Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Introducing... The YPODs!

www.dunwoodycommerce.org/ypods
I've been working on this project for several months.

The YPODs are the Young Professionals of Dunwoody, a committee of the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce that was designed specifically for the needs of young professionals ages 21 - 35.   The YPOD site is a "subsite" within the main Chamber web complex.

This demographic needed two things:  1)  an image that is slick, hip, and upscale in a sense that appeals to a generation that was born with a cell phone in its hand - that is, radically different from the primary Chamber site and 2) a layout that was easily adaptable to mobile devices.  Everything had to be mobile ready, on any brand of device. 

I decided to create a theme that mimicked the standard iPhone graphic and utilized a grid layout of icons that resembled an app.  There is no menu, just a "Home" link on each page.  But it's still a website, and appears the same whether you're looking at a desktop, laptop, tablet/iPad, or smartphone.  There's no mistaking the YPODs for any other committee or initiative of the Chamber.  A blog is maintained by YPOD committee members.  Prospective members can even join through the online registration form, or contact the leadership with questions.


Most of all, the site is usable by any mobile device.

<---  Try it!

Update on Bone Marrow Testing Drive for Isaac del Valle

Again, from Holy Redeemer's email list:

Dear Friends and Family of Isaac:
This note is to try to answer as many questions as possible concerning the bone marrow testing event that will be held on Friday, September 30th at Marist High School (located at 3790 Ashford Dunwoody Rd, NE, Atlanta, GA 30319). The purpose of this event is to specifically look for a bone marrow match for Isaac del Valle, a 10th grade student at Marist. Details are as follows:
The bone marrow drive will take place from 12:00-8:00 at Marist and people can come any time during these hours. No appointment is necessary. Testing involves a simple cheek swab and should take about 20 minutes.
Testing will be performed on individuals ages 18 and older. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (and many other children’s hospitals) has policies which prohibit bone marrow transplants from unrelated donors under the age of 18. Because of this policy, the del Valles have decided to limit testing to those ages 18 and older.
We cannot know who might be a match for Isaac. His doctors believe the most likely match will be someone between the ages of 18-60 of a mix of Hispanic and Caucasian background. However, anyone can be a match and are welcome to be tested. We do have a limited number of free tests for those who cannot afford the $115 cost. We do not want to turn away ANYONE willing to be tested and, therefore, are seeking donations to cover the cost of more test kits. If you would like to help us purchase test kits which will be made available to willing participants, you can donate online to www.curechildhoodcancer.org. Click on “donate” and put “Isaac” in the comments section. A special fund has been set up for Isaac at CURE Childhood Cancer for the express purpose of accepting donations to purchase test kits.
We will be selling t-shirts on Friday for $10.00 each in support of Isaac. All proceeds will go towards the test costs.
11Alive has been covering Isaac’s story and will be on site at Marist on Friday during the test drive to continue the coverage of this urgent bone marrow drive. We want to thank everyone for their assistance in helping to find a match for Isaac and in particular to Marist for their support and allowing the bone marrow drive to be held at the school. Thank you to everyone who has already donated money for this bone marrow drive and in advance to those who are considering a donation.
We are urgently looking for volunteers to cover one or two hour shifts from 12-8 pm on Friday. We need at least 15 volunteers per shift. If you can volunteer, please send the time slot you are available to Lynne Bauman at LBauman@syntapharma.com.
The following are some FAQ’s regarding bone marrow testing and bone marrow transplants. If you still have questions, please email them to Lynne Bauman at LBauman@syntapharma.com or Kristin Connor atkristin@curechildhoodcancer.org. Please do not call Kashi Labs. They have been overwhelmed with calls and do not have the resources to handle a large volume of calls.
1. What if I'm already on the registry? Should I be tested again Friday?
No. If you are on the registry, we already know you are not a match for Isaac and there is no need to be re-tested.
2. What if I can't come Friday or am already on the registry? How can I help Isaac?

Because of the cost involved in expedited testing ($115 per person), we are trying to raise money to cover the cost of the kits so cost does not prevent anyone willing from being tested. The more people tested, particularly those fitting the profile of 18-60, Caucasian/Hispanic mix, the greater the chance a match will be found. You can contribute to this effort by visiting www.curechildhoodcancer.org and clicking on "donate". Enter "Isaac" in the comments section.
3. If I contribute to Isaac's fund through CURE, how will the money be used?
100% of all donations to Isaac's fund will be used to cover the cost of bone marrow testing. In the event funds donated are not exhausted by the bone marrow testing, excess funds will be used to cover cancer related costs incurred by the family, or, if the family chooses, they will be donated to CURE to further our mission of curing childhood cancer through research.
4. Are there medical conditions which might make someone ineligible to be a donor?

Yes. There are many factors that may make a person medically ineligible to donate. For guidance, please visit http://www.marrow.org/Join/Medical_Guidelines/Medical_Guidelines_for_Joining_the_Registry.aspx.
5. How is a bone marrow match determined?
Doctors look for a donor who matches their patient's tissue type, specifically their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) tissue type. HLAs are proteins — or markers — found on most cells in your body. Your immune system uses these markers to recognize which cells belong in your body and which do not. The closer the match between the patient's HLA markers and yours, the better for the patient.
Source: http://www.marrow.org/
6. What happens if I am identified as a potential match?
More testing will be done to see if you are the best possible match for the patient. Additionally, an information session will be scheduled so you can learn more about the donation process, risks and side effects.
7. If I am tested Friday, will I be added to the National Bone Marrow Registry

No. This testing is being done by a private lab specifically for Isaac. If you wish to join the National Bone Marrow Registry, you will need to contact the Be the Match Foundation, http://www.marrow.org/.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Who Wants to Work for Dunwoody Bakery?

Announcements have popped up on John's blog and the Aha!Connection about Dunwoody Bakery opening up a retail location in the strip mall between Jett Ferry/Dunwoody Club/Mt Vernon.  This is a Dunwoody-Mom-owned firm that not only uses organic ingredients, but also has a line of gluten-free products.
Here's the ad from today's Crier:
Not only are they increasing their visibility, and improving their sales, they're creating jobs too, right here in town!

Click to email your CV:  jbakerlesperance@thedunwoodybakery.com

(Hint to the owners:  show up with cupcakes at a Dunwoody Chamber networking event and you'll be beating away the traffic with a stick!)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Restaurant in Dunwoody Village

Ya Shu Yuen left a gaping hole with red doors when it closed suddenly.
In its place is now Carbonara Trattoria with new doors.

I haven't tried it yet, but my next-door neighbor has and they had a wonderful time.

Here's their website  (bare bones) and here's Facebook If you know the story behind this restaurant and its owners (or, if you are the owners) post a reply and bring us up to speed!

Support Dunwoody business and support our city!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bone Marrow Drive for Marist Sophomore

I received the following via Holy Redeemer's email network this morning:
Dear Holy Redeemer Families,


On Friday September 30th friends of Isaac Del Valle—former Holy Redeemer student and now a Marist sophomore-- have organized a ‘Bone Marrow Test Drive’ to be held at Marist School, 12pm to 8pm, in the Centennial Center.

The Kashi Lab has agreed to lower its cost per test to $115 per person. Some sponsorship is available and more is hoped for! Note that this testing is still specific to Isaac, and is not for the National Bank of Bone Marrow Donors [sic] (National Marrow Donor Program)

The testing range is between 16 years and 60 years. Children (16 and 17) WILL REQUIRE a waiver from their parents.

Channel 11 has taken up Isaac’s need and it will have the first airing of his story tonight at 11.00pm on Channel 11. They will continue to air his story throughout next week and will give specific messaging on the testing that will be done and even the population they are hoping to attract so the best possible match might be found.

You will find helpful information about becoming a bone marrow donor at this website. http://www.marrow.org/Registry_Members/Donation/Donation_FAQs.aspx#happens

If you are willing to be tested and/or can contribute towards a sponsorship, please contact Ana Shields at anashields@comcast.net

Thank you.
This subject is near and dear to my heart because I worked in Pediatric Oncology back in the day, as well as in the Blood/Marrow Transplant department (currently called Stem Cell Transplant).  In 1996, I registered with the National Marrow Donor Program as a potential donor and had my HLA types recorded for this kind of emergency.  I haven't received a call, so that means my tissue type has already been screened and is not a match.  There are MILLIONS of potential donors tissue screened and listed on the database.  They got one match - ONE out of 8 million - and it fell through.  He's still waiting.

This story is more common than not:  tissue types have to be very close matches and more people die waiting for a match to appear than actually get one.  People of mixed racial heritage are even more difficult to match because of the unique genetic scramble. 

If you would consider being a bone marrow donor, please use the links above for more information and have your tissue type tested ASAP or at the drive next Friday.  If you are unable to potentially donate marrow, please consider donating the cost of a test so someone else can. 

You can also register to potentially match other patients in need.  Contact the NMDP at the link above for more information.

Come on, Dunwoody - time is of the essence and a life is in the balance.

Takorea - a New Dunwoody-Resident-Owned Restaurant

Buying local isn't just measured in miles.  You can buy local by supporting businesses owned by your neighbors, wherever it is!  Their website describes Takorea as "the best of Mexican and Korean street food ... East Meets Mex"  Interesting idea!  Check them out at http://www.mytakorea.com/ and at their Buckhead location on Juniper Street.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Volunteer Websites - Keeping a Good Relationship with your Webmaster

A lot of not-for-profit organizations and ultra-small businesses are caught in a catch-22 when it comes to their online promotion.  They need a professional website presence to give a first good impression online, but they don't have the money to pay for a truly high-end custom job.

Many of these organizations solicit a donated website like any other donation.  But building a professional website is not the same as simply writing a check or dropping off a load of supplies.  There are numerous factors involved and good communication is essential to a good working relationship.  Here are some tips for working with a volunteer webmaster that will make everyone's life easier.

If your organization's membership includes a web professional, DO ask them if they would be willing to donate their time and/or other resources to a project.  Some pros are happy for the chance to contribute to their favorite cause or need to build their portfolios.  DON'T merely assume that their skills are yours for the taking.  Freelancers may not have the time or may not be able to afford to donate their resources.  Salaried employees may not be permitted to use company assets in this fashion.

If you are not able to pay for a webmaster's services, DO consider other forms of compensation.  Like promoting their services via advertising in your organization's publication.  Or endorsing them on LinkedIn, Yelp, Yahoo Local, Google Local, etc.  Or providing them with a testimonial to use in their advertising.  It is very difficult for web professionals to write off their services on their taxes.  A creative approach I learned from a colleague involves exchanging checks for the same amount:  the webmaster gives a donation to the org, the org pays the webmaster.  Both sides break even but the advantage is reporting to the IRS.  Yes, it's legal.

DO decide what your site is going to entail before embarking on the project.  DO include the webmaster in the conversation to determine exactly what services they will be able to provide, and how much time.  DO put these decisions in writing so both sides know what to expect of each other.  DO allow the webmaster to set some limits.  DO agree to a "sunset" time when further development or maintenance is turned over to another group member internally.  Remember, they have to work their pro bono assistance in with the jobs that pay the bills!

DO appoint one or two people as the webmaster contact for your group.  It is easy to let a creative endeavor like designing a website become a tug-of-war between personalities.  DON'T drag the webmaster into any internal conflicts.  It will sink your project as well as alienate the very person trying to help you.

DON'T add more features or requests on to the project after it starts.  The webmaster has to measure the amount of time they can donate.  Additional development not previously discussed may be infringing on time that someone else has already bought and paid for.  There's even a term for it:  "scope creep".  Unless there has been a critical oversight, or a significant change in the organization, avoid last minute additions or "emergency changes". 

DO invest time and effort into learning to maintain the site, if you don't already know how.  DO know if you require any software, or how to manage the content management system (CMS) that is going to run the site.  The more the organization can handle itself on the web, the less likely you'll get into a bind if you need changes made and your volunteer is no longer available.

DON'T assume that you'll have your webmaster's services indefinitely.  Situations change, business picks up, life moves on.  Besides, some people get very comfortable having a professional at their side, and forget that they're working with a volunteer, not a paid contractor.  That's the fastest way to destroy an otherwise good relationship.  Service-on-demand-without-question is a commodity that you pay for.  See the comment above re:  sunset time.

Finally, DO take the opportunity to learn all you can from your volunteer.  You'll be able to apply their insight and technical tips to future communications.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Come Buy Our Stuff

A while back I posted in "You Know You're in Dunwoody When...." that no one pays retail for kids' stuff.

It's true!

This weekend is the Kingswood KidStuff Consignment sale, one of many held in churches around Dunwoody. Buyers get deep discounts on good quality childrens' clothing, toys and supplies, sellers get some pizza and beer money, and Kingswood UMC gets funding for its mission programs.  Everybody wins!

This is my first time as a seller.  Be gentle with me!  I managed to save lots of great stuff and now that my kids have outgrown it, it's up for sale!
Here's the official verbage.....

KidStuff & More Consignment Sale

Come shop with us!
Incredible bargains on everything for babies & children!
  • Fall and winter clothing, shoes, and accessories
  • Costumes and dress-up clothes
  • Baby equipment, bedding, room d├ęcor
  • Books, games, toys, movies, music, software, video games
  • Bikes, trikes, scooters, skates, athletic gear

 
Sale Times:
Thursday, September 22, 5 pm – 9 pm (no children under 10, please)
Friday, September 23, 9 am – 2 pm
Saturday, September 24, 8 am – 1 pm (many items 1/2 price!)

 
Kingswood United Methodist Church
5015 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody, GA 30338
(corner of Tilly Mill Rd. and North Peachtree Road)
Community Life Center Gymnasium
(Use North Peachtree Road entrance)

 
For more information:
http://www.kingswoodumc.org/missions/kidstuff.htm

Who Likes Mike?

Anyone else running for office who'd like to post an announcement for their event, feel free to send it on over.  :-)
I've got questions of my own for everybody coming up....

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

FREE - Two Tickets to Jazz and Art from the Heart

SDOC is a corporate sponsor of the Dunwoody Friends of Childrens' Healthcare of Atlanta.
Check out my earlier post for the story behind that decision and our involvement in Taste of Dunwoody.

This Saturday is Jazz and Art from the Heart, also benefiting CHOA.

Normally my husband and I would be here with bells on but, alas, we have a scheduling conflict.

So the tickets that go along with our sponsorship are up for grabs!

First Dunwoodian to send me an email at duncan@sdocpublishing.com to request the tickets gets them.  That's $125 gala tickets free for typing fast! 

Include in your email the two names of the people who would like to go, so I can get you on the guest list.  Enjoy the gala with my compliments!

Opportunity Knocking - Now that we have it, what do we do with it?

According to Dunwoody Patch, the PVC purchase is now a done deal.  Right or wrong, whatever the reason was, we the City now own it.

Now what?

Everyone and their dog has an opinion about what should be done with this property, usually centered around their own personal priorities.  That's normal.  However the City can't use an individual's single perspective in this kind of decision.

My opinion is it should be used for some facility that we do not already have, and can be created on a reasonable budget.  (I'm leaving the definition of "reasonable" to whichever CPA is holding the City's pursestrings.)  The City should also not compete with the private sector.  The latter pays taxes - don't drive them out of business. 

We already have tennis courts, baseball/softball fields, youth soccer fields, a nature center, community garden, greenhouse, playgrounds, and nature trails.  These already exist in other parks, and private facilities like church campuses.   Some of them are very underutilized.  Paying for something twice isn't a good use of tax money, by any standard. 

There are two things that Dunwoody doesn't have:
1)  A freestanding municipal center for our government
2)  A multiuse football/soccer/track field for Dunwoody cluster schools.

The first idea is not original - it has been bandied about ever since the first news broke about this land deal.  There's nothing wrong with renting space temporarily.  Dunwoody only had a few months to get its feet under it and start operations and leasing a space was the only option feasible for that timeframe.   But for the long haul, leasing can be more trouble than its worth.  Buildings get sold, landlords go bankrupt, mortgages go into foreclosure.  Time to start thinking about developing a municipal space wholly owned by the city that doesn't exist according to outside real estate machinations. 

There's been a lot of chatter about "what to do with Georgetown" as in, how should it be developed, improved, etc.  The general opinion I've heard is that it just "isn't a nice area".  I haven't seen any crime statistics but when I go down there for a bottle of milk or baby formula at some obscene hour because I didnt' get to it during the day, I don't feel unsafe.  Sure, the shopping center is an older building, that doesn't make it "bad" or blighted.  But if there are concerns about public safety, try putting your police precinct smack dab in the middle of the development.  Any remaining do-bads will scatter like roaches in daylight. 

The idea for the second option came from the last DHA public meeting where a gentleman representing DHS girls' lacrosse appeared with two ladies from the team requesting financial support to refurbish a field on Peachtree MS' property for practice.  My head has nearly exploded more than once from the twisted logic that is DCSS so I don't try to make sense of it.  There's good and bad news here.  The good news is that the kids team members at DHS are willing to put in the sweat equity to earn their money and pay for what they need, even going so far as to rebuild a field in a flood plain that DCSS owns.  They'll do what it takes to provide for themselves.  The bad news is the same 'ole story:  DCSS isn't going to provide facilities for Dunwoody, they don't give a damn about the increasing student population on the north side of the County, and maintaining the status quo in Stone Mountain is Priority One. 

There's nothing stopping the City from creating a sports complex with scholastic sports in mind.  Dunwoody HS doesn't have a home stadium - even for this Yankee that's ridiculous, moreso in the heart of SEC country.  The girls' lacrosse team is willing to rebuild a flood plain because North DeKalb Stadium is too booked for any additional teams to use.  Add to that boys' lacrosse, football, soccer, track & field, and you have one very busy athletic calendar. 

A municipal sports complex geared toward scholastic athletics would provide teams from high school (and middle school, if necessary) the space to get practice and workouts in and a place to call "home field".  The PVC farm has easy access to Peachtree and DHS, as well as 285.  There's room for parking, and even access to MARTA.  Bring in private vendors to manage concessions and maintenance, so you create jobs - hopefully for Dunwoody-area firms. 

If DCSS should want to use the field for official season games, they would be able to negotiate a reasonable fee.  (Clarification:  this does not mean that DCSS would have priority over a Dunwoody stadium or even that they would have any rights to it at all.  This does mean that if a regular game between Dunwoody and another DCSS school were to take place in this hypothetical stadium, DCSS would have to pay up to some degree.)

Thus Dunwoody scholastic athletics would have a place to play, and room to expand.  If the "charter cluster" concept, where local authorities/boards could manage the local schools, comes to fruition, or even if Dunwoody should find itself in another county, the infrastructure is there to support the schools' athletic needs.

With all of this said, the City should never again have to ask the opening question in the title.  "So now that we have it, what do we do with it?"  Plan first, the negotiate and buy.  Not the other way around, unless someone at City Hall thinks we have money and karma enough to squander. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

You know it's election season when....

OK, kids, time to fess up:

Who contracted the robo-survey that I got at dinner time tonight regarding the Mayor's race?

Opportunity Knocking - Transportation Growing Pains

John's blog has a new article today about a severe wipeout on North Peachtree Rd this past Friday, near Kingsley Lake.

A week doesn't go by without hearing someone complain about traffic and the dangers thereof.  You have speeding everywhere, most notably on North Peachtree (commuters getting to/from 285) Tilly Mill (students at GPC) Womack Road (ditto) and on Roberts Road (commuters cutting through to 400).  Local neighborhoods (like Village Mill) have had to make modifications to keep traffic and speed down and they get very sensitive when cars start backing up or parking on their streets.  (Like when Dunwoody High was being renovated.)

Add to this the MARTA bus stop at Tilly Mill and Womack where riders heading to class jaywalk around the bus to get to the building sooner.  Right where other students may be speeding in their cars.  Someone's going to get killed there.

It's getting even more complicated:  there is now a greater push to rebuild the streets so pedestrians and bike riders can make better use of them.  However - who remembers what all the "rules of the road" are for pedestrians and bikes as well as for cars?  I'll bet money a lot of people either flat out don't know or misunderstand them.  Then you have a subset of pedestrians and bicyclists who think that because they may have the "right of way" they can defy the laws of physics by venturing out too close to an approaching car.  There's an effort to incorporate different kinds of transportation on the streets but what kind of effort is there to fully integrate them safely?

Finally, "Dunwoody" is not just the 48,000 people counted in the last Census.  During the day, the population is up around 110,000 at least.  That's people who come in to work, go to school, worship, use recreational facilities (including the JCC), socialize, and just drive through.  Any effort at preventing accidents before they happen has to include that larger community.  Dunwoody groups and blogs - including John's post above - isn't going to get out to the majority of the people who need to hear it. 

So how do we do it?

Enforcement is a big part.  I'll leave that one on Chief Grogan's desk, he understands that process better than I ever will. 

Basic PR outreach to all of our organizations - especially those that cater to a large number of regular "out of towners" like GPC - is also critical.  The City is going to have to partner with the organizations in town to get info into people's heads about staying safe on the roads.  GPC, all houses of worship, the JCC, and the CVB and Chamber of Commerce.   I'll even start you off:  "Drive Safe in Dunwoody".   If you must, drag one of the "Smart" phrases out of the branding style guide - "Smart Commute" could be reinterpreted for a campaign.  "Smart Travelling" would work too. 

Get local businesses behind a "safe roads" ad campaign and position it as a win-win for everybody.  Make it part of one of the usual fairs (Music Fest, Lemonade Days, 4th of July, Art Fest, etc etc etc) or create a new festival or fair.  I'd suggest one at GPC where there are plenty of games and opportunities to win free stuff.   The college kids will flock to it.  Bottom line, create a fun and social event designed to inform attendees about the rules of the road.  Interested businesses could offer up freebies, contests, or even merch for sale.  Imagine Sports Authority selling workout wear and sneakers.  Auto Zone showing off the latest car rims.  That bike shop in Roswell (I think it's Roswell?) displaying the latest models.  Even MARTA could try to promote its bus routes for school and work.  Even local gas stations, car washes, and auto shops could get into the act both advertising and promoting safe driving.  Since parks like Brook Run and the Nature Center see visitors from all over, how about posting signs/literature at their exits, reminding everyone using the road to use caution and know the law.

That's the "off the top of my head" approach.  Get the authoritative final word on what are the rules of the road for multiple types of vehicles and pedestrians.  Step up enforcement.  Make it a full-scale PR/Awareness campaign.  I believe it will be a lot more effective than an obscure "golden sneaker award" that the general populace doesn't care about.

(Bumped to the top - bad timing w/ 9/11. )

Friday, September 9, 2011

Music Festival Updates

Yes, I actually do "work", despite a bunch of posts that seem contrary.

Some major movement on the Music Festival site.

First, the Chili Cook-Off is "on hiatus", meaning "not happening in 2011".  Don't shoot the messenger I just post what they tell me.

However the Battle of the Bands is back!  I just wrote up an online registration form last night and an update on the main page.  Registration fee is $30.  Perform to win an opening act gig at the Georgia Theater in Athens.  Moms and Dads if the teens have a band that has taken over the garage and is driving you out of your tree with the jam sessions, get them focused on something serious!

Here's the Battle info page

Here's the registration page.  You can upload an MP3 as an audition clip but your life and the lives of the festival staff will be easier if you link to a website with your music on it.

The new Young Adult Zone will be rounded out with a "Break Down" contest.  I'll post the 411 as soon as I get it.

Finally the Food Vendor application has been reopened.  This is your last chance to sell food at the Festival.  Sign up ASAP because once I get the Word From On High, it gets closed again.

Check out the Volunteer app and the Submit your pictures forms.  I'm working on the photo gallery as we speak (type?)  Festivals function with volunteers and it's the only way to get a true inside look.

Best place for questions is Oktober Productions at inquiries@dunwoodymusicfestival.com.

No time off for me.  I'm back to the gold mines all the way through Monday.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to Rebuild Dunwoody Zoning

Zoning.  One of the key (if not THE key) rallying point that led to our City's existence.

The first time we threw our codes together, it was a patchwork of ordinances copied and pasted from a number of sources, especially DeKalb county.  Ironic as hell when you think about it but we had to start somewhere.

This is an ideal time to review our ordinances from the top all the way to the bottom.  It's relatively early in our City's life, so we don't have to undo a ton of precedent.  At the same time we have some experience with the kind of life people want to live in their homes. 

There's an inherent flaw in the entire zoning process as it stands:  ordinances are based on a listing of individual activities and their limits, in the quest to protect neighbors from pissing each other off.  This is a flaw for several reasons:
  • it is a reactive process, rather than proactive.  Ordinances have to be created bit by bit as a new fashion or trend becomes popular and people want to integrate it into their lives.  We all know how well that went the first time the City tried to process a major ordinance change. 
  • it is a process that allows individuals or groups to demand that their interests, hobbies, or lifestyles be codified.  Everyone wants to enjoy what interests them but the scrutiny and criticism dip to a whole new depth when City Hall gets involved.  That isn't necessary.  It's also not a productive use of City Hall's time.
  • the process is polarizing.  Otherwise rational adults turn into bickering, backstabbing "dead end kids" when an extended conversation would probably reveal quite a bit of common ground.  Even worse, a "litmus test" arises for future elected officials.  Just this past week, when candidates qualified for this November's elections, the first question asked on the local blogs regarding candidates is, "What do they think about chickens?"  A discussion about a special interest is now being promoted as the deciding factor in who is worthy of holding office.  If that standard becomes dominant we're in for a lot of unhappy residents and ugly elections for a very long time. 
  • it creates double standards, multiple loopholes, and conflicting regulations.  The same behaviour or activity may be allowed or not depending up on the alleged intent of the homeowner.  A lawsuit is only a matter of time.
To stop this and similar snowballs from picking up steam and making Dunwoody miserable, it's time to rethink how ordinances are drawn.  Rather than organize ordinances according to a list of specific actions, base ordinances on general boundaries according to their zoning designations.  Set one uniform standard for all activity, regardless of whether it's business, or personal.  Everyone has to meet the standard, for any activity.  Then all homeowners in a specific residential area could do as they please with their property without having to split hairs between residential, commercial, or agricultural purposes.

First, you have to review the ordinances that are currently written and have a serious think about why some behaviours or activities are limited or prohibited.  You have to decide exactly what is a "nuisance", one of the most common words in an ordinance.  What activity is tolerable, what is intolerable and why.  What is an inherent right in the use of one's property, and what will inherently infringe on others' rights.  When you're able to set this definition, application becomes fairer.

For example, some of the concerns about my special interest (home business with customer visits) include increased traffic and the risk that homes may be converted to commercial enterprises, thus, interfering with the enjoyment of a residential community.  In my solution above, the ordinance would not ban businesses per se, but would set limits on the number of cars parked at a residence on a daily basis, or the amount of land that can be paved over, or whether or not the residence could be rezoned in any way.

In another (in)famous example, rather than categorizing domesticated animals as either pets or livestock, set basic parameters on the maximum number and maximum size of animals allowed at a residence, based on the size of the lot.  (Homes zoned R50 will have more stringent limits than those zoned R85, and so on.)  Then everyone in a basic zoning designation can choose whatever animals they keep, so long as they are within the size and number limits.

This process is not going to be easy or simple or without conflict.  However if done well, now, while the City is still in its adolesence, there will be long-term advantages. 
  • A more consistent application that Code Enforcement can apply evently
  • Resistance to legal challenges that would be possible due to multiple standards
  • Consistent application over time as interpretations of what consititutes a "residential neighborhood activity" evolves and fads or styles ebb and flow.  This is the real strength - there will be less of a need to go to the expense of rewriting codes every couple of years as popular activities change. 
  • Finally, people can keep their opinions about what is a good idea to use their home for, and what isn't.  As long as the codes are written and enforced so that rights don't start infringing on each other, there will be a lot less to worry about.
How's this for a start?  Given enough time and effort, is it doable?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Home Occupation Glacier Shifts

Per public notice in the Crier and the City website:

THE CITY OF DUNWOODY, GEORGIA NOTICE OF MEETING FOR THE PUBLIC


A public meeting will be held before the Dunwoody Community Council on Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at Dunwoody City Hall, 41 Perimeter Center East, Dunwoody, Georgia 30346, for the purpose of due process of the following:

Amendments to the text of Chapter 27, Sections 27-183, 27-185, and 27-1321 regarding home occupations in the R-100 (Single-Family Residential) District and “Supplemental Regulations.”

For further information please call the Community Development Department at (678) 382-6800.
Agenda isn't posted by the City yet.  However the sections involved are currently worded as the following:

Sec. 27-183. - Principal uses and structures.

The following principal uses of land and structures shall be authorized in the R-100 (Single-Family Residential) District:
(1) Detached single-family dwelling.
(2) Personal care home, family.
(3) Personal care home, registered.
(4) Stable.

Sec. 27-185. - Special permits.The following uses and structures shall be authorized only by permits of the type indicated:
(1)  Special administrative permit from city manager or his designee: Home occupation involving no customer contact and no employee other than a person residing on the premises.
(2)  Special exception permit from the zoning board of appeals: Utility structure necessary for the transmission or distribution of service.
(3)  Special land use permit from city council:
a.  Adult day care facility.
b.  Amateur radio service antenna exceeding 70 feet.
c.  Cemetery, columbarium, or mausoleum.
d.  Child day care facility.
e.  Convent or monastery.
f.  Home occupation involving any customer contact.
g. Home stay bed and breakfast residence.
h. Neighborhood recreation club.
i.  Place of worship.
j.  Private elementary, middle and high school.
k. Congregate personal care home if located on a campus of no less than 25 acres.
Sec. 27-1321. - Home occupations and private educational uses.

The following provisions shall apply to home occupations. Private educational uses shall only be required to comply with subsections (1), (2), (3), (4) and (8) of this section:
(1)  There shall be no exterior evidence of the home occupation.
(2)  No use shall create noise, dust, vibration, odor, smoke, glare or electrical interference that would be detectable beyond the dwelling unit.

(3)  The use shall be conducted entirely within the dwelling unit, and only persons living in the dwelling unit shall be employed at the location of the home occupation.
(4)  No more than 25 percent of the dwelling unit and in no case more than 500 square feet, whichever is less, may be used for the conduct of the home occupation.
(5)  No use shall involve public contact on the property and no article, product or service shall be sold on the premises other than by telephone.
(6)  No materials or equipment shall be stored on the premises upon which the home occupation is located, except where such materials and equipment are stored entirely within the residence.
(7)  No vehicle other than a passenger automobile, passenger van, or passenger truck shall be used in the conduct of a home occupation, and no other vehicle shall be parked or stored on such premises.
(8)  No home occupation shall be operated so as to create or cause a nuisance.

(9)  Home occupation shall not include the use of a dwelling unit for the purpose of operating any automobile repair establishment, taxi service, van service, limousine service, wrecker service, car wash, or ammunition or firearms sales establishment.
I can think of a number of changes that could be made to the above ordinances to make business easier and less expensive while still protecting the residential nature of the neighborhood and respecting the rights of residents who do not conduct business from home.

I can also think of verbage that should be clarified.  For example in (8) above - define "nuisance".  I can think of residential activities that create a greater nuisance than a home-based business.  I'd like to see the City (at whatever level - commission, council, manager, etc) set a single standard on what should be a tolerable level of activity, and what is an over-the-line "nuisance" for all activity in a traditionally residential community, regardless of purpose and then write your codes accordingly to encompass home-based employees.

Finally - why just R100?  Why not include R75 and R50 zoned areas?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?

I'm going to try to make this meeting.  Anyone else have any input or info on this discussion coming up?