By John Schaffner
johnschaffner@reporternewspapers.net

The Peachtree Heights West neighborhood of Buckhead can be defined by its large, stately homes at the end of long driveways winding through meticulously landscaped and manicured lawns – one of Atlanta’s toniest areas of high-tax-paying homeowners.

It is an enclave of 510 homes where it is easy for neighbors to remain strangers for years. In fact, one resident reportedly referred to the neighborhood as “the black hole.”

Peachtree Heights West can also be defined by its boundaries: West Paces Ferry Road on the north; Peachtree Battle Avenue on the south; Peachtree Road on the east; and Habersham Road on the west.

For almost a decade, it has been a neighborhood without organization and, for the most part, representation in a city fraught with important issues affecting neighborhoods and homeowners’ pocketbooks through increased taxes and service fees.

Until recently, the Peachtree Heights West (PHW) Civic Association had not held a meeting since 2002. The last directory of neighborhood residents was put out in 1999.

There had been a somewhat functioning zoning review process overseen by three people in the neighborhood, but few of the neighbors knew anything about what was going on.

That has all changed now, and most of the change has been spearheaded by one Peachtree Heights West resident, Buff Quillian.

The change began when Quillian was asked to replace the neighborhood’s representative to Neighborhood Planning Unit B, the citizen organization of northeast Buckhead neighborhood representatives that reviews zoning and liquor license cases before they go before City Council for approval or dismissal.

Quillian took her assignment seriously, attending the NPU’s monthly meetings and learning how important the process could be to the welfare of a neighborhood. She even became treasurer of NPU-B.

More importantly, Quillian realized that her dormant Civic Association needed to be revitalized. Shortly after Christmas last year, she hosted a meeting at her home, which 35 to 40 of her neighbors attended. She was elected president of the PHW Civic Association, and a re-formation of sorts began.

The association had its first annual meeting since 2002 in April. It now has a board of 15 people, has designed a new neighborhood logo and boasts 185 dues-paying members. It has 350 people on its e-mail blast list.

“We have done well in generating members among single-family residences, but not with the townhomes and condos,” Quillian said.

On Oct. 23, the neighborhood association plans a block party, the First Annual Fall Party, in hopes of bringing together many of the residents of those 510 homes to celebrate the re-formation of the neighborhood association and promote a sense of community.

“The PHW Fall Party brings together neighbors who might otherwise remain strangers among the beautiful tree-lined streets and long driveways,” said Diana Memar, one of the event’s coordinators. “All ages will be able to enjoy the event with fun and food. A magician will entertain all with magic and balloon animals, and the bounce house will be a hit among even the youngest of the children,” she added.

Quillian hoped 100 to 150 neighborhood residents would turn out for the festivities.

The 185 neighbors who have already joined the association are listed in a new neighborhood directory, along with 125 other PHW homeowners.

To protect the interests of the neighborhood, the PHW Civic Association is slowly regaining a political voice with its new board of directors. The board is communicating and participating with the Neighborhood Planning Units in Buckhead, Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID) and with City Hall.

But along with exercising some political clout within Buckhead and the city on major issues, Quillian said the association has several major internal neighborhood goals as well.

“In 1984 our association signed an agreement with the city to help maintain Sibley Park,” she explained. “We want to keep that commitment and clean up Sibley Park and return it to native-species plants, as has been done on the Woodward Way side.”

She also said the association has applied for a matching grant from Park Pride “to repair the low stone wall that outlines the corners of West Wesley and Habersham. We put up the new sign on the south side of West Wesley also.”

Although as treasurer Quillian still attends the NPU-B meetings, as well as the monthly meetings of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, she is starting to pass some of the responsibilities off to others in the neighborhood, now that there is organization again and there are people joining in to help.

Quillian is a believer in the strength of Buckhead’s neighborhoods when they are organized.