Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dunwoody Bank Robbed at Gunpoint

By Larry Hartstein
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A gunman held up Flagstar Bank in Dunwoody Thursday morning, police said.
The robber entered the Mount Vernon Road bank (across from All Saints Church) at 9:30 a.m. He demanded cash and fled on foot with an undisclosed sum.

Police say the suspect is a 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-3 black man weighing 180 to 200 pounds. He was wearing a black knit cap, glasses, a black mask, a black hooded North Face jacket, black gloves and dark blue jeans.
Dunwoody police are working with the FBI on the case.
Anyone with information is urged to call Det. Kelly Boyer at 678-382-6914 or email

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Suing Ourselves

The website definites absurd: utterly or obviously senseless, illogical, or untrue; contrary to all reason or common sense; laughably foolish or false: an absurd explanation.
With that said, the word absurd most definitely fits to describe someone that files a lawsuit against himself (or herself). 

Burrell Ellis
That's exactly what we, the taxpayers of both the City of Dunwoody and County of DeKalb, have done.  We are suing ourselves!  We are using taxpayer money to hire one attorney, and more taxpayer money to hire another attorney to argue the case against that first attorney.  And, oh by the way, these are not discount attorneys (the attorney hired by Dunwoody is former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court Leah Ward Sears).
In case you haven't heard, Dunwoody is suing DeKalb for $7 million.  That's what the city says it is owed by the county in bond money promised for Brook Run Park.  Do I blame the city for suing?  No.  I blame the county, in particular CEO Burrell Ellis, for not forking over the cash that was clearly promised for Brook Run (it's fairly easy to follow the paper trail - see John Heneghan's site).  It's a losing lawsuit, and in the end, we, the taxpayers of Dunwoody, are the big losers.  After all, it's our money being spent, and not the money of our CEO, who apparently finds it necessary to flex his ego over this issue.

At this point it would be appropriate to use the words "arrogant idiot" and pass along's definition of those words, but it might be easier to simply "google" Vernon Jones!  Harsh?  You bet!  But I'm tired of my tax dollars being wasted!!!!

Below is Dunwoody Councilman Robert Wittenstein's letter regarding the lawsuit, as well as other city business.
Dear Dunwoody Friends and Neighbors,

I am sorry it has come to this, but this week we filed a lawsuit against DeKalb County in an effort to get them to turn over about $7 million in unspent bond funds earmarked for Brook Run park improvements. When we formed the city, we reconciled ourselves to the fact that we would continue to pay property taxes to retire almost $100 million in county debt from a 2005 parks bond issue. To balance that, we at least expected the county to recognize that the $7 million in unspent funds for Brook Run needed to be spent for the original purpose. We have held multiple meetings with the County CEO and members of the Board of Commissioners but they have dug their heels in. Our last letter in September was completely ignored. So now, both sides will get expensive lawyers and we, the taxpayers, will pay for the litigation expense on both sides. It is truly unfortunate that it has come to this.

Speaking of parks, we are in the final stages of developing a Dunwoody Parks Master Plan. This plan will include an updated master plan for Brook Run and highlight opportunities to improve our park offerings. I am very excited about this progress. One of the areas of DeKalb County’s neglect that is the hardest to overcome is the lack of parks they created in Dunwoody. It is easy to hire police and to pave roads but to acquire the land and develop the parks system we should have will be a commitment we will need to undertake over a number of years. The draft plan should be available in late February.

We are also making excellent progress on developing master plans for Dunwoody Village and the Georgetown area. These plans will help developers understand what the community would like to see built in these areas and should help guide private redevelopment. I hope that part of the plan will include a traditional ‘town green’ where we can have outdoor concerts and a gathering place for Dunwoody residents.

In other Dunwoody news, we will end the year with a slightly larger surplus than expected largely because the Insurance Tax payment from the state will be larger than we budgeted. This is the first time this tax has been paid to us (it is paid a year in arrears) so we had been conservative in estimating the amount.

Have a happy and safe New Year!



Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Real Estate Market, Link for Sustainable Pattie

2010 will end with 143 single family homes listed for sale in Dunwoody in the 30338 zip code.  These homes range in price from $1,568,000 to $175,000.  To view any of these homes with photos (in descending order by price), click on the first link below.  To view as a list, click the second link.  There are currently eight homes under contract in Dunwoody in 30338.

The home in the photo above is a for-sale-by-owner, thus is not included in the listings in the links above.  To get more information on this wonderful 4-bedroom, 3-bath traditional in Kingsley (right across from Kingsley Racquet & Swim Club), click on the photo.
You can always keep up with current listings in Dunwoody by going to and clicking on the Dunwoody Homes link under Dunwoody Real Estate on the middle right hand column.

Link for Sustainable Pattie

As I shared with you in the last entry, the Atlanta Journal Constitution's April Hunt did a nice article on Dunwoody's own Pattie Baker, affectionately known as Sustainable Pattie.  The article is now available online, to read it click Sustainable Pattie.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Alright, so maybe our Dunwoody Christmas isn't as white as the photo above, but nonetheless it is snowing!   Right now in our house it's that calm before the storm.  Or at least the calm between opening Christmas presents and enjoying a Christmas feast. 
The down time has allowed me to pick up today's Atlanta Journal Constitution and enjoy a very nice article on Dunwoody's own Sustainable Pattie, Pattie Baker, written by April Hunt.  Pattie is about all things green in Dunwoody.  She walks the walk.  I would share the article with you, or at least the link, however the AJC doesn't appear to have it in its online edition.  Of course, you can always click on the Sustainable Pattie link on the DunwoodyUSA homepage to read and learn more from Pattie.
Time to go eat!

Monday, December 20, 2010

All Saints Pastor To Retire; Tax Increase

After 25 years as the pastor of All Saints Catholic Church in Dunwoody, Monsignor Donald Kiernan is retiring.  Kiernan, who celebrates his 86th birthday on December 28, has been a priest for 61 years.  The Monsignor will continue to reside at All Saints and will continue to celebrate Mass, but will no longer handle administrative chores or chart the future of the parish.  The Most Reverend Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, has not yet named a replacement.
Msgr. Kiernan has built a legacy of service to many community and statewide organizations. He founded the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, serving as its director and chaplain for over 20 years.
He also has served as the chaplain to the Georgia State Patrol, the DeKalb County Police Department, the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms’ local division and the Knights of Columbus.
He has been a colleague to Georgia governors and Atlanta mayors over the decades, as well as to chiefs of police and public servants. He was editor of The Georgia Bulletin for over a decade in the 1950s and 1960s and a vicar general of the archdiocese from 2000-2005.
In 1984, the Boy Scouts of America recognized Msgr. Kiernan’s contributions by awarding him its highest honor, the Silver Beaver Award. He has served on the Executive Committee of the Metropolitan Atlanta Boy Scouts of America and the board of the USO.
Msgr. Kiernan has received many honors and awards, including the Prothonotary Apostolic, which is the highest rank of monsignor, in 1979. He has received honorary doctorates from Biscayne College in Miami, from his Alma mater, Providence College in Rhode Island, and from Georgia State University.

DeKalb Property Tax Increase

In my last blog entry, I passed along information on DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis' proposed budget for 2011, which includes a 2.32 mill property tax increase.   Dunwoody Councilman Robert Wittenstein commented that under this proposal, the average Dunwoody homeowner would see a property tax increase of $371 per year.  Bob Lundsten, who is chief of staff for DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, added, "residents in DeKalb should be shouting from the hilltops for DeKalb to reduce the number of County employees, cut non essential services and control spending before asking for what will be an increase of 300-500 bucks a year for homeowners."
Bob is right - why aren't we shouting from the hilltops?  Our tax bills are about to increase by the cost of a brand new 42" flat screen television (which would work nicely in my bedroom since my kids always commandeer the one in the great room), and no one is saying anything!   It's not like our services will be improved or enhanced.  We're already facing a 49 percent increase in our water and sewer bills over the next 4 years. 
To contact the CEO to let him know how you feel, email him by clicking on his name:  Burrell Ellis.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Expect DeKalb Tax Bill To Rise Sharply

Burrell Ellis
Love or hate the City of Dunwoody, give our Mayor, City Council and City Manager big-time credit.  They have held the line on taxes.   With that said, expect to see a major jump in the DeKalb County portion of your tax bill (which is a huge percentage of your tax bill compared with the percentage controlled by the city).  DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis' proposed budget for 2011 includes a a 2.32 mill property tax increase.  According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the average $200,000 home will have its annual tax bill rise $264 under the CEO’s proposal (read the complete story by clicking on AJC).   Combine this with a 49 percent increase over the next 4 years in our water and sewer bill - and we're talking about a serious increase!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Odds & Ends

Vanderlyn Singers perform last night at Dunwoody Library
Last night the Vanderlyn Singers sounded amazing in performing at the Dunwoody Library, tonight the place to be in Dunwoody is St.Luke's Church as its stages its live Nativity Scene (animals included).  The public is invited. 

Live Nativity scene at St.Luke's
Pruitt's Last Newscast

Tomorrow night marks the final newscast for WBS-TV's John Pruitt, who's been an Atlanta staple since 1964.  It will be sad to see John go, a news anchor who actually put the news ahead of himself (rare in today's climate)!  The Atlanta Journal Constitution with a nice article on John in today's edition.

By Bo Emerson

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After 46 years in the business, John Pruitt will anchor his last news broadcast Friday. He still remembers his first story.
A new arrival at WSB-TV in July 1964, the 22-year-old Pruitt was sent to help haul equipment to cover a speech by Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett. Barnett’s white audience, assembled to protest the Civil Rights Act, suddenly discovered a group of black counterprotesters in their midst and began beating them with feet, fists and folding chairs.

The untrained Pruitt was tossed a camera and told to get film of the audience. His disturbing footage of the beating made the network news that night.
“In a strange way, it was exhilarating,” Pruitt said Tuesday as he sat at his modest cubicle in the cavernous newsroom for Channel 2 Action News at WSB's Midtown headquarters. “You’re there. You are the instrument that brings that scene to so many others.”
With that experience, the Davidson graduate was hooked. “I thought I had found a job I could love,” Pruitt said.
Click AJC to read full story.

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Opinion on Chick-fil-A

The opinion below is from longtime Dunwoody resident and zoning expert Bob Lundsten.  Bob posted this as a 'comment' on this blog, but I respect Bob's opinion enough to repost it here.
While I do respect Bob's opinion, I believe we need to explore all possibilities before putting the kibosh on Chick-fil-A.  We need to think outside the box.  If a Chick-fil-A is what the community wants, all avenues must be explored.  There must be a way without compromising zoning or the Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Bob Lundsten (left)
Fran is a friend of mine, a great State Rep, and will be a tremendous State Senator. However, I disagree with him regarding the rezoning of commercial property for a drive-thru restaurant (as stated in his opinion column in last week’s Crier) in Dunwoody.

First and foremost, this issue is NOT about Chick Fil A. It IS about rezoning for a fast food drive-thru restaurant. I concede that CFA is a great corporate citizen. They are closed on Sundays and who doesn’t like their sandwiches? But none of these are LEGAL reasons to rezone a property. You do not rezone your city based on popular opinion of an end user.
Secondly, the claim is that the shopping strip is dying, vacancies are everywhere. Well as compelling as that sounds, it is not really true. Two new businesses have opened in the last couple of weeks and the consignment store is doing well and has just expanded. The vacancy of the old ACE site is by fault of the community as they “rallied” to stop Goodwill from leasing the entire space. Goodwill, a permitted user, chose to open instead in Sandy Springs and opened a second store in Johns Creek. With all the years I have been involved with development, I have never seen or even heard of a situation that a fast-food restaurant plays the role of redevelopment king. Does anyone honestly believe that if they were to open, the 30,000 square feet of empty space next door becomes A list property? The reason the strip looks so bad is the owner has not spent a penny in keeping it up. Chick Fil A will not change that.
The idea that the rezoning will not increase traffic is also absurd. Not even mentioning the fact that in the application to rezone CFA mentions a significant increase in car trips, no one wants to address the increased stops and turns that a fast-food place by design creates. I have heard that patrons have five ways to exit the center. When the site was a Blockbuster, driving around that lot was dangerous and EVERYONE will tend to use the exit directly across from Kroger.
Finally, while dismissed by some as a mere annoyance or inconvenience, the newly adopted Comprehensive Land Use Plan does have a huge role in what the future of Dunwoody will be. In the case of this property, no where does it encourage or recommend drive thru restaurants. In fact, if you actually read the plan and read the sections regarding this gateway, you will see that everything that is written is exactly opposite of what this applicant is requesting. Tell me how the proposed Chick Fil A is pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Tell me how they promote “community”. Tell me how they are a unique destination. Tell me this is the first thing you want people to see as they come into our city from the east.
You cannot rezone for a user. You cannot condition a zoning for a specific user. The proposed plan put forth by Chick Fil A does not have enough parking per the city code. It will cause additional traffic at an intersection that is already bad and will be even worse once the Ace site is leased.
This case will be litmus test for our council. Are we all talk about making things better or will we walk the walk towards a better Dunwoody?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dunwoody Housing Market; Chick-fil-A

The real estate market in the metro area continues to struggle (read more below), and Dunwoody is no different.  There are currently 140 active single family homes listed in Dunwoody in the 30338 zip code, ranging in price from $1,568,000 to $185,000.  One month ago there were 163 active listings.
Presently, there are 11 homes under contract, with two more waiting lender approval (meaning they are short sales, selling for below the mortgage owed on the property).  Five homes have sold in the past 30 days.
To view any of the active listings click on the first link below. 

Nationally, The housing market continues its uneven and gradual recovery without the aid of the tax credit. Experts believe this will be the trend moving forward. Interest rates hit another record low but have started moving back up as the overall economy improves.
Despite a less-than-expected employment report, consumers seem to be feeling brighter about the future. While the Consumer Confidence Index about the Present Situation rose only slightly, the Expectation Index showed substantial improvement. As we enter into the holiday gift-buying season, consumers are expected to be out shopping and buying more gifts for under the tree this year. Reports indicate a 13-24% increase in retail sales from last year. Consumer spending accounts for about half of all economic activity in the US; as long as consumers are spending and using debt responsibly, this is a positive indicator for economic growth.
This march back up continues to provide excellent opportunities: an ample selection of homes, affordable prices, and historically low interest rates.

Chick-fil-A Defers

The Dunwoody Community Council was expecting to hear from Chick-fil-A last night on its request for a zoning change at the old Blockbuster location near Jett Ferry, in order to build a new double, drive-thru restaurant.  Instead, Chick-fil-A said it will defer its request until it can get the city and the Dunwoody Homeowners' Association on board (Sunday night the DHA voted against Chick-fil-A's request).
While Chick-fil-A had little to say, Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce President Bill Grant spoke in favor of the proposed restaurant; ditto for a few residents of nearby Brooke Farm. 
Stacey Harris of the DHA spoke against a zoning change as did zoning expect Bob Lundsten.  Both saying it does not fit with the city's new Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Community Council Hears from Chick-fil-A

Click on Photo for Community Council Agenda
Tonight the Dunwoody Community Council will hear from representatives from Chick-fil-A on their proposal for a restaurant, with a double drive-thru, at the site of the old Blockbuster near Jett Ferry Rd.  According to the city's website, the Community Council board, which is made up of seven Dunwoody residents, serves as a recommending board to the Planning Commission and the City Council.  Its main function is to provide the public additional opportunity to review rezoning requests, special land use permit requests and code text amendments.
It will be interesting to see the council's recommendation to the city, especially with the Dunwoody Homeowners' Association voting against it (I did not vote as I was in Kiawah Island, South Carolina on a cold and windy golf trip!  See photo below).  I know of at least one member of the council who would like to see Chick-fil-A become the flagship business to re energize this sleepy shopping center, however, might not agree with the necessary zoning change to allow it.  My guess is, the Community Council will follow in the footsteps of the DHA (see previous post for reasons why). 
Personally, I'd love to have a Chick-fil-A at this location.  But not if it means rezoning - the consequences are too great.

Friday, December 3, 2010

DHA Discusses Chick-fil-A & Kroger

The Dunwoody Homeowners' Association meets 7:30 pm this Sunday night in Room 4 of the Cultural Arts Center (next to the library) and among the hot-button issues:  Chick-fil-A's interest in opening a restaurant in Williamsburg, and renovation of the Georgetown Kroger.  Representatives from each will be on hand to answer questions.
If you've never been to a DHA meeting, the public is invited and it is interactive.  This is your chance to voice an opinion on Chick-fil-A.  As for my opinion, I think Chick-fil-A would be a great addition, replacing the old Blockbuster across from the vacant Ace Hardware.  The problem is the shopping center is not zoned for a drive-thru, and if an exception is made for Chick-fil-A it opens up Pandora's Box for a whole lot of businesses that many of us would not like to see, not only at this location but other locations throughout Dunwoody. 
As for the vacant Ace Hardware, Kroger owns the lease on the property and is being very careful about picking a tenant.  Trader Joe's would love to have the spot, but Kroger is not about to let a competitor occupy it.  Both Dollar General and Goodwill also wanted to open a store there, but public opinion shot that down in a hurry.
Click on the photo below to see the DHA's agenda for Sunday night's meeting.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Jester Wins School Board Position

Click on photo to link to Dekalb Election Results
If Nancy Jester works as hard as a member of the DeKalb County School Board as she did getting elected (and there's no reason to think she won't), brighter days could be ahead for the DeKalb County School System, still trying to dig itself out from under the scandals that have rocked the system.  Tuesday night, Jester received 55 percent of the runoff vote to defeat incumbent Jim Redovian and claim the District 1 position.  Among the issues Jester ran on:  improving academic achievement, reforming the budget (zero-based, from bottom up) and finding and hiring a reform-minded, innovative superintendent. 
Perhaps the best news for residents of DeKalb County is that challenger Donna Edler defeated incumbent Zapora Roberts to win the District 7 seat.  Roberts' work on the board has been highly questionable at times, while Edler appears to have a much better command of the issues.  Edler received better than 72 percent of the vote.
It was a tough loss for Redovian, who was elected to the position in 2006 when he ran unopposed.  Redovian definitely gave Dunwoody schools their just due when it came to funding from the DeKalb, but he couldn't escape the shadows of the scandal involving superintendent Crawford Lewis and chief of operations Pat Pope.