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Extended stay motels help some, but hurt others

June 22, 2011 2 comments

City sees no room for hotel living  | ajc.com.

When I started reading this article, my thoughts wandered to the extended stay motels that dot the central part of South DeKalb. I can count at least twelve that I know of, so I am sure there are a dozen more I overlooked. I never really liked extended stays because they seem to be a magnet for crime no matter where they are. If you have ever driven south on Candler between I-20 and 285, you can see that many of the problems of prostitution, open drug deals, and general mayhem can be traced in part back to the extended stays in that corridor. After reading the above article, I realized that these places do serve a purpose for a small number of folks who have found traditional housing to be a challenge. I was really struck by one woman who described a situation where she found it nearly impossible to get an apartment through standard means.:

She recently found work as a shift manager at a Checkers fast-food restaurant. Harris runs the register, supervises four employees and opens or closes the restaurant depending on the schedule for $10 per hour.

That doesn’t leave much for savings, which is critical if Harris wants to move into her own place. Her application at a local apartment complex was recently denied after her credit report turned up an old unsettled bill. She was especially frustrated that she lost $20 on the application fee.

Other places have told her that her criminal record disqualifies her from consideration. Another complex accepted her application but wanted first and last month’s rent, which totaled $1,050.

Harris was forced to keep looking.

This woman has had some obvious challenges, and extended stay is her last option before living on the streets. And when there are children involved it makes it that much more distressing.

I would like to see DeKalb crack down on extended stays, but not to the point of pushing them out of business. Property owners should be held accountable for criminal activities that occur on their property. If there are code violations, the owners should be made to bring their property up to code or face stiff fines. And the police should put more resources into cleaning out problematic motels. If I, a normal citizen can see criminal activity from my car without having to stop and look for it, I have to believe the cops and the motel owners see it as well.

 

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Green Energy in South DeKalb?

June 15, 2011 Comments off

Biomass proposal draws protesters, wins DeKalb support  | ajc.com.

DeKalb County says it is the greenest county in America. And to help bolster that claim, they have approved a green energy facility that will have little or no pollution, and can generate electricity for 7,000 homes. At least that is the sell that Green Energy Partners has told DeKalb County. Residents in that part of the county are not impressed. They had been fighting to keep the facility from being built, but their pleas fell on deaf ears as DeKalb commissioners voted unanimously to approve the plant.

Green Energy Partners is not the only group to attempt to open a biomass facilty in DeKalb. In 2009 Southeastern Renewable Energy asked the county to rezone some land on Briarwood Road near I-85 and North Druid Hills Road so that thye could build essentially the same type of facilty. In fact if you read the SLUP for both, the purpose is exactly the same with the exception of who is requesting, and where it is located. Here is the stated purpose of each:

Green Energy

Application of Patrick Ejike to request a Special Land Use Permit to operate a utility generation facility (Biomass Renewable

Energy Facility) within the M-2 (Industrial) zoning district. The property is located on the east side of Rogers Lake Road,

approximately 446 feet south of Lithonia Industrial Boulevard at 1744 and 1770 Rogers Lake Road. The property has approximately 483

feet of frontage along Rogers Lake Road and contains 21.12 acres


Southeastern Renewable Energy

Application of Raine Cotton to request a Special Land Use Permit to operate a utility generation facility (Biomass Renewable

Energy Facility) within the M-2 zoning district. The property is located on the southwest side of Briarwood Road (vicinity of Georgia Power Easment)approximately 880 northwest of Interstate 85 (vacant land, no address). The property has approximately 150

feet of frontage on Briarwood Road and contains 3.16 acres

So what made the Green Energy application so much more plausible than the SRE application? After all, the planning department denied the SRE application based on several issues including “..anticipated significant impacts on water quality, air quality, noise impacts and transportation impacts.” Yet they recommended referral for the Green Energy application. Commissioners repeatedly deferred the SRE application from 2009 until April of 2010 when the application was finally withdrawn. So here are two facilities that use similar technologies to produce energy, yet one is considered a health hazard while the other is given the go ahead to operate. I am also wary of the timing of this entire thing. In April of 2010, DeKalb commissioners entertained the idea of this plant from Green Energy. A week later SRE’s application was withdrawn. In July of the same year, the commission voted to sell the very wood chips Green Energy says it will use in it’s facility for five dollars a ton. And now they have approved the facility in southeast DeKalb. If I lived within a half mile of this thing, I would definitely want to know more about how this whole thing wound it’s way through the county leadership.

Breakfast with Stan Watson and Friends

April 6, 2011 3 comments

An update to this post. After some bouncing around, I found a story about a bill that would have granted a charter to a new City of Brookhaven. House Bill 636 was sponsored by Mike Jacobs and Tom Taylor who represent the North DeKalb area. The bill was dropped by Jacobs, but his HB 428 is still alive.

 

This past weekend I attended one of the many breakfast sessions that DeKalb Commissioner Stan Watson holds on a regular basis. I went to the meeting because the line-up was a who’s who of South DeKalb democratic politicians. Alongside Stan, was fellow commissioner Lee May, Several state legislators including Rahn Mayo, Howard Mosby, and Pam Stephenson. Also in attendance, John Evans from the NAACP and Jesse Cunningham, who was there as a replacement for Superintendent Ramona Tyson who could not make it. There were members of the DeKalb Police command as well as the newly appointed fire chief. There were several state senators, representatives and business interests whose names I could not get. The turnout was probably 90 percent of the capacity at the Chapel Hill MS cafeteria. The main focus of these sessions is to provide information and updates about what our representatives in state and local positions are doing. I commend commissioner Watson on his efforts. He not only brought in elected officials, but also in attendance were county employees who discussed an overhaul to the county’s personal care home ordinance. There was also a representative from the Department of Watershed Management who explained why we should not be pouring grease or grease containing foods down our drains. A representative from Autism Speaks was in attendance as well, and she provided info on the upcoming walk for autism.  For me the highlight of the program was when a young kid diagnosed with Autism took to the microphone to present a painting of his to Watson. All was not peaches and cream though. I came away from the session a bit more informed about some issues, but was less than enthusiastic about the representatives we put into office. My very first impression was that this was some sort of fraternity of politicians where, if you were not a member,  your concerns took a backseat to the handshakes and pats on the back by members of the fraternity and their friends. A quick chat with Lee May about crime along the River Road corridor yielded an answer about development planning along Bouldercrest to River Road. Not to be downplaying any plan for redevelopment, but I was more concerned about the quality of life crimes that are so prevalent along River, Panthersville, and Flatshoals Pkwy. I told Mr. May that if the county allows those subdivisions to fall, it would be like pushing over dominoes. Once one falls the others will surely follow. Even a talk with one state representative (I cannot name him since I got in a question without identifying myself and my intentions) about HB 428, yielded a shrug of the shoulders and a reply of I don’t know. HB 428 is an annexation and incorporation bill for North DeKalb and Brookhaven area. I for one believe that the many wounds that afflict parts of South DeKalb are self-inflicted, but I would expect our leadership to have our best interest at heart when they decide to run for political office. Given the turnout  for this session, I think there are plenty of folks in South DeKalb trying to keep the area from total disaster. I wonder if the politicians we elected have the same desire.

Incorporate South DeKalb, Pt. 2

March 14, 2011 1 comment

I have written in the past about areas of South DeKalb being incorporated into a city or city lite (providing zoning, planning, code enforcement). Well it looks like South DeKalb is on it’s  way to being the only unincorpoarated area in the county. Doing my daily jaunt around the local blogs, I found this post at the DeKalb School Watch blog. The post talks about incorporation and annexation of neighborhoods around Chamblee and Dunwoody, especially those sandwiched between the two cities. Mike Jacobs, who represents the area in the Statehouse, wants to make it easier for his constituents to basically secede from DeKalb County and take more control of their own destiny from DeKalb County government,  Here is part of the actual posting from Mr. Jacobs site:

As the Dunwoody Crier has noted, my interest in annexation is driven by “increasing discontent with DeKalb County Government: rising tax bills, fewer services, inefficient government, and a lack of confidence that things are going to get better at the county.”

Police response times in Chamblee and Dunwoody are far lower than those in unincorporated DeKalb. Dunwoody is planning major improvements to their local parks. Chamblee and Dunwoody are both conservatively managed and are experiencing budget surpluses. And in stark contrast to CEO Burrell Ellis’ constant drumbeat for higher property taxes, Chamblee is considering cutting its millage rate this year.

It simply is not true that incorporation into a city necessarily means that your property taxes will go up. Many cities are actually able to deliver better services and a lower tax burden than can be found in nearby unincorporated areas.

Another option that might be worth exploring is the incorporation of a new municipality altogether, perhaps a City of Brookhaven that could reach as far south as Buford Highway or even I-85. Of course, such an option would require interest from neighborhoods south of Windsor Parkway such as Historic Brookhaven, Ashford Park, Brookhaven Heights, Brookhaven Fields, and Drew Valley.

It is sad to say, but I doubt we could get a representative from South DeKalb to even explore the feasibility of such an idea

A quick conversation with Cory Ruth

February 4, 2011 4 comments

I had the opportunity to meet and talk with Cory Ruth recently about issues that affect DeKalb County, and our little chat shed some insight on the man who once sought to replace Hank Johnson as the 4th distict representative from Georgia. We discussed several issues including his possible plans to seek elected office in 2012. He did not rule out a possible run for Congress again, but said he wanted to wait to see how the Legislature would handle redistricting of congressional lines. We both were in agreement that DeKalb should be consolidated into one or two congressional districts instead of the four districts we presently have. When asked if there was a local office he would run for, specifically CEO of DeKalb, he would only state that he had not decided, and would have to take a serious look at the numbers before he would even consider such a move. He reiterated that he would seek no office where he did not have a reasonable chance of winning. As a Republican, Ruth would have a hard time trying to get DeKalb’s top job.

We also talked developement opportunities in South DeKalb. He saw opportunity for South DeKalb to have economic growth in the near future. His pro-buisness approach was refreshing. He said he would love to talk to businesses who have located in counties outside of DeKalb to help determine what was it about DeKalb that turned them away. He also said he would talk with businesses in DeKalb and ask them why they are in DeKalb. He would use that info to try and lure more businesses to DeKalb. Given it’s proximity to the airport and access to several major interstates, Ruth found it hard to believe that Dekalb could not attract more businesses especially outside of the perimeter area. He also talked about how more businesses in DeKalb would put less strain on families who now spend up to two hours daily traveling to and from their places of employment. This, he believes would have a positive impact on parents who find it hard to be more active in their kids education and social lives.

When I asked if a Republican could win an elected office in DeKalb, he said yes, but would have to make some serious progress in convincing the African-American vote in South DeKalb that Republicans have a plan that will bring jobs and economic growth to the area. He pointed out me a project in New York where faith based and business organizations are reviving communities by providing educational opportunities, housing, and business support to local communities all without government intervention. Ruth believes that government intervention is not the complete answer to the ills that affect DeKalb, but he also said the old “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” adage is a not the only answer either.

Ruth strikes me as a common sense person who would definitely abandon the old ways of doing business. He is young, intelligent and very deliberate in his thoughts and ideas. Could he win a seat in Congress from DeKalb? Probably not. Could he be the next CEO of DeKalb? I would not bet my paycheck on it. If he were to decide to run for office again, he would have a mighty hill to climb to overcome entrenched Democrat loyalty in DeKalb. He says that he made some mistakes in his run for Congress in 2010, but that he learned from those mistakes and would do things differently a second time around. I for one would like to see him run for CEO of DeKalb. If the citizens of DeKalb truly want to see this county rise again, electing a fresh face and inserting some new ideas into the conversation will go a long way in making that rise possible. DeKalb needs a new direction and a new mindset. If we continue to go down the path we are presently on we will never return to the days when DeKalb was a place people actually wanted to live and play in.

What a great 2010; Can’t wait for 2011

December 28, 2010 2 comments

I created this blog one year ago. One of my goals was to establish a forum where South DeKalb residents could stay tuned in to what was going on in South DeKalb. I want to say I really appreciate all of you who have read and commented on the posts and topics here. At the beginning of 2010, I had no idea I would get the traffic that the site has generated. Since starting, I have written about a myriad of issues that affect not only South DeKalb, but all of DeKalb’s citizens. I have had the opportunity to speak to and follow politicians, officials, and ordinary citizens who all have a vested interest in seeing DeKalb succeed at all levels. As a one man shop, it has been very time consuming to research and write posts and to reply to comments as well. I will continue to write to this blog and hope to expand it with a few contributors who can cover a specific topic. My plan is to present the blog in a format that covers Government, Education, Politics, and Entertainment with an emphasis on South Dekalb. With myself and a few contributors I think I can really make an interesting and informative blog that caters to South DeKalb. In addition to content changes, plan to move the site from a public WordPress account and do a private hosting option. That will give me more control over interacting with readers and allow more flexibility on the visual nature of the site. My goal is to present you with a site that you not only want to read, but also want to interact with the site and other users. I hope you will spread the word that there is a place for South DeKalb to discuss issues and concerns that matter to all of us. Thanks and have a great and safe 2011. Remember no celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve.