Thursday, June 30, 2016

Mizz Dunwoody Embraces TOD

Mizz Dunwoody should embrace TOD. In fact she should fall madly, passionately in love with TOD.

No. No. Not this TOD. The other TOD: Transit Oriented Development.

Transit Oriented Development is the Love Child of the hipster "Live-Work-Play!" and Greedy Developer. Live-Work-Play! is as sexy as Scarlett Johansen and as bright as Gracie Allen making her a perfect mate for Greedy Developer. While Li'l TOD is blessed with his daddy's looks and his mama's brains he's part of a supportive team comprising his cousin, Millennials, and his rich uncle, Olde Farts.

The religious doctrine of this tribe is founded on the belief that no-one wants to drive as the faithful prefer instead to Walk, Work, Play.  For this to succeed the WWP-ers have to live within walking distance of Work-Play or public transit that will get them there. The latter, public transit, has come to the forefront because Live-Work-Play! couldn't bring home the bacon and whilst TOD may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, he's new and shiny.

This won't be easy for Mizz Dunwoody. After all, at first glance TOD is less than attractive, but true love is deeper than mere appearances. And remember, Mizz Dunwoody is in love with TOD, not Greedy Developer so when embracing TOD her focus is exclusively on TOD. And what does that mean? Well for one thing it means embracing a pedestrian life, a Gilligan's Island fantasy land where there are no motorcars (you get to keep your lights and phones). None. Nada. In accepting this, in promoting this lifestyle Mizz Dunwoody will have to put her foot down. No cars means no parking spaces. Hard. Stop.

Now Greedy Developer will not like this because deep down inside he doesn't like TOD and he doesn't believe in TOD. He just thinks that others do and that they will help him score his next Greedy Development. So when Greedy Developer comes to Mizz Dunwoody with his plans she should OK any building height he wants and any purpose that suits his fancy but where she must draw the line is parking--there can be zero tolerance for any parking spaces whatsoever lest it irreparably damage the good name of TOD.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Talk To The Hand

The City recently ran afoul of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, particularly the DHA board, when they translated Legal Advisement into direct action. This action constituted policy, new or changed, which cannot be done without public presentation and being put to a Council vote in full view of the public. The urgency was probably exacerbated by a lawyerly perspective magnifying risk and advocating what some see as an overabundance of caution. This action was taken in what most would call a heavy-handed manner.

The gist of the issue was potential legal exposure due to DHA Board and regular members serving on City boards that impact development. Think Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Commission.

Reaction from the DHA was equally swift and well, fervent. Clearly the City had misstepped so a meeting was hastily called to be held on the morning of the 24th so the Mayor could take responsibility and members of Council who were available could air their opinions, at least those that fell outside of client-attorney privilege. While the City's attorney noted that Council could waive privilege no motion was made to do so. What could be gleaned from Mayor and Council comments was a universal agreement that the action previously taken was wrong but that on the underlying issue of conflicts of interest, real or perceived, consensus was lacking. The meeting also included the obligatory public comment periods offering greater insight into the underlying problem.

The actions taken by the City singled out the DHA leaving some to publicly question, in the Friday meeting and other fora, what makes the DHA special? Here, being kind, let us assume this is a somewhat rhetorical question and if you really want to know just ask any DHA member and they will wax poetic. And they would be correct. Many things, good things, in Dunwoody are credit to the DHA and at least one of Friday's commenters remarked: "Dunwoody Homeowners Association should be credited with making this City possible."

Prior to City incorporation the DHA provided a unified voice on matters that were often of greater concern in this most northwestern corner of DeKalb County than they were down in Decatur. This often concerned zoning and development which when too loosely coupled to the community tended more towards concerns around profits. Again being kind, the DHA was a self-organized group of concerned citizens who worked hard to ensure that significant consideration was given to community issues as development moved forward.

For years the DHA acted as the defacto local government in the Dunwoody area where zoning and development was concerned. Developers quickly learned that successful projects required more than hosting an open public meeting. It required presentations to the DHA and negotiations with their board. Without DHA board approval a developer would fight an unnecessarily difficult uphill battle. Developers did not unlearn this lesson nor did the situation change when the City was founded. Instead of the City being the sole or even primary arbiter of Zoning and Development this is what doing business in Dunwoody looks like to Developers:

In spite of attempts to characterize the DHA as just another community group comments made on behalf of the DHA in the meeting and elsewhere do little to counter the prevailing view. In fact they do quite the opposite. You cannot speak on the one hand about all the great things DHA has done in "negotiating" with developers, bragging about how special it is and has been, and then pretend it is just another HOA. The DHA will be no different to the local swim and tennis club when it behaves like the local swim and tennis club.

One tell of the DHA's high self esteem is the number of times "negotiating with the DHA Board" came up in public comment during the City's special called meeting culminating in a question, per rule rhetorical, lamenting that the Mayor and Council did not come to the DHA to negotiate with the Board regarding the conflict of interest the DHA presents. It almost seems that the commenter's issue wasn't just that the City acted unilaterally but that it did not seek prior approval by the DHA.

General consensus is the legal advisement resulted from a couple of poorly executed development efforts in residential areas. Bigger money and proportionally larger risk is to be found in Perimeter Center. An article in the Dunwoody Reporter on the DHA vs City matter claims:
The DHA was heavily involved in the recently proposed Crown Towers mixed-use development. DHA members met with developers several times and agreed to support the project in exchange for such promises as payment of a $760,000 "voluntary impact fee" to be used toward park space in the Perimeter.
Does not sound like a neighborhood HOA but at first blush looks more like an ordinary protection racket. And in what world is a HOA's support for a project valued at over three quarters of a million dollars? Since government is involved perhaps this price makes sense in a world where choosing between the HOA and serving in a City Zoning and Planning position impacts over two dozen individuals. That the developer pulled out claiming uncertainty regarding how the Council would vote further suggests that someone, somehow had set certain expectations later believed to be unattainable. All things considered the $760,000 price tag presented during "negotiations" may seem a bargain. It certainly looks as if a bargain was struck. Bartered HOA support is more than unseemly as even the mere appearance that money buys a specific outcome puts the public at risk given that our government is involved.

And it is our government. A local, accessible government. A representative government. A government charged with serving all the citizens of Dunwoody and responsible for enacting, applying and enforcing our local Zoning ordinances, doing so fairly and uninfluenced by outside organizations and ex parte negotiations. Dunwoody is one litigious developer and one non-profit HOA misstep away from a courtroom disaster. A disaster for which the HOA cannot be held accountable and whose cost the non-profit will not bear.

Though horribly wrong in execution the City is right to take action. The risk goes beyond mere money and legal liability. The issue is whether our City is led by a representative government accountable at the ballot box or hosts a pretend government that merely carries water for the board of a non-profit HOA.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mizz Dunwoody Bitch Slaps Mista DHA

The relationship between Mizz Dunwoody and her Mista has always been publicly pleasant if at times unseemly or downright incestuous. Recently an earth shattering breakup has Mizz Dunwoody kicking Mista DHA outa da house and to the curb. The abruptness leads some observers to believe Mizz Dunwoody has gone a bit crazy or might be over-reacting to some minor cock-up, like Mista DHA leaving the toilet seat up. Again. But somehow this has a burning bed quality about it.

Reaction in DaVille was immediate and in some cases pre-emptive. Some with an eye for Mista DHA as well as a slightly catty attitude towards Mizz Dunwoody are already slinging mud on Mista's behalf. Fact is they've been making catty remarks only slightly under their breath for some time and now that a crack has opened they are driving a wedge hard and fast all the while batting an eye at Mista DHA. The heart wants what the heart wants.

In reality even the batty-eyed flirts don't know what really happened. Mizz Dunwoody didn't just bitch slap the Mista, she lawyered up and laid a gag order on his stunned face. His initial compliance may be a simple delay tactic until he finds the better lawyers or it may be that Mizz Dunwoody has something that not only constitutes irreconcilable differences but might point to something significantly more serious and embarrassing than a brief indiscretion. And if Mista's courtesan's don't know how are the poor disengaged denizens of this burg to know?

Perhaps the better question is "why would we want to and what good would it do?" It's pretty obvious this split is for real and for good. The lawyers alone indicate that makeup sex is not in this couple's future and while his flirts may service Mista DHA, Mizz Dunwoody seems hellbent on standing tall. And alone.

But what now for Mista DHA? The sting is fresh and there is a risk of anger overruling reason. He may seek to vanquish Mizz Dunwoody on a field of legal battle but he would only win a pyrrhic victory. With significant collateral damage. Us.

Maybe Mista DHA can turn his attention to Miss Schoolhouse. They could be DaVille's next power couple. Or perhaps he can leverage his remaining wealth to invest in real estate. There are some nearby properties, notably a failed restaurant that he could save from becoming a successful bank. So many options. Only one of them bad.

Mizz Dunwoody and Mista DHA were, in their day, such an admirable couple. Let's hope bickering and acrimony don't permanently tarnish the image. 

Monday, June 20, 2016


Qatar Air came to town with an A380 which can only be handled at one gate at The World's Busiest Airport. No one ever said it was the most capable.

Problem is Delta pretty much owns that gate, hell, they pretty much own the airport and while Delta does not fly any A380s to ATL they denied Qatar Air access forcing the Qatar passengers to deplane on the tarmac and bus to the station. Like being in Frankfurt or Amsterdam except the weather is worse.

Delta has been pissy of late having thrown its weight around just a bit too much transforming itself from hometown favorite to biggest bully on the block. They lost their state tax exemption on fuel when they meddled just a bit too much with local ground transportation policy--not their forte. Accustomed to using their money to curry favour they pulled funding for the Fox when a welcome party for Qatar was held at that venue. Accustomed to slinging politicians around like Duncan with his yo-yos they are really pissed off that ATL is expanding any flights with any airline but Delta.

How can you be sure? Fly a little. Helps if it's Delta if only because it will impact you. You'll need to listen carefully to the announcements.Want to know why? Because Delta announces gate changes all the time. So when it suits their needs Delta has no problem re-assigning gates at the drop of a hat.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

TAD: Not Worth The Trouble

The wanna-be Doraville Developer is refusing to answer DCSD's questions regarding the Developer's insistence that our school system participate in a TAD thereby blocking the DCSD Staff's efforts at due diligence. Wonder what the Developer has to hide? You should.

Developer is insisting on a public presentation replete with Power Points, promises and political grandstanding. Yet thru a mouthpiece Developer is already hedging claiming Developer "(has) requested, on multiple occasions, the opportunity to make a formal, public presentation to the district, in which virtually all the questions you asked in your letter would be answered." As it turns out virtually separates itself cleanly from real and over time becomes totally distinct from actuality. And in business, when a company makes similar requests a refusal to answer questions is called non-responsive. When you're non-responsive you do not get to the next step.

So if this effort, this TAD, is not worth Developer's time to answer DCSD questions then it really is not that important, is it?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Bitch Slappin' Mizz Dunwoody

In a recent encounter with Greedy Developer Mizz Dunwoody got one right across the face. Out of the blue. Bitch slapped.

Greedy Developer arrived on the scene with DeKalb-granted zoning in hand to build his building between the Mall and MARTA. But he wants more. He always wants more. And he is accustomed to getting it. He wants a tax abatement, paying almost no property taxes to the city, the county or schools for what is probably a ten year period. Greedy Developer wants the milk but he ain't gonna pay for the cow.

Perhaps his experience with Mizz DeKalb left him confused and angry when he encountered someone playing hard to get. But Mizz Dunwoody should play hard to get. Not because favouring one Greedy Developer is "unfair" to the other Greedy Developers nor because Mizz Dunwoody should be looking to what is "fair" to our local residents. Well not exactly. As long as there is a real prospect of Dunwoody getting their own school system Mizz Dunwoody should not commit to underfunding them. That is only recommended for Mizz Doraville.

Greedy Developer has his DeKalb-conferred zoning, a zoning that found no support in pre-City Dunwoody. Let him build his building under those rules--Mizz Dunwoody cannot really stop him. Mizz Dunwoody needn't demand impact fees. That would be dancing with the devil. But Mizz Dunwoody has been told by someone who knows that Tax Abatements are a bad idea and are a non-starter.

Many think it a knee-jerk reaction but Mizz Dunwoody should kick Greedy Developer in the balls. Nothing says "No Means No" like staggering around with a couple of cracked stones. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Self Identifying

Can "patrons of our judicial system" select housing at a facility serving the "gender they identify with" or will they continue to be forced into housing where the plumbing matches their plumbing?

Monday, June 6, 2016

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Certain Expectations

A recent AJC business blog dropped this nugget:
The developers pulled the Crown Towers proposal under uncertainty over what the council would decide.
Ponder that a bit. Read it again. Let it roll over and over in your head.

Mind. Blown. Right?

The zoning is known. The limits and restrictions are no secret. What the developers want is their rules to prevail and before they detail their rules in full view of the public they want concrete assurances that they will get their way.

What kind of contact and between what individuals could possibly dispel all uncertainty?