Barry Lebowitz said he remembers when residents living around the historic Crossroads Cemetery became a neighborhood.
In 2010, Verizon applied for a permit to erect a cell phone tower across from the historic Crossroads Cemetery.
“That was the lynchpin,” Lebowitz said. “That’s exactly what did it. When we got that notice, everybody’s ears perked up.”
The cell tower proposal fired up the community and resulted in the creation of the Historic Cross Roads Community Association, a group that includes roughly half a dozen subdivisions near the intersections of Dupree Drive Northwest, Old Powers Ferry Road Northwest and Mt. Vernon Highway Northwest.
Lebowitz is a founding member of the group. The neighborhood is zoned for Heards Ferry Elementary School and Riverwood International Charter School. Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School is located in the heart of the community, next to the historic cemetery.
The subdivisions are full of expensive houses on quiet streets, sitting at a safe distance from the congestion along Roswell Road.
“These neighborhoods are some of the nicest in the metro area,” Lebowitz said. “We have really nice, hilly terrain.”
Neighbors succeeded in keeping the cell tower out of their neighborhood. In the process, they noticed other things they thought needed work. The water tank near the proposed cell tower site was rusted and hadn’t been painted in 20 years. There was right of way at the intersection of Dupree and Mt. Vernon that Lebowitz described as a “mud bank.”
Though the proposed site for the cell tower was in Sandy Springs, it actually belonged to the city of Atlanta. AT&T had also bought a nearby piece of property and installed utility boxes, Lebowitz said.
“AT&T planted a number of shrubs and trees in front of their boxes for us and we mulched it and all that stuff, and it’s much better. When the shrubs grow, they’ll be out of sight,” Lebowitz said. “We got Watershed in Atlanta involved … They planted 30 or more fairly large trees and then re-pinestrawed everything.”
Lebowitz said the neighbors also pitched in and the group received additional support from the city of Sandy Springs.
“There’s a park next to the church and the neighborhoods, and Sandy Springs spruced that up and now we maintain it,” he said. “We spend a lot of manual labor ourselves maintaining things.”
The community association also wants to beautify the Crossroads Cemetery.
The neighborhood’s location is its biggest asset, Lebowitz said. He said accessibility to the rest of metro Atlanta is a key selling point.
“I can get to Buckhead four different ways,” Lebowitz said.
Jamie Kleber has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years and said she became involved with the group during the fight over the cell tower. She said the easy access to other parts of metro Atlanta is important to her as well. She also enjoys interacting with her neighbors.
“People are really friendly and nice,” Kleber said. “It’s very family friendly.”
Karen Ford said the neighborhood is “the best place in Atlanta to live. It’s close to everything, you’re not under the horrible management of the city of Atlanta, but you’re in a great area.”
Lebowitz said neighbors and city officials are both on the same page with regard to cell towers.
During its Feb. 19 meeting, Sandy Springs City Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing House Bill 176, a bill that council members say undermines city cell tower regulations approved in December. As of March 1, the bill was still working its way through committees in the state House of Representatives.
“Every municipality in Georgia has their own ordinance about how to deal with those,” Lebowitz said. “I think this is a typical kind of lobbying effort by the telecommunications industry because they want to build more towers.”
The Historic Cross Roads Community Association won’t make it easy for the telecommunications companies. The House bill has jolted the neighborhood into action again.
“We jumped on it,” Lebowitz said. “We got — I don’t know, maybe 50 — letters written to the legislators on that particular committee and our representatives, as well as others.”