Due to the lack of zoning applications for consideration at the September meeting, the meeting has been cancelled.
Friends! Neighbors! Do I feel a slight cooling to the air? It must be September!
We took a hiatus in HOT August, but we are back on for a September Porch Party. Please join us at Michelle Hughes’ home on Saturday, September 10th. Yes, it’s the same night as the Lantern Parade, but if you find that to be great in theory but overwhelming in reality… come on by and hang out with us. Or come early and then head out.
Bring some snacks and drinks (alcoholic and non) to share. Hooper is known for shutting down the street for Nerf Gun fights, so who knows what shenanigans will ensue!
1370 Hooper Ave
Let me know if you have any questions – and we still need an October Host to finish out the Porch Season. We’d LOVE to get a house a little closer to the Park, or on the other side of the Park (Page… How about you guys?). Shoot me an email if you want to volunteer.
There is one rezoning application for consideration by the Zoning Committee on August 3, 2016. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Epworth Church, 1561 Mclendon Ave.
Z-16-053 – 1625 Mclendon Avenue NE
The Applicant seeks to rezone 1625 Mclendon Avenue from R-4 to PDMU in order to bring into compliance an existing historic duplex building and add additional live/work and residential units on the adjacent open land.
Movie nights in Candler Park AKA Flick-Nics are coming back on August 6th. For a full list of movies click here http://www.friendsofcandlerpark.org/
Due to a lack of pending application, the June Zoning Committee Meeting is cancelled.
By David Terraso
If you’re a homeowner in the city of Atlanta and you haven’t received a shock upon opening your property tax bill, just wait. It’s coming. That’s because property values in the Candler Park and Intown Atlanta have been rising.
“The market is going up like crazy,” said Elena Volkova, realtor and Candler Park resident.
Arman Deganian moved to Ferguson St. in 2006. He moved to Atlanta in 2003. He rented, first at the Bass Lofts in Inman Park and then at the North High Ridge Apartments in Poncey Highlands.
“I wanted to stay in town, but I wanted to buy and this was the only house in this area in my price range,” he said.
DeKalb county assessed value of his two bedroom, one-and-a-half bath cottage at $191,000 when he purchased the home. In 2012, the value assessed dropped to $130,000. So when he opened his tax bill for 2013, he was shocked to find that the county appraised the value at $380,000.
“I was thinking it was a mistake,” Deganian said. “So I called and of course I couldn’t get anybody on the phone down there. And then I searched it and saw where people were talking about it online and I came across the process to appeal. So I went ahead and sent my notice to appeal the next day.”
To file an appeal, homeowners must mail in their paperwork to the county’s board of equalization (BOE), which is made up of regular people who own property in the county.
Being fast on the draw to appeal is crucial, said tax attorney Walter Hotz.
“When you get your annual notice of assessment you’ve got a 45-day window to file an appeal,” he said. “If you don’t file an appeal during that 45 days, then you’ve lost your right to file an appeal. There’s no excuse accepted. You can’t say ‘I was in the hospital,’ or ‘I was on vacation.’”
Hotz recommends everybody file an appeal.
“The reason why you file an appeal is because we have a statute that allows you to freeze that result for the next two years, whether it is a reduction or no change,” said Hotz.
So even if the board decides to deny the appeal, the assessment is frozen for 2016 and 2017 and the county won’t be able to raise taxes on the property until 2018, assuming you don’t appeal during that time and no renovations are being made. If the appeal is granted, even better.
“If you get in the habit of filing a tax appeal every three years,” said Hotz, “then you’ve been able to give the county only three bites at the tax apple every ten years versus the county having ten bites. And in a rising market like we are in now, that can save a taxpayer thousands of dollars.”
After Deganian sent in his appeal, he sent in sale prices of homes that are comparable in size, year-built, quality and condition, also known as comps. The data is found via a company known as First Multiple Listing Service (FMLS) and is best obtained through a realtor or an attorney.
“Those sales should match up to be in the same tax neighborhood,” explained Hotz. “If you’re a ranch style home then all the comparable properties should be ranch style. If you’ve a two-story then they all should be two stories. If you’re brick you try to get the same exterior.”
Volkova said that she and many realtors provide comps for people for no charge. She warned against using websites like Zillow to find home prices.
“Zillow is not accurate for estimates at all,” she said. “They take a one mile radius and then even out the value. They don’t look at your schools. They don’t look at renovations.”
So depending on where the house is in Candler Park, that could mean that Zillow is using home prices in Druid Hills, Lake Claire, Inman Park, Poncey-Highlands or Edgewood. Sometimes it will result in Zillow estimating a higher value for the home, sometimes it would give a lower value. The bottom line is it’s not accurate.
“Take pictures of your home, the front and the back and anything that’s wrong with your house,” recommends Hotz. “Look at your home as if you were a prospective buyer and what you would want fixed before you bought it. Look and see what upgrades you do not have. If you have anything that needs serious repair, like water leaking in your basement, you can get estimates for the cost of repair and take those with you to the BOE.”
The BOE denied Deganian’s appeal, so he hired Hotz as his attorney and they appealed it up to DeKalb County Superior Court, where homeowners can demand a jury trial. But before going to court he and Hotz were able to get the property appraisal reduced from $380,000 to $230,000.
Because he was in the process of renovating the house, the tax freeze didn’t apply, so the following year the appraisal shot back up to $360,000. Deganian called the tax assessor and negotiated a new value of $260,000.
Once the renovations were completed last year, the county appraised the value at $330,000 and he accepted that. He sold the house last month for $394,000.
“When that tax notice comes, don’t sit on it,” said Deganian. “My instinct was to think, ‘This is crazy!’ and then put it down to deal with it later. Don’t do that! I saved about $1,500 that first year.”
By David Terraso
If you’ve ever walked along Oakdale and spotted the sign that references George Orwell’s 1984 declaring “We have always been at war with Oceania” then you’ve seen some of the political art that Stephanie Miller uses to speak her mind. Miller has lived in New York, and many other places and has been a vibrant fixture of Candler Park since 1978. She hung a shingle in Little Five Points as a chiropractor, retiring just a few years ago. She’s now 70 and devotes herself to her art and her dogs full time (she has greyhound rescues).
SM: I’ve always done artwork. I was compelled to to be honest. Some would say it was an addiction. Doing more of it just makes me happy. I stayed in chiropractic practice for 35 years. I tried to do the thing where you see some people and then you do art, but it’s hard to do,because the focus of artwork is finding yourself in infinity and that gets dissolved by appointments and other things. Eventually I quit taking new patients and I still was frustrated. The first day I said “No more patients, I’ll refer everybody,” It was like a new life. I loved what I did, but I really enjoy being retired.
I’m still at that point where I want to heal the world. I want to help. I’m an ex-peace corps volunteer. I want to serve.
DT: Tell me about your practice.
SM: It was a lot of fun. A friend of mine, Virginia Soules, a medical doctor, opened up on the same hall. We were very funky and very professional at the same time. It was great. The neighborhood was fabulous. It still is fabulous.
I would see young people looking for something new, I would see older people happy that I was there in the neighborhood. There was a diversity of people. I saw cops, I saw lawyers. There were lesbians and gay men. There were older couples who had been here for a long, long, long time. In fact, one of the original older neighborhood people became my secretary, which was very nice. She’s gone now.
DT: Tell me about your art.
SM: I’ve always done a lot of art. I don’t think I’m really verbal. I learned to be verbal. I think it is my second language. My first language is a visual acceptance, recognition and interplay with the world. So it was logical to play and communicate by drawing, or coloring or anything like that. It was very pleasurable too.
It used to be I would sort of entice a concept and the concept would then tell me how to present it.
Because I was socially minded, it would usually be around whatever issue was going on right then, what do I see that I wanted people to be aware of or think about. And then I would try to express it, usually by humor, there’s almost always humor in my work.
DT: How do you get inspired?
SM: Depending on the picture, sometimes it’s just colors that I want to work with. I am one of those people who will throw paint on a canvas to start, even if the end result is hyperrealistic, it is a way to approach a blank one. It doesn’t necessarily tell me what I will do there, but it’s like a broken wall and then I can play.
If I get to the point where I’m starting a canvas or a sculpture, even if it’s political, when I feel like I’m at perfect play, then I’m utilizing all of my resources.
Let me drag you to a picture. This is the mermaid lobby- “The Mermaid lobby was unable to halt the military-industrial complex” We have wasted military products in the ocean deep where now the mermaids have to wear EPA suits. Here’s one where she’s been mutated by a broken nuclear waste disposal.
This is Soho at her coming out party (her greyhound in a dress).
DT: Do you see viewing art as a participatory activity?
SM: It has to be. It must be. It’s communication. If someone is being communicated to, they are defining it. I wish it were a discussion, but it rarely happens. At shows people are drinking wine and they’re walking around. The discussion that occurs at an art show is already predicated on the fact that somebody has picked this art to go in the art show. So people are accepting that it’s worthy of discussion. I’d like somebody to get up and say to the artist, “It didn’t communicate to me.” People don’t do that after a glass of wine and some peanuts and it’s already at the art show and it already has a price tag. You don’t get communication. It’s party and they’ve come for that reason.
When people come here a lot of them are my friends. Some of them will have discussion and I cherish the ones who do. I say please tell me if you do like it, please tell me if you don’t like it. Tell me what you like about it. Tell me, tell me, tell me. I cherish the few and far between who are really
speaking from the heart. Who really think I’m being serious about that.
DT: Tell me about these pictures.
SM: Uncle Roo Roo, he is a very loving person. And this one says “Uncle Roo Roo Receives the Holy Cauliflower,” He just plays harmlessly and joyfully. Here’s Uncle Roo Roo fishing. He doesn’t really catch them, he just lets them flow through his habit. He’s sort of a European monkish plus Asian concept. Here’s The Butterflies Mistake Uncle Roo Roo for a Flower.
Most of the way I earned money doing art was doing pet portraits. I did very realistic ones and I try to really capture who they are. This is two
I’m also really connected to greyhound rescue and here are two rescues who were not at the track, they were table dancers in Las Vegas.
I take in what I call infinite concepts and ideas. Each time I touch something there’s a billion ways to express it and I have to make a decision, so I have to clear everything around me because it’s chaos in my head. Total chaos.
SM: When I finally retired, I started taking bagpipe lessons. And I love it, love it. For about four years I’d say I practiced one to three hours everyday.
I broke off from my teacher because I really wanted to play early music on the bagpipe and not just Scottish. I enjoy music from around 1100-1300 or 1400, secular or religious.
I sometimes play out at Freedom Park. I have outfits I wear sometimes, like striped pants or silly little plaid hat, or things like that.
DT: Is it important for people to practice art as well as view it?
SM: Do I think people should do art? Yeah, if you think it will make you happy. And if you don’t know if it will make you happy then try it. Don’t expect your first time to meet what’s in your head. Your expectations are going to be modified by the fact that you’re a tool and you haven’t learned how to use yourself properly.
I think people can ride a motorcycle and do art and get enlightenment. And they can do art and get enlightenment. And they can pet dogs and do dog rescue and be doing art and get enlightenment. I really don’t know how to answer that one.
DT: I think you just did. On another note, do you find that the older you get, the less you are sure of?
SM: Absolutely, In fact, I get surer and surer that I’m not sure of things. You can’t integrate all of this except to say, “It is.”
SM: I love this neighborhood. I just have to say that. I feel like an urban peasant.
I used to travel a lot. And I’d see people who lived where I’d travel and there was this little angst in me that I was aware that many don’t need to roam around the world. Many are happy where they are.
I’m just hanging here in Candler Park and people can travel here now. And I think I’ve become one of those people who I used to look at. I’m really excited that I’ve hit this other side of that vision, of that duality, that I wake up in the morning and I have stuff to do on my little ranch. And I walk the dogs in the village. And I come home. And I live here. It’s very nice to have a place where I feel like I can live. It’s not a matter of renting or owning or anything. It’s a world perspective I never had until I got older. I think I could’ve had it younger, but I was too neurotic.
By Susan Rose
Mosquitoes are an annoying menace which can ruin the fun of outdoor gatherings, gardening and recreational activities in Candler Park. Controlling mosquitoes is a “neighborhood effort” according to Gordon Stacey Cargal, environmental health county supervisor with the DeKalb County Board of Health. He spoke at the March CPNO meeting on March 21 and shared information on county efforts to control mosquitoes as well as tips for homeowners to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.
Cargal said the predominant mosquito in our area is the Asian Tiger mosquito, which has white stripes. An infected Asian Tiger mosquito can transmit the West Nile Virus with one bite. Cargal provided a DeKalb County Board of Health brochure describing West Nile Virus as a serious, even fatal, disease that affects the central nervous system. Controlling mosquitoes is critical to preventing West Nile virus infection.
“If you have mosquitos, then you are growing them yourself,” said Cargal.
Stagnant water is the primary breeding ground for mosquitoes. Even a soda bottle cap holds enough water to breed mosquitoes. Cargal provided residents with a weekly mosquito prevention checklist. The list includes dumping the water out of birdbaths two times per week and scrubbing to remove eggs. In addition removing water from containers like dishes under flower pots, toys, and buckets is essential. He also suggested turning wheelbarrows upside down when not in use.
Cargal explained the practice of the 5 Ds:
Dispose – get rid of anything that can hold water around your house and in the neighborhood (community clean up!) Cargal said that neighbors who do not address standing water can be cited for county code violations.
Drain – dump out containers after every rain. Don’t put saucers under outdoor plants. You can use larvicides (Mosquito Dunks or Mosquito Torpedoes) where water cannot be dumped.
DEET – wear mosquito repellant when outdoors. Keep repellent by the door as well as in the car.
Dress – wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks.
Daytime – Mosquitoes bite during the day and at dawn and dusk.
Cargal said that the county puts larvicide in storm drains and inspects/treats parks with larvicide where there is a problem of stagnant water. He described larvicide as a pheromone releaser which prevents young mosquitoes from becoming adults.
Although the Zika virus is not transmitted by the Asian Tiger mosquito, Cargal said Zika is a concern for Georgia. The Asian Tiger mosquito is a cousin to the mosquito which is transmitting Zika in South America.
The DeKalb County Board of Health, Division of Environmental Health, offers inspection services to help property owners identify and clean-up mosquito breeding grounds. The phone number is 404-508-7871, and the website is dekalbhealth.net. Cargal (Stacey.Cargal@dph.ga.gov) encouraged Candler Park residents to contact him with questions and for assistance with mosquito control efforts.
Stagnant retention ponds at Mary Lin worry neighbors
By Susan Rose
Two stagnant retention ponds at Mary Lin Elementary have long worried neighbors along Oakdale Road. One pond is located in the habitat area of the school property and situated immediately behind the homes on the odd-numbered side of Oakdale Road. The other pond is on Oakdale Road next to the gravel driveway leading to the rear of Mary Lin.
Although both ponds are contained by fencing, Mary Lin parents have expressed concern on social media about children’s safety because gates have been left unlocked and sometimes even open.
According to Kate Sandhaus in a Facebook post in the Mary Lin parents’ group, emails to Atlanta Public Schools (APS) officials from concerned neighbors began in 2010 when the ponds were unfenced large pools of water. Neighbors expected proper remediation of the problem with the renovation of Mary Lin. During and since the renovation, dozens of emails have been exchanged between the renovation project managers at APS, school leaders and neighbors. Yet, the ponds continue to sit with stagnant water due to improper drainage.
At the March CPNO meeting, members mentioned the problem to Gordon Stacey Cargal, Environmental Health County Supervisor with the DeKalb County Board of Health. Cargal said that the County can administer larvicide in the ponds as a temporary solution for mosquito prevention. However, Cargal said that stagnant water means that the drainage ponds were “not built right.”
The Oakdale neighbors continue to speak with APS about the problem. CPNO president Zaid Duwayri said that if there is no traction, the problem will be discussed at the April CPNO meeting along with a plan to escalate to APS superintendent Meria Carstarphan.
By Roger Bakeman
Just over two years ago, the Atlanta City Council adopted the Candler Park Master Plan. How, you may wonder, did the plan come about? Why do we even need one? And now, more than two years later, what has it gotten us?
The how is detailed on our web site (http://candlerpark.org/master-plan): In April 2013, CPNO engaged Market + Main, a professional Atlanta planning firm, to steer us through the process and prepare the formal plan. The process involved neighborhood-wide meetings, less formal “focus” sessions, input from dozens of individuals, and consultations with elected officials, representatives of various state and local agencies, and others.
After discussion at regular CPNO monthly meetings, a final round of edits, and an almost unanimous vote of approval, we had a plan we could submit to city council. To see the result—and get a sense of the time, effort, and careful thinking that went into the master plan—visit http://candlerpark.org/master-plan and download the 98-page PDF file. And for a detailed summary of accomplishments to date see the Master Plan Coordinating Committee Report in this issue.
Why have a master plan? Primarily a master plan gives a neighborhood credibility. Without one, we may miss out on opportunities for improvements. When the city has money to spend, it looks for projects that have been vetted, that have neighborhood support, which is what a master plan provides. In fact, a strong motivation for beginning the process was our realization that neighborhoods around us had master plans and we didn’t. A master plan gives us not just credibility, but voice.
But just as drawing plans for a house doesn’t get the house built, so drawing up a master plan doesn’t get the work done. Much of the ensuing work is political, not so much time-consuming—although it can be that—as simply slow. Some projects—e.g., changes to DeKalb Avenue and Moreland Avenue—are inherently complex and involve many players. Others, like a stop light replacing a traffic light at Oakdale and McLendon (Recommendation 4.6), were quickly accomplished and largely applauded.
Within the past year, the Candler Park Conservancy and the Candler Park–Lake Claire Patrol have been established. The conservancy was Recommendation 1 of the master plan and the patrol was Recommendation 9.6. Both exemplify how elements of the master plan can come to fruition when motivated neighbors decide to organize, own an issue and act.
One issue that has long been of concern to CPNO, and one that is addressed at length in the master plan, is zoning. As Seth Eisenberg, the CPNO Zoning Officer, pointed out recently in a lengthy Nexdoor.com thread, the city’s proposed rewrite of the zoning code provides an opportunity to see master plan recommendations implemented that protect our neighborhood’s unique character. This is not glamorous work; it requires being informed, attending not-always-exciting meetings, and exercising some political acumen and patience. Any volunteers?
Funding the master plan was the largest single expenditure CPNO ever made. Was it worth it? In my view, yes. We have the plans. Now we need the builders. If you want to get involved, contact Zaid Duwayri (firstname.lastname@example.org), Seth Esienberg (email@example.com), Randy Pimsler (firstname.lastname@example.org), or come to the monthly CPNO meetings on the third Monday of every month.
By David Terraso
It’s been known as the Addams Family House, the Spooky House, and a few other names, but its true name is known mainly by longtime residents or those with a penchant for history. One of the oldest houses in Candler Park, the Smith-Benning House stands at the corner of Oakdale Rd. and Benning Pl. Originally constructed in the 1880s by lawyer, state senator and appeals court judge Charles Whitefoord Smith, the house was later owned by Augustus H. Benning, a merchant sea captain. He bought the house and the five acres that surrounded it for $6,500. At the time, Oakdale was known as Bell St and then renamed to Whitefoord Ave, a name that was changed on the north side of DeKalb Avenue in 1960.
The house was so large and difficult to heat in the winter that the Benning’s built a smaller home in 1905 that they could use during the colder months. The winter home still stands across Benning from the original house.
By 1981 the home had been divided into apartments and was in disrepair when Robert Craig, a professor of architecture at Georgia Tech, and his wife Carole, a respiratory therapist, saw a picture of it and fell in love. They moved in just before their son Christopher’s third birthday. They spent the next 30 years renovating it.
Carole: We saw a picture of the house at an Inman Park festival one weekend, and it had a for sale sign on it. When we got there we said, “Oh my gosh, this was the house we saw in a painting a couple of years ago at the Piedmont Arts Festival.” By Wednesday we bought it.
Robert: The house was, architecturally, something I saw some real potential in. It was a wreck, but I thought maybe we could bring it back. I taught the history of architecture at Georgia Tech, and I was interested in living in a historic house. We were trying to maintain the integrity of the whole on the outside and mostly on the inside.
The whole thing was totally unlivable. Two previous owners had started to restore the house, but gave up.
Carole: We had no walls upstairs (only original open framing). The house was in such terrible condition the fire department turned up with several trucks one day to scout the house for a possible test burn for training purposes and were surprised to find us living there.
Robert: The building needed stabilizing, it needed to be dry. It was leaking all over the place, the roof was ancient and rooms throughout the house had false ceilings that compromised the authenticity of the historic volumes; the whole house had to be replastered. For most of the restoration time we lived in this 650-700 square-feet of space (downstairs in what’s now the kitchen) probably for 25 of those 30 years and just operated in slow motion working on the house piece by piece.
Carole: The whole neighborhood was very inexpensive then; older people were dying and their children didn’t want to live here. It was what I called the earth people moved in. It wasn’t hippies, it was more “we have no money and we’re artists.” And they came in here and bought or rented and lived happily for a long time. Some of them grew older and stayed. So the neighborhood slowly evolved.
Robert: From the outside it’s never been changed. The windows are exactly the same. We added the rear deck using 1×4 ipe wood to give it a verandah appearance, built (2004-6) the adjacent new storage/workshop/garage to be compatible, and we did all the brick work in the driveway. The house is basically four rooms up and four rooms down. We restored the four upstairs bedrooms with three baths and unfinished attic above. Downstairs we have a living room, dining room, my office, a den, and the kitchen, with crawl space below. The kitchen has more of an Arts and Crafts character, whose design features were inspired by Greene and Greene, Bernard Maybeck and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Carole: There’s not much closet space in the house. We always need more closet space.
We’d renovate a bit, sit around a bit saving money, then do a bit more.
One thing that’s nice about Candler Park is everybody is very patient with everybody else as they try to fix up their houses. We had people who’d come over and say, ‘We got fed up with fixing up our house. We were so depressed. So, we came over to see your house and we realized how far we’ve gotten along and we’re not depressed anymore!’
Robert: ‘Nothing could be worse than yours!’ they’d say, as though their visit to our wreck of a house was therapy.
In terms of style, the house is Eastlake Victorian, which makes reference to an architect named Charles Eastlake who published an influential interior design book entitled Hints on Household Taste. The tower is Italian, leftover from the mid-19th century Italian villa style, and the fact that there is a mansard roof on the tower adds a French Second Empire character, so there’s an eclectic quality over all.
When I go out to the street-side mailbox and find people outside photographing the house, they think I’m coming out to chase them away, so I say “No, no, no, that’s alright.”
It was a TV movie aired on WSB many years ago. Essentially someone had rewritten Faust, in a story in which some guy had sold his soul to the devil to become the great pool shark of history. So the different scenes would have him playing pool with different people out of history, one of them was Marie Antoinette, as though she played pool. Somebody else was a riverboat gambler and somebody else was W.C. Fields. The 30 second promos were better than the house show.
Carole: I hope new residents of Candler Park are people coming in because they like the historic nature of the neighborhood and the houses. I hope the community stays eclectic because that’s another nice feature of the neighborhood. There’s a big variety of people here, different occupations, different types of people. People here appear to love their houses, you know? They are “I live in my house,” rather than “I park in my house.”
I think a historic neighborhood also attracts people who value history and their connection with each other. You become a community. And because we have front porches, in the summer people are out on them, and when people go by, you talk to each other, and that doesn’t happen in every part of the city.
The Smith-Benning House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Candler Park neighborhood was listed fifteen months later in 1983.