Smart transit planning for Vista Grove
Summer road trip season has arrived, and it’s a good time to reflect on the traffic challenges that our community will need to meet. If you’ve spent any time on one of our major arterial roads, especially during peak hours, you know how critical it is that we create options for the community to travel to our public spaces, commercial centers, and recreation areas in ways other than driving. The ability to easily travel is more essential than ever to our quality of life.
Instead of accepting that we are doomed to sit in traffic or idle on congested roads, we critically need our community to be connected by a variety of integrated transit solutions, whether they be bikeways crisscrossing our area, walking paths and trails, or options like a shuttle or connection points to light rail to move into and out of the city and to connect with the growing regional transit structure. We want proximity to amenities, and to vibrant destinations here in the community. We want the ability to implement innovative options in the same way as neighboring cities, be they bike lanes and bike rental services, local access shuttles and connection to light transit, new networks of sidewalks, or reworked and modernized pedestrian areas.
To realize that kind of walkable, bikeable, and connected Vista Grove, we need smart and specific planning. Smart planning should be focused specifically on this area and also examine the impact of projects on our region as a whole. It means an overall and ongoing traffic assessment, and an appreciation for innovation, including the sorts of projects and innovations neighboring cities have employed. It means using the most creative means necessary to reduce sprawl and traffic congestion. Our area needs to be part of the conversation other cities are having about these initiatives and to make our own decisions about transit.
In addition to smart planning, a connected Vista Grove would mean having adequate resources and an energized civic platform to implement the plan. Our Vista Grove feasibility study confirms that a new city will be economically strong and able to comfortably fund exactly the infrastructure improvements we need. Transit was a major impetus for Emory University, which recognized the challenges of our traffic-laden area and annexed into the city of Atlanta to take advantage of light rail expansion. And Chamblee, Brookhaven, and Tucker (among other neighbors) are showing us the kind of initiative and energy that a city can bring to activate, implement, and complete such projects.
As a city in charge of our own planning and zoning, we in Vista Grove could and should make these decisions ourselves because the shape of our infrastructure and transit systems has a dramatic impact on all of us. As one of the founders of the Beltline has noted, “transportation infrastructure does more than move people. It builds communities, and it constructs our way of life. In short, it matters what kind of infrastructure we build, so we should think carefully about how we would prefer to live and make sure that the policies and projects we invest in are supporting those lifestyle goals." (R. Gravel, Where We Want To Live.)
Today, the situation is very different than when our area’s neighborhoods were laid out in the 1950s and 1960s. Our community was considered a retreat from the city, and its lack of connection was considered desirable. Now we are part of a bigger metropolitan region, one whose population has been exploding while our roads and other infrastructure have aged.
The good news is that we don’t have to accept the status quo. As a city of Vista Grove, economically strong and with a shared purpose of modernizing our area for the benefit of all, we could transform Vista Grove into a smart transit community ready for the 21st century and beyond.
If transit is an issue especially important to you, we would welcome your help as a volunteer for our Public Works and Transit task force.
What else can you do to help Vista Grove become a reality?
- Donateto help us fund our education and outreach efforts.
- Encourage your neighbors to sign our petitionto let legislators know we want the option to consider cityhood.
- Help represent Vista Grove by attending other key community meetings (please wear your Vista Grove shirt!).
- Volunteerwith Vista Grove Initiative.
Andrew, Meg, Lara, John, and Megan
An economically strong Vista Grove – FAQs about the feasibility study
If you have not yet reviewed the feasibility study of a potential City of Vista Grove, please do: It confirms that our community can implement a massive plan of infrastructure improvement. We have the resources to provide our own local parks department, planning and zoning services, and road and sidewalk maintenance. And the City of Vista Grove will be able to deploy its own police force.
Here’s a link to the study: Fiscal Feasibility Analysis of a Proposed City of Vista Grove
To best improve the quality of life across Vista Grove, including through a potential city, we need to be engaged and informed. That means understanding the process of how our local government works, how it is funded, and how it can work most efficiently — and the study is very helpful in that effort.
A few points about the study to keep in mind:
Why do we need a study?
The purpose of the feasibility study is to verify that a new city will be able to pay for the services that we want it to offer, and to do so with no tax increases. And it will — the feasibility study has confirmed that we have a strong foundation for a City of Vista Grove.
Who pays for the study?
Community donors, including many of you, through contributions to Vista Grove Initiative. Our non-profit was formed to commission this study and to educate ourselves on how a City of Vista Grove will provide its services. VGI contracted with the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute to conduct the analysis. We are still collecting to pay the balance of the $20,000 cost of this study. So please, if you have not contributed, take a moment to make a tax-deductible contribution to VGI and help to defray the cost of study. www.vistagrove.org/donate.
Just how economically strong will a new City of Vista Grove be?
Very strong. Even employing a conservative analysis of expenses, the study confirms that a City of Vista Grove can provide these services with a $10 million surplus. Those surplus funds can be used for infrastructure improvements in Vista Grove — repairing our roads, adding parks and trails, and laying down new sidewalks in the areas that we need to make our area walkable, bikeable, and connected.
What else can you find in the CVI study?
You will see a very detailed analysis of the different sources of revenue for a new city (which are much wider than just property tax dollars), and the specifics of what delivery of the various service — for example, road maintenance and police officer salaries — would cost.
We’re excited by the possibilities of what a City of Vista Grove could accomplish for our community, and we think this study makes it clear that a lot is possible.
So what’s next? Our next community meeting will be April 26 at 7 p.m. at the Embry Hills Swim and Tennis Club (3131 Alton Road Atlanta 30341). We’re also holding a barbecue fundraiser May 12 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Briarcliff Woods Beach Club (1830 Morris Landers Drive NE Atlanta 30345). Tickets will be $12.50 for adults, $7.50 for children ages 5-12 and children under 5 will eat free.
What else can you do to help make the City of Vista Grove a reality?
- Donate to help us fund our feasibility study.
- Encourage your neighbors to sign our petition to let legislators know we want theoption to consider cityhood.
- Attend Vista Grove meetings and events.
- Help represent Vista Grove by attending other key community meetings (please wear your Vista Grove shirt!).
- Volunteer with Vista Grove Initiative.
Let’s keep the momentum going!
We’re frequently asked by neighbors why the legislative process is so complicated. The process of starting a new city involves a set of statutes that define how a city is created, as well as rules adopted by both houses of the Georgia General Assembly. On top of that, the process of introducing a bill or legislation in the General Assembly can be quite involved.
The statutes allow any group of citizens who wish to exercise their right to form a city to do so. The statutes describe the general process, which includes selection of services, introduction of a bill containing a map and city charter, and a referendum, or vote, by the citizens of the proposed new city. Our state constitution provides oversight of local governments like counties and cities to the General Assembly, which is why part of this process involves beginning with a proposed law, or bill. And because city creation is a matter of both regional and state interest, any member of the General Assembly can introduce such a bill; there is no requirement that the person introducing the bill live in the particular area. Sometimes there is more than one sponsor, as multiple legislators may have an interest in the bill.
Vista Grove began this two-year process in February with the introduction of a House bill by an experienced member of the DeKalb delegation, Rep. Tom Taylor. He helped found the city of Dunwoody and served on its city council, and is one of the most knowledgeable legislators on the process of city creation. On the Senate side, Sen. Fran Millar, another DeKalb legislator who has deep expertise on the legislative side, will sponsor and carry the bill forward in 2019. And as a precautionary measure, it was decided that a companion bill to our House bill should be introduced for the 2018 session as well by another senator, Josh McKoon.Read more
A Strong Vista Grove Means a Strong Region and County
Partnership is a vital aspect of how cities can operate effectively in DeKalb County today. For some needs, it makes more sense for a small and very responsive city government to handle them; for others, where a uniform type of non-localized service is provided over a large area, it makes more sense for the county to handle those needs.
This goes back to the history of the region. DeKalb, of course, covers a very large land area. When it was set up, the area was largely rural and the population much, much smaller. In recent years, the population has swelled, and the county today is comprised of many different neighborhoods, which are part of multiple larger communities. Tucker, before its incorporation, is one example. Vista Grove, united by Lakeside school communities and shared history, is another. And across the county, different communities are in different states of economic development. They also have different needs.
What Tucker, Brookhaven, and Chamblee have shown us is that counties and cities can partner, providing different but collaborative functions to make sure those different community needs get the most direct and efficient attention. To determine which functions make the most sense, one excellent question is, “How dependent is this service on direct input from a particular set of citizens in a particular geographic area?”Read more
OK – now that a bill is introduced, what comes next?
Our top priority for now is fundraising. We need to complete funding for the feasibility study, which we are doing in installments, and your contributions are so important. To continue to foster informed discussion and put on informational events, there are also ongoing expenses for the Vista Grove website and assorted items such as rental of meeting spaces. We count on your help to make that happen.
In this regard, we will be holding regular community outreach meetings to continue to introduce ourselves and discuss Vista Grove with more of our neighbors. As we reach out, we’d appreciate your help with communications – it would be wonderful if we could identify one contact in every neighborhood email or other social media group who could post any announcements to their group. Something like an old fashioned phone tree!
We have also created several task forces that will be working on specific plans for projects to benefit the community, including enhancements to parks and greenspace, and sidewalk and trial expansion. We have a good parks and recreation report started which we are working to update and expand in light of the exciting new park and trail possibilities that have opened up as a result of the funding identified in our feasibility study.Read more
We have some very good news to share - We have moved into the next phase of our efforts to plan for our community’s future.
Georgia House Representative Tom Taylor has introduced a bill that will allow citizens to vote on the creation of a City of Vista Grove.
The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia recently completed a feasibility study for the proposed city which determined that a City of Vista Grove could operate with an estimated $10-million budget surplus while offering a range of services, including police, planning and zoning, parks and roads.Read more
Planning a Better Future for Vista Grove
If we are to meet the challenges of tomorrow in our North DeKalb community, we need the ability to innovate, to plan locally and long-term, and to implement those plans. Safe intersections, beautiful and walkable/bikable streetscapes, an expanding network of parks, greenspace and trails, and a vibrant and lively mix of uses in our commercial areas do not happen by accident. These good things happen when a community has a smart, comprehensive plan, and the citizen energy and dedicated local resources to support it.
In Brookhaven, Tucker, and Chamblee, citizens have provided input to their city governments that is reflected in very specific and comprehensive 20-year plans. Those plans are coupled with budgets and action plans to accomplish those long-term goals —funding additional sidewalks, acquiring additional parks and improving and adapting existing ones, and making public spaces safe, beautiful and vibrant.
Our area (and the proposed City of Vista Grove) is ready for that kind of vision and dedicated long-term planning. We understand that the wonderful aspects of our community require our volunteer efforts and engagement, and require sustained attention. Doing nothing, and simply allowing ad hoc uses, does not work. For instance, visitors to certain portions of the Clairmont Road area just off I-85 near Briarcliff see cracked asphalt lots, shuttered businesses and junked cars instead of the sidewalks, trees, restaurants, and stores that such a key corridor should support.Read more
Legislative Track Moving Forward — Continue to Call and E-mail Legislators
Thank you for your continued interest in improving our amazing community. With your help, we can move forward with the next steps of our effort: the release of a feasibility study and the introduction of a bill in the General Assembly to permit citizens to vote on making Vista Grove a city.
The bill will be comprised of the city charter and a map, developed logically with your support and community input. The map will generally track the boundaries you see on our website, with some variation because the legislature builds maps with a special format (combining individual census blocks, which does not permit the fine-grained precision of a block-by-block parcel map).
We expect to have a completed feasibility study available in under two weeks. Based on what we know about the strong tax base in our region, we anticipate that the analysis will confirm that a City of Vista Grove is not only feasible but economically strong and able to support a range of services. We want our local legislators to know that, and to support and co-sponsor the bill.Read more
Research and our own experience tells us that being part of a cohesive community makes us happier and improves our quality of life. Part of that cohesion comes from having a civic identity, from being citizens of Vista Grove.
Defining the place itself is certainly part of that. We share a community built around shared school, church, and recreational activities but can’t easily answer the question, “Where do you live?”
Rather than mentioning a street, intersection, or vague geographic descriptor (“North Decatur area, near Mercer, around Lavista,” etc.), we know from friends in neighboring cities about the pride and sense of belonging that can come from having a defined name.
“We live in Vista Grove!” — and with that, we evoke the social trust associated with a community that is connected.Read more
Hello Vista Grove Friends! We hope your holiday season has been a joyous and meaningful one. At our December 21 town hall meeting in Embry Hills, we had a terrific group of friends and community members come together, sharing their ideas, hopes, and vision for the future. And as a means of furthering this vision — of connecting our community and energizing citizen participation — we’ve continued to receive very positive support for a potential City of Vista Grove. Here is a short distillation of thoughts on the topic, based on feedback we’ve received to date.Read more