In 2008, some Buckhead residents banded together give their neighborhoods a stronger voice in the city.
Four years later, everyone is listening to the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, a civic group that has become an influential institution with 31 member communities.
July marks the fourth birthday of the group. The BCN advocates for issues that affect all its members and provides support to specific neighborhoods.
Chairman Jim King wants the membership list to keep growing.
“I think it will continue to help other areas that aren’t organized to form neighborhood associations,” King said. “I think there will be more cross-community initiatives that evolve.”
King noted a host of BCN accomplishments, including advocating for a Zone 2 community prosecutor, being the first to call for the Fulton County District Attorney to investigate the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal and co-hosting the largest mayoral candidate forum in 2009.
All neighborhoods have equal representation in the group, regardless of size.
The BCN accomplishes its mission on a shoe-string budget, with member neighborhoods paying $100 a year in dues. While other Buckhead groups, like the Buckhead Coalition and Buckhead Community Improvement District focus on the business community, BCN fills a niche that serves residents.
The two interests don’t always agree. For example, some BCN members chaffed at developers naming their mixed-use project “Buckhead Atlanta,” saying it would confuse people.
Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said the groups strengthen each other.
“A very important part of Buckhead’s formula for success is the mutual respect each has for the other between business and residential interests,” Massell said. “The Buckhead Coalition has acknowledged this role of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods since its inception, and predicts our strengths will continue to grow in tandem.”
The group’s meetings, held on the second Thursday of each month at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, draw politicians looking to connect with constituents.
Elected officials regularly drop by. Candidates running for office have it on their calendars. King often invites specific speakers.
Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean is a regular. Atlanta school board member Nancy Meister attends when the BCN has questions about Atlanta Public Schools. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed stopped by last year. Georgia Department of Transportation officials are regularly invited to listen to neighborhood leaders pick apart their latest proposals.
Transportation frustrations set the wheels of the group in motion, King said. The intersection of I-85 and Ga. 400 became a rallying point.
“There were some transportation issues that came up,” King said. “Neighborhoods weren’t being heard.”
The concept of a group of neighborhoods forming a larger organization isn’t new to Atlanta.
The Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods plays a similar role. The Dunwoody Homeowners Association is another model King cited.
Gordon Certain, the longtime BCN secretary, said the group’s efforts have paid off.
GDOT is building new ramps that will circumvent the need to use side streets to get from southbound Ga. 400 to northbound I-85.
The state is using toll money to pay for it. Certain said the BCN’s advocacy of using toll funds and the subsequent extension of the tolls ticked off its regional neighbors. But Certain said the state had obligations to Buckhead when it promised and didn’t deliver on the intersection design.
Certain said without the BCN, it would’ve been harder for neighborhoods to make that argument.
“We were pretty darn successful,” Certain said. “We laid the pipe for the politicians to decide there was broad community support for fixing the problem.”