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Posted on Jul 5th, 2018
Update on the Peachtree Battle Median and other Public Entrances to the Neighborhood
It’s no secret that the best adjective to describe the Peachtree Battle Median of late is “scruffy”. But the same can be said of other entrances to the Neighborhood bounded by public parks like the median. The small triangle at the intersection of Peachtree Battle and Northside is Haynes Manor Park. Similarly, two corners of the intersection of West Wesley and Habersham are Sibley Park. All three could be enhanced to make our Neighborhood more attractive and inviting.
The greatest problem, however, is the Peachtree Battle Median. The problem is twofold. First and foremost, the City has not done a very good job of maintaining the median. Stumps of fallen trees have been left cockeyed for far too long, and the mowing cycle seems to have been intermittent, at best. Second, the landscape service PBA engaged to supplement the City’s efforts has done a very poor job. Your Parks Committee has contacted the City about the status of the median, and with some prodding from the office of Councilman JP Matzigkeit, we have seen improvement, especially in the case of stump removal.
The Parks Committee is also actively seeking a new landscape service, and expects to let a new contract in the next few weeks. If we can afford it, we will require our new landscape service to take over primary responsibility for basic maintenance—mowing, for example—from the City. Having one group responsible for maintenance will not only be more manageable, but also more effective. The median’s appearance will improve soon.
Maintenance efforts are probably not enough, however, and the Parks Committee is working with the Haynes Manor Garden Club to create plans for improving the entrances to the neighborhood bordered by public parks. Expect to hear more on those plans in the fall.
A key issue in all of this is money. PBA’s expenses for maintenance of the public areas in the neighborhood are already second only to the patrol. There have been suggestions that we undertake a capital campaign to improve the public entrances to the neighborhood, but adding new features would be foolhardy if we didn’t make provision for their maintenance. Volunteers could play an important part in maintenance, but it seems to me that we would need regular professional landscape services to maintain the improvements.
PBA’s budget has been tight lately. Last year we ran a deficit. This year we have kept closer tabs on expenses and have worked hard to increase our membership, which now stands at about 70% of our neighbors. So we expect a balanced budget. But that doesn’t mean we have enough money to undertake significant additional landscape expense. To do that, we would need to increase our membership or perhaps increase our dues. We will have discussions on both of these issues before and during our Annual Meeting.
Update on Crime in the Neighborhood
In the last few weeks there have been reports of thieves robbing mailboxes in order to find checks they might cash. More recently, a neighbor’s home was robbed in the middle of the night while the neighbors were asleep. The neighbors managed to scare the robbers away, but only after they had taken a TV set. (It’s probably a good idea to set your alarm even when you are at home at night.) Our patrol is increasing its activity in the area during the investigation. Further, we are consulting with our patrol and the City police to determine whether these are just random incidents. If, on the other hand, we are experiencing a general increase in crime, we will consult with the patrol and the police to determine what we might do to stop it.
Update on Issues regarding the Golf Course
Many members of PBA have expressed concerns about the redevelopment of the Bobby Jones Golf Course. Most often heard was concern for the number of trees that had been taken down, but there were other concerns such as the possible lighting of the new driving range and the Golf Course Foundation’s application for a variance to allow changes in the state-mandated 25-foot buffer on both sides of Peachtree and Tanyard Creeks. The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper brought a legal challenge to that variance request. Moreover, there were issues that affected other neighborhoods more than ours. For instance, the Butler-type metal utility building (about 180 feet long) to be constructed on Northside Drive.
The Golf Course Foundation took the position that as a lessee of the State of Georgia, it was exempt from the City’s regulations and as a corollary, that it didn’t need to consult with the neighborhoods adjacent to the course regarding the Foundation’s plans or to be concerned with the views of the neighbors. As a result, a group of neighbors who live in the Springlake Neighborhood began to contemplate a lawsuit.
In an effort to relieve the tensions, Councilman JP Matzigkeit arranged a meeting for May 9 at which the neighbors could meet with representatives of the Golf Course Foundation. The meeting started well. The Foundation started by reciting concessions they had made in an earlier meeting with the Riverkeeper in an effort to resolve the legal challenge to the stream bank buffer variance request. The Foundation also announced that it would not seek to install conduit to enable the Foundation to light the driving range should it decide to do so. Perhaps most importantly, the Foundation announced that it would plant approximately 545 trees and would work with the neighbors on a plan for the location of those trees and the timing for their planting.
Nevertheless, there were several issues where the Golf Course Foundation indicated that it would make no changes to its plans whatever. For instance, the Foundation said that it would not make any changes to the new cell phone tower (it has now been installed) nor would it make any changes to the large metal utility building to be erected along Northside Drive.
But then the Foundation’s chairman stated—and reiterated forcefully several times—that it would not put any of its concessions in a binding agreement. At the very least the Foundation was saying that while it seemed to be making concessions, it reserved the right to change its mind. Or as some of the more skeptical neighbors said, the Foundation just had its fingers crossed.
People in attendance at the meeting left with differing views of what, if anything, had been accomplished. Some thought that the meeting provided a basis for resolving many of the outstanding issues. Others thought the Foundation’s refusal to agree was just a continuation of the policy of ignoring the neighborhoods’ concerns.
I myself thought that the meeting might enable us to resolve the outstanding issues, but that the Foundation’s intransigence on entering into an agreement to memorialize the solutions was a major obstacle. For example, many of our neighbors could be adversely affected if the Foundation decided to light the driving range. The decision not to install the conduit was a start, but if the Foundation could later install the lights without consulting the neighborhood or, more importantly, without agreeing to reasonable hours for operating the lights, then PBA would have gained little.
Regardless of one’s views of the meeting, efforts at further progress came to a swift halt shortly thereafter. Residents in the Springlake Neighborhood sued the Foundation, primarily on the basis that the Foundation, as a mere lessee of the State, did not stand in the State’s shoes when it came to City of Atlanta regulations: for example, regulations governing the removal of trees. The Foundation took the position that as a result of the suit, it would no longer negotiate with the neighborhoods. And it has not. The suit is ongoing; however, the judge recently declined to grant the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction against the Foundation. At this point it appears that the suit will move to a trial on the merits.
Although the Foundation refuses to discuss the issues during the pendency of the lawsuit, PBA, Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy, Springlake Civic Association, Memorial Park Civic Association, Collier Hills Civic Association and Collier Hills North Civic Association have continued to meet in order to reach common ground on all the outstanding issues. Our thought is that the suit will ultimately be resolved, and at that point it will be to the advantage of all our organizations to have consistent positions on the issues.
The outstanding issues could have been easily resolved—and may still be resolved—with forthright negotiations. Sad to say, the current situation is both unfortunate and unnecessary.