Tochie Blad
Tochie Blad checks out her yard in The Branches subdivision. It was the big yard that attracted her to the neighborhood.

Tochie Blad knows what attracted her to The Branches.

A big yard.

“We already had friends — another young family — who were living here,” she said. “They invited us to a party and their backyard. I loved their big backyard.”

She wanted one of her own.

So in 1995, she and her family moved into a home on Hunters Branch Drive. One recent weekend afternoon, she sat on her back porch in the early spring sun and looked out over the big backyard her family had filled with towering evergreens and with camellias that now flowered red or white. Out front, Lenten roses bloomed.

She ticked off reasons she felt at home. “The location is perfect,” she said. Her husband’s office was only a mile away. Their church was nearby. Their children, now off at college, had gone to good neighborhood schools.

“You find your place,” she said. “You luck out and find everything. You’re lucky.”

The Branches neighborhood takes in portions of both Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.

The Branches isn’t a small place. Blad and other residents say the neighborhood, which straddles the line between Dunwoody and Sandy Springs and DeKalb and Fulton counties, takes in something like 900 homes as it rolls from Mount Vernon Road to Spalding Drive and from nearly Chamblee Dunwoody to nearly Peachtree Dunwoody roads. About 700 homes are in the Dunwoody portion of the neighborhood, with the remaining 200 on the Sandy Springs side, Blad said.

Being in two different cities doesn’t seem to create political problems for the community. Residents are politically plugged in — Blad, for instance, is active with the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods — and several said they rarely think about the division, except when school buses from two different districts drive through to drop off their charges.

Most of the homes in the neighborhood were built during the 1960s through the 1980s, residents say. The developers made The Branches into the sort of suburban neighborhood where all the streets seem to bear the same name. Winding Branch Road intersects with Winding Branch Lane and then with Winding Branch Circle. Twin Branches Way leads to Hidden Branches Drive and then to Hunters Branch Drive.

“People get lost all the time trying to go through from one side to another,” said Bill Grossman, who’s lived in The Branches since 1989. “I don’t know how many times I’ve given directions.”

Grossman, past president and current secretary of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association, and others describe the neighborhood as the kind of kid-centered community where a family’s social life can center on the community swim and tennis club.

Amy and Kevin Gorman work in their yard in The Branches subdivision in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody.

“There are lots of social events at the club,” said Lori Middleton, who lives on Trail Ridge Pass and whose children have competed in community swimming and baseball programs. “In summer, you hang out by the pool.”

Middleton said she found her house through “sheer luck.” She grew up in metro Atlanta, she said, but her husband’s job took them abroad for a while. They lived in England and when they returned to the metro area eight years ago, “there were not a lot of houses on the market,” she said. “I would just drop the kids off at school and I drive around looking for houses.”

Eventually, she found a house that suited them and they moved in. The community fit her family. People were friendly and there was plenty to do. “It’s a very active neighborhood,” she said. “There’re a lot of kids our kids’ ages.”

Kevin and Amy Gorman, who live at the corner of Twin Branch Road and Twin Branch Court, moved into the neighborhood a dozen years ago. They’ve become active in the local elementary school, Woodland Elementary, and say they have comfortably settled into the local community.

“The thing we love about The Branches is the way everybody helps everybody,” Amy Gorman said as she took a brief break from spring yardwork. “Anything you need, you just have to ask somebody.”

Residents say that as the houses in The Branches reach their fourth and fifth decades, the community is growing younger. Young families are buying houses from older residents whose children have grown up and moved on.

But not everyone is leaving. Middleton said only three families have moved onto her street since she found her house eight years ago. And both Grossman and Blad say they have no plans to leave.

“I always thought I would leave the big house behind once my kids graduated,” Blad said. “I’m not, because my yard is like I want it.

“We plan to stay.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.