Streets Alive Returns to VaHi September 28

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

The proposed route (see map below) is a 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. 

ASA_FALL-2014_MAP_071014-67-1024x765

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.

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.

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.

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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.

*                                                      *                                                      *

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.

*                                                      *                                                      *

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 pberg1111@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.

Spring into Atlanta Festival Season at the Third Annual Spring Festival on Ponce

Festival on Ponce LogoAtlanta Foundation for Public Spaces LogoThe Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces is proud to announce the 3rd Annual Spring Festival on Ponce on April 5 – 6, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. This event will feature over 150 local and regional artists with the beautiful backdrop of historic Olmsted Linear Park.

Visitors will enjoy fine art and crafts, children’s area, live acoustic entertainment and local food and beverage concessions including “gourmet” food trucks.  This event is organized by the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces and volunteer artists to benefit the local community. This event will be very conservative, with sensitivity to the park and neighborhood. Best of all, its free to attend.

Spring Ponce 2014“We hope that neighbors and visitors will come see the extraordinary gardens of the Olmsted Linear Park and stay to peruse the 150 local artists who will take up residence there for the weekend!  We are very proud that our local artists will be able to draw attention to both the historic parks and the Druid Hills community in a positive way,” says Patrick Dennis, President of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces.

These beautiful chains of parks have lovely trees and paths and great visibility from one of Atlanta’s truly historic avenues.  This is a unique and wonderful opportunity for locals and visitors to appreciate the vision and legacy of one of America’s most celebrated landscape architects, Fredrick Olmsted, Sr. as well as the achievements in restoration by the Olmsted Linear Park Alliance.

Location: Olmsted Linear Park, 1451 Ponce de Leon Avenue, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30307

Times: Saturday, April 5, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 6, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Music: Acoustic music only

Admission: Free to attend

For more information, please visit www.festivalonponce.com.

Catching Up with Tom Murphy, Dean of VaHi Restaurateurs

Editor’s Note: This is the first 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 from 11:00am – 10:00pm; Friday from 11:00am – 11:00pm; Saturday from 8:00am – 11:00pm; and, Sunday from 8:00am – 10:00pm. Look for conversations with Murphy’s Chef Ian Winslade and Sommelier Michael Kunz in future issues of The Voice.

By: Denise Romeo

Murphys#1Most of us don’t remember a Virginia-Highland without Murphy’s, the venerated restaurant that is literally the cornerstone of the neighborhood. Those of us who have been here a bit longer recall the first location with its friendly and colorful mural, and its cozy, intimate dining. It was one of the first restaurants my husband and I went to when we were dating in the late 1980s, and was a driving force in the revival of the Virginia-Highland neighborhood over the following decade. I had an opportunity to sit down and chat with owner Tom Murphy at his neighborhood eatery. Looking as though he were seated in his own living room with a cup of fragrant tea, Tom reminisced about how he got his start in the restaurant business and his neighborhood.

Where did you get your start in the business of feeding people?

When I was eleven, my Dad bought a New York-style hotdog cart for my brother and me. We would sell hotdogs to neighbors at Peachtree Battle Shopping Center, to symphony goers at Woodruff Arts Center and at Georgia Tech on game days. During high school, I worked in a wine and cheese shop in Lenox Square which came in handy when my father opened a cheese shop in the Municipal Market (better known today as the Sweet Auburn Market.) So, while my college buddies were still eating Velveeta, I became known as “The Cheeseman.”

Tom-Murphy

Tom Murphy
Photo courtesy of The Saporta Report

During my junior year at Georgia State University, I was taking a management class and the professor asked us to do a feasibility study on opening a business. Since I was running the Cheese Shop, I decided to go with what I knew. So, with the help of a few classmates, I developed the concept of a neighborhood delicatessen. My professor and I actually took that feasibility study to the bank to get financing. Again, going with what I knew, I chose Virginia-Highland because that was where I was living at the time.

How has the Virginia-Highland neighborhood changed in the last 33 years?

Virginia-Highland is one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods and it was around long before I arrived. In the 60s and early 70s, there was an exodus from the neighborhood to the suburbs. The original plans for Georgia 400 had the highway going directly through our neighborhood to connect to Freedom Parkway at the Carter Center. That threat resulted in a collaboration of Virginia-Highland residents – old and new – to stop the highway and “rebuild” the neighborhood. In 1979, when we were just getting started, Virginia-Highland was transitional. While the neighborhood had well-established Greek and Jewish communities, it was also cheap for college kids to find apartments and share houses in the neighborhood. It had an artsy, SoHo/Greenwich Village feel to it. About that same time, it was starting to be desirable to live “intown” again. We knew, or at least hoped, that we were on the ground floor of something that would be much bigger.

murphys-cookie-jar

Murphy’s cookies are legendary.

Our original location was in the basement of a house owned by John Capozolli (of Capo’s Café fame). In 1993, the house and property were sold and we were forced to find a new location. I didn’t move because I wanted to. I moved because I had to. Looking back, we had the right momentum and it was the right time, so we did. We were fortunate to be able to move to the corner of Virginia and Highland. We went from Murphy’s Round the Corner to Murphy’s On the Corner. We were very excited to be able to maintain an environment that felt as though customers were coming into our home and that we were creating sincere hospitality for them.

After one of this past winter's snowstorms, Murphy's used a snow-blower to clear a path for customers looking for a place to eat.

After one of this past winter’s snowstorms, Murphy’s used a snow-blower to clear a path for customers looking for a place to eat.

What is the most significant food trend that you have seen over the last 33 years?

The most noteworthy change in the food industry is the American diet. People generally seem to be more health conscious and want to live longer lives. Product origin, freshness, and sustainability are major elements of the food conversation today. We are excited to have embraced the Farm-to-Table concept at Murphy’s early on, way back in the Municipal Market days.

There is new dialogue about the need for businesses to be more socially aware in their treatment of the Earth, and also in their treatment of their communities. In fact, this was exactly the reason I started Good Measure Meals which is one of my greatest accomplishments. When my mom had ovarian cancer, I would take her food while she was undergoing chemo. That is when I noticed a gap in the availability of meal replacement services for middle-income families. I took my social entrepreneurial concept to Project Open Hand because they already had the capital assets (kitchens, dieticians, people, and distribution) in place. I invested in the business model and helped Project Open Hand launch it. Today, Good Measure Meals does over 4 million dollars of business, is a major contributor to a non-profit organization, and is a leader in its industry.

Lastly, what is the most important thing you want Virginia-Highland neighbors to know about Murphy’s?

We are STILL here! Come eat!

Earlier this year, we re-introduced our popular Meatless Monday dinners; a three-course, meatless dinner for $20 (or $25 when paired with a wonderful wine selection,) and our brunch has been recognized as one of the best in Atlanta, and in the country for that matter. Some of the most popular items on the huge brunch menu include Eggs T. Murphy, Crab Cake Benedict and Chilaquiles as well as our famous Bloody Mary, which has been praised as being the best in the country by USA Today and Jezebel Magazine. We even offer a wonderful loyalty program called “Friends of Murphy’s” that features a wide-range of benefits including cash rewards, a complimentary birthday meal and access to exclusive Murphy’s events.

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!

Special Help Needed With Summerfest

SummerfestKidsfest Chair Needed

Each year, Kidsfest is one of Summerfest’s most popular events. Featuring unique games, crafts, music and activities for kids of all ages, Kidsfest is a major destination for families with children attending the festival.

DSC01436The Summerfest leadership team has an opening for a fun, energetic and super-organized person to head up our Kidsfest area this year. If you love working with children and would enjoy coordinating a team of volunteers who feel the same, this opportunity is for you.

Our previous Kidsfest chairs have built a solid, repeatable model for this area of the festival. There are sponsors waiting to hear from us and many of the activities from previous years can be repeated this year (although we’ll welcome ideas for new activities, too). Volunteers who’ve previously managed this area will be available for consultation during the pre-festival planning period and other volunteers who’ve worked Kidsfest before will help staff the area during the festival. We just need someone to come in, take the reins, and run with them. Festival dates are June 7-8. 2014.

If you’re interested, reach out to Paige Hewell (paige.hewell@gmail.com) or John Becker (jnbecker@me.com) for more information.

Looking For Someone to Help Coordinate Volunteers

Are you someone who’s volunteered at Summerfest before but would like to get more involved? Are you passionate about the tremendous volunteer spirit that flows through the festival each year? If so, we have an opportunity for you.

DSC_0058Our current volunteer coordinator is taking on some additional responsibility this year and is looking for someone to help out on-site during the festival. This person will ideally be able to spend several hours in the Volunteer Check-In/General Information/Lost and Found booth during both days of the festival (Saturday, Sunday June 7-8) checking volunteers in and giving them their assignments, answering questions from festival goers and artists and keeping track of any lost items turned in.

We’d love to groom this person to take over Summerfest volunteer coordination at some point in the future so, if you can work with the coordinator during this year’s pre-festival volunteer solicitation period, that would be great, too.

If this is of interest, please contact John Becker at jnbecker@me.com.

See you at Summerfest 2014!

You Can Be the Chef with Garnish & Gather Meals

Garnish and Gather LogoWe’ve all been there – you’ve worked all day only to come home and realize you have no idea what you’re doing for dinner. You might just whip up the same old thing, go for a frozen meal or head back out into traffic in search of food.

Finished Meal 1Now picture another scenario – you arrive home to a bag full of all the raw ingredients, in exactly the right amounts, to make a locally sourced, home-cooked meal from a recipe written by an Atlanta chef. All you need at home is oil, salt and pepper. With Garnish & Gather, you can do just that!

Ingredients 1The ingredients in Garnish & Gather’s meals are all sourced from local farmers around the Atlanta area. The farms are even listed on the packaging, telling a story and reconnecting you with your food and your community. The ingredients are harvested within days of delivery, ensuring they are packed with flavor and nutrients.

A team of Atlanta chefs creates unique and delicious recipes for Garnish & Gather based on what’s in season. Each recipe is easy to follow and allows you to learn about new flavors and cooking techniques.

Finished Meal 2 “Our goal is to reconnect people with their food, their farms and their kitchens,” explains Emily Golub, founder of Garnish & Gather. “We want people to rediscover the art of cooking and spend more time reconnecting with friends and family over a shared meal.”

The meals even come with a table topic suggestion to get the conversation going at the dinner table.

BagGarnish & Gather doesn’t just offer a dinnertime solution – they will also deliver groceries! Their Local Market <www.garnishandgather.com/local-provisions> features the freshest local foods in Atlanta, like Carlton Farms eggs, H&F Bread, sweet treats from The Little Tart, pasture raised chicken and more! They even have locally made dog treats from Big Daddy Biscuits! You can get your groceries delivered with your meals each week.

Even better, they have pick up locations in our neck of the woods at Midtown Cook’s Warehouse and Highland Fine Wine. They post wine pairings before delivery every week so you can pick up the perfect bottle of wine to go with those delicious meals!

So whether you’re looking to eat healthier, support local farmers or get more variety in your weeknights, Garnish & Gather is here to make dinner simple again. Enjoy 20% off your first meal! Simply use the offer code “VaHi” at checkout at www.garnishandgather.com.

Initial Draft of VaHi Master Plan Available for Review; Open House Scheduled

DSC_0037The Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) is pleased to announce that, after six months of community input, the initial draft of the Virginia-Highland Master Plan is available. Click here to review the Plan draft. The VHCA will host an Open House on Sunday, March 23rd from 2:30 – 4:30 at the old Aurora Coffee location on N. Highland near Virginia (across from Yeah Burger) to answer questions from residents about the Plan.

The 142-page Plan draft is divided into the following sections:

Background (pgs. 5 – 32) Includes neighborhood demographics and summaries of other City Plans, including the North Highland Avenue Study, the Ponce-Moreland LCI Study, the Beltline Subarea 6 Master Plan, the City of Atlanta Comprehensive Development Plan, and the Connect Atlanta Plan.  All of these plans have sections that address areas in VaHi and all have already been adopted by City Council.

Neighborhood Engagement (pgs. 49 – 79) Includes detailed information on all comments that were received via the Master Plan website, the public meetings and focus groups.

Neighborhood Vision (pgs. 95 – 142) Contains the Plan’s proposed projects/proposals for VaHi.  These are the proposals that came out of the six-month public input process leading up to the Draft Plan.

Aaron Fortner, the professional planning consultant who prepared the Master Plan, gave an excellent presentation on the Plan at the March 10th VHCA board meeting.  Here is a link to a three-video YouTube playlist of Aaron’s presentation: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZ8Bju7IpCXqaf5HLSElch68uzQaTmbxy. Following are start/stop times for key portions of his presentation.

 

  1. Aaron’s Entire Presentation Including Q/A: This excerpt starts at 15:43 of Part 1 and ends at 16:18 of Part 3.
  2. Aaron’s Monroe Dr. Presentation: This excerpt starts at 33:48 of Part 1 and ends at 41:05 of Part 1.
  3. Aaron’s Accessory Dwelling Presentation: This excerpt starts at 54:11 of Part 1 and ends at 58:07 of Part 1.
  4. The Q/A Session Only: This excerpt starts at 10:23 of Part 2 and ends at 16:18 of Part 3.

 

If you have questions specifically about the Monroe Dr. Road Diet, the excerpt of Aaron’s presentation on Monroe is available at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8vga9fvBWI.

At 140+ pages, the document provides detailed information on all the public input that has been received over the past six months. As with all other phases of the Master Plan process, residents and business owners will continue to have an opportunity to provide input on the Plan through the Master Plan website.  We encourage everyone to submit comments on what they like and don’t like about the draft Plan on the “Feedback” page of the Master Plan websitehttp://www.vahimasterplan.org/master-plan-first-draft.html. A revised draft of the Plan reflecting the input received through the Website and at the Open House will be posted on April 4.

Traffic Advisory: Publix Georgia Full/Half Marathon Returns to VaHi on Sunday March 23

The Publix Georgia Full and Half Marathon will return to the streets of VaHi on March 23 and, as has been the case in past years, traffic in the neighborhood will be impacted.

Expect traffic delays and road closings along the course of the Publix Georgia Marathon & Half Marathon, Sunday, March 23, between 7 AM – 2 PM. More than 16,000 participants, 2,500 volunteers and 30,000 spectators will be along the course which runs from downtown Atlanta to Decatur and back, passing through Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia State, MLK Historic Site, Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, The Carter Center, Candler Park, Agnes Scott, Emory, Druid Hills, Virginia-Highland, Midtown, and Georgia Tech along the way.

The following information is provided to help people who live, work, and worship near the Publix Georgia Marathon & Half Marathon course plan their drive during 7:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 23, 2014. With this information, you’ll be able to see which roads will be impacted by the race and plan an alternate driving route to your destination to minimize traffic delays.

Check out the following topics for detailed information about the race course, each street on the course, suggested driving directions to various sections of the course, and other useful information.

Traffic, Road Closure and No Parking Zones: 

http://www.usroadsports.com/emar/2014%20PGM%20Street%20List.pdf

Street List & Traffic Lanes:

http://www.usroadsports.com/emar/PublixGAMarathonStreetList2013.pdf

Course Map:

http://www.usroadsports.com/Signature/Georgia/PDF/GaPublix_CourseMap2013.pdf

Community Information FAQ’s:

http://www.usroadsports.com/Signature/Georgia/PDF/2013PGMCommunityFAQs.pdf

 

Trees Atlanta Seeks Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum Tour Docents

treesatlantalogo

docent: volunteer educators who undergo intensive training to further the public’s understanding of cultural and historical collections 

Are you passionate about the Atlanta BeltLine and do you love sharing your passion with others? Are you an energetic and eager learner, and a lover of trees and plants? If so, Trees Atlanta has an awesome opportunity for you. Check out the following from TA’s Kate Baltzell:

As you may know Trees Atlanta is very involved in the Atlanta BeltLine and began planting the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum with trees, shrubs, and native grasses in fall of 2012.  We will continue to plant and maintain the horticulture collection as well as incorporate signage along the Eastside Trail, but the best way to communicate all of these exciting additions is through knowledgeable volunteers leading Walking Tours, or Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum Docents.

We are actively recruiting for the third class of Docents to begin training on Thursday mornings in April and May.  During training, experts cover topics ranging from Atlanta BeltLine history & design to Arboretum horticulture collections.  Ideal applicants have experience with plants, an eagerness to learn, and the energy to lead tours/projects in the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum.  If you or anyone you know anyone who is interested  in this great opportunity, contact me at kateb@treesatlanta.org for more information.

Seats are limited so if you’re interested, better to apply sooner rather than later. You can apply here:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEY5RG02U0lIMllEY2pOejhSaEJhOGc6MQ#gid=0.

Editor’s Note: VaHi resident Kay Stephenson and I went through this training session last year and it’s incredible. The course is packed with lots of great information about the BeltLine, the Arboretum, history of the area surrounding the Eastside Trail, etc. Class members bring a tremendous diversity of backgrounds to the table and the exchange of information between attendees is another plus to the course. Kay is actively giving Arboretum tours – I haven’t been quite so dilligent in completing my studies yet – so if you know her and want to learn more, I’m sure she’d be glad to talk with you about it. I’d also be glad to answer any questions you may have about the course.

Docent_2014_flyer copy

VaHi Safety Team Report: March 13, 2014

By: John Wolfinger

Fulton County Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy

Sheriff Ted Jackson has announced a new session of his Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy starting on the evening of 4/23/14 and continuing on Wednesday evenings for 6 weeks. I was a graduate of the first of these sessions a couple of years ago and I highly recommend it. You will get to spend at least one evening behind bars at the Rice Street Jail and another evening inside the Fulton County Courthouse examining all of the security arrangements in place there. Most of the other sessions were held at the Fulton County training center in south Fulton County off Camp Creek Parkway. Hopefully you will get to enjoy a meal prepared by prisoners who are enrolled in the food prep course offered in the jail. Yes – the dinner we were served was very good and no, it was not typical of what is served to the general jail population. Further details can be had by sending an e-mail to Lieutenant Brian McGee at brian.mcgee@fultoncountyga..gov An overview of the Sheriff’s department at http://www.fultonsheriff.org/ – it is a big department responsible for a myriad of functions, and these are enlightening classes.

Another Room Service Lounge Report

This saga continues on, even after the Mayor has signed the punishment recommendations from the License Review Board – yes they are still pouring. The story at http://clatl.com/atlanta/room-service-lounge-slapped-with-alcohol-code-violations/Content?oid=10677929.

The following reports are taken from our APD Zone 6 (http://atlantapd.org/Zone6.aspx) VaHi Beat 601 crime reports for the 2014 weeks 7 and 8 (2/9-2/22). Again, I state as always, these reports are not meant to scare anyone, but to raise your level of laertness as to what happens around us everyday.

Aggravated Assault – No reported incidents from Beat 601

Auto Theft – An unsuccessful attempt was made on Drewry Street resulting in a damaged door lock and ignition. A 2005 Honda Accord was stolen from PDL Avenue along with a wallet and its usual contents. An unsuccessful attempt was made on Greenwood Avenue of a 1999 Dodge Caravan leaving a damaged door lock and ignition. Also on Greenwood Avenue, a 2000 Jeep Cherokee was stolen and later recovered in the Old 4th Ward on Highland Avenue, with the usual damaged door lock and ignition. A 2003 Cadillac Seville was stolen from Virginia Avenue and yielded a bonus to the thief of a revolver.

Commercial Burglary – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

The Liberty Tax Service on PDL Avenue near Kennesaw was entered via the same window used a few weeks earlier with drill bits and a bag of snacks taken, an unsuccessful attempt was made to take the flatscreen off the wall.Residential Burglary – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Commercial Robbery – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

However, nearby, two shoplifting incidents became robberies when the suspects resisted arrest and fought with security guards – at the Edgewood Target and at the Dollar Store on North Avenue. Both of these guys would have gotten minimal sentences for shoplifting, but will now get stronger sentencing for robbery.

Residential Robbery – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Pedestrian Robbery – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Larceny From Vehicle – Vehicles were entered on Clemont Drive, Cooledge Avenue and two on North Highland Avenue. All around the Zone in this time period there were 40 such reported incidents.

Larceny Other – On St. Charles Avenue a chained front porch bicycle had the seat and tire pump stolen from it. Front porches are NOT safe places to keep bicycles – unfortunately your front porch is not as private as you may think it is. A stolen vehicle was used to try to open or dislodge the ATM next to the North Highland Avenue post office – as you probably saw, this attempt was unsuccessful. The slightly wrecked vehicle was left at the scene. Two cell phones were taken from MJQ Club patrons – but the perp was caught and the phones returned to the owners.

Elsewhere in the Zone the PDL Avenue Publix caught 3 shoplifters – one of whom had taken 5 boxes of laxatives and a box of wipes (you read into this whatever you want to). The Edgewood Target store caught a shoplifter who had items in his buggy covered by his jacket who went past the registers and went to the return desk for a refund. When that request was refused, he tried to wheel the buggy out of the store, but was nabbed. At a Moreland Avenue construction site – 3 dumpsters were stolen.

A nasty cold kept me from attending the safety meeting on Cascade Road called by Fulton County Commission chair John Eaves on 3/6 – but I hear there was nothing settled. If there will be another such meeting on this side of the city – I’ll let you know.

Budweiser Clydesdales Come to VaHi!

DSC_0146Virginia-Highland residents were treated to a mid-day surprise visit by the Budweiser Clydesdales yesterday.

The iconic horses are in town for an appearance in Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day parade this weekend. The massive steeds, their attendants and their magnificent beer-laden carriage assembled at Manuel’s Tavern around 3 PM, then headed north on N. Highland Avenue. Stops were made at the Chevron Station at the corner of N. Highland and Virginia, Limerick Junction, Atkins Park and Neighbor’s. At each stop a supply of Budweiser – freshly brewed yesterday morning at the Anheuser Busch plant in Cartersville – was delivered. Hundreds of VaHi residents lined N. Highland, cheering the beautiful horses on as they made their deliveries.

DSC_0128Click here to view a video of the Clydesdales arriving at the Chevron Station to the delight of the gathered crowd. Click here for an album of photos from yesterday’s visit.

Tentative Agenda for Tonight’s VHCA Monthly Board/General Meeting

Virginia-Highland Civic Association Board of Directors Monthly Meeting

7:00 PM;  Monday, March 10, 2014; Virginia-Highland Church 

Tentative Agenda

Call to Order

Adoption of Agenda

Police & Fire Dept. representatives

City of Atlanta officials

Other elected officials & guests

Budget Committee – Peggy Berg

Planning Committee

V-13-265 – 976 Adair Ave NE

Applicant Patti Hinkle has amended her variance application to and now seeks to reduce the setback to 5’ from the rear property line,  a distance that will end any question as to whether her (already existing) accessory structure is appropriately distanced from the boundary.  (The measurement is difficult to make, as the line is behind a tall fence.)  The Planning Committee unanimously recommended approval and waived the applicant’s appearance.

Toscano @ Sons Italian Market Alcohol License Transfer – 1050 N. Highland Ave. NE

Applicant Kathy Boehmer of Toscano & Sons Italian Market is transferring this business’ alcohol license from its previous location. The application has not come to us from the NPU; the applicant furnished a copy of the application.  The applicants had no liquor violations at their previous location and conduct their own training program, carding everyone.  The Planning Committee unanimously recommends approval, contingent upon city’s paperwork reaching the NPU by its meeting on 3-17-14.

V-14-031 – 669 Elmwood Drive NE

Applicant Jennifer Hansen seeks a variance to reduce the front yard setback from required 35’ to 18’ 4” (existing) and the east side yard setback from required 7’ to 1’ 7” (existing) for a 2nd story addition.  The addition is entirely within the existing setbacks; a site visit on 3-2-14 revealed no tree or runoff issues; the applicant is nonetheless considering adding stormwater retention capacity.  The Planning Committee recommends approval conditioned on a site plan dated 2-14-14.

V-14-012 – 959 Todd Road NE

Applicant Marsha Scott seeks a variance from zoning regulations to reduce the required rear yard setback from 15’ to 3’ (using half of the 10’ rear alley for credit toward setback).  The application required a re-platting of the (north) side yard property line, previously shown as an alley; the applicant’s request to that end was approved by the City of Atlanta Planning Department on 1-23-14, a decision that has been appealed by an adjacent neighbor.  The case will be heard by the BZA on 5-1-14.  The applicants wish to continue the variance process, averring that construction will not commence until the appeal is resolved.  At its meeting on 3-5, the Planning Committee solely addressed the variance issue and the applicant’s revised plan; at the applicant’s request, the application was deferred until the April Planning meeting.

Parks Committee – Lauren Wilkes Fralick, David Brandenburger

Calendar Items – Lola Carlisle: New permanent site for VHCA Planning mtgs: Garrison Hall, Church of Our Saviour

Master Plan Presentation – Jenifer Keenan, Jess Windham, & Aaron Fortner of Market + Main

Adjournment

Understanding How the Virginia-Highland Master Plan Was Drafted

VHLogo_color_horiz_letterheadBy: Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board Member & Co-Chair, Master Plan Steering Committee

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) is pleased to announce that, after six months of community input, the initial draft of the Virginia-Highland Master Plan is being released today on the Master Plan website: http://www.vahimasterplan.org/.  At 140+ pages, the document provides detailed information on all the public input that has been received over the past six months.  As with all other phases of the Master Plan process, residents and business owners will continue to have an opportunity to provide input on the Plan through the Master Plan website.

Overview of the Community Input and Drafting Process

There seems to be confusion among some residents about how the VaHi Master Plan has been developed and drafted.  Some people assume that the VHCA Board has drafted the Plan.  That assumption, however, is incorrect.  The Plan was not drafted by the VHCA, and the VHCA has in no way dictated the Plan’s content.

To develop the Plan, the VHCA hired Aaron Fortner of Market + Main.  Aaron is a former City Planner and has served as the Planning Committee’s consultant on zoning and municipal issues for many years. He has led the Master Plan processes for a number of neighborhoods, including Edgewood, Brookwood Hills and Candler Park. To read Aaron’s biography, visit http://www.marketandmain.net/aaron.html.

Aaron and his team used the following process to develop the draft VaHi Master Plan:

  • Phase 1:   A Master Plan website was developed to allow residents to review concepts and provide input 24 hours a day.  The first phase of the website had a Survey and an Interactive Map where people could identify what they like most (and least) about VaHi.  The Interactive Map allowed people to make specific comments about specific locations in the neighborhood.
  • Phase 2:  Input from the Survey and Interactive Map was used to develop some Preliminary Planning Concepts for the neighborhood.  The Preliminary Concepts were presented at a public meeting and all-day design charette where people had an opportunity to talk to Aaron and his team and provide in-person input on the Preliminary Concepts.  The Preliminary Concepts were also presented on the Master Plan website so residents could provide input and comment on the Preliminary Concepts via the website as well.
  • Phase 3:  The Preliminary Concepts were modified based on the comments in Phase 2 and refined into some Proposed Concepts.  The Preliminary Concepts were presented at a January 22 public meeting and again on the website.  As in Phase 2, people had an opportunity to provide input both in person and on-line on the Preliminary Concepts.
  • Phase 4:  The Proposed Concepts were again modified based on public input and used to develop the initial draft of the Master Plan.  This draft of the Master Plan will be presented at the Virginia-Highland Civic Association Board meeting on Monday, March 10th.  As with all stages of this process, people will continue to have an opportunity to provide comments on the concepts in the Plan.  The draft plan concepts will continue to be modified based on public input until the Final Master Plan is published.

In addition to the four phases noted above, five focus groups – consisting of residents and business owners in VaHi – were conducted throughout this process to obtain input on specific issues.  Aaron and his team also met with officials of the City of Atlanta’s Planning Department to provide updates on the Plan and discuss the feasibility of the concepts that were evolving from the public input process.

Examples of the Process in Action

In order to fully understand the process, it is helpful to look at a couple of small-scale examples of specific concepts and how they evolved during the Plan development process.  In Phase 1, residents of Cooledge, and several other streets, indicated that they would like to reduce cut-through traffic and speeding on their street.  In Phase 2, “bulb outs” were proposed for several streets that expressed these concerns, including Cooledge.  During the public input part of Phase 2, the residents of that street almost unanimously indicated they did not want bulb-outs on Cooledge, deciding that they were inconsistent with the historic character of their brick street.  Residents of other streets, however, embraced bulb-outs and other traffic calming measures for their specific streets.  In Phase 3, based on the input provided in Phase 2, bulb-outs were part of the Preliminary Concepts for some streets, but were no longer proposed for Cooledge. Also, bike lanes on North Highland Avenue were proposed and considered in the opening stages.  Based on an array of public comments – many supportive – and identified challenges, the Draft Master Plan does not recommend bike lanes for North Highland.

Where varying and multiple shades of opinions were expressed – which is in a number of areas – Aaron’s team looked first for overall impacts on the community, the goals and reasoning used in existing plans (where they applied – the city’s Connect Atlanta Transpiration Plan is such an example) and offered its best judgment of how to proceed for each subject.  In some cases – changing the code to allow accessory residential structures or design guidelines, for example – the plan recommends further study of the topic and monitoring the City’s anticipated revisions.  All transportation recommendations are based on existing municipal and state laws and standards, and none conflict with city policy; many ideas reflect insights gleaned from city staff about the municipality’s evolving approaches on many topics.

Moving Forward 

As with other phases of this process, there will be ongoing opportunities to provide input, including 24 hours a day at the Master Plan website.  Our residents and neighbors have made an extraordinary number of suggestions on both broad and specific topics, and Aaron and his team have expended a huge amount of work trying to filter and synthesize everyone’s comments and aspirations for this community. Many diverse ideas have been expressed, but there are a significant number of well-identified challenges and strongly expressed wishes.

I hope everyone will review all the draft’s concepts and recommendations and provide specific comments through the website.

Best regards,

Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board Member & VHCA Master Plan Steering Committee Co-Chair

 

 

Initial Draft of VaHi Master Plan To Be Presented at Tonight’s VHCA Board Meeting

VaHi CornerFor the past six months, Virginia-Highland residents have provided tremendous insight into the creation of the neighborhood’s first Master Plan. An initial draft of the Master Plan will be presented at tonight’s regular monthly VHCA board/general meeting. Again, this is a presentation of the Plan’s initial draft – there will still be ample time to review, reflect and comment on the Plan in the weeks to come. The initial draft of the Plan should be available for review sometime this afternoon at http://www.vahimasterplan.org/.

The meeting will be held in the downstairs meeting area of the Virginia-Highland Church located at 743 Virginia Ave. (across from Inman Middle School). The meeting will start at 7 PM with regular business expected to take 30-45 minutes, after which the Master Plan presentation will begin. Residents are invited to attend the full meeting, or come only for the Master Plan portion. There will be an opportunity for residents to ask questions about the Plan.

Click here to read an article from VHCA board member and Master Plan steering committee co-chair Jenifer Keenan that provides valuable insight into the process of creating a Master Plan for our neighborhood.

Recapping Tour of Homes 2013 Success

IMG_6360Over the past few weeks I’ve been asked several times how successful our 2013 Tour of Homes was. Well, you might want to sit down because I’ve got some great news for you.

For almost twenty years now, 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. This is truly a testament to the hard work and dedication to teamwork invested by this year’s TOH committee.

I’d like to personally thank the gracious homeowners that allowed 1,700 people to come through their homes and admire their hard work and incredible style!

I’d also like to thank the neighborhood restaurants that provided amazingly tasty food to all our tour goers. And lastly I’d like to thank the businesses that directly support our Tour through the purchase of sponsorship packages – you guys were huge part of why the 2013 tour was so successful.

Last but NOT least, I want to give a HUGE THANK YOU to a Tour of Homes committee that was absolutely off the chain good! These people are incredible. They make it happen. Thank you so much for your volunteer time and expertise.

With that said, the TOH Committee is ready to gear up for this year’s tour which will be held on December 6th and 7th, 2014.

WE ARE LOOKING FOR HOUSES. If you’d like your home to be considered for this year’s tour, or if you’d like to suggest a home to be apart of the tour, please contact us me at angelikataylor@me.com.

We are also looking for committee members to fill in a few gaps we have on our team. Here are key position needs but anyone is welcome to join in the fun:

  • PR/Media Chair
  • Marketing Chair
  • Home Selection Chair

Please contact me at angelikataylor@me.com to find out more about these positions and other ways you can help. 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. And, once again, here’s to a tremendously successful TOH 2013!

~ Angelika Taylor, Tour of Homes Chair

Choices

IMG_5835For those who didn’t see resident Jett Marks’ post on VHLIST about the great cycling Saturday his family had this weekend, we wanted to share it with you. We thought Jett did a great job describing why he and his family love living in the Virginia-Highland area so much. You don’t have to be an avid cyclist  - as Jett and his family are – to appreciate his narrative. If you have thoughts on why you love living in VaHi that you’d like to share with your neighbors, send them to us at editor@vahi.org. Here’s Jett’s post:

My wife, daughter and I ran some errands today by bicycle. We took the BeltLine from Virginia through Old Fourth Ward and followed Edgewood next to the streetcar tracks over to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. We couldn’t find an item or two there, so on the way back, we popped into Trader Joe’s. (There was also a side trip to Paris on Ponce, but we left there empty-handed; we made up for it by picking up some impulse ice cream at Trader Joe’s.)

We weren’t wearing a suit or a dress, but Atlanta does have its fair share of days where you can wear nice clothes. We were peeling off the layers today.

We did have traffic stuck behind us at one point, but where the streets are wide (Virginia), or there are bike lanes (Edgewood), traffic had no problem getting around us and more than one neighbor shouted out in greeting. One of the things we love about VaHi is seeing our neighbors when we’re out and about — thanks for putting your top down so we can see your face.

Folks on the BeltLine had their tops ALL the way down. Kids learning how to ride, families in a six-seat pedal-mobile, runners, dog-walkers, elderly pedestrians out for some sunshine. Us versus them? This is the true majority — not limited to those who are licensed to operate a motor vehicle.

We took nobody’s space in the parking lot, but the bike racks were full near the BeltLine. Although there were a lot of folks on the BeltLine, there weren’t as many as last weekend when we joined another couple to find dinner by bicycle in Inman Park. Snaking through the slow-moving crowd made us long for 20-foot wide pavement instead of just 14.

Perhaps we’ve underestimated how popular getting out of the car might be. Atlanta Streets Alive comes to mind.

It doesn’t appear that real-estate developers along the BeltLine intend to make the mistake of underestimating. New buildings and activity were everywhere along our route. Indeed, 60% of new development over the past five years has been in walk-able communities. This fits a trend of younger adults driving much less — per capita vehicle miles has fallen the past decade — and more focus on livability and local community.

Maybe we should pay attention to the trend developers and investors see.

Maybe we should notice we’re next door to the city’s best park, the city’s best multi-use trail, and yes, maybe we should notice that we’re already recognized as one of the most walk-able neighborhoods in the city.

Maybe we should notice that we’re situated directly between the only two bike-friendly universities in the country within the same city (Georgia Tech and Emory).

Maybe we should notice that Briarcliff and North Decatur were taken from four lanes down to three lanes and traffic flow and safety improved. (Safety for motorists as well as pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.)

Maybe we should take note that when Virginia-Highland is ranked as a livable community, that the ability to drive 50 MPH down Monroe isn’t one of the criteria.

Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Midtown have noticed. They’ve noticed what it takes to draw youth and talent. They “get it” — errands in a car are just another chore, errands on a bike is building community, it’s keeping money local, it’s healthy, and it’s just plain fun.

~ Jett Marks

Traffic Advisory: Intown 10K Road Race

Be advised the Intown 10K Road Race will be held this Sunday March 2.

The race will start at 9 AM on Virginia Circle just east of Barnett. Runners will wind through the streets of Virginia-Highland and finish on Barnett Street, just south of Virginia Circle. No full road closures are expected; however, police will block cross streets along the course as runners pass.

Click here for a diagram of the course route. If you prefer a turn-by-turn description of the course, scroll down.

Intown 10K Race Course

  1. START- 936 Virginia Circle ATL 30306 ( Virginia Circle westbound)
  2. Go west on Virginia Circle ( PASS BARNETT STREET)
  3. Turn right on Arcadia
  4. Turn RIGHT on Virginia Avenue
  5. Turn Right on Barnett
  6. Turn RIGHT on Greenwood Avenue
  7. Turn RIGHT on Ponce de Leon Place
  8. Turn LEFT on Virginia Avenue
  9. Turn Right on Kanuga
  10. Turn RIGHT on Monroe Drive
  11. PASS Cresthill, PASS Elmwood, PASS Park Drive, PASS Amsterdam , PASS Hillpine, PASS Cumberland
  12. Turn Right on Sherwood Road
  13. Turn RIGHT on N. Morningside Drive
  14. Turn RIGHT on N. Highland
  15. Turn RIGHT on Courtenay
  16. Courtenay merges to Amsterdam
  17. Turn Right on Brookridge Drive
  18. Bear Right across the Orme Park bridge
  19. Turn LEFT at Elkmont/Brookridge / Orme Circle (signs are confusing as far as name of street)
  20. Bear or turn Right on Elkmont
  21. Turn LEFT on Park Drive (PASS OR CROSS VIRGINIA AVENUE)
  22. Park Drive becomes Ponce de Leon Place
  23. PASS Greenwood Avenue
  24. Turn Left on St. Charles Avenue
  25. Turn Left on Barnett Street
  26. Finish on the right side of Barnett Street—just north of Adair but before Virginia Circle

Volunteers Turn Out to Support Trees Atlanta VaHi Planting

DSC_0013Many thanks to the Cub Scouts of UMC Pack #17 (and their accompanying moms, dads, brothers and sisters) and all the other volunteers who showed up to plant 80 new trees this past Saturday in VaHi. If you were out and about in the ‘hood late morning you saw them along Briarcliff Pl., Greenwood Ave. and throughout Atkins Park planting carefully selected trees that we will enjoy for years to come. This was Trees Atlanta’s annual major VaHi planting event, and it was accompanied by a parallel planting in Morningside (also supported by Pack #17).

Special thanks to Alex and the team from Trees Atlanta for providing the trees and expertise. Longtime VaHi resident Stephanie Coffin was very involved in the planning of this event (as she always is) but was out of town and unfortunately couldn’t attend the planting.

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

Trees Atlanta and VaHi Volunteers: You Guys Rock!!

VaHi Safety Team Report: February 25, 2014

By: John Wolfinger

Update on VaHi’s Problem Alleyway

The problem-plagued alleyway between Ponce de Leon and St. Charles Avenues has begun an amazing transformation thanks to a dedicated group of St. Charles Avenue and Barnett Street residents. Read about the first cleanup at http://vahi.org/residents-clean-up-vahi-alleyway/.

Now these folks have scheduled a second work session to trim back overgrown shrubbery and small trees to open up the alley and eliminate hiding places for urban camping and other undesirable activities. This session will be this Saturday 3/1/14 at 9:00 AM – meet at the corner of the alley at Barnett Street on the north side of the 737 Barnett Street condo building. Bring heavy gloves and whatever cutting tools you have for use on brush, bamboo and small trees. These dedicated residents have now dubbed this area ‘Maiden Trail’ and are working on plans for this to be a new walking area for neighbors and their pets. If you have questions or want to volunteer to help, contact the group at MaidenTrailATL@gmail.com. Congrats to these folks for facing a problem head-on and working to eliminate it, instead of just complaining about it.

Crime and Safety Summit Meeting and Discussion

There will be what could be a real defining moment in our total city safety situation on Thursday 3/6/14 from 7:00 to 8:30 PM at the Cascade United Methodist Church at 3144 Cascade Road, S.W. Atl 30311. The panelists are John Eaves, Fulton County Commission Chair; Judge Gail Tusan from Superior Court; Judge Bradley Boyd from Juvenile Court; Paul Howard, Fulton County D.A.; Caesar Mitchell, our City Council President; APD Chief George Turner; Fulton County Police Chief Cassandra Jones and Fulton County School Police Chief Felipe Usury.

Some of these are Fulton County people that can address the recidivism problem that Mayor Reed talked about both in his inaugural address and the recent State of the City address. I will be there and hope to see other VaHi and NPU “F” folks also. City-wide and county-wide safety problems impact what happens in VaHi.

Some Sign-Ups To Be Aware Of

If you have neglected to register your home or business alarm system – do this now at https://www.crywolf.us/oss/atlantaga/.

No one plans to call 911 – but you can plan ahead and have the operator already be aware of your name, address, etc. by registering at Smart 911:  https://www.smart911.com/. This can save a lot of talk time on a call for assistance.

If you have vacant property for over 30 days, you are required to register it as such at http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=754.

Thanks to our Zone 6 Commander, Major Peek, for finding more help for our crime analyst section, so that we can have our regular narrative incident reports from Zone 6 again. The following reports are taken from our APD Zone 6: http://atlantapd.org/Zone6.aspx. VaHi Beat 601 crime reports for the 5th and 6th weeks of 2014 (1/26- 2/8). These reports are not meant to scare anyone, but to raise your level of alertness as to what happens around us everyday.

Aggravated Assault:  No reported incidents from Beat 601. However, at the recently changed-ownership Ponce Hotel on PDL Avenue gunshots were fired as the victim and the suspect had a verbal argument over whom a female was to have sex with – the suspect fled. And, at the Clermont Lounge, the bouncer pulled a gun on two patrons for taking pix.

Auto Theft:  A 2006 Ford was taken from PDL Place and recovered in southwest Atlanta. A 2010 Toyota was stolen from a PDL Avenue parking lot and later recovered at a Boulevard gas station.

Commercial Burglary:  No reported incidents from Beat 601. However, at the Druid Hills Methodist Church on PDL Avenue, the suspect hid in the building after closing, broke into a vending machine and stole snacks and cash. At Dugan’s Bar on PDL Avenue, thieves broke a side window and took 50 bottles of liquor.  And at the Liberty Tax Service on PDL Avenue, thieves broke a side window and took a box of fake $50 bills and candy – which were recovered later.  I guess that they thought the bills were real?

Residential Burglary:  No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Commercial Robbery:  No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Residential Robbery:  No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Pedestrian Robbery:  No reported incidents from Beat 601. However, robberies of cell phones continue elsewhere, including a daytime cell phone robbery at Bessie Branham Park in Kirkwood. I had to read this report several times to believe – far south of here on Moreland Avenue, the male victim came to a residential address to meet a female for a paid sex date from an on-line connection, when he was approached by two armed males – the victim jumped out of his car and ran for a mile until he flagged down a cab and called 911.  He admitted he was drunk and high.

Larceny From Vehicle:  Vehicles were entered on Virginia Avenue (yielding a cellphone, laptop and an iPad), Maryland Avenue (a book bag was taken), Bonaventure Avenue (nothing listed as taken), Frederica Street (sunglasses were lifted), and on Greenwood Avenue (a Glock pistol was taken – the report states a window was left rolled down). All around the Zone in this time period there were 34 such reported incidents.

Larceny Other:  A cell phone was left at Neighbor’s Bar and, of course, it was not there when the owner returned. Lawn care equipment was taken from a (quite obviously unwatched) trailer on Virginia Avenue.  An unwatched bicycle was stolen in Piedmont Park. And at Inman School, an unwary student lent his cell phone to a stranger and he fled with the phone.

Stay alert and aware and enjoy city life.

Trees Atlanta VaHi Planting Set for February 22

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Editor’s Note: A headline for this article in our Voice e-newsletter listed a February 15 date for this event. That date is incorrect. The correct date is February 22. We apologize for the confusion.

Trees Atlanta will conduct a major planting event in Virginia-Highland later this month, and you’re invited to help.

Anyone who wants to assist with the planting should RSVP by clicking here. Volunteers will meet at New Highland Park  (corner of N. Highland Ave. and St. Charles Pl.) at 9 AM Saturday February 22. Please wear work clothes and bring work gloves. All other supplies will be provided.

DSCF0011This planting event will focus primarily on the following VaHi streets: St. Louis Pl., St. Charles Pl., St. Augustine Pl., Briarcliff Pl. and Greenwood Ave. Most of the trees to be planted will be silver maples (acer saccharinum), trident maples (acer buergerianum) or crape myrtles (lagerstroemia indica).

VaHi resident Stefanie Coffin worked with Trees Atlanta to organize the planting, as she has done several times previously.

vahighbillkid205“These annual plantings focus on areas of the neighborhood with high density and traffic to help mitigate the impact of pollution from autos,” Coffin says.

“Focus is on street trees that survive,” Coffin says. “The average life of a street tree is around 17 years, so tree selection is a big part of the planning process.”

Coffin points out that funding for the annual planting comes from the yearly grant given to Trees Atlanta by the VHCA and a generous contribution from UMC Cub Scout Pack #17, as well as recompense funds paid to the city by anyone found to have taken down or destroyed a tree illegally (these latter funds flow through the Tree Conservation Commission).

The planting event is part of Trees Atlanta’s NeighborWoods program, in which the non-profit partners with neighborhoods across metro Atlanta to plant native species, raise awareness about the benefit of trees, and create a core group of tree advocates. NeighborWoods is a collaborative effort to replenish and sustain the tree canopy, while also educating the community on tree care and management.

Click here to view a complete list of what kind of trees will be planted where.

Trees Atlanta Arbor Day Speaking Event Features NY Times Science Writer, Author

treesatlantalogoPassing along the following speaker notice from our friends at Trees Atlanta:

Please join us on Thursday, February 20 at 6 PM as we welcome Jim Robbins, a science writer for the New York Times and author of the acclaimed The Man Who Planted Trees for his talk entitled: The Power of Trees And How It Can Help Save the World.

Jim is the first Trees Atlanta Georgia Arbor Day Speaker, which has been made possible thanks to the City of Atlanta.
You will be able to purchase Jim’s book at the event and have him sign it!

Overview of Jim’s Talk: The Power of Trees And How It Can Help Save the World



Though they surround us, and are vital to our existence, trees and forests are poorly researched and poorly understood. Jim Robbins, a science writer for the New York Times, and author of the acclaimed The Man Who Planted Trees, describes in his talk the things we do know about them, and the many things we don’t — from their ability to clean up toxic waste to the ways scientists say they connect to the cosmos. Trees heal people, are critical to insects and wildlife as medicine, and, some scientists believe, even have a nervous system that allows them to think, strategize and communicate. Most importantly he explains why trees should be seen as an “ecotechnology” to accomplish a wide range of important functions to heal broken ecosystems and adapt a changing planet.

Jim Robbins, a free-lance journalist for more than thirty years, lives with his family in Helena, Montana. He has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times since 1980, and has written for numerous magazines from Condé Nast Traveler to Smithsonian. He has carried out assignments in Europe, Mongolia, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Yanomami Territory in Brazil and Venezuela, and across North America, especially the Rocky Mountain West. He is the author of four books of non-fiction, and is at work on a fifth. His writing interests include science, the environment, and the human central nervous system. He considers the fact that he has been able to freely indulge his curiosity and get paid for it one of his greatest accomplishments.

Event details:

  • Parking available at the Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center, 225 Chester Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30316 or neighboring street parking
  • 6:00pm – Presentation begins
  • 7:00pm – Book signing
  • Seats are limited & reservations are first come first served
  • CEUs available:  1.5 CEU hours for ISA members

Click here for more information or to register for the event.

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Virginia-Highland Master Plan Takes Shape

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By: Jess Windham

As the process to create a Master Plan for Virginia-Highland enters its sixth month, we want to say just one thing – Thank You! Participation in January’s public meeting was collaborative, engaged, and produced a wealth of feedback for our planners at Market+Main.

Concepts presented and discussed at January’s public meeting are currently available on the Master Plan website (link below). If you were unable to attend the meeting, you can find a video of Aaron Fortner’s presentation on the website which explains the concepts, their context, and origins. Please review the concepts available on the website and be sure to submit your feedback: http://www.vahimasterplan.org/.

The first draft of the Master Plan will be posted on the Master Plan website on March 10th.  As with every step in the process, the public is highly encouraged to comment on this first draft. Submitting your feedback to the draft online is going to be the most effective way for the planning team to hear from you. As comments are submitted on the websiteand subsequent edits are made, the document will continue to evolve to best fit the neighborhood. We anticipate a revised draft to be posted on or around April 4th. The Virginia-Highland Civic Association board will vote on the Master Plan document in April or May; ultimately the document will go to Atlanta City Council for adoption.

The process began with public input and continues to rely on peoples’ first hand experiences to pinpoint issues and opportunities in Virginia-Highland. As the document takes shape, please continue this wonderful trend and, again, thank you all for your participation, excitement, and support!

Please visit http://www.vahimasterplan.org/ to submit your comments.

Continue reading for additional background on the Master Plan process.

What is the Master Plan?

Planning consultants Market+Main lead the Master Plan process alongside a volunteer steering committee of residents from a variety of backgrounds. The process has three broad and overlapping parts: discovery, design, and documentation. We are now in the documentation phase, with an end result of a final Master Plan document voted on by Atlanta City Council to guide future project and funding decisions.

The Master Plan will be a key document in securing funding from the City of Atlanta for neighborhood improvements and projects. As part of the City of Atlanta, Virginia-Highland’s transportation infrastructure, economic development, zoning laws, urban design, education options and environmental regulations are shaped by that municipality, as well as by Fulton County and the state. New construction also shapes our neighborhood and its character. Having a Virginia-Highland Master Plan provides a formal avenue for citizen and neighborhood goals to be identified and clearly expressed.

Additionally, the Master Plan will knit together elements from existing and sometimes overlapping plans and policies that already address parts of Virginia-Highland. Currently, parts of the Connect Atlanta Plan, the Atlanta BeltLine Overlay District regulations, Cycle Atlanta: Phase 1.0, and the Ponce de Leon Corridor Plan all contain plans for parts of Virginia-Highland. Understanding these plans is a considerable task and becomes an even greater challenge when considering the likely impacts of future development that existing zoning already assumes. The neighborhood can engage in those initiatives to shape them to our mutual benefit, or alternatively wait for changes and new projects to move forward without Virginia-Highland input.

Creating this Master Plan provides an opportunity to be involved in initiatives that the City has already begun – some of them well underway. It also gives the neighborhood a platform on which to prepare for future projects, including those that may be contemplated in next year’s anticipated bond referendum. Changes are inevitable; this is a grand chance to inform and shape these changes. 

Many VaHi Businesses Support Residents During Storm

DSC_0003While February’s first snowfall left many in Atlanta unprepared and stranded, the second one of the month saw us at home, well-stocked and ready to hunker down. Almost immediately we were ready to get out of the house and enjoy our walkable neighborhood, snow or no snow.

Many Virginia Highland restaurants didn’t let poor road conditions or a shortage in staff and supplies stop them from opening on Wednesday to host the hungry and cabin-fevered. Several eateries offered specials or adjusted menus, and everyone adjusted to fewer kitchen and wait-staff with patience and camaraderie. Those who braved the slick sidewalks were rewarded with the signature hospitality of their favorite local spots.

On Thursday more restaurants opened, as did a few retailers who anticipated the late afternoon thaw and the rush of last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers.

After the worst of the most recent snow, Murphy's used a snow-blower to clear a path for customers.

After the worst snow of the most recent storm, Murphy’s took drastic measures to clear a path for customers.

The business owners, managers, and staff who live in the community were willing to leave the comfort of home to serve their neighbors last week to display the spirit of what it is to be a “local business”. Beyond having an independently owned physical location in Virginia Highland, those of us who live and work in VaHi aptly treat our customers as neighbors. We happily open our doors to you, and we thank you so much for helping to keep them open.”

- Juliet White, Ten Thousand Villages

Residents Clean Up VaHi Alleyway

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Volunteers gather for a group photo before the clean up.

About a dozen Virginia-Highland residents braved chilly temperatures yesterday – but fortunately no snow – when they met to clean up the section of alleyway between St. Charles and Ponce de Leon avenues that runs from Barnett St. to Frederica St.

Residents Alicia Cardillo and Chris Juckins organized the clean up. Volunteers collected enough bags of trash to completely fill the back of a pickup truck. In addition to trash, several bags of recyclables were collected, and some overgrown brush was cleared.

A future event is planned to clear more brush and make the alleyway safely navigable for vehicles. It is hoped the increased traffic in the alley will discourage the homeless encampments and other undesirable activities that take place along the alleyway.

The group thanks Emile Blau of American Roadhouse who generously supplied biscuits and coffee for the volunteers. Supplies were donated by Keep Atlanta Beautiful, Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful and residents.

Before...

Before…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...and after.

…and after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scroll down to view more photos from the clean up (thanks to Chris Juckins and Kay Stephenson for these). Click here to see more photos of what the area looked like before the clean up.

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Druid Hills Presbyterian Church Hosts Panel Discussion on Race and Law

Passing along the following from our friends at Druid Hills Presbyterian Church:

This February, True Colors will be staging the first ever performance in Atlanta of David Mamet’s Race. Race is the story of three attorneys, two black and one white, offered a chance to defend a white man charged with a crime against a black woman.

How can we have productive conversations about difference?

Please join us for a live panel discussion with Congressman John Lewis, GA State Senator Jason Carter, Rabbi Alvin Sugarman, and Atlanta Daily World Publisher M. Alexis Scott who will discuss how issues involving race influence our legal system, and how Americans discuss race in the 21st century. Moderated by David Vigilante, Senior Vice President of Legal for CNN, the afternoon will consist of a roundtable conversation by our panelists and a Q&A opportunity for the audience.

This panel discussion is free and open to the public and will start at 12 Noon on Saturday February 15 at the church.

Click here for more information.

Alley Clean Up Set for February 15

20140201_11333720140201_113232In the aftermath of a fire over the holidays in the alley that runs east of Barnett St. between Ponce and St. Charles – often the site of homeless encampments – a group of concerned VaHi residents is organizing a clean up of the alley. The nearby Open Door Community that provides assistance to the homeless has been invited to participate in the clean up.

The event is set for Saturday February 15 at 10 AM (rain date is February 22). Volunteers should wear work clothes and bring work gloves and are asked to meet at the Barnett Street entrance to the alley, across from where Maiden Lane starts. Trash bags, other supplies and bottled water will be provided.

Anyone who can help with the clean up is asked to RSVP to Alicia Cardillo at alicia.cardillo@gmail.com.

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Tentative Agenda for February 10 VHCA Board/General Meeting

Virginia-Highland Civic Association BoD Monthly Meeting

7:00 PM;  Monday, February 10, 2014; Church of Our Saviour, 1068 N. Highland Ave.

Tentative Agenda

Call to Order

Adoption of Agenda

Reports from Police & Fire Dept. representatives

City of Atlanta officials

Other elected officials & guests

  • Dr. Gerry Neumark, President, President, APAB
  • Presentation on Open Door Residential Community (sometimes referred to as a Protestant Catholic Worker House), 910 Ponce de Leon Ave.; Mary Catherine Johnson

Planning Committee

V-14-005; 1055 Amsterdam Ave. NE; zoning is R-4.

Applicant Dan Hanlon (on behalf of owner Stephen Roach) proposes an extension of the existing home to the rear of the house and seeks variances to (1) reduce the eastern side yard setback from 7’ (required) to 3’ in line with the existing structure on that side; (2) reduce the front yard setback from 35’ (required) to 28’ (existing is ); and (3) reduce the half-depth front yard setback on the west side (abutting Humphrey St.) from 17’6” (required) to 3’5” (existing).   One tree in the buildable area will be removed; two 2.5’ trees will be planted.  The lot coverage remains well under 50%.  The appropriate neighbors have been notified. The date on the city’s stamped plans was not clear. At the VHCA Planning Comm., the applicant agreed he would furnish that date (and bring a copy to the VHCA meeting) and file a more specific plan to address the new stormwater created by the addition, specifically demonstrating that it would not flow downhill onto the eastern neighbor.  Subject to those conditions, the Committee voted unanimously to support the application.

Z-13-056 1085 Ponce de Leon Ave NE

Applicant Erik Kronberg  presents a proposal to rezone and redevelop the Druid Hills Baptist Church Activities Building and parking lot.  The proposal preserves the sanctuary and contemplates a new mixed-use residential/retail/commercial development with parking.  Though the development is in Poncey/Highland [NPU-N]) – not in Virginia-Highland – this informational presentation is mandated by the re-zoning process due to its proximity to and potential impacts on our neighborhood. (Link to the rezoning application:  Z-13-056 1085 Ponce de Leon Ave NE.   Link to a previously released article about it: http://atlanta.curbed.com/archives/2014/01/14/ponceyhighland-church-land-could-be-destined-for-mixeduse.php)

City of Atlanta Alley Re-platting Policy

Remand of V-13-099 from Fulton county Superior Court to BZA

Master Plan Update – Jenifer Keenan & Jess Windham

2014 Goals & Budgets – Jack White & Peggy Berg

Parks Committee – Lauren Wilkes Fralick, David Brandenburger

Safety Committee – Peggy Berg

Calendar Items – Lola Carlisle

Adjournment

Can You Help A Deserving VaHi Teen in Need?

1521350_723248251019185_656251682_nPosting the following on behalf of Virginia-Highland resident Michelle Corbett:

We are reaching out to ask for your help for someone in the neighborhood who recently suffered an unexpected and tragic loss. On Sunday, January 26th, Jenny Moody’s father unexpectedly passed away. Jenny was born and raised right here in Virginia Highland. Jenny still lives and works here. She graduated from Grady High School in 2013 and is currently a freshman at Georgia Tech. Jenny works weekends at American Roadhouse and she has been working there since she was 16.

As you might imagine, in addition to the emotional loss which Jenny suffered, she is now facing some real financial challenges as well. We are reaching out to people in the neighborhood to help raise funds to try and alleviate some of Jenny’s financial burden and to help a hard-working, sweet, brilliant and thoughtful young woman. If you know Jenny or knew her dad Mitch Moody, please consider making a donation.

American Roadhouse has generously offered to accept donations on Jenny’s behalf. Emile Blau, the owner of American Roadhouse, is taking care of collecting whatever is donated to ensure that it goes directly to Jenny.

Thanks in advance for your consideration in helping one of our neighborhood’s own.Thanks in advance for your consideration in helping this sweet young woman.

In Support of Proper Garbage/Recycling Bin Etiquette

DSC06002Passing along the following reminder about garbage/recycling bin etiquette from Kay Stephenson of the Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful group:

In my walks about the neighborhood I’ve noticed that some residents in both single- and multi-family dwellings are less than diligent about moving bins from curbside back onto their own property in a timely manner. This behavior presents a number of issues.

First, the bins can impede either vehicular or pedestrian traffic, and they present the appearance of a property that is not cared for. This ties directly to the ‘broken window theory’ of public safety. More information about the broken window theory can be found here.

photoIn addition, within the City of Atlanta it is illegal to place containers at curbside before the hour of 7:00 pm on the day before collection, or to leave them after 7:00 pm on the day of collection. In our neighborhood collection day is Monday.

We all have busy schedules and in the case of multi-unit rental homes and apartment buildings with absentee owners, there may be no one responsible for moving the bins to and from the curb. I’ve even had reports of neighbors who have returned bins for others on their street, only to find the property owner or tenant is annoyed. Apparently some find it more convenient to leave the bin at the curb permanently.

However, that is a poor excuse for allowing the neighborhood to look trashy, making life more difficult for neighbors and for breaking the law. We all have bad weeks, and neighbors should certainly cut each other a bit of slack. However, if this is a chronic situation, residents are within their rights to file a complaint with the City of Atlanta Office of Code Compliance.

The first step in this process should be to have a friendly conversation with the offending party to provide education on the law and to see if the problem can be remedied. If this approach is unsuccessful and the resident wishes to file a complaint, the process to do so is outlined here.

Just to clarify the rules, here is a summary:

  • Garbage and recycling bins are provided by the city, and are to be kept closed at all times to prevent garbage and odors from escaping.
  • Garbage bins should not be filled to the point of overflow.
  • It is the responsibility of the resident (whether home owner or renter) to keep the bin clean, sanitary, and odor-proof.
  • Bins cannot be placed where they will block normal vehicular traffic, public transportation, or pedestrian or wheelchair access roads and sidewalks.
  • Bins cannot be placed at curbside before 7:00 pm on the day before collection (Monday) and must be removed to private property by 7:00 pm on the day of collection.
  • Any extra garbage that doesn’t fit in the can must be place in properly marked bags or containers and not more than five bags are allowed at one time.
  • Violation of these codes results in a Class A offense.
    • 1st offense – $50 and/or up to 20 hours community service
    • 2nd offense – $75 and/or up to 50 hours community service
    • 3rd offense – $100 and/or up to 100 hours community service.
    • Each day that the bins remain at the curb in violation of the code is considered a separate offense, so you can see that the penalties can add up quickly.
    • For those with physical limitations that prevent movement of bins, an exemption can be given at the discretion of the Commission of Public Works. Contact DPW at 404-330-6333 for more information.

If you’d like to read more about the code, you can find the citation here.

I’m certainly not suggesting we all start reporting our neighbors for minor infractions. My intent for this message is to help educate those who honestly don’t know the rules, and encourage the rest of us to cooperate in Keeping Virginia Highland Beautiful!

Kay Stephenson, Keep Virginia Highland Beautiful