Advocating for the community since 1984
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It’s not possible to calculate how many miles neighborhood foot soldiers walked on a journey that eventually led to the establishment of the Citizens Association.
In 1984, there were about 750 homes in the neighborhood. Most were in the city of Atlanta and about 8% were in unincorporated Fulton County (now Sandy Springs). The areas known as Whitewater Creek and Mt. Paran Parkway had social groups for about 100 homes, but there was no formal organization covering the larger neighborhood.
Then we received word that a developer filed an application to rezone a 9.7-acre lot with one house at 1900 Mt. Paran Road (bordered by Cave Road and I-75). The plan was to change the R-2 one acre single-family residential zoning to Office-Institutional for an office park, hotel, 900 car parking deck and three 7-story buildings. That’s when everything changed. In the summer of 1984, the news that someone wanted to put an office park and hotel where one house stood rocked our quiet, complacent neighborhood into action!
There were no computers, fax machines or cell phones to connect the neighborhood. There were, however, plenty of foot soldiers distributing flyers door-to-door, mailbox-to-mailbox. Many neighbors met for the first time and volunteered to do whatever was necessary to protect property values and the residential character of our lovely, peaceful neighborhood from commercial intrusion. We soon learned that the four-month long and difficult battle would signal the beginning of years of rezoning and other attempts to transform the neighborhood with inappropriate land use proposals!
It took nearly a decade to resolve how the Leake family property at 1900 Mt. Paran Road would be developed. During that time, I-75 north was widened and loomed close to the property. That sent the wrong message to developers who thought the widening of I-75 opened the property up to commercial, office, multifamily and other uses. There were proposals for a hotel and office park, office condos, apartments, mega church, 35-50 houses, and more. With each ill-conceived proposal we were successful in convincing the city planning department, zoning boards and elected officials that keeping the property single-family residential would protect the residential integrity of the area and the limited large lot zoning in Atlanta.
Then, in 1986, we were faced with a property assemblage to buyout adjacent neighbors on Cave Road to increase the number of acres at 1900 Mt. Paran. A developer thought that adding more property would somehow justify commercial or office use. The results were that many neighbors were tempted to sell (and sell out the neighborhood!) when they were offered an inflated price. It helped that city officials were willing to go on record opposing buy outs for the purpose of rezoning to a higher use. The message was heard and that activity was stopped in its tracks!
Although the buyout fell through, it became clear that we needed to compromise on one house per acre as I-75 expanded next to the property. So, after many years of battles and uncertainty, in 1991 we negotiated an agreement for 25 single-family houses (down from 35) with conditions and covenants to protect surrounding residents. In addition to keeping the Paran Pointe property single-family residential, we established a defensible boundary that helped to prevent many other rezoning attempts.
We may have stopped commercial encroachment from taking over Mt. Paran Road but the rezoning attempts didn’t stop. Other properties came under attack, including proposals for 24 houses on 6 acres on Flintlock, 5 houses on 1 acre on another Mt. Paran parcel, a gated street off Garmon Road, a huge multifamily condominium complex on Beechwood Drive, multiple attempts to reduce frontage on Harris Trail from the required 150 feet to 35 feet to gain access to an illegal lot, an attempt to downzone property on Randall Mill Road, and 36 houses on 12 acres in the back yards of neighbors on East Beechwood.
However, rezoning wasn’t the only issue threatening the neighborhood. Over the years we prevented construction of an enormous sewer storage tank in the meadow at Northside and Broadland, commercial expansion of the Country Store, efforts by the Georgia Department of Transportation to dump 60% more traffic onto Mt. Paran and other neighborhood streets when they attempted to relocate the southbound I-75/Mt. Paran exit, and more.
Maintaining the character and integrity of the neighborhood is a critical element to our quality of life, but we haven’t stopped there. The MPNCA board has sponsored candidate forums, seminars and social events, monitors legislation, and works with elected officials on matters affecting the neighborhood and our pocketbooks. We have fought to reduce property taxes, supported the neighborhood school, garden club, fire station, and more. We blast email important information about lost pets and criminal activity, produce newsletters, an annual directory, an interactive website and blog.
Although we haven’t let our guard down, our early efforts eventually convinced developers and others to stop filing applications for inappropriate zoning. For neighborhood pioneers, the early years were challenging and laid the groundwork that helped to build the civic association. We are grateful to everyone who fought to protect the neighborhood and keep it the wonderful place it is today. This dedicated “team” worked diligently and persevered to set a high bar for neighborhood preservation for other communities to emulate.
Never doubt that “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”