How do we prevent overdevelopment of our city?

Carefully planned development and construction within a city are critical for the prosperity of residents. Development can create a sense of community, provide infrastructure investment, attract business and generate jobs, bring desired curb appeal, and maintain or increase home values. Whether the development is residential or commercial, construction brings economic stability. 

Development can also increase traffic, alter ecosystems and habitats, and change the character of a community. The key is to find a balance between growth and maintaining the desired character of the community, as well as weighing the pros and cons of the development plan.  

This balance must be intentional and thoughtfully planned by community leaders as part of a process that draws upon residents' intimate knowledge of their own community. Absent this planning, organic development that occurs may be undesired and harmful. Representatives who live in the areas they serve will understand the goals of the local community and its residents, and through citizen input and participation in the zoning process are able to implement a long term plan to manage development activity in order to strike that important balance.  

The key to managing development, and therefore overdevelopment, is to have local leadership that is immersed in the community and understands the balance between growth and maintaining character. That local leadership then ensures that community voices are heard and are a direct and immediate part of the planning and development process.  

This is exactly why cities have proven more successful at community building and improving quality of life.  City of Vista Grove residents and elected leaders will all live in the community and are best equipped to balance development with maintaining the character of the community.  

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Brookhaven proposes to keep taxes higher for newly annexed areas

Over the past few years in our pursuit to create a city within our footprint, I have had neighbors who believe it would be better to be annexed into a city like Brookhaven. One of the reasons for considering annexation was that the millage rate is lower in a city like Brookhaven. However, in the article below it appears that any new annexations into Brookhaven will be at a higher tax millage rate similar to DeKalb County. 
We believe a city of Vista Grove will keep our neighborhoods together and we can run key services more efficiently and locally at a lower tax rate than DeKalb County. 
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Community Informational Meeting 10/23

The Vista Grove meeting was an overwhelming success on Wednesday evening October 23rd at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral on Clairmont Road. Over 60 neighbors attended this very informative meeting. The evening began with a wonderful presentation given by Greg Ramsey, the developer of Pendergrast Farms, which will be located on Briarcliff Road near the intersection of Chrysler Drive. The Pendergrast Farms is a type of development that the city of Vista Grove would support. It is a well thought out development that maintains a large buffer around its property,  communal living & limited removal of trees on one of the largest remaining undeveloped properties in our footprint. 

The second half of the evening was dedicated to  answering questions from the audience about the city initiative of Vista Grove. Detailed answers were given about the feasibility of having a city, taxes, the many benefits of cityhood and how we can make this become a reality. Many in the audience left this evening being excited about how a city if Vista Grove can improve our area.
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Vernon Jones introduces our bill, HB 671

As this legislative session comes to a close, we are excited about where Vista Grove is headed. One of our DeKalb legislators, Rep. Vernon Jones, has just signed on to sponsor our bill (HB 671). We appreciate Rep. Jones’ leadership on this issue, as it permits the legislative process for Vista Grove to move forward. While we hoped legislation could be passed this session, with a vote in 2019, this bill will be considered next session, moving a cityhood referendum to 2020.

Between now and next January, we all need to work to get the word out about Vista Grove to even more neighbors, and to continue to foster positive and factual discussion about improving this great community. When the new session comes around, we will be ready. Our DeKalb legislators say they want to hear from more constituents about their enthusiasm and readiness to vote on a City of Vista Grove. Please continue to contact your representatives and keep the discussions alive in your neighborhoods.

As importantly, there is work to be done on improvement projects right now, right here in Vista Grove. Where do you most want to see us join together as a Vista Grove community? Building out our own Vista Grove Greenway? Creating new recreation spaces and opportunities for our families and children? Pushing for road repairs and sidewalk additions? Look for an important update soon about how you can stay involved.

Thank you for all you do! Your efforts to date have galvanized this movement and helped educate our legislators about the strong desire for change in our community — and with your help, we WILL carry that work forward!

Please keep up your Vista Grove signs! Our signs help raise awareness of this movement for positive change and to give us voice. They also show our legislators how widespread support is in the community.

What can you do to help make a City of Vista Grove a reality?

• Contact your legislators and let them know you support a vote on Vista Grove (and ask your friends and neighbors to do the same)
• Donate to help fund our outreach efforts
• Display our yard sign – let us know if you need one
• Wear a Vista Grove shirt to events legislators attend (email us at info@vistagrove.org if you'd like a shirt or pick one up at a Vista Grove event)

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A Voice and a Vote

The movement for a voice for the Vista Grove community and the legislative process to allow us a vote on cityhood is continuing! The fact that “Crossover Day” has passed without our cityhood bill clearing the General Assembly this year just means that we need to focus on ensuring our right to vote in 2020.

For this year, we are pleased that our bill has been introduced and is now available for review and discussion to continue this initiative forward into the 2020 legislative session. Any state legislator can sponsor a bill; and since enabling a vote for Vista Grove is both of countywide and regional interest and benefit, Representative Timothy Barr introduced our cityhood bill in order to continue moving the conversation forward. This displayed admirable vision and political courage and if you have not thanked him, please write to do so.

Our community deserves for one of our own local representatives to stand up for us and sponsor our bill allowing us to vote. As Representative Barr has communicated, his intention is and has always been to preserve a right to vote while we seek bipartisan sponsors. It is thus more important than ever to write your legislators and let them know that you support Vista Grove – they need to hear from you!

What is our challenge for local representation?

The Vista Grove area has a total of seven legislative representatives, none of whom have a majority of constituents within the Vista Grove map. As many of you have read, each legislator is subject to extraordinary pressures from interests within the bulk of their districts, which are outside of Vista Grove. Further, their districts each include between one and four neighboring cities with long term goals that conflict with our community’s cityhood initiative. This divided interest and fragmented representation for our community raises the bar even higher for us when it comes to being heard! Whether fair or not, it is our reality.

So please take a moment and write now. Our representatives are listening and the only way to make our community’s voice heard is for you to write them.

As we move forward with the cityhood initiative, you have our continued commitment to lead a positive dialogue. We have not, and will not, engage in the politics of negativism. The Vista Grove movement has delivered good facts, in a positive way, about options for our civic future including cityhood. The movement stands for improving our community for our community and for fostering neighborhood cohesion. We firmly believe it is not only right, but more successful to build our community by respecting all opinions and treating everyone with dignity and respect, both online and in person.

Please know that this effort continues to be driven by you and your neighbors, who have made it possible to fund the required feasibility study and a lobbying team through a good old-fashioned grassroots effort. The positive feedback and support from the community has been overwhelming, we have met the statutory requirements, and we are determined to get the right to vote, whether it be this year or in 2020.  

Regardless of the outcome during the current session, we are committed to doing the hard work so that our legislators will support us as we move forward with Vista Grove!

Sincerely,
Andrew, Meg, Lara, Angela, John, and Megan

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Legislative Update

Thanks to all who came out to our January information meeting on Jan. 30 - we had a great turnout (100+ people), and a very energizing discussion!

At the meeting, we announced our new legislative team for this crucial legislative session. Brad Carver, who is experienced in working with cities to help introduce their charter legislation, will assist us again this year. We’re grateful to have his expertise on board.

In addition, we’re excited to announce that Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary is joining the Vista Grove team. As someone who knows from experience the benefits a city can bring to the overall strength of both local communities and DeKalb as a whole, Jason Lary is an excellent addition to our legislative efforts, and we’re grateful for his support. He was elected Stonecrest’s first mayor in 2017 and worked diligently for years to establish a city to represent his DeKalb community.

Having both Brad and Mayor Lary assisting underscores Vista Grove’s non-partisan message. Vista Grove is a non-partisan effort, just as the issues a city of Vista Grove would address, like improving infrastructure, building community, and fostering smart economic development, are non-partisan issues. Both Jason Lary and Brad Carver are experienced in identifying common grounds and working on practical solutions with both Republican and Democratic legislators. We hope to get as much bipartisan legislative support for a Vista Grove bill as possible, and we believe working with both sides of the aisle is the best way to accomplish that goal.

As always, your support, as an engaged and informed member of the community is so important, and our legislators have shared that they want to continue to hear from you that you support the opportunity to vote on the creation of our own city.

 

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Public Works - A Smoother Road for Vista Grove

Public Works: A smoother road for Vista Grove

If you joined us for our December informational meeting, you took part in a great discussion about public works, specifically roads, drainage systems and sidewalks — in a potential city of Vista Grove. Right now, we have an historic opportunity to invest in, repair, and build out this important infrastructure in our community.

Cities operate in designated service areas. For Vista Grove, those would include parks and recreation, roads and drainage, police protection, and planning and zoning. Other services would continue to be handled by the county.

Paving/Roads

Roads and drainage services would also include pavement maintenance and repaving, and sidewalk repair and construction. Stormwater systems maintenance, an important aspect of that, is paid via a separate dedicated fee.

As a city, Vista Grove would be able to focus solely on keeping the roads in our area paved, including preventative maintenance. Right now, there are a large number of deferred maintenance projects across DeKalb. 2014 Transportation Plan “In recent years, over 300 miles of streets have been identified as needing resurfacing each year, but funding programs available through GDOT and the county, along with bond programs have been insufficient, funding only 10-20% of the miles in need of repair.”

Pavement preservation — as opposed to simply addressing repairs when they are needed — is cost-effective, saving later dollars on rehabilitation. 2014 DTS. Maintenance deferred for too long builds risk of hazardous conditions and more expensive rehabilitation.

If you have observed the paving projects, as well as sidewalk construction, in neighboring cities, you have seen rapid progress in working through paving backlog and in new sidewalk construction.

How have these cities been able to move so quickly? Through the judicious use of public-private partnership — having privatized and professional contractors bid to handle these services. Services are thereby delivered professionally from conception, by subject matter experts. This approach, used most recently by Tucker, permits immediate readiness, rapid deployment of staff and resources, and reduces expenditure of capital in the start-up phase.

In turn, this is helping cities and the county as a whole. We know cities do not exist in isolation. Cities coexist and partner with the county. They work with other cities, and they work with regional and state stakeholders on subject matter areas like transit. The sharing of service delivery between counties and cities — the city-county partnership — is creating success countywide. When cities to handle these aspects of public works, it frees up time, money, and resources for the county.

Brookhaven, which provides road maintenance for its citizens, has a proactive road paving program. It engages contractors to assess all city streets every four years, prioritizing a pavement condition index that looks at conditions and traffic volume. Based on this assessment, the city has in place a five-year street paving capital program.

Tucker, too, has been able to address roads using their dedicated SPLOST funds. They started with a detailed study, and hired a contractor to drive and survey every road in the city. Once this data was collected, the city council approved a contract to have a paving and concrete contractor do repair work for fiscal year 2019, along with a separate engineering and inspections contract. City Council Wrap Up, June 11, 2018

Sidewalks

Sidewalks are another critical piece of a long-term infrastructure plan for Vista Grove. We should work toward having sidewalks on both sides of all major roads and within all school walking zones, i.e., those areas within one mile of schools.

Certainly, this is a safety issue. A 2014 transportation study of the county noted that 60 percent of crashes occur within ½ mile of a school. For crashes involving pedestrians, 75 percent of them occurred along roadways with no median and 81 percent of them were on roadways with speed limits between 35 and 45 mph. (2014 DTS, Needs Assessment Page 9.) Those conditions can and should be addressed.

Beyond safety, a sidewalk network plays an important role in building community. When we can safety and easily walk to playgrounds, retail areas, and parks, more of us will be using our public spaces and have the kinds of personal interactions that make a community great.

A Walkable/Bikable Community

We can also begin the gradual design and update of our roadways into smart streets, that integrate these sidewalks, along with bike lanes and the right safety and access features for pedestrians. Even smaller additions like tree plantings for shade and judicious placement of benches, when handled thoughtfully, can improve the aesthetics and encourage use of non-vehicle alternatives.

And then imagine the opportunities for recreation, fitness, and quality of life enhancement when we connect our sidewalk network to a Vista Grove Greenway, building out our own multi-use trail system between the South and North Fork Peachtree Creek trails and then to the emerging regional trail system.

With the energy, proactive planning and resources of our own city, we can revitalize our aging physical infrastructure — including, roads, stormwater systems, and missing connections like sidewalks — and build those out to get us ready for the future. It is time to get started on making Vista Grove a truly connected, walkable and bikeable community, one with safe and smart streets. It is both a short-term and and long-term investment, and one that can make our community stronger than ever.

The good news is that an engaged citizenry, with the right resources and civic platform to amplify their efforts, can create incredible change. We have seen that happen in the cities that have formed around us, both older ones like Chamblee, and newer ones, like Tucker and Brookhaven. Preserving the good and becoming the thriving, connected community we want to be, requires some change. Cities are helping drive that change, and with the voice and concentrated energy, planning and resources that a city would give us, Vista Grove can, too.

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Cities are non-partisan

Cities are non-partisan

Refreshingly, the issues handled by cities are non-partisan. A proposed city of Vista Grove, like the existing twelve cities in DeKalb and those elsewhere in our metropolitan region, would have non-partisan citizen legislators. City leadership is not Democratic or Republican. And their responsibilities — improving infrastructure like roads and sidewalks, acquiring parks and multi-use trails, and helping support new local businesses and civic events like festivals — aren’t partisan, either.

In a season of such political rancor, we think it is important to emphasize that Vista Grove Initiative (and the civic improvement objectives that we work on with volunteers) is also non-partisan. Although we have not taken a poll, it is likely — since as a grassroots movement, Vista Grove reflects the progressive community we live in — that most volunteers in their presidential and local office voting, lean more Democratic. A large number of volunteers and supporters are strong, lifelong Democrats.

But those labels are really irrelevant to the mission of giving ourselves a single voice and a means of creating much-desired infrastructure improvements through a new city.

Trying to frame a discussion about cityhood as partisan is not helpful and can be quite counterproductive. It ignores the fact that we have a diverse community with thousands of people from both parties who would like a representative city voice — and who believe in the possibilities of a new city to create improvements in roads, parks, transit alternatives like trails, and sidewalks, and to spur smart economic development. None of these are partisan issues.

Cities provide a strong and effective voice for the communities they represent. In a progressive and diverse metropolitan community like Vista Grove, a city’s priorities could be correspondingly progressive. A few examples from other DeKalb cities:

  • Doraville made history earlier this year when it swore in two LGBT city council members, a proud accomplishment by any standard. It has also recently passed an ordinance prohibiting businesses from discriminating on the basis of gender identity, disability, and other protected identities.
  • Brookhaven was honored as a 2018 Welcoming City by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and it recently completed a zoning overhaul to include some important, if not yet fully sufficient, steps to provide for more and better affordable housing.
  • Chamblee has long shown how city government can promote diversity and economic opportunity for all across city geography.

The opportunities for positive change, including here in Vista Grove, are limited only by our civic engagement and imagination. These are not partisan issues — they are Vista Grove issues, the priorities, hopes and dreams that we bring to the table, and for which we will fund implementation and elect representatives to work consistently and proactively to fulfill.

What can you do to help make Vista Grove a reality?

  • Donate to help fund our outreach efforts.
  • Encourage your neighbors to sign our petition to 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!).
  • Volunteer with Vista Grove Initiative.
  • To take pictures of our area
  • To help out with our Public Safety and Zoning/Economic development task forces
  • To help organize letter writing and petition efforts

Sincerely,

Andrew, Meg, Lara, John, and Megan

Vista Grove Board Member Bios

www.vistagrove.org

Vista Grove Initiative

http://www.vistagrove.org/

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Current Events Sept. 24 2018

We have a few updates from our last email - it's the Brookhaven City Council meeting that is to happen on the 26th, it's the Oak Groove Festival, and here is a better description of what the County permitting meeting is about, thanks to Martha Gross, who works tirelessly on this. We had very short notice and a very incomplete description of the meeting. 

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A big THANK YOU to 50+ neighbors, Sen. Fran Millar, and Rep. Scott Holcomb for attending our community information meeting Sept. 20 at Embry Hills United Methodist Church! It was a great discussion!

We now have Vista Grove yard signs available to help folks spread the word in their neighborhoods. Click here to sign up to get one for your yard.

There are two upcoming community meetings worth your time this week:

- First (and sorry for the late notice, we just found out ourselves), there's a DeKalb PECS meeting Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m. to discuss a DeKalb Business Ordinance change. Martha Gross sent us a short description - what we put in our email wasn't quite accurate:

Also, there are a bunch of great community events coming up, including the Greek Festival Sept 27-30 (Drive thru for food opens Thursday 11am and main Festival opens at 5pm Friday) and Oak Groove on Oct. 14 (come visit us at our Vista Grove booth)!

And save the date: Our next Vista Grove community information meeting will be Oct. 18.

How can you help make Vista Grove a reality?

  • Donate to help us fund our outreach efforts.
  • Encourage your neighbors to sign our petition to 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!).
  • Volunteer with Vista Grove Initiative.

Andrew, Meg, Lara, John, and Megan

Vista Grove Board Member Bios

www.vistagrove.org

Vista Grove Initiative

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A single representative voice

Have you had the experience of reading about a local decision — whether it was new construction adding to traffic, a zoning decision that didn’t make sense to you, or a logical community improvement plan that was never implemented — and wondered why the community wasn’t aware of the issue earlier? Or if it was, why local voices were not more impactful?

A city of Vista Grove could communicate with a single representative voice, making it easier to cooperate with neighboring cities and other governmental and non-governmental stakeholders on issues of local importance — among them, reducing traffic and sprawl through smart transit.

Not having a representative local voice on transit has both long-term and short-term implications for our community. For example, following this year’s creation by the Georgia Legislature of the new Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (or The ATL), our neighboring cities are working closely with the county and other municipalities in the 13-county authority. Included as partners in the corresponding study for our county are nearby cities like Decatur  but not our area.

We are missing the opportunity to participate as a community in an important ongoing conversation about transit, as well as to provide input specific to our area into transit plans and initiatives.

For another example, you may have read that MARTA has decided to cancel an important local bus route, Route 33-Briarcliff Rd/Shallowford Rd, or seen the red “bus stop closure” signs. As of Aug. 18, Route 33 will no longer operate on Briarcliff Rd between Clairmont Rd and Shallowford Rd. Maps and descriptions for the entire set of service changes are available online. And this is occuring at the very time that citizens in our area so clearly want and need alternatives to sitting in traffic and spending more time in cars.

This was a change that took many in the community by surprise. One wonders whether, given the opportunity to communicate through our own city government, this decision would have gone forward. The stated rationale was lack of ridership. But if we could add new sidewalks in our area and make access to key transit stops safer and smoother for all nearby residents, more riders could use those lines. A city of Vista Grove’s local input and smart planning and zoning could revitalize our retail and other commercial areas, giving residents additional reasons to be out and about.

If you have concerns about this decision, please contact MARTA’s service planner for this route, Spencer Stoleson. He can be reached at 404-848-5344 or sstoleson@itsmarta.com.  

More generally, if you agree that our community needs to be part of the transit conversation going on between cities and regional stakeholders, and to have our own representative voice on the topic, please consider getting involved with the Vista Grove movement.

How can you help make Vista Grove a reality?

  • Donate to help us fund our education and outreach efforts.
  • Encourage your neighbors to sign our petition to 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!).
  • Volunteer with Vista Grove Initiative.

Sincerely,

Andrew, Meg, Lara, John, and Megan

Vista Grove Board Member Bios

www.vistagrove.org
Vista Grove Initiative
http://www.vistagrove.org/

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