Undecking the Halls – Weather Update – Snowball Fight Anyone?

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

Update: Due to the winter storm warning our plan to dismantle decorations at North Highland Park will be postponed until Saturday afternoon at 1:00 pm. Hopefully this will allow time for any wintry mix to move out of the area. It will still be cold though, so dress warmly and plan to have some fun in the snow!

The feedback on our North Highland Park holiday decorations has been very positive. All of the trees, lights, wreaths, and even Frosty were donated by residents who no longer needed these items. Volunteers set up the decorations a few weeks ago, and an army of elves (mostly anonymous) stopped by to keep everything in working order as rain, wind and other acts of nature tried to defeat our holiday cheer.

  

Sadly, now it’s time to think about packing away all this holiday splendor! What are you doing on Saturday January 7th? Volunteers will meet at the park again on the 7th at 10:00 am to dismantle and pack away these treasures for next year. If you can lend a hand, please join us!

Also, for that tree you have at home, Home Depot is a sponsor for “One for the Chipper” again this year. Drop off your completely undecorated natural tree on Saturday, January 7th between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm and it will be turned into mulch to be used locally.

VHCA Tour of Homes Committee—Come Help Us Rebuild in 2017

By Robin Ragland, 2016 VHCA Tour of Homes Chair

Our neighborhood Tour of Homes is a weekend favorite for attendees and community volunteers each December.  Like other initiatives within VHCA, the tour occurs because a committee of volunteers spends their time throughout the year to create the experience that so many have come to enjoy.  This dedication has contributed to VHCA granting over $270,000 to our schools, partnering non-profits, and neighborhood partners over roughly the last decade.  This includes just under $130,000 for schools, almost $40,000 for Trees Atlanta, and almost $45,000 to our local public library.  The money raised also supports other neighborhood initiatives such as security cameras, the restoration of Fire Station 19, and parks projects.

There are several volunteers who have been on the committee for a number of years, whose work and commitment has enabled the Tour to significantly increase the amount of funds raised.   Each year, some members of the committee retire, and new folks join.  Such is the nature of volunteer efforts—it’s not known who will come forward each year to help accomplish our goals, but we depend on residents stepping forward as they are able. 

2017 will be an important rebuilding year for the Tour of Homes.  After co-chairing the committee in 2015, and chairing it in 2016, I am stepping down to join the ranks of a ‘regular’ committee member in 2017.  A few sub-committee chairs will return to plan the 2017 tour, but a number of critical positions must be filled with new volunteers. 

If you’re someone who loves our neighborhood and really enjoys the Tour of Homes, please strongly consider taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity to meet new folks, and have such a positive impact on Va-Hi.  Recruit a friend to volunteer with you!

For the tour to occur as usual in December this year, it is critical to have folks raise their hand and volunteer to fill these roles.  I am happy to chat with anyone who is interested and needs more information before signing up for the task.  We are also planning a committee celebration for this past December’s tour.  Let me know if you’d like to join us to meet some of the committee members, and learn more about what’s involved.  You may contact me at robin_ragland@bellsouth.net.  Committee members will also be present at the Volunteer Open House on January 29.

Virginia-Highland Supports Police Christmas Party for Kids

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Board and Safety Committee Member

Generous Virginia-Highland residents donated four car-loads of toys to the annual Zone 6 Atlanta Police Department holiday party for kids held on December 17th.  This year Zone 6 doubled the number of children invited from 50 last year to 100 in order to provide toys for more children. VaHi resident John Wolfinger once again provided a drop-off point on his porch and transported toys to the precinct (see photo below).

John Wolfinger’s trunk filled with neighborhood donations for one of his trips to the precinct. Photo credit – John Wolfinger

Kay Stephenson and Eleanor Barrineau of the VHCA Board and Safety Committee volunteered at the event, which included a hot meal, activities including tours of various police and fire vehicles, games, and musical presentations by current and retired police department employees.  It was great to see the kids interacting with the many police and fire department officers who were participating – a great example of police-community relations.

Officer Felicia Dodson calls children up to receive their gifts. Photo credit – Kay Stephenson

Children play musical chairs with Santa. Photo credit – Eleanor Barrineau

There were enough toys to provide for all of the children – and any toys left over were to be donated to parties hosted by Zones 1 and 3.

President’s Message and Goals for 2017

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

Happy New Year!  Now that the holidays are over, I wanted to bring you up to date on some of the activities of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association.

2016 was a year of transition for VHCA.  At the Annual meeting in September, six new directors were elected to the VHCA board.  I was a bit of a hybrid – I had served on the board for several years, but was not a current board member at the time of the election in September.  Rounding out the board were four returning directors who had each been serving for several years.

As President, my top priority for 2016 was to bring together the old and new directors, many of whom did not previously know each other, and build a strong and effective board.  To that end, the first few months of our 2016/2017 term were focused on electing officers, defining and assigning committee roles and chair positions, and getting a complete handle on the Association’s finances, and legal and financial obligations.  The process has been difficult at times, but I feel we now have a strong foundation and structure from which to pursue the many important and exciting initiatives that inspired each director to run for the Board.  And in the midst of working to rebuild the Board, we have already achieved a lot, including posting agendas and written minutes for board meetings, publishing The Voice twice per month, executing a successful Tour of Homes, moving forward with the design phase of the Fire Station 19 preservation and renovation, and providing monthly updates on the Association’s finances.  In addition, negotiations continue to settle the lawsuit filed last year related to the Todd memorial. I will continue to provide updates on the litigation at our monthly general meetings.

The first order of business for 2017 will be replacing board members Paige Hewell and Jess Windham – two directors who resigned in December.  Both Paige and Jess had significant changes in their lives that made it difficult for them to dedicate the time and energy needed to serve on the board.  Paige, who was the Co-Chair of Summerfest, will continue to work on Summerfest.  Jess, who has been on the Planning Committee for several years and was the Co-Chair of the Master Plan Committee, will also continue to work on Planning issues.  We are fortunate that we will still have an opportunity to work with Paige and Jess and are thankful for their service to the Board and Virginia-Highland.

Other goals for 2017 include refreshing Summerfest, helping to revitalize the VaHi business district, improving transportation infrastructure, monitoring proposed commercial development, supporting the Monroe Complete Streets project, modernizing communications, increasing fundraising, and improving public safety.  In addition to all of these important initiatives, we will continue to meet our commitment to increase community participation in, and access to, VHCA.  To that end, we will be hosting periodic “Meet the VHCA Board” gatherings at local restaurants and will have a VHCA Committee Open House in the near future.  Details on all of these initiatives will be provided at upcoming General Meetings and in future editions of The Voice.  The 2017 Goals for each of our Committees, as well as the 2017 budget, will also be published on vahi.org by mid-January.

We have an amazing neighborhood, but can make it even better with a robust and open civic association.  I look forward to working with VaHi volunteers old and new on the exciting initiatives happening in our neighborhood.

‘Tis the Season for Giving

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member, and Lola Carlisle, Member of the VHCA Preservation Committee

There’s a strong tradition of giving in Virginia-Highland during the month of December – especially when it come to the Fire Station 19 restoration project. 

This year’s breakfast at Osteria 832 raised $5,000 for the fire station, making it the number one beneficiary of Rich Chey’s restaurants’ giving.  This brings their 14-year total amount of funds raised for the station to $55,000!  

Doc Chey's owner Rich Chey presents the Fire Station 19 crew with the proceeds check from Brekafast with Santa. Photo credit Ashley Lepore

Doc Chey’s owner Rich Chey presents the Fire Station 19 crew with the proceeds check from Breakfast with Santa. Photo credit Ashley Lepore.

marcos-check-at-fs-19

Marco’s Pizza sponsored FireFest in October and raised $5,000 for Station 19. Thanks to Marcos owners, Robb and Melanie Wallace (pictured above on the back row second and third from the left) who brought their larger-than-life donation over during Santathon. The firefighters pictured are F.F. Kinan Humphrey (back row, left), F.F. Chris Knott (back row, 2nd from right), Cpt. Quentin Campbell (front row, left), and Sgt. Germaine Stringer (front row, right).  

We also just wrapped up our 3rd annual and most successful Santathon, presented by Tailfin Marketing. This year’s fundraising event raised an additional $4,000 for Fire Station 19.

These funds will be added to those already collected for the restoration project, and there will be additional events in 2017, such as the Morningside Mile on March 16.  However, there is still a need for more money – about $15,000 more is needed.  

Breakfast with Santa raised a record amount of funds for FS #19! Photo credit Lola Carlisle

Breakfast with Santa raised a record amount of funds for FS #19! Photo credit Lola Carlisle

Did you know that you can make a tax-deductible donation to VHCA’s Virginia-Highland Conservation League (VHCL)?  Your money will go directly to neighborhood projects such as the Fire Station 19 project, local park improvements, and payments on the loan for our very own North Highland Park.

You can mail a check (made out to the Virginia-Highland Conservation League) to VHCA at P.O. Box 8401 Station F, Atlanta, GA 31106. You can also make an online donation by clicking on the Donate button on the main page at vahi.org. A letter confirming your donation can be mailed to you if you would like to receive one.

Reach out to vhcl@vahi.org if you have any questions.

Relay Bikes Coming to Virginia-Highland

By George Zirkel, VHCA Treasurer

13346590_10154093052861163_128611784686720880_n-450x300Earlier this past summer the Relay bike share program launched in downtown Atlanta with 100 bikes at 10 stations. You may have seen the cute baby-blue, two-wheel bikes around town or on the BeltLine.

The VHCA is pleased to be working with Becky Katz, Chief Bicycle Officer for the City Of Atlanta, and the wonderful folks at Cyclehop to have at least two stations here in Virginia Highland when the next set of 70 stations are opened in early 2017. CycleHop is the largest ‘smart bike’ bike share program operator in North America, managing programs in Phoenix, Orlando, Los Angeles and Vancouver in addition to Atlanta.

img_4678Bike sharing programs have exploded over the last 10 years and it’s no wonder why.   Commuters can leave the stress of congested midtown and downtown traffic behind. Tourists can enjoy exploring Atlanta and our wonderful attractions at their own pace.  And we all get a healthier Atlanta!

While the VaHi locations are still being finalized, top contenders are the intersection of Virginia & Highland and the intersection of Saint Charles & North Highland.  More to follow once we get confirmation of their final location.

Pedal on Virginia-Highland!

For more information on the Atlanta program visit http://relaybikeshare.com.

Santa Speedo Run Set for December 10

By VHCA Board Member and Treasurer George Zirkel

unnamed-2Saturday, December 10th is the date for the highly entertaining and sometimes revealing Atlanta Santa Speedo Run.  Now in its eighth year, the 2016 run will help raise money to support CHRIS 180’s mission of helping Atlanta’s most vulnerable kids change the direction of their lives.

The 2:00 pm fun run will take an estimated 300 participants for a 1.5 mile scramble through the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. Starting and ending at the famed Manuel’s Tavern, the course winds its way up North Highland Avenue to the heart of our popular neighborhood, passing such popular eateries and watering holes as Hand In Hand, Atkins Park, Murphy’s, Yeah Burger and Diesel, among others.

parade-1-smSince its inception in 2009, the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run has raised more than $500,000 for local Atlanta children’s charities.  Past charitable organizations that have benefited from the run have included Bert’s Big Adventure, Camp Twin Lakes and Blaze Sports. The Santa Speedo Run was originally started in Boston in 2000 by five friends in search of a little holiday fun.

For the 2016 race, the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run is working with CHRIS 180 (formerly known as CHRIS Kids), with the goal to raise more than $100,000 for the organization. CHRIS 180’s mission is to heal children, strengthen families and build community through mental health counseling, training, providing safe housing and services that help youth build real-world skills. Donations help fight youth and teen homelessness and provide at-risk kids with the building blocks, skills and confidence to succeed in school and in life.

4920b34a-c259-4c3a-8888-2eac7a6292a1A Speedo or similar holiday-themed attire is of course required and runners are encouraged to accessorize with holiday themed flair.  Costume creativity promises to be at an all-time high this year so please come out and show some support for these two organizations and a wonderful Virginia-Highland tradition.  For more information about the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run, including how to become a participant or a sponsor, visit AtlantaSantaSpeedoRun.org.

Wear a little, give a lot. 

Click here to see an album of photos from previous runs.

Don’t Miss Photos With Santa at Fire Station #19!

By Lola Carlisle, VHCA Planning and Preservation Committee member

2015-santathon-20Station #19 Firemen. Photos with Santa. Fire trucks. Crafts. Hot chocolate. What are we missing? … You.

Please come join us on December 10th from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. as we have fun and raise funds for Fire Station #19 renovations. You can sign up for pictures or walk up – we’ll do our best to work everyone in.

Santahon_2015_2Don’t miss the chance to decorate ornaments and have fun with your neighbors. Steve Spetz will be on hand again this year doing great caricatures. And if you just want to hang out and volunteer for the event, you can do that through the link above.

Along with the Fire Station’s great hats, t-shirts, and mugs, we’ll have prints of Steve Spetz Fire Station watercolors for sale.

Our sponsors so far this year include Tailfin and many others who are adding to the fun with activities, treats and specials including Virginia-Highland Civic Association, San Francisco Coffee, Avant Gardener and Barefoot Mountain Farms.

Santathon_2015_1

In Search of a Christmas Miracle for Ten Thousand Villages

By Bryan Hendrix, Virginia-Highland Resident

15369187_1425073127504083_2077304714292003107_oTen Thousand Villages, the fair trade gift shop that has been on St. Charles Ave. in Virginia-Highland for 25 years, needs our help. Business has been down recently and they’re struggling to stay in this location. Their mission is to support artisans in the developing world, particularly empowering women to improve their communities. (Plus they have cool stuff!)

Lea-Anne Jackson, a Ten Thousand Villages board member, told me they need a “Christmas miracle.” Let’s be that miracle. Let’s show our support for this little shop and its mission by joining together for a Highland Stroll for Ten Thousand Villages on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 11 am. We’ll gather in North Highland Park at the corner of N. Highland and St. Charles and stroll the short distance to Ten Thousand Villages where we can shop, make a donation, or just show support.

I know this sounds like the plot to a sentimental holiday movie but I have to admit that bringing a sentimental holiday movie to life actually sounds like fun to me! (We may even sing one specially customized holiday song but if you’re not into that you can just pretend you don’t know the rest of us!) Let’s show that Virginia-Highland still has a heart and soul and take this stroll. I know we’re all busy this time of year but this will take very little time and should put us all in touch with the holiday and community spirit. Hope you’ll join in and tell your friends and neighbors!

Please see our Facebook page, Friends of Ten Thousand Villages, Virginia-Highland. The event has also been posted on NextDoor.

Ten Thousand Villages is located at 1056 St. Charles Ave. They are open Mon-Sat 11 am-6 pm, and on Sunday from 1-5 pm. You can read more about Ten Thousand Villages here. 

Disclaimer: I have no professional or financial connection to Ten Thousand Villages.

Safety Subjects: Holiday Safety Tips

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

City_of_Atlanta_Police1Some of us shop online, some go to the mall, and some patronize small local businesses. Wherever you do your shopping or celebrate the holidays, APD Zone 6 Commander Major Peek has offered us some thoughts on safety.

First, he wants us to know that APD has implemented their 2016 Holiday Plan. The plan consists of moving administrative officers into the field so that everyone has a part in patrolling and keeping our streets safe.

For those who shop online and are not generally at home during normal delivery hours, he suggests having packages shipped to a location where someone will be available. This could be your office or a neighbor who works from home. Around the holidays APD sees an increase in thefts of packages left on porches by delivery companies. Here in Virginia-Highland we are very fortunate that two local businesses (Morningside Mini-Storage and Urban Body Studios) have offered to provide a safe package delivery service. Find details here.

060613_atlanta_police_kdj05At the mall or when visiting multiple shops, don’t leave bags and packages in plain sight in your car. And if you carry a big armload of items to the trunk and then plan to do more shopping, you might consider taking the extra couple of minutes to move your vehicle. Criminals often watch for potential victims who place items in the trunk and then return to the mall or a different store.

When you are out and about, you may find you need to fill up at the gas station. Major Peek suggests you do not leave a purse or briefcase on the passenger seat, and remove keys and put them in your pocket. Recently there have been many reports of criminals who sneak up on the passenger side of the vehicle while you are focused on the gas pump. They open the passenger door and steal the bag, or worse, slide into the driver’s seat and make off with your car.

new-cruisers-z6Some final tips for those who may be patronizing bars and clubs during the holiday season, he urges everyone to guard their drinks so no one can add something to it. Also, do not assume that someone met through social media is safe. Always take a companion with you to meet someone you only know through social media, and consider making the first few dates double-dates. If you meet someone new at a club, do not take that person home with you or accept a ride from someone you have just met. Major Peek reminds us that these people should be considered strangers until you get to know them over time.

For most of us these tips seem obvious, but sadly Atlanta PD sees similar incidents go wrong too often. As always, please help the police by calling 911 and reporting any suspicious and criminal activity immediately. Do not engage with criminals but allow officers to handle the situation. For more safety tips visit the Virginia-Highland Security Patrol (aka FBAC) website safety tips pages.

Agenda Posted for December VHCA Board of Directors Meeting

Monthly Meeting of the Board of Directors

Monday, December 12th 2016; 7:00 PM; Ponce de Leon Library

Proposed Agenda

Note: A PDF of the agenda can be found here.

Call to Order and Adoption of Agenda

APD – Recognized upon arrival

Other Public Officials & Municipal Representatives

Other guests (may be deferred at discretion of Chair to New Business)

Regan Hammond, Renew Atlanta

Update on Monroe Drive Complete Streets Project

Planning Committee

  • Variances
    • V-16-320 1165 Monroe Drive

Applicant seeks a variance to reduce the north sideyard setback to install a second-floor addition in the existing footprint.

  • Liquor Licenses – Jenifer Keenan
    • None
  • Recent Annexation by City of Atlanta  – Jenifer Keenan

History and Preservation Committee

  • History Tours – Robin Ragland
  • Old Voice Editions – Robin Ragland

Budget Committee/Treasurer’s Report

Parks Committee

  • Update on Triangle Maintenance – David Brandenberger
  • North Highland Park – David Brandenberger and Kay Stephenson

Fundraising Committee

  • Tour of Homes – Robin Ragland
  • Breakfast with Santa and Santathon – Robin Ragland
  • End of Year Donations – Robin Ragland
  • Summerfest – Jenifer Keenan

Safety Committee

Communications Committee:

  • Update on Online Survey – Kay Stephenson and Cindy Kaufman

Calendar: (All meetings are public)

  • NPU-F Monthly Meeting at Hillside: Mon., Dec. 19th at 7pm
  • VHCA Planning Committee at Garrison Hall, Church of Our Savior: Wed., Jan. 4th at 7pm
  • VHCA BoD at Ponce de Leon Library: Mon., Jan 9th at 7pm

New Business

  • Vote on Committee Goals 2016/2017
  • Motion to Defer Budget Vote

Adjournment

Atlanta BeltLine Schedules Fourth Quarterly Briefing of 2016

The folks at the Atlanta BeltLine invite you to join them at the upcoming Atlanta Beltline Fourth Quarterly Briefing of 2016 on December 6.  Please pass the word along to your family and friends and encourage anyone who wants to hear about the latest Atlanta BeltLine developments to attend.

Fourth Quarterly Briefing of 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016, 6:00-8:00pm

Fulton County Government Center, Board of Commissioners Auditorium

141 Pryor Street SW

Atlanta, GA, 30303

In this public meeting, you will be provided project updates from Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership.  Following the formal presentation, staff will be available in an open house format to answer questions and to discuss all aspects of the project.

A limited number of Underground Atlanta parking deck validation vouchers will be available at the sign-in table.

Please see the flyer below for more details

image010

City Bazaar: Globally Rooted, Locally Made

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

city-bazaarConnect with and support local artisans, enjoy time with neighbors and get some holiday shopping done at The Highland Theater, 800 N Highland Ave NE on Saturday, December 3rd from 2-6 p.m.  City Church Eastside is hosting its fourth annual City Bazaar, formerly known as Beyond Fair Trade This year’s event will focus on celebrating the diversity of the international community right here in Georgia.

This holiday craft market will exclusively feature vendors and artisans from the Clarkston immigrant and refugee communities. All items sold at City Bazaar are handmade by an individual, group, or organization based in or for the benefit of the Clarkston community. You’ll find a wide variety of handmade items, such as art, jewelry, bags, accessories, bath & body products, toys, home goods, and food/consumables. Whether this is your first event or your 100th, we welcome you to participate!

14th Annual Breakfast with Santa Set for December 3

https-cdn-evbuc-com-images-24533266-39816381228-1-originalOsteria 832 will host the 14th annual Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 3 starting at 8:30 a.m.

For $25 you get a digital photo with Santa, goodies for the kids and a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and sausage. Meet our neighborhood firefighters and watch Santa arrive on a real fire truck! Tickets are per person (all ages, including infants) and are non-refundable. 

100% of ticket sales will be donated to the fire stations that keep our neighborhoods safe: Virginia-Highland Fire Station # 19 (Atlanta’s oldest) and Grant Park Fire Station #10.  This event has raised $83,600 for our neighborhood heroes!

Appointment times – 8:30, 10:00 or 11:30 a.m. – must be booked in advance. To book an appointment or for more information, visit the Breakfast with Santa event site.

Virginia-Highland Civic Association Survey

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECHThe Virginia-Highland Civic Association Board, elected in September, is looking for input from association members as we make plans for 2017. Please follow the link below to complete a brief survey so that we can learn how to serve you better. 

All responses will remain anonymous, and the survey will remain open through Sunday, December 11th. Note that at this time we are only seeking responses from residents of Virginia-Highland who are 18 years of age or older. 

If you have questions please contact kay.stephenson@gmail.com.

Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RV8G656 

Trees Atlanta, Many Volunteers Plant 90+ Trees in VaHi

By Stephanie Coffin and Lola Carlisle; Photos courtesy Lola Carlisle

img_1498November 12th was a fun day of tree planting in Virginia-Highland! There were many helping hands from Virginia-Highland, local schools and organizations. Due to the lack of rain, it took all the volunteers working very hard to dig through the hard soil to plant.

We planted Kousa Dogwoods, American Fringe Trees, Trident Maples, Carolina Silverbells and other species provided by Trees Atlanta and funded by the tree recompense fund of the City of Atlanta. You can view the planting list here. 

img_1494Protecting and adding to the overall tree canopy in Atlanta are critical to improving our environment and promoting healthy lifestyles. Virginia-Highland is known for its beautiful tree-lined streets and these Trees Atlanta plantings, and those we all do privately, are increasingly important as we continue to lose old growth trees from development pressures and environmental impacts.

Due to the drought we ask that you please help by watering the trees in the planting strips near your homes. Even under our watering restrictions new plantings may be watered for 30 days after they are planted. Use a couple of buckets for each tree, once a week. Pour the water slowly around the tree, so it gets a chance to saturate the soil and not run off. If it rains, don’t worry about watering.

Special thanks to all the volunteers, VHCA, Alex Beasley of Trees Atlanta, and Stephanie Coffin for a successful planting!

img_1489       img_1491

VHCA, American Roadhouse bring First Responders Thanksgiving Cheer

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Safety Committee Chair

VHCA Safety Committee members Sterling Eaves and John Wolfinger are pictured with American Roadhouse general manager Ahmet Toker and catering manager Marci Leonard. Photo credit Eleanor Barrineau

VHCA Safety Committee members Sterling Eaves and John Wolfinger are pictured with American Roadhouse general manager Ahmet Toker and catering manager Marci Leonard. Photo credit Eleanor Barrineau

First Responders at the Atlanta Police Department Zone 6 and Atlanta Fire Station No. 19 were delighted on Thanksgiving Day when three members of the VHCA Safety Committee arrived with a total of 80 meals for all staff on duty.

The meals were kindly provided by American Roadhouse, which stepped up in response to a call for meal donations issued by VHCA Safety Committee member Sterling Eaves. 

In a thank-you to the VHCA Safety Committee, APD Zone 6 Commander Major T.D. Peek wrote: “Thank you all so much! You have truly been a blessing to us and the community. We are grateful to have you all as partners as we work together to keep Atlanta safe and beautiful.”

VHCA Safety Committee members with some of Zone 6’s finest. Photo credit Eleanor Barrineau

VHCA Safety Committee members with some of Zone 6’s finest. Photo credit Eleanor Barrineau

We in turn in the Virginia-Highland community are so grateful for our wonderful fire and police staff who work 24/7 to keep us safe, and also for the partnership and support of one of our local restaurants, as we all work together to make our neighborhood and city a great place to live.

In an additional gesture of support, the American Roadhouse also offers an ongoing 50% discount to police and fire officers in uniform.

‘Tis the Weekend to Eat, Shop & Tour!

logo-pictureBy Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

If your idea of a good time is spending a few hours touring some of Virginia-Highland’s most unique and beautiful homes, and sampling tasty offerings from some of the neighborhood’s best, we’ve got you covered this weekend.

img_6233Make plans now, if you haven’t already, to attend the 22nd Anniversary Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes. Tour hours are Saturday, December 3, 10 AM – 5 PM and Sunday, December 4, 11 AM –  4 PM (food tastings Noon – 4 PM both days).  This year’s ticket sales, will-call, and volunteer check-in will be at John Howell Park (corner of Barnett St. and Virginia Ave).

Click here for more information on the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes and to purchase tickets.

612-park-drive_4698This year’s tour features eight beautiful homes, plus a history tour of our own neighborhood. Local restaurants, such as DBA Barbecue, Taco Cowboy, Highland Tap, Atkins Park, Marlow’s Tavern, Tapa Tap, Fontaine’s, Apres Diem, Pea Ridge, Highland Bakery, Press & Grind, The Cook’s Warehouse, and San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co. will provide tastings at each of the Tour homes.

The Tour of Homes is one of VaHi’s largest annual fundraisers. Event proceeds benefit VHCA and support community initiatives such as school grants and neighborhood park improvements, as well as safety, planning and preservation efforts.

The Tour of Homes experience is the perfect way to kick off your holiday season. Bring your family and friends out to hear the Grady High School Chorus and the SPARK choir perform, and enjoy hot mulled cider provided by Savory Spice shop. 

See you this weekend at the 2016 VaHi Tour of Homes!

Cub Scout Pack 17 Selling Mistletoe to Raise Funds

image1For its annual fundraiser, Haygood Cub Scout Pack 17 will again be selling fresh artisan mistletoe in decorative artisan containers for $10 ($15 online) from November 26 to December 17. 

Our scouts will be selling mistletoe on Saturdays at five locations in Virginia-Highland and Morningside including Half-Moon Outfitters, the Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center, the Morningside Farmers Market, San Francisco Coffee, and Haygood United Memorial Methodist Church. You can also purchase your mistletoe online at goo.gl/Ss1gY9.  Bulk mistletoe orders for shipment in December can be placed by contacting pack17scouting@gmail.com.

The Scouts thank you for your support!

Annual Trees Atlanta VaHi Tree Planting Set for November 12

By Stephanie Coffin and Lola Carlisle

Editor’s Note: Stephanie Coffin is a long-time Virginia-Highland resident whose passion for trees has helped make our neighborhood one of the most tree-friendly in the city. Lola Carlisle is a past VHCA board member who stays active in the neighborhood.

image001Mychorrhizae, planting depth, root bound, tree species and planting hole size are just a few examples of the vocabulary of tree planting.  These terms and more will be discussed and then applied to planting trees at the annual Trees Atlanta VaHi tree planting event which is scheduled for Saturday, November 12, 9:00 am. Volunteers will meet at North Highland Park (corner of N. Highland and St. Charles).

We will use gloves, shovels, buckets, water, mulch and teamwork to plant the trees.  As always we have beautiful trees to put in the ground: Kousa dogwoods, American fringe trees, Trident maples, Carolina silverbells and other species are provided by Trees Atlanta, paid for from the tree recompense fund of the City of Atlanta.

Traffic calming is a major focus of the tree planting project this year, in addition to adding beauty, creating shade, and reducing air pollution and noise.  The planting in Virginia-Highland will start at Lanier Blvd. and Virginia Ave. and go east on N. Virginia to fill in street tree gaps on Stillwood and Los Angeles Avenues.  These streets have been newly inundated by cut-through traffic.  We hope that the tree will say, loud and clear: SLOW DOWN. BE CAREFUL OF OUR CHILDREN.  RESPECT OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

Volunteers meet at North Highland Park for the 2015 Trees Atlanta planting event.

Volunteers meet at North Highland Park for the 2014 Trees Atlanta planting event.

The Morningside planting is also designed in part as a response to increased cut-through traffic on Courtenay Dr. between N. Highland Ave. and Monroe Dr.  In addition, we will add a few more Crape myrtles on N. Highland to continue the 100+ Crape allee from Ponce de Leon to Amsterdam. The planting of Crape myrtles on both sides of N. Highand will be extended into Morningside.  Crapes provide summer color and beautiful winter bark. They are drought-tolerant and forgiving of traffic. They are the perfect tree to line our major corridor.

So, think positively to conjure continued mild weather with a shower or two before the November 12 planting and come join us.  People working together to green our neighborhoods by planting trees is a great response to the emerging reality of climate change — recently and more accurately recharacterized as “anthropogenic climate disruption”.

Please check the list below for the tree species to be planted at specific locations.  We’ve also posted photos of the tree species to be planted.

Enjoy the planting, everyone!

trees-atlanta-list_10_18-v2

Hearts of Gold Redbud

Hearts of Gold Redbud

Crape myrtle

Crape myrtle

Ostrya-Hophornbeam

Ostrya-Hophornbeam

Kousa dogwood

Kousa dogwood

Trident maple

Trident maple

American fringe tree

American fringe tree

Silverbell

Silverbell

Parrotia

Parrotia

Catching Up with the Atlanta City Design Project

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

Earlier this year the city of Atlanta launched the Atlanta City Design Project. Under the direction of Tim Keane, Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Community Development, this project will envision what Atlanta should look like decades from now. It will also inform all future decisions on the growth and development of the city.

img_20161103_192738

Atlanta BeltLine visionary and Sixpitch founder and principal Ryan Gravel addresses the crowd at an Atlanta City Design Project meeting held recently at the Central Library auditorium.

Commissioner Keane is quick to point out that the city already has plans – lots of plans. The problem is that it’s hard to know what we want Atlanta to become by looking at the many overlapping, intersecting and sometimes conflicting plans.

The city has hired Ryan Gravel to drive and guide the project; his 1999 master’s thesis was the genesis of the Atlanta BeltLine and he currently heads up Sixpitch an urban design and planning consultancy.

To begin the discussion, Gravel has offered these two premises:

  1. Atlanta is going to change – not changing is not an option – our change will involve significant growth – if properly designed, that growth can be a powerful tool for shaping the Atlanta we want to become.
  2. More people are better than fewer – a diverse population is better than a homogeneous one – the most strategic scenario for growth includes everyone.

Atlanta City Studio

Up front Tim Keane will tell you that this effort is not just about planning and design. It is also about people. There must be vehicles for Atlanta residents to interact with and provide input to the team. The Atlanta City Studio is one such vehicle. Currently housed in donated space at Ponce City Market and open Tuesday – Friday from 10 am until 8 pm and on Saturdays from 11 am until 7 pm, the studio hosts rotating exhibits about neighborhoods and innovative technology. The staff also hosts workshops on a variety of design and planning subjects. Visit the Atlanta City Studio Facebook page for more information and consider dropping into the studio to learn more whenever they are open.

In addition, discussions are being hosted for residents to hear presentations, ask questions and provide input. So far three events have been held, all at the downtown Central Atlanta Library auditorium. The first, convened in early September, addressed projected growth in the city.

The Big Number – 1.3 Million

The first question might be, “how big can Atlanta be”? To answer that, Tim Keane brought in Dr. Arthur Nelson. Nelson is a Professor of urban planning at the University of Arizona. He also has deep roots in Atlanta as a former Georgia Tech professor.

img_20161103_183213

Atlanta BeltLine visionary and Sixpitch founder and principal Ryan Gravel addresses the crowd at an Atlanta City Design Project meeting held recently at the Central Library auditorium.

Looking at projected growth of the metro area, and the shifting preference to live in the city versus the suburbs, Dr. Nelson predicts that our current population of about 465,000 residents will grow to approximately 1.3 million by 2050. Even more importantly, he identified a reduction of 4.5 persons per household in 1950 to 2.5 persons per household in 2010. This means the number of housing units required for this population is also growing. Dr. Nelson’s presentation can be viewed here.

Ryan Gravel tells us that where those people go matters. It is important that we think about and plan for what the city will look like in the future. When we get there, “will we still love it, and is it a place we want to live?”

We can increase density and support that density with transit, jobs, and amenities while still preserving one of the things that makes Atlanta special – our neighborhoods. Neighborhoods can see slight growth, but the majority should occur “in between”, along the central corridors of the city.

These corridors radiate out from the central core of Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead and are natural boundaries between neighborhoods or groups of neighborhoods. From the north right around the clock face we see Peachtree/Roswell, Piedmont, Ponce de Leon, DeKalb, Memorial, McDonough, Jonesboro, Metropolitan, Lee/Murphy/Campbellton, MLK, Boone, Hollowell, Marietta/Perry, and Howell Mill. To that list we must, of course, add the Atlanta BeltLine.

An Aspiration

In early October, Ryan Gravel presented the framework for the Atlanta City Design. He told us that the design is not a plan so much as an aspiration that will tie together many plans.

The goal is to figure out what is special about this place. Gravel suggests we “capture those things, and embed them in all decisions we make about how the city gets built out over time, so that the city becomes more of what Atlanta is instead of less.” To manage the growth that is coming and still retain the essence of who we are as a city, the team has defined a set of five core values: Nature, Access, Ambition, Progress and Equity.

You can learn more from Gravel’s full presentation.

Workshops

img_20161014_154357

Meeting attendees participated in a “Design a Smarter Atlanta” workshop at the Studio in October.

Citizens are being asked “What are your design recommendations to improve the future of our city?” On November 3rd, Commission Kean and Ryan Gravel hosted the third city-wide conversation. The audience was asked for their ideas about each of the five core values. You can add your ideas on the notes section of the Atlanta City Studio Facebook page; in person at the Studio at Ponce City Market Suite N220; or at upcoming meetings which will be announced on Facebook.

The Atlanta City Design project will cause intentional shaping of our city. It will not only inform changes to zoning code, Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU) and other planning functions, but will reach into every department from Watershed Management and Public Works, to Parks & Recreation. The design will also engage non-profit and private organizations that already are pursuing change initiatives – for example Trees Atlanta’s initiatives to increase our tree canopy.

Don’t miss your opportunity to be heard! Make sure that Atlanta is a place we want to live for generations to come.

Buy A Brick – The Perfect Holiday Gift

DSC06114Virginia-Highland Conservation League volunteers originally sold almost 400 bricks to help fund construction of North Highland Park at the corner of N. Highland and St. Charles Ave., which opened in 2013.

After installation of the first wave of bricks, we learned we had spots for 105 more, and we now have just 53 bricks left to sell, then that’s it! All the bricks sold since the park opened in 2013 will be installed by the Spring of 2017, and proceeds will go toward payoff of the remaining mortgage on the land. 

To learn more or buy, click here.  

Shop Small!

By Cindy Kaufman, VHCA Board Member and Communications Committee Chair

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECHFirst, there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. Then in 2010, Small Business Saturday was born as a nationwide movement to celebrate small businesses every day and to help communities thrive. Small Business Saturday is the day we celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants, not just in our neighborhood, but all across the U.S.

Created by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday® is the cornerstone of American Express Shop Small efforts. While Small Business Saturday is highlighted as a special day when we can show our support as a nation for small business owners and our communities, the Shop Small Movement is a year-round campaign to celebrate and support small businesses every day.

The day is dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country.

Christmas_Welcome_To-VaHa_1This year it falls on Saturday, November 26th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and as always, we want our community to go out and support the small businesses that make up the heart of Virginia-Highland, from shops and services to restaurants and bars. We are so fortunate to have an abundance of small businesses that line N. Highland Ave, Virginia Ave, as well as St. Charles and Greenwood, and we’ve been promised that there will be a lot of fun activities taking place on the 26th, including a scavenger hunt that will take participants all over the neighborhood searching for clues and picking up little trinkets along the way.

Also, Tipple + Rose will be hosting a raffle! To enter the raffle, you must spend at least $20 at three different restaurants/businesses (totaling $60) over the weekend starting Friday, November 25 and ending Sunday, November 27. Then simply bring your receipts to Tipple + Rose in exchange for 3 raffle tickets. The winner will be announced on the Shop Small Virginia-Highland Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/ShopSmallVaHi/?fref=ts .

As a resident of VaHi, you’re a key part in helping our small businesses thrive. By shopping or dining at small businesses throughout the year, you’re showing your support and love for our diverse community by patronizing our vibrant business district. You can support the community in other ways as well — invite friends to shop with you, or share on your social networks where you #ShopSmall. We hope to see you out and about in Virginia-Highland on Saturday, November 26th!

For more information, check out:

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/

https://www.facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday/?fref=ts

Tour of Homes Recognizes 2016 Sponsors – Don’t Forget to Buy Your Tickets Today!

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee

wp_20161105_09_37_36_pro

The Tour raises needed funds for our much-loved neighborhood through ticket sales and sponsorships.  We hope many of you decide to kick off your holiday season and celebrate the amazing community in which we live by attending this year’s tour Dec 3rd and 4th!  Get your tour tickets online NOW at the Tour of Homes websiteTickets are $25 in advance and $30 on the day of the tour.  Your ticket gets you access to eight incredibly unique homes, food samplings from 14 different community restaurants and special coupons and discounts from our local eateries and shops.  Include a docent-led tour of the neighborhood for an additional $5.

The Tour would not be possible each year without the support of our sponsors. We’d like to sincerely thank all of our 2016 sponsors.

This year’s Presenting Sponsors are Google fiber; Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery; Traditions in Tile and Stone.

Thanks to  Keller Knapp Realty, our ticket sponsor, for a second year.

We will offer our attendees a shuttle service, which is sponsored by Engel & Volkers Intown Atlanta.

Our Premium Sponsors are Barking Hound Village; Coldwell Banker Residential Broker; Darby Construction; Sarah Mercer Chatel, Keller Williams Peachtree Rd., Distinctive Atlanta Homes Team; Inman Park Marble & Granite; Phoenix Renovations; Red Level Renovations; Julie Sadlier, RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside; Tailfin Marketing.

Our Major Sponsors are Benchmark innovations in renovations; BlaBla Kids; Atlanta INtown; Cantoni; Copper Sky Renovations; Intown Renovations Group, LLC; Peachy Clean; PSB Studio ARCHITECTURE; YWCA; The Great Frame Up Morningside.

Our Benefactor Sponsors are Balance Design; Bedard Design; Bellwether Design Co; Boutte Tree, Inc.; Distinctive Appliances; European Kitchen & BathWorks; Georgia Water Tanks; Homestead Realtors; Karen Hott Interiors; King Landscaping; Marco’s Pizza; Maxwell Gardens; Morningstar Storage; Park Tavern; Ten Thousand Villages; Worthmore Jewelers.

Our Neighborhood Sponsors are 675 N Highland Apartments; Abraham Properties; Across Atlanta Property Management; Allied Fence Company; Alon’s Bakery & Market; Arden’s Garden; Cablik Enterprises; Center Consulting; Design BH Architecture; Kitsy Rose KRPR; Mark Arnold, Architect; Moores Farms and Friends; Nonie’s Garden Florals & Botanicals; Savory Spice Shop.

Our Giveaway sponsors are Alon’s Bakery & Market; Apres Diem; Arden’s Garden; Atkins Park; BlaBla Kids; DBA Barbecue; ENGEL & VÖLKERS Intown Atlanta; Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery; Fontaine’s; Google fiber; Highland Bakery; Highland Tap; Judith Bright; Keller Knapp Realty; Marco’s Pizza; Marlow’s Tavern; Moores Farms and Friends; Orpheus Brewing; Park Tavern; Pea Ridge; Press & Grind; Savory Spice Shop; Ten Thousand Villages; The Cook’s Warehouse; The Great Frame-up Morningside; Tapa Tapa; Taco Cowboy; Traditions in Tile and Stone; Worthmore Jewelers; Yeah! Burger.

Volunteer for VaHi Tour of Homes and Receive Two Free Tickets!

By Eleanor Barrineau, Tour of Homes Volunteer Chair

2016 TOHThis is an excellent deal. We have eight very interesting homes on tour this year in VaHi on Dec 3-4, and anyone who volunteers for a 2-3 hour shift gets two free tickets—up to a $60 value. The rest of the weekend is yours to tour the eight homes for free—not to mention sampling mouth-watering dishes from neighborhood restaurants, because each home on Tour also has a restaurant sponsor!

With your 2 free tickets, take your spouse, partner or friend on this wonderful Tour of Homes right here in VaHi. Nibble while you look around at the creative renovations that VaHi families have recently engaged in. It’s always interesting to see what other families have done to improve their homes, and many visitors over the years have gotten ideas for their own home renovation projects.  It’s an experience that is yours for free all weekend in exchange for just one 2-3-hour shift.

As you’ll read in a future Voice article, the Tour also brings in much-needed funds that benefit all of us. So please do your bit to help make this happen. It’s just a few hours of your time, and without our volunteers, the Tour simply could not happen. Again, here is the link to sign up.

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the Tour.

Safety Subjects: Virginia-Highland Security Patrol

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Vice President and Safety Committee Member

Do you know about our neighborhood patrol also known as Fight Back Against Crime (FBAC)? This member-supported private security patrol was established over 25 years ago and is one of the longest running neighborhood patrols in the city.

Investigator Chip Cook with two neighborhood trick-or-treaters at Halloween

Investigator Chip Cook with two neighborhood trick-or-treaters at Halloween

Staffed by off-duty Atlanta Police Department officers who patrol in uniform and with full policing powers, the greatest benefit of the program is the increased police presence on our streets. An alarm system is a great way to notify police of a problem after it has occurred. But, alarms are essentially a reactive tool.

Most of an APD beat officer’s on-duty time is spent responding to 911 calls. They don’t have the time to do much proactive policing. This stands in contrast to our patrol where the primary focus is to proactively work to prevent crime.

FBAC officers not only patrol in vehicles but also get out of the vehicle and walk the streets. They engage and get to know residents and business owners, and they know the offenders who target Virginia-Highland. They question people walking in unlikely places at odd hours to determine their business. In this way, individuals with outstanding warrants and who have no proper business in our neighborhood can be stopped before they offend again. The FBAC patrol officer is the replacement for the beat cop of earlier times.

Benefits for single family home members include access to officers while on duty via cellphone; a monthly newsletter with crime reports, safety tips and the schedule for the upcoming month; home checks while you are on vacation; a yard sign and window decal to let criminals know you are protected; a home security evaluation with one of our officers; and a safe ride home when officers are on duty. Officers are patrolling the most likely crime areas of the neighborhood by car and on foot to spot potential criminal activity before it happens.

There are also options for individuals living in condominiums or apartment complexes and businesses. You can find more information and sign up to become a member at fbacvahi.com.

New VHCA Board Wants to Hear from You

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President and Cindy Kaufman, VHCA Communications Chair

As the newly-elected board is getting settled into our roles, we are anxious to connect with the residents of Virginia-Highland, and make ourselves available to you for all your questions, comments, concerns, or other ideas that you may have to share. With that in mind, please note that there is a new “ASK VHCA” button on the VHCA website home page where you can contact us about any such questions! Just click on the button and fill out the form that pops up. You may select the committee you wish to direct your question to, or if you are unsure about where to direct your question, that’s an option as well. An email will be sent with your contact information and message, and you will receive a note back as soon as the committee chair can respond.

The new board wants your engagement! We want to hear from you regularly and often, and want to know what’s on your mind. We also want to be available to answer questions and concerns that you have. Please feel free to use this handy tool to reach out. Hope to hear from you soon!

Also, the VHCA elves are hard at work preparing a survey that will be sent out to all association members (anyone over 18 who owns a home or rents in VaHi) to get your thoughts on a variety of topics, so stay tuned. As soon as we are ready we will make announcements on Nextdoor, VHList, VHCA website, Facebook page, Twitter and through the Voice with all the details.

VaHi Residents Turn Out for Firefest

Marco’s Pizza knows how to throw a party!  A big thank you to Robb and Melanie Wallace! There was something for everyone—pizza, caricature artists, face painting, a balloon artist, a photo booth, music, the chance to test your throwing arm and dunk your favorite fireman, and a friendly rivalry between the firefighters and Marco’s staff in tug-o-war.  The firemen also showed off their other talents as they line danced and played games with the attendees.  Even our dogs were made welcome with their own treats and activities.

Fireman Mike poses with the specialty pie that now bears his name.

Fireman Mike poses with the specialty pie that now bears his name.

In addition to a range in types of pizza provided, there was a special pizza sample of the winning Fireman’s pizza–Fireman Mike’s Pizza (cheese, spinach, pepperoni, crumbled sausage, bacon, onions and garlic butter crust). 

Any way you look at it, Firefest was a great success. Approximately 600 people joined in the festivities held in N Highland Park on Sept 24 to celebrate the opening of Marco’s Pizza, and raise money to help fund the restoration of Fire Station 19.  The total collected was $4,910!   

As with any successful endeavor, there are many who contributed their resources to make it seem so seamless for everyone else just enjoying the day.  Thanks to the following organizations and businesses for their contributions, most of which were raffle prizes.  Kris Colluro Smith was the winner in the drawing of the 5-year pizza contest.

  • Atlanta Police Department
  • Bill Hallman Boutique
  • Google fiber
  • Havoline Express Lube
  • Highland Woodwork
  • Home Depot – Ponce De Leon Avenue
  • Intown Ace Hardware
  • Lionheart Framing
  • Marco’s Pizza
  • Mister Car Wash
  • Paw Palace
  • Sweet Peach Wax & Sugaring – North Highland Avenue
  • Van Michael Salon – North Highland Avenue
  • Wells Fargo – Virginia Avenue
Tug-of-war was one of the day's most popular activities.

Tug-of-war was one of the day’s most popular activities.

Be sure to drop by and thank the participating businesses when you get a chance.  Marco’s Pizza is located at 798 North Highland Avenue Suite B.

The design phase of the restoration project is in its initial start-up phase.  Updates will be provided as the project progresses.  Our next fundraising event for the Fire Station 19 restoration is Santathon on Dec. 10.  We hope to see everyone there!

Take Your Leftover Halloween Candy to Worthmore Jewelers

The name Worthmore Jewelers may be familiar to you after their recent anniversary celebration a few months ago that resulted in a $1,000 donation to the Fire Station 19 restoration project. They are also a repeat sponsor this year of our annual Tour of Homes.

candy-crawl_paper_sourceEach November, Worthmore Jewelers also supports Operation Stars and Stripes with its Halloween candy drive. OSS is a not for profit organization that supplies care packages to deployed service men and women who will be away from their homes and families during the holiday season.  Please take your leftover Halloween candy to their Midtown location, where it will be sorted it out and sent to OSS. For the last five years, Worthmore’s midtown and Decatur locations have been competing to see which neighborhood can donate the most candy. MIDTOWN is the undisputed five-time heavyweight champion.

Last year, between the two stores over 1,000 pounds of candy were collected!

candy_crawl_outside_fire_stationWorthmore Jewelers’ involvement with Operation Stars and Stripes started 8 years ago when Harris and Geri’s daughter Molli needed a service project and wanted to focus on an organization that works with our deployed troops. After a search to find the perfect volunteer opportunity for their young daughter the family decided on OSS and have supported the organization ever since.

Everyone who drops off candy in either location can register to win a $50 Worthmore gift card. One winner from each store will be chosen at the close of business on Sunday, November 8.  You can drop off candy starting Sunday, November 1 (they are closed Monday and Tuesday) and Wednesday the 4th through Sunday the 8thWorthmore Jewelers is located at 500-L3 Amsterdam Walk.

If you would like to help OSS but candy isn’t your thing, you can visit them online at www.operationstarsandstripes.org where they regularly post a list of items they currently need.

By the way, Worthmore Jewelers is also a 2016 Tour of Homes sponsor and will be giving away a $25 gift card in a drawing as part of their sponsorship. Stop by the store anytime after November 1 to enter.

Tour of Homes Giveaways from Local Businesses

by Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

2016 TOHDo you follow the Tour of Homes on Facebook? Many people have discovered a wonderful facet of the Tour that’s been growing in popularity since its inception two years ago–giveaways from many of our sponsors.

Free tickets for the Tour, and a number of gift certificates for local businesses, are now being given away via the Tour’s Facebook page – right up until the weekend of the Tour.

Restaurant Giveaways

These include gift certificates from Atkins Park, Pea Ridge, Orpheus Brewing, Tapa Tapa, Press & Grind, Marlow’s Tavern, Park Tavern, Arden’s Garden, Highland Bakery, Taco Cowboy, Apres Diem, Alon’s Bakery & Market, Fontaine’s,Yeah! Burger, and Highland Tap.

Free Tour Tickets

Don’t miss out on a chance to win two free Tour tickets (a $50 to $60 value) from Engel & Volkers Intown Atlanta, Google Fiber, Traditions in Tile and Stone, Keller Knapp Realty, and Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. 

Free Gift Certificates

Win gift certificates to local businesses that include Ten Thousand Villages, Judith Bright, The Cooks Warehouse, Worthmore Jewelers. Bla Bla Kid, Moore Farms and Friends, Savory Spice Shop, and The Great Frame Up.

Here’s a link to the entire giveaway schedule—the sooner you starting following along, the more chances you have to win!

Where to Claim Your Giveaway

Lucky winners will be announced on our Facebook page and by private message and can pick up their gift certificates at Will Call in John Howell Park on Virginia Avenue the weekend of the tour.

Virginia-Highland History Tour

wp_20161028_08_34_37_proRemember we’ve added a docent-led historical tour of the neighborhood to this year’s Tour. The authors of Images of America: Virginia-Highland have planned this special tour.  Virginia-Highland is on the National Register of Historic Places and filled with great architecture and stories. Don’t miss this special opportunity to learn about its development and those who made it such a treasure. Advance ticket purchase required for the history tour.

Oh – and look who’s flocking to the neighborhood for the Tour of Homes! You may see some of these flocks in various gardens around the neighborhood! Hopefully, you’ll enjoy our bit of whimsy as we remind everyone tour time is approaching.

Please visit our Tour of Homes website for more detailed information on the times, the homes, the sponsors and the restaurants. Click here for information on purchasing tickets.

Volunteers Still Needed for 2016 VaHi Tour of Homes

by Eleanor Barrineau, VaHi Tour of Homes Volunteer Coordinator

2016 TOH

The 2016 Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes is only a few weeks away and we still need volunteers!

In addition to being a festive holiday event, the Tour showcases our neighborhood and is our second-largest fundraiser after Summerfest.

Please show your support for the Tour and our neighborhood by signing up for a volunteer shift.  Volunteers are especially needed for the afternoon shift on Sunday.  You can sign up quickly and easily by going to www.vahitourofhomes.org/volunteer and clicking on the green button (once you get to our site at SignUp.com, scroll down to find open shifts).  We couldn’t put on the Tour without our wonderful volunteers!

DSC06097

Carolers from Grady High School volunteer at a recent Tour of Homes

Each volunteer receives two free tickets to the Tour – up to a $60 value.  What a great opportunity to save $$$ while also helping out your neighborhood!

If you can’t volunteer this year, please plan to attend the Tour and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. It’s a great way to give back to your community and get out and meet and interact with your neighbors. 

First-Ever Candy Crawl – “This is What a Neighborhood Should Feel Like”

By Stephen Cohen, VHCA Communications Committee Member

candy_crawl_flyerIt was a wonderful family experience. On October 26, the Virginia-Highland business district had its first-ever Candy Crawl. Families gathered at the Fire Station at 5:30 and set out to trick-or-treat, walking all the way down Virginia-Highland to St. Charles, stopping at businesses marked by orange balloons. Over 35 businesses participated.

The idea originated with Doria Roberts from Tipple and Rose, who had done something similar at her sandwich shop in East Atlanta. She was excited about its first-year success here in VaHi.

“Based on my past experience, this was a great turnout for the first year!” said Doria. “I heard several parents say something to the effect that this is what a neighborhood should feel like.”

candy_crawl_outside_fire_station

There were a lot of unknowns coming in. How many would come? How could all the pedestrians be kept safe in rush hour?  To that end, the Virginia-Highland Business Association asked the VaHi Civic Association to organize 6 crossing guards. The guards used safety vests and stop signs kindly provided by Joel Markwell, an Inman Middle School parent who coordinates their crossing guard program.

One of our crossing guards was Kay Stephenson. “I noticed several kids who were mesmerized by our big hand-held stop signs. They appeared to be pondering how that thing that is usually on a post ended up in a person’s hand!

candy_crawl_setting_off“And there were smiles on the faces of many drivers, perhaps charmed by the children into not minding that their commute was being delayed. Several parents mentioned that this made a great dry run for Monday night to see what was working with costumes. One adorable told me, “I’m a raccoon, but I couldn’t wear the mask because it’s too itchy”!

Every participating business had two bags of candy donated by Sysco.  And kids in costume even got to eat free at Atkins Park restaurant.

Truly, not only was this an evening of family fun, but it was an opportunity for parents to visit local stores they may never previously have been aware of.

candy-crawl_paper_source“Everyone was so upbeat and the beautiful weather was definitely a plus,” said crossing guard volunteer Margaret Ross, who was stationed in Atkins Park. “Kristi, from The Warren, interacted with all the kids at her stop; they loved having their character recognized, and were quite polite. All in all, a wonderful neighborhood experience for the participants and onlookers alike. “

candy_crawl_wolfIn fact, many business owners enjoyed it and talked with the parents & kids at their stops. Commented business owner Lynn DeWitt: “EVERYONE enjoyed this event!  Kids loved the candy.  Parents had a terrific time walking with their families, browsing the shops and restaurants.  Stores were buzzing with business. Streets were crowded but safe. Atkins Park Tavern had happy and hungry customers for dinner. Let’s repeat this next Halloween.”

Concluded a very happy Doria: “Next year we hope to add costume contests (for kids, adults and pets) and maybe a pumpkin-carving contest.”

So if you missed the first-ever Virginia-Highland Candy Crawl, be on the lookout for the second one next year!

Kids Candy Crawl Set for October 26

The Virginia-Highland Business Association has announced they’ll hold a Kids Candy Crawl on October 26.

Meet at 5:30 pm at Fire Station #19 (corner of N. Highland and Los Angeles). Stroll down N. Highland looking for orange balloons. When you see one, stop and get a free treat from one of your local businesses. The Crawl continues down N. Highland to St. Charles, right on St. Charles and then into the alleyway off St. Charles to Knock.

After filling your bags with goodies, head on over to Atkins Park for dinner. All kids in a costume will get a free kids menu meal.

Want to volunteer? Volunteers are needed to make VaHi’s crosswalks safe for the Krawl. Contact Stephen Cohen at scohen49@gmail.com if you’re interested.

Volunteers Needed for 2016 Tour of Homes

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Volunteer Coordinator

Organizers man the volunteer check-in table during last year's Tour of Homes.

Organizers man the volunteer check-in table during a recent Tour of Homes.

One of the most helpful things you can do for your neighborhood is to volunteer at the Tour of Homes. It benefits you, too. You get two free Tour of Homes tickets for working one shift in one of our beautiful neighborhood homes. And it’s also a great opportunity to meet other neighbors who will be working along with you.

This year’s Tour of Homes is coming up on December 3rd and 4th. Signing up to volunteer is easy. Just go to vahitourofhomes.org/volunteer and click on the green “Click here to sign up” button. We especially need volunteers for the afternoon shifts and for Sunday. Volunteers working later shifts can pick up their tickets at John Howell Park anytime during tour hours Saturday and Sunday and can go on the tour before their shift.

If you can’t volunteer, be sure to buy tickets and encourage your friends and neighbors to do so.  Our combination of wonderful homes and delicious food tastings is unique!  Tickets are available at www.vahitourofhomes.org/tickets.

It’s Almost Time to Tour!

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

2016 TOHYES! It’s finally Autumn in VaHi and the air is cooler, the leaves are falling AND the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes committee is in FULL SWING preparing for our neighborhood’s next big event. The 2016 Tour of Homes is set for the first weekend in December, Saturday and Sunday the 3rd and 4th. Our committee has been working hard all year to ensure the success of this year’s tour.

Eight beautiful properties will be featured on this year’s tour. Although different in style and design, they are all equally representative of the Neighborhood’s character. This year’s line-up includes a custom modern home with beautiful gardens and rooftop deck, a recently renovated California-style bungalow, a charming 1925 cottage with recent updates, a classic 1917 bungalow with beautiful indoor and outdoor living spaces, and a quintessential 1909 bungalow in which a recent renovation both restored original features and created modern living spaces for the current owners. The tour includes three other fabulous historic homes transformed for the modern world.

949 Virginia Circle is one of the homes on this year's tour.

949 Virginia Circle is one of the homes on this year’s tour.

Local restaurants will provide food tastings at each of the Tour homes. Local favorites Highland Tap, Atkins Park, The Cook’s Warehouse, Fontaine’s Oyster House, and Marlow’s Tavern will once again serve up delicious bites. We are thrilled to have the following restaurants new to the tour join in 2016: Highland Bakery, Press & Grind, Taco Cowboy, Tapa Tapa, Après Diem, Pea Ridge and DBA Barbecue.

Each year the Tour just keeps getting bigger and better. This year, we hope you will enjoy taking a docent history tour of the neighborhood. We are very fortunate to have a number of talented historians in the neighborhood who have crafted a delightful tour. Virginia-Highland is on the National Register of Historic Places, and filled with great architecture and stories. Don’t miss this special opportunity to learn about its development and those who made it such a treasure. Tours will depart hourly from John Howell Park beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The last tour departs at 2:00 p.m. Purchase bundled tickets for the home and history tours for $30 in advance.

660 Elkmont is one of the homes on this year's tour.

660 Elkmont is one of the homes on this year’s tour.

So many people make this fundraising event possible in order to improve the quality of life in our community. The funds raised by the Tour of Homes go to support various projects in our neighborhood, including playground/park improvements, sidewalks, safety, traffic concerns, planning and preservation and other community efforts. Hopefully, Mother Nature will provide clear skies and perfect temps to bring out tour goers. We know businesses and residents will give them a warm welcome.

Please visit our special Tour of Homes website for more detailed information on the times, the homes, the sponsors and the restaurants. There’s a map of the tour and some “teaser” pictures of our featured homes. You can purchase tickets on the website, as well.  Also follow us on Facebook for opportunities to win gift certificates and free tickets.

964 N. Highland Avenue is one of the homes on this year's tour.

964 N. Highland Avenue is one of the homes on this year’s tour.

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

Hope to see you all out & about!

Virginia-Highland Church Annual Yard Sale

Proceeds to benefit church’s The River program for the homeless

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

The RiverOn Saturday, October 1st, the Virginia-Highland Church will hold its annual yard sale beginning at 8:00 a.m. The church is located at the corner of Virginia Avenue and Ponce de Leon Pl.  All proceeds go to care for homeless citizens here in Atlanta via The River program.

The River is Virginia-Highland Church’s unique ministry for addressing homelessness in its immediate neighborhood and across Atlanta. The name comes from a story about a group of people who are horrified to see babies floating down the river in their village. Some begin rescuing the babies, but others run upstream to find out who is throwing the babies into the river. In Virginia-Highland Church’s version, members of the church have visited with and become friends with a group of homeless folks. They strive to meet the immediate needs of their friends, whether it be food, clothes, or assistance in finding medical care, job training, or housing. In forging relationships with homeless people, the church members are better able to understand the root causes of homelessness and the barriers that homeless people face. With this first-hand perspective, the church can then be an advocate on behalf of the homeless with legislators, city officials, and policy makers.

Residents of the Virginia-Highland neighborhood are also invited to hold their own yard sale on that Saturday and donate the proceeds for our homeless neighbors. You might get together with others and create your own party that day, or donate items directly to the church. This is a great opportunity to make some room in our lives in the hope that someday everyone in Atlanta will have a “room” of their own. 100% of the proceeds will go to The River, Virginia-Highland Church’s homeless program.

If you would like to donate items directly to the church, please contact Jean Miller, Church Administrator, at jean@vhchurch.org for details about items that will be accepted and drop-off times.

Below are images of some of those involved with The River and a few of the homeless folks they now call friends.

Omaretc C__Data_Users_DefApps_AppData_INTERNETEXPLORER_Temp_Saved Images_David-Gillespie-and-Emma Christmas15B-J Christmas15B-C Christmas15T-E

Looking Back – and Ahead – at the Todd Cemetery Memorial

By Jack White, outgoing VHCA Board President

The homeowners who destroyed the Todd Cemetery Memorial filed responses last week to the legal assertions that VHCA and the Todd family made in our lawsuit. You may read our filing here.

These responses are public and filed under oath; you may read them here. Their responses are numerical and do not show the assertions to which they are responding, so fans of this will have to open both and go one by one.

As you would expect, they have no comment on many assertions; others they contest or label irrelevant.  And they filed a motion for dismissal and an assertion that we had trespassed by walking up the driveway that has been in use since the house was first built there.  Neither claim has merit; some form of both were anticipated.

memorial_3

About the actual content of the suit – the easement, the fence, the destruction – there is no need to debate or wonder any longer about the following points:

VHCA asserted – and they acknowledge – that a public easement exists on the property.  (As our attorney pointed out and offered to share with them a year ago, it’s referenced on the signed plat in the Fulton County property records.)

VHCA asserted – and they do not contest – that the homeowners erected a new fence that blocked public access to the memorial.

VHCA asserted – and they acknowledge – that they made an agreement to place a sign on the fence inviting visitors to enter through their gate during daylight hours to visit the memorial and to be respectful of the property owners.

VHCA asserted – and they admit – that they hired a contractor who destroyed the monument in December of last year.

VHCA asserted – and they acknowledge – that they were not truthful when they claimed that “vandals” were responsible for the destruction.

The destruction of the memorial presented itself as a series of questions that had to be answered.

Let’s look at the how the 2015-16 VHCA board analyzed them.

  1. Was the monument worth preserving?  What was its place in the history of VaHi?
  2. Was there a significant underlying principle at play here that compelled our attention? 
  3. Was there another entity that realistically could have taken on the issue?
  4. Does being a resident of VaHi immunize you from legal action by VHCA?
  5. Did the Civic Association have the resources to make this legal objection?  Would the fight ruin existing programs or compromise our Associations’ ability to meet its legal obviations?
  6. Did we rush into this without trying every reasonable alternative before filing suit?

Was the monument worth preserving?

The monument honors the family of the settlers who moved here after the state bought the land from the Creek Indians and sold it in an 1821 lottery.  This monument’s lot and its adjacent one to the west were the last pieces of a much larger Todd tract that were historic family burial sites.  The monument was created as part of a court agreement that permitted the development of these last two lots in the late 1980’s.

The (now destroyed ) physical monument consisted of an historic marker placed on the cemetery site in the late 1920s to honor the original settlers, Richard and Martha Todd. That memorial marker was surrounded by a wrought iron fence set atop several courses of brick.

Both nearby neighbors and the Virginia-Highland Civic Association were participants in the process that created and accepted the agreement.  VaHi residents Craig Strain and Gail Nowak wrote about it in The Voice in 1980 and 1984 and organized a site cleanup in the latter years, before the monument’s establishment. Former Ponce de Leon Terrace resident Carl Hartrampf chaired a VHCA Todd Cemetery Committee in the spring of 1986; he, Jerry Bright, and other nearby residents advocated for very specific conditions and outcomes in detailed letters and reports they exchanged with Sam Dickson, who developed the easement.  Noted Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett visited the site.

It has a documented record of citizen and Association involvement from that period, and several local historians of the last two decades have written about it as well, including in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America: Virginia-Highland, which came out five years ago.

Whether one thinks history or preservation matters or not, it is clear that the 2105-16 Board was hardly alone in valuing the monument.

memorial_2

Other than the historic value, was there a significant underlying principle at play here that compelled out attention?

The deliberate destruction of the monument created a completely different issue.  The Board considered it an affront to the community and found it impossible to ignore or accept on many levels. Aside from the plain ugliness of the act, it places the question of the rule of law on the table. Condoning it would have made a mockery of our efforts to demand that other citizens – developers or residents – have to obey the law. The Civic Association is – and has to be – a group that believes in order, lawful process, and good will among our citizens.

Was there another entity that realistically should or could have credibly taken on the issue?

Given the unusual circumstances of this case – the destruction of a significant public monument on private property and absent a police report – APD saw no option other than a civil remedy. We asked several preservation nonprofits, all of whom were astonished at the act but also had full plates of their own.  We contacted and spoke with family members; as one would have expected, they were angry and disappointed and supported this battle in many ways – emotionally, financially, and by their presence at the mediation.

We would have loved someone to swoop in and take this on.  As no one could identify who that might be, the simple choice that this Board faced was to act or to walk away.

It was a monument in our neighborhood and with a history created by our citizens over three decades, and it was our battle.  We embraced it.

Does being a resident of VaHi immunize you from legal action by VHCA?

The Board has faced off with residents in court proceedings before. It hasn’t happened often, but the Board has been in court several times with local business owners – several of them quite familiar – who were residents.

It seems silly on its face to suggest that VHCA should vigilantly demand compliance with a formal agreement that a business basement be used only for storage or that a warming device be excluded from  a yogurt shop, but ignore the (admitted) destruction of a cemetery memorial.  (All examples are real, and VHCA has fought for all these points in the last five years.)

memorial-stone

Did the Civic Association have the resources to mount a legal objection?  Can the Association meet its obligations?

We did and we are confident it can and will.  The Association has paid all its bills, matched Councilmember Wan’s matching offer of $19,000 for security cameras, handed out another year of supporting grants to community organizations, and ends the Board year with its customary six-figure reserve.  Record Tour of Homes revenues await only half-decent weather.

We have formally asserted a demand – and believe that simple justice, logic, and law compel – the recovery of our legal fees expended since the destruction of the monument.  If ever a set of facts and behaviors supported such an outcome, these are the ones.

Did we rush into this? Did we try every reasonable alternative before filing suit?

We took at face value their claim that no easement existed and paid for our own lawyer to verify its existence and offer his case material to them, along with evidence of court rulings validating such easements.  Our lawyer negotiated at our expense a good-faith solution that included our paying for a sign reminding visitors to be courteous and respectful. (No one has ever reported any other sorts of behaviors, as it happens.)  We considered that money well spent; these are our neighbors.

When we were faced with the memorial’s destruction and the homeowners’ denial of responsibility, we slowly gathered facts and reports and continued to try to negotiate.  When they asserted that we were harassing them (absent any evidence) and twice threatened to sue us personally, we countered with an offer of  mediation.

The legal and financial logic for their pursuing a settlement was overwhelming, as was pointed out to us repeatedly.  It took their walking away from the mediation process to convince us to sue.  Whatever this board was, it wasn’t rash or rushed.

Their persistent refusal to admit that they were responsible (until they had to write under oath) pushed our legal costs toward the maximums described by our attorney and mocked our assumption and belief that our acting in executive session would increase the probability of their settling privately rather than being embarrassed publicly. Whatever their motivations, they have delayed and stalled for six months.

Paying for this made us shake our heads; we can all think of great things to do with the money.  That’s why we are determined to see it returned by those who knew what they had done and ran the bills up; our lawyer will do everything possible toward that end.

But if it isn’t – and we like our chances – we believe the battle had to be fought.  This neighborhood association has acted on principle since its founding.  We love trees and green spaces but we don’t just plant them; we fight for policy that protects them. We appreciate improved homes, but we’re not afraid to take on improper development.  We love having new citizens in our neighborhood, but we also like to protect our historic structures.

We’ve always fought battles that were based on principle, and I hope we always will.  It’s a key part of what has made this neighborhood a unique place.

Atlanta Streets Alive Returns to VaHi

Atlanta-Streets-Alive-200x200Atlanta Streets Alive welcomes you to walk, bike, roll, run and play in the streets from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, September 25, on N Highland Ave., Highland Ave. and Boulevard! This event is organized by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. For more information, please visit AtlantaStreetsAlive.com/sept_25_route .

The street closure for the September 25 Atlanta Streets Alive on N Highland, Highland and Boulevard will begin at 12:30pm and streets will reopen by 7:30pm. Atlanta Streets Alive welcomes you to walk, bike, roll, run and play in the streets from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. 

Volunteers are still needed to support the event. To volunteer in advance or on the day of the September 25 Atlanta Streets route, please visit AtlantaStreetsAlive.com/volunteer_opportunities_sep_2016_route.

Scroll down to view a few photos from last year’s Atlanta Streets Alive in VaHi.

Here are some additional links you may find useful if you wish to follow this event.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/156656048076943/

Facebook page: @ATLStreetsAlive

Twitter: @ATLStreetsAlive

Instagram: @AtlantaBike #AtlantaStreetsAlive

neighborhood-notification-atlanta-streets-alive-sep-2016

dsc_0227 dsc_0226 dsc_0215 img_2763

Firefest in the Park to Benefit FS #19

What: Firefest in the Park, an event to benefit Fire Station #19

When: Saturday, September 24, 2016, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Where: North Highland Park (corner of N. Highland and St. Charles)

Atlanta Fire Station #19 is an icon in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood.  Dating back to 1925, it’s the oldest continuously operated fire station in the city. The Virginia-Highland Civic Association is taking the lead in renovating the station in partnership with the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department, and Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects.  Firefest in the Park is a community event to help raise the needed dollars to preserve this beloved community treasure. 

DSCN2993

Marco’s Pizza, recently opened on N. Highland near Greenwood, is partnering with the Virginia-Highland Civic Association to throw a party for us all, which will feature great food, entertainment, and activities involving the crew at Fire Station #19. The event will include:

  • Free Slices of Pizza
  • Firefighter Challenges, including a Dunk Tank!
  • Fire Truck Display
  • Caricaturists and Balloon Artists
  • Live Music
  • Enter to Win Free Pizza for Five Years

In addition, there will be a pizza eating contest between Atlanta Firefighters and our Zone 6 police officers – come show your support and cheer on all competitors! Google Fiber is another partner host, and will provide a face painter and complimentary water.

We hope to see everyone at the park next Saturday to enjoy a fun afternoon and raise as much money as we can for the Fire Station #19 restoration project.

VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers

Welcome_To_Virginia_Highland

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association Annual General Meeting will be held September 22 at the Inman Middle School Cafeteria from 6:30 – 9:00pm. Grants will be awarded and the 2016/2017 Board of Directors will be elected. 

The Springdale Park Elementary Advanced Chorus, led by Music Director Brianne Turgeon, will kick off the meeting again this year, so be sure to arrive early to hear them! They will start at 7:00pm.

Please submit your grant applications to board@vahi.org. Applications can be found here. The association has given out grants to local non-profits, schools and other organizations doing work that benefits our membership right here in Virginia-Highland.

The nominating committee (Lola Carlisle, Kevin Cronin and Jess Windham) will be accepting bios from those interested in running for the Board. Please reach out to the Board with questions and review the activities and the mission of the association on our website. The Committees page and Strategic Goals from prior years are particularly informative. 

To be included on the printed and published ballot, please email your bio to jlwindham@gmail.com, lola@tailfin.com, and cronink@me.com by September 6. Please include a paragraph on your experiences in the neighborhood and goals for serving on the 2016/2017 VHCA Board. You can see bios of current board members here.

VHCA Responds to Questions Regarding Todd Cemetery Memorial

Following our initial article on the topic, several questions emerged regarding the VHCA’s effort to restore the Todd Cemetery Memorial. The following sequence of events seeks to answer many of these questions. Photos at the bottom of the article show the Todd Cemetery Memorial under construction in the late 1980s. The Memorial Stone shown in the images was placed on the site of the Todd Cemetery in the late 1920s

  • The Todd Cemetery Memorial marker (featuring a stone grave marker from the 1920’s) has been in place on private land with a public easement since 1989. The VHCA was part of a larger group that created it to honor the Todd family.  Prior owners had lived peacefully with the monument and honored the public easement without incident or conflict since its creation.
  • The current homeowners erected a fence blocking access to the memorial. Two separate visitors to the memorial stopped at the fence and later contacted the VHCA asking for help gaining access to the memorial. 
  • The VHCA spoke to the homeowners, who represented that they did not believe they had any legal obligation to allow public access. (Spring 2015)
  • VHCA asked our lawyer, a Virginia-Highland resident, to examine the legality of the easement. He verified it, informed the owners of his findings, recommended they secure an independent evaluation, and offered to share his information with another lawyer of their choosing.  (Summer 2015)
  • Our lawyer negotiated an agreement with them: the fence would stay, and VHCA would pay for a new sign that would welcome daytime visitors and remind them to be courteous and respectful of the homeowners. VHCA announced the agreement.  (Fall 2015)
  • Shortly after the agreement was reached, just before Christmas, neighbors reported that the homeowners hired a contractor to destroy and remove the monument and wrought iron fence surrounding it.
  • VHCA board members visited the site and confirmed the report of the damage.  (Christmas, 2015)
  • Contacted by our attorney, the homeowners attributed the damage to “vandals,” a claim they subsequently repeated.  Assuming that an invasion of private property by vandals would have generated a call to authorities, the VHCA searched for a police report and found none.  (January 2016)
  • The VHCA notified the Todd family, and our attorney formally asked the homeowners to rebuild the monument. We consulted with the Atlanta Police Department, who recommended a course of civil action.  (January 2106)
  • The VHCA Board reviewed the issue with a second attorney whose sole practice is property law.  His study and view of the relevant facts and law mirrored what we had already learned.   (Winter and Spring 2016)
  • Rather than negotiate, the homeowners twice threatened to sue members of the VHCA board personally if we did not “leave them alone.” (Spring 2016)
  • VHCA offered formal mediation as a solution to the dispute. The homeowners accepted and attended one mediation session with their attorney, the VHCA attorney, a Todd family member, and members of the VHCA board. At the mediation session, they did not deny responsibility for the destruction and suggested relocating a rebuilt monument to the front of their property, which was acceptable to the family and the VHCA. The VHCA, our attorney, and the Todd family member left optimistic that a solution might be forthcoming, and an additional mediation session was scheduled.  (April-June 2016)
  • The homeowners canceled the next mediation meeting and made no effort to reschedule it.  After VHCA’s lawyer made repeated unsuccessful attempts to reschedule, the VHCA board voted to take legal action with the Todd family against the homeowners.  A suit was filed, asking the court to order the monument’s restoration, affirm the easement, and have the owners pay our legal fees from the destruction forward. (July –August 2016)
  • The VHCA worked in good faith for over a year and a half to try to settle this issue in a neighborly fashion with respect for the privacy of all the parties responsible. At each stage, we believed a settlement was both logical and probable.
  • After these good-faith efforts failed – and with no alternative ever identified or proposed other than walking away from and accepting the memorial’s destruction –  the VHCA (along with members of the Todd Family), after great care and deliberation, moved forward with the lawsuit.
  • This historic monument was created with the support of this association, it honors the founders of our neighborhood, and its destruction is a public affront that diminishes the historic fabric of our community.
  • Ignoring the destruction of the monument would have been wrong on the merits and inconsistent with the history of this association and its response to such challenges. This association has always argued that no one is above the law, and no one can take it into their own hands without consequence. This is the logical basis of all our approaches to zoning, planning, safety, and preservation.  

memorial-stone memorial_2 memorial_3

New Security Cameras Funded by VHCA and Councilmember Wan

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

IMG_1261Earlier this year Councilmember Alex Wan offered to match any neighborhood association’s contribution of up to $20K for new public police security cameras. In July, VHCA appropriated $19K for the Atlanta Police Foundation, who selects camera locations and supervises their installation for the city.  These cameras – and several hundred others in the city, with more planned – are monitored 24/7 by the Atlanta Police Department. The cameras look like the white one in the image to the right.

We met twice with the Foundation, first with our Safety Committee and the second time with Morningside/Lenox Park (who are also considering the offer) and Poncey-Highland, our neighbors across Ponce de Leon.  Alas for the latter, they are not in Alex’s district and have no offer from their own councilmember, whose financial assistance both we and Poncey-Highland would have appreciated.

We enjoyed both meetings with the Foundation, represented each time by Jessica Masters.  After examining the locations of existing cameras and pending plans for others, they selected three sites along Ponce de Leon Avenue, chosen for its role as a busy east-west thoroughfare.   The cameras should be installed soon, visible at corners westward from Frederica and Ponce.

The thoughtful Ms. Masters also reported that the Foundation was conducting some studies to examine the specific effectiveness of the cameras as a crime-fighting tool.  We look forward to sharing those results with you.

We thank her and Councilmember Wan for their support and interest in this topic.  As always, Councilmember Wan was very effective in finding tangible ways to support his communities.

VHCA 2016-17 Board of Directors – Candidate Bios

Following are brief bios from the announced candidates for the 2016-17 VHCA Board of Directors:

(I) indicates incumbent

Eleanor photoEleanor Barrineau

Eleanor moved to her current home in Virginia-Highland in 1983 with her husband Stephen Cohen and raised two children here.  She retired last year from her career with the Social Security Administration and has enjoyed having more time to devote to her interests and her volunteer work, including her work for our neighborhood.  She is in her 6th year as volunteer coordinator for the Tour of Homes and was one of the original Street Captains for our safety program.  She has served for many years as the Street Captain coordinator.  She loves meeting and working with the great neighbors we have in Virginia-Highland.

If elected to the board, she would like to include safety and the Tour of Homes in her areas of focus, to look for new ways to engage the community, and overall to work with other board members and Va-Hi residents to maintain and improve our great quality of life here in Virginia-Highland. 


board_peggy

Peggy Berg (I)

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

Our family is in the hotel business (we own the Hampton Inn Northlake Mall) and I have also been a partner in a consulting firm and an international CPA firm. I have a strong business background. I have chaired several industry and professional organizations and am currently on the Board of Little Creek Farm Conservancy. I have a Business degree, am a CPA, and have a Master’s degree from Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy.

I believe that our individual involvement is what makes our neighborhood such a delightful place to live so I served on the VHCA Board in 2012 – 2015. I work on sidewalks and streets and the first project was doing 227 sidewalk improvements with the help of our residents and the City. As co-chair of the Safety Committee, I work with the City on pedestrian signs, street signs, traffic lights and other maintenance items on the streets. We generate the Safety Stats reports with Holly Lybeer and Shannon Mehl. We worked with the Atlanta Police Foundation to fund additional cameras for their program. I have been VHCA treasurer for the past several years, and would like the opportunity to continue serving the neighborhood in this capacity.


David_BrandenbergerDavid Brandenberger (I)

I have been a homeowner in Virginia-Highland on Rosedale Road since 1999. I have been on the VHCA Board for the past three years, serving both on the Planning Committee and – for the last two years – as Chair of the Parks Committee.

In that role, I lead a group of volunteers and professionals who sustain and improve both city-owned spaces – John Howell, Orme, and the Triangle at N Highland and Virginia – and one that belongs to the Civic Association, North Highland Park at St. Charles and N Highland. They each present different challenges and opportunities.

VHCA owns North Highland Park and we are responsible for its upkeep, an often challenging task given the diverse usage it gets.  The effort I led – with Atlanta Celebrates Photography – to create a display of local photographers’ photos at that site (still on display) was part of an ongoing strategy to promote both the Park and the Atkins Park business district.  It’s been successful; more projects like that are important, both for the park space and to work with Councilmember Wan on Renew Atlanta improvements for the street.

John Howell Park is a very diverse and successful park, really several parks in one. The Park Pride matching grant we wrote, won and are now administering is heavily focused on improving functionality of the park – installing a new sitting granite wall along Virginia to control erosion, completion of the brick walkways for safety, planting of new perennial foliage and installation of several rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff. (A related outcome of this work will be new knee-high fencing to mitigate pedestrian intrusion into the Triangle at Virginia and N Highland.)  I was happy to lead the application process that wrote and won this most recent grant to further improve John Howell, and I look forward to completing its’ implementation this fall and winter.

Our plans are then to move to our next target: which will be addressing some challenges in Orme Park, especially on the hillsides under Brookridge Drive, which are full of extraordinary trees and spaces that are hard to access yet easy to under-appreciate. The 2009-10 playground project at Orme (started and funded by neighbors, VHCA, and Park Pride) has been extraordinarily successful, and several neighbors (two of them go to Inman Middle) have now proposed a cool additional usage on the playground side of Orme Park that we are now working with our landscape architect and the Parks Department to make happen.

Our neighborhood public parks depend on elements of public support (the city’s increasingly productive Parks Department) and private enhancement whose efforts the City Parks Department has approved. Coordinating these requires a lot of communication and attention.  Our strategy has been to leverage our effectiveness by partnering with Park Pride and Trees Atlanta whenever possible and not missing the unglamorous longer-range challenges – erosion, stormwater runoff and functionality – that are hard for the city to keep up with.   Public spaces whose design preserves their resources are both more enjoyable and easier to sustain in the long run and that is ultimately our goal with the Parks Committee.

Like all board members, I work very hard on fundraising efforts to create the funding that we need for all of the work we do, both in and outside of our parks and public spaces. To that point, and like all VHCA Board members this year, I supported the decision to challenge the destruction of the Todd Historic Monument and believe it is in the public interest to keep this important part of our neighborhood intact and accessible to all.

I’d appreciate your vote for the Board.


Lola CarlyleLola Carlisle (I)

I moved into Virginia-Highland in 1993. My first volunteer efforts were focused around involvement with our daughter’s activities through VHMPA, DHUMP, and at Morningside.

I’ve been a partner in a marketing firm located in VaHi for most of that time.  Our business fundraising motto is “We’re Givin’ Where We’re Livin.’” We’ve have raised nearly $10,000 for Fire Station 19 renovations over several years, including $5K at Santathon last year. Our marketing firm has enthusiastically donated countless hours of conceptual thinking and design services over the years to causes here, and I am a member of the Virginia-Highland Business Association.

My earliest planning efforts were a study of infill development trends and impacts in 2006. Out-of-scale development has been one of the top concerns in the neighborhood for years. An ideal solution has been elusive, but not for want of effort.  The VaHi Master Plan was a key achievement for this neighborhood; our longtime planning consultants on that process moved on to an examination of residential overlay type concepts based on this community’s examples.  This same consulting team is now participating in the City of Atlanta’s ongoing revision process of the entire city zoning code.  

Many intown neighborhoods are trying to find a balance between appropriate development and maintaining their historic character, and that remains a personal focus for me.  This neighborhood is as hot as ever, and being prepared for the upcoming large-scale development ventures – like those at Monroe and 10th –  is vital.  So too are all the  pieces of the Master Plan; calming Monroe Drive is critical, and we also need to prepare for more development along the Beltline between Ponce and Virginia.   

Success in such fields requires successful fundraising; it’s a very important topic for all board members.  Summerfest and Tour of Homes have been extraordinarily effective over the years.  Robin Ragland’s great idea for a 2015 Tour of Homes history driving tour gave me a chance to write the pamphlet for the event which was a sell-out. Summerfest’s historically huge numbers dropped this year, and it’s time for another careful examination of the event to maintain it as one of the top festivals in the area. 

I also serve on the Preservation & History Committee, an outgrowth of the book that Karri Hobson-Pape and I wrote on the history of the neighborhood that spurred the creation of an extensive historic archive of Virginia-Highland images and documents. We are working on a second book and continue to build and digitize the neighborhood’s archives.

There’s a rich heritage of safety initiatives here; our street captain process goes back to the 1990’s.  There are a lot of variables at play regarding crime, and often the relationship between spending and measurable results is not obvious.  It was easy for VHCA to match  Councilmember Wan’s offer to pay half of the cost ($38K total, half ours) for three safety cameras on Ponce de Leon, sites selected by the Atlanta Police Foundation.  We hope the long term study the Foundation is doing on this topic will demonstrate that they are very effective as a crime tool. I’ll be very willing to examine any other safety measures that come from a robust safety committee looking at all factors resulting in crime in our neighborhood and potential solutions.

One event made this year difficult: the destruction of the Todd Cemetery Memorial. Initially access to the memorial was blocked by a fence. Our attorney researched the issue and negotiated a seemingly simple, low impact solution – and then we were stunned to learn that the monument had been destroyed. We have worked to negotiate its restoration in good faith including official mediation approaches which, while initially constructive, unfortunately achieved no helpful results in the end. Since then the board has turned the issue over to the court system and we hope a positive solution is on the horizon. As distracting and stressful as this has been, we felt that sanctioning it by walking away and hoping that someone else would take it on was not in the best interests of this neighborhood. I am thankful to have been part of a strong Board that has acted reasonably on this in coordination with the Todd family. We hope to reach an agreement to restore the monument as soon as possible.

I’ve spent 20 years actively volunteering in VaHi. My focus will be on Planning, Fundraising, and Preservation and History. If elected, I’ll be glad to spend another year helping Virginia-Highland and its residents as we continue to grow.

In closing, I urge you to get involved. If you’re not on the board, there are plenty of places where your time is needed to work beside your neighbors. With so many committees, there’s a spot for everyone and I look forward to working with anyone who wants to make Virginia-Highland better and better.


Emily_GilbertEmily Gilbert (I)

I am an attorney who graduated from Emory and Georgia State Law School and have lived in Atlanta for almost 22 years. I’ve loved Virginia-Highland since I was an undergrad and was fortunate enough to move here in December 2013. I particularly love our great mix of homes and businesses, both of which create the Virginia-Highland culture we all create and enjoy. I understand that consistent planning choices help us protect, but still appropriately evolve, our unique neighborhood. While Virginia-Highland was one of the very first intown turnaround places to be – we need to evolve as Atlanta evolves around us. I believe our board plays a vital role in managing and envisioning how Virginia-Highland can continue to cut a unique path in urban development. If we can also work with the local businesses and commercial properties proactively, we can do great things. I serve on the safety committee and think that my legal perspective can be of benefit there. I look forward to working with others in the neighborhood who have worked on safety initiatives here for years. With our diverse skill sets we should be able to propose some worthy approaches to help maintain a safe environment for all those who find themselves in Virginia-Highland – for a day’s visit or for the years it takes to raise our children here. I hope to continue to be part of the board that works to build on Virginia-Highland’s heritage to make our neighborhood better and better.


PicCivicAssoc-124x150Paige Hewell (I)

I have lived in the neighborhood on Virginia Circle for nearly two decades. A native Atlantan, I grew up in Buckhead and had little exposure to Va-Hi. I truly love our community and sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of it.  My dog, Leon, feels the same way. 

For the past 5 years, I’ve worked on the Summerfest organizing committee – from building fences to appearing in TV promos, it has been a fun and crazy ride.  It’s through my Summerfest participation that I became involved with the board of the VHCA.  I’ve served for 2 years as a board member with some of the most passionate and dedicated folks – it has been amazing. 

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


Cindy Kaufman has been a resident of Virginia-Highland several times in her 30 years in Atlanta, finally becoming a homeowner in 2007. She served as a Tour of Homes committee member for 5 years, and has run for the VHCA board before. She is currently Director of Marketing for Interface Hospitality, and is an Interior Designer as well as experienced marketer. She is passionate about many causes, including pet rescue, access to healthy/locally-grown food, and community quality of life.


Keenan-jeniferJenifer Keenan

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

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

At various points over the past four years, I have served on VHCA’s Planning, Safety, Summerfest and Tour of Homes committees, and was the co-chair of the VHCA Master Plan subcommittee. In my role as the Co-Chair of the VHCA Safety Committee in 2016, I helped spearhead the effort to get funding for additional police video surveillance cameras and coordinated with the City on street and sidewalk safety issues in our neighborhood. 

I would like to make VHCA a more inclusive and transparent organization.  In particular, I would like to increase community input on projects that are funded by VHCA.  Virginia-Highland is a wonderful neighborhood.  If elected to the VHCA board in 2016-2017, I will work hard to help make it an even better place to live, work, and play.    


Catherine_LewisCatherine Lewis (I)

I have lived in Virginia-Highland since 1995, and in our house on Lanier Boulevard since 1998. I am a graduate of Emory University and have been in Atlanta since 1986. I am an incumbent, having served on the VHCA Board last year. My main role is to coordinate the renovation of the No. 19 Fire Station, which will be a key part of our activities this year. In 2015-2016, we have enjoyed a very strong board with committed leadership and there are a lot of issues that need careful, thoughtful attention. I’m happy to continue to serve with my colleagues who have done so much for our neighborhood.

In my work life, I am the Assistant Vice President of Museums, Archives & Rare Books at Kennesaw State University and the Bobby Jones Curator and Special Projects Coordinator at the Atlanta History Center.

Our family is very committed to the historic fabric of this neighborhood and hope to help it continue to grow and thrive. You will see my husband, John, and daughter, Emma on a bicycle, on foot, or on a razor scooter in the neighborhood. I would be honored to continue serve the neighborhood with this very dedicated group of friends and colleagues.


Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 4.44.27 PMSteve Messner moved to Virginia-Highland in the summer of 2007 with his partner of 19 years, Chris. He has been involved in cleanup efforts on the Beltline and with graffiti removal and takes pride in his home’s and the neighborhood’s appearance. When he’s not tending to the needs of his young patients as a pediatrician, Steve is often out biking and running on the Beltline and catching up with neighbors. If elected to the VHCA board, Steve will work to make Virginia-Highland an even more vibrant, safe and beautiful neighborhood through thoughtful planning and use of resources.

 


 

RBR-VHCARobin Ragland (I)

After joining my husband in retirement in 2006, we relocated to Virginia-Highland from Gwinnett County. We arrived just in time to enjoy our first Dogwood Festival as locals, relax with our new Elmwood neighbors at the annual street party, and volunteer for, as well as have a blast at our first Summerfest!  It quickly became apparent that a key component to keeping our neighborhood so vibrant is the continued contributions of volunteers organized and focused through the VHCA.

I’ve continued to volunteer for Summerfest each year in various capacities. In 2012, I began participating in fundraising for the neighborhood by creating items to sell from recycled Summerfest t-shirts. I organized a tree lighting event last December in N Highland Park, which was jointly hosted by VHCA and VHBA to raise money for Fire Station 19, and the APD Zone 6 Toy Drive.  We had a wonderful evening, and raffled off over $2,000 in donated gifts from our local businesses.

I joined the Tour of Homes committee in 2013 and 2014, chairing the sponsorship sub-committee; we raised over $30,000 each year.  I co-chaired the 2015 tour committee–we had record gross proceeds of $75,000 ($40,000 in sponsorships).  We also had fun adding a docent-led history tour of VaHi, and providing a shuttle service.  I am chair of the 2016 tour committee, and we’re in the midst of preparing for a great tour. Pledged sponsorships currently exceed $46,000. I’ve been successful over the last several years raising money for the neighborhood, and look forward continuing such efforts in 2017.


Debbie SDebbie Skopczynski

I have been a resident on Rupley Drive with my husband, Tom Budlong, and my 3 furry kids since 1991. For more years that I can remember, I have volunteered for Summerfest and the Tour of Homes  and have actively participated, advocated or opposed many zoning, variance and tree preservation issues. Currently, I am completing my second term as chair of NPU-F and represent the NPU on the Atlanta Planning and Advisory Board (APAB) and the Outdoor Events Quality of Life Working Group initiated by Council members Alex Wan and Kwanza Hall. Previously, I served as a member of the VaHi Board in the early 90’s, NPU F Zoning Chair (2010 to 2014), NPU Chair (1996-97), and the BZA (1997-2000). Now retired, I have worked in the HR departments of The Coca-Cola Company and BellSouth/Cingular/AT&T, specializing in workforce compensation and salary analysis.

Virginia-Highland is a terrific place to live, work and play, much due to the efforts of previous VaHi boards, neighbors and business owners.  Next year, I plan to focus on sustaining what makes us great by leveraging my associations in City Hall and throughout the city on planning and development issues (especially along the Beltline),  as well as tackle the proliferation of outdoor events which are always fun, but sometimes sacrifice quality of life. In addition, I’d like to harness the tremendous amount of hidden talent available to take on VaHi projects and committees so that we have a steady stream of leaders ready to take on the future challenges of the neighborhood.


Kay_HeadShotKay Stephenson moved to Virginia-Highland in 1996 with her husband Mark Gilliland. After more than 25 years in sales, product management and marketing for tech companies, she now devotes her time to quilt design, writing, and many volunteer causes focused on parks, trees, the Beltline, pet rescue, and public safety. 

Since 2009 Kay has served as a street captain for our neighborhood watch program and handles communication for both neighborhood watch and FBAC (Virginia-Highland Security Patrol).  She has a close relationship with law enforcement and the criminal justice system and was named the 2016 CourtWatcher of the Year for Fulton County.

In addition to public safety I will focus on increasing resident and business engagement with VHCA so that we know we are investing in the projects that are most important to residents, and that yield the greatest benefit. 

Virginia-Highland is a great neighborhood. With a strong and transparent board, and with the full support of the community, we can make it even better.


Jack WhiteJack White (I)

When my then preschool daughter and I moved from Midtown to Virginia-Highland in 1984, we were the two youngest people on the half-block; I am now the oldest. My particular interests are planning, parks, and public resources, particularly stormwater and stream issues, a field in which I’ve worked for several decades. Our neighborhood schools that both my kids graduated from are pretty high on the list too.

I’m grateful for the Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s role in helping shape the history of the community. If the residents of the late 60’s and early 70’s hadn’t organized and stood together with their allies to the north and south, it’s very likely that most of us wouldn’t be living in – and might not even recognize – this neighborhood today. The threat then was a huge interstate highway that would have run through Orme Park with a cloverleaf exit on top of the Inman School parking lot. It seems preposterous, but it almost happened.

Two generations later, our community’s success has brought with it challenges that then seemed unimaginable; as one planner put it, we now face the threat of being loved to death. Auto traffic wasn’t an issue then; today the volume of cars, cyclists, and pedestrians challenge us every day of the week. Three decades ago it was our wits and our determination versus longstanding political forces. We’re still determined today, and we’ve added to that the ability to use professional planners and land use lawyers to help level the playing field.

This isn’t at all an academic question. Some of the ideas we’ve heard from developers for Monroe and 10th pose grave implications for the west side of our community and beyond.

An educated and involved citizenry and the Civic Association’s organizational skills in framing issues are the most important assets we have. In tandem, they can be very effective, and we’re going to need them.

As we prepare for and address these challenges, I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve on the Board.


Jess at 4th and SwiftJess Windham (I)

For about the last three years – even before officially moving in – I have been active with the neighborhood Civic Association, primarily through the VHCA Planning and the Master Plan creation process. My role in that process was to keep everything on the rails: organizing and communicating the public meeting schedule, sharing information and clarifying inaccuracies, coordinating the steering committee, and feeling out consensus every step of the way. 

Since the Master Plan was adopted by council, I have been focusing on the implementation of the highest priority items outlined in the Master Plan. This has involved follow up with various city departments and nonprofits. I’m excited to be part of a vibrant urban community with a rich diversity of residents and incredible history. Currently I’m also serving as ambassador between the neighborhood and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition for the Atlanta Streets Alive event in September.

In terms of style, I have a diplomatic approach, a true desire to contribute, and would appreciate the opportunity to serve the neighborhood. I’d like to continue to be involved on the board so that I can support the neighborhood with broad initiatives, from master planning to fundraising for our parks. Having served on the Planning Committee, I understand the time, patience, and dedication needed to create positive changes that keep the neighborhood vibrant. Change is inevitable and the desirability of VaHi is only going to grow. I’d like to be on the board to ensure the character and quality of life in Virginia-Highland continues to get better each year.


GeorgeZirkel_WebRes_007George Zirkel 

George moved to Atlanta from New York in 2009 and lives on Rosedale Drive with his husband JD Garcia.  Prior to recently joining Transaction Network Services (TNS) as Senior Vice President and Head of Global Payment Strategy, he worked at TabbedOut, a start-up advancing hospitality mobile payments.  When he’s not exploring one of the many new restaurants or attractions in Atlanta or tending his garden, he enjoys collecting Tibetan and Himalayan art and has amassed an enviable treasure trove of unique, historic pieces. George shared these additional comments about why he’s running for the VHCA board:

A Neighborhood Association is founded on transparency, empathy and a solid representation of the broad variety of views and voices in a community.  The Association exists to listen to and serve the neighborhood in advancing the many important causes of the community.  

My goals, if elected to the VHCA Board, are to continue to work to make it a more progressive, inclusive and transparent organization.  We can do so much to build on the wonderful neighborhood we have created and the VHCA is a great vehicle from which to do that.  

First and foremost, we should solicit feedback from the community to confirm what residents view as the right priorities for the VHCA.  We can strive to improve public safety by working with and assisting the neighborhood watch system and our off-duty patrol group.  We can modernize our community and communication within Virginia-Highland using technology and social platforms that fit more easily into the busy lives our residents lead.  We can create strategies to increase community input on projects that are funded by VHCA.  We can help revitalize and strengthen the Commercial Districts and the community’s relationships with local business owners.  And while we do all of this hard work, we can make sure we have fun and create new memories with our neighbors.  

We live in Virginia-Highland because we know what a special place it is and so I would like to join the VHCA Board to help our special piece of Atlanta be the place everyone wants to live, work and play.

Fire Station No. 19 Renovation About to Begin, Final Funds Needed

Community-wide collaboration should position one of VaHi’s most important historical treasures well for the future

By VHCA Board Member Dr. Catherine Lewis

After years of planning and fundraising and months of hard work vetting contracts, the VHCA is pleased to announce that the city is about to start the contracting process for the renovation of the No. 19 Fire Station.

Fire Station #19 illustration by Steve Spetz

Fire Station #19 illustration by Steve Spetz

Fire Station No. 19 is Atlanta’s oldest continuously operating station. Located at 1063 N. Highland Avenue in the heart of the historic Virginia-Highland neighborhood, the station has been a neighborhood landmark for more than 90 years. 

All preliminary inspections have found that No. 19’s building is structurally sound but needs repair and modernization to support a diverse firefighting force. The goal of this effort is to keep No. 19 operating in a safe and efficient manner for at least another 50 years, while addressing important issues related to historic preservation and stormwater.

The project team—comprised of members of the VHCA board, the Virginia-Highland Conservation League, the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department, the City of Atlanta’s Office of Enterprise Management and Legal Department, Attorney’s Office, and the Urban Design Commission, and City Councilman Alex Wan’s office – vetted four architectural firms and selected Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects, best known for their work on Ponce City Market. Tom Little, the director of historic preservation for the firm, has been a very strong partner and will help ensure that the renovation meets all of the AFRD’s operational needs while attending to the unique challenges of renovating a historic building.

No. 19 with DogThis has been such a collaborative effort, there are almost too many people to thank. I begin with the men and women at No. 19 and the AFRD. They love the station and care for it each day. I also want to recognize local attorney Bob Zoeckler (who helped with the donor agreement), Chip Bullock (an architect in the neighborhood and member of the VHCA Planning Committee), Rich Chey (owner Doc Chey’s, Osteria, and Dragon Bowl who has been a stalwart fundraising partner), Harris Botnick (owner of Worthmore Jewelers), and Melanie and Robb Wallace (owners of Marco’s Pizza), Yeah! Burger, and Lola Carlisle and Greg Abel (owners of Tailfin Marketing). Countless individuals have contributed financially as have all the volunteers who are part of VHCA’s fundraising efforts which include the Tour of Homes and Summerfest.

This neighborhood-city partnership promises to serve as a model for other communities, and we are proud to do the heavy lifting to make that a reality.

The hard work is still ahead of us, but I wanted to commend the 2015-2016 VHCA board for their assistance, wisdom, and foresight. They have been very strong advocates for this and so many other neighborhood projects. I look forward to continuing this work with my fellow board members who have turned vision into reality.

The fundraising effort is not yet complete, so look out for additional fundraising efforts. On September 24, from 1-4 p.m. Marco’s Pizza will host a community festival to raise funds for No. 19. Please contact me at clewis1@kennesaw.edu if you would like to volunteer to help with the project or make a financial contribution. We still have about $15,000 to raise, so any and all help is appreciated.

City Council District 6 Newsletter

wan_190Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan’s current e-newsletter for District 6 includes important updates on the following:

  • Monroe Dr / Boulevard Complete Street Next Steps
  • Important Voter Information
  • Music Midtown 2016
  • Atlanta Streets Alive on Sunday, September 25th
  • Labor Day Solid Waste / Recycling Collection Reminder

You can read the e-newsletter in its entirety here.

Public Works Marking Crew Installs New Crosswalks in VaHi

By David Brandenberger, VHCA Parks Committee Chair

We have all observed a spate of sidewalk and ADA corner ramp improvements in the neighborhood recently.  As we understand it, it is now city policy to install appropriate crosswalk markings wherever such improvements are made.

IMG_0227

VHCA Board President Jack White and I encountered the Department of Public Works Marking Crew at work on this project on Virginia Circle and De Leon. For the curious, the material is thermoplastic colored white for visibility that is mixed on the spot at 500 degrees, applied to the street, and sprayed immediately with water to help it set.  Crosswalks need new treatment about every five years on side streets and – obviously – much more often on major thoroughfares. Peachtree Street crosswalks require an almost annual renewal, the crew suggests. Read this article to learn more about thermoplastic road markings.

Given the volume of sidewalk and road repairs we’ve experienced, Virginia-Highland clearly has a lot more new and re-markings coming.  Almost every intersection along Barnett meets the criteria.  If you know of a locale that needs treatment (or re-treatment), feel free to forward the location to safety@vahi.com, and we’ll do our best to make sure it is on Public Works’ list.

Posing in the photo below are Marking Crew members (L-R): Jonny Daniels, Kantrell Hays, Oscar Maddox, Dante Wheeler, and Leonard Sims.

IMG_0226

Worthmore Anniversary Celebration to Support Fire Station #19

No. 19 StationCome celebrate Worthmore Jewelers 23rd anniversary on Saturday, August 27, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and help support the No. 19 Fire Station.

Drinks and treats will be available all day at the Midtown Store in Amsterdam Walk, 500 L-3 Amsterdam Avenue. A special lunch will be served from Noon to 1:00 pm. Enter a raffle to win a women’s or men’s Shinola watch, and celebrate that the raffle and the day’s proceeds will also support the fire station. You can purchase raffle tickets in advance of the event.

Come and celebrate with a great community partner. See the flyer below for more information.

August Event Flyer 1-up 

Todd Cemetery Memorial Destruction and Restoration

Photo of Todd Cemetery Memorial taken by Andrew Wood in 2008.

Photo of Todd Cemetery Memorial taken by Andrew Wood in 2008.

by Jack White, for the VHCA Board

In December of 2014 the Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) Board was notified that new homeowners had installed a fence that blocked free access to the Todd Cemetery Memorial. (VHCA is no stranger to this topic; the Association was active in promoting the memorials’ creation in the late 80s.) After much effort – including validating the legality of the easement that leads to the monument – we negotiated an agreement with the homeowners: a small sign to be placed on the fence that acknowledged the monument and reminded visitors to be respectful of the residents’ privacy and property.

Shortly thereafter – just before Christmas in 2015 – the Todd Cemetery Memorial was deliberately destroyed.

Since that event, the Board and descendants of the Todd family have tried in a private and quiet manner to negotiate the monument’s rebuilding and secure the public’s access to it. This has included further efforts by our attorney, as well as formal mediation. While those processes have eliminated certain fictions about the how the monument was destroyed and who was responsible, our hope and faith that a solution could be reached without filing a formal lawsuit have vanished.

The board discussed this issue in open session for the first time at the August 2016 board meeting and voted unanimously to file suit in Fulton County Superior Court to compel the monument’s restoration, restore public access to it, and remunerate VHCA for many of its legal costs.

We have spent a lot of time and a lot of money on this issue – about $25,000. The money certainly matters a lot; we all know and appreciate the effort that residents and volunteers in this community put into fundraising. The prospect of recovering some fees in court, understanding that future costs are capped, and offers by citizens to donate specifically toward these expenses mitigates that only a little.

The most visible and obvious motivation was the critical importance of preserving a unique and irreplaceable piece of history, a point that a number of citizens strongly asserted at the board meeting.

The history matters a great deal, but there is an even more important issue here: the rule of law.

In our day-to-day efforts on the Board and on committees, we spend a huge amount of time trying to find acceptable and workable solutions to the application of laws and regulations, often as intermediaries between citizens and government. The principle tactic is negotiation; when those are unsuccessful, asking the court to apply the law is the next step.

The lawsuit is a public record; you can see the complaint that was filed here.

Within the context of this being a matter before the court, we will try to answer as many questions about the facts of the case as we can.

A few articles on the Todd family history for your reference:
http://historyatlanta.com/todd-family-homestead/
http://historyatlanta.com/todd-family-cemetery/
http://historyatlanta.com/todd-road/
http://historyatlanta.com/burial-site-patience-elizabeth-armistead-nee-todd/

Meeting to Discuss Monroe Dr. Complete Street Project Set for August 23

Based on previous community planning studies, the corridor will be transformed into a complete street that is safe and efficient for all users and modes of transportation. 

The City of Atlanta and City Councilmembers Kwanza Hall, Alex Wan and Natalyn Archibong will host a community engagement meeting next month to discuss the upcoming Monroe Dr./Bouevard Dr. Complete Street Project.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 6-8 pm, at Grady High School. See flyer below for details.

RenewATL_Monroe_Blvd Flyer.pdf

It’s Time to Fix Monroe!

The City of Atlanta and City Councilmembers Kwanza Hall, Alex Wan and Natalyn Archibong will host a community engagement meeting next week to discuss the upcoming Monroe Dr./Bouevard Dr. Complete Street Project.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 6-8 pm, at Grady High School. See or click on the flyer at the bottom of this article for details.

Following are comments from Jenifer Keenan, co-chair of the VHCA Safety Committee, regarding the proposed Complete Streets improvements for Monroe Dr.

Monroe is broken. It is above the state average in total crashes, fatalities and injuries for streets its size. It is unsafe, speeding is an issue, and at rush hour, traffic comes to a standstill. Fortunately, the City finally has a plan to address these issues. That plan is known as the Monroe Drive Complete Streets Project.

The Complete Streets Plan will convert Monroe from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a dedicated turn lane in the middle. This part of the plan is known as a “road diet.” People may assume that removing a lane of traffic will make things worse on Monroe, but traffic engineering data and real life examples of road diets from throughout the country (including Atlanta) show that is not the case. Having a dedicated turn lane will prevent cars jockeying around drivers making left turns – and thereby allow traffic on the dedicated travel lane to move more smoothly – which can actually lead to a reduction in actual travel time along the street. Having traffic move more smoothly, as opposed to the stop and go that is caused by the lack of a dedicated turn lane, will also reduce cut through traffic on surrounding streets. In addition, road diets have been shown to significantly reduce collisions.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Here is what the U.S. Department of Transportation has to say about Road Diets:

The resulting benefits [or road diets] include a crash reduction of 19 to 47 percent, reduced vehicle speed differential, improved mobility and access by all road users, and integration of the roadway into surrounding uses that results in an enhanced quality of life. A key feature of a Road Diet is that it allows reclaimed space to be allocated for other uses, such as turn lanes, bus lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bike lanes, sidewalks, bus shelters, parking or landscaping.

Although many people are just now hearing about the Monroe Complete Streets project, the plan is not new. The City’s major transportation plans, including the BeltLine plan and the Connect Atlanta Plan, have called for a road diet for Monroe. The road diet was also supported in the Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

Conventional wisdom is that road diets are most effective if streets carry less than 25,000 cars per day.  Traffic studies have shown that the car volume on Monroe ranges from 19,000 – 22,000 cars per day.

It is time to fix Monroe. The road diet, and other parts of the Complete Streets plan, are the best and most effective way to fix this broken street.

Celebrating the Life of Diamond Lil

There will be a night of singing, good food and good times in honor of Diamond Lil tomorrow night (Tuesday, August 16) from 8-12 pm at the Virginia-Highland Church. There will be a potluck supper and an open mic. The public is invited to come share a story and a song in memory of the Atlanta legend and icon.

See flyer below for additional details. Here’s a link to a Georgia Voice article on Diamond Lil’s recent demise.

13962498_10154457888812661_4581286269742336452_n

Opportunity for Event Planning With Atlanta Streets Alive

By Jess Windham, VHCA Board Vice President

DSC_0022Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) hosts another Atlanta Streets Alive this fall on the North Highland corridor through Virginia-Highland, Poncey-Highland, Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward. On September 25th, the street will be closed to cars and opened to people on foot or bicycle to explore the community in a safer, healthier and more livable way. 

To spark and guide local neighborhood participation, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition asks each neighborhood to provide an ambassador. This person engages with ABC in the weeks leading up to the event, meeting for an hour or two every few weeks. You’ll learn the game plan for the event and spread the word to the community about the event through any and all effective channels. 

More information on the event can be found here.

If you’re interested in having fun as VaHi’s Atlanta Streets Alive ambassador, please contact Haydee M Santana at Haydee@AtlantaBike.org and cc me at jlwindham@gmail.com

Reaction to Resident Comments on Briarcliff Terrace

By Jack White, VHCA Board President and Lola Carlisle, VHCA Planning Committee Member

A few residents have asked what the Planning Committee’s reaction might be to the concepts they heard at the meeting the potential developers of Briarcliff Terrace held.  No specific plan has been submitted, and we weren’t at the meeting, both large qualifiers. But perhaps some thoughts about to approach such issues may be helpful.

The owners have shared a couple of plans with the neighborhood association, a courtesy that we appreciate.  We respect their right to re-develop their property, and we hope that we can work with them to mitigate the impacts that this will have on the existing residents, who include many school-age children. Not uprooting them in the middle of a school year would be a great outcome.

Redevelopment of the apartment complex on Briarcliff Terrace has been discussed, but no specific plan has been put forth.

Redevelopment of the apartment complex on Briarcliff Terrace has been discussed, but no specific plan has been put forth.

Their lawyer and architects and our planner and attorney have looked very hard for an approach that is consistent with the city’s zoning and principle planning documents, among them NPU-F’s Comprehensive Development Plan (the CDP) and VaHi’s Master Plan.  A key concern is trying to forecast what impacts a given plan might have for the neighborhood , both on the site under consideration and (long range) on similar parcels in the community.

We can understand the owners’ and developer’s desire to build more than what is there now.  Under its current zoning, perhaps a ten percent increase in volume can be constructed than what now is on the site now. And we are always open to innovative approaches that are consistent with existing planning principles.  The use of PDH (Planned Development Housing) zoning was reported.  PDH is a useful category in the right circumstances and can be applied to many different types of housing styles, but the city’s policy has always been that it shall not be used to increase density.

Density in Atlanta is (logically enough) not measured by the total number of units but by the total floor area ratio (FAR). (FAR may be more simply described as the amount of allowable buildable space on a given property.)  It is directly related to zoning – another reason that zoning matters so much. As you would expect, larger FAR can quickly add up to far more density even if the unit count stays the same or decreases.

Good starting points for evaluating projects that require zoning and land use changes include learning the perspective of the local councilmember (especially when she or he is an experienced veteran), the view of the City’s Planning Department, how the local NPU has reacted both historically and recently to recent similar proposals, and whether or not the neighborhood’s Master Plan (if one exists) is up to date and has recently considered the concepts in question.

It’s not a big surprise to see early designs featuring extensive perimeter drives, narrow buffers, and the loss of many large trees; if nothing else; such drawings can make subsequent versions feel like a huge improvement.   A key design focus should be the project’s density; when that’s kept at an appropriate level, the concerns just iterated become a lot easier for architects and planners to improve.

All changes to zoning and land use law require several layers of public hearings and are examined closely by both VHCA and NPU-F.

A good place to go for answers is the VHCA Planning Committee, which meets at the Church of Our Saviour at 7 PM on the Wednesday before the monthly board meeting.   All meetings ar public; you and your concerns are welcome there.

 

 

APD Zone 6 Commander Pens Letter to Residents

City_of_Atlanta_Police1Atlanta Police Department Zone 6 Commander Lt. Timothy D. Peek wrote the following letter this week to Zone 6 residents:

Dear Zone Six Communities:

In recent times, our nation has experienced some very trying times as it relates to the relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities for which they serve.  Communities throughout the country voiced their concerns through many different avenues which included protests and demonstrations.  The City of Atlanta was not exempt from these experiences.  Although stressful, the officers of the Atlanta Police Department rose to the occasion and served all of our citizens with dignity and respect.  We took an oath to serve our citizens and we look forward to our continued and committed service.

During these stressful times, you (our citizens and business partners) supported our officers in many ways.  In expressions of your support, we thank you for all of the gifts that you shared with us.  We thank you for the gratitude shown through gifts of food, snacks, drinks, flowers, handshakes and hugs (just to name a few).  These gestures certainly brightened our day and filled our hearts with joy.  It is truly our pleasure to serve such fine citizens. Again, we look forward to our continued service to the communities.

Sincerely,

Major Timothy D. Peek , on Behalf of Atlanta Police Department Zone Six Officers

Atlanta BeltLine Hosts Meeting to Discuss Eastside Trail Extension, Road Closures

The Atlanta BeltLine invites you to attend a meeting this week where an update will be given on the Eastside Trail extension project, including a review of road closures on Wylie and Irwin Streets. Information will also be shared about the BeltLine’s downpayment assistance program.

The meeting will be held this Thursday, August 4 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at Our Lady of Lourdes, 25 Boulevard, NE, Atlanta, 30312.

image012

VHCA Grant Application Deadline Approaching

By Peggy Berg, VHCA Board Member and Safety Chair

VHCA Grant & Community Gift Program

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s grant program supports not-for-profit organizations and public initiatives that benefit the Virginia-Highland community. 

Funding: In its annual budgeting process, VHCA establishes funding for the grant program. In addition, the Board may on occasion vote to provide a unique grant for a specific purpose.

Applying: Grant applications are available online at www.vahi.org and should be submitted to budget@vahi.org no later than the deadline established by the Board, which this year is August 26, 2016.

Process: VHCA grants are awarded at the discretion of the Board, which reviews all applications. Each year the budget for grants will vary based on the Board’s consideration of other VHCA commitments.

Selection Criteria: Proposed grant benefits and accomplishments should be accessible and beneficial to a wide range of citizens without regard to race, religious preference, gender, or sexual orientation. 

While exceptions may occur – permanent or long-lasting installations of publicly visible art, for example – funding is not typically considered for projects on residential or individually owned sites.

Successful applicants also meet all or some of the following criteria:

  • Promote Virginia-Highland or physically improve the public spaces of the neighborhood.
  • Support education, life-long learning, sustainability, healthy living, ecological health, art and aesthetics,  historic preservation, environment, recreation, or safety in Virginia-Highland
  • Include and demonstrate other sources of support.

Accountability and Restrictions: Unless other arrangements are made, grant and community gift recipients are expected to report on the use of the funding by May 1st of the year following the award is announced and provide specific results and (where applicable) photos.

You can view and download a copy of the VHCA grant application here.

APS Update from Matt Westmoreland

By Matt Westmoreland, APS School Board Representative for District 3

WestmorelandAs we prepare for the start of a new school year on August 3, I want to update you on a few fronts:

  • A sincere thank you to those who supported our E-SPLOST renewal on May 24. The referendum received overwhelming support from voters, and with those dollars secure APS can now move forward with our construction plans for the Grady Cluster. The design phase for the renovations and additions at both the Howard Building and Grady High can now begin as scheduled, as can plans for the cluster’s athletic complex on the Walden site.
  • On July 1, APS officially became a charter system. Newly elected governance teams at each school will work with the principal to make more decisions at the school-house level as we push autonomy and discretion to those who are closest to our kids.
  • In late July, the state released results from the 2015-16 Georgia Milestone assessments. Springdale Park Elementary and Inman Middle continued to post scores that were among the highest in the city while also showing growth from last year
  • We’re excited to welcome Terry Harness as the new principal for Springdale Park! He will join returning principals Betsy Bockman at Inman and Tim Guiney at Grady.  Inman anticipates an enrollment of just over 1100 students this fall.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help: mwestmoreland@atlanta.k12.ga.us or 404.408.0980 (cell)

Stephanie Coffin Unveils New Mosaic “The Crack of Dawn”

IMG_5449Stephanie Coffin unveiled her latest mosaic – a work titled “The Crack of Dawn” that now adorns the western-facing wall of the corner planter at Intown ACE Hardware – at a small ceremony last Sunday. The work depicts the sun rising over an inverted city horizon with a flock of birds ascending. Many of the city’s landmark building can be seen to the lower left and lower right of the rising sun.

DSC_1074Stephanie is well known for her mosaic work, much of which can be found in and around the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. She’s installed mosaics on two of the planter’s other walls, her street number mosaics can be seen in front of numerous VaHi homes and her own home is a virtual homage to the art of tile mosaic creation. You can read more about Stephenie and her mosaic work here, you can read an article about her work on one of the planter’s other walls here, and you can view an album of photos from the unveiling ceremony of “Insect Wall of Fame” here.

Intown ACE Hardware provided financial support for Stephanie’s earlier work on their planter, and they provided $500 to get Stephanie started on her most recent work. She raised an additional $500 herself in a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of the project.

We asked Stephanie the obvious question: when will work begin on the planter’s fourth wall?

“When I come up with an idea,” she replied. “And, of course, the money to get it done.”

Thanks for all you do to keep our neighborhood beautiful, Stephanie! Here’s a link to more photos of the unveiling ceremony.

DSC_1088 DSC_1073 DSC_1099

 

Grady High Announces VHCA-Supported Award Recipients

By Anna Winer, Grady High School College and Career Center Volunteer, with introduction by VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair Robin Ragland

IMG_1587

Grady High School grant recipients Grace Hawkins, left, and Anna Pozniak

Each year, the Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) makes grant awards to a variety of community institutions and individual applicants who serve and enrich the neighborhood. Those awards are supported by funds raised at two resident-based VHCA events, Summerfest and the Tour of Homes.

Being able to make such awards is  one of the most rewarding aspects of being the Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.  The Committee has quite a few new committee members this year, as well as eight gracious homeowners who will play host to us the first week in December.  Several of them asked me how much money we raise and what we do with it.  Many were surprised to hear that over the last decade,  the VHCA has provided just over a quarter of a million dollars in grants to our neighborhood schools, public library, parks, partner non-profits, and others.  About 45% of that total went to our local public schools.

Annual grants represent only a portion of the initiatives funded by VHCA, but they are important and make a difference to each recipient.  Anna Winer, a parent volunteer at Grady High School’s College and Career Center, shares with us (below) how their 2015 grant helped two students further their education.

VHCA congratulates these two worthy recipients for what they’ve accomplished so far in their educational careers and for what they’re sure to accomplish in the future. 

Grady High School’s College and Career Center is grateful to have received a generous grant from the VHCA this year, which we used to fund two $500 scholarships for graduating Grady seniors. The Grady CCC Founders Scholarship was established to honor the service, creativity, and passion of the three volunteers who started  the CCC in 2006. Applicants each wrote a brief essay describing how they’ve used the resources in the CCC to help them navigate their college search. Volunteers in Grady’s Writing Center evaluated the applications, and the winners were announced at Grady’s pre-graduation ceremony, Visions of the Future, on May 14th. For the past two years, we have awarded a single scholarship, but the VHCA grant allowed us to offer scholarships to two students this year.

The second-place winner was Grace Hawkins, who is headed to UCLA in the fall to study theatre, with an emphasis in directing. Grace wrote in her essay, “The best thing about the CCC is the support structure it provides. The CCC is a place where little things add up, where the path to your goals is taken one step at a time. From lunch periods spent typing essays worked on in sections, the work I accomplished bit by bit in the CCC has added up to the success I now enjoy. Looking back, I feel pride in knowing that I achieved my success myself, but not on my own.”

First-place winner Anna Pozniak immigrated to America from Russia just two years ago when her family won the Green Card Lottery.  In that short time she has had to master an unfamiliar American educational system, both high school and the often-daunting college application process. Anna credits the CCC with helping her “pick schools, decipher the paperwork, and connect with the right people,” and she says that the CCC’s “welcoming, supportive atmosphere is infectious,” and that our volunteers are “helpful, encouraging in hard times and genuinely happy with every success.” Anna will attend Purdue University in the fall, where she’ll study industrial engineering.

Spring Cleanup Day Set for May 21

KVHB Fall Cleanup Photo

The Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful team preparing to head out for a recent fall cleanup.

Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful is looking for volunteers for its annual pre-Summerfest, spring clean-up of the neighborhood. The event is set for Saturday, May 21, 8:00 am – 12 pm.

Volunteers will meet at American Roadhouse on N. Highland Ave. and enjoy bagels and coffee before heading out to do litter, debris, and weed removal, as well as sticker and graffiti abatement along N. Highland Ave., St. Charles Ave., around the triangle island at N. Highland and Virginia Ave and on other streets.

No RSVP needed. Just show up ready to help spruce things up around the ‘hood!

Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful is a joint effort of VaHi residents and businesses. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/KeepVirginiaHighlandBeautiful.

Trees Atlanta Conducts Seminar on Atlanta Tree Ordinance

TreeOrdinance2016promoTrees are a tremendously valuable public resource. The goal of a “tree ordinance” is to prevent net loss of trees and the tree canopy on both public and private property.

Urban trees work hard for us — they are an integral part of the natural system that helps lower summer temperatures, offset the urban heat island effect, prevent erosion, lower the incidence of flooding, and enhance the overall quality of life for Atlanta’s residents. In many ways, the mature urban forest is Atlanta’s signature environmental feature. For this reason, the City of Atlanta created the tree protection ordinance to help protect the urban canopy.

What is our tree ordinance? What can (or can’t) city arborists do? What’s the definition of a dead, dying, and hazardous (DDH) tree? Which rules apply to removing trees on construction sites? How does the Tree Commission and the appeals process work? What do the orange and yellow public notice signs mean? Come meet key contacts in the City’s Arborist Division, learn, and ask your own questions. This discussion will be led by key staff from the City of Atlanta Arborist Division. They will guide us through the basics and discuss a local case study. Citizens can become more empowered to act as effective stewards of our trees by better understanding the City’s tree ordinance.

  • Seminar to be held at Trees Atlanta’s TreeHouse facility at the StoveWorks, 112 Krog St., Suite 7
  • Doors open at 6:00 PM with light refreshments.
  • Program begins promptly at 6:30 PM.
  • Please walk, bike, or carpool and arrive early to accommodate for limited parking in local lots and street parking.

Free with registration: https://treesatlanta.org/event/protecting-atlantas-trees-understanding-the-city-of-atlanta-tree-ordinance/

APS Board Member Matt Westmoreland Urges “Yes” Vote on E-SPLOST on Tuesday, May 24th

DSC_0004VHCA Board Votes to Support

By Rebecca Wells & Jack White

At the VHCA meeting on May 9th,  Atlanta Public School District 3 Board member Matt Westmoreland and several parents asked the VHCA Board to support the referendum.  The Board unanimously did that.  We hope you will, too; here’s why.

The upcoming E-SPLOST referendum on May 24th will have a significant impact on our neighborhood. Voters are being asked to keep in place the existing (not new) sales tax funding for Atlanta Public Schools.

APS will use those monies to renovate the former Howard High School building in the Old Fourth Ward – Martin Luther King, Jr. went to elementary school there – and use it as the site of a new middle school for the Grady Cluster.  Relieving the overcrowding at Inman will be the first step in a sequential series of improvements for the cluster that were outlined by the Superintendent and approved by the school board over the last year.  They include major improvements to Morningside Elementary, expanding Grady High School, building new athletic fields, re-casting Inman as an elementary school, and removing the trailers from the Inman fields.

It is a strategic and long-term solution that benefits both us and all our surrounding neighborhoods. An historic and modernized  structure is preserved and reused. Morningside Elementary – expanded repeatedly over the last thirty years – needs a huge modernization of its HVAC systems.  With the middle school gone, the Inman building can house Morningside students while that work is done. Once Morningside is back home, a reborn Inman Elementary (that’s how it started in 1924) can offer additional capacity at lower grade levels.  It’s likely to be needed; Spark has been expanded twice in its brief life and Mary Lin has just been completely renovated.  Adding additional classroom space to any of those schools is highly problematic.

Previous school boards have offered up a series of obviously flawed short-term suggestions for relieving middle school overcrowding in the Grady Cluster.  All of them underestimated the steady growth of the northeast neighborhoods and ignored the City of Atlanta’s Planning Department’s support for increased residential density. Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and the current school board (including our own representative, Matt Westmoreland) responded to a huge amount of community feedback with a plan that anticipates growth at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  Their proposal was unveiled to a standing room only crowd at Inman last September; it was received with enthusiasm.

A positive vote on this referendum will end the specter of an even larger permanent middle school super-structure at Inman and all the associated problems that would go with it. The school board’s proposed end product – a smaller elementary school at Inman – will result in reduced traffic and parking on Virginia Avenue and Park Drive, roads that are already struggling to handle the existing bus load.

And – lest we forget – the E-SPLOST also offers a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the trailer/classrooms that now consume the fields across from John Howell Park.  Passing the E-SPLOST greatly increases the likelihood of returning the field sites to their previous usages – with existing trees intact.

We are well aware of the existing legacy of cynicism about the Atlanta Public School system.  Much of that reputation was earned by very poor planning and a head-in-the-sand approach to important topics. History’s verdict on our current board is yet to be written, but one point is already clear – this school board is planning for future capacity issues.  Their pending proposal – the one whose funding awaits a ‘yes’ vote – is the first we’ve seen that aspires to anticipate and address the needs of the next twenty years. That alone is noteworthy and meritorious, and we salute the Superintendent and board for that.

The vote on May 24th represents a bit of a crossroads for public education in Atlanta.  A determined coalition of APS administrators, teachers, and parents are doing extraordinarily well for our students under today’s very difficult and challenging physical circumstances. They all deserve better, and this community deserves better.  We urge you to support the funding that will allow our students and their immediate successors to go to school in the facilities that they deserve.

Rebecca Wells is a VaHi parent with two students enrolled in APS and a third who soon will be.  Jack White is the President of the VHCA Board and the parent of two APS graduates.

City Encourages Residents to Sign Up for Recycling Perks Program

Following is a letter from City of Atlanta Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza encouraging residents to sign up or its Recycling Perks incentivized recycling program. It’s easy to sign up and you can save up to $25 per month or $300 per year in discounts.

For more information on recycling, visit http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=493. To sign up for the Recycling Perks program visit https://recyclingperks.com/#/.

Recycling Perks

Park Pride Hosts “Pints for Parks” on May 3

By Jack White and David Brandenberger, VHCA Parks Committee

imageLongtime metro Atlanta parks advocates Park Pride will hold their annual spring social and fundraiser Tuesday, May 3rd from 6 PM to 9 PM. The event will feature cycling and walking stops at four BeltLine eateries – The Mercury, Rathbun’s, Richards’ Southern Fried, and Venkman’s. Co-sponsor Orpheus Brewery will provide samples of its products and a brewery tour, and there’s a silent auction and more.

Your $35 ticketed donation will support an organization that has made generous grants to every one of Virginia-Highland’s parks. Sign up early and you can be part of a bike ride with the city’s Chief Bicycle Officer, Becky Katz. Yes, there really is such an office in Atlanta government, and Becky holds it. She and Rebecca Serna of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition are two major reasons the city has made the cycling progress it has. Go meet Becky and support Park Pride; you’ll enjoy doing both.

For more information, click here or on the flyer to the right.

BeltLine Study Group Meeting Set for May 10

You are cordially invited to attend a meeting of the Northeast and Southeast Atlanta BeltLine Study Groups on Tuesday, May 10 from 6-7:30 pm. The meeting will be held at Trees Atlanta’s offices at 225 Chester Ave, SE, Atlanta, 30316.

Discussion topics will include an update on the Eastside Trail extension project and a review of conceptual layouts for Bill Kennedy Way.

And if you use the BeltLine – especially during evening or nighttime hours – consider making a donation to the BeltLine’s Light the Line campaign to install pedestrian lighting on the Atlanta BeltLine. To learn more about this crowd funding campaign and to make a donation, click here.

image002

Help Prevent Theft from Vehicles

By Jim Hardy, NPU-F Public Safety Coordinator

Our neighborhoods are continuing to experience numerous thefts from vehicles.  Several of the vehicles were parked in the same general area, probably indicating gang activity. Police reports indicate that in many instances the vehicles were left unlocked or with windows partially open.  In even more cases, items stolen were left inside the vehicles in plain sight.  More alarmingly, in a number of instances weapons were also reported stolen from the vehicles. 

While good investigations, increased police presence and increased video coverage of parking lots have been successful in capturing a number of the thieves, many of the thefts were preventable. Vehicle owners can help prevent these thefts using a few common sense rules.

  • Choose your parking place carefully.  The safest spots are usually well-lit, with lots of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, with video coverage, and not adjacent to a parking lot exit.
  • Remove all valuables from sight in the vehicle (laptops, tablets, cell phones, purses, etc),
  • Remove from sight all backpacks, briefcases, gym bags, etc.  Even bags which don’t contain valuables will attract thieves.
  • Lock valuables and bags in the trunk before you get to the parking place.
  • Remove all charger cords, GPS and GPS mounts.  These things indicate you may have valuables hidden in your vehicle.
  • Do not leave weapons in your vehicle, unless locked in a safe in your trunk.
  • Make sure all windows are closed.
  • Lock your car and insure the alarm is on.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Watch for anyone watching you.
  • Immediately notify the police if you do experience a theft from your vehicle.
    • Also notify the company that owns the parking lot.

Crime Prevention is not just a police responsibility.  We all share that responsibility.  A number of insurance companies recognize vehicle owners/drivers responsibility to help prevent thefts from vehicles.  Those insurers will not pay claims if the owner/driver did not properly secure their vehicle and its contents.

House Number Event Set for April 30th

house-signs-homeHow many times have you driven around the neighborhood trying to find a particular address and had to search high and low to find the home’s street number? If it’s hard for residents who live in the neighborhood to zero in on a specific residence, imagine how tough it is for firefighters and police officers who don’t live in the neighborhood and are often responding to an emergency?

The VHCA, in conjunction with neighborhood watch volunteers, is hosting a Street Number Event on April 30th to help address this problem. We will have tables at the corner of Virginia and Highland Avenues and at Ace Hardware where you can see samples of reflective mailbox numbers, house numbers and solar address plaques. In addition, we will be selling VHCA-branded house number plaques.  

Please come out to say hi to our Street Number Event volunteers and learn more about effective street numbers, how they can help and where to buy them.

April 30th

  • 9:00 – 11:30 a.m. – Corner of Virginia and North Highland
  • 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. – Intown Ace Hardware Parking Lot

VaHi Residents, Construction Worker Rescue Baby Barred Owl

By Deborah Schwarz

Editor’s Note: Deborah and Greg Schwarz live on lower Drewry Street. Thanks to their efforts and a caring construction foreman, one wayward baby Barred owl was successfully returned to the wild and perhaps even reunited with its parents. We thought you’d like to hear Deborah’s story in her own words. Please contact us at communications@vahi.org if you have a similar experience you’d like to share with other VaHi residents.

Is it a dog or a cat? Nope. This is a new one for us.

Is it a dog or a cat? Nope. This is a new one for us.

With the rapid pace of daily life, we often miss opportunities to appreciate the diversity of the Virginia-Highland community where we live. On April 18, I received a reminder! It came in the form of a baby Barred owl who had been found on the grounds of a residential construction site on lower Drewry Street. 

Our first move was to contact the Chattahoochee Nature Center and AWARE Wildlife Center, both organizations that provide rescue services for at-risk birds. CNC was willing to take the baby owl but felt an attempt at reuniting it with its parents (Barred pairs typically mate for life, raising one brood each year) was worth a try. They advised us to get her/him back up in the trees and – thanks to a solid team effort – we did!  

Greg builds a new but hopefully temporary home.

Greg builds a new but hopefully temporary home.

My husband, Greg, got to work building a faux nest. This included a plastic container with holes drilled throughout to provide proper ventilation and drainage in case of rain. A bed of soil and leaves was added as well as a covering of small branches. While it wouldn’t be mistaken for the real thing, it was a success as it met the specifications needed to protect the baby. 

Construction site foreman Felix Lopez was the real hero as he climbed a sizable Dogwood and secured the “nest” as high in the tree as possible, creating a new use for bungee cords! He then hand-delivered the baby owl back where it belonged. 

We enjoyed a spectacular Spring evening listening to the owls while we watched  the baby owl’s fuzzy, little head bob in the treetops. By nightfall s/he had moved out of the nest onto the branch next to it. In early stages of development, young barred owls are known as “nesters.” They become “branchers” once they venture onto the tree limbs where they have room to stretch their wings and practice flying movements.

The guest of honor was waiting patiently.

The guest of honor was waiting patiently.

The following morning the baby was gone. We searched the yard but s/he was nowhere to be found. We believe the anticipated reunion occurred given feedback from an AWARE Wildlife Representative: “My feeling is not to worry…s/he is in a place where mom wants him/her to be.”

It would have been perfectly fine for the story to have ended there. But, like many such adventures, we hadn’t seen the last of the baby owl. Five days after the rescue as I was leaving my yoga class, I got a text from Greg: “Call me. The baby owl is back.”

I arrived home to find the little devil hiding in the ferns by our front door. S/he had definitely grown and looked healthy, so we put him/her back in the tree – again – and s/he was gone by late that night.  We hope the baby Barred owl has found a place of his/her own in the Virginia-Highland tree tops, but we’ll welcome a fly-by anytime.

Here are some photos we took of the experience. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did helping our feathered friend.

About to be hand-delivered to faux nest.

About to be hand-delivered to the faux nest by Felix.

Felix carefully places the owl in the nest with a first class view!

Felix carefully places the owl in the nest with a first class view!

Safe and ready for Mom and Dad in the treetops.

Safe and ready for Mom and Dad in the treetops.

Baby owl hiding in the ferns.

Baby owl returns – this time hiding in the ferns.

Deborah and the "rogue baby raptor"

Deborah and the “rogue baby raptor”

This was one of our last glimpses of the baby Barred owl.

This was one of our last glimpses of the baby Barred owl.

Morningside Mile Set for April 17, Profits Support FS #19 Restoration

e-flyer-mm-vh-2016You can help save Virginia-Highland’s historic Fire Station #19 by registering now to run in the Morningside Mile, set for April 17.

100% of race profits are donated to preserve our treasured fire station and help keep it in service. Thanks to grass roots support of Morningside Mile and other efforts, the station is no longer on the chopping block, but we are still raising funds for the renovations, whose final costs are not yet known. We  need your active support; please register now to run or walk and support our neighborhood firefighters and first-responders!

Click here to register.

  • 1-mile Race
  • Cash Prizes
  • Great Swag
  • Block Party

Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates National Arbor Day

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member

WP_20160405_17_03_41_ProTen Thousand Villages, our neighborhood fair trade retailer at 1056 St. Charles Ave., will participate in a nationwide campaign to plant 10,000 trees in our national forests. The program, which runs April 21 through May 1,  invites customers to donate $1 to plant a tree in a national forest through the Arbor Day Foundation. Ten Thousand Villages in Atlanta hopes customers will donate to plant 100 trees on behalf of our community. Ten Thousand Villages corporate office in Akron, Pa., will donate 1,000 trees to kick-off the campaign.

Store Manager Juliet White said, “We are excited about this opportunity to partner with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 10,000 trees because it allows us to make a positive impact on our environment.” White continued, “As an organization, we are committed to environmental responsibility and sustainable sourcing of products. We also make a positive impact in the lives of artisans around the world every day. Every purchase at our store provides vital, fair income which allows artisans to provide food, clothing and education for their families.”

blobThe campaign kicks off an in-store Earth Day Celebration April 22-23 and connects to the international Earth Day theme of Trees for the Earth (#Trees4Earth).

Other events planned for the Earth Day Celebration include the launch of the new “Landscapes” collection of home décor and garden items Friday, April 22; a sale that offers 22% off select sustainable items April 21-24; and contests to win fair trade prizes throughout the weekend.

10K photoAs a fair trade retailer, Ten Thousand Villages is committed to sourcing products made with sustainable materials and methods. The majority of the products customers will find at Ten Thousand Villages in Atlanta are produced in the most environmentally friendly way possible—by hand. Many artisans recycle materials such as newspaper, post-consumer magazines and glass to create innovative and functional products. Ten Thousand Villages product line includes a wide range of items made with natural materials, from bamboo to water weeds.

Groups source renewable, natural materials to keep resources in balance. Artisans use local raw materials whenever possible, and many artisans use natural dyes. Several artisan partners also source sustainable wood, or “good wood,” from farms that replant trees after they are harvested.

For more information about Ten Thousand Villages or the campaign to plant 10,000 trees, please contact Juliet White, store manager, at 404-892-5307 or visit atlanta.tenthousandvillages.com

Express Your Passion for VaHi Through Photography – and See Your Work on Public Display!

Submit photos now for upcoming North Highland Park public exhibition showcasing life in our awesome neighborhood

ACP logo with TaglineBy David Brandenberger, VHCA Board Member

Photos courtesy John Becker

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association is partnering with Atlanta Celebrates Photography to create a ‘neighborhood-based’ temporary public photography exhibition that will be on display at North Highland Park (St. Charles & North Highland) this summer – beginning Summerfest weekend!

DSC_0012The theme of the exhibition is ‘Life in Virginia-Highland’ and photography submissions will be accepted from anyone who lives, works, plays, visits or goes to school in VaHi. All lens-based enthusiasts can submit and upload five of your best photos depicting ‘Life in Virginia-Highland’ for consideration. A select group of the submitted photos will be featured on several banners that will be on display at the park. Each banner will feature large versions of the selected images with the photographer’s name and image title displayed below. Submissions can be from old photos or from recently taken ones. Submission is free and entry will be easy. Not all submitted photos will be chosen for display.

DSC_0114Submission deadline is May 8, 2016 at midnight so don’t waste time. Have fun and get your creative juices flowing, whether you’re an amateur or master, junior or senior! The goal is to submit photos that allow us all to see what makes our unique and beautiful neighborhood so special to you!

Click here to register and submit images for the exhibition. 

Share the news and be sure to submit – and show us what makes Virginia-Highland so special to you!!

Briarcliff Terrace Apartments

By Lola Carlisle, VHCA Board Member and Jack White, VHCA Board President

Briarcliff Terrace Apartments has been a quiet apartment community east of the CVS (and east of Arlington Pl.) since the 1960’s. For the last couple of decades, it has been very stable – mostly Latino, with lots of kids – and (according to anecdotal police observations) very little crime. Its relatively isolated site – accessible only from Briarcliff Place on the south and Rosedale Drive on the north – has been one reason for limited social interaction with neighbors on other streets; there’s also been very little conflict. The children in the community have been a notable and valued presence in both the SPARK and Inman communities.

Over the last half decade, the area has also attracted an increasing amount of attention from builders interested in redeveloping it; there is no other large tract of land remotely similar to it left in VaHi. Most of these inquiries – at least the ones we’ve known about – have not moved forward, but we have recently learned of one that may. A developer is considering purchasing the property and building a large collection of townhomes.

Had a specific proposal been made – if there were anything in writing – we’d share it.  There’s not, but it appears that a change to the NPU’s Comprehensive Development Plan (the CDP) and the land’s zoning may be in the works. Both will get extraordinary scrutiny at the neighborhood and NPU level.

The land is zoned R-4 but has been apartments for years.  Any townhome proposal is likely to propose a decrease in the number of units and a sharp increase in density. The latter, if it occurs, would require the changes noted.

Absent any drawings or details or a site plan, there’s not much more to say at this point.  VHCA’s planner (Aaron Fortner) and land use attorney (Bob Zoeckler) have reviewed what few specifics there are. We expect to hear more in the next month, and we will share it when we do.

New Pedestrian Signal Light in Place at Inman Middle School

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

DSC_0509The installation of the (solar-powered) Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB) at Inman Middle School on the corner of Virginia and Arcadia in almost complete. The city reports that the vendor failed to ship one needed piece; it is on the way.

This signal is an RRFB, not a HAWK, for those who are fans. A nearby example of an RRFB is the signal located across from the Midtown MARTA Station on 10th Street. That one is pole-mounted; Inman’s is overhead.

DSC_0511We appreciate the efforts of CoA Technical Project Manager Daniel Ephraim and his Public Works colleagues on this effort, which was quietly and effectively supported (as so many outcomes are in VaHi) by Councilman Alex Wan. VaHi resident and parent Mary Stouffer was a critical part of the process that led to both this light and the one at Spark; we salute her for her impressive and persistent work.

We hope it will make the crossing safer for everyone, an outcome we can promote by rigorously following the speed limit there and elsewhere.

Annual City of Atlanta Resident Survey Due by April 15

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

City of Atlanta logo colorThe City of Atlanta is conducting an online survey on a number of topics; the press release and link are below. If you find that a potential response you might want to give is not listed, there is sometimes an opportunity to provide your own at the end of a question.

We hope you will spend a few minutes on this survey and let your voice be heard. If you have suggestions or critiques about the survey itself, please include them. Writing a useful survey takes real skill and this one may not be perfect, but knowing how citizens are viewing given issues is obviously very important and can help drive city policy. We will try to share the results in the Voice. Survey responses will be accepted only through April 15.

From the Office of the Mayor’s website:

Each year, the City of Atlanta conducts a survey to learn what residents think about their city government and the services it provides, and you are invited to participate this year! The purpose of this survey is to gather valuable feedback from the perspective of Atlanta’s most important asset – its residents. Your response to this survey is critical because it will be used to understand your satisfaction with city services and help us determine how best to prioritize future improvements.

https://www.feedback.infosurv.com/se/4D441EF06A4784A4

SF Coffee Hosts Meet and Greet with Artist Jamie Calkin

Note: Images in this article were taken from http://www.jamiecalkin.com.

jamie_headshotAthens-based artist Jamie Calkin is kicking off a month-long exhibit at San Fransisco Coffee, 1192 N. Highland Ave. in VaHi, with a meet and greet at the cafe on Friday, April 1 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Jamie is a science teacher turned full-time artist who paints with ink and watercolor in the plein air style. Jamie loves to paint street scenes and buildings, and one of his most notable pieces is a 64-foot long mural in the University of Georgia’s student center.

Jamie regularly produces commissions, prints, murals, and other forms of art for his clients, both in Athens and elsewhere. Recently, he completed a series of Atlanta paintings which will be on display at San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co. in April. He hopes you’ll stop by to check out his work.

To learn more about Jamie and to view his work, visit http://www.jamiecalkin.com/ and  https://www.facebook.com/events/807199999424081/.

ARCH+LONG+BROAD-COLLEGE+PRINT

Traffic Advisory: Filming at Clermont Hotel on March 31

Filming inside the Clermont Hotel on Ponce de Leon Ave. will close the curb parking lane and sidewalk on both sides of Bonaventure Ave. between Ponce and North Ave. on March 31. Be advised there also will be set up work on March 30 and tear down work on April 1 that may also cause minor traffic disruptions.

According to the notice we received, all filming will take place inside the hotel and there should be no traffic disruption on Ponce itself.  See map below.

Bonaventure Traffic Plan

GDOT Seeks Input for Briarcliff Rd. Study

Passing this notice along from the Georgia Department of Transportation:

Photo Credit: John Becker

Photo Credit: John Becker

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), in collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is conducting a Road Safety Audit (RSA) for State Route 42 / Briarcliff Road NE, from Ponce de Leon Avenue NE to North Druid Hills Road.  An RSA is a formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an interdisciplinary team of transportation professionals.  RSAs have been used successfully for a wide variety of locations to identify potential solutions leading to both short-term improvements and longer term efforts including construction projects.  RSAs are proactive tools, not solely dependent on crash data, but that use an innovative approach, including firsthand observation, to identify potential safety issues and enhancement opportunities to be considered in improvement projects.

As part of the RSA process for this corridor the audit team is conducting a survey in order to obtain input from key individuals and groups that have an interest in the study area along the stretch of State Route 42/Briarcliff Road NE between Ponce de Leon Avenue NE and North Druid Hills Road.   You are receiving this email because you were identified as a potentially interested party and the audit team would like to gather your thoughts about potential safety concerns and possible solutions to those safety concerns along this corridor.  We invite you to take a few minutes to complete the survey. Please feel free to share this survey with others you think might be interested in taking it.

Please CLICK HERE to launch the survey, or enter the following URL into your browser: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BriarcliffRSAPlease note, in order to expedite the audit process, this survey will be available for a limited time: it will remain open until 11:59pm on Friday April 15, 2016. Please contact Michael Turpeau, State Safety Program Supervisor, Georgia Department of Transportation, with any questions: MTurpeau@dot.ga.gov.

This survey asks some very specific questions about Briarcliff’s intersections with several roads.  If you have not traveled them recently, you may wish to refresh your memory before taking the survey.

image003

MARTA Extends Hours of Operation for Bus Route #36

marta-logoThanks to Courtenay Dr. resident Cary Aiken, MARTA will be extending the hours of operation for Bus Route #36 (No. Decatur Rd./Virginia-Highland) from the current 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., effective April 18.

Aiken noticed that when MARTA Route #’s 45 and 36 were combined a while back, connectivity to either Emory or Midtown was lost after 9 p.m. This caused problems in terms of getting home late at night from events he chose to attend in either of those areas.

Aiken brought the issue to the attention of MARTA Service Planner II Andrew McBurney in January and McBurney advised in late February that Bus #36 service would indeed be extended to 11 p.m.

McBurney additionally advised that starting in April Bus #36 will be re-routed to end at Decatur Station due to a transit-oriented development construction project at Avondale Station, where the bus currently terminates. The re-route is expected to be in place for approximately 18 months.

First Plastic Reduction Day Set for March 24

thOn March 27, 2015, Atlanta City Councilmember Kwanza Hall, along with local Atlanta artist Pam Longobardi, and a group of international attendees, convened at the Centers for Disease Control and officially proclaimed this date as Plastic Reduction Day Atlanta. In recognition of this date, a group of Atlanta-area researchers and artists have created a pledge drive to reduce the use of single-use plastics in restaurants throughout the city. The group hopes that Atlanta businesses will serve their last plastic straw – or better yet – give up single-use plastics altogether.

Here’s a schedule of events for Atlanta’s first Plastic Reduction Day:

6 PM: Meet & Greet at Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Dr., NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

6:30 – 8 PM: Film Screenings / Speaker Series, also at Midtown Art Cinema

8 PM: Cocktail Hour at nearby Apres Diem

Click here to view the event day flyer. Click here to go to the EventBrite site to register.

Intersection of Barnett Street and Virginia Circle Now a 4-Way Stop

IMG_4753

The city has installed stop signs for north and southbound traffic on Barnett. Previously, only motorists going in either direction on Virginia Circle were required to stop at the intersection.

Nearby resident Anurag Sahu had witnessed a few accidents and numerous near misses at the intersection over the years and reached out to VHCA to see what could be done. City Councilmember Alex Wan asked the city’s Office of Transportation to examine the situation.

Stop signs are not a cure for many traffic challenges.  Transportation engineers have a set of specific criteria – volume of traffic, signage on nearby roads, speed, and visibility among them – by which they make such decisions. It makes sense because the impacts can be widely distributed. This decision was not clear-cut, but after considerable input from neighbors and VHCA Safety Committee members Peggy Berg and Jenifer Keenan, the city decided to install the signs.

As always, we appreciate Councilmember Wan’s willingness to initiate and support the study, and we hope this change will reduce accidents and improve safety at the intersection.

Traffic Advisory: Publix Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon

ATC_EventBadges_CMYK__MarathonExpect traffic delays, road closings along the course route on Sunday March 20 between 7AM-1PM

More than 12,000 runners, 2,500 volunteers and 30,000 spectators will be along the course from downtown Atlanta to Decatur and back. Runners will pass through Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia State University, MLK Historic District, Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, The Carter Center, Candler Park, Agnes Scott College, Emory University, Druid Hills, Virginia-Highland, Midtown and Georgia Tech. VaHi residents should be aware of the course route and plan their travel accordingly.

To view a map of the Marathon and Half Marathon course, click here. For detailed traffic and road closure information, click here.

Here’s an overview of how VaHi traffic will be impacted:

Shortly before 8 AM half marathon runners will enter the neighborhood, proceeding north on N. Highland Ave. from Poncey-Highland. Runners will turn left at Virginia Ave., then right on Park Dr. Runners will proceed down Park, across Monroe and into Piedmont Park. Partial roadway closures will begin on these streets around 7:15 AM and streets should reopen to normal traffic by 10:30 AM.

Shortly before 9 AM marathon runners will enter the neighborhood, proceeding west on Stillwood Dr. from Briarcliff Rd. Runners will turn right on Los Angeles, make a quick right on N. Highland followed by a quick left on Los Angeles. Runners will continue on Brookridge Dr. after the road changes name, staying right at the ‘Y’, then turn right on Elkmont, then left on Orme Circle. Runners will cross Monroe and proceed into Piedmont Park. Partial road closures will begin on these streets around 8:30 AM and street should reopen to normal traffic by 12:45 PM.

A Community Meeting with LifeLine Animal Project

lets talk flierBy Kay Stephenson

Several months ago on a Sunday morning, VaHi resident Elizabeth Baker (who operates a local dog walking business) found two loose dogs on her front porch. She was able to get them leashed and checked (unsuccessfully) for microchips.  It was the start of a challenging journey that lasted well into the night, when the dogs were finally taken into the Fulton County Animal Shelter.

Hudson-6Once the dogs were safe (and happily reunited with their owner a couple of days later), Elizabeth and I had some conversation about how difficult it can be for private citizens to know how to help loose dogs that we encounter around the neighborhood. Virginia-Highland is a dog and cat loving community and almost daily we hear about or are directly involved with cats and dogs that need help or are lost.

Many are reunited with owners after a quick post on our neighborhood bulletin boards. Others are taken in and eventually re-homed through rescue groups and individuals. However, when those solutions are not an option, most of us don’t know where to turn. In the past, many of us avoided contacting the county shelter for fear that a healthy animal would not fare well in that environment.

Kittens-12Enter LifeLine Animal Project. Both the Fulton County and DeKalb County animal shelters are now operated by Lifeline Animal Project. Anisa Telwar-Kaicker, Founder & CEO of Anisa International and Board Chair of Lifeline Animal Project is also a Virginia-Highland resident and committed pet lover. Over the past several months Anisa and I have continued the conversation started with Elizabeth back in October.

The result of those discussions is that Virginia-Highland Neighborhood Watch is hosting a gathering for the community to hear from Rebecca Guinn, Lifeline founder and CEO, and Laura Hudson, Director of the Fulton County Shelter. They will share information about how our community can work with them more effectively. They will answer questions about the shelter, when and how to contact animal control officers, and share their plan to make Atlanta a no-kill city.

Flora-4On Wednesday April 20th we will gather at the Trees Atlanta TreeHouse, 112 Krog Street, Suite 7 (The Stove Works) from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. To attend, RSVP to VaHiSafety@gmail.com with name and number of attendees. We are limited to 50 people, so don’t miss out.

Special thanks to Trees Atlanta for the use of their new education facility right on the Atlanta BeltLine. We encourage you to carpool, walk or bike to this event. Parking is available in the valet/pay lot ($3) at Krog Street Market, in the gravel lot adjacent to The Stove Works, or on nearby side streets.

For more information on Lifeline and the animal services they provide for Fulton county residents: http://www.fultonanimalservices.com/

To learn more about the Lifeline Animal project and its no-kill goals: http://www.lifelineanimal.org/news/96-are-you-in

Most vets will scan animals for microchips with no charge, including Ansley Animal Clinic, Briarcliff Animal Clinic, Inman Park Animal Hospital, Intown Animal Hospital, and Pets Are People, Too.

Kay Stephenson is a long-time Virginia-Highland resident and serves as a volunteer for the Virginia-Highland Neighborhood Watch. 

Piedmont Park Activity Update

Lake Clara Meer #1Here’s an update on a few events and activities taking place soon at Piedmont Park, as passed along to the VHCA board by Cresthill Ave. resident Ken Haldin.

  • The Green Market in Piedmont Park opens this Saturday for the 2016 season. The market is open every Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM at the 12th St. entrance into the park.
  • FREE History tours are given each week at Green Market. A walking tour that gives you a fun and educational tour of the park. 
  • Doggie Dash 5K benefiting the Piedmont Park Dog Park is this Saturday March 20. $25 pre-registration and $35 day of. Onsite registration is at 8 AM and the race starts at 9 AM. You can run or walk with or without your dog. Strollers are also welcome. Winners get a medal and also a one night stay at the W Midtown Hotel.
  • 2016 Season Pool Passes are available and range from $125 for a Senior (55 or Over) to $395 for a family of 5 or more. Get unlimited access to the pool during all pool hours, special pass holder only hours, late night swims and guest passes.
  • EnviroVenture Summer Camp registration is open.  Camp runs June 6 to July 29 with different themes each week.

For more information on these events and all the goings-on at Piedmont Park, click here to visit their website.

Recycling News

thReduce, reuse, recycle.

Those concepts are what the three sides of the chasing arrows logo found on every recyclable item represent.  The logo informs the consumer that the item is recyclable where allowed.  Recycling is just a portion of the larger effort that goes into saving our natural resources.  The big picture approach includes a fourth R: refuse, as in, refuse to accept single-use items.  Bring a reusable shopping bag to the grocery store and refuse the single-use plastic bag.  Bring a travel mug for beverages, and refuse a single-use coffee cup, wrapper, and lid.  Up to 52 billion paper coffee cups per year are used once, then thrown away.  Due to health regulations, the cups must be made almost entirely of virgin – not previously used – paper.  Would you join the City of Atlanta and reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse?

The City of Atlanta accepts the following recyclables curbside: cardboard, carton board, paper, glass, plastics #1-5 & 7, metal cans, and juice cartons.  All items to be recycled should be clean and dry, and placed loosely in bin, not bagged. Lids and caps should be removed and placed with recycling bins.

The City of Atlanta hosts Recycle Day at 850 Oak St., SW, Atlanta, GA  30310.  This event is held the 3rd Saturday of each month, except in December, between 9 AM to noon.   Acceptable items include:  paper for shredding, clothing, tires, #6 polystyrene, electronics, and all items accepted curbside.

www.atlantaga.gov/recycling

New Life for North Highland Park Bike Rack at IMS

The bike rack at its original location at North Highland Park. Photo courtesy Jack White.

The bike rack at its original location at North Highland Park. Photo courtesy Jack White.

Rarely Used Bike Rack at NHP Repurposed for Use at Inman Middle School

By David Brandenberger

The bicycle rack that has lived at the northeast corner of N. Highland and St. Charles at North Highland Park – likely since the days of the public library – has a new home. Due largely to its obscured location at the park, the rack has received very little use since the lot was converted to greenspace. After noting the increasing use of pedal-power as a mode of transport for students heading to and from Inman Middle School (even more so now that the weather is getting nicer)—and the reality that IMS’ existing bicycle racks were often filled to capacity – the idea of relocating and donating the rack to the school was circulated with IMS staff and the LSC. Several staff members both acknowledged the need for another bike rack and resoundingly supported the gift.

Workers prepare the bike rack's new site at Inman Middle School. VHCA Board member David Brandenberger shovelling at far left. Photo courtesy Jack White.

Workers prepare the bike rack’s new site at Inman Middle School. VHCA Board member David Brandenberger shovelling at far left. Photo courtesy Jack White.

On a fine February Saturday two weekends ago, several neighborhood volunteers and Board members dug up the 10’ long, heavy steel structure, hoisted it into a truck, transported, and then installed the ‘new’ bike rack at Inman next to the portables. We are happy to report that the rack is now experiencing unprecedented use in its second career and new location!

The repurposed bike rack at its new location at Inman Middle School. Photo courtesy of Jack White.

The repurposed bike rack at its new location at Inman Middle School. Photo courtesy of Jack White.

We note that Inman now has five bike racks (up from two a year ago), a measurable reflection of the growth of cycling in VaHi. It’s also a reminder to us all to drive appropriately and be on the alert for cyclists of all ages at all times – and let’s please double our attention around schools.

“Slow Down” Yard Signs Available

Slow Down Atlanta_Signage_v4Is speeding an issue on the street where you live?

The office of City Council President Caesar Mitchell is distributing “Slow Down” yard signs as part of its #ATLSlowDown campaign, “a citywide initiative to reduce vehicular speeding in our neighborhoods and communities.”

If speeding is an ongoing issue where you live, click on this link to order your yard sign.