited to come in and meet the management and staff of one of the neighborhood’s newest restaurants, Bar Meatball.

Located in the charming house-turned-restaurant space at 1044 Greenwood Ave, Bar Meatball is introducing VaHi and the city to its signature house made meatballs, sliders, pasta and other old-school Italian favorites. To kick things off, management has announced an entire week of grand opening celebrations starting Monday, May 12 and running through Saturday, May 17:

  • Monday: Free slider night (any slider)
  • Tuesday: Morningside/Lenox Park Association Neighbor Night (10% of proceeds go to the association)
  • Wednesday: $10 Bottle of Red, Bottle of White night with Vitiano Sangiovese cabernet blend and Banfi Le Rime pinot grigio for wine lovers
  • Thursday: $6 house sangria and slider combo
  • Friday: Free zeppole (delicious Italian donuts)
  • Saturday: Family Day – kids under 12 eat free from Noon to 6 PM

Beyond grand opening week, customers can enjoy the variety of meatball flavors (served on a plate of four with a choice of sauce and focaccia bread) and “Old School Extras” like the lasagna matta and pickled veggie jars. There are plenty of meatball sliders and combos with pasta and salads, and classic desserts such as ice cream sandwiches and zeppole, a traditional Italian-style donut with powdered sugar.

Stop by next week and say hi to the new folks at Bar Meatball!

An Unfortunate Incident at New Highland Park

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBA VaHi resident was verbally assaulted in New Highland Park recently. Feeling threatened and harassed, she called APD, which unfortunately failed to respond to the call. The resident and her friends left the park feeling violated and unprotected. The resident has formally complained to APD and the VHCA also called APD. The Zone Commander has promised an investigation and reply, the results of which we will be glad to post when they are available.

These events are unacceptable. The resident did exactly the right thing in calling the police herself at the time of the incident. New Highland Park was purchased, founded, and is maintained by the VHCA, but ownership is not a factor with respect to this situation; threats and harassment are not protected on private or public property.

If you are involved in such an incident, please call 911 immediately. In addition, if you see or hear of such incidents in our neighborhood, the VHCA Parks Committee and Safety Committee want to know. Please contact us at safety@vahi.org andparks@vahi.org, respectively. You are very welcome to call me directly at 404-454-6892 – but only after calling 911 first. This is true even if you have departed or thought the issue was not grave, as this one was. Reporting helps us work with APD and helps APD concentrate its efforts where needed.

In our experience, APD generally responds promptly to calls. This winter, a resident living near Inman Middle School called to report odd behavior on APS property. She also called the police, who arrived promptly and handled the situation. However, there are exceptions, like this situation in New Highland Park. I have been fortunate in two recent cases. When I called APD, the person whose behavior I reported left abruptly. But it doesn’t always happen that way, as this weekend’s events demonstrate.

We also want to know if you see evidence of people sleeping in the park overnight  - parks@vahi.org or Jack White (404) 454-6892. The police will handle such cases if someone is present, but if property has been left behind, we will address it. Removing abandoned property typically discourages repetitive behavior.

The lights are now on overnight in North Highland Park, with additional shading installed to accommodate nearby residents. The rules are posted, and the adjacent residents are organized and actively watching. Please join them in letting us know what you see.

We can’t eliminate all the challenges that go with living in a major urban area, but we can and do try to manage them energetically. The police – with their arrest and enforcement powers – are a key part of that. They have always been concerned and responsive, and we consider this most recent incident an anomaly. Please share with us your experiences; we’ll share their response.

~ Jack White, VHCA Board President

Betsy Bockman Back In As Inman Principal

DSC_0004Dr. Betsy Bockman will return to Inman Middle School as principal, effective July 1. Click here to read yesterday’s announcement on the Inman website, or read the full text below:

Greetings Inman Middle Community,

During Monday’s school board meeting, the Atlanta Board of Education unanimously approved the selection of Dr. Betsy Bockman as Inman’s next Principal, effective July 1. Dr. Bockman served as Principal of Inman for eight years (and at Morningside for five years) before being lured away by APS to serve as the Interim Executive Director for the East Region. While serving in that capacity, Dr. Bockman enhanced her already strong relationships with the Principals of our feeder elementary schools and, along with the other three regional interim EDs, had the opportunity to deeply imbed the voice of Principals and schools as they helped redefine school operations post-cheating scandal. For the past two years, Dr. Bockman has served as Principal at Coan Middle School. You can read about the great things happening at Coan HERE.

Dr. Bockman earned her doctorate in Educational Studies/Urban Education from Emory and also holds degrees from UGA and Georgia Southern. Many of you know Dr. Bockman and her family because they live in the Inman district. She has a daughter at Inman in the 8th grade and is the parent of two rising 6th graders.

Dr. Bockman is excited to be returning to Inman and says: “I had the unique opportunity to experience Inman as a parent these past three years and felt many of the normal frustrations, confusion, and successes that all middle school parents experience. This will help shape my work as I explore new territory as a parent and principal. I know my sons will have a great experience at Inman over the next three years. We all have new things to learn.”

The PTA looks forward to working with Dr. Bockman to continue our support of the Inman Middle School community.

Ten Thousand Villages Holds Month-Long Silent Auction

logo-3Passing along the following from our friend Juliet White at Ten Thousand Villages on St. Charles Ave.:

As a non-profit retailer, we occasionally find the need to do a bit of fund-raising. This year, in preparation for a mandatory (and rather pricey) technology upgrade, we are holding a month-long silent auction. Visit Ten Thousand Villages Atlanta any time during the month of May to view and bid on one-of-a-kind, artisan-made pieces, fair trade items no longer available, as well as goods and services generously offered by neighboring local businesses such as Atkins Park, The Warren, Bar Meatball, Hand-in-Hand, Surin of Thailand, Harry & Sons, Van Michael, Bridge Boutique, and George’s. Enjoy some friendly bidding for your favorite spot as you help support your local Ten Thousand Villages store!

Notice of Special VHCA Association Meeting

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-RGBIn response to a petition request from 50+ residents, the VHCA will host a Special Association Meeting on Tuesday, May 6 at 7 PM at the Virginia-Highland Church, 743 Virginia Ave. (opposite Inman Middle School). We will not be voting again on the Master Plan at this meeting, but – in response to the written request, properly made under VHCA bylaws – we will discuss why we decided to adopt the Plan at the April meeting and how this community has historically made such decisions. As part of the discussion, we will be happy to discuss the various ways citizens provided input to the Plan and how those comments were processed and are reflected in the Plan.

The specific notice follows:

VHCA Board of Directors

Notice of Special VHCA Association Meeting

Date:  Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Time:  7:00 – 9:00 PM

Location:  Virginia-Highland Church (across Virginia Ave. from Inman Middle School)

Business to be transacted at meeting:

  1. VHCA board response to petition to have a special election on the Virginia-Highland Master Plan
  2. VHCA bylaw requirements for Special Association Meetings and Votes by Association Members
  3. Discussion of process used to develop the Virginia-Highland Master Plan

Pursuant to Article II, Section 2.2 of the VHCA Bylaws, no business shall be transacted at this Special Meeting, except as stated in this Notice.

Some Background On Development in Virginia-Highland and Q&A on the Master Plan

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBEditor’s Note: The Virginia-Highland Master Plan – as adopted by the VHCA board on April 14 – can be viewed here.

By: Jack White, VHCA Board President

Aaron Fortner, the Market & Main consultant who led the Master Plan study, characterized this neighborhood a few years ago as being “in danger of being loved to death.”  His point was that our nearly ideal blend of home design, scale, small businesses, variety of residential options, and location had attracted so much attention and development pressure that maintaining the very features that distinguished VaHi could become a challenge. The rough model has been emulated throughout intown communities; our commercial aspects in particular now have real competition.

The adoption of Neighborhood Commercial (‘NC’) districts along N. Highland Ave. was an early response to that. These three districts allow flexible parking approaches in exchange for building height limits of 42’. Defining these districts was inspired by a proposal to build a much taller building opposite the American Roadhouse; such a building might still occur in that one location. Such redevelopment – when it occurs – is very likely to follow the modern intown models of ground floor commercial topped by 2nd and 3rd-floor residential. As that occurs, there will be still more auto traffic on N. Highland. Even sooner, there will be more auto traffic from the re-development of Druid Hills Baptist Church just south of Ponce.

We have mentioned several times this neighborhood’s historic and ongoing determination to maintain R-4 zoning along the BeltLine. That goal is important on its own merits, and also because there is the near-certainty of considerable new residential development along the BeltLine between Virginia and Ponce, behind the houses on Ponce Place. As that occurs, there will be much more auto traffic on Ponce Place, Virginia, and Monroe.

We will never return to the old volumes or speed of driving in Virginia-Highland. We can all work to keep cars moving, but as new traffic arrives, we are going to move at slower speeds – out of necessity (those other cars) and, because of safety (respecting other legal users).

Whether because of the traffic or in spite of it (or both), we now have many more citizens walking and biking. The importance of accommodating them safely and of keeping this neighborhood friendly to pedestrians were cited frequently during the Master Plan process. Keeping traffic moving is a goal we can all agree on, but it exists right beside the legal necessity of protecting other users.

Except on specified roads like interstate highways, cyclists have a perfect right to be on the road. And they are exercising that right in ever-increasing numbers. They don’t need anyone’s permission to do so and they haven’t asked; they’re just showing up and riding. That group includes many of our own residents. That those cyclists are a numerical minority is irrelevant and does not alter their legal right to be safe or our need to accommodate them.

Pedestrians – who every day include many residents of VaHi, some of them children – have a perfect right to cross the street in safety at marked crosswalks; cars have to stop for them and are more likely to do so when they are not speeding and the intersections are conspicuously marked. Any slight inconvenience that results to drivers from the slower speed is legally and morally secondary to protecting the rights of citizens to legally walk in our neighborhood.

Living in a civil atmosphere with an active street-side lifestyle that safely accommodates and encourages usages other than autos is a key characteristic of Virginia-Highland, and we all benefit from it.

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While the Master Plan addresses many topics, a few seemed to come up time and time again. The amount of noise this discussion created likely caused confusion among some residents. Following is an attempt to clarify some of the more frequently discussed topics:

Cars, Bikes, and Walking

Resident Comment: This plan supports those who walk and bicycle at the expense of those who drive.

Virginia-Highland is the poster child for good intown living: a vibrant neighborhood with entertainment, restaurants, schools and park facilities. Residents have overwhelmingly said that safe, non-automotive ways of getting around are a distinguishing characteristic of this community that needs to be protected and enhanced. Being able to walk and bike safely were mentioned enough to cause the consultant to summarize the Plan’s entire theme under the rubric of ‘Healthy Living’.

Resident Comment: Have other studies identified the importance of improving the safety of walking and biking?

The independent consultants from Safe Routes to Schools have looked at the same challenges and made recommendations about pedestrian safety and access that are very similar to those in the Master Plan. For example, the Springdale Park plan focuses first on making Briarcliff Road safer; N. Highland and Ponce are the next priorities. Supported by the Springdale PTA, Poncey-Highland, and the Druid Hills Civic Association, the Springdale program is trying very hard to make pedestrian access safer, a particularly important topic for children and parents since APS school bus coverage has been reduced. The Inman Safe Route to Schools Program specifically noted accidents and concerns about pedestrian safety on Monroe Drive.

Resident Comment: All these cars and delays make our neighborhood seem suburban.

Nobody likes traffic, and we all may wish for less of it, but it doesn’t make us ‘suburban’.

The most obvious difference between intown and suburban living is the intown concentration of retail, commercial, and entertainment options that can be accessed in non-motorized ways. Most of us are very dependent on our cars, but we typically use them much less than suburbanites because at least some of our recreational and daily shopping needs are close to home and are sometimes walkable and bikeable. Protecting those options was a frequent comment by residents in this process.

VaHi residents have also been active advocates for walking and cycling over the last decade. This community has historically backed groups that champion these practices (PEDS, Atlanta Bicycle Campaign, the Atlanta Track Club) because they’re fun and healthy.

Resident Comment: The Plan calls for painting sharrows (graphic of bicycles and arrows) on roads. Those give cyclists the right-of-way over cars.

Sharrows are only a visual reminder that cyclists are on the road and that the law requires sharing  – hence, the name. They are equivalent to a “Slow – children at play” sign – a reminder that other users may be present; they change no laws.

For more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_lane_marking.

Resident Comment: You can’t pass cyclists who are in bike lanes.

Yes, you can. In fact, it’s easier to pass cyclists who are riding in a dedicated lane.

Resident Comment: Bike lanes, sharrows, pedestrian signals, and bulb-outs are bad ideas.

These are all tools, and like all tools, they are value-neutral, neither good nor evil. Not every cyclist wants or uses bike lanes; some take the motor vehicle lane. A poorly designed or marked bulb-out can be hazardous or irritating; at intersections where cars speed through turns, a bulb-out improves pedestrian safety by slowing the turn. One can find examples of both in northeast Atlanta.

Monroe Drive

Resident Comment: Does the VHCA support the road diet piece of the Connect Atlanta Plan?

The VHCA supports the outcomes that the CAP is designed to produce – a reduction in speed on Monroe, improvements in traffic flow (fewer cars stuck behind folks waiting to make left turns and making abrupt lane changes), better pedestrian conditions for crossing and walking along the road, and an improvement in the quality of life for residents on the road.

Resident Comment: Even if we can’t change the Monroe Drive road diet, this plan goes too far. It takes away lanes from cars on other roads and gives them to cyclists.

The Master Plan does not take lanes away from cars. Perhaps it should have; a number of people have said they thought it should. But it doesn’t.

The road diet maintains 2 dedicated lanes – one in each direction – and a third shared lane for making left turns at any of the 17 opportunities to do so between Piedmont and 10th. In the short run, it proposes bike lanes in the remaining space; to be replaced when the BeltLine is extended by additional pedestrian components and plantings designed to shield walkers along Monroe from traffic.

Resident Comment: If the Master Plan isn’t the mechanism for opposing the road diet, what is?

Such plans are updated periodically, typically every few years. In our experience, City Planners will be glad to hear your arguments. They are usually quite capable of explaining their own rationales and data, and talking to them is certain to be enlightening, even if you disagree with them.

Resident Comment: The road diet reduces auto capacity on Monroe.

The City’s transportation planners don’t think it will. The most recent road counts for Monroe show traffic at about 18,000 cars a day.

Resident Comment: How does that compare to traffic counts there 6-8 years ago?

It is less, down from the low 20’s. Many traffic counts have gone down nationwide. Oft-cited reasons for this trend include the recession, working from home, folks making conscious decisions to live closer to their work, and impatience with time spent on the roads incentivizing a search for better routes or methods.

Resident Comment: Traffic levels on Monroe will go back up when Ponce City Market opens next year.

Yes, they very well might, but the traffic models show that the road diet can handle 10-20% more cars than are currently using the roadway.

Resident Comment: Every developer who proposes a huge new development provides a traffic study that shows everything will be fine.

Skepticism is understandable and healthy, particularly when a party that stands to benefit financially from it is paying for such a study. Our consultants looked at it independent of the city’s examination and saw no obvious flaws. Any study can be erroneous, but those who have done the Monroe traffic models have no monetary motive in being inaccurate.

Also, the road diet is already City policy and has been for several years.

Resident Comment: The traffic signals on Monroe can be better programmed to handle more traffic.

That would be great. We encourage sharing such ideas with the City traffic engineers. Perhaps there is a very simple fix that can be made somewhere on Monroe that will really help there – or maybe not.  Either way, there’s no reason to delay trying, and we’d be glad to help arrange such a meeting, if that would be of assistance. Helpful or not, this single point has little to do with the Master Plan.

Resident Comment: Why don’t you just leave out any reference to the road diet? That would be interpreted as being OK with it by default without having a big discussion.

Deliberately NOT informing citizens about any law or process – or carefully not mentioning information because someone might not like it – is the exact opposite of good planning and totally inconsistent with this community’s historic approach, which has been based on openness. The iterative process is based on learning, asking, and discussing. That process takes time and has real value; a better-informed citizenry is one of the benefits of those who go through it.

It is interesting to note that our process appears to have informed many more citizens about the road diet than the city did on either of the two occasions it passed the plans that included the feature.

By the way, how exactly would anyone responsibly involved in the Master Plan process reply to a resident who asked if important content had been omitted because it might upset someone?

Resident Comment: Are there parts of the Connect Atlanta Plan that the VHCA does not like?

Inevitably, there are – specifically the concept of a new road though the Ponce de Leon Kroger from North Avenue to Ponce de Leon Place. We are very concerned that such a connection would funnel what we fear would be new large volumes of traffic from North Ave. (especially once Ponce City Market opens) into our neighborhood.

Resident Comment: Why isn’t that opposition part of the Master Plan?

Master plans start with and are based on existing policies and do not assume that that they will change.   No individual or group waives their right to try to change polices in the future by learning and acknowledging what existing policy is.

Resident Comment: Why didn’t the Master Plan seek to prohibit retail chain stores?

As with the road diet, the Master Plan approached commercial topics through existing law and policy.  Even if the commercial areas in VaHi were prospering, and even if city code contained a definition of what a chain store is (which is not as straightforward as it may seem), there is no basis in law for limiting them.

While the VHCA is a resident-based organization, the health of the commercial districts received a a good bit of focus in the Plan. Some proposals will have to await the expiration of or changes to the Park Atlanta contract (because that is law and no matter how much we wish we could change it with a master plan, we cannot), but there are some specific infrastructure recommendations for the Atkins Park NC district that are intended to improve the street-side atmosphere and make the area more attractive.

Board Process and By-Laws

Resident Comment: Why didnt the Steering Committee and the Board participate in the social media debates?

They did. Members of those groups made approximately fifty comments on various social media sites, providing a large amount of input on issues, process, and schedules. We also commented to ensure that resident concerns and comments were directed to the proper channels (www.vahimasterplan.org and specific board members) where they could be observed and recorded.

Resident Comment: No neighborhood votes are needed on one-foot variances; they’re not very important. But we should vote on the Master Plan, like Candler Park did.

Candler Park followed its by-laws and rules, as it should have. They vote neighborhood-wide on all requests: one-inch variances, one-foot variances, two-foot variances, and any and every other detail.

Virginia-Highland has very successfully used a representative model to engage on a wide and sophisticated range of processes (including running a very successful Tour of Homes and Summerfest that raise large amounts of money that is spent on – among other things – schools, parks, planning, and sidewalks.

We followed our by-laws throughout this process, as we should have.

It is worth noting that the distinction cited – variance review versus formal planning – is not nearly as broad as it might seem. While some variance requests are routine, others are not and their content and the manner in which they are handled have a great deal more neighborhood-wide significance than might be obvious at a glance.

Resident Comment: The Boards support of the Master Plan was pre-ordained; there are Board members on the Steering Committee who weren’t impartial.

We certainly were not impartial on the value of a Master Plan, or we would not have studied them, gone to other neighborhoods that were meeting on the topic, talked to the City of Atlanta’s Planning Office, sought out the opinion of several city council members, or asked two of them for financial support to defray the cost of developing the Plan.

No citizen – certainly not any board member or volunteer on a master plan – starts with a tabula rasa, a blank slate. But there were no pre-ordained conclusions about any specific content, where input arrived from a variety of sources – residents, the consultants, and other planners.

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The VHCA thanks the many residents who have engaged in the Master Plan process, providing valuable insight into current experiences in VaHi and goals for the future of our neighborhood. Please reach out to board@vahi.org for further information and continue to comment on the plan at www.vahimasterplan.org.

More Love for Maiden Trail

After_01a (Large)Residents who have been working to improve the condition of the alleyway that runs east of Barnett between Ponce and St. Charles – which they’ve dubbed Maiden Trail – have organized another clean-up event for Saturday May 3.

Anyone who wants to help remove trash and overgrown brush from the alley is invited to meet at the Barnett St. entrance to Maiden Trail at 8 AM, or just show up and join the group whenever you can. Volunteers should wear work clothes and bring gloves. Trash bags, other supplies and bottled water will be provided.

The group’s commitment to caring for the alleyway was rewarded this week when they were told they are the recipient of a City of Atlanta ‘Love Your Block’ grant to fund continued improvements. The award – which could be as much as $1,000 – will be used to purchase gravel to fill in ruts and plant native trees along the improved alleyway, according to organizers.

To aid police in responding to 911 calls, the group is also working on a plan to post St. Charles Ave. street numbers on the back fences along the alleyway.

“The Maiden Trail project for improving this particular alley continues to evolve thanks to the hard work of dedicated residents,” says organizer Christopher Juckins.

“Several conversations are in progress with various civic groups and city officials,” Juckins says. “I’m excited to see so much interest in making this neighborhood sore spot a future asset for the community as it becomes a pedestrian-friendly access path.”

Dishing With Murphy’s Chef Ian Winslade

Murphys#1Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series by VaHi food blogger Denise Romeo spotlighting the ever-popular Virginia-Highland eating establishment, Murphy’s Restaurant, located at 997 Virginia Avenue. Murphy’s is open Monday through Thursday 11:00am – 10:00pm; Friday 11:00am – 11:00pm; Saturday 8:00am – 11:00pm; and, Sunday 8:00am – 10:00pm. Look for conversations with Murphy’s owner Tom Murphy and Sommelier Michael Kunz in past and future issues of The Voice. Photos courtesy of Denise Romeo. 

The sun is shining brightly and a cool morning breeze tickles the gathering crowd as Chef Ian Winslade of Murphy’s restaurant peels and chops a little known vegetable for his Celeriac And Golden Beet Remoulade. On this sunny Saturday, Chef Winslade has stepped out of his kitchen on the corner of Virginia and North Highland Avenues to demonstrate how to cook with fresh, organic vegetables at the Morningside Farmer’s Market.  (Click here for the recipe.)

winsladeChef Winslade is a major advocate of the farm-to-table movement and strives to cook with locally-sourced ingredients as much as possible. He currently works with four local farms to provide fresh produce for the restaurant explaining that the further the ingredients must travel, the less healthy they are due to the processes used to prolong their shelf life. Chef Winslade plans his menus around four distinct seasons and likes the challenge of working with what is available locally each week: “It forces me to constantly be flexible and think about workable flavor combinations.” He continues in his velvety British accent, “Last year was particularly challenging due to the unseasonably wet Spring. We had planned for a glut of zucchini and tomatoes that never really came in, and our menu reflected those shortages.”

Current menu items for Spring include fresh peas, fava beans and morels.

When asked about the impetus for Murphy’s “Meatless Monday” menu, Chef Winslade explained that cutting meat from your diet, even if it’s just once a week, can dramatically decrease your risk of heart disease. “Meat is hard for your body to digest; giving your body a break each week allows time for it to catch up and heal. It also reduces your carbon footprint and saves natural resources.” He enjoys working with healthy grains such as farro and bulgur, and uses chickpea flour in lieu of less healthy, processed wheat flours.

remouladeMurphy’s has many menu options for vegetarians, vegans, and customers avoiding gluten, and these are all clearly labeled for customers.

“We try to accommodate any dietary restrictions that our customers may have,” Winslade explained. “With few exceptions, all of our dishes can be adjusted to a customer’s needs.”

Chef Winslade went on to say he’s surprised that more people, especially Virginia-Highland residents, do not take advantage of Murphy’s take-out option.

“You can walk in and order almost any menu item for take-out or call in your order for pick-up,” he said. “It is a wonderful way to have a freshly prepared dinner at home even when you don’t have time to cook it yourself. You can even pick up a bottle of wine from the wine shop to go with your meal.”

In addition, members of the Friends of Murphy’s guest loyalty program can accumulate points with take-out purchases as well as in-house dining. To join Friends of Murphy’s, sign up during your next visit to receive a membership card and a signing bonus of 250 points ($10 reward) toward your next visit.

Local food blogger Denise Romeo has lived in the Virginia-Highland area for 24 years. She and her husband, Dom, enjoy spending time together cooking and entertaining. You can read more from Denise on her award winning blog at We Like To Cook!

Master Plan Promotes Vision of Healthy Living

DSC_0037Editor’s Note: Jett Marks is a Virginia-Highland resident and non-VHCA board member who serves on the Master Plan Steering Committee.

Since October of this past year, Virginia-Highland residents have been enthusiastically participating in a blueprint for our future, a Master Plan that defines not only who we are, but what we want to become.  At the April meeting, the Virginia-Highland Civic Association formally adopted a Master Plan that reflects how we view ourselves, what we value, and – as a practical matter – specific recommendations to build for our community’s future.

The process started with an on-line survey. The survey guided us to share what we love about our neighborhood, what we wanted to keep, and also what needed improvement. By listening to what Virginia-Highland residents value, the planning team could establish what it was capable of becoming.  Through focus groups and public forums, the team of urban planners from Market + Main, led by Aaron Fortner, guided us through the process.

The City requires certain elements in a Master Plan: mobility, open space, recreation, safety, environmental issues, urban design, historic resources, public services, economic development, and education. Assembly of the Master Plan incorporated input for all of these elements. The City’s existing plans and zoning code provided the starting point for the neighborhood’s planning.

For decades, Virginia-Highland has represented a lifestyle other Atlanta neighborhoods have desired to embody, but what exactly were they trying to embody? What is the essence of Virginia-Highland? The planning process sought out this essence.

Across the many responses that came in, there were numerous threads: walkability, the human-scaled streets, the green spaces, the “street-car pattern” that shaped the ratios and placement of commercial, residential and rental, the old and new, the urban and retro-suburban, the outdoorsy / active / running / dog-walking / front-porch living, the funky / edgy, and some history too — the VHCA got its start by swimming against the stream of white-flight while challenging the construction of an interstate highway. Basically, we’re a bunch of non-conformists, but happy ones.

Out of many threads, we did find one. Healthy Living is the unifying pattern in the complex tapestry that reflects our community.

Despite this common thread, it’s been a challenge finding consensus. Anyone following the Master Planning process knows there have been a few conflicts. (Why couldn’t we have happy conformists living here?!)

The process was guided by a Steering Committee whose role was first to listen, then to help all the non-conformists get along. There has been a healthy amount of conflict resolution.

An early conflict was the initial recommendation to include bike lanes on N. Highland to accommodate the growing cycling population. After meeting with the business community and the residents who depend on on-street parking, the recommendations were adjusted to balance between the loss of on-street spaces and providing for the safe travel from the BeltLine into our business nodes.

Many recommendations did not survive a review of immediate challenges and concerns voiced by City of Atlanta Planners whose input was carefully considered. Whereas the larger set of recommendations may not all work at this time, the plan captures those valuable discussions and they can still be considered for future approaches to problems we will continue to address.

The plan – befitting a thriving community – will evolve. And that’s healthy too.

~ Jett Marks

Druid Hills Tour of Homes

Just a reminder that the Druid Hills Tour of Homes is this weekend:

Mark your calendar for May 2-4, 2014! The Druid Hills Home & Garden Tour will celebrate its 46th year with seven elegant homes that feature renovation, restoration, and the work of master gardeners. We are delighted to announce our collaboration with the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center to host the Artist & Pottery Market. The Callanwolde mansion, built in 1920 for an heir to the Coca-Cola fortune, also will be featured on the Tour.

For the first time, Emory Village will be a stop on the Tour for lunch, shopping, and tickets. We also have many exciting events including Bar Talks and the Lullwater Conservation Garden Plant Sale. This year, most of the tour gardens and the Artist & Pottery Market are wheelchair accessible. To learn more, please visit our Tour Information page.

Please visit our 2014 Tour of Homes & Gardens website for tickets, event schedule, map and more.

The committee continues to seek smart, capable Druid Hills neighbors to volunteer for all kinds of roles. Please visit www.druidhillstour.org/volunteer if you are interested in participating in the Tour.

The annual Tour is the sole fundraiser for the Druid Hills Civic Association. We need your support!

Are Farm Animals Taking Over Virginia-Highland?

Photo credit Peggy Berg

Photo credit Peggy Berg

Recent sightings around the neighborhood indicate Virginia-Highland may be under siege by farm animals.

Last week, a herd of non-resident goats arrived on Hudson Dr., settling in Sara Zeigler’s and Phil Amon’s backyard. It had been rumored on the BackDoor VaHi website that the Capra aegagrus hircus (or is that hircae?) were seeking to synch up with resident domestic chickens, thought to be poultry insiders in the plot. The Voice has verified there’s no truth to the rumor that the Intown ACE Hardware coop was where the plot was…(we’re so sorry) hatched.

Photo credit Kay Stephenson

Photo credit Kay Stephenson

Neighbors watched with anxious concern as the goats feasted on invasive plants at the rear of the yard, gaining strength after their long journey for what would presumably be an all-out assault on the neighborhood. Concern turned to mild panic last weekend when the herd left Zeigler’s and Amon’s backyard, worked its way through a condo property and emerged onto Rosedale Dr. where it headed east.

Fearing the goats were destined for a rendezvous with reinforcements, residents contacted FBAC which was was rumored to be considering a limited military response. Fortunately, a group of valiant Rosedale residents took quick action, and the herd was returned peacefully to the security of Zeigler’s and Amon’s backyard.

Just as things were calming down on Hudson Dr., The Voice received a report of an unidentified, non-resident bovine on Lanier Blvd.

Photo credit Leslie Line

Photo credit Leslie Line

Leslie Line works in VaHi. She sent us a picture of what appeared to be a large Holstein – in desperate need of milking – grazing in a flowerbed on Lanier near Avalon Place.

Was this just a livestock coincidence? Was this bovine a refugee from a Chik-Fil-A commercial? Who will dare to milk this dairy cow? We knew inquiring minds would want answers to these questions.

DSC_0132Voice reporters rushed to the scene where we found the bovine a prisoner of war, chained securely at the left rear ankle to a front porch railing. We also discovered VHCow – as Ms. Line dubbed her – was made entirely of ceramic material. Our level of suspicion and concern immediately increased.

These recent developments have some VaHi residents worried about future such incursions.

“What’s next – pigs in John Howell Park?” asked concerned Rupley Rd. resident Bob Coomes.

The Voice has reached out to both homeowners for comment. We’ll update you when we have more information.

2014 Summerfest T-Shirt Design Unveiled

imageWho’s ready for some Summerfest?

The festival’s still a few weeks away, but we thought we’d start getting you into the Summerfest 2014 spirit by revealing this year’s t-shirt design.

Summerfest committee member Suzanne Scully spent the past few months working with our partner Porchlight to create this year’s design which features a stylized version of the festival name, accented with a ‘stamp’ or ‘stencil’ of the neighborhood’s name, the year and the letters ATL.

“The intent of the design is to reflect the eclectic yet whimsical and sophisticated neighborhood we are proud to call home,” says Scully. “The ‘shipping stamp’ suggests a hint of the rich history that surrounds us in Virginia-Highland.”

A version of the design shown here will be used on the volunteer and staff t-shirts, while different versions of the same design will be used on the Road Race, Tot Trot and ‘for purchase’ men’s and ladies’ shirts.

What do you think? We hope you’re as pleased with this year’s design as we are and we hope to see everyone at Summerfest in June!

About our design partner Porchlight:

Porchlight is an Atlanta-based agency with a passion for hard working design that stems from our roots in the home improvement industry. We specialize in branding, creative packaging design, POP, and signage that resonates with consumers and appeals to buyers. Together, our team has over 30 years of experience in the design and marketing industry, allowing us to provide our clients with proven expertise and understanding of their branding goals. Past clients have included Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Berry Plastics, Yamaha, RIDGID, and Georgia-Pacific.

Porchlight

Contact: Greg Corey

503 Means Street, Suite 404

Atlanta, GA 30318

678-500-7190

gcorey@porchlightatl.com

Porchlight-logo-long-rev-RGB

 

Trees Atlanta and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition Host Tour of Trees by Bike

ABC LogotreesatlantalogoTrees Atlanta and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition presents a “Tree Tour on Bikes”, led by ISA Certified Arborist Linc Weis and experienced ride leaders from ABC. The tour will take place on Sunday April 27 from 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM.

This family-oriented ride visits the Virginia-Highland Neighborhood Arboretum along quiet neighborhood streets as well as a stretch of the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine while showcasing diverse ornamental and flowering trees. This easy ride has options for 2 or 4 miles of touring and can be managed by most elementary school children. Younger children and cyclists who have yet to develop street skills are welcome as passengers in bike seats and trailers driven by adults. Frequent stops and interesting stories accommodate all ages. Feel free to bring your own refreshments and refillable water bottle for a water stop at John Howell Park. Also, join the group for an optional lunch stop afterward at a favorite Virginia-Highland restaurant.

DSC05064Meet at John Howell Park at 9:30 AM for a 10:00 AM departure. Arriving at 9:30 will allow organizers to sign you in, check equipment and brief riders on the route and safety rules. Whereas light mechanical problems can be handled by our ride leaders, our tour will be more pleasant if your bike arrives in good working order. Participants are expected to wear helmets. You are encouraged to bring a bike with gears as Atlanta can be hilly at times.

Participants are asked to pre-register for the event so organizers know how many riders to expect. Register at: http://treesatlanta.givezooks.com/events/tour-de-trees-biking-tree-tour-of-virginia-highland.

Special thanks to the City of Atlanta for help supporting this and other Trees Atlanta Tree Walks!

Virginia Highland Neighborhood Arboretum:
http://treesatlanta.org/wp/wp-content/files_mf/virginiahighlandbrochure.pdf.

Bike rental available here: Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle

Route options the group might take:
http://ridewithgps.com/routes/4058832

CINS Awards Grants to Grady, Inman, SPARK

cinslogo.4.2.10.1Congratulations to Grady High School, Inman Middle School, and Springdale Park Elementary School for being among those awarded grants by the Council of Intown Neighborhoods and Schools. A complete list of this year’s award winners follows.

If you want to learn more, you’re invited to attend the CINS Grant Showcase on Wednesday April 30, 2014 at 6:30 PM  at Hope-Hill Elementary School. There will be a special performance from Hope-Hill’s Pre-K class, and grant recipients will make brief presentations on their projects.

2014 Grant Awardees

  1. Instructional Personal Access Device Strategies (IPADS): Centennial Place Elementary
  2. Connecting to Literacy in a Technological Age: Hope-Hill Elementary
  3. For the Love of (Leveled) Reading: Intown Academy
  4. Yoga in the Classroom: Mary Lin Elementary
  5. Study Island: Mary Lin Elementary
  6. “There’s an App for That”: Mary Lin Elementary
  7. “So You Think You Can Cluck?”: Morningside Elementary
  8. SPARK science kits: Springdale Park Elementary
  9. Study Island: Inman Middle School
  10. Epson Document Camera: Inman Middle School
  11. Tracking the Rotational Rate of the Sun: Grady High School

Legislative Fact Sheets Available for Review

VaHi-Logo-Horizontal-Small-RGBAttached are fact sheets for proposed legislation circulated to the NPUs for comment and forwarded to us from NPU-F yesterday. These proposed ordinances will be up for review at tonight’s NPU-F meeting. The meeting starts at 7 PM and will be held at the Hillside School, 690 Courtenay Drive.

The VHCA is particularly interested in Z-14-13, which relates to ‘structures’ constructed for non-school purposes on APS property. These are all citywide ordinances; the one cited seems likely to be enacted in some form, and we are examining it for any potential impacts it might have on the temporary stage used at Summerfest. Such very temporary issues, we are informed, were not contemplated in its drafting; what prompted it was the lease of school field fields for very frequent use over a long period by a soccer league in Buckhead.

Click on a title below to view a pdf of the legislative fact sheet.

Z-14-05: Urban Gardens

Z-14-07: Works of Art on Private Property

Z-14-13: Accessory Structures

14-O-1025: Keep Atlanta Beautiful

Z-13-46: Window Signs

Z-14-14: Sears District Signage Legislation

Turn eWaste Into Tuition for Atlanta’s Firefighters

FireFighterFlyerEcycle Atlanta has partnered with the Atlanta Fire Foundation to purchase
donated e-waste during Earth Week (April 21-26). Both businesses and
homeowners can drop off their old computers, laptops and cell phones at
any Atlanta fire station, and the Fire Foundation will receive full
credit. The funds that we pay to the Foundation will then be used to
reimburse tuition fees for the firefighters.

Beginning April 21 through the 26, Atlanta residents can donate any of the
following at their local fire station:

  • Business phones
  • Cable boxes
  • Cell phones
  • Computers
  • Laptops
  • Network equipment
  • Satellite receivers

Note: Large donations from corporations and other organizations can be
scheduled for pick up at the donor’s convenience and location.

The Atlanta Fire Foundation’s electronic recycling program is a “win-win”
for everyone, as it not only brings us a step closer to sustainability,
but it also helps Atlanta firefighters in reaching their educational
goals.

Earth Day on the Atlanta BeltLine

Beltline_logo_finalVolunteers to Remove Invasive Bamboo on the Northeast Hiking Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine

Registration is underway for the 2014 Earth Day on the Atlanta BeltLine on Saturday, April 19, 2014.

Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, Park Pride, Trees Atlanta, the Atlanta Community Tool Bank, Keep Atlanta Beautiful, and neighborhood partners are working together to clear invasive bamboo and debris along the Northeast Hiking Trail to celebrate this year’s Earth Day on the Atlanta BeltLine.

With the popularity of the Eastside Trail, this stretch of interim hiking trail is getting more and more use. With your help, we will continue to improve the experience as people use the Atlanta BeltLine to connect between Piedmont Park and surrounding amenities. Additionally, removing invasive plant species will increase the area available for native plants to grow, helping to support the local wildlife food web.

Volunteers should wear sturdy, close-toed shoes, long sleeves and pants, work gloves (extra gloves will be available), and should bring a water bottle, bug spray, and sunscreen. Be prepared for moderate to heavy work. All ages are welcome; children must be accompanied by an adult.

When: Saturday, April 19, 2014

All volunteers should arrive at the site by 8:30 a.m. to check in and should bring a signed waiver, which can be accessed from the registration website. Activities begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at noon.

Volunteer Registration: earthdayonatlbeltline14.eventbrite.com

Where: Atlanta BeltLine Northeast Hiking Trail

Volunteer check in will be near Park Tavern at the corner of 10th St. and Monroe.  Please look for the check in tables manned by Keep Atlanta Beautiful representatives.

VHCA Votes to Adopt Master Plan

VaHi-Logo-Horizontal-Small-RGBThe Virginia-Highland Civic Association voted unanimously at its Monday night meeting to adopt the Master Plan as currently posted on www.vahimasterplan.org. Click here to view a video of the board meeting in its entirety.

The Plan is a culmination of seven months of community outreach including a project website, continuous online input opportunities, public forums offered at various times of day and night, smaller focus group conversations, one-on-one conversations and a neighborhood steering committee. The Plan provides the community with a strategic vision in key areas like mobility, transportation, open space, recreation, safety, environmental issues, urban design, historic resources, public services, economic development and education. As a whole, the Plan will serve as a dynamic roadmap to guide future improvement projects in VaHi, and will be a key document in securing funding from the City of Atlanta.

A team of urban planners from Market+Main, led by Aaron Fortner, guided the VHCA and residents through the process of gathering public input, drafting and developing the Plan.

The Plan will next be presented at the NPU-F meeting to be held Monday, May 19, at 7 PM at Hillside School, 690 Courtenay Drive. Interested residents are invited to attend.

On June 9 the Plan will be presented to the City Council Community Development Committee. On June 16th the full City Council will consider and vote on adopting the Plan as a recognized document by the City of Atlanta and incorporating it into the City Comprehensive Plan.

A group of residents has requested a special meeting of the VHCA to discuss issues related to the Master Plan. The VHCA intends to convene such a meeting at a TBD time and place. Details of the meeting will be announced as soon as they are available.

The VHCA would like to thank the Master Plan Steering Committee (see member list below) for the many hours of hard work they invested in working with Market+Main and residents to develop the Plan; Market+Main for their invaluable assistance in guiding the neighborhood through the process; and most importantly, the residents of VaHi who stepped up and took advantage of the many opportunities to provide valuable input into the creation of the Plan. We are a community of residents who care passionately about their neighborhood, and this project has been a true reflection of that reality.

Master Plan Steering Committee Members

Lola Carlisle

Frazier Dworet

Michael Elliott

Frank Fralick

Jenifer Keenan

Jett Marks

Stuart Meddin

Jack White

Jess Windham

 

 

 

 

 

On the Topic of Alleyways in Virginia-Highland

By: Jack White, VHCA Board President

After_01a (Large)A Bit of History

The use and ownership of alleys in our neighborhood has come up in several contexts over the years.  The alleys had two major purposes: utility access and garbage pick-up. It’s hard to envision now, but until 1975 (apologies for the uncertain date, but that’s close) the city picked up garbage twice a week from privately-owned trash cans supplied by the residents and left in the alley.  As you can imagine, those trashcans came in every possible condition, were often not well secured, could easily be tipped over, and were frequently scavenged by raccoons, dogs, and possums. The resulting debris was typically strewn up and down the length of the alley; in summertime, it was paradise for flies and yellow jackets, and it attracted a number of semi-wild and occasionally aggressive dogs.

Pickup was dangerous and physically daunting for sanitation workers. In some instances, small golf carts were used to access the alleys; in other cases – where spaces were constructed – individual workers filled larger bins and then muscled them out to the trucks on the street. All in all, it was hugely expensive, inefficient, unsanitary, and dangerous.

One of the signal accomplishments of Maynard Jackson’s first administration was the transition to once-a-week street side pickup, employing the now-ubiquitous green “Herby Curbie” containers, provided free of charge then (as they are now) to every household.

It was a huge capital investment – trucks had to be modified, too – but the improvements were immediately visible. Every one of the problems mentioned earlier was rapidly ameliorated. To my knowledge, Atlanta was the first city in the metro region to adopt the practice; in the intervening decades, almost every municipality has followed.

The original costs were amortized in the long run by a large reduction in labor cost; fewer workers could pick up more trash with less effort. Some workers were laid off too, and a resulting strike produced the first policy crisis of Jackson’s administration. The strike didn’t succeed.

The alleys suddenly got much less use, but access for utility functions was still maintained. New telephone wires were frequently strung from the rear, especially as the neighborhood’s population rebounded and demand for fax and phone lines increased. As wireless took over, even those uses have faded away.

There are other uses for the alleys, of course. Many have provided auto access to rear parking; some have not been used that way for a very long time and are overgrown. As petty theft became an issue in the 90’s, some property owners physically blocked alleys not otherwise in use to prevent their being escape routes.

A quick tour of the neighborhood will demonstrate all these conditons, as well as quite a few different levels of grading. A few of the alleys are asphalt, others neatly graded, and some are rutted and barely passable.

Who Owns the Alleys?

A memo from January of this year helped formalize the city’s position. It cited a 1996 city code provision that states the city has no property interest in any alley, except for three downtown. Barring other evidence, the city assumes the centerline of an alley to be the dividing line between adjacent property owners. A process is provided for the requirements an owner must meet if (s)he wishes to formally add one’s half of an alley to a property deed.

The memo goes on to note, however, that any property owner who wishes to add their part of an alley to their deed and exercise an undivided interest in their new property must have proof of permission of all adjacent priority owners. The memo specifically references the possibility of a “right of egress”, which (as mentioned) is exercised daily in many – but not all – VaHi alleys. It does not specify what happens when an alley has not been in such use.

In calculating setback and lot coverage for variance proposes, does an alley count?

The alley may be used for setback calculations; unless a formal re-platting has occurred, it does not count for coverage purposes.

May one build in the alley?

Such an action will at minimum require a building permit that includes a variance request for a setback; there may be other factors that come into play. (In an alley, restricting existing access might be one.) There are structures adjacent to alleys within setbacks all over the neighborhood that are legally grandfathered – i.e., they existed prior to the 1983 adoption of the current code – or that were built with variances.

What issue is before us now?

Property owners on Todd Road asked the City of Atlanta’s Office of Planning to approve a re-plat of the alley on the south edge of their property, abutting adjacent owners on Adair Avenue NE. Those owners provided a deed description of their property that pre-dated their ownership by several transactions indicating that they owned the entire alley in question. The city’s official plats did not agree; they showed the property as an open alley and therefore split in ownership down the middle between adjacent owners on both sides.

The Office of Planning instructed the applicants to acquire the signed consent of the neighbors along the alley. The applicants acquired the written approval of three of the neighbors; a fourth was not home when they called on a couple of occasions, and a fifth declined to give his approval.

The applicants submitted that document to the Office of Planning on January 13th; on January 23rd, the Office of Planning approved the re-platting.

A few days later, the absent neighbor returned to town and learned of the re-platting. She objected to the Office of Planning and requested a meeting with the Director of the Department of Planning and Community Affairs. That meeting – postponed once by the city’s closure due to weather – was held at City Hall on February 14, 2014. Present were the neighbor who was objecting, her agent, the applicants, myself from VHCA, and several staff members from the Office of Planning.

The planner reviewed his decision and the process that led up to it, including consulting with the City’s Department of Law. He cited the applicant’s deed description and an affidavit that cited a driveway in part of the alley dating back 30 years. The neighbor argued that the deed to her property had been in her family for decades, that she was unaware of any claim to her own ownership of half the alley, and that she did not believe this one to be accurate. She requested additional time to submit a response; the deadline for filing an appeal to the BZA was approaching.  The Director of Planning said she was powerless under law to grant the request.

On behalf of VHCA and all homeowners who abut an alley, I made the following procedural argument:  a minimum due process expectation in this type of case should include formal notification by the city of all adjacent property owners and a reasonable of time to respond. Among other methodologies, a registered letter to the owner of record providing 30-day notice to comment (if desired) would be sufficient. Other standards might also suffice, but relying on an applicant who initiated the process and was its beneficiary is insufficient for an outcome that involves the transfer of ownership of real property.

Nor was there any reason for a rushed or expedited decision in this instance, and no such reason was offered. Purchasers of property abutting an alley – who number in the hundreds in VaHi – rely on the city’s plats as accurate and legal; no owner or purchaser could reasonably be expected to search every adjacent alley owner’s property deed and bear no responsibility to conduct such searches in search of potential conflicts.

Additionally, the city routinely provides impacted owners formal written notice of potential variances; it is easily well within their ability to do so in a re-platting. In acting so precipitately, the Office of Planning had denied the objecting citizen her due process right to be heard on a very important issue.

I asked for a reversal of the approved re-platting, for reasonable time to allow the objecting citizen to respond, and for another planner to be assigned the issue for an independent decision. Those requests were denied; an appeal to the Bureau of Zing Adjustment (BZA) was the only option.

I then noted that the Legal Department typically provides consultation to the BZA in such matters and asked that – in the event of an such an appeal – there be no further discussion between that Department and the Office of Planning with the BZA about this case. Both the Office of Planning and Legal Department’s rulings and recommendations would be contested in an appeal, and it would be improper for those parties to independently consult or review them with the exact group – the BZA – that would then hear that appeal. The Planning Department termed this a ‘matter of philosophy’ and said the Legal Department would be representing only the BZA in such a consultation.

The neighbor’s ‘agent’ – retained because the citizen who is appealing has out-to-town employment – filed an appeal to the BZA. The case will be heard on May 1, 2014.

The VHCA Board passed the following motion last Monday: (1) VHCA supports this appeal as it relates to this appellant’s due process rights (and those of all other potentially impacted owners who abut alleys.)  This citizen was denied her opportunity to be heard by the Office of Planning and forced to incur the expense and inconvenience of filing an appeal. (2) We renew our objection to any further independent discussions on any aspect of this case between the BZA (which will hear the appeal) and the City of Atlanta’s Office of Planning and/or Legal Department (whose procedures and judgment are being appealed.)  Such interactions would not be merely an appearance of conflict of interest; they would be the very definition of such a conflict.

If the BZA needs specific legal counsel or advice on these matters – and it may – it cannot be provided by the very department whose legal advice is being challenged or the very office whose process and decision are in dispute. It should be provided by outside counsel. Further inquiry into this issue suggests that at least DeKalb County provides outside counsel to its citizen-member agencies in such instances.

To conclude:  We are not now suggesting nor have we ever thought or implied that the original applicants acted in bad faith in asking for the re-plat, and we leave arguments about the internal merits of the appeal to the body hearing it. We are asserting that transfers of real property cannot properly be made in an abrupt and arbitrary manner that does not respect the due process rights of adjacent neighbors to comment and be heard prior to decision.

This article mentions both the ‘Office of Planning’ and the ‘Department of Planning.’ Which is it?

The ‘Office of Planning’ sits administratively within the larger ‘Department of Planning and Community Development.’ The city changed its terminology a couple of years ago and dropped the use of the term ‘bureau’; the ‘Bureau of Buildings’ became the ‘Office of Buildings’, and so forth.

Historic Hex Pavers Available for Purchase from VHCA

VaHi-Logo-Horizontal-Small-RGBIt’s time for Spring gardening and outdoor improvements and, if fixing historic hex pavers in your sidewalk is on your to-do list, the VHCA has what you need.

The civic association has a good supply of historic Virginia-Highland hexagonal pavers for sale at $6 each. If you’re interested, email Peggy Berg at pegberg1111@gmail.com and she’ll call you to set up your order.

If the pavers in front of your home are in bad shape and you’ve been thinking about fixing them up, now would be an excellent time to tackle the project. Not only will you improve the curb value of your home, but your pedestrian neighbors will thank you, as well.

photo 2 photo 1

 

 

 

 

Bridging Cultures by Opening Our Doors to Atlanta’s International Students

By: Sam Casto

marks_logo_fbAtlanta opens its doors every year to thousands of international visitors who work, play, and study in our cosmopolitan metropolis. International students occupy one of the fastest-growing economic sectors and population groups in our city as indicated by the more than 12,000 foreign exchange students who studied at Metro-Atlanta universities in 2013.

Who is welcoming these students? Where do they live? Many students consider living with a host a very integral part of their educational experience.

_MG_2957“I don’t know what I would have done without my host family. They have helped me with all kinds of things, from finding my way around, to helping me find where to purchase things I need. They are really like my second family, I love them,” said, Karim, an Atlanta homestay student from Saudi Arabia.

A “homestay” is a cultural exchange between a local individual or family (called a “homestay host”) and an international student. The homestay host provides a basic furnished room, private or shared bath, internet and meals. In return, the student pays a monthly “homestay fee,” which is used to reimburse his or her host’s daily expenses.

_MG_2688Gustavo and Willa Machado have been hosting students for several months. Gustavo, an immigrant himself, says it’s been great helping others who are going through the same orientation process he went through. He says he really enjoys the mutual cultural exchange with his students.

“It has been a very easy task for us. We’ve been able to maintain our own lives and not had to dedicate more time than we have. They get out and are independent and explore using the language, and then come back and ask us questions. It has been really fun for us. And it’s not a chore but rather something joyous. It’s a mutual learning experience,” says, Gustavo

_MG_2934Metro Atlanta homestay host Evelyn Paul and her neighbor both host students. She says that all of their students have been respectful guests and dedicated students, and that the experience has been fun and easy.

“They’re coming here very serious and focused. I love to travel, I like interesting people from different countries, and having the extra money always helps. My first student was from Brazil, and now I have a Turkish student that I love. Just having that real, up-close interaction with the culture is really fun and really interesting,” says, Evelyn. “I have a very small house, and I thought we would step over each other and get in each other’s way. But it has been such a seamless transition.”

For more information on becoming a homestay host, visit www.markshomestay.com/host, email info@markshomestay.com, or call (404) 822 – 0071. Also, follow our homestay stories on social media at www.facebook.com/markshomestay.

VHCA to Consider Master Plan at Monday Meeting

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBThe VHCA will have adoption of the Master Plan on its meeting agenda this Monday April 14. The meeting will be held at the Ponce de Leon Ave. library meeting room at 7 PM. The board will discuss the plan and very likely consider a motion regarding sending the Plan on to the next steps toward formal adoption. The meeting is open to the public and interested parties are encouraged to attend. As we wrap up the process, it’s worth a look back at what the goals of the process were.

The Master Plan was undertaken for several reasons. Part of the reasoning was to give this community (and its various sub-neighborhoods) a better voice in decisions regarding allocations of funding resources that may become available if a bond proposal anticipated for next year is approved. A second reason was to involve citizens in a more conscious and deliberative way in thinking about the interrelated challenges – large and small – that we face in urban design, the environment, development, aesthetics, transportation, planning, parks, schools, and other issues. Decisions in such areas are made continually by local and regional planning agencies, often with very little neighborhood input. The Master Plan was designed as an interactive approach that aspired to both inform citizens about many existing (and overlapping) polices and processes and then invite them to weigh in and suggest new outcomes.

Many months and revisions later, a plan exists that reflects dozens of ideas and arguments (broad and specific) voiced by a wide variety of citizens. Iterative processes sometimes produce surprising outcomes; this one has had its share.  Consensus and broad support was achieved in many areas, but not in all areas.  That, too, should not be a surprise; a community with the width and breadth of ideas found in Virginia-Highland will occasionally disagree.

One part that all citizens might agree on is this: while community-based master plans have both direct and indirect value, they do not have the weight of law.  Whatever values you support and whatever visions you have for this neighborhood – and however many times you voiced them during this process – this plan is not an end in itself.  All current public processes and decision-making opportunities will continue to operate and will need our ongoing participation.   The inclusion or exclusion of a concept in a master plan has little value if its supporters do not continue to advocate for it (or against it, as preferred).

In the course of discussing the plan and in other ongoing contexts – the approaching expansion of Inman Middle School, development along Highland, and residents on Monroe – it has been a pleasure to meet and review these issues with many, many citizens.  Without exception, they have all been courteous, inquisitive, concerned about the neighborhood, thoughtful, and attentive. This specifically includes a number of people who disagreed – sometimes very strongly and very articulately – with some parts of the plan or of city polices that they learned of during the process.

If a secondary by-product of this plan is involving new volunteers in committee and association activities, then that may be the best outcome of all.  Most VHCA work is done at the committee level. Three new board members this year came from a background of other association projects; there is always an opportunity to be involved, and there is no better way to be effective than by being informed, and no better way to be informed and impactful than being involved. We invite and welcome your participation.

Lifeline Animal Project Invites You to ‘Spring Into Adoption’

LifeLine Logo (2)Passing along the following from our friends at Fulton County Animal Services:

Springtime in Atlanta brings sunshine, Dogwood blooms and, sadly, skyrocketing intake levels at Fulton County Animal Services (FCAS) due to the high number of puppies and kittens being born. To encourage the public to adopt, LifeLine Animal Project is offering a great deal on pet adoptions with their ‘Spring Into Adoption’ promotion at FCAS. During April, all adoptable dogs and cats are only $25. Standard adoption screening criteria still applies. Adopted pets will be spayed or neutered, microchipped, vaccinated, heartworm or combo tested and dewormed – a $200 value!

DCASRenoirAccording to FCAS Director Lara Hudson, a staggering number of unwanted pets enter the shelter during warmer months. “Beginning in the spring, we receive an influx of unwanted litters due to people not getting their pets fixed.” she says. “We hope this promotion will bring adopters in quickly, so many wonderful pets can be adopted and lives can be saved.”

cute catTo see pictures of the wonderful animals available at FCAS, or for the shelter’s address or adoption hours, please visit www.fultonanimalservices.com.

About Fulton County Animal Services

Managed by LifeLine Animal Project, Fulton County Animal Service’s mission is to provide a humane environment for Fulton County’s homeless pets while placing them into loving, permanent homes, and to end pet overpopulation by promoting spay/neuter, advocating for life-saving public policy, increasing public awareness of homeless pets and educating the community about responsible pet ownership. For more information, please visit www.fultonanimalservices.com.

Emory Point to Host Free Family-Friendly Outdoor Music and Movie Events This Spring and Summer

423163_258492057571225_1330816859_aPassing this along from our friends at Emory Point:

WHAT:
Enjoy complimentary live music and movies at Emory Point, every other Thursday beginning April 17 through August 21. Music and activities start at 6 p.m. in The Park at Emory Point, and movies begin at sundown. Bring a blanket to enjoy lawn seating, and arrive early to enjoy games, trivia, photo booth, popcorn, and for the chance to win special giveaways and deals from Emory Point’s shops and restaurants. Check www.emory-point.com/special-events for additional movie showings information prior to each event.

WHEN:
Every other Thursday
Begins April 17, ends August 21
6-10 p.m.
6 p.m. – Live Music and Activities begin
Sundown – Movie begins

In case of inclement weather cancellation information will be posted on Emory Point’s social media sites: www.facebook.com/emorypoint and www.twitter.com/emorypoint.

MOVIE SCHEDULE:
April 17 – Hunger Games: Catching Fire
May 1 – Gravity
May 15 – The Great Gatsby
May 29 – Mystery Movie!*

*During the month of April, visit www.facebook.com/emorypoint for clues to which movie will show on May 29. Four correct guesses on Facebook will be eligible to win “Dinner and a Movie” – a $25 gift card to BurgerFi.

WHERE:
Emory Point on Clifton Rd., across from the CDC and a short walk from Emory University and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. Local and national shops and restaurants comprise the 80,000 square foot destination complete with a 1-acre green space, The Park at Emory Point.

1727 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30329
(678) 686-3106

April Activities at Woodlands Garden

woodlandsgarden_logoOur friend Kate Baltzell at Trees Atlanta notified us of some fun events taking place this month at Woodlands Garden, the 7-acre sanctuary of majestic Georgia Piedmont forest near downtown Decatur.

  • April 6 – 27: Birdhouse Auction, bidding on line – bid early & often!
  • Every Sunday in April, 2 – 4pm: Live Music & Birdhouse Displays
  • April 6, 2 – 4pm: Atlanta Audubon Society – learn to attract birds to your yard
  • April 19, 10 – 11:30am: Stories in the Woods – story reading & craft project about birds
  • April 26: Youth Artist Market, 11am – 3pm; Live Music; Decatur Garden Tour, 10am – 5pm
  • April 27: Closing of the Birdhouse Auction, 4pm; Live Music; Decatur Garden Tour, 12 – 5pm

For more information on the above activities and to bid on a wonderful collection of birdhouses, click here.

If you’re not familiar with Woodlands Garden, click here to visit their website.