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Neighborhoods - Atlanta Public Schools looks to a charter system

Can the community-focused approach help an education system plagued by cheating and inequality?

Cover Schools9 1 48
Photo credit: Eric Cash
PUBLIC SCHOOL BLUES: Some Perkerson Elementary School parents are hoping a charter system approach with help strengthen the neighborhood school after the APS cheating scandal.

Perkerson Elementary in Sylvan Hills is a case study in the uneven relationship between neighborhoods and Atlanta Public Schools. The current principal delivered the school's pioneering dual-language immersion program. But a former principal made Perkerson one of the poster children for the lingering betrayal of the APS cheating scandal. Active parent groups work hard to build the community via the school, but young couples are still fleeing for suburban districts after they have kids.

Perkerson parents are among those expressing cautious excitement about APS' proposal to revolutionize the relationship between schools and communities. APS is applying to become a state-approved charter system, a decentralized governing model that hands a sizable amount of power to parents and communities. This proposed change is in addition to reforms under Superintendent Meria Carstarphen that have such input at their core. But the million-dollar question is whether a charter system will help boost the school system of a diverse city that is very much divided between the haves and have-nots.

"What I really love about the idea is that the community can come in and have more say about their school," says Perkerson parent and longtime Capitol View Neighborhood Association activist Paul Benson. He says it could change the literally old-school APS ability to "dictate to the community or shut out the community."

A charter system is frequently confused with charter schools. Unlike charter schools, a charter system does not involve privatizing schools or placing them outside the APS board of education's control. The system is similar to charter schools in its local autonomy and flexibility. It offers the ability to tailor the curriculum and school operations to suit specialty programs or other educational goals. In fact, such innovation is an expectation of the system.

Under the charter-system model, a governance team of parents, teachers, and community members makes major decisions at each school. That includes creating a strategic plan, setting the budget, and selecting the principal. The governance teams would replace the current, toothless Local School Councils and would be considered government bodies subject to open meeting, public records, and ethics laws.

The 2016-2017 school year will also introduce a new cluster system that essentially formalizes APS's feeder-school set-up. It was developed with extensive public input and will include its own form of governing board as well. If a charter system passes, clusters will be a key part of tailoring it in distinctive ways.

APS is already seeing huge interest from parents and neighbors, says Angela Smith, the APS official overseeing the charter system planning and other system-wide restructuring. Public meetings on the charter system have drawn 150 or more attendees, she says. Parents will show up and plug in "when you give people genuine input and engagement, and are not just talking about prom colors," she says.

The school system's new five-year strategic plan makes community engagement a pillar of APS decision-making. The charter system is the biggest and also the least certain of the coming changes, as the state could ultimately reject the application. But the entire reform discussion is happening because the state essentially demanded APS and other school districts adopt new systems if they want to maintain money-saving waivers to such state rules as class-size limits.

APS chose the charter system option in November, partly because it meshes with Carstarphen's agenda, and partly because parents and community members involved in a public input process supported it, Smith says. APS' application is due June 30. If it's approved, a year of planning would follow and 2016-2017 would be the first charter-system school year. APS would sign a five-year contract with the state to operate as a charter system, and would have to show improved student achievement over that time. Standardized testing would be one of many benchmarks used to determine success.

There are concerns about how powerful and representative governance teams would be in a city marked by strong racial and economic disparities.

"Everything within our school system has to be looked at [through] the lens of equity," says Erica Long, president of the Perkerson Parent Teachers Association and a member of the APS task force that chose the charter system model. "In many ways, we have two systems in APS," Long adds. She says that gap can be overcome with outreach to — and training of — parents.

Fulton County Schools' three-year-old charter system is a primary model for APS' application. Engagement has been high, says FCS Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer Ken Zeff, with every seat in the 100-school system filled, most in competitive elections.

"The popular narrative that parents won't be involved" in lower-income neighborhoods was false, Zeff says. "The challenge is really building that capacity and that skill set among the council [members]," he adds, but that's what extensive, state-mandated training is for.

INDEPENDENT THOUGHT: APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's strategic plan is focused on autonomy and flexibility for local schools.
Photo credit: Joeff Davis

But the new system's flexibility also raises questions, Smith adds, such as how diversity is defined. It's also unknown how individual school governance teams will dovetail with another new form of governing body created to oversee each cluster.

The lack of details has triggered some anxiety. At the Feb. 11 annual gathering of APS parents and elected officials at the school system's Downtown headquarters, one resident noted that the phrase "local control" was once a code-word of segregation, and that many APS schools are still "light years apart" in resources. He echoed a frequently heard concern that the change is happening too quickly.

Smith says APS has little choice but to make some kind of rapid change if it wants to keep its waivers and stave off the state's newly announced school-takeover regime. She says that the charter system was chosen last year after extensive public meetings and that it meshes with Carstarphen's vision.

"The new superintendent is moving toward [reforms] like this, and this is not going to go away," Smith says.

At the Feb. 11 gathering, Georgia's School Superintendent Richard Woods acknowledged that the charter system is still a novel approach with many details to be worked out. But, he noted, it is an increasingly popular model with several examples around the state for APS to learn from, including systems with high poverty rates.

"We're [on] the same uncharted boat [trip] together, but I assure you we will navigate and arrive together," Woods said at the meeting.

Jarod Apperson, a Georgia State University economics grad student who monitors APS on his Grading Atlanta blog, says APS still needs to play a big role at the school level.

"Parents don't always bring [professional educational] expertise to the table," he says. "Also, parents don't always agree. ... A greater role for parents may be a step in the right direction, but in order for it to work, parents have to be working with a strong school leader that they can trust."

Perhaps the biggest wound to mend is the cheating scandal, when many parents were told their children were doing well when the opposite was true. Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell says the new system is an "opportunity to reset the relationship between schools and neighborhoods."

Smith says she's hearing from parents at the planning meetings that the reform "makes [them] feel like [they] could begin to trust the system again." Beyond being a "healing process," Smith says, the charter system has a practical advantage: The state measures its progress more holistically rather than focusing on test scores.

"Under [late Superintendent Beverly Hall's] tenure, the whole cheating scandal was tied to [testing] targets," Smith says. "People were incentivized to do the wrong thing."

"[In] a lot of our problem schools, the big dividing line isn't the quality of instruction," Long says. "It isn't the quality of teachers. Where you really see the difference is parental involvement in public education."

APS plans further meetings on the charter system. For more info, see atlantapublicschools.us/strongschools.



More By This Writer

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*Fulton County Government
*Sandtown, shown in orange, is one of several areas that could become part of the city
In the hot debate over three south Fulton County communities — parts of Sandtown, Loch Lomond and South Oaks — seeking annexation into Atlanta, locals on both sides agree on one thing. By bringing two Fulton schools into the city, annexation could leave 1,650 county students school-less in a system not ready to absorb them.

Proponents say they have a potential solution — a muscular lawsuit filed by the City of Atlanta against Atlanta Public Schools that seeks to give annexed the Atlanta City Council the choice of keeping the schools in the Fulton system. Opponents, who packed a May 18 City Council meeting to voice their displeasure, say a lawsuit is more gamble than plan. They also think the main annexation petition is headed for failure anyway, but that isn’t lessening their anger.

Then there’s the question of why anyone thinks annexation is worth this school-system-sized headache right now. The answer lies in metro Atlanta’s new municipal physics, where it seems that for every cityhood effort, there’s an equal and opposite annexation plan. In this case, the concept of a new City of South Fulton — the effort failed in the General Assembly's last session, but continues to lurk — is pushing some residents to seek refuge in Atlanta’s embrace instead.

“I don’t want to be part of the City of South Fulton,” says John Davis, a former Sandtown Community Association president who is among the annexation petition organizers. “Part of the problem with the Atlanta area is you have so many small towns and cities when you’re trying to address big issues…all competing for the same resources. Atlanta is a growing international city…None of the other metro cities would survive if Atlanta wasn’t around.”

Problem is, the annexation includes two schools, Randolph Elementary and Sandtown Middle. And that doesn’t sit well with the local PTAs.

                      
Fulton County Schools isn’t thrilled, either, issuing a statement about the “extreme domino-type” effect on local school zones and the estimated $54 million cost of replacing the buildings. About 200 FCS students are in the annexation areas, but a total of 1,850 seats would be lost.

The deal is “200 families making a decision that affects 1,600 other kids,” says Dr. Catherine Foster-Rowell, a Randolph PTA member. “That’s not fair.”

“Yeah, it would happen,” Davis acknowledges of the zoning chaos, saying it’s ultimately FCS’s fault for being overcrowded already. But he points to the city’s lawsuit, filed in March, as defusing that concern. Under current law, Atlanta Public Schools would automatically take over the annexed areas, but the lawsuit seeks to make it an optional, voter-approved move instead. The city says the law — a local constitutional amendment — was improperly renewed years ago. (APS declined to comment beyond saying it’s ready to find “an agreeable resolution.”)

“We don’t think that’s an acceptable response,” counters Foster-Rowell. If the lawsuit works, it’s a good idea, she says, but adds: “Those questions should be answered before moving forward. It will likely be a long, drawn-out legal thing, and kids are caught in the crossfire.”

The lawsuit is a sign of Mayor Kasim Reed’s intense interest in the annexation. He’s a resident of Midwest Cascade, which was annexed in 2006 — the same year a previous Sandtown annexation failed, again triggered by South Fulton cityhood motions. He’s also a former resident of Loch Lomond.

Reed and his political ally Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms stumped hard for the annexation in community meetings. Davis, who helped lead the 2006 annexation effort as well, emphasized that the annexation petitions are grassroots efforts.

“The whole criticism that it’s a land-grab by the City of Atlanta is not accurate,” Davis says. “It’s coming from the community.”

But Reed has a Fulton annexation effort of his own that involves a second lawsuit. He wants to bring in a former SunTrust branch on Fulton Industrial Boulevard that the bank recently donated to the city. That move is banned under another local constitutional amendment that the city claims is also invalid.

The residential annexations are using the easiest possible method: a petition with signatures from 60 percent of voters and owners of 60 percent of the property in question. The city is vetting the three petitions now; if they’re validated — and there’s no deadline to do so — the City Council would vote on annexation. 

Meanwhile, both sides allege that petition-signers were misled about the nature of the deal. And the PTA activists say they’ve done their own petition-checking and found it headed for failure.

“We know Sandtown doesn’t have 60 percent,” Foster-Roswell claims, adding that her group might sue if the city validates the petitions.

Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, who was a familiar face during last year's meetings about annexing parts of Druid Hills, says he’s concerned there is “bad information being circulated deliberately, politically,” about Atlanta’s ability to provide services to an annexed area. But, he adds, he understands the cityhood frenzy that is driving such strong debates in areas that likely won’t remain unincorporated for long, one way or another.

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*Fulton County Government
*Sandtown, shown in orange, is one of several areas that could become part of the city
In the hot debate over three south Fulton County communities — parts of Sandtown, Loch Lomond and South Oaks — [http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=1227|seeking annexation into Atlanta], locals on both sides agree on one thing. By bringing two Fulton schools into the city, annexation could leave 1,650 county students school-less in a system not ready to absorb them.

Proponents say they have a potential solution — [http://www.atlantaga.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=18380|a muscular lawsuit filed by the City of Atlanta] against Atlanta Public Schools that seeks to give annexed the Atlanta City Council the choice of keeping the schools in the Fulton system. Opponents, who packed a May 18 City Council meeting to voice their displeasure, say a lawsuit is more gamble than plan. They also think the main annexation petition is headed for failure anyway, but that isn’t lessening their anger.

Then there’s the question of why anyone thinks annexation is worth this school-system-sized headache right now. The answer lies in metro Atlanta’s new municipal physics, where it seems that for every cityhood effort, there’s an equal and opposite annexation plan. In this case, the concept of a new City of South Fulton — the effort failed in the General Assembly's last session, but continues to lurk — is pushing some residents to seek refuge in Atlanta’s embrace instead.

“I don’t want to be part of the City of South Fulton,” says John Davis, a former [http://www.sandtown.org/|Sandtown Community Association] president who is among the annexation petition organizers. “Part of the problem with the Atlanta area is you have so many small towns and cities when you’re trying to address big issues…all competing for the same resources. Atlanta is a growing international city…None of [the other metro] cities would survive if Atlanta wasn’t around.”

Problem is, the annexation includes two schools, Randolph Elementary and Sandtown Middle. And that doesn’t sit well with the local PTAs.

                      
Fulton County Schools isn’t thrilled, either, issuing a statement about the “extreme domino-type” effect on local school zones and the estimated $54 million cost of replacing the buildings. About 200 FCS students are in the annexation areas, but a total of 1,850 seats would be lost.

The deal is “200 families making a decision that affects 1,600 other kids,” says Dr. Catherine Foster-Rowell, a Randolph PTA member. “That’s not fair.”

“Yeah, it would happen,” Davis acknowledges of the zoning chaos, saying it’s ultimately FCS’s fault for being overcrowded already. But he points to the city’s lawsuit, filed in March, as defusing that concern. Under current law, Atlanta Public Schools would automatically take over the annexed areas, but the lawsuit seeks to make it an optional, voter-approved move instead. The city says the law — a local constitutional amendment — was improperly renewed years ago. (APS declined to comment beyond saying it’s ready to find “an agreeable resolution.”)

“We don’t think that’s an acceptable response,” counters Foster-Rowell. If the lawsuit works, it’s a good idea, she says, but adds: “Those questions should be answered before moving forward. It will likely be a long, drawn-out legal thing, and kids are caught in the crossfire.”

The lawsuit is a sign of Mayor Kasim Reed’s intense interest in the annexation. He’s a resident of Midwest Cascade, which was annexed in 2006 — the same year a previous Sandtown annexation failed, again triggered by South Fulton cityhood motions. He’s also a former resident of Loch Lomond.

Reed and his political ally Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms stumped hard for the annexation in community meetings. Davis, who helped lead the 2006 annexation effort as well, emphasized that the annexation petitions are grassroots efforts.

“The whole [criticism] that it’s a land-grab by the City of Atlanta is not accurate,” Davis says. “It’s coming from the community.”

But Reed has a Fulton annexation effort of his own that involves a second lawsuit. He wants to bring in a former SunTrust branch on Fulton Industrial Boulevard that the bank recently donated to the city. That move is banned under another local constitutional amendment that the city claims is also invalid.

The residential annexations are using the easiest possible method: a petition with signatures from 60 percent of voters and owners of 60 percent of the property in question. The city is vetting the three petitions now; if they’re validated — and there’s no deadline to do so — the City Council would vote on annexation. 

Meanwhile, both sides allege that petition-signers were misled about the nature of the deal. And the PTA activists say they’ve done their own petition-checking and found it headed for failure.

“We know Sandtown doesn’t have [60 percent],” Foster-Roswell claims, adding that her group might sue if the city validates the petitions.

Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, who was a familiar face during last year's meetings about annexing parts of Druid Hills, says he’s concerned there is “bad information being circulated deliberately, politically,” about Atlanta’s ability to provide services to an annexed area. But, he adds, he understands the cityhood frenzy that is driving such strong debates in areas that likely won’t remain unincorporated for long, one way or another.

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*Fulton County Government
*Sandtown, shown in orange, is one of several areas that could become part of the city
In the hot debate over three south Fulton County communities — parts of Sandtown, Loch Lomond and South Oaks — seeking annexation into Atlanta, locals on both sides agree on one thing. By bringing two Fulton schools into the city, annexation could leave 1,650 county students school-less in a system not ready to absorb them.

Proponents say they have a potential solution — a muscular lawsuit filed by the City of Atlanta against Atlanta Public Schools that seeks to give annexed the Atlanta City Council the choice of keeping the schools in the Fulton system. Opponents, who packed a May 18 City Council meeting to voice their displeasure, say a lawsuit is more gamble than plan. They also think the main annexation petition is headed for failure anyway, but that isn’t lessening their anger.

Then there’s the question of why anyone thinks annexation is worth this school-system-sized headache right now. The answer lies in metro Atlanta’s new municipal physics, where it seems that for every cityhood effort, there’s an equal and opposite annexation plan. In this case, the concept of a new City of South Fulton — the effort failed in the General Assembly's last session, but continues to lurk — is pushing some residents to seek refuge in Atlanta’s embrace instead.

“I don’t want to be part of the City of South Fulton,” says John Davis, a former Sandtown Community Association president who is among the annexation petition organizers. “Part of the problem with the Atlanta area is you have so many small towns and cities when you’re trying to address big issues…all competing for the same resources. Atlanta is a growing international city…None of the other metro cities would survive if Atlanta wasn’t around.”

Problem is, the annexation includes two schools, Randolph Elementary and Sandtown Middle. And that doesn’t sit well with the local PTAs.

                      
Fulton County Schools isn’t thrilled, either, issuing a statement about the “extreme domino-type” effect on local school zones and the estimated $54 million cost of replacing the buildings. About 200 FCS students are in the annexation areas, but a total of 1,850 seats would be lost.

The deal is “200 families making a decision that affects 1,600 other kids,” says Dr. Catherine Foster-Rowell, a Randolph PTA member. “That’s not fair.”

“Yeah, it would happen,” Davis acknowledges of the zoning chaos, saying it’s ultimately FCS’s fault for being overcrowded already. But he points to the city’s lawsuit, filed in March, as defusing that concern. Under current law, Atlanta Public Schools would automatically take over the annexed areas, but the lawsuit seeks to make it an optional, voter-approved move instead. The city says the law — a local constitutional amendment — was improperly renewed years ago. (APS declined to comment beyond saying it’s ready to find “an agreeable resolution.”)

“We don’t think that’s an acceptable response,” counters Foster-Rowell. If the lawsuit works, it’s a good idea, she says, but adds: “Those questions should be answered before moving forward. It will likely be a long, drawn-out legal thing, and kids are caught in the crossfire.”

The lawsuit is a sign of Mayor Kasim Reed’s intense interest in the annexation. He’s a resident of Midwest Cascade, which was annexed in 2006 — the same year a previous Sandtown annexation failed, again triggered by South Fulton cityhood motions. He’s also a former resident of Loch Lomond.

Reed and his political ally Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms stumped hard for the annexation in community meetings. Davis, who helped lead the 2006 annexation effort as well, emphasized that the annexation petitions are grassroots efforts.

“The whole criticism that it’s a land-grab by the City of Atlanta is not accurate,” Davis says. “It’s coming from the community.”

But Reed has a Fulton annexation effort of his own that involves a second lawsuit. He wants to bring in a former SunTrust branch on Fulton Industrial Boulevard that the bank recently donated to the city. That move is banned under another local constitutional amendment that the city claims is also invalid.

The residential annexations are using the easiest possible method: a petition with signatures from 60 percent of voters and owners of 60 percent of the property in question. The city is vetting the three petitions now; if they’re validated — and there’s no deadline to do so — the City Council would vote on annexation. 

Meanwhile, both sides allege that petition-signers were misled about the nature of the deal. And the PTA activists say they’ve done their own petition-checking and found it headed for failure.

“We know Sandtown doesn’t have 60 percent,” Foster-Roswell claims, adding that her group might sue if the city validates the petitions.

Atlanta City Councilman Alex Wan, who was a familiar face during last year's meetings about annexing parts of Druid Hills, says he’s concerned there is “bad information being circulated deliberately, politically,” about Atlanta’s ability to provide services to an annexed area. But, he adds, he understands the cityhood frenzy that is driving such strong debates in areas that likely won’t remain unincorporated for long, one way or another.

“No one wants to be left holding the bag,” he says.             13083330 14490002                          South Fulton: To annex or not to annex "
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Article

Tuesday June 16, 2015 10:09 am EDT

  • Fulton County Government
  • Sandtown, shown in orange, is one of several areas that could become part of the city

In the hot debate over three south Fulton County communities — parts of Sandtown, Loch Lomond and South Oaks — seeking annexation into Atlanta, locals on both sides agree on one thing. By bringing two Fulton schools into the city, annexation could leave 1,650 county students...

| more...
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*Georgia Department of Transportation
*
The state’s pending solution to notorious Ga. 400/I-285 interchange traffic is stubbornly car-centric and MARTA-free, a Spaghetti Junction II stack of flyover ramps. But in a literally trailblazing nod to alternative transportation, the Georgia Department of Transportation is adding a PATH multi-use trail to the mega-freeway.

Lobbied for by bike advocates and the City of Sandy Springs, among others, the bike-and-pedestrian trail eventually will connect to Buckhead’s new PATH400 trail, and to a rapidly growing network of OTP bike lanes and trails.

“GDOT has taken a giant step to help us connect the region on a human scale by constructing PATH400 through this complex interchange,” says PATH Foundation Executive Director Ed McBrayer in an email to CL. “We hope this is an indication GDOT recognizes the need to better accommodate non-motorized travel modes in all future projects.”

The billion-dollar 400/285 rebuild is slated to start next year and open in 2020. In the original plans, circulated last year, bikes were not on GDOT’s agenda.

Joe Seconder, vice president of Georgia Bikes and founder of Bike Walk Dunwoody, tells CL he suggested some bike amenities at a November GDOT meeting.

“They just kind of gave us the blow-off, and said ‘It’s a car project,’” he recalls.

Undeterred, Seconder began building a coalition of activists and pro-bike local government and business groups. In private talks, GDOT was swayed.

The plan calls for a roughly 1,500-foot multi-use path running along the southeastern quadrant of the interchange, behind Northside Hospital-Atlanta, between Johnson Ferry Road and I-285. The Sandy Springs City Council recently agreed to chip in $1 million for the trail, with GDOT and PATH picking up the remaining $4 million to $5 million.

To the south, the trail can connect with the PATH400, being built in phases along the 400 corridor. To the north, the trail makes its way through the nasty interchange via the Peachtree Dunwoody Road underpass. The Perimeter Center Improvement Districts already have a plan to widen that underpass and add bike lanes.

The Perimeter CIDs also have a plan, slated about a year from now, to add a two-way cycle track on Peachtree Dunwoody Road. From there, bicyclists could plug into the network of lanes and trails — and, Seconder says, the GDOT trail could even push some of those to happen sooner. And there’s hope that GDOT can be pressed to add similar trails at other interchanges.

While the OTP suburbs still often lack sidewalks, the improvements are steady. Dunwoody already has 10 miles of bike lanes, Seconder says, and east-west connector trails to Sandy Springs are already on the planning boards.

“I think you come back here in 10 years, you blink” in surprise at the pro-bike changes, he says."
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*
The state’s pending solution to notorious Ga. 400/I-285 interchange traffic is stubbornly car-centric and MARTA-free, a Spaghetti Junction II stack of flyover ramps. But in a literally trailblazing nod to alternative transportation, the Georgia Department of Transportation is adding a PATH multi-use trail to the mega-freeway.

Lobbied for by bike advocates and the City of Sandy Springs, among others, the bike-and-pedestrian trail eventually will connect to Buckhead’s new PATH400 trail, and to a rapidly growing network of OTP bike lanes and trails.

“GDOT has taken a giant step to help us connect the region on a human scale by constructing PATH400 through this complex interchange,” says PATH Foundation Executive Director Ed McBrayer in an email to ''CL''. “We hope this is an indication GDOT recognizes the need to better accommodate non-motorized travel modes in all future projects.”

The billion-dollar 400/285 rebuild is slated to start next year and open in 2020. In the original plans, circulated last year, bikes were not on GDOT’s agenda.

Joe Seconder, vice president of Georgia Bikes and founder of Bike Walk Dunwoody, tells CL he suggested some bike amenities at a November GDOT meeting.

“They just kind of gave us the blow-off, [and said] ‘It’s a car project,’” he recalls.

Undeterred, Seconder began building a coalition of activists and pro-bike local government and business groups. In private talks, GDOT was swayed.

The plan calls for a roughly 1,500-foot multi-use path running along the southeastern quadrant of the interchange, behind Northside Hospital-Atlanta, between Johnson Ferry Road and I-285. The Sandy Springs City Council recently [http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2015/05/29/new-path-to-be-included-in-ga-400i-285-project/|agreed] to chip in $1 million for the trail, with GDOT and PATH picking up the remaining $4 million to $5 million.

To the south, the trail can connect with the PATH400, being built in phases along the 400 corridor. To the north, the trail makes its way through the nasty interchange via the Peachtree Dunwoody Road underpass. The Perimeter Center Improvement Districts already have a plan to widen that underpass and add bike lanes.

The Perimeter CIDs also have a plan, slated about a year from now, to add a two-way cycle track on Peachtree Dunwoody Road. From there, bicyclists could plug into the network of lanes and trails — and, Seconder says, the GDOT trail could even push some of those to happen sooner. And there’s hope that GDOT can be pressed to add similar trails at other interchanges.

While the OTP suburbs still often lack sidewalks, the improvements are steady. Dunwoody already has 10 miles of bike lanes, Seconder says, and east-west connector trails to Sandy Springs are already on the planning boards.

“I think you come back here in 10 years, you blink” in surprise at the pro-bike changes, he says."
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*Georgia Department of Transportation
*
The state’s pending solution to notorious Ga. 400/I-285 interchange traffic is stubbornly car-centric and MARTA-free, a Spaghetti Junction II stack of flyover ramps. But in a literally trailblazing nod to alternative transportation, the Georgia Department of Transportation is adding a PATH multi-use trail to the mega-freeway.

Lobbied for by bike advocates and the City of Sandy Springs, among others, the bike-and-pedestrian trail eventually will connect to Buckhead’s new PATH400 trail, and to a rapidly growing network of OTP bike lanes and trails.

“GDOT has taken a giant step to help us connect the region on a human scale by constructing PATH400 through this complex interchange,” says PATH Foundation Executive Director Ed McBrayer in an email to CL. “We hope this is an indication GDOT recognizes the need to better accommodate non-motorized travel modes in all future projects.”

The billion-dollar 400/285 rebuild is slated to start next year and open in 2020. In the original plans, circulated last year, bikes were not on GDOT’s agenda.

Joe Seconder, vice president of Georgia Bikes and founder of Bike Walk Dunwoody, tells CL he suggested some bike amenities at a November GDOT meeting.

“They just kind of gave us the blow-off, and said ‘It’s a car project,’” he recalls.

Undeterred, Seconder began building a coalition of activists and pro-bike local government and business groups. In private talks, GDOT was swayed.

The plan calls for a roughly 1,500-foot multi-use path running along the southeastern quadrant of the interchange, behind Northside Hospital-Atlanta, between Johnson Ferry Road and I-285. The Sandy Springs City Council recently agreed to chip in $1 million for the trail, with GDOT and PATH picking up the remaining $4 million to $5 million.

To the south, the trail can connect with the PATH400, being built in phases along the 400 corridor. To the north, the trail makes its way through the nasty interchange via the Peachtree Dunwoody Road underpass. The Perimeter Center Improvement Districts already have a plan to widen that underpass and add bike lanes.

The Perimeter CIDs also have a plan, slated about a year from now, to add a two-way cycle track on Peachtree Dunwoody Road. From there, bicyclists could plug into the network of lanes and trails — and, Seconder says, the GDOT trail could even push some of those to happen sooner. And there’s hope that GDOT can be pressed to add similar trails at other interchanges.

While the OTP suburbs still often lack sidewalks, the improvements are steady. Dunwoody already has 10 miles of bike lanes, Seconder says, and east-west connector trails to Sandy Springs are already on the planning boards.

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Article

Wednesday June 10, 2015 09:54 am EDT

  • Georgia Department of Transportation

The state’s pending solution to notorious Ga. 400/I-285 interchange traffic is stubbornly car-centric and MARTA-free, a Spaghetti Junction II stack of flyover ramps. But in a literally trailblazing nod to alternative transportation, the Georgia Department of Transportation is adding a PATH multi-use trail to the mega-freeway.

Lobbied for by bike...

| more...
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  string(58) "Could the Chattahoochee River become Atlanta's waterfront?"
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  string(4992) "Atlanta is a rarity among big cities for its lack of a waterfront. Well, it has one in the Chattahoochee River, which forms a healthy chunk of the city's northwest border. And that part of the vital waterway south of the popular Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area isn't an area many people venture to in order to relax.

A massive plan is in the works to change that, however, by redeveloping a 53-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee south of Vinings as public parks and private uses. On May 7, a vision for this new River Park — including a line of towers to highlight the now-overlooked river's course — created by Georgia Tech students was unveiled as inspiration for a planning process that will launch early next year.

"The Atlanta region does not know it has a river," said Richard Dagenhart, an emeritus professor of architecture at Georgia Tech, presenting the students' studio work at the Museum of Design Atlanta. He likened the river's opportunity and potential to the Atlanta Beltline, which was also hatched by a Georgia Tech student.

Advocating for the river's rebirth is Chattahoochee NOW, a Decatur-based nonprofit that has partnered with practically every government agency around; fellow big-thinkers like Atlanta Beltline Inc. and the PATH Foundation; and many real estate interests, too. Its board chair, Jodi Mansbach, is a vice president at development titan Jamestown, which in addition to Ponce City Market is creating the Riverview Landing mixed-use project along the river in Mableton.

The Chattahoochee runs from the Blue Ridge Mountains into Lake Lanier and through then western metro Atlanta. It ultimately ends at the Gulf of Mexico. The project's target area is the long stretch south of the protected CRNRA to Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County. The main idea: a highly varied area of recreational and redevelopment uses along the corridor. The project would be relatively close to various existing parks, including Sweetwater State Park, and the equally ambitious Emerald Corridor that envisions revitalizing the long-polluted Proctor Creek with a greenway system that snakes from the river near Downtown.

Chattahoochee NOW came together two and a half years ago, but really geared up last fall with the hiring of Executive Director Shannon Kettering. It's now fundraising for a full-scale river planning effort called "Vision 53" that aims to launch in 2016.

In the meantime, the Georgia Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit that does work all along the river and another of the group's partners, commissioned the Georgia Tech Design and Research studio project to spark imaginations. Judging by the applause from roughly 60 Chattahoochee NOW partners in the room at MODA, it did its job.

Dagenhart showed off examples of other river parks as potential models, especially the various parks and public spaces built along the Tennessee River in Chattanooga according to a similar master plan drawn up in the 1980s. But Atlanta has unique challenges. The river is about 10 miles from Downtown, and largely hidden behind a wall of such hulking sites as the Atlanta Industrial Park.

"How do you give identity to 50 miles of park?" Dagenhart asked. The students' answer: "Maybe you build a tower."

In fact, lots of towers that can show off the river and the city to each other, and give a sense of design unity. "Tower" can mean almost anything serving various uses: observation decks, water towers, sculptures, even just lighting up the smokestacks at Georgia Power's plant in Newnan.

But how could people get to this tower-dotted river on the horizon? Accessibility, as well as assembling land for redevelopment, are big challenges. But, Dagenhart notes, many streets and bridges already provide public rights-of-way that are "low-hanging fruit" for expansion. And in a really big plan, the students envisioned MARTA extending light rail from the Bankhead and Hamilton Holmes stations to a 10-mile stretch of railroad along the river, where a new route could shuttle between attractions.

"Everybody, every kid, who has access to a bus stop has access to the river" in that concept, Dagenhart said.

The vision included specific redevelopment schemes for Atlanta Industrial Park and the Fulton Industrial District, making them mixed-use sites connected to public riverfront parkland. The sites would be built with ponds to filter rainwater and other watershed-friendly concepts.

Chattahoochee NOW's Kettering tells CL that there will be no further public presentations of the vision, as the group instead focuses on its planning process. But, she said, the group is pleased with its inspirational value.

"This 53-mile corridor has the opportunity to increase value — through the attraction and retention of businesses and residents — while providing more access to nature," Kettering said in an email. "The river has historically been a divide. These plans illustrate how it can be a unifying attraction for the region.""
  ["tracker_field_contentWikiPage_raw"]=>
  string(5120) "Atlanta is a rarity among big cities for its lack of a waterfront. Well, it has one in the Chattahoochee River, which forms a healthy chunk of the city's northwest border. And that part of the vital waterway south of the popular Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area isn't an area many people venture to in order to relax.

A massive plan is in the works to change that, however, by redeveloping a 53-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee south of Vinings as public parks and private uses. On May 7, a vision for this new River Park — including a line of towers to highlight the now-overlooked river's course — created by Georgia Tech students was unveiled as inspiration for a planning process that will launch early next year.

"The Atlanta region does not know it has a river," said [http://www.arch.gatech.edu/people/richard-dagenhart|Richard Dagenhart], an emeritus professor of architecture at Georgia Tech, presenting the students' studio work at the Museum of Design Atlanta. He likened the river's opportunity and potential to the Atlanta Beltline, which was also hatched by a Georgia Tech student.

Advocating for the river's rebirth is [http://www.rivernow.org|Chattahoochee NOW], a Decatur-based nonprofit that has partnered with practically every government agency around; fellow big-thinkers like Atlanta Beltline Inc. and the PATH Foundation; and many real estate interests, too. Its board chair, Jodi Mansbach, is a vice president at development titan Jamestown, which in addition to Ponce City Market is creating the Riverview Landing mixed-use project along the river in Mableton.

The Chattahoochee runs from the Blue Ridge Mountains into Lake Lanier and through then western metro Atlanta. It ultimately ends at the Gulf of Mexico. The project's target area is the long stretch south of the protected CRNRA to Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County. The main idea: a highly varied area of recreational and redevelopment uses along the corridor. The project would be relatively close to various existing parks, including Sweetwater State Park, and the equally ambitious [http://www.emeraldcorridor.com/about.html|Emerald Corridor] that envisions revitalizing the long-polluted Proctor Creek with a greenway system that snakes from the river near Downtown.

Chattahoochee NOW came together two and a half years ago, but really geared up last fall with the hiring of Executive Director Shannon Kettering. It's now fundraising for a full-scale river planning effort called "Vision 53" that aims to launch in 2016.

In the meantime, the Georgia Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit that does work all along the river and another of the group's partners, commissioned the Georgia Tech Design and Research studio project to spark imaginations. Judging by the applause from roughly 60 Chattahoochee NOW partners in the room at MODA, it did its job.

Dagenhart showed off examples of other river parks as potential models, especially the various parks and public spaces built along the Tennessee River in Chattanooga according to a similar master plan drawn up in the 1980s. But Atlanta has unique challenges. The river is about 10 miles from Downtown, and largely hidden behind a wall of such hulking sites as the Atlanta Industrial Park.

"How do you give identity to 50 miles of park?" Dagenhart asked. The students' answer: "Maybe you build a tower."

In fact, lots of towers that can show off the river and the city to each other, and give a sense of design unity. "Tower" can mean almost anything serving various uses: observation decks, water towers, sculptures, even just lighting up the smokestacks at Georgia Power's plant in Newnan.

But how could people get to this tower-dotted river on the horizon? Accessibility, as well as assembling land for redevelopment, are big challenges. But, Dagenhart notes, many streets and bridges already provide public rights-of-way that are "low-hanging fruit" for expansion. And in a really big plan, the students envisioned MARTA extending light rail from the Bankhead and Hamilton Holmes stations to a 10-mile stretch of railroad along the river, where a new route could shuttle between attractions.

"Everybody, every kid, who has access to a bus stop has access to the river" in that concept, Dagenhart said.

The vision included specific redevelopment schemes for Atlanta Industrial Park and the Fulton Industrial District, making them mixed-use sites connected to public riverfront parkland. The sites would be built with ponds to filter rainwater and other watershed-friendly concepts.

Chattahoochee NOW's Kettering tells ''CL'' that there will be no further public presentations of the vision, as the group instead focuses on its planning process. But, she said, the group is pleased with its inspirational value.

"This 53-mile corridor has the opportunity to increase value — through the attraction and retention of businesses and residents — while providing more access to nature," Kettering said in an email. "The river has historically been a divide. These plans illustrate how it can be a unifying attraction for the region.""
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  string(5308) "    Ambitious plan to build parks, towers along river takes shape   2015-05-21T08:00:00+00:00 Could the Chattahoochee River become Atlanta's waterfront?   John Ruch 10222569 2015-05-21T08:00:00+00:00  Atlanta is a rarity among big cities for its lack of a waterfront. Well, it has one in the Chattahoochee River, which forms a healthy chunk of the city's northwest border. And that part of the vital waterway south of the popular Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area isn't an area many people venture to in order to relax.

A massive plan is in the works to change that, however, by redeveloping a 53-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee south of Vinings as public parks and private uses. On May 7, a vision for this new River Park — including a line of towers to highlight the now-overlooked river's course — created by Georgia Tech students was unveiled as inspiration for a planning process that will launch early next year.

"The Atlanta region does not know it has a river," said Richard Dagenhart, an emeritus professor of architecture at Georgia Tech, presenting the students' studio work at the Museum of Design Atlanta. He likened the river's opportunity and potential to the Atlanta Beltline, which was also hatched by a Georgia Tech student.

Advocating for the river's rebirth is Chattahoochee NOW, a Decatur-based nonprofit that has partnered with practically every government agency around; fellow big-thinkers like Atlanta Beltline Inc. and the PATH Foundation; and many real estate interests, too. Its board chair, Jodi Mansbach, is a vice president at development titan Jamestown, which in addition to Ponce City Market is creating the Riverview Landing mixed-use project along the river in Mableton.

The Chattahoochee runs from the Blue Ridge Mountains into Lake Lanier and through then western metro Atlanta. It ultimately ends at the Gulf of Mexico. The project's target area is the long stretch south of the protected CRNRA to Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County. The main idea: a highly varied area of recreational and redevelopment uses along the corridor. The project would be relatively close to various existing parks, including Sweetwater State Park, and the equally ambitious Emerald Corridor that envisions revitalizing the long-polluted Proctor Creek with a greenway system that snakes from the river near Downtown.

Chattahoochee NOW came together two and a half years ago, but really geared up last fall with the hiring of Executive Director Shannon Kettering. It's now fundraising for a full-scale river planning effort called "Vision 53" that aims to launch in 2016.

In the meantime, the Georgia Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit that does work all along the river and another of the group's partners, commissioned the Georgia Tech Design and Research studio project to spark imaginations. Judging by the applause from roughly 60 Chattahoochee NOW partners in the room at MODA, it did its job.

Dagenhart showed off examples of other river parks as potential models, especially the various parks and public spaces built along the Tennessee River in Chattanooga according to a similar master plan drawn up in the 1980s. But Atlanta has unique challenges. The river is about 10 miles from Downtown, and largely hidden behind a wall of such hulking sites as the Atlanta Industrial Park.

"How do you give identity to 50 miles of park?" Dagenhart asked. The students' answer: "Maybe you build a tower."

In fact, lots of towers that can show off the river and the city to each other, and give a sense of design unity. "Tower" can mean almost anything serving various uses: observation decks, water towers, sculptures, even just lighting up the smokestacks at Georgia Power's plant in Newnan.

But how could people get to this tower-dotted river on the horizon? Accessibility, as well as assembling land for redevelopment, are big challenges. But, Dagenhart notes, many streets and bridges already provide public rights-of-way that are "low-hanging fruit" for expansion. And in a really big plan, the students envisioned MARTA extending light rail from the Bankhead and Hamilton Holmes stations to a 10-mile stretch of railroad along the river, where a new route could shuttle between attractions.

"Everybody, every kid, who has access to a bus stop has access to the river" in that concept, Dagenhart said.

The vision included specific redevelopment schemes for Atlanta Industrial Park and the Fulton Industrial District, making them mixed-use sites connected to public riverfront parkland. The sites would be built with ponds to filter rainwater and other watershed-friendly concepts.

Chattahoochee NOW's Kettering tells CL that there will be no further public presentations of the vision, as the group instead focuses on its planning process. But, she said, the group is pleased with its inspirational value.

"This 53-mile corridor has the opportunity to increase value — through the attraction and retention of businesses and residents — while providing more access to nature," Kettering said in an email. "The river has historically been a divide. These plans illustrate how it can be a unifying attraction for the region."             13083090 14322731                          Could the Chattahoochee River become Atlanta's waterfront? "
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Thursday May 21, 2015 04:00 am EDT
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*Joeff Davis/CL File
*Fulton County Chairman John Eaves
Fulton County Chairman John Eaves is asking the state Attorney General’s Office to review Keisha Lance Bottoms’ controversial double-duty service as an Atlanta City Councilmember and executive director of the authority that will oversee the sale of Turner Field.

In a letter issued yesterday, Eaves asks Attorney General Sam Olens to “investigate whether any ethical or legal provisions have been or may be violated by such an appointment.”

Bottoms was appointed executive director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority last month in a surprise move that apparently involved no job posting or application. Bottoms, slated to start the job June 1, has said she will remain a City Council member as well. She told CL after the announcement that the thought she could not perform both duties with integrity was "insulting." The City’s Ethics Office said there is no “per se conflict of interest” in such double-duty.

Eaves is far from convinced that’s the final word. In his letter to Olens, he notes that the Ethics Office opinion also said the situation might warrant a deeper review of all ethical implications. 

Eaves also raises another Code of Ethics provision that has not been addressed. That provision prevents officials from representing private interests before government agencies in exchange for pay. And he notes that AFCRA has its own “Standard of Conduct” code that similarly could prevent Bottoms from appearing before City agencies in her role as AFCRA’s chief.

“To the extent that Councilmember Bottoms would be lobbying or seeking funding on behalf of the Authority from the City of Atlanta, her dual roles could present at the very least the appearance of an ethical conflict,” Eaves writes. 

We reached out to Olens for comment yesterday and did not hear back. Bottoms was not immediately available for comment. We will update if we hear back. Eaves’s full letter appears below.

                      
   Letter from Fulton County Chairman John Eaves to Attorney General Olens regarding appointment of Keisha Lan... by thomaswheatley
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*[http://clatl.com/atlanta/ImageArchives?by=1559825|Joeff Davis/CL File]
*Fulton County Chairman John Eaves
Fulton County Chairman John Eaves is asking the state Attorney General’s Office to review Keisha Lance Bottoms’ [http://clatl.com/atlanta/keisha-lance-bottoms-double-duty-debacle/Content?oid=14264096|controversial double-duty service] as an Atlanta City Councilmember and executive director of the authority that will oversee the sale of Turner Field.

In a letter issued yesterday, Eaves asks Attorney General Sam Olens to “investigate whether any ethical or legal provisions have been or may be violated by such an appointment.”

Bottoms was appointed executive director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority last month in a [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2015/04/17/councilwoman-keisha-lance-bottoms-gets-afrca-gig-fulton-chairman-john-eaves-cries-cronyism|surprise move] that apparently involved no job posting or application. Bottoms, slated to start the job June 1, has said she will remain a City Council member as well. She told CL after the announcement that the thought she could not perform both duties with integrity was "insulting." The City’s Ethics Office said there is no “per se conflict of interest” in such double-duty.

Eaves is far from convinced that’s the final word. In his letter to Olens, he notes that the Ethics Office opinion also said the situation might warrant a deeper review of all ethical implications. 

Eaves also raises another Code of Ethics provision that has not been addressed. That provision prevents officials from representing private interests before government agencies in exchange for pay. And he notes that AFCRA has its own “Standard of Conduct” code that similarly could prevent Bottoms from appearing before City agencies in her role as AFCRA’s chief.

“To the extent that Councilmember Bottoms would be lobbying or seeking funding on behalf of the Authority from the City of Atlanta, her dual roles could present at the very least the appearance of an ethical conflict,” Eaves writes. 

We reached out to Olens for comment yesterday and did not hear back. Bottoms was not immediately available for comment. We will update if we hear back. Eaves’s full letter appears below.

                      
   [https://www.scribd.com/doc/265327880/Attorney-General-Olens-Letter|Letter from Fulton County Chairman John Eaves to Attorney General Olens regarding appointment of Keisha Lan...] by [https://www.scribd.com/thomaswheatley|thomaswheatley]
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*Joeff Davis/CL File
*Fulton County Chairman John Eaves
Fulton County Chairman John Eaves is asking the state Attorney General’s Office to review Keisha Lance Bottoms’ controversial double-duty service as an Atlanta City Councilmember and executive director of the authority that will oversee the sale of Turner Field.

In a letter issued yesterday, Eaves asks Attorney General Sam Olens to “investigate whether any ethical or legal provisions have been or may be violated by such an appointment.”

Bottoms was appointed executive director of the Atlanta Fulton County Recreation Authority last month in a surprise move that apparently involved no job posting or application. Bottoms, slated to start the job June 1, has said she will remain a City Council member as well. She told CL after the announcement that the thought she could not perform both duties with integrity was "insulting." The City’s Ethics Office said there is no “per se conflict of interest” in such double-duty.

Eaves is far from convinced that’s the final word. In his letter to Olens, he notes that the Ethics Office opinion also said the situation might warrant a deeper review of all ethical implications. 

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“To the extent that Councilmember Bottoms would be lobbying or seeking funding on behalf of the Authority from the City of Atlanta, her dual roles could present at the very least the appearance of an ethical conflict,” Eaves writes. 

We reached out to Olens for comment yesterday and did not hear back. Bottoms was not immediately available for comment. We will update if we hear back. Eaves’s full letter appears below.

                      
   Letter from Fulton County Chairman John Eaves to Attorney General Olens regarding appointment of Keisha Lan... by thomaswheatley
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Article

Friday May 15, 2015 02:58 pm EDT

  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Fulton County Chairman John Eaves

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves is asking the state Attorney General’s Office to review Keisha Lance Bottoms’ controversial double-duty service as an Atlanta City Councilmember and executive director of the authority that will oversee the sale of Turner Field.

In a letter issued yesterday, Eaves asks Attorney General Sam Olens to...

| more...
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  string(99) "Concrete-recycling plant continues crushing in northwest Atlanta, much to neighbors' disappointment"
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  string(3701) "What’s in a name? For Metro Green Recycling, it could determine the fate of its innovative recycling facility for construction concrete in northwest Atlanta's Bolton neighborhood. 

The city says the facility slipped through permitting cracks last year without a special-use permit required for recyclers, and issued a cease-and-desist order that Metro Green will battle at a June 4 zoning hearing. 
 
The dispute comes down to a claim that “they’re not recycling even though recycling is in their name,” says Karyn Hudson, president of the Bolton Community Organization.  
 
For a neighborhood that has long wrangled with massive industrial sites — look no further than Waste Managements’s now-shuttered landfill — Metro Green’s quiet opening several months ago is a concern, Hudson says. Neighbors first noticed the business when trucks loaded with concrete began using residential streets, she says. 
 
“It is an impact,” says Hudson, who lives on Adams Drive. “We’ve had dump trucks…rumbling down our street, banging over speed bumps.”

                      
Metro Green manager Mark Black did not return a CL phone call. The company’s first and larger facility, located in Doraville, recycles a wide variety of construction and demolition debris that might otherwise head for landfills, including concrete, soil, and asphalt. According to the Metro Green website, the new Bolton facility at 2490 Marietta Road N.W. handles only concrete and rock, which is ground down into gravel or sand-type materials that are then made available for purchase. 
 
The city's Office of Buildings approved Metro Green’s business license for the site on the grounds that the heavy-industrial zoning allows for storage of contractors’ equipment, gravel, and sand. But city officials took another look after hearing residents’ complaints. 
 
On Jan. 5, the Zoning Enforcement Division issued a cease-and-desist letter to Metro Green. 
 
“The aspect of your business operation which receives, stores and recycles broken bulk concrete by ‘running broken bulk concrete through a crusher’ is a use which the City classifies as a ‘materials recovery facility,’” says the letter, a copy of which the city provided to CL. 
 
That use requires a special-use permit from the Atlanta City Council, the letter says. But Metro Green appealed that decision to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and requested a hearing deferral until June 4, according to Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed. 
 
“It is our understanding that Metro Green is still operating despite the cease-and-desist letter,” says  Jewanna Gaither, also a Reed spokeswoman. The facility can do so while the appeal is pending. Torres notes that whatever the BZA decides, either party can appeal in Fulton County Superior Court. 
 
Besides the truck traffic, Hudson says, Bolton neighbors are worried about the “very poor precedent” of such a major facility opening without notice and possibly without a necessary permit, then continuing to operate during the appeal process. 
 
She says it’s especially disappointing in contrast to a recent neighborhood and city victory in negotiations with Waste Management on an adjacent property. Waste Management proposed one of the most controversial uses imaginable — a sewage recycling plant. But it ended up getting neighborhood support after agreeing to various mitigations and a truck-traffic routing plan. That facility only will be built if Waste Management wins a pending sewage-recycling contract from the city. 
 
Hudson says it’s possible that Metro Green could gain similar support from the neighborhood — “if they ever come to us.”"
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  string(3705) "What’s in a name? For Metro Green Recycling, it could determine the fate of its innovative recycling facility for construction concrete in northwest Atlanta's Bolton neighborhood. 

The city says the facility slipped through permitting cracks last year without a special-use permit required for recyclers, and issued a cease-and-desist order that Metro Green will battle at a June 4 zoning hearing. 
 
The dispute comes down to a claim that “they’re not recycling even though recycling is in their name,” says Karyn Hudson, president of the Bolton Community Organization.  
 
For a neighborhood that has long wrangled with massive industrial sites — look no further than Waste Managements’s now-shuttered landfill — Metro Green’s quiet opening several months ago is a concern, Hudson says. Neighbors first noticed the business when trucks loaded with concrete began using residential streets, she says. 
 
“It is an impact,” says Hudson, who lives on Adams Drive. “We’ve had dump trucks…rumbling down our street, banging over speed bumps.”

                      
Metro Green manager Mark Black did not return a CL phone call. The company’s first and larger facility, located in Doraville, recycles a wide variety of construction and demolition debris that might otherwise head for landfills, including concrete, soil, and asphalt. According to the Metro Green website, the new Bolton facility at 2490 Marietta Road N.W. handles only concrete and rock, which is ground down into gravel or sand-type materials that are then made available for purchase. 
 
The city's Office of Buildings approved Metro Green’s business license for the site on the grounds that the heavy-industrial zoning allows for storage of contractors’ equipment, gravel, and sand. But city officials took another look after hearing residents’ complaints. 
 
On Jan. 5, the Zoning Enforcement Division issued a cease-and-desist letter to Metro Green. 
 
“The aspect of your business operation which receives, stores and recycles broken bulk concrete by ‘running broken bulk concrete through a crusher’ is a use which the City classifies as a ‘materials recovery facility,’” says the letter, a copy of which the city provided to ''CL''. 
 
That use requires a special-use permit from the Atlanta City Council, the letter says. But Metro Green appealed that decision to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and requested a hearing deferral until June 4, according to Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed. 
 
“It is our understanding that Metro Green is still operating despite the cease-and-desist letter,” says  Jewanna Gaither, also a Reed spokeswoman. The facility can do so while the appeal is pending. Torres notes that whatever the BZA decides, either party can appeal in Fulton County Superior Court. 
 
Besides the truck traffic, Hudson says, Bolton neighbors are worried about the “very poor precedent” of such a major facility opening without notice and possibly without a necessary permit, then continuing to operate during the appeal process. 
 
She says it’s especially disappointing in contrast to a recent neighborhood and city victory in negotiations with Waste Management on an adjacent property. Waste Management proposed one of the most controversial uses imaginable — a sewage recycling plant. But it ended up getting neighborhood support after agreeing to various mitigations and a truck-traffic routing plan. That facility only will be built if Waste Management wins a pending sewage-recycling contract from the city. 
 
Hudson says it’s possible that Metro Green could gain similar support from the neighborhood — “if they ever come to us.”"
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  string(4038) "       2015-05-13T19:37:00+00:00 Concrete-recycling plant continues crushing in northwest Atlanta, much to neighbors' disappointment   John Ruch 10222569 2015-05-13T19:37:00+00:00  What’s in a name? For Metro Green Recycling, it could determine the fate of its innovative recycling facility for construction concrete in northwest Atlanta's Bolton neighborhood. 

The city says the facility slipped through permitting cracks last year without a special-use permit required for recyclers, and issued a cease-and-desist order that Metro Green will battle at a June 4 zoning hearing. 
 
The dispute comes down to a claim that “they’re not recycling even though recycling is in their name,” says Karyn Hudson, president of the Bolton Community Organization.  
 
For a neighborhood that has long wrangled with massive industrial sites — look no further than Waste Managements’s now-shuttered landfill — Metro Green’s quiet opening several months ago is a concern, Hudson says. Neighbors first noticed the business when trucks loaded with concrete began using residential streets, she says. 
 
“It is an impact,” says Hudson, who lives on Adams Drive. “We’ve had dump trucks…rumbling down our street, banging over speed bumps.”

                      
Metro Green manager Mark Black did not return a CL phone call. The company’s first and larger facility, located in Doraville, recycles a wide variety of construction and demolition debris that might otherwise head for landfills, including concrete, soil, and asphalt. According to the Metro Green website, the new Bolton facility at 2490 Marietta Road N.W. handles only concrete and rock, which is ground down into gravel or sand-type materials that are then made available for purchase. 
 
The city's Office of Buildings approved Metro Green’s business license for the site on the grounds that the heavy-industrial zoning allows for storage of contractors’ equipment, gravel, and sand. But city officials took another look after hearing residents’ complaints. 
 
On Jan. 5, the Zoning Enforcement Division issued a cease-and-desist letter to Metro Green. 
 
“The aspect of your business operation which receives, stores and recycles broken bulk concrete by ‘running broken bulk concrete through a crusher’ is a use which the City classifies as a ‘materials recovery facility,’” says the letter, a copy of which the city provided to CL. 
 
That use requires a special-use permit from the Atlanta City Council, the letter says. But Metro Green appealed that decision to the Board of Zoning Adjustment, and requested a hearing deferral until June 4, according to Anne Torres, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed. 
 
“It is our understanding that Metro Green is still operating despite the cease-and-desist letter,” says  Jewanna Gaither, also a Reed spokeswoman. The facility can do so while the appeal is pending. Torres notes that whatever the BZA decides, either party can appeal in Fulton County Superior Court. 
 
Besides the truck traffic, Hudson says, Bolton neighbors are worried about the “very poor precedent” of such a major facility opening without notice and possibly without a necessary permit, then continuing to operate during the appeal process. 
 
She says it’s especially disappointing in contrast to a recent neighborhood and city victory in negotiations with Waste Management on an adjacent property. Waste Management proposed one of the most controversial uses imaginable — a sewage recycling plant. But it ended up getting neighborhood support after agreeing to various mitigations and a truck-traffic routing plan. That facility only will be built if Waste Management wins a pending sewage-recycling contract from the city. 
 
Hudson says it’s possible that Metro Green could gain similar support from the neighborhood — “if they ever come to us.”             13083030 14265521                          Concrete-recycling plant continues crushing in northwest Atlanta, much to neighbors' disappointment "
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Article

Wednesday May 13, 2015 03:37 pm EDT

What’s in a name? For Metro Green Recycling, it could determine the fate of its innovative recycling facility for construction concrete in northwest Atlanta's Bolton neighborhood.

The city says the facility slipped through permitting cracks last year without a special-use permit required for recyclers, and issued a cease-and-desist order that Metro Green will battle at a June 4 zoning...

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