Education-related news dominated headlines in Buckhead for 2012, as Atlanta Public Schools moved from a school redistricting controversy into a confrontation with North Atlanta High parents over leadership changes.
Zoning was another major concern.
Here are the top stories of 2012
North Atlanta leadership changes
Atlanta Public Schools couldn’t find someone to replace North Atlanta High Principal Mark MyGrant for most of the year. APS offered one candidate the job, but that principal decided in June to stay put at his job in New York. MyGrant, who months earlier had announced his retirement, was asked to stay on as interim. The principal had a loyal following among parents, but the vocal supporters were in for a shock. Behind the scenes in January, a group of parents urged APS to investigate their allegations of racism by top school administrators, including MyGrant.
Emails obtained by the Buckhead Reporter revealed that District 4 Board of Education member Nancy Meister and Chairman Reuben McDaniel in August sparred back and forth over the allegations of institutional racism. On Oct. 5, a late Friday afternoon, APS told MyGrant leave and reassigned the school’s academy leaders. The school’s new principal is Gene Taylor. The board’s ethics commission has launched an investigation into complaints that McDaniel meddled in hiring decisions at the school.
County of Buckhead
In response to the changes at North Atlanta High, Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods Chairman Jim King proposed creating an independent “county of Buckhead” that would have its own school district separate from Atlanta’s. So far no one has taken up his proposal.
Legislative redistricting leads to new representatives
Redistricting brought new representatives to Buckhead.
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Marietta, represents the community starting in 2013. In 2013, the 11th District will take in a piece of north Fulton, adding The Westminster Schools, Lovett School, and the Georgia governor’s mansion.
State Sen. Hunter Hill beat four-term incumbent Doug Stoner, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election. Hill, who is a native of Buckhead and graduate of the Westminster Schools, unsuccessfully challenged Stoner in 2008. The 2012 elections gave Hill a better shot at Stoner’s seat, which was redistricted to include more Republicans.
Buckhead wins the school redistricting wars
Atlanta Public Schools initial plans to redraw the school zone lines for Buckhead schools didn’t go over too well. The discussion began in November 2011, but intensified at the beginning of the year. Contentious community meetings at North Atlanta High with APS officials highlighted parents’ desires to expand overcrowded schools and their resistance to any kind of change.
APS listened, for the most part. Shortly before approving the new school zones in April, the school district moved Pine Hills neighborhood into the Sarah Smith district, which parents said would add more than 120 students to the school.
South Atlanta parents didn’t have much sympathy for Buckhead’s concerns. While Buckhead was largely left alone, the school board voted to close seven schools in other parts of the city.
T-SPLOST fails; Ga. 400/I-85 project goes on
Voters in a 10-county region of metro Atlanta that included Fulton and DeKalb counties sent politicians a message last July by voting down a penny sales tax intended to pay for regional transportation projects. That message? “We’d rather be stuck in traffic than trust you guys with another $7 billion to $8 billion to spend.”
The money was to be spent on a list of specific projects designed to reduce traffic jams by fixing roads, extending MARTA and adding bike and walking paths. The voters shot the program down, with 63 percent voting against it. Now planners and regional politicians are looking for other ways to raise money for the most badly needed projects, such as improvements to the intersection of Ga. 400 and I-285.
The Atlanta City Council said “no” to a proposal to build a Walmart as part of a mixed use development near the Lindbergh MARTA station, but it was a close call. A 7-6 vote by Atlanta City Council on Oct. 1 fell short of the eight votes needed to approve the plan.
For almost two years, Sembler Co. and Fuqua Development have been pushing a mixed-use development project that would put the big-box retailer, complete with a supermarket component, within walking distance of MARTA’s Lindbergh Center station.
Fuqua Development CEO, Jeff Fuqua, said after the meeting, that he is not giving up on the project. The council’s decision precludes reconsidering the land use and zoning request for two years. But the developer can begin the process of submitting a new proposal at any time. Fuqua says he plans on submitting a proposal at the neighborhood level soon.
The Randolph Lucas House will disappear from its current Peachtree Road address, but it won’t be because of a wrecking ball.
Buckhead Heritage announced on Oct. 23 that all parties have reached an agreement that will give preservationists enough time to move the historic home to another location where it will be preserved. The agreement between Buckhead Heritage, the city of Atlanta and the 2500 Peachtree Condominiums Association, the building’s owner, recognizes that a demolition permit will be issued but grants access to assess the costs of moving and protecting the home.
The owners had sought a demolition permit, sparking a frantic effort by preservationists to save the house. Their work paid off.
The Randolph-Lucas House, a mansion located at 2494 Peachtree Road, is part of the Peachtree Heights Park District, a nationally recognized historic site. Hollins Nichols Randolph, a prominent Atlanta attorney, built the red brick residence in 1924.
Sandy Springs development gets Buckhead’s back up
Neighborhood associations in Sandy Springs and Buckhead have teamed up against plans for a mixed-use development and apartment complex near the intersection of Wieuca and Roswell Roads.
JLB Partners and Core Property Capital are behind the project. They initially proposed 700 apartments and a seven-story parking deck and would demolish apartments now on the property. If left at its current size, it would force millions of dollars worth of road improvements to accommodate the expected increase in traffic.
Four neighborhood associations have registered complaints about the project. They are Cherokee Park and High Point Civic in Sandy Springs, and Chastain Park and North Buckhead Civic in Atlanta. The developer has asked Sandy Springs to defer its zoning application until next year. Sandy Springs Councilman Chip Collins sent an email to residents on Nov. 16 saying the City Council may vote on zoning in March, at the earliest.