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54 Comments

  1. 1

    Thomas Porter

    Bravo Chad! While the City’s standard response regarding sewer issues is “that’s up to DeKalb to respond”, while true, it ignores safety and environmental issues affecting Brookhaven citizens. I hope that our City’s Administration will take responsibility for the safety and health of its citizens when reviewing ALL zoning matters, and, no longer allow a politically influenced fickle letter from DeKalb to suffice for their statement of adequate sewer & water capacity.

  2. 2

    L.M.F Bowles

    Bravo Chad, love that you just make up facts.

  3. 3

    Chad

    Got some more bad news for the “not our job” argument. If, and when, our city leaders take the responsible step of demanding answers from DeKalb County they will get a surprise. “City of Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville and Dunwoody, most of the problems occur because your storm drains flow into the sewer. That’s why the spills occur during rain storms.”

    We are all in this together. DeKalb County has one more year to fix the ENTIRE county. Some will tell you this is a great reason to create a Sewer Authority (read unelected/appointed officials) so we can keep the EPA out. Too late. They are coming anyway in 5,4,3,2,1.

  4. 4

    Maura

    Go Chad, I love it when you talk dirty to us 😉 Excellent article.

  5. 5

    John Pastore

    Just DeKalb County? Howbout the insisted [bicycle] path despite it would, as it now does, breech the ‘natural’ divide along P’tree where streams to its West flow to the Gulf and streams to to its East to the Atlantic?

  6. 6

    Chad

    I’ll be your Huckleberry. Which ones are you having trouble with?

  7. 7

    Chad

    Let me throw a couple more facts on the pile. DeKalb County has provided dozens of new developments since 2010 without an inflow/infiltration analysis. That’s strictly prohibited in the Consent Decree, but let me guess, you didn’t read the consent decree.

  8. 8

    Chad

    Want to take a guess at where the $180M collected from the Storm/Sewer ‘Utility” fee we all pay has gone since 2010 to fix the piping system? Down the ….

  9. 9

    John

    “most of the problems occur because your storm drains flow into the sewer”

    I’m sorry, but this just isn’t true. We haven’t had a combined system in over 50 years. Sanitary sewers and stormwater sewers are completely different things. The consent decree is dealing with SSOs not CSOs.

    You should probably learn the very basic facts of sewer systems before commenting on solutions or issuing mandates to elected officials.

  10. 10

    Insider

    Mr. Boles is correct. Your storm drains in N. Dekalb run into your sewer systems. You base knowledge is accurate, but these are 50 year old systems.

  11. 11

    Chad

    Check my resume’, John. I know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

  12. 12

    Jennifer

    The spill / overflow happened after we had not had rain for a month and before the rain started. The crew that came in to stop the leak said “we have stopped it for now and have put out some disinfectant. Hopefully there will be rain to wash it downstream and help with the smell.”

    Sorry about that to our neighbors downstream….hopefully there was enough rain to dilute it.

  13. 13

    Chad

    When all the bond capacity is spent on Greenway’s, Greenspace, more architectural renderings and consulting plans, where will the $40M come from to fix our storm sewers? The piper must be paid. Pun intended.

  14. 14

    Chad

    One of the other common problems is Fats, Greases and Oils..or at least that’s what DC would have you believe. They even went as far as creating a FOG department to answer questions. The phone never got answered because that’s not the real problem. It was a give away to DC. There are tree roots growing through the concrete, cracked/crumbling pipes, etc.

    That’s why when smoke test are conducted in sewer manholes, it comes through the tops of stormwater manholes. There are old sewer manholes that are below flood plain levels so there is an added burden when stormwater flows through the tops…plus the designed storm drains running directly into the sewer system.

    And this is all happening before they even break ground at MARTA TOD.

  15. 15

    Steve Walker

    Speaking of storm drains flowing into sewer systems, the City of Brookhaven should enact an ordinance that prohibits landscapers as well as homeowners from blowing leaves and grass clippings out into the streets only to be washed into these systems, this clogging them up.

    You are the landscape companies doing this all over the place every day of the week….cant be good!!

  16. 16

    John

    No, they don’t. The sanitary and storm sewer systems are separate. Have been for multiple decades. Stormwater is only tangentially related to the problem (through I/I).

    Read the consent decree, which ONLY applies to the sanitary sewer system, and refers ONLY to SSOs (sanitary system overflows) and the “wastewater collection and transmission system” (as opposed to the “combined” or “stormwater” system).

    Even the reports you refer to in your op-ed (from the AJC) are SSO reports, as mandated by the consent decree (pp. 21-25).

  17. 17

    Chad

    Sadly you are mistaken. You are basing your knowledge on the assumption you get accurate information from DC. Even if you cannot accept the truth some of our storm drains tie directly into the sewer system, other readers will understand that they do. Two points:

    Increased impervious surfaces in the last 50 years have increased the height of peak flow levels. Those levels dump storm water through the tops of sewer manholes.

    Second, smoke test results have smoke rising through storm sewer manholes that originated inside of sewer manholes.

    Finally, at the MARTA TOD meeting I requested no new rezoning approvals should occur until a very simple and inexpensive CCTV scans be taken of all pipes, both sanitary and storm sewer.

    All will have forgotten this back and forth 8 months from now when a leader emerges to fix the problem. That leader, whoever they might be, will gather the mapping that is required in the consent decree but has yet to be delivered to our Public works department.

    Our storm water does, in fact, flow into all of North DeKalb sewers. Storm water management is a service maintained by City if Brookhaven. We will be responsible for their replacement or reconfiguration when the rubber meets the road. It will be so expensive as to surpass all other costs we currently considering.

  18. 18

    Tom Reilly

    Congratulations, Chad!! Your usual competent and thorough analysis of the situation before us. ANY increase in density should be postponed until our infrastructure is whole again.

  19. 19

    On the Record

    @Tom — wrong conclusion. Postponing development hurts all of Brookhaven. Fighting to get the infrastructure fixed is a righteous fight,
    but postponing all development also means postponing new sidewalks, upgrades to parks, and road paving. Let’s fight the right fight.

  20. 20

    John

    Your response makes no sense. You acknowledge that the sewer and stormwater systems are separate, and EVERY example you point to is of stormwater IMPROPERLY infiltrating the sanitary sewer system. It’s almost like you didn’t read my post, or you don’t know what I/I is.

    Yes, storm water gets into our sanitary system through I/I, but that’s NOT the same as having a combined system.

    I’m honestly shocked that you can claim to work in this area and not know these basic principles.

  21. 21

    Chad

    How do you make the connection postponing new real estate development halts sidewalks and roads? Won’t new roads have to be ripped up to place new sewer lines.

    Folks, from On The Record and ‘John’s’ comments you can see what the citizens are up against. DC hasn’t had the financial fortitude or competence to comply with the consent decree. Local development interests use that incompetence to their advantage. Until real estate development is halted, no current North dekalb leadership will have any incentive to engage with DeKalb County.

  22. 22

    Eddie E.

    The spills must be reported to the EPA, so starting next year when the EPA is defunded, who aside from us will care?

  23. 23

    On the Record

    New development increases the tax digest and creates a vibrant community that also increases the existing tax digest. Increases in the digest coupled with the same millage rate creates more revenue to be spent on sidewalk and park projects. Your own statement infers that; otherwise why would the leadership care if “real development is halted”. I’m just saying the fight is with DeKalb County, not with the City of Brookhaven. Put the pressure on your county and state officials. Testify at a County meeting, talk to your Commissioners. Brookhaven is not the fight.

  24. 24

    Chad

    You can’t come up with additional funds for sidewalks and roads? You just increased the budget from $27M to $37M in 4 years. Name one other city in the world with that kind of budget inflation.

    I’m placing the effort exactly where it belongs. You ran unopposed. Do something for your neighborhood.

  25. 25

    Kerry McBrayer

    Thank you, Chad. This problem has to be addressed!

  26. 26

    Eddie E.

    Since when do normal maintenance and improvement projects hinge on cramming more people into the existing space?

  27. 27

    Eddie E.

    Amen to that. Such an ordinance should include a responsibility to ‘contain’ any yard wast that is ‘disturbed’ by any professional landscape operation.

  28. 28

    Development Director

    Build your development dreams in Brookhaven. Come live in our swank new apartment complexes. Bring your corporate headquarters near the liveable, walkable Dresden Drive. Don’t mind the smell. It’s DeKalb County’s problem and they’ve promised they’ll fix it.

    “mmm, think I’ll move our HQ to Fulton Co., but thanks for presenting to our board.”

  29. 29

    Give me a break

    OTR – There it is, the old tax digest BS. MARTA is boasting a $200 million dollar increase to our tax digest for their project. Do you realize that only equals to $219,200 in actual property taxes? If you aren’t a politician, you sure sound like one. The City of Brookhaven is responsible to it’s citizens and it is their duty to protect them. You are the ones with the ultimate responsibility and authority to talk to county and state governments on our behalf. Do not roll over and pass the buck! Stand with us and fight!

  30. 30

    Alan Simpson (Brookhaven, GA)

    Mr. Boles, Thank you for your article. I just want to see if I understand this. The city of Brookhaven does not control sewer or water. That is Dekalb County. Every development has to get a sewer capacity letter from the county. Why? Because they control it. So your rationale is that the city should be on the hook for this when it is a county issue? Im sorry if I sound stupid but I think you’re barking up the wrong tree blaming Brookhaven for this and effectively leading people to believe it is the city’s fault. That is irresponsible and unfair. You owe the city an apology for pointing the finger at them when this is not their fault nor under their control. The regulations for a new development in Brookhaven and all Dekalb cities and unincorporated area requires a sewer letter. If they get that then they have met their legal requirements and the county is on the hook to stand by their acceptance and decision, and developers will have to meet or exceed those requirements on their nickel.

    So lets just say the city somehow took over the water and sewer and to fix the sewers as you describe, surely they would have to get loans or bonds to do that to run new sewer lines, who do you propose would pay for that? Would you be willing to have a tax increase? Would you be willing to stamp your name on it as your seal of approval?

    Am I understanding correctly? Thank you.

  31. 31

    Chad

    “Am I understanding correctly?” No, sir, but thanks for the effort.

    Spills are occurring all over North DeKalb. Sewer is a DeKalb County responsibility. They’ve been under a consent decree for 4 years. Have one year left to renovate the entire system, yet haven’t. We have paid for the budget through our sewer utility fee, yet nothing has changed in our area.

    City of Brookhaven is charged in our self created codes with protecting the public welfare. E Coli is leaching into our streams. In no way should we take over such a huge responsibility as sewer, but we do have responsibility over storm water. Some of our storm drains tie into our sewers. The liability overlaps making for a murky solution.

    If sewer were leaching into a stream next to your house and DeKalb County comes out, pours a little disinfectant in the stream and tells you the smell will go away with the next storm, yet shows no interest in fixing the problem do you:

    a) ask your locally elected official to honor their task of protecting the public welfare and lobby on your behalf.
    b) accept the answer or non-answer from DeKalb County
    or c) go to a DeKalb County sewer department that has lost $180M of your sewer fees with well documented corruption.

    Now then, with all this said and developers sending in proposals one after another upstream from said ruptures and spills what do you do? If continuing to allow the development while claiming DeKalb County is responsible for the mess, you, sir are in a very small majority.

    Hope that clears things up for you. No apology necessary. We’re all in this thing together. If you’d like to read a book about this and other coming problems with no solutions, I’d point you to Blinded Authority…the book right up there on the right hand column of the page. Pretty damn good…I think.

  32. 32

    Chad

    Pardon the interruption, very small ‘minority’.

  33. 33

    On the Record

    The more common action is to move up the chain, not down. Cities reside in counties which reside in states. If you’ve given up on your County Commissioners, than start politicking with Meagan Hanson and Fran Millar our state representatives. Or how about your congressman and senator. State and federal authorities hold the power over the County, not the city

  34. 34

    Alan Simpson (Brookhaven, GA)

    Thank you for your answer. Whew!

    Can you explain something else to me please? How is this true and what documentation do you have that verifies what you are saying here “Of the nearly $1B in tax abatements given by Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Chamblee, nearly $150M would have gone to the DeKalb County Water and Sewer Department.” ?

    The taxes abated on all 3 of the projects you mention is less than $100 million on all 3 combined, at least for what I can find on the inter webs. The $1B number you cite is the total value of the projects, not the total value of the abatements.

    No property taxes go to the water and sewer fund, zero. It is its own line item. Property taxes go elsewhere.
    (At least from my knowledge of my own tax bill)

    How is what you are saying is true? I’d like to know. You make some very strong claims. I would like to see where you are getting your information and get plugged in to that information stream.

    Not trying to grill you, I would just like to know the facts because you know if it is on the internet it MUST be true right?

    Thank you. Have a good night.

  35. 35

    Kahn

    Great idea. Send Meagan to deal with the sewers. Familiar territory. I’ll stop there. Oh, and Fran almost got his clock cleaned this go round. He can go help Meagan with battle the FOG. On the record, hats off to you.

  36. 36

    Saul

    That may be too much for Meagan to handle. She is already going to solve all of our transportation issues. One clogged system at a time please.

  37. 37

    Ellen

    Meeeeeeegan couldn’t solve for x where x is already known to equal 1

  38. 38

    Phoenix Rising

    Voters hold the power over ALL OF THEM. Brookhaven needs to support their citizens, get support from the county, then all 3 need to get support from state reps., governor, and senators. THAT is how things were designed to work. Anything else is just politics as usual.

  39. 39

    Eddie E.

    Remember if you do send this to Megan or Fran, holding your breath while waiting on something to happen will lead to asphyxiation.

  40. 40

    Susan

    Yes, the voters do hold power, but you left out a couple of facts. Candidate selection is not the best. Most want to run for office for personal aggrandisement instead of actually representing their constituents. Voters can’t see any further than their mailboxes and they think like their minds are just a box of rocks. Politics as usual.

  41. 41

    Chad

    http://www.gasb.org/jsp/GASB/Document_C/GASBDocumentPage?cid=1176166283745&acceptedDisclaimer=true

    Oh, and Alan, almost forgot, since you seem so interested in governance issues attached is the new GASB Statement 77 requiring full disclosure of tax abatements on City of Brookhaven, Chamblee, Dunwoody and Doraville financial statements. It’s going to be interesting to see how these municipalities account for a tax abatement that defunds the mothership county, but puts their individual abated taxes in the coffers of an unelected/unaccountable development authority that circumvents the General Fund.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how the city’s leaderships teams continue to espouse the economic development aspects (the most elusive forms of smoke and mirrors accounting) when all that shown is a liability. Hawks Players Facility, LLC, Olmstead, LLC, Perimeter Center and Peachtree Crossing LLC. These are all intentional short positions specifically prohibited by the MSRB. Look forward to more on that soon.

    Hope you get what you need from the financial statements I referenced earlier.

  42. 42

    Chad

    “Alan”, you missed the $780m tax abatement in Dunwoody. Google DeKalb County and DeKalb County School Board Financial Statements to understand the internal mechanics of government accounting. You’ll see Sewer and Water as a percentage of budget.

  43. 43

    Alan Simpson (Brookhaven, GA)

    No sir. That is the total dollar value of the project. You multiply that amount by 40% and then that amount times the city millage rate (.00274). That gives the total taxes to be paid – thus the amount available to abate.

    The deals in Dunwoody require that abated amount they do pay over the 10 year period. It isn’t a 100% abatement. And that dollar value isn’t the taxes paid.

    So where is the $1B in abatements? I’m sorry, I don’t see that.

  44. 44

    Bob Sorrentino

    The city is obligated to review a rezoning request’s impact to utilities even though the city provides no utilities. Here’s the wording.

    27-1549(7) Whether the zoning proposal will result in a use which will or could cause an excessive or burdensome use of existing streets, transportation facilities, utilities, or schools.

    Note that the city does not provide schools but is also obligated to review a rezoning request’s impact to them.

    The discussion should center around if the city can absolve this responisbility for sewer because DeKalb has the authority to deny service if there is not enough capacity. The argument for completely defering it to the county is that expertise in review and ultimate decision comes from them. The case for the city to consider DeKalb’s decision at the time of rezoning is that it could identify a particalr scope is not feasible prior to a shovel hitting the ground.

  45. 45

    On the Record

    @Chad, I assume you pursue Nancy Jester, Kathie Gannon, and Lee May with the same ferocity that you pursue those that do not hold the keys to resolution. Using a truncheon to bludgeon anyone with any connection to government is not an effective way to garner support. If the County issues a letter stating the sewer system has the capacity should the city then look to a private citizen with no formal training for approval. Chad, pursue your County elected officials or use the court system.

  46. 46

    Chad

    Come in close and let me whisper. You are making things worse for yourself. You, I and everyone else is becoming increasingly aware our storm runs into our sewer. When the Pandora’s box is open and everyone sees how big a problem this is all projects will come to a halt, all dreams requiring big cost will end and we will be a slave to the cost of corrective action. But keep chiming in. The bigger they come, they harder they fall…one and all.

  47. 47

    Give me a break

    OTR – Why is it so hard for you to understand the concept of our local government supporting and assisting it’s citizens in an effort to garner a valid sustainable resolution to a major issue? Answers that will provide them with concrete knowledge, documentation, and confidence that the items they are voting on in the near future are sound and good for Brookhaven? Who in their right mind would approve another large rezoning development project in Brookhaven not knowing if the project will even get a go ahead from Dekalb and worse yet, if they do get the go ahead will the appropriate measures or “negotiations” result in no future problems? Why take the risk of compounding the current ongoing problems based on a piece paper from Dekalb County with no recourse for the city or it’s citizens after the fact?
    You have a cart before the horse mentality. You need to look at the long term consequences, cost and damage to our city and it’s growth. Brookhaven does hold the keys to resolution when it comes to decision making and the revenue flow of Brookhaven. You can’t draw increased tax bases when you can’t flush your toilet and just cross your fingers that another government will correct the problem for you. Chad isn’t asking them to help us get a new manhole cover, he’s asking them to help us get the SH*% off our streets and out of our backyards.

  48. 48

    On the Record

    Dear Developer: We are sorry to inform that you will not be able to proceed with your project. We are aware that you have an official sewer capacity letter, with the new font and heavy bond paper. But you do not have the approval from Mr Bowls. We understand he is not a county or city employee, is not certified, or in any official capacity, but he is Mr Bowls and we cannot proceed without his approval.

  49. 49

    Calling it like it is

    There is no palm greasing, power connections, or political capital in representing your constituents. When that is all you have to count on for your lifestyle, you have to play nice with the developers and county politicians.

  50. 50

    Eddie E.

    Our problems are solved!!!

    With the announcement of the new EPA Administrator, if there is a sewer spill, we’ll all just need to grab a straw!

  51. 51

    Blinded Authority

    Oh, I see your point, Alan. The Dunwoody Development Authority (no assets or revenue) is issuing a $650 M bond and a $130M bond to purchase buildings on behalf of Atlanta Investment Phase I, LLC (also with no assets or revenue) and TransWestern Development Company, LLC (also no revenue or assets). Dunwoody Development Authority (again, no assets or revenue) will own the buildings and rent them to the two easily bankrupted LLC’s. So based on a fairly standard commercial real estate interest rate of 4.5%, the abated taxes will be about $10-15M per year for 15-20 years. That about right? I’m spitballing here and didn’t pull out the HP 72C.

    What happens if either LLC hands the keys back to Dunwoody Development Authority?

    Why didn’t they just go to a bank? Doesn’t that imply either the bank didn’t see the value of the loan or neither of the LLC’s put in enough equity to finance the building? Oh no, they couldn’t have because they didn’t have any equity to deliver. (For anyone still listening, a traditional capital markets group would only lend AT MOST 40% of the construction project).

    Who other than a Development Authority would finance a capital project with more than 60% loan to value? That one’s easy. Only a Development Authority with the help of Seyfarth Law and Dan McCrae.

    So based on market metrics, political squeeze and kicks and giggles, The City of Dunwoody is now investing taxpayer dollars seeking a rate of return. Maybe that’s why COD is taking so long to finish the North Peachtree/Tilly Mill Road intersection. Too much time spent investing Dunwoody taxpayer obligation and not enough time keeping their eye on the ball.

    Those darn Development Authorities. They eat pie in the sky for breakfast.

  52. 52

    Chad

    But OTR suggest building vibrant communities creates a larger tax digest, but we are going to raid the stormwater fund to purchase the PDK Greenspace. We’ll mostly likely borrow from the GEFA fund that also supports stormwater funding. Why have we not done a stormwater assessment yet….about .01% of the cost of the PDK Greenspace.

  53. 53

    On the Record

    There you go again using the truncheon to bludgeon us today about stormwater. When have you heard the City suggest that they won’t be able to deal with stormwater issues if they purchase the Greenspace. The world isn’t binary. You take a reasonable quest to improve stormwater management and polarize the issue

  54. 54

    Iva Ben Hadd

    Just got off the phone with one of my retired from Georgia EPD friends. I helped the EPD n EPA with their Photo work from 1987 to 1995.. We always talk about how sorry both The Ga EPD and EPA are now. EPD went to hell when Dr Couch left. Most of DeKalb’s Departments related to these issues are run by fools !!!

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