By John Schaffner

Some residents along East Wesley Road in Buckhead—still upset over a traffic calming project completed this summer they claim made their street more dangerous and adversely affected their lifestyle—now are in a new fight with the Garden Hills Civic Association (GHCA) over a tree planting program they also don’t want.

Betty Rainwater, who was one of the most vocal East Wesley residents about how the city of Atlanta and GHCA forced the traffic calming project without properly involving the residents in the discussions and decision-making process, says she recently received a flyer in her mailbox notifying of a tree planting project along East Wesley that would involve her property and those of her neighbors.

She discovered the flyer notice of the “landscape plan” was issued by five residents of the Garden Hills neighborhood. She fired off an email to one of the five people, Judy Stolovitz, the president of GHCA and several of her neighbors along East Wesley.

In her email to Stolovitz, Rainwater asked several questions:

–“Under what legal auspices is your group proposing a landscape plan for E. Wesley Road, including those areas that are contiguous to private property? Has some entity within the city government asked you to act on their behalf or ceded their authority to you?

–“If you are representing a civic organization (such as the Garden Hills Civic Organization), have you shared your plans with the neighborhood organization to which approximately 1/4 of the homes on E. Wesley are a part — those that are not in the GHCA area?

–“Are you stating that individual homeowners on E. Wesley Road can veto or approve your proposals? If so, is it (the veto) for properties surrounding theirs or only their own?

–“Have you ever considered what your reaction would be if some of your neighbors had the City declare your street to have “No Parking” so that you could never again have guests at your home; that your street would be narrowed so that you would have to stand in oncoming traffic to retrieve your mail; and that to back out of your driveway would be taking your life in your hands because your street lanes were so narrow that on-coming traffic had no room for the slightest error? And then, along comes another group of ‘nice neighbors’, proposing to beautify the street by planting trees and shrubs, further limiting the visibility and thereby making the street even more dangerous.”

One of Rainwater’s neighbors, Tom Mattimoe, responded to her email stating, “I am sure it expresses the feelings of the majority of the homeowners on East Wesley Road. I would also like to voice my opposition to any more work on ‘landscaping’. I think the current street is much less safe, and in the 12 years I have lived here, there have never been more homes on the market than following this work. I also believe the value of the homes has been reduced due to lack of parking, inability to host parties conveniently, etc. I have also seen more accidents and automobile damage after this work than during the 12 previous years. Further obstruction of the view is only one more step in the increased danger.”

Another neighbor along East Wesley, Frank Garcia, responded to Rainwater’s email and pointed out that he too had lived in the neighborhood for 12 years. “It is a very strange feeling to stand in front of your house andsee the homes on the left, right as well as across the street all for sale. It is now an adventure to get your mail from your box without having some idiot driving over 60 mph clipping you with the speeding vehicle. In addition, it now takes several minutes to pull out of our driveway due to traffic and poor lines of sight down East Wesley towards Piedmont.”

Garcia said, “It is almost comical that several years ago the City and GHC representatives were adamant that we were responsible for all repairs and cleanup when the 100-year Oak next to our mail box came crashing down our property. Now they extend our sidewalk and want to ‘plant’ things for us.”

GHCA President Armistead Whitney responded to the emails telling the East Wesley residents, “It is my desire to clarify the project further and to facilitate open communication. I have been assured that no one will plant a tree in front of your home if you do not want them.” (The full text of his letter is at the end of this story.)

Rainwater responded to Whitney stating, “The GHCA has chosen to take a path over the last few years that seems ‘over-active’ for the role of a neighborhood association in the city of Atlanta—at least over-active in its efforts to extend its authority over what would normally be the elected government’s role, like designing a street. Unfortunately for those of us on E. Wesley, at this same time, the GHCA was being ‘under-active’ in ensuring that its actions were representative of the people the organization supposedly represents and over-zealous in attempting to speak for citizens that do not even live in its clearly-delineated zone.”