Our Town: BuckheadNeighborhood association proactive to growth and development

So those photos of Buckhead residents protesting pop star Justin Bieber’s buying a mansion in the neighborhood turned out to be a prank. If The Beib’s purchase had been happening, though, chances are it wouldn’t have been an issue for the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, an organization that brings together leaders of 26 communities to work on common concerns.

Founded in 2008, the BCN started as a way to coordinate communication among the various neighborhoods spread across 28 miles of the city’s northern arc. Though each community is represented in the city’s Neighborhood Planning Unit system, they are spread among four different NPUs. Having one neighborhood council helps residents focus on concerns of the Buckhead area as a whole.

“BCN was created to provide Buckhead residents a voice,” said Gordon Certain, one of the group’s founding members. “The Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Business Association are the able voices of the Buckhead business community. Hopefully the BCN is an increasingly effective voice for Buckhead’s residents.”

Through the BCN, residents can keep up with key issues in the city, local schools, the legislature and the department of transportation, to name a few. They do so by attending monthly meetings where guest speakers bring news of what’s going on in the area. The group has heard presentations on topics such as charter schools and public safety, and has hosted most of the city council, the mayor and the police chief.

At January’s session, the audience heard plans to improve Atlanta Memorial Park from the park’s conservancy president, Roxanne Giles Smith. James Shelby, the city’s commissioner of planning and neighborhood development, discussed a bond initiative aimed at repairing streets and bridges and brought the members up-to-date on zoning code changes.

“We have had an array of speakers/participants that you won’t see in NPU meetings – congressmen, the head of the state road and tollway authority, the GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) district engineer,” said Certain. “ We had eight of the nine members of the Atlanta Board of Education at one meeting; we had the executive director of the Buckhead Heritage Society at another. And BCN was the first organization anywhere to call on the Fulton District Attorney to empanel a grand jury to investigate the APS cheating scandal.”

Not all Buckhead neighborhoods are part of the council, but Certain estimates that the current membership represents the majority of the area’s 78,000 residents.

“We have most of the key neighborhoods and many of the smaller ones, and we have expanded a little outside Buckhead’s official boundaries,” he said. “We have two non-Buckhead neighborhoods: Fernleaf (west of Interstate 75 and south of Peachtree Creek) and Loring Heights (south of I-75 and west of Atlantic Station). All are important and all have an equal vote on our BCN board.”

What isn’t important is who’s moving - or not - into the neighborhood. Certain can’t imagine the BCN protesting that.

“We’re very pro-neighborhood,” he said. “If someone wants to buy here, fine!”

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