Friday, December 29, 2017

Help the Bell Family recover from the loss of their home

Everyone saw the fire on Leisure Dr that consumed a family home.  The story was broadcast by DeKalb Fire & Rescue via social media and on the local TV news affiliates.

If you are able, please consider helping this family start fresh in 2018 with the GoFundMe  account that just started.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

Surviving Halloween - A Day in the Life

Most years, Halloween falls on a weekday.  Also known as a school night.  There's no doubt everyone is going trick-or-treating but there's always a question as to whether to celebrate Halloween on the actual date.

Since 2004 our family has celebrated Halloween in the way that only Briers North can - with a few thousand of our closest friends.  We've taken a break here and there but the routine is mostly consistent.

It's work.  And there are expenses.  And planning.  Lots of planning.  But we've figured out how to enjoy ourselves and the day with some foresight.

Note:  I'm going through a lot of "work" and thinking steps.  It seems like a lot.  It IS a lot.  But there is such a joy to it, it's hard to put into words.  You have to see it and feel it for yourself.

This narrative does not include weekend Halloweens, parties, or those years when I did the actual planning.

October 15 - the organizers have been working since August to work out large-scale logistics like police and volunteers.  The parking passes and wrist bands created for each family arrived on the front porch today.

October 16 - call the usual babysitter and ensure she's available.  Of course she is, she loves the event as much as we do!  Hit Wally World for candy.  All 1500 pieces of it.  Have your explanation ready for the incredulous checkout girl who invariably has a comment.

October 19 - dig out the containers of Halloween costumes, sort the Shrek character pieces and make sure everything is in good repair.  Every year I swear I'm going to get a new "Fiona" wig.  Every year I wait too late.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

October 21. - The Outhouse.  The centerpiece of Shrek's swamp is hand-built of 2x4's and reclaimed scrap.  Pat takes down the custom cut and numbered pieces from their racks in the garage and gets them assembled.  The "Beware Ogre" signs copied from the "Shrek" cartoon are pulled out of the shed and set up.  The front yard barrier that says "come closer but not into the yard" is made of stakes and raw hemp rope.

The next week - nothing happens.  Focus is on work, school, and work.  Pat schedules 10/30 and 31 off.  (I get 2 hours to celebrate my birthday before it's back into the fray.)  The kids are "too cool" to join the family business anymore.  They used to be Donkey, Puss in Boots, and a baby dronkey back in the day.  Now they're making arrangements to trick-or-treat with their own friends.  (Except the first grader, of course.)  Only the 2nd grader has picked her costume.  The other two are making it me wing it at Spirit Halloween or Party City the weekend before.

Tourists are making the rounds of the street.  Cars are making the slow crawl down the street, snapping pictures.  In 2004, the first year we saw a weekend Halloween, it took 30 minutes to drive 100 meters from the subdivision entrance to our house on October 30.

Shrek is showing on one channel or another so Pat can practice the voice, complete with obnoxious Scottish accent.  It's either that or the DVD a dozen times.

October 28 is supposed to see rain.  Hold off on putting up the lights.

October 29 - purple and green lights on the makeshift fence.  Find a sawhorse or something similar to block the driveway.  Even with barricades people will help themselves to your yard until they are politely but firmly escorted off.  That's ogre-style polite.

October 30 - final build.  Do an early trim on the crepe myrtle and drape the stumps in fabric tarp to simulate Shrek's house.  Track down some old fence slats to simulate the door.  Add Halloween lights to make it look like Shrek is celebrating Halloween.  No campaign signs this year, although anyone with more than half a skull running for office should show up to shake hands.  You'll never get this kind of crowd in one place on any other day.  Install and test the flood lights that indicate when the show goes on.  Take a break for a nice lunch.  I'm asking for either McKendrick's or Flemings'.
Check supplies of fog machine liquid, spare light bulbs and do the shopping.  Get parking passes on the cars in case the unthinkable happens and you're trapped outside of the street.


7 AM - kids get taken to school with their permitted Halloween garb.  They who are "too cool" to join the family show are not "too cool" to brag on the big event itself.

8 AM - check with teachers about homework load.  Send the YouTube video from 2010 to show them you're not kidding about the night's activity.  Call the tennis coach to cancel.  Send the YouTube video again so he knows your daughter isn't goldbricking.

9 AM - Pick up the paperwork and random flotsam and jetsam that accumulates around the house.  Even if you're not throwing a party, it's going to be bedlam and something essential WILL get lost.  Plus there's always someone who shows up to say hello and the swamp is outside, not in the front door.  Track down the fake Dunwoody "Stop Work Order" that Terry Nall requested from Tom LaPenna a few years ago just for laughs.  Nail it to the outhouse and see who thinks it's real.  (Answer: at least 10 people will think it's a real stop work order.)  Test the fog machine in the outhouse.  It's a key part of the act.

3 PM - pick up kids from respective schools.  Both parents are available so each takes a school.  (One in Dunwoody, one in Johns Creek).  High tail it back home.  Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

3:30 - first grader is home first.  Talk him through chores and homework before the distractions intensify.

4:00 - girls are home.  Stand over their homework so the absolute essential "due the next day" stuff gets done

4:30 - get dinner started.  Usually steak and french fries because they're easy to make outside while people run around inside.

5:00 - babysitter arrives.  She knows to have her butt here well in advance of 5:30 or she's parking at Crossroads like everyone else.  Dinner for all wherever you can find a seat.

5:15 - dump the candy in the biggest container we can find and keep it by the front door.  Make the sign to put on the outhouse that Shrek hands out candy at 7 PM.

5:30 - the main road is closed  (They advertise 5:45 but trust me, those barricades go out at 5:30.)  Get kids into costumes.  It's usually too hot for "Shrek" to hike around with the kids so the ogres are in street clothes.  Find the candy collection buckets we forgot in the storage closet.  As of now there are at least 1,000 people in the street just milling around.  The homeowners collectively agree to start distributing candy at 6 PM.  There has to be a limit or we'll be out there all day.  

6:00 - TRICK OR TREAT!  No more excuses, the candy starts flying!  Kids and respective friends are matched up.  Middle schoolers are read the riot act about not leaving the neighborhood.  Second/third graders form their clique with a parent.    (Something about a Descendants 2 theme this year.)   Wristbands on all kids and babysitter:  check.   The first grader insists on riding on Daddy's shoulders.  Great for the view, but he'll figure out the logistical conflict with actual trick or treating in 3...2...1.....

House to house to house to house.  It's easy to clean up fast with the candy and treats.  

6:40-ish - The first grader tires quickly from the crowds and excitement so it's easy to herd him back into the house with plenty of time for our own "show".  Hand off to babysitter for bath and bed.  Get the "Shrek" and "Fiona" outfits on and breathe.  Line up the basket and wooden bucket for giving out candy.  Get the giant candy stash into the outhouse.

7 PM - SHOWTIME  The outhouse opens and out comes Shrek with a bucketful of candy.  Shrek needs Fiona to be his eyes because it's hard to see through the mask.  Dozens of bags and pillowcases come out at once.  Just put a piece of candy in the bag.  Say "Happy Halloween".  Repeat.  Quickly.  Dozens of trick or treaters become hundreds in a few minutes.  Every 15 minutes or so the bucket runs out.  "Shrek" heads to the outhouse and sets off the smoke bomb.  Ominous looking smoke wafts from the top of the outhouse door.   "Fiona" gets sympathetic looks from the females in the crowd.  A couple of minutes later the ogre opens the outhouse door with a full bucket of candy.   A crowd 15-deep in the street has waited up to ten minutes for this scene.  

Put a piece of candy in the bag, smile, wave to the little kids, offer candy to a tired parent who just got off work.  Smile and pose for a picture from the tourists.  Occasionally I hear Pat say something in Spanish, but with a Scottish accent for effect and a knot of children bounce around in glee.  

The Ogre Fiona has to come out when the crowds press too close.  We keep the visitors in the street for our own safety, and theirs.  My worst fear is someone breaking an ankle from standing on the curb or worse - getting impaled on a temporary fence post.  So Fiona has to yell at everyone to get off the curb NOW!!!!!  Hey, she yelled like that in the movie, I'm just playing a part, right?  Other times we have to stop and get the crowd to back up so "Shrek" - kneeling at the fence in a heavy mask and gauntlets and who has a hard time seeing what's in front of him, doesn't get crushed under a pressing mob.

"Hi Shrek!  Where's donkey?"  "Hi Fiona!"  "Where's Dragon?"  I swear, we need to have an inflatable or animatronic pink dragon some day.

8:15-ish - the candy is about to run out and we announce that what we have in our bucket and basket is it for the night.  That's 1500 pieces of candy - one to a customer - distributed in 75 minutes.  Other homes have already run out of candy and have turned off their porch lights, or the floodlights on their decorations.  The front entrance will close to all non-residents at 8:30 so the timing works out just right.  

Last pieces of candy are given away and we have to turn away the rest of the crowd.  "Happy Halloween!  Come see us next year!"  

8:30, at the latest - Pull the plug on the floodlights decorating the set.   Retreat to the house.  Peel off the sweaty costumes in the laundry room.  Replace with t-shirts and pajama bottoms.  Check in with the babysitter re:  first grader.  If all goes well, he was asleep 10 minutes ago.  Second-grader was back home by 8 pm and insists "I'm not tired" as her eyes roll back in her head.  Grab an adult beverage and watch the remainder of the show from the front porch.  Keep an eye out for the middle schooler who needs to be in the house by 9, or else.  

8:45 - everyone's out of candy.  The volunteers and police are sweeping the streets, urging everyone to the front entrance and out of Briers North.  Radios are used to alert to lost children/parents.  A makeshift lost and found appears at the corner of Tilly Mill.

9:00 pm - Lights Out.  No, really, there's no more candy and the show has come to an end.  Closing time.  You don't have to go home but you can't stay here.  Middle schooler scoots in the door with seconds to spare.  The rest of the gossip with her friends has to wait til tomorrow.

9:05:  Ghost town.  The streets are literally barren.  While the babysitter oversees the older kids bedtime (they both need it whether they admit it or not) the grown folks slip outside to turn on the decorative lights on the set.  The street is open again and pedestrians enjoy the sets one last time.

9:30 - everyone under 18 is passed out.  Driveway barricades are removed and the babysitter goes home, entertained and paid.  Adult beverage #2 makes an appearance.  Adults pick through the candy and lay claim to whatever a child is allergic to.  Wind down time in front of the TV.  Be ready to answer the door in case a friend comes by and asks "So, how did it go???"

There are social plans this weekend so we have to figure out when the sets will be broken down and hung in the garage.

Adrenaline overcomes fatigue - next year can't come fast enough.

See you on the 31st!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Halloween Deserves its own Season in Dunwoody

Between Truck or Treat - the close of the Dunwoody Food Truck Thursday season - and actual Halloween - and the maelstrom that is Halloween @ Briers North, I wanted to post an annual reminder. At these large public events, we meet and greet all kinds of people we don't see every day. Let's use the opportunity to create some great memories for all.

With Halloween upon us, please keep in mind, a lot of little people will be visiting your home.

Be accepting. The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy may have poor fine motor skills.

The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy may have motor planning issues.

The child who does not say "trick-or-treat" or "thank you" may be non-verbal.

The child who looks disappointed when they see your bowl may have an allergy.

The child who isn't wearing a costume at all might have a sensory issue (Sensory Processing Disorder) or autism.

Be nice. Be patient. It's EVERYONE'S Halloween.

Thursday, October 26 5-9 PM
Brook Run Park
Be there or be square

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Ballad of the Underground Utilities

This ode is dedicated to all of our citizens who believe that life will be a dream if utilities are all underground.  99 times out of 100 this situation runs smoothly (unless someone makes the monthly drive into a transformer).  This is the story of Number 100.

The story starts on September 3.  We wake up one sunny Sunday and head out to church in the morning.  Our neighbor has a new "fountain".  No, they didn't install a fancy artistic bird bath; there was water bubbling up through a crack in the driveway.  A 12-18-inch water main had ruptured some time overnight. 

Frantic phone-calls, emails, social media posts and front-door pounding revealed my neighbors were home and were on top of the situation.  Whew!  By lunch time DeKalb Water had sent out a large crew with heavy equipment to turn off the valve at Tilly Mill, excavate the yard, completely rip out the irretrievably damaged driveway and remove the damaged section of pipe.  Then a trailer of replacement pipe was brought in and a section welded into place.  Water was back on before midnight.  Every man on the job was moving like he had a purpose; no one was just standing around on a shovel.  What's more, each one was a gentleman to the neighbors and kids coming out to see the excavator at work and they even refused coffee and dinner when we offered it to them. 

Water pressure was priority one and treated as such.  But there are still downstream (pun intended) effects.  The neighbor's driveway and yard had all the curb appeal of a nuclear test site for a couple of weeks.  Eventually a Dekalb-funded contractor returned and installed a new basic concrete driveway and leveled the damaged yard, making it ready for re-landscaping. 

Imagine my confusion when a single electrical circuit in MY house started flickering.  Not the whole house, just one circuit.  Check the breaker board - all is good there.  Before I had a chance to make a call a Georgia Power cherry picker is in my driveway ready to solve the problem.  The power fluctuation set off an alert at the service center on Shallowford.  The previous water main break and its (essential, however ham-fisted) repair had damaged the underground power conduit. 

Repairing underground utilities doesn't happen in a day.  The crew brought in a portable transformer to power the house.  Just a hand truck with a metal box on it, with enough juice to run my abode for, potentially, years.  As I mentioned to my FB groups, if your kid plays in my yard, remind them to not touch the box on wheels.  Bad things will happen. 

Life is going back to normal and the utility troubles are fading into memory.  The spray paint appeared on the lawn this week.  The red, orange, and blue segments that make your front yard look like a steer getting divided into two freezers.  This is the only notice you'll get that "someone" is planning to dig.  Who will it be?  AT&T?   Comcast?  The power company?  Will they be sending a company crew or a contractor?

Another Sunday morning.  Not as sunny yet.  Headed out the front door to Sunday School and I'm greeted by two trucks and a trailer from Georgia Power's contractor, UTEC. 

"Good morning, gentlemen.  Welcome to my yard.  What's the plan for today?"

It's a good thing I did because there was no intention to knock on the door and announce themselves.  There wasn't exactly a "plan", per se.  Just some vague vision of a ditch-witch running between two houses,  flying dirt, a broken brand-new driveway and a large tree falling at random.

Two hours later - back home.  Parked half way up the street because the ditch thingy is in my driveway (unused) and the vehicles are still in the street (unmoved).   Pails of tools dropped in my flower bed.   Three guys in hard hats are sitting around having a chat.  Still haven't knocked on the door because after my son goes inside, my husband comes out to see what's going on.  Which means:  they screwed up w/ the house "good cop".  Now they have to deal w/ Pat. 

I didn't hear the argument as I was on the phone with Georgia Power regarding such trivialities as, "How do you NOT send an engineer to determine the best work plan given an R-50 neighborhood and houses less than 15 feet apart?" and "Are you going to knock down the tree onto my house or maybe we'll get an arborist to do it right?"  and most of all, "If you're going to rip out trees, a section of yard, and my neighbor's driveway, show me the guarantee that Georgia Power is going to pay for replacements".  Little stuff like that. 

A senior honcho at Georgia Power talked with the supervisor on site and decided we needed to plan this operation a little more thoroughly before going forward.  Holy Common Sense, Batman.  The crew wrapped and left.  (Pat didn't have to tell them to "pack your s**t and get out".  But he was thinking it.)  Allegedly, I'm going to have an appointment from an engineer this week to review the intricacies of the site, what damage is unavoidable, and we'll go forward once I have a written liability statement in my hot little hands. 

So what have we learned from this little saga?

1)  Third party contractors are too often the weak link in any operation.  Company staffers have more skin in the game, so they put more effort into getting the job done right.  Third-partiers are too many steps removed and thus are hindered by a broken giveadamn.  Where else in our municipal operations do we have third-party contractors that  may not have as great a commitment as a company wo/man?

Contractors may seem less expensive in a contract but how much extra are you paying in padded hours and recovering from fouled-up work?

2)  The underground infrastructure we already have is past its useful lifespan and we're all going to be playing catchup with emergency repairs for the foreseeable future.  How comfortable do you feel putting anything else down there when it can be washed away at random?

3)  Underground utilities require a property owner to use extensive foresight when doing anything from planting a tree to replacing pavement.  When something is damaged, repairs are time-consuming and cause collateral damage in the process.  The story above is about utilities between completely separate single family homes.

How do you think this emergency would get handled in one of the many duplex and townhouse developments going up in the city?  There's no wiggle room.  One home's utilities go on the fritz, the neighbors will suffer even more.

4)  How much money and effort are the "everything underground" advocates willing to pay to create "contingency access" to utilities in case emergency repairs are needed?  Because if you insist on this type of infrastructure, you have to have a way to get to it.  Especially with water conduits surviving on band-aids and borrowed time.

Stay tuned, folks.  It ain't over yet.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Facts Don't Convince People

But I'm going to keep posting them anyway.
No one can defend tribal political alliances forever.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Candlelight Vigil for Las Vegas TONIGHT -Tuesday - in Dunwoody

Reposted from the Dunwoody Homeowners Association Facebook page.

We are all stunned by the horrific tragedy unfolding in Las Vegas last night and today.

In response and solidarity, we have secured a permit to have a candlelight vigil in Brook Run park (the front field) starting at 8:30 today (Tuesday) night.

The vigil will last no more than 30 minutes.

There will be no protests, or speakers, just a chance for our community to come together in grief.

Please invite your family, friends and anyone else who wants to feel the warmth of our community at this terrible time. Feel free to share on Social Media!


Candles or flashlights
Weather appropriate clothing
No signs (it will be dark anyway)

This gathering is intended to be non-political.  

Elected officials and candidates:  I challenge you to actually keep your politics aside.  That is far more than just repeating the words "non-political".  

City Council members:  your constituents are not expendable or disposable.  Use this event as an opportunity to live out that standard.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Groundbreaking Ceremony For the New Ballfields at Brook Run Park

This announcement was distributed at about 6 PM today.  I've reproduced it here unedited.

Groundbreaking Ceremony For the New Ballfields at Brook Run Park

Friday September 15, 2017
12:00 p.m.
Southwest Corner of North Peachtree Road and Barclay Drive

The ceremonial groundbreaking event will celebrate the beginning of construction for the new ballfields at Brook Run Park.

Please join City of Dunwoody Council members, city partners, and city staff for the celebratory event.

The two new fields, which will also serve as the new home for Dunwoody Senior Baseball, will have rectangular multi-purpose field overlay/striping complete with a durable all-season synthetic turf. The fields will be set-up for shared use by Peachtree Charter Middle School for the school’s gym and outdoor classes. The facility will also include a new concession building, new bathrooms, a playground, bleacher stands, batting cages, and parking. 

The fields will be located at the corner of North Peachtree Road and Barclay Drive, an eight acre property adjacent to Peachtree Charter Middle School. A new bus turnaround and drop off with ADA access and handicap parking will also be included at the new site.

A lunch will be served for attendees following the groundbreaking celebration.

PARKING: Please park at Brook Run Park by the pavilion (about midway down South Georgia Way in Brook Run Park) and then walk towards the multi-use trail/Barclay Drive where there is a crosswalk which leads to a paved access road/fire lane onto the site.

# # #

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

SDOC recovering from Tropical Storm Irma

Just work-related info for today.

Irma's dirty side came through Metro Atlanta yesterday and power went out in our neighborhood at 2:30.  Power just got back up 90 minutes ago.

SDOC's studio suffered no damage but work scheduled have been shifted due to the outage.  (This is the "Acts of God" clause in your contracts, folks.)  We're getting our home and helping our community get back to normal in time for work and school tomorrow.

I'll be in touch with each of you with specific new ETA's for any scheduled jobs.

Help each other through the storm damage and we'll all be better off, and soon.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Dunwoody Homeowners Association Meeting September 10

What's left of Irma is supposed to come to town Monday afternoon.  We're taking care of business Sunday night.  DHA meetings are open to the public.  Please come be part of the conversation.

Board of Directors Meeting

Sunday, September 10, 2017 @ 7:30 P.M.
North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, Room 4
5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd, Atlanta, GA 30338

1. Announcements and introduction of distinguished visitors

2. Approval of minutes for August 6th, 2017 meeting— Adrienne Duncan

3. Brief review of plans for city council candidate forums on October 15 – Robert Wittenstein

4. Update on Shops of Dunwoody items (Doggy day care and covenants) – Robert Wittenstein

5. Review and discuss Adopt-A-Spot at Peeler/Winters Chapel – Robert Wittenstein

6. Review and discuss proposed terms for support of Grubb Properties redevelopment plan for Perimeter Center Parkway East (Set of 3 mid-rise buildings currently housing City Hall) – Exec Committee

7. Request for sponsorship – Run Dunwoody, Rick Woods, Dunwoody Rotary

8. Request for support for Austin Elementary School Dunwoody Dash, Despina Lamas

9. Request for support for Kingsley Elementary School PTO, Erika Harris

10. Request for support for Peachtree Charter Middle School CV Classic, Allegra Johnson and Fran Bartel

11. Request for support for Spalding Garden Club Candlelight Home Tour – Mary Millar Request for support of effort to publish stories of Dunwoody centered around the life of Joyce Amacher, Lynne Byrd

12. Board only session: Votes as needed on any motions including:

Approval to proceed with Adopt-A-Spot plan ($5,000 included in budget)

Approval of sponsorship request, Rotary Run Dunwoody

Austin Elementary School request for funds ($1,000 included in budget)

Kingsley Elementary School request for funds ($1,000 included in budget)

Peachtree Charter Middle School request for funds ($1,000 included in budget)

Request for support of Spalding Garden Club (not budgeted)

Request for support for Joyce Amacher book (not budgeted)

Support or oppose Grubb Properties development of 41, 47 and 53 Perimeter Center East

Next meeting:  Sunday, October 1, 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017

INTRODUCING: Rebecca King for Atlanta City Council District 7

Another campaign season is upon us and SDOC gets back to its political wheelhouse.

My good friend and Panhellenic colleague, Rebecca King, is running in City of Atlanta's District 7 race.

My job was to get this site up and functional, pronto.  There's only two months in the election season and everything has to work yesterday.

This site is going to evolve over the next couple of months as more information is available and more events are scheduled.

I was provided with a logo and color scheme and the site was built to Rebecca's specifications.

The key item now is the Donations tab.  That required an e-commerce solution to accept donations, a PayPal setup, and an SSL certificate for security.

Social media is alive and kicking too.  You'll see campaign events planned and statements on the local issues as well as endorsements as the campaign goes on.

If/when Rebecca gets elected, the site can easily be converted to an elected official's portal.

Enjoy, and Happy Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Last Call to Qualify for City Council Elections

If you're interested in joining the fray for three of our seven city council seats this November, today is your last day to get to City Hall and qualify.  Get your district straight, make sure you've lived there for at least 6 months and you too can be a candidate.  All of the excitement you can handle will set you back $360 for entering the race.

The rumors and backstories and questions about our current candidates are starting to fly.  The DWG is staying tuned to watch how they develop.  Yes the "home business activity" angle will come into the discussion.  You have been warned.

Here's the lineup as of 10 AM today:

District One:

Pam Tallmadge (I)  (Original campaign site from 2015)

District Two:

Jim Riticher (I)  (Original campaign site from 2013)

Bobby Zuckman  No campaign website yet.  Here's his LinkedIn profile:

District Three:

Henry Bierenfeld  No campaign website yet.  Here's his LinkedIn profile:

Friday, July 14, 2017

UPDATED: Follow up on the Manget Way group home - the status three years later.

In spring and summer of 2014, the Center for Discovery purchased a home on  Manget Way in order to convert it to a treatment facility (or group home, depending upon who you ask) for teens with eating disorders.

I'll not rehash the entire controversy in this post but here are some historical references:
(Commentary from this blog)

From the Dunwoody Crier:

The denoument where the City of Dunwoody settled the inevitable federal lawsuit:

It is now 18 months after this process was legally resolved.

As per my usual this time of year, I submit ORRs to do research on the status of home-based businesses.  License, physical location, cross-reference code enforcement complaints, etc.   As I'm going through the lists and updating the map, a couple of map points jogged my memory about this event.  On the Dunwoody Home Business map, grey markers are used to note homes that have been involved in some zoning controversy but were not home businesses.  (That is, the home owner does not live in the house full time and work there as a secondary use.  The home was converted entirely to a commercial housing facility.  )  Manget Way was one of those markers.

"I wonder what's happening there now?" I thought.

A little Google fairy dust later generated some interesting results.

The facility seems to be open for business.  Here is their website with a video presentation of the homel:

Note the street address is obviously Dunwoody but they list the city as Atlanta.  Six of one, half dozen of the other I suppose.

Then since I had the list of business licenses in front of me for the map project, I did a search to see if there was a business license associated with the property.

There is no business license issued to the Center for Discovery home on Manget Way, or to the LLC that made the purchase, Dunwoody DV, LLC.  The only licenses issued to Manget Way addresses are to other home/business owners.

Then I did a search on the LLC.  There is no sign of any company called "Dunwoody DV LLC" in Georgia or any other state.  There is not even a public record of the LLC being dissolved or terminated.  (Another series of records I look up for the home business map.)

My previous searches on code enforcement complaints came up empty on Manget Way complaints.  I have an ORR in the hopper right now and that will bring out more current answers.

So as a result of this extended legal process, there seems to be a mixed bag of outcomes.  Some homeowners sold their properties and relocated when word of this facility spread.  When someone sells a property, that means someone else is buying and those new neighbors don't seem to have any complaints thus far.  All is quiet according to the code enforcement docket.

On the other hand, a  multi-million dollar company is operating freely without a license and without paying the same business taxes that the rest of us have to pay.   I'll be interested to see if our city government follows up on that.

UPDATE 7/17/2017
It came to my attention that there is some confusion about the information above.

1)  The "business license" in Georgia is a colloquialism for an Occupational Tax Certificate.  So when the blog states that Center for Discovery is operating with out a license, it should be understood that "license" is shorthand for "occupational tax certificate".

2)  Center for Discovery is a for-profit business.  There is nothing about it that qualifies as a not-for-profit that would exempt it from taxes or other regulations (Federal Fair Housing Act notwithstanding).

3)  According to the main corporation's press release (, the opening of Manget Way was announced in mid-February of this year.  There was reference to an "open house" in the blog post.  According to their Facebook page, that open house was held on February 23.  The ORR for code complaints covering this time period is in progress.  We will find out if there were any code complaints associated with this address.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Insights Into Dunwoody After the GA06 Special Election

Even the most staunch, long-term "I've lived in Dunwoody longer than YOU!!" citizen is coming to realize that Dunwoody's population is not a monolith but a mosaic of assorted lifestyles and ideologies.  Like it or not, there are people different from "us" (whoever "us" may be) living in our fair city.

Not everyone is accepting that fact peacefully.  In fact, a few weeks ago an anonymous Dunwoody resident posted this comment to Stan Jester's blog, regarding where "REAL" Dunwoodians live and that "those others" should be cut off outside of city limits.

But is this right?  Is our city split along district lines, with District 3 being all "those" whackos?

Let's take a look at how Dunwoody voted in the House District 06 special election.  This image was taken from an interactive map that showed precinct results from all District 06 precincts.  (View it in Firefox for best results.  Mousing over or tapping each precinct will highlight the borders and give a final vote tally.)

Here is what Dunwoody looks like.  Red and Blue are self-explanatory

What's this we see?  Dunwoody's districts, divided via north/south lines are not the boundaries of the red and blue majority votes.  The ideological divide in this case split along a roughly east-west  through all three districts.  The "blue" segment is a mix of apartments, condos, large-scale commercial space and long-established single family neighborhoods.  The "red" district sees its own share of high-density housing as well.

The putz who wrote the stupid comment above may well change his tune to say, "Well, just cut off that perimeter district" instead of Dunwoody's east side - same difference."

Not so fast there, Skippy.

The perimeter area houses the commercial districts that are paying 70% of the property taxes, which are keeping residential tax rates stable.  And - making the existence of Dunwoody feasible as a city.\

So what did we learn from this week, aside from the fact that if we never see a canvasser again it will be too soon?
  • Ideologies and lifestyles are a broad, diverse mix in Dunwoody.  The days of the stereotypical one-type of resident is long gone.
  • You probably live next to someone who thinks and lives differently than you do.
  • Our districts are all a steady mix of these ideologies.  There is no cutting one off saying "I have no need of you."
  • We'll all be a lot happier if we can coexist in spite of these differences.  No one is going anywhere.

Monday, June 5, 2017

DHA June Recap

A closed SunTrust branch is planned to become a hotel with a walkable retail/restaurant center.

Next up, Brent Walker from Dunwoody Parks & Rec reviews the current state of the Brook Run Master Plan.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Who wants to see a former Dunwoody bank transform into something new?

Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting this Sunday, June 4

Our June board meeting is this Sunday, June 4th at 7:30pm in Room 4 of the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center at 5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Road (attached to the Library.) Branch Properties will present their preliminary plans to redevelop the site at Ashford Dunwoody Road and Perimeter Center East that currently houses a closed SunTrust Bank building (see the property on Google Maps here). We will also get a presentation from Brent Walker, Parks and Recreation Director, on the Dunwoody Parks Master Plan with details on the proposed Brook Run Plan.

Here's the official agenda. Print or save to your device and bring it along. See you Sunday!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

INTRODUCING: Vintage Barber Shop of Sandy Springs, GA

We've been busy little bunnies these past few month, even with online commentaries and special events and kids' school activities.  Here's the first new website debut of the year.

Vintage Barber Shop is owned by Dunwoody resident Yury Abramov.  If his name sounds familiar, you've probably read his story in the Atlanta Jewish Times once or twice.  Yury contacted me after finding my business info on NextDoor.

Yury specializes in "old school" barbering for men and boys and his shop is every bit the typical 1950s "vibe".  He had two key problems to solve.  1 - the website design.  Stock theme that had nothing to do with the look and feel of his shop.  2 - online appointments.  Yury wanted his shop to accept appointment bookings online and give his business an edge over the competition.

You would think that everyone and their mother would have an appointment booking form online but you would be wrong.  Very few salons of any kind, let alone mens' barber shops have a self-hosted appointment booking form.  Fewer still have forms that can be used from a phone or tablet.  First order of business was to audition several candidates for this WordPress website.  We settled on a form that looks great on every screen, is customized, can handle group appointments (think a dad with several kids) and sends email confirmations to both the customer and stylist.

Make an appointment with Yury or one of his assistants in just a moment by using this website form.

Next order of business was the design.  1950s look meets 21st century technology is not as straightforward as it sounds.  The 1950s saw three distinct fashion trends in design.  First, you have your stereotypical black-and-white sitcom with a pop of pastel.  Think "Ozzie and Harriet" or "Pleasantville".  Then you had Jack Kerouac and the beatniks.  Think Maynard Krebs from "Dobie Gillis" or Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face".  Then you had the quasi-criminal element in Greasers.  Think "Rebel Without A Cause".  

The first draft of the website was definitely more toward the Beatnik label.  (Believe it or not, Ripley, I try to go very funky in designs when I can get away with it.)  Lots of animated diagonal lines and off-centered elements in bright pastels on black.   That attempt got a quick thumbs-down and we moved into the homey "Pleasantville" mode you see today.  

Finally, when a WordPress or other open source content management system website has been around for some time, or when features come and go, there is going to be some left behind "orphan" data.  You know how when you deactivate and delete a plugin, the data is supposed to be removed along with it?  Doesn't happen and WordPress plugins are notorious for this.  Extra data that goes unused not only slows the site down but can also be a security risk.  I went through and uninstalled a mountain of obsolete plugins and then manually removed their data from the back-end database line by line.  Just a reminder:  manually editing a database is not a DIY job unless you've done time as a database administrator somewhere.  If you don't know what you're doing, hire a professional or face the horrors of WSOD (White Screen Of Death) when the site fails.

We're in "soft launch" mode at Vintage Barber today.  The site is live and accepting appointments to flush out any quirks that escaped the previous quality control review and get Google integrated at various points.  Drop Yury a line and enjoy a hot towel w/ the haircut!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Just another Tuesday night in Dunwoody


Police say two people were shot late Tuesday after an argument in Chamblee.

The shooting occurred outside a gas station in the 4300 block of North Peachtree Road.

A spokesperson with Chamblee police told CBS46 that two groups got into an argument, which led to the shooting.

One person was shot in the foot and is expected to be OK, according to authorities. However, police say another person was shot in the abdomen and was in critical condition when taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Read more:

Time to get back to the important news.  Like, ya know...  public safety?


While parts of our community can enjoy some end-of-the-school-year frivolity, I'm finishing up two websites for two excited clients.  Gotta work to pay the bills.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dunwoody Memorial Day Tribute and More Brook Run News

The City of Dunwoody will host its Memorial Day Tribute on
Monday, May 29th from 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. 
Veterans Memorial at Brook Run Park.

Afterwards, take a stroll to the back side of the park (just keep following the road or trail) and think about what you would like Dunwoody to do to improve this side of Brook Run.

Public Input Meeting - Parks Master Plan Final Concept for Brook Run Park
Tuesday, May 16th at 6pm
After acquiring community feedback at the initial public input meeting held in January, the parks & Recreation Department invites you to view and comment on the final parks master plan concept for Brook Run Park.

The meeting will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16th in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. Please provide your feedback and input on this the final parks master plan concept for Brook Run Park. The concept will be posted to the city website following the meeting to allow for additional community input.

I can't tell if the decision has been made, or if differing opinions offered during "community input" will be incorporated into the plan.   But this looks like the best opportunity to see the direction.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Dunwoody Homeowners Association Public Board of Directors Meeting - May 7, 2017

The DHA's next public board meeting will be this Sunday, May 7. Please come out and be part of the conversation about community events and development!

Dunwoody Homeowners Association

Board of Directors Meeting

Sunday, May 7, 2017 @ 7:30 P.M.
North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, Room 4
5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd, Atlanta, GA 30338

1. Announcements and introduction of distinguished visitors

2. Approval of minutes for March 5th, 2017 meeting—Lindsay Ballow

3. Presentation and discussion: Proposed redevelopment plan for Perimeter Center Parkway East property – Grubb Properties, Todd Williams and Andrew Rosti

(The property in question is the office complex where Dunwoody City Hall is now housed.)

4. Presentation and discussion: Solarize Dunwoody – Tina Wilkinson

5. Request for support for Dunwoody Woman’s Club – Gerri Penn

6. Request for support for Stage Door Players – Robert Egizio

7. Board only session: Votes as needed on any motions including:

 Involvement in Solarize Dunwoody

 Dunwoody Woman’s Club request for funds ($1,000 included in budget)

 Dunwoody Stage Door Players request for funds ($1,000 included in budget)


8. Adjourn

Next meeting: Sunday, June 4, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Code Enforcement - Food for Thought

Dunwoody is missing a Chief Code Enforcement Officer, and that role's immediate superior, the Community Development Director.

How much code enforcement is actually happening?

If someone files a complaint, does it get recorded?  Or followed?  Or anything?

I don't know the answers to these questions.  But one of my routine ORRs might answer it in coming weeks.

Cross your fingers for a break in the rain and wind so all can enjoy food trucks tonight!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Newly-Paved Mt Vernon is Sinking. Questions About Standards and City Priorities

From Channel 46:

"Alessandro Salvo owns GS Construction. His company made the repairs, but not before warning city and county leaders on numerous occasions that using stone would cause the road to settle, or even sink.

“There’s no way to know how much it’s going to settle,” Salvo said. “They view this as a warranty and poor workmanship issue, and our response is that no, it’s not a poor workmanship issue, this is a design flaw. We told you not to put this type of stone here.”

Read more:" CBS46 News

 There's a very easy way to find out who is telling the truth and to whom the contractor spoke if in fact he did warn about this problem: Open Records Request on all emails to and from GS Construction, going back to the date the RFPs for the Mt Vernon sewer line replacement and repaving were issued.

The nice clerk who has been helping me compile information about the (lack of) impact made by home businesses is probably really tired of hearing from me.   (Hi Eric!) I'll bet he'd appreciate talking to someone new.  Give him a shout by using the City of Dunwoody Online Open Records Request System.  Electronic, non-certified records are free!

If the contractor is telling the truth, (and I am leaning toward that option because he put his face, voice, and company name on the record and on camera to make his point, while the city council members who ran their campaigns on the promise to pave more roads are not responding) then we have a new urgency to answer the question:  what exactly are our city council members priorities?

Paving roads implies quality work that will last at least a generation.  No public discussion about quality infrastructure work.

So what is a priority in city council?

  • Chastizing a home business owner who went to extra lengths to show his enterprise would not infringe on his neighbors.
  • Change home business regulations in spite of the fact there have been no documented complaints justifying the actions.
  • Fast-track legalized farm animals for a small handful of citizens - within one day of the above action.
  • Try to help a local business skirt the state alcohol laws.  Then, failing this, revert to "don't ask, don't tell" as the standard for handing out alcohol without a pouring license.

These aren't legislative priorities, gang.  In my opinion, these are legislative favors for personal friends.

And while our representatives are arguing these small points, newly-rebuilt city roads are sinking.  School trailers are getting ignored.  What else is falling by the wayside???

Food Truck Thursday Celebrates Yom Ha-atzmaut on May 4!

It's everybody's favorite Food Truck Thursday - Kosher Night sponsored by the MJCCA!

An assortment of Kosher food trucks will join the usual group at Brook Run Park.

Get there early to score some beef ribs.  It's worth it to brave the wet weather that's supposed to arrive.

Brook Run Park between the Skate Park and Childrens' Playground
MJCCA-sponsored entertainment on the field.
5 PM - 8:30 PM  (Seriously, weather permitting)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ashford Dunwoody Road Repair & Lane Closure

From Dunwoody City Hall e-blast:

ALERT: Ashford Dunwoody Road Repair & Lane Closure

Planned for Thursday May 4, 2017 (8pm to midnight)

The City of Dunwoody will conduct work on Ashford Dunwoody Road this Thursday (May 4, 2017) starting at approximately 8:00 p.m. and lasting until midnight.

This work necessitates closing down a few hundred feet of the southbound lane on the west side of Ashford Dunwoody for approximately 4 hours (8:00 p.m. to midnight). All construction work is dependent on optimal weather conditions.

The location of the construction work will be on the west side of Ashford Dunwoody Road, directly across the street from the Exxon gas station. Please refer to map below for an approximate layout and construction footprint area.

Please use alternate routes and avoid the area during the construction process.

Town Hall with Commissioner Jester Wednesday May 3

WHERE:  Dunwoody Library
WHEN:  May 3, 2017
WHAT TIME:  6:30 PM til 8:00 PM

Bring your questions and your comments

More info via Facebook:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Wildcat Golf Classic for Dunwoody HS Football

When:  Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Where:  Rivermont Golf Club

How do I sign up?

Enjoy golf and other fundraising events in this gala to support Dunwoody Football.  Please see the info in the image below for details.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

NEWS FLASH: Dunwoody Community Devel. Director resigns

Just heard the news that Steve Foote, Dunwoody's Community Development Director has resigned and will be leaving his post in May.

Details to follow when available.

Comments are open for more input.  If you are adding details, please include some form of verification.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dunwoody Government and Home Business: "Rooney Eats it!"

Let's review the last six months.

December 2016:  Dunwoody's 3rd ever SLUP application to see customers is heard in the usual public proceedings.  Applicant jumps through excessive hoops to prove he respects his neighbors and the integrity of said neighborhood.

In spite of neighbor support, the usual suspects circulate petitions, trespass on the applicant's property to take photos, and lie through their teeth about the homeowner's intentions to city council to oppose the application.

January 2017:  City council lines up behind the idea that since the business itself didn't fit the "comprehensive plan" the permit should be denied.  **  The actual facts of the application were ignored in favor of a personal value judgement with a personal interpretation of a city planning document.  All city council members were unanimous in their support.

February 2017:  Community Development Director Steve Foote proposes removing ALL "Type B" home businesses and removing the application process from the municipal code.

March 2017:  Steve presents these edits to the Dunwoody Homeowners Association monthly meeting.  The proposal is received like a fart in church.

April 2017:  Planning Commission and City Council process the ratification of scaled down edits that include limiting the hours that a homeowner may see a customer and limiting the types of businesses that may bother to seek a Type B license.

During this time, the home business map is getting updated.  So far I had been keeping up with licensed businesses in a list generated by Economic Development and local business directories like the AHA Connection and NextDoor.  I added to this a systematic review of corporation records taken from the state registries.  Specifically, I looked for corporations registered to a home address.  I've only gotten to the "P"s and the number of home businesses documented (and active) has doubled.

In the mean time, there have been no complaints against home businesses filed since June 2016.  The last code violation confirmed against a home business was February 2016.

That's two complaints filed in 14 months, with only one violation.  If we were talking about animals or pets, city council would dismiss these as exceptions.

In spite of Mayor Shortal's pontificating about "protecting the community", there is apparently nothing to be protected from.  These code updates are not solving a problem.  They are a threat against anyone who would dare to submit a "Type B: application.

What makes this scenario funny is that nothing will change.  City Council passes their rules and congratulates themselves on their service.  While all ONE-THOUSAND-PLUS households in this image will continue to do whatever the hell they please because they are clearly not bothering anyone.  Including seeing customers or holding meetings.

The complete map with legend:  here

Go ahead, Rooney!  You just keep chasing Ferris.  We know how this ends.

**In a couple of weeks, the "strict interpretation of the comprehensive plan" applied to home business owners will be thrown aside so council members may enact a "pet" project.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sermon on the Mount - 21st Century Style

I needed to see this today as I help run a political forum in the midst of hyperpartisans and other knee-jerk-reactors.  Not to mention our own city council and their contradictory decisions.

"Treat others as you would be treated".  The Golden Rule.  In Christian doctrine, it comes from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, in the gospel according to Matthew.

Every major religion has some ideal analogous to this.  Yet it always keeps getting lost.

So fresh and new for the 21st century is a new term for an ancient ideal:  Emotional Correctness

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I-85 bridge collapse; DeKalb County Schools Closed

I-85 impacts the region so much that all traffic AROUND it will be snarled for months.

DeKalb just threw in the towel and cancelled the last day of classes before spring break.

My son is going to take his train set and fix the bridge tomorrow.  Don't worry, he's got this.

His sisters are pissed (Catholic school in Johns Creek)

Take care if you have to travel tomorrow.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Please Contribute to Dunwoody HS Student's Funeral Cost

A former Dunwoody HS student was killed in a collision on 400 this week.

His family has set up a GoFundMe promotion to assist with funeral expenses.

I made a contribution this morning and I encourage our community to do the same if they have the means.

This is what a community "family" is supposed to do for each other.  It's a great way to counteract the negative epithets brought to light in my previous post.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

More Dunwoody Than You - The Next Generation

More of that "family" sense that Mayor Shortal was talking about during the State of the City.

This screenshot was taken from Stan Jester's blog.  The discussion is regarding questions about a new group that apparently has succeeded the old Dunwoody-Chamblee Parents Council.

In case the highlighted element isn't clear, I've added the choicest parts below: (emphases added)

Most of the Dunwoodians involved are from the far-left whack job sector, aka the east side.

I’d like for city council to reconsider the city borders and draw the line at N Peachtree or maybe more to the west. I think people over there may be happier as residents of Doraville or Chamblee.

The next time Districts 1 and 2 need support on a city initiative, or zoning, or whatever comes up (like the Dunwoody Club Forest rezoning or the Manget Way group home conflict) I'm going to whip this sucker out and remind the mouthpiece that elements of their community think the "whack job sector" isn't "really" Dunwoody....

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"He makes you look like an ass, is what he does, Ed."

Second verse, same as the first.

Hundreds of home business owners are once again put under collective suspicion.  Not because of a spike in code complaints.  The last code complaint filed against a home business was more than 6 months ago.  Not because of some newsworthy disaster.  All is quiet.

No, the latest proposed edits to the Chapter 27 covering home business activity are designed specifically to further chastise a friendly, law-abiding resident who admitted that some of his visitors would seek physical therapy.  And to threaten other counselors and related practitioners already active in the community.

The original edits distributed (and saved for posterity) legally banned all customer contact for these enterprises.  Mr Foote was advised at the last DHA meeting that not only is this a significant enforcement problem, it created a perception and support problem as well.

The latest edits, released this morning, scrap the scorched earth approach and zeroes in on Mr. Roberson's application as a physical therapist.

The ordinance goes on to define what is "acceptable" use of your home.  Behind your closed doors.

None of this is new but the unwarranted scrutiny and hypocritical prejudice by our government officials is getting really old.    Home businesses and all of the activity that goes along with them are a part of Dunwoody's neighborhood fabric and have been for decades.  Even for someone like me whose home business is "acceptable" by the new definitions, I would have to spend money on a legal process, endure abuse from my local HOA, and tolerate wild speculation from residents all over town for the "right" to have people in my office.  Which could ultimately be denied for any reason or none.

So tonight let's pop some popcorn, order a growler from Empire State, and watch the circus that is Planning Commission discuss this agenda item.  Winners in the pool for individual votes and vote spread will be notified by email in the morning.  Whatever happens with this ordinance, life isn't going to change.  The more our city government tries to apply judgments to otherwise legal livelihoods, the more they end up like Principal Rooney chasing Ferris Bueller around Chicago.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Real Hazards of Working From Home

Forget self-righteous government officials and over-zealous HOA officers.  THIS is every telecommuting or home-based entrepreneur's worst nightmare!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

City Proposes Limiting Allowed Paint Colors on Private Homes

From NextDoor

The City of Doraville has on its February 21 Council agenda a discussion of setting limits on allowed paint colors on private homes.

From the discussion via NextDoor (emphases added)

Hello Doraville residents. I noticed in the agendas from the Work Session Meeting from 2/16/17 and for the upcoming Council meeting on 2/21/17, that there are proposals made by Sharon Spangler and Shannon Hillard for restricting the external colors that can be used for single home dwellings as well as restrictions for front yard gardens and the type of materials that can be used. There are no specifics listed in the agenda as to what these restrictions could be. I strongly urge anyone who does not like the idea of adding more ordinances that restrict what we can or cannot do with our private properties, our homes, please attend this meeting and let your voice be heard. I will be there since I most certainly do object to this kind of nonsense.

I do not want to see such restrictions become a part of the city's ordinance code. I made a point of not moving into an HOA and certainly do not want the entire city to become one. There are enough ordinances regarding how we maintain our homes in Doraville as it is. I find these proposed types of restrictions a violation of my property rights and freedom of expression. If I want to paint my home purple (and I almost did), then it is no one's business if I do. Don't like it? Then don't look at it. There are far more important things to consider than what color someone's house is.

If I want to use old metal drums for planters or reuse/recycle other types of containers for a front yard garden then I don't see the issue. As long as it is clean and safe, who cares? Once again, how one decorates their home via house colors and gardening styles should not be restricted with very few exceptions in regards to public safety.

The words that are the city's motto, that are on the city's website, their newsletter are the following:

Diversity, Vitality, Community

Diversity:a range of different things; variety. How much variety will exist if everyone's home has to be a neutral color? Or can only be blue, green, or yellow? How different will one home look from another if all planters must be made of a certain material and can only be a certain size?? If all the flower beds are rectangles?

Vitality: the state of being strong and active; energy. And now opinions will vary on this one, but I find nothing so dull and lifeless as a bunch of identical homes with identical lawns. Do we not gain strength and life from diversity?

Community: a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. Now this one is even trickier. Does Doraville want a community of diversity and vitality where people of different cultures, with different opinions and ideas are able to come together to live in relative harmony? Or does Doraville want a different kind of community?

This is what happens when a city council  has the latitude to edit property rights piecemeal according to the whims of small niche groups.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

DeKalb Commission Meets in Dunwoody in February

DeKalb County commissioners are trying to make themselves more accessible to the public by holding their first evening meeting.
The DeKalb Board of Commissioners will convene at Dunwoody City Hall at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, one of three evening meetings scheduled this year.

30 minutes are available for public comment starting at 6:30 pm, presumably at the end of the meeting.

Monday, February 6, 2017

We're Still Proud

Thank you for a great season, Falcons!  We'll be back in the fall.
(Patrick, listen up - I want a #11 jersey for Valentine's Day)

Monday, January 30, 2017

Dunwoody Homeowners Association Annual Meeting 2017 - Video Recap

Introductory remarks by Rob Wittenstein.
Rob welcomed all of the elected officials in the audience, including our city council members.  I'm glad they didn't feel a "conflict of interest" over attending and asking questions.  Let's hope that stupidity is permanently put to bed.


Introduction and remarks by Chris Carr, Georgia's Attorney General.

Comments by County Commissioner Nancy Jester

GA House Representative Tom Taylor on legislation this session, including HB58 - a proposal to allow the formation of independent school districts

Business of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award

Georgians for Local Area School Systems

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Dunwoody Home Business Map

Welcome, Dunwoody Crier readers!

The map you saw in the newspaper on January 10 is available online here:

It includes a filterable legend to the different types of operations and where confirmed complaints were noted.

Some caveats:

  • This map and the research going into it are not a full time job although I was a full-time database administrator at one time and that's where the skills came from.  
  • The data is as accurate as I could get it but I am not making any guarantees.  Information is changing and becoming available day by day.
  • Each marker has some additional information.  Commentary is my personal opinion.
  • This map still only represents a fraction of the home business community.  Everything here was verified via a public record.  There are many more out there (like MLMs, self-employed neighborhood professionals, etc) who operate by word of mouth and utilize the municipal code's many loopholes to work as part and parcel of our residential community.
  • Actual extent of customer contact is unknown.  Many business operators do so with the tacit blessing of each and every one of our seven city council members.  That fact was not brought out last night.  You're welcome.
  • Dunwoody is not now and has never been a "bedroom community".  That vision is a fiction and is therefore - unsustainable.  Home businesses, including those with customers and employees, are a significant, organic, and vibrant part of our livable community and make significant contributions to our tax base at both municipal and county levels.

Questions are welcome.  Vitriol and denial are not.

Just Another Night at Dunwoody City Council

Communities evolve, like it or not.  Real life is not black and white. The more anyone tries to force that simplicity, the more it crumbles.  Accept the reality that enhances life.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 State of the Home Business Community - The Commentary

Note:  here are the maps of known home business activity in Dunwoody, broken out by type.  This is what the article below refers to.

Updated 1/8/2017 at 9 PM - 1 additional complaint found, violation NOT confirmed.  Statistics are updated below.

The home business map I created is the only compiled and graphical representation of all residential commercial activity in Dunwoody.  It is also the only entity that uses data to correlate code enforcement complaints with documented home business locations.

I find it disturbing that with all of the erratic hand-wringing and protests and petitions, as well as official judgments from our city government, no one in any official capacity has tried to document this data before.

So how are they making their decisions?  The Force?
Not exactly transparent.  Or fair.  Is it even legal?

I began this map in 2014 after the second home business SLUP applicant was dragged through a knothole in exchange for approval of a daycare for infants and toddlers.  Everyone had a judgement to make about how our "bedroom community" (sic) shouldn't be changed and everyone had a "belief" about the alleged future impact on home values.

But no one who spoke had two facts to rub together, including and especially the city council.  A legal decision was made and an honest citizen's fate decided based on - The Force.

So I made it an intensive hobby to officially request this data from the City of Dunwoody to create that correlation myself.  I had gone along with the stories that benign home business owners with customers were the exception rather than the rule and there was probably a pattern of serious problems with disturbing the neighbors.

Here are some of the processes I had to work though in the data:

The Open Records Request process is easy.  But the amount of data I got was huge.  The number of licensed businesses surpassed 500 just at a glance.  I never expected that many and definitely did not expect that it was such a large part of the overall business community.  Numbers vary from 1/5 to 1/4 depending on the year.

I was told by the person delivering my first ORR on business licenses that they are only maintained on a current, rolling list.  There was no archives of past licensed enterprises that closed or moved.  So the first map generated in June 2014 only contained licenses active for the first six months of 2014.  Any businesses that were open before that and closed or moved were not available via city records.

City licenses were only the first step.  There were also business directories (like the chamber of commerce and The AHA Connection) and the State of Georgia that registers corporations (incorporated enteprises, LLCs, LLPs, etc).  There were many registered to home addresses as the primary business location.  But without a city license.  Again, the number is huge - over 100 at any given time.  So I had to differentiate those on the map.  I used different shades of green for those without complaints.

Even with all of this research, we're still dealing with a gross underestimation of actual home business activity.  There are tutors - who will NEVER apply for the appropriate permit to see their customers after seeing the first two applicants treated so shabbily by their own representatives.  There are MLM and direct marketing reps who host parties and receive merchandise shipments.  I remember how those were excluded by city council as "not really businesses" because they didn't want to appear like they were banning Tupperware parties. (Multi-million dollar industries were declared "not really businesses".  Visualize that one!)  Then you have just hobbies-turned-cottage-industry that have no online record at all and are only known via word-of-mouth.  At the end of the day all of the data is an under-representation of reality.

The SLUPs got their own color marker as well to show they had a permit to see customers.  Those were easy.  Two.  And their addresses were in all of the application documents so they were easy to find.

So when all of the known business locations are entered in and mapped, what do we find?

Dunwoody is saturated with commercial activity in residential neighborhoods.  Single family homes, townhomes, apartments, and condos, it's everywhere.   There are no "bedroom communities" that have a wall separating "residential" and "commercial". 

Dunwoody Home Businesses are now and have always been an integral part of residential life.  Even with customer and/or employee contact.

What happens when we match code enforcement complaints with home businesses?  Are home business locations more likely to receive complaints?

Answer:  NO.

Most code enforcement complaints filed are related to erosion, high grass, or unpermitted construction.  There are hundreds filed every year related to residential areas.

Out of all of these complaints only 12 13 are related to home business activity.  Of these 12, 5 were "operating a business without a license" without a specific "nuisance" noted - that is, beyond the license itself, there was no mention of activity that is specifically prohibited in the municipal code.  3 4 complaints could not be verified.  Not verified = not sure if there really is a legal problem or a misunderstanding, or a a complainer with too much time on their hands.  It could be anything.

I had to broaden the range of dates for code complaints just to generate any numbers at all.
One of the "red marks" - a noise nuisance that resulted in a homeowner selling their home and relocating - was submitted before 2008's cityhood referendum.  (It's the one on Laurelwood drive, on the east end of the city)  The complaint was submitted to DeKalb County who sat on it until Dunwoody incorporated, then the county didnt' have to respond at all.

In the interest of fairness, I made sure to include that complaint because it does represent a negative impact.

But ever since, there have been no complaints filed against a home business in the SE end of Dunwoody.  Not just not confirmed, - not filed.

There is an ORR into code enforcement to get more details on the confirmed nuisance reports.  Until then, enjoy the data.  More interesting stories are in the works.