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Is there a 'compelling reason' to approve Amana Academy's request?

Important decision could have far reaching impact

December 14, 2011
There has been substantial debate about the merit both for and against approving the conditional zoning for the Amana Academy. To do so would require approving a variance to the Windward Master Plan. The area where the school would like to move is zoned for office and light industrial, but not for schools.

There is a reason that we have master plans, and it is a good one. It controls how a community or a city grows and develops. If it is done right, it optimizes the amenities and moderates undesired change. That is, it protects value – or is supposed to do that. In most cases though, a good master plan works as it is supposed to work.

There should be a compelling reason to make an exception. And I believe that this decision at hand with Amana might be one of those rare exceptions that can be justified. My idea makes most sense if one projects forward a few years, five years, 10 or more. It may make sense if one contemplates the type of environment that their children and their grandchildren experience. The idea is simply that allowing the Amana Academy to move into that space communicates a clear and unequivocal message to our residents, to our business community and to "the outside world" that Alpharetta is an "education-centric" city. It communicates that we highly value education, our schools, and that we are willing to actively cultivate, encourage and support them. Bare with me please.

Every day, cities and states across the country fall all over themselves to attract new businesses and the jobs that come with them. They offer incentives in the millions of dollars in the form of tax rebates, gifted land and a multitude of different "credits" to attract new business. Every state does it. Most cities do it. Generally speaking, while some states and cities have deeper pockets than others, it is a fairly level playing field. That being said, the other primary factors that are generally considered are the cost of living, the overall quality of life and the quality of education available in one market versus another. Of those three, the quality of education may be the most important.

As the economy gains momentum – and that is starting to happen now – competition for skilled and/or highly educated employees will greatly increase. Companies will relocate to those markets that offer the best school systems. And here is the rub. Any city or state can find the money to offer building or tax incentives. In a sense, that is "cheap." But it takes years and much more money to build, maintain and foster the best high-performing schools and school systems. You just don't do it overnight. And that is where North Fulton/Forsyth has the competitive advantage over much – but not all – of the competition right now, today. But we also have some decisions to make now, today. Do we increase that competitive advantage, maintain it or lose it?

I vote for increasing it. It is so much easier to stay on top of the mountain than it is to climb it, and right now we are on the education peak or very close to it.

So, does Amana Academy have to have that specific location? No, they do not. But does that location and that existing office space ideally fit the needs of this ultra-high-performing school? Yes, absolutely yes. So, not only does approving this application support a school that performs at the high level that we seek from our schools, but the public commitment generates a giant step in growing a "brand" for ourselves – in creating a blue chip reputation for Alpharetta/North Fulton/Forsyth as an area in which everyone would want their children to receive an education.

The Amana Academy was just named the "Charter School of the Year" in the state of Georgia by the Coca-Cola Foundation. In announcing the award, the director of the committee that selected Amana made this statement: "The three finalists went through a rigorous application process including a selection committee panel interview. It was a tough decision for the committee because of the quality of the finalists, yet Amana stood out for its ability to replicate its innovative instructional program to other schools." If we really thought about it, we should try to create more Amanas – as many as possible. Education is the key to all our future.

So we have an opportunity here. A big one. Not only that but we also have to consider what message we wish to send to Gwinnett Tech which is considering locating a campus in Alpharetta. We can support the Amana request or deny it. Both decisions will be very public and both can, I believe, have significant impact on how we are perceived by others and also how well our children, in the long run, are educated. In fact, I would humbly suggest that we, as a city, consider adopting as our point of view that we "approve" all new schools as the opportunity arises - unless there is a compelling reason not to.

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Tags: Education News & School Sports, Milton High School

  1. report print email
    Amana Academy
    December 14, 2011 | 05:04 PM

    Thanks for writing this article. It was very honest and discusses why the City Council of Alpharetta should 100% approve this rezoning. Education is marketable and Amana Academy provides a great educational experience as evidenced by their selection as Charter School of the Year.

    Roy Huard
  2. report print email
    Let Amana stay in Alpharetta
    December 14, 2011 | 05:05 PM

    Both my children attend Amana, and I can confirm that it is a stellar school. My husband is an Executive Recruiter with a top international firm and can tell you why Amana is a leader in the educational world, and was recognized as such by the Coca-Cola Foundation. The building in question is a perfect future home for the school. Windward is an internationally known business location with highly educated residents. Amana Academy would perfectly complement the area!

    Angelika Otte
  3. report print email
    Thank you for your vision
    December 14, 2011 | 05:15 PM

    As an Amana Academy parent, and a Fulton county resident and business owner, I cannot but thank you for this article in which you manifest a clear and sound vision. It is beyond my comprehension why anyone would pass the opportunity of having a high-performing school on a silver plate in their neighborhood, unless they are driven by questionable motives.

    Hamid Isber
    Johns Creek
  4. report print email
    Amana's move to Windward makes sense!
    December 14, 2011 | 05:59 PM

    Many thanks to the writer for his compelling rationale as to why the City should approve the school's application. Frankly, the benefits that have been presented should make this a no-brainer. The only arguments I've heard against the move seem to be based on highly misinformed opinions. The Windward master plan has already been amended several times, and a school of Amana’s caliber is no less compelling than a "gym." Traffic studies show the school would have significantly less impact than other uses, and great schools attract companies and spur economic development. Amana's move should be great for all stakeholders in the City of Alpharetta.

    Khalid Yasin
  5. report print email
    Thank you!
    December 14, 2011 | 06:36 PM

    . . . for writing this informed article. I have two kids that have attended Amana in the last 2 year and I live in Roswell. I am very pleased with the education my kids are receiving and really appreciate the administrators that put so much effort into the kids. I hope the folks that are opposed can read this article and become more informed about the school.

  6. report print email
    My son had gone to Amana since 3rd grade
    December 14, 2011 | 06:58 PM

    Thank you for your thoughtful encouragement re: Amana's zoning variance request. Our family has enjoyed being part of the Amana community since the beginning, when my son, Brandon, began 3rd grade in Amana's inaugural year. Now, Kimberly, in 5th grade, has benefited from the school since Kindergarten. Amana's been the very best option for our family.

    I know Amana's leaders fairly well, and have great respect for their character and dedication to all children.

    You may know that "amana" is Arabic for "stewardship." I believe the school's leaders approach education with that kind of deep understanding of their responsibility to prepare a new generation of young people to be excellent learners and thoughtful citizens.

    My only regret is that the search committee couldn't find a more suitable site in Roswell--near Alpharetta Hwy and Holcomb Bridge Road--where our family has lived for 13 years!

    Mark Hills
  7. report print email
    Amana Academy
    December 14, 2011 | 07:37 PM

    Thank you for such a logical rationale for approval of the zoning for Amana Academy. As you pointed out, the number one reason where families choose to purchase a home is for the educational options available. Obviously, where there is growth in a residential area there is growth in business as well. When we are living in a time that education in the United States is considered fragile, why would the City of Alpharetta want to limit themselves to the number of high quality schools in the area? Amana Academy has proven itself repeatedly to be an award winning school with high academic standards and an educational curriculum which teaches our children to become succesful leaders in this day and age.

    Nada Diab
  8. report print email
    My children attend Amana
    December 14, 2011 | 08:50 PM

    This is great article. It shows great deal of wisdom and vision for our future. My children attend Amana Academy so I know for fact it's great educational institution and bright place in Alpharetta. So thank you for taking the time to Weighting in on issue of critical importance to the well being of our community.


    Aziz Dhrif
  9. report print email
    I agree there is a compelling reason for Amana Academy to be in
    December 14, 2011 | 09:32 PM

    Dear Mr. Ray Appen,

    Thank you so much for your well balanced article in support of what is good for the Alpharetta community as a whole going forward. Your opinions were very educated and honest. I commend you for this work.

    I have a child who attends Amana Academy and we have been enjoying working with Amana Academy and the dedicated staff since 2008. We moved here from WA State and were very impressed by the care Amana has given my child.

    Amana Academy is a great school and they deserve to move to a nice place in Windward Community. This will be great for the Windward Community and the children living in Windward as well as surrounding areas. I know Amana's leaders fairly well, and have great respect for their character and dedication to all children. Amana Academy provides a great educational experience and that was proven by their selection as Charter School of the Year.

    The unfortunate and dishonest campaign of some misguided individuals has tainted some minds but I am sure after reading your article they will be forced to rethink their position. The Windward master plan has already been amended several times, and a school of Amana's caliber is no less compelling than a "gym."

    I am a Windward resident and I don't have any objections to this rezoning.

    The City Council of Alpharetta should approve this rezoning without any reservation.

    Naeem Mulla
    Alpharetta 30005
  10. report print email
    Makes Every Business Sense
    December 14, 2011 | 10:28 PM

    Thank you for writing this article. I liked that you mentioned in order to reap the benefit tomorrow you have to sow the seed today. You have to think 5yrs or 10yrs down the line. In this era of being lean and agile, what good is a plan if it is not flexible enough to change for the good of its community. Walmart, Costco, Home Depot and Mc Donalds are just some of the places that every family visits on a regular basis. With Amana moving into the Windward area, I am sure that these establishments will see an increase in their clientele as those families that are not a regular at their Windward location would also stop by when picking up or dropping their kids off. More clients means more business!!! Amana moving into the Windward area makes every business sense!!!

    Riyad Merchant
  11. report print email
    From an appreciative parent...
    December 14, 2011 | 11:10 PM

    Thank you so very much for recognizing the positive impact Amana Academy has had on our community and our kids. My child started kindergarten at Amana just this past fall, yet I have been following the school since it opened years ago. The number of accomplishments they have reached is remarkable, and I truly feel the school will be an asset to the community.

    Rania Budeir
  12. report print email
    Master Plans
    December 14, 2011 | 11:19 PM

    First, thank you for writing a sound article about Alpharetta's need for competitive advantage within the education sector and how that impacts the private and public arenas. You make several strong points in showing that the variance needed to adjust the Master Plan would be beneficial to Alpharetta, the Windward area, and yes, to the brilliant faculty, staff, and students of Amana. Amana attracts families from every stretch of Fulton County because we are committed to our children's education; Amana Academy offers an unparalleled educational experience. I trust that Alpharetta will be as committed to the community when the decision is made.

    Bridgett Humphrey
    Sandy Springs
  13. report print email
    From an appreciative parent...
    December 14, 2011 | 11:26 PM

    Thank you so very much for recognizing the positive impact Amana Academy has had on our community and our kids. My child started kindergarten at Amana just this past fall, yet I have been following the school since it opened years ago. The number of accomplishments they have reached is remarkable, and I truly feel the school will be an asset to the community.

    Rania Budeir
  14. report print email
    Thank you!
    December 14, 2011 | 11:58 PM

    *Standing Ovation*...*Applauding you*.
    Thank you, thank you.
    This article is so perfect that I can't even make a comment:)
    Holding our breaths for Amana Academy and Alpharetta!

  15. report print email
    A Sensible Reason
    December 15, 2011 | 08:28 AM

    If for no other reason than our children, as well as future generations, deserve to have every available opportunity for a stellar education - Amana Academy and its learning model should be promoted in our communities here in North Fulton. This is a school that cares about the children and cares how and what they learn, it is a school that cares about the community that supports it and it is a school that I hope will be approved for new space so that it may grow and continue to flourish. I am proud to be a parent of an Amana Academy Student and I hope that everyone who reads this article will support schools that truly make a difference. Thank you for taking the time to write this piece and to bring attention to an important issue. At the end of the day - it is not about property or traffic or opinion - it is about statistical facts of achievement, the betterment of our local education and the future of our children. Cheers.

    An appreciative parent
  16. report print email
    YES to Amana Academy
    December 15, 2011 | 08:37 AM

    Thank you for writing this article. This is my third year as an employee of Amana Academy. This is not 'just a job' for me. It is an honor to work here. I truly feel as though I am doing something worthwhile, and doing my small part to invest in the future of these children. Amana considers whole-child development (intellectual,moral character and physical). I only wish my own children, who are now grown, had access to such a wonderful school. I truly believe Amana is raising honorable young men and women that will be great citizens and an asset to their community and society! Bravo Amana!

    S. Hale
  17. report print email
    Thank you for the succinct rationale
    December 15, 2011 | 10:38 AM

    Well said sir. A GA Charter School fights hard enough to meet the litmus for its charter, it shouldn't need to do the same for it's right to locate- especially after a stellar track record like Amana. The North Fulton Chamber has repeatedly asked Amana to be included on its list of educational amenities to prospective corporate relocation candidates. Ray is right- tax incentives are offered by all competitive municipalities and we could never compete with Texas given its "Deal Making Fund" which allows the Governor to offer discretionary money at a tenant after all initial incentives have been offered. The "quality of life" barometer is the competitive advantage Alpharetta offers. The exemplary science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum which Amana does so well is key to landing these new relocations, which ultimately translate to more jobs and increased home values. These northeastern and CA-based companies looking to relocate will not look favorably at a municipality perceived as bigoted, whether true or not. Denying this application would certainly put us in that category.

    The building on 5905 Winward which Amana proposes to buy is a far better stimulant to the local WIndward economy and vibrancy than, let's say, a call center which requires no zoning modification.

    Good luck to the school. And thank you Ray. I trust our Councilmen will vote to make Alpharetta more competitive.

    Chris McCandliss
  18. report print email
    Being Open Minded!
    December 15, 2011 | 11:05 AM

    This was so amazing to read! These are children that just want the same kind of school as all other kids! WELL SAID! You have done so much to make us all smile....THANK YOU!

  19. report print email
    Honor the master plan
    December 15, 2011 | 12:14 PM

    I usually look forward to your weekly editorials. This week was a disappointment. Although I completely agree with your premise on education being an important component of the quality of life that draws companies to cities like Alpharetta, I find your logic tying the perceived dedication to education to where a school is located. There are planned locations for schools and planned locations for business for numerous reasons. Constant changes to these plans dilute them and as you point out, cause the property to lose value and the businesses that invested in those properties to lose money. The other arguments for or against the school is the subject of another discussion. The premise that this school has to be located in this particular location in order to prove that Alpharetta is dedicated to education is ridicules. We currently have excellent schools located in planned and approved locations. There are other planned and approved locations available for the Amana School to relocate to. The only reason to change the land usage plan is for an exceptional overriding justification. That just isn’t present here.

    James Berlo
  20. report print email
    Constant Changes?
    December 15, 2011 | 01:10 PM

    Mr. Berlo of Alpharetta: You said, "There are planned locations for schools and planned locations for business for numerous reasons. Constant changes to these plans dilute them and as you point out, cause the property to lose value and the businesses that invested in those properties to lose money." I think everyone who would advocate on behalf of the school can be sympathetic to that concern; however, I don't think any of those people are advocating a position that amounts to "constant changes" to the Master Plan. This is request to allow a building which has stood vacant for years to be rezoned in a manner which many of us believe would be beneficial to all concerned. Far more beneficial than an empty office building.

  21. report print email
    We are Crew, Not Passengers.
    December 15, 2011 | 01:15 PM

    Thank you, for your dynamic words of support. Amana has had continual and proven success over its now 7th year of operation. My children have attended this school since 2005. Amana Academy instills the belief, "We Are Crew Not Passengers," to each and every child. Pushing them towards action, building confidence and fostering a can do spirit amongst our children; our future. Your brilliant article is an example of such a spirit. Thank you for being CREW.

    Johns Creek
  22. report print email
    Windward has nothing to lose and everything to gain for having A
    December 15, 2011 | 02:48 PM

    Thank you for this great and enlightening article. My children are among over five-hundred pupils who had the opportunity to attend Amana Academy. It is indeed an opportunity as many schools in this state, and in other states as well, are failing to deliver value-added instructions. As a community, the plan of all master plans should be providing high quality education to our children. According to this main-master plan, the welcome mat should be rolled for Amana Academy since there is nothing to lose and everything to gain for having high achieving Academy to educate our youngsters.

    A. Mohammed
  23. report print email
    Amana Academy
    December 15, 2011 | 03:50 PM

    I wanted to say thank you for this article. I regard my children as the highest priority. I live in Fulton County, and I drive an hour one way every day just to send my children to Amana. I believe in the quality of education, as well as the patience from the teachers, and the diversity of the school. I am moving to Alpharetta so that my children will be closer to the school. I am hoping that the decision will not be based on bigotry. The smaller classes allows the educators to spend one-on-one quality time with each child, and it shows, whether it is from our test scores, the awards, or just when my children come home from school and tell me what they have learned, I know that I have made a sound decision. I am excited for the growth of Amana, and this rezoning should be approved.

    Heather Leone
    College Park
  24. report print email
    And What about the North Fulton Science Academy?
    December 15, 2011 | 07:43 PM

    The Fulton Science Academy Charter school also located in Alpharetta should also be supported by Alpharetta, yet it is probably loosing its Charter. They have accolades at the STATE level yet why is Amana afforded more consideration than FSA if Alpharetta is to be viewed as an education-centric city. The zoning in this area already has too many zoning exceptions and that's why it takes me 20-25 minutes to go 4 miles to work already! I really don't want more congestion. No one is questioning the quality of the academia, they are questioning the zoning.
    I realize there is a big push for this, even the comments regurgitate the same phrases such as 'The Windward Master plan has already been amended several times and a school of Amana's caliber is no less compelling than a gym'
    What's the point in hiring firms and engineers for thousands of dollars to get a professional plan of action, ie Master Plan if we keep making exceptions?

    Its no wonder Atlanta is rated in the top three for worst traffic, and road rage. It's all of these exceptions to appease everyone. I hit 15 traffic lights in miles because of all these exceptions. There are hundreds of vacant buildings, and thousands of empty office suites littered throughout our area that are also more 'traffic-centric', and 'zone-centric'
    So more traffic in an already traffic-laden area, no additional tax base, and another zoning exception. I'm not seeing a benefit as a Windward/Deerfield resident and 35year Roswell & Alpharetta resident.

    K. Day
  25. report print email
    December 15, 2011 | 08:30 PM

    Like many of you, I applaud the success of Amana. The great work they have done should continue. However, the impact on many of those impacted by this decision is being ignored. I live in Windward and have for many years. The traffic on Windward Parkway has become quite a challenge for all of us and frankly, Windward Parkway was never intended to be an ingress or egress for a school. The planning documents for this Parkway do not support this type of change in the dynamics of traffic change which would occur if the school entered into the equation.
    There are many other locations which will support the logistical needs of Amana.
    Many other considerations should enter into this decision including the tax impact, effect on adjoining businesses, and necessary road improvements.
    Again, I support Amana Academy and their excellent history of academics however, Windward Parkway is not the appropriate location for the school

    Max Gardner
  26. report print email
    What's all the fuss about?
    December 15, 2011 | 09:23 PM

    We recently received a four-page propaganda letter from a group called Windward Homeowners, Inc., which should not be confused with Windward Homeowners Assoc. Who are these crazy people and why do they care so much about a high performing school relocating two miles away from our neighborhood? Only bigotry and xenophobia could elicit so much passion.

    Lyn Gregory
  27. report print email
    Regarding the Traffic Concerns
    December 15, 2011 | 10:49 PM

    My name is Branden Waugh and I grew up in Dunwoody in the 70's and 80's, attending Vanderlyn Elementary and Marist High School. Now that I've made a transparent attempt to establish my street cred regarding good schools in the Atlanta area, I'll simply say that I think Amana is fantastic and that is why my wife and I chose to send our daughter there.

    Thank you for your article, Mr. Appen. I thought it was very thoughtful, clear and reasonable.

    I just wanted to quickly say something regarding traffic since a couple of people have mentioned it. I have to travel from Roswell to the city every day for work and I would never dismiss concerns over congested roads.

    But just in case nobody else has mentioned it here yet, there have been two separate, professional traffic studies and both of them concluded that Amana would have significantly less impact on traffic than other potential uses of the building. Also, there would be no traffic at all in the summer. Granted, whatever traffic is there now would be increased by any occupant but I don't think anyone is arguing the merits of a keeping a big, vacant building around.

    It's a great building in a great area; I really hope the kids at Amana get a chance to experience it. They deserve it. Thanks!

    Branden Waugh
  28. report print email
    How does the neighborhood benefit from an empty building?
    December 16, 2011 | 03:10 PM

    We're all familiar with the traffic issues that plague every 400 access point from MacFarland to Holcomb Bridge. Nobody likes it; however, to make this about traffic associated with the school misses the point. The building has been vacant for four years! Any business buying or taking up a lease to operate in that building is going to lead to more traffic than there is today; however, studies are apparently showing that the impact would be less pronounced with a school than a business. Now, if this really were about traffic, then the issue isn't zoning. If it's about traffic, then it's about people hoping the building remains vacant indefinitely. Now, you can't really argue that you want a big office building in your area to remain empty forever, but that seems to be the basic logic driving the principled opposition.

  29. report print email
    December 16, 2011 | 04:05 PM

    I would love to see some of the fliers, etc that have been passed out to residents. If I am not mistaken one of the opponents' main complaints was that it's too close to the McKesson HQ? Well, there goes that...

  30. report print email
    December 17, 2011 | 08:12 AM

    This is our first yr at Amana but it will not be our last!! As a parent I feel so proud that my son is receiving a quality education and is in an environment that is like a sea of fish ~ extremely diverse! I look at Amana like our second family and being from another state this is extremely important to have. Now that Amana wants to move we are looking at homes for sale in that area. Isn't this a good thing? I don't see any reason Amana should not be relocated and I hope that our children will look back on this and be proud to be part of Amana's Crew!

    kindergarten parent
  31. report print email
    Amana movement
    December 17, 2011 | 06:39 PM

    Upon reviewing the many comments, the attendees of this school are very vocal and in great support of this school movement. I have two points to make. First, the characterization of the Windward’s Homeowners Inc. as ones who are "Only bigotry and xenophobia could elicit so much passion” Ms. Gregory, is both untrue and bigoted itself in its tone.
    The WHI have a City Commissioner and a local Judge providing current service. These people volunteer their time to protect the zoning regulations which were voted upon and supported by the tax paying members of the community. As an aside, many of the comments which have been made are by others who are not part of the Windward or Alpharetta community who will be affected by this decision. They will simply be one of the approximately 650 to 700 cars who will both drop-off and pick-up their students during peak rush hours. Secondly, there IS a tax impact on this decision. Whether the building is occupied or empty, taxes are being paid currently. If the non-profit school takes over the location, there will be NO taxes paid. How do you intend to pay for improvements and the necessary turn-only lane which does not exist?
    I really don't understand the problem. Other locations have been recommended which meet both the traffic and other requirements of this school. Additionally, the plan for this school is to expand to a K-12 learning facility. How will we accommodate this?
    Please stick to the fiscal and practical matters. To do otherwise and to attempt to illicit bigotry into the conversation is a baseless, irrelevant, and desperate measure.

    A Robinson
  32. report print email
    Re: Amana Movement
    December 18, 2011 | 11:08 PM

    @ A Robinson – While I’m not going to accuse the WHI or Windward of being racist, I think it’s interesting how misinformation continues to have legs….especially after two Planning Commission meetings and two meetings with Windward residents. Why?

    You said, “They will simply be one of the approximately 650 to 700 cars who will both drop-off and pick-up their students during peak rush hours.” Your statement is not accurate. Amana’s peak traffic hours are different than Windward Parkway’s peak rush hours. The traffic study (look at the LOS findings) show Amana Academy traffic will have a negligible impact on the PM rush hour, a minimal impact on the AM rush hour, no impact on the lunch rush, and less traffic impact than the typical corporate tenant who would use the building as developed. The LOS ratings for all the intersections in the area are well below “the limit of acceptable delay”.

    The tax impact is not material. On Douglas Road, new sidewalks were put in this past summer. Obviously I don’t monitor every person walking on them, but I’ve seen almost no one use them. These sidewalks cost about three times more than the taxes coming from the building Amana wants to purchase.

    You said, “Other locations have been recommended which meet both the traffic and other requirements of this school.” Read the traffic study. The building, in question, is vacant. Traffic will, eventually, (unless you’re advocating this building stay vacant permanently) be produced from this building. I live in Alpharetta and drive by this building to access GA 400. If you’re worried about traffic, this is a good opportunity to have the building occupied with a minimal impact to the AM and PM rush hour. Regarding the “other” requirements, I doubt you know what they are. If you knew the requirements, you would understand why Amana Academy wants this building and why others are not a good fit. This building is a better fit than every “recommendation” provided.

    You said, “Additionally, the plan for this school is to expand to a K-12 learning facility.” Your statement is not accurate. Go to Amana’s website (or the WHI’s website)….look at the charter. This school is K-8 and has no plans to expand to a K-12. In addition, it’s one of the conditions that Amana Academy has already agreed to with the city.

  33. report print email
    Amana is about the zoning
    December 18, 2011 | 11:09 PM

    Windward Homeowners Inc. sent flyers to inform residents about this proposed rezoning in our master planned community. The flyers describe the zoning issues and explain why we believe there is no compelling reason to change the zoning. Roger T. is misinformed. The flyer he may be referring to was delivered by an unknown person to a few homes back in August and was condemned by WHI and other groups.

    This is strictly a zoning issue, and we hope that both sides keep their comments to the zoning criteria.

    T. Miller
  34. report print email
    Lets drop the bigotry discussion
    December 18, 2011 | 11:14 PM

    Nothing productive will result. Pls dont post on this forum. Thanks.

    Ray Appen
  35. report print email
    Traffic Concerns
    December 19, 2011 | 09:37 AM

    Mr. Gardner,
    Thanks for the kind words about our school in your comment. Our family has been part of the Amana Community since its first year of operation, and we have seen first-hand that Amana is a great asset to the community.
    With respect to your concern about traffic, the current owner of the building has stated that if Amana does not purchase the facility in question, the most likely occupant/owner for it will be a 24/7 call center. A call center will certainly cause the traffic issues you envision on the weekends and weekdays.
    The currents owners have stated they will only sell/lease to someone that is interested in using the entire facility. Subdividing the current facility would be cost-prohibitive due to the layout of the building (it was a health club prior to shutting down four years ago).
    Our school is small (smaller than any other Fulton Co. Public School I believe), and Amana will remain small at even its largest planned size (~750 students?). Amana can only offer K-8 and have no more than the set maximum number of students per its charter approved by Fulton Co. Schools.
    The various traffic studies have shown repeatedly that the school's traffic impact will be minimal and occur at non-peak hours. The only use for the facility that would generate less traffic is its current state - vacant.

    Russ Thomas
  36. report print email
    Re: Amana Movement
    December 19, 2011 | 10:17 AM

    A Robinson: I have no interest in engaging with someone who ignores the facts however and since you have personalized this, I will. I HAVE read the traffic study and the creators of this survey acknowledge it is inaccurate since it was done in the summer months and not during the school year.

    RC: As others mentioned in their comments, there are two traffic studies. You’re referencing a traffic study prepared in July. I’m referencing the study done in November…less than a month ago.

    A Robinson: The population of students according to public documents is over 460. Less than 15% of these utilize bus or public transportation. This would indicate the balance is transported by car. So, how are my numbers incorrect?

    RC: It’s not so much your numbers, but the period of time you apply them. Adding Amana’s traffic to the peak rush hour vs adding to a non-peak rush hour creates different levels of congestion. For instance, the bulk of Amana’s PM traffic will occur between 3pm and 4pm. The peak traffic period for this section of Windward Parkway is 5pm to 6pm.

    A Robinson: There will be NO taxes collected if the school is moved to this location. This is a permanent change and basically locks out any opportunity for tax revenue, ever.

    RC: As I stated, the taxes on the building are not material. I think you’re overlooking this economic idea. If you have one of Georgia’s best schools in the city, people will pay more for homes in the area. Home values will increase.

    A Robinson: This move/change is NOT consistent with the master plan for our community. If Amana is concerned about playing by the rules, this would be a great place to start.

    RC: Amana is playing by the rules. “School/Academic” is listed as an appropriate “Conditional Use” in the Unified Development Code (UDC). I believe Amana Academy satisfies every objective criteria listed in the UDC for a “Conditional Use”.

    A Robinson: The change to the charter to a k-12 status IS a desire by the members of the school population whom I have spoken with.

    RC: That’s not relevant. The charter states only a K-8. Additionally, Amana has already agreed to Condition #2 from the city. Read any of the Council Agenda Reports. I’m sure the WHI’s website has them. Condition #2 states:

    “2. School shall be limited to a maximum of 750 students. Classes shall be limited through grade 8 with no high school classes offered.”

    A Robinson: Lastly, your veiled insinuation that WHI or Windward residents are bigoted is very clear. Hence your reference to "misinformation continues to have legs". You guys should be ashamed. If your attitude is consistent with all the Amana advocates, I'm not sure how good of a neighbor you will be.

    RC: As I said before, I’m not going to accuse the WHI (or you either) of being racist. My question is…why does so much misinformation continue regarding this school???

  37. report print email
    Response to A. Robinson, Alpharetta
    December 19, 2011 | 11:39 AM

    Mr. Robinson (A. Robinson, Alpharetta),

    I appreciate your concerns about the school, and I think the current process is needed so that everyone involved can discuss openly and honestly.

    A second traffic study was conducted in the fall of this yearl to address the valid point about the timing in the first study. I believe the second study also concluded that traffic impact would be minimal.

    With respect to the number of children being dropped-off and picked-up, I can only speak accurately for my family, but we carpool with three other families for a total of five students in one car. At drop-off and pickup, the vast majority of cars have multiple kids (siblings and/or other carpools). In the afternoons, many students are also picked up by after-school programs (all riding in that program’s bus transportation – i.e. in addition to the official school bus).

    Several years ago, Amana joined the Clean Air Schools program (http://www.cleanaircampaign.org/For-the-Press/Press-Releases/2008-Archives/Forty-One-Schools-Join-The-Clean-Air-Campaign-s-Education-Program), and we encourage car-pooling by our families to promote Environmental Education (one of the main focuses of our school).

    With respect to K-12, the approved charter simply doesn’t allow any grades other than K-8.
    Amana is a Fulton County Public School and operates under the approval and supervision of the Fulton County School System and the Georgia Department of Education. Under our current charter which runs through the next two years, any attempt to offer additional grades would almost certainly result in an immediate demand by Fulton Co. Schools and the State DOE to cease offering those unapproved grades. If that was ignored an immediate revocation of our charter by Fulton Co. Schools and the Georgia DOE would be the most likely result (i.e. the school would be forced to shut down).

    Amana’s charter is up for renewal in 2013 (to continue operating after the 2013-2014 school year) with Fulton County Schools (charter renewals are for five-year periods for Fulton County Schools), and the desire to add grades 9-12 would have to be part of the charter renewal. If expanding to those grades was the school’s plan, it would already be in the works and be part of the discussion in Amana’s governing board meetings and with the parents (it takes several years to prepare the charter renewal).

    In fact, the opposite is true - the Amana Governing Board and the Amana Administration (the official school entities responsible for governing and operating the school) have repeatedly stressed that the school will remain K-8.

    Our family has been part of Amana since its first year, and from day one the school has been committed to being a small K-8 school with small class sizes, and that vision is still the same seven years later based on my involvement with the school and my numerous discussions with Amana board members and the school’s administration.

    As an Amana family, K-8 is exactly what attracted us to the school. Adding higher grades would take away from the focus that creates such a special environment at Amana.
    Finally, I was also under the impression that Amana was willing to incorporate the stipulation into the master plan amendment request that approval would only be valid for a K-8 school with the maximum number of students specified in its current charter.

    If you are still concerned about the number of grades, I can assure you the charter renewal process is long and arduous, and there are an abundance of public meetings to express opinion and concern before the renewal application even gets its first reading before the Fulton County Board of Education.

    I encourage you to call Fulton County Schools or attend the monthly meeting of your elected Fulton County School Board official, and they will confirm the charter renewal process and the specified grades included in Amana’s current charter.

    Russ Thomas
  38. report print email
    Drop the bigotry question?
    December 19, 2011 | 12:00 PM

    Mr. Appen - while it may not be productive by definition to discuss the angle that bigotry could be playing a role in this issue (as evidenced by the flyers), denying the possibility the angle exists is seemingly less productive, and borderline irresponsible. Especially coming from a man who is well aware of the freedom of speech. As this matter is inevitably bound for a court room I would think it wise to not censure your readers that would attempt to speak out in defense of the minority.

    Roger T.
  39. report print email
    Number of Cars: Accurate Information from Amana Employee
    December 19, 2011 | 12:57 PM

    As a longtime employee of Amana, I have always seen our school and its representatives show respect for our community. We understand that our proposal is an area of concern for some of our neighbors and support their right (and responsibility!) to lobby for their position. We assume best intentions and believe our opposition's issues are with zoning in particular, not our school in general.

    Regarding the number of cars Amana will add to the road:

    Because I am an employee, I have access to numbers that the general population doesn't. I've seen the "750-800 additional cars" assessment several times so I decided to look into that figure.

    Currently, Amana has only 323 carpool numbers, which amounts to 323 cars for our student population of 526. Yes, our student population will expand as we continue to add students, but assuming we keep the current 61% ratio of students to single cars (which is historically fairly accurate for us), we will still have fewer than 500 cars for our entire student population--even once we reach full capacity. Because we are a K-8 facility, many of our parents have multiple children in the school. This is why our car count is much lower than may be expected at other schools.

    Current Carpool:

    I think that many of the concerns over our current traffic situation arose after community members observed our carpool lines during the first few weeks of school. They're right; it was messy then because we were training all the parents (and staff, like me!) on our new dismissal procedures. Everything is smooth sailing now, though. I do carpool duty every day and can assure you that, barring some unusual event, we are finished in thirty minutes flat.

    During our thirty minutes of carpool, we have a ten-minute "peak wave" of elementary parents at 3:00 and another ten-minute "peak wave" of middle school parents at 3:15. Otherwise, the cars come in one-by-one. The most backed-up that Hwy 9 seems to get is when the McDonald's truck arrives (every day between 3:00 and 3:30) and has to make several attempts to turn into the parking lot.

    I hope that this data (some anecdotal and some numeric) is helpful to folks on both sides. Amana looks forward to continued positive relationships with our community no matter what the outcome of tonight's City Council meeting may be. We encourage all participants to be positive and respectful of each other; that's what we expect of our students and that's what we expect of ourselves.

  40. report print email
    Number of Cars: Folllow-up from Amana carpooler
    December 19, 2011 | 01:21 PM

    Thanks Rochelle for the actual numbers. I’d like to also add that the 323 carpool numbers are really a max possible number.

    For instance, for our carpool, all four families involved have a separate carpool number. However, we only use one car in the morning for all four of those numbers (i.e. only one family drives) and one car in the afternoon.

    Also, I believe those Amana families that use Amana's bus service one or both ways to school also have numbers, so the actual number of cars involved in drop-off and pick-up is less than the actual number of car pool numbers issued.

    Russ Thomas
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