Improvement association to tackle blight, safety, economic issues
10/18/2013, 6:04 a.m.
SOUTH DEKALB Three years ago, David George and Gwendolyn, his wife of 42 years, were getting ready to sell their three-bedroom brick ranch in South DeKalb and head to the country.
“We wanted to get five acres and build a house,” said George, a Greyhound bus driver who retired in 2010.
But his house in the Cobb Valley Farms subdivision, which was valued at $150,000 in 2008, is now valued at $43,000.
“We had to fight to get it to that,” he said, adding that the county originally reassessed the value of his house at $36,000.
“It was a drastic blow,” said George, who has been in his home for 25 years.
On top of the low valuation, he began to notice encroaching blight across south DeKalb County – houses boarded from foreclosure, a proliferation of panhandlers, unkempt public rights of way, trash and so on.
Unable to sell his house for what he had invested in it, George said he had no choice but to stay and fight to make the area better so that he and fellow homeowners can recapture some of the value of their homes.
“I have to put up a fight to make sure that this area improve,” he said. “We can’t give up.”
George started first volunteering with the Wesley Chapel Curb Appeal Taskforce, calling the county about cutting overgrown medians and rights of way, and he began picking up trash along Wesley Chapel Road, Rainbow Drive, Flat Shoals Parkway, and everywhere he went.
This summer, he joined a group of like-minded individuals, led by community development consultant Dr. Kathryn Rice, to organize the South DeKalb Improvement Association to champion South DeKalb, promote its economic development and improve its quality of life.
On Oct. 26, they will unveil the new organization at a 9:30-to-11:30 a.m. kickoff at Berean Community Center in Stone Mountain.
In addition to Rice and George, the group is made up of Kevin Chapman, coordinator of the Wesley Chapel Curb Appeal Taskforce and president of the Snapfinger Woods Manor Homeowners Association; Ken Taylor, Eagles Ridge Homeowners Association; Robert Douglas, president of Creekwood Hills Community Organization in Decatur; David Brice, president of the Hidden Hills Civic Association; Peggy Hobdy from Decatur; and Greg Van Buren from Alden Birch Apartments in Clarkston.
George said their goal is make SDIA the voice of residents of unincorporated DeKalb County.
“It’s like this,” he said. “If you have one pencil, it’s easy to break. If you have 500 pencils, it’s harder to break. If you have 1,000, it’s even harder.
“We can’t sit back and watch our investment decline. We can be stronger if we work together. One voice is not much. One hundred or 1,000 voices can have an influence.”
The group has been reaching out to homeowners associations and individuals to join in and work together.
“We want to grow, expand, inform, educate and conquer to better our community in appearance, in pride, integrity, and economic development,” George said.
“We want to draw quality businesses and people to our area, not just Section 8 and slumlords.”