Virginia-Highland Civic Association Board Meeting
May 14, 2012; Ponce de Leon Library
Mr. White called the meeting to order at 7 PM. Present were Board members Peggy Berg, Lola Carlisle, Frazier Dworet, Genny Ferrero, Rob Glancy, Nicole Foerschler Horn, Pamela Papner, John Wolfinger, and David Wolfson. Brian Gross and Lauren Wilkes Fralick were absent with notice.
CALL TO ORDER / ADOPTION OF THE AGENDA / APPROVAL OF MINUTES
Mr. White moved to amend the portion of the agenda relating to the Planning Committee, noting that the correct number of the Variance Application at issue is V-12-059 at 688 Cooledge Avenue NE. The attached agenda (“Addendum 1”), as revised, was approved without objection.
The minutes from the April 2012 Board meeting were approved without objection.
POLICE AND FIRE
Captain Mike Giugliano of APD, introduced himself as the newly-appointed 2nd in charge at Zone 6. He is associated with the new Old 4th Ward precinct. He noted that Zone 6 has been the lowest reporting crime zone for the past three years.
CITY OF ATLANTA OFFICIALS
Council members Alex Wan and at-large member Aaron Watson were present. Mr. Wan discussed the recent 13-year extension granted by the Federal government in connection with its water and sewer decree, which he reports that the City claims will help to ensure that water and sewer rates in the City of Atlanta will not increase any further. Mr. Wan noted that he could not take a position on the political campaigns in favor of or opposing the T-Splost 1% tax increase scheduled for a vote on July 31, but he urged that citizens educate themselves and vote. Finally, he reminded all present to be mindful of Jazz Fest next weekend in Piedmont Park and to avoid 10th Street, if possible.
Mr. Watson invited all residents to contact him with respect to any issues, and encouraged citizens to attend Streets Alive this weekend.
State representatives Ralph Long from the 61stth House district and Simone Bell of the 58th introduced themselves; they are running against each other this summer in the Democratic primary in the newly-redistricted 58th, and they urged everyone to vote on July 31st . Pat Gardner from the 57th appeared as well. She reviewed the redistricting process, observing that VaHi is now split into two districts, with Virginia Avenue as the new northern boundary twixt the 58th on the south and the 57th to the north. She also noted that this is National Women’s Health Week; she encouraged women everywhere to consider steps to improve their overall health and quality of life.
V-12-59, 688 Cooledge Ave. NE. Applicant Melinda Chandler spoke in support of the variance, which proposes a new second story to their home within the current footprint, whose existing front setback is 31.7 feet, less than the 35’ required. The impacted homeowners have been notified, and no reservations were expressed or comments made. Ms. Carlise noted that the Planning Committee had observed no lot coverage, tree, or runoff issues and unanimously recommended approval of the variance; she moved (and Mr. Foerschler Horn seconded) approval the variance request conditioned on a site plan dated April 23, 2012. The motion passed unanimously.
Mid-Year Report on Goals. Ms. Carlise provided a mid-year report on the goals of the planning committee. She noted that most application materials are now available on line, and that the planning committee is working to provide a checklist for potential applicants, to make the variance application procedure easier for residents. She reported that the revision of the by-laws is underway. Ms. Carlisle also noted that the planning committee had met its annual goal of presenting a community education session on the NC ordinance, hosted by Aaron Fortner. The notes from this meeting are also posted on line. Finally, Ms. Carlise advised that she is trying to get more people involved on the history and preservation initiatives.
John Howell Park Report. Mr. White reviewed the Parks Committee’s efforts and approaches at John Howell Park. The Committee reviewed the Parks’ original landscape plans with their architect, Peter Frawley (also the architect at New Highland Park), and Ryan Healan (who led the landscaping process at Orme), compiled existing complaints, spoke to many park users on site, conducted walks through the park with interested parties, met with the City’s Parks Department, and reached out to and met with Volleyball Atlanta, which manages the courts near the playgrounds. The Committee identified a series of major challenges (and a number of smaller ones, many interrelated): the neglect of park infrastructure (both horticultural and structural), the need for better definition between the playground and volleyball courts, the need to end the spillage of sand from the volleyball courts to adjacent areas (and to plant those areas and the adjacent corner around and along Arcadia Drive), the need to address the eroding area between the upper and lower levels of the park, either by providing formal access such as steps or by replanting.
At the landscape architects’ recommendation, the committee’s initial list of immediate horticultural needs focused on overgrown and severely-neglected pruning needs, misplaced plantings introduced by nature or humans, invasive non-natives (particularly those that were threatening infrastructure), and plantings in locations incompatible with the landscape plan. The focus was on lightly editing the park landscape and preserving the major features while addressing bare areas, overgrown shrubbery, dead or sick trees, and the neglected weedy and struggling grassy areas. The Committee provided a long list of such items to three vendors with good resumes; each vendor inevitably and usefully saw the challenges through different prisms and submitted bids. The Committee selected Rock Spring Farm, whose owner, Mr. Walter Bland, was introduced by Mr. White. Mr. Bland provided a through slide slow with many before and after shots of conditions in the park. He described his work as a form of ‘site prep’ focusing on the health of the plant stock – pruning overgrown healthy plants, eliminating those needing to go, saving what should stay, and relocating some plants to spots more suitable to them, setting the stage for a longer-range approach guided by Mr. Frawley.
Mr. White then summarized some of the infrastructure issues, including needed brick repairs at the John Howell Memorial, fence repair, and the sanding (already underway for demo purposes) of the long-neglected benches in the Park. The Committee has identified Gary Jones of Jones Woodworking as its intended contractor; Mr. Jones did the much-appreciated repair and restoration of the benches at the Streetscape and has the appropriate insurance coverages already on file with us and the City. Mr. White itemized a funding request toward these park maintenance and seeding issues: A total of S8,740, specifically estimated as follows: $3,250 to pay for landscaping efforts, including further site prep and aerating and fertilizing lawn areas in preparation for new seeding in the fall; $2,190 for Mr. Frawley for his ongoing efforts in guiding the ongoing effort to seek practical; solutions for the challenges listed above; $2,400 for the sanding and staining of eight (8) benches; and $900 for electrical repairs at the Triangle.
Mr. White made (and Ms. Carlisle seconded) a motion allocating those funds. Mr. Dworet said he supported the work and noted it had been discussed at the Budget Committee but would have preferred the information had been communicated to others ahead of the meeting. Mr. Glancy said that he had not been informed of this request or what was going on at the park ahead of time and did not know that any work had been done there. Mr. Wolfinger applauded the work and observed that the long-overdue pruning and related work has actually made the park much safer because you can now see to the back of it from Virginia Avenue. Several members of the audience voiced their appreciation for all that had been done, noting that JHP was the neighborhood’s biggest and most recognizable park and had been neglected for many years; they praised the cleanup, the ongoing pruning, and the much-improved appearance and urged that it be continued and expanded.
The motion passed 8-1, with Ms. Berg, Ms. Carlisle, Ms. Ferrero, Ms. Foerschler Horn, Ms. Papner, Mr. White, Mr. Wolfinger, and Mr. Wolfson voted in favor of the motion; Mr. Glancy voted against it; Mr. Dworet did not vote.
New Highland Park Update.
Pamela Papner provided an update. Approximately $2,000 was raised from the recent Osteria anniversary party. Ongoing fundraising efforts are continuing and the Board hopes to soon break ground on park improvements.
Pamela Papner provided a detailed update regarding planned Summerfest events. It appears that the Summerfest committee is scheduled to meet or exceed their stated goals. They have raised approximately $16,000 (about $5,000 more than they ever have) for sponsorships. Ms. Papner also spoke, in response to questioning from the audience, about post-event cleaning plans.
Mid-year report on goals. Mr. Dworet explained that the Board is in compliance with all the goals mentioned in the recent audit and noted that we have recently hired an accountant to assist in bookkeeping matters.
Ms. Nicole Foerschler Horn briefly reviewed the history of the year’s educational challenges and the status of the recent redistricting efforts. Ms. Foerschler Horn moved that the Board form an education committee, comprised of six voting members, plus one chair that is on the Board. (Nicole). Ms. Foerschler Horn anticipated strong interest in the education committee. She will be posting on Big Tent and the VHCA website, asking that people submit their interest to Mr. White. Mr. White seconded the motion regarding the formation of the education committee, and it passed unanimously. Mr. White formally nominated Ms. Foerschler Horn as chairperson of the education committee; this motion also passed unanimously.
Ms. Foerschler Horn then moved that she be authorized to host two facilitated meetings – one focused on residents from Virginia Highland and one to which all cluster residents would be invited. She anticipated that the cost of two professionally-facilitated two-hour meetings would total $5,000. A discussion ensued regarding the cost of the facilitator and the importance of having the new committee establish goals and objectives. Ms. Horn promised to provide those at the next meeting, and Mr. White then moved to retain $5000 of the previously committed $20,000 in the Education budget to enable preparation for such meetings. Ms. Ferrero seconded the motion, and it motion passed unanimously.
Mr. White then moved to return the remaining $15,000 of that sum back to the Unallocated Funds section of the budget. Ms. Berg seconded the motion; it passed unanimously.
Ms. Berg spoke regarding sidewalks and explained that she is awaiting an analysis of costs from the City. With regard to streets, the committee is ready to address the next series of requests for minor repairs in the neighborhood. A list is posted on the Association’s website. She hopes to have a detailed proposal ready for the next meeting.
The Board discussed the Local Luna restaurant at Amsterdam Walk and the noise generated by the restaurant on various occasions. Mr. White affirmed that proposed By-Law revisions would be posted on the Association’s website well in advance of discussion and voting and that their arability posted in an e-blast.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:23 PM.
Following adjournment, the Board attempted to hold a scheduled executive session to discuss two legal matters; all but one Association member left the room promptly. David Eckoff refused to leave, in spite of several specific requests that he do so. Mr. White dismissed the group and announced alternate arrangements would be made for the board to discuss the legal issues.