NCA October 2019 Meeting Minutes

Northcrest Civic Association - Board Meeting minutes

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 – 7:00 to 8:30 PM

3360 Regalwoods Drive

Chris called the meeting called to order at 7:02 p.m. In attendance: Chris Hester, Liza Everett, Alison Tyrer, Jarek Beem, Matt Jeffers, Tom Hohol. Chuck Hunt and Debra Knott arrived a few minutes later.

Guests: Jim Taylor, Jamie Crosby.

The August minutes and Annual Meeting minutes were approved.

Guest Speakers                                             

Guests Jim Taylor and Jamie Crosby were recognized to speak to the board regarding their concerns, about the NCA mission and strategies. Jim said he was here on behalf of several Northcrest neighbors and said he also speaks from experience and as a representative of the UPS Committee, which has recently been working more closely with the NCA. He said he recognizes volunteering is a good deed but doesn’t go unpunished. He said this was not about airing grievances, but about discouraging that type of terminology, and he is presenting a fresh viewpoint from neighbors who care. It is not intended as criticism but he asks for an open mind. He said the board has done a great job and has turned around 180 degrees – there are a lot of new faces and he said it is probably best board we’ve had since 2015.

A concept that’s come up recently is how to create value for NCA, although it’s something that’s been talked about since 2015. Jim said it comes down to three things. One is earning the respect and trust of the neighborhood. He said that’s not to say it’s not there, he’s just sharing his thoughts. He said if the board is transparent and makes decisions in the presence of a quorum, that will go a long way to earning trust and respect of neighbors.

Number two is leadership – being a voice for the community, not just a social organization. Jim said the neighborhood has a social organization – it’s the Northcrest Swim & Tennis Club. He recognizes that NCA builds membership through social activities, and that Deb does a great job. He cautions not to lose sight of the fact that the NCA should lead, too, and be a voice for the community. Third is communication – proactively seeking out opportunities for engagement. He said lately the NCA has done a great job, that people are very impressed and they want more of it. He hopes the board will think about that during the discussion this evening…earning trust, showing leadership. He believes the NCA is essentially a communications organization, that does a number of different things.

Jim said he recognized the board has personal talent, aptitude and passion and is the strongest NCA board since reinstating the NCA in 2015.  He has three “asks” to leave with us. One, he asked the board to consider the value propositions he’s leaving. He said that they are his ideas and opinions and are perhaps things the board has already thought about and can do what we want with them. Two, he asked that the board provide approved board minutes going forward. He said the Swim Club has started doing this with its minutes, responding to members’ requests, and it would go a long way toward building trust among neighbors. If nothing else, he personally would like a copy of them. Jamie said the club’s emailed newsletter includes a mention that if any member wants the minutes, they can request them.

Chris said now that we have access to website, we can do that – that’s been our plan all along, including posting past minutes. Jim suggested considering a password protected website, to add value for members only. Lastly, Jim also asked that he and/or Jamie be included in notifications of times and places of future NCA board meetings so they can attend and observe if they want.

Jamie, as upcoming president of the Swim Club, said they’re here to work with the NCA. He knows we serve different members but their board would like to work with our board. Matt will be Tennis Coordinator for the club next year so there’s cross-over. Chris said he thought we do work well with together. Jim says he knows we’ve gotten together to talk about how to communicate better and he has some ideas of how to better communicate – he’s leaving that and other ideas in printed material; he hopes we look at it and consider ideas. He hopes we don’t see it as him coming in and saying “you’ve got to do this.” He said the board has been doing an excellent job, especially recently. People have responded to the Doraville annexation information very positively and we should do more of that to create value.

Deb said we are not trying to compete with the Swim Club. Our events are for the entire neighborhood, not just members. But it’s not the same as we’re doing, which is building community in the neighborhood, and that what the Swim Club does is build community among its members. The NCA tries to partner with the club on all of our events – Black Friday Market, Easter Egg hunt, etc. We are giving the Swim Club a lot of free advertising and we promote the club a lot. We provide a service to the community by promoting a private club in the newsletter, along with the Garden Club, and other groups and events.

Jim said he has some other ideas on topics for the newsletter. He clarified he’s not here on behalf of the Swim Club, but on behalf of himself and based on what he’s heard from a diverse group of friends and “a lot of people,” there are things we may want to consider. There’s always room to improve on what we’re doing. He said to please call him if there’s anything he can do for the board.

Jamie gave an update on the UPS meeting last night but said he couldn’t disclose much due to the confidentiality agreement people who attended had to sign. The mediator, Carol, will present UPS with ideas to try to mitigate noise. The court case was dismissed; Jim sees that as positive step that will help mediation process.

Matt asked for clarification about open discussion of the UPS issues: what he heard at the meeting is that it’s okay to discuss among neighbors but not outside the neighborhood. Jim said they were a little fuzzy on that. Chuck said he got the impression the mediator felt all parties understood that it needs to stay inside neighborhood and not be publicize on any media or social networks. Deb asked how many neighbors were there and Chuck said almost everyone there was from Eaglerock, just a few from other streets like Summitridge. Jamie said there are different aspects of noise pollution. Chuck said complaints are still popping up and he will try to get in touch with his contact. Both UPS and the neighbors had suggestions on noise mitigation and the solution will probably involve a mix of things.

Recap of Annual Meeting                              

Chris reported that the Annual Meeting went well; it was well-attended – about 50 people signed in. People seemed to like the option to eat and drink. Lots of news was shared about redistricting and doings at the school. We appreciated the guest speaker being there – it was a dry topic and it was great of him to step in at the last minute. Chuck said the speaker stayed behind so people could talk to him one-on-one. Deb said the menu worked out well and it was key to have a place where people can drink.

School Redistricting

Chuck asked for an amendment to the agenda to talk about the immediate issue of school redistricting, to see if we choose to engage. He said the first meeting at Lakeside was about a month ago, to discuss broad options. The second meeting was more recently, in which they discussed two specific options. One was a limited redistribution of students of students directly affected by Pleasantdale Elementary School. Option two consists of all elementary schools that feed into Lakeside. In both options, they want to bring back to Pleasantdale all the apartment complex kids that used to go to Pleasantdale but got sent to Evansdale when Pleasantdale could no longer hold them. From his perspective, none of the plans look onerous. Both plans call for bringing kids from inside the Perimeter, which includes Embry Hills. Chuck got a call from Embry Hills Civic Association, which is opposed to it, to gauge our interest. Those kids now go to Henderson Mill.  

Chuck asked if we, as a neighborhood, want to take a position. The Pleasantdale PTO and Foundation have discussed the issue a bit; they are rather supportive of bringing in Embry Hills because they feel like anything we can do to add more permanent, rather than transient residents to the school, is a good thing. Chuck does not think the PTO will take a position on it. Deb and Chuck noted that Paige Lozier is actively involved in the school and may have some insights.

Chris said if the school parents aren’t going to take a position, why should the NCA? Deb said there are no more than 15 children from Northcrest that go to the school.  Alison suggested reaching out to the Foundation and PTO to see if they need or want support in anything; Chris said if they do, we will not promise but we consider it. He said we don’t want to make an enemy of Embry Hills, as we are trying to partner with them on some things, and also that it doesn’t make sense for us to advocate for their kids to come to Pleasantdale when they don’t want that.

Chuck said that in our larger strategic discussion, we might want to address our role in preserving those parts of our community that make us a community. Do we want a role in a school that is 95 percent kids who are not part of the Northcrest neighborhood? However, as an association, we might want to get more engaged because the quality of the school affects neighbors and potential residents. We realize the school population is not prone to advocacy. People have moved out of the neighborhood because of the school. Deb said it may affect home values. Chris said we cannot turn around the quality of the school. Deb noted that we are trying actively to engage with principal Terry Brown but that relationship has been difficult to maintain. Discussion ensued among the board about how to engage with the principal and the school, whether we might want to engage and how. Chris said our role is basically about disseminating information. Chuck will contact Paige to see if she thinks there’s a role for us to consider. He will also send us links to maps and more information tomorrow. Tom said it’s a core issue for the school, but not for the community. Chris noted that the redistricting issue was discussed by the guest speakers from the school at the annual meeting.

Group Discussion about Strategic Direction of NCA

Alison began by suggesting the board undertake the discussion it had planned and review Jim’s suggestions afterwards to see how they might be incorporated. She said of the “top five reasons to join the NCA,” the first four items are value we provide to the neighborhood and if we don’t provide them to everyone, we don’t uphold our fifth value, community spirit. These four things are critical to the mission. We need to identify for our members our value proposition: what makes us unique, and the reason they should join. Matt said members should get a value-added proposition – a bonus we can offer members, whatever that is.

Deb suggested car stickers because people really like those. Deb and Liza like the idea of lawn signs but Matt and Chris disagree. Matt says he is working on merchandise. Deb said that the Vincelette drawing spurred a good turn-out. Matt said maybe engraved wood pieces or stained glass would be good, like other neighborhoods such as Grant Park have that are unique. It would tie into sign toppers and the sense of a historic community. Deb and Matt suggested flags.

Alison said something tangible is always good, but an idea or a community service is also important. Chris said that he couldn’t walk into the Swim Club as a non-member and say that he was going swimming, so why is the NCA any different?  Why would a non-member expect us to help them with an issue? Deb said we had a thank you party for members and about 70 people came – we could do that again, here, for cheaper.

Tom said the conversation for people joining is what are you missing and why aren’t you part of the organization: gather that information and build on that. There’s a line where you draw and say this is where the value ends. Deb said the new neighbors at mix and mingles all join, and then about 50 people need a phone call. People are very busy. Chris said he sent at least two letters and emails to lapsed members. Alison said it’s easy to recruit new members because they think it sounds great, but then they don’t see a reason to renew. Chris said we have a problem with members renewing. Jarek said once they lose that hook, they’re less likely to join. Matt said it could only be a small annual thing, a sticker or something, to get them to join or renew – for instance, only members would get to vote on which street topper they like.

Matt suggested setting up autorenewals. Deb said there might be a security issue with credit cards, but Matt thinks it’s a solvable problem. Chuck asked what we’ve done before to reach out to past members. Chris has reached out to past members in a personal way multiple times last year with no results; he will pass on lists to others but will not be involved in the membership drive again this year.

Deb said we need to do a new member/renewal campaign, for Vision 2020. It was suggested we just knock on doors. Deb suggested it would be helpful to do an event on the other side of the neighborhood. Tom asked, of the members, who are the most active as far as volunteering, etc. Those are the people we can ask to help – people like Becky, Chris, Liza, Virginia, and others – the ones who come to help stuff newsletters. Deb said it’s easy to get the seniors to help but we’re not doing anything special for young couples with kids.

Chris confirmed that we have 178 members, and 68 that have not renewed this year. Deb suggested we each call 10 people. Alison said we’re still discussing how we sell and not what we sell – what makes it worthwhile for them to join? Chuck asked what would change if the membership grew; what would we do with the extra money. We’re not advocating at the County Commission. But Chris said when he talked to Doraville and told them how many households we have, they were impressed – 178 out of 593. Deb said we did get involved in Wintercrest. 

Alison said the other point of having one big discussion to avoid a lot of little ones every time something comes up. Chuck said we just have to ask ourselves, just because someone is not a member, do we not weigh in on an issue that affects their quality of life?

Deb asked if there really something we can do to help individuals or streets with problems; does everyone want to pitch in on everything?

Tom asked as president, what types of requests does Chris receive?  Chris says it’s usually isolated – volleyball intrusion; Wintercrest; traffic calming. But 80 percent of the people who contact him with problems are not members, so should we help them? Unless he “bullies” them, they don’t join. Matt said we need to outline this like a subscription: here’s what you get for free; and as a member, you get these added benefits, maybe it’s a vote for proposals like sign-toppers. We should spell it out for them and get it out to folks. We just need to figure out what those things are. Liza said we should keep everything simple. For $20, getting the newsletter three times a year is pretty nice; as Matt says, up the ante. Matt suggested maybe we should tout the newsletter on the back page as a free service.

Deb suggested publishing a directory. Chris said it got too complicated and not everyone wants their personal information out there. Alison suggested ad discounts with local merchants for members for members who show membership cards, but we’d have to make them, which is another issue. Jarek asked if there are services that do that. Chuck suggested when we have some branding, or product, we could give members a discount. Deb said the Swim Club wants to do the calendar; Matt said we don’t want to trump what they’re doing. Chuck said if it falls through, maybe we could. Deb said we’ve also talked about having a place to go to see all things Northcrest, like our website. Deb said the podcasts are turning out cool also; Chris said he’s not a member. Alison asked how we would make the podcast a member benefit. Chris said we’d want that information to go to everyone.

Deb said it was weird to say just members could vote on sign toppers. Alison said that if we pay for them and raise the money, we have the right to do that. Chris said that’s what Northwoods did; they had a party and had people come do ballots.

Deb asked how we market Northcrest in general, and do we want to? Chris says he thinks the Swim Club would be willing to partner with them on something like that. Alison said the Garden Club is not averse to partnering and has its challenges also, like finding volunteers for Tour of Homes and other events. Every organization here has that challenge. Deb pointed out the NCA distributes the Tour of Homes brochure with the newsletter and it would be nice to be thanked.  Matt said there’s a lot of rebranding things people could vote on.

Liza said we should set a date to do the sign-toppers. Deb said on the entrance sign there could be a plaque about the historic neighborhood. Liza said we could start with one thing and go on to something else. We’ve had past meetings on re-branding and the meetings have not worked out. Chris said we need time, and we need to fundraise for it. Northwoods did grants and did fundraising, needed something like $15K. DeKalb County has rules we need to go to. Matt says we can make the sign-toppers happen quickly and he has done some potential logos based on the current design. He could do some variations and virtual photos that can be posted on the website so people can vote. This is the 60-year anniversary of the neighborhood and we pretty much missed celebrating it. Deb said we could sell tons of stuff at the Black Friday event. Deb asked about a contest and Alison and Liza said we give them a few choices designed by Matt to vote on. Chris said we should move forward but he’s not sure what we’ve settled. Alison said we need action steps.

Chris said for next time, we should discuss what our philosophy is when issues come up. Are we advocates, are we communicators, etc.?

Matt said we could do some quick and easy FaceBook polls to get opinions and feedback, asking what neighbors would like to see NCA tackle.  Jarek said we should consider managing expectations in terms of budget; for instance, security patrols would cost more than we have; and additional volunteers are hard to find. It was suggested that we ask who is willing to become a volunteer.

Jarek said we should meet regularly to come up with an editorial calendar for our social media calendar. Chris said we stopped pushing the website because we weren’t able to do updates, but we are able to now.  Alison said she thought we should put minutes on the website, and Chris said he had been asking Liam to do that. Deb suggested that on the website, set up the newsletters as a library, also post the podcasts, and post minutes. Discussion ensued about what to post when. Chris said the board meeting schedule is not on the website, but we can post that the meeting is every fourth Tuesday at 7pm. When people ask for RSVPs we can let them know where the meeting will be, since the meeting sites change. The next meeting is a week early, Nov. 19th, because of Thanksgiving.  Deb said it would have been helpful for Jim to send his recommendations to us in advance so we would have time to review them before the meeting. Chuck said in glancing at it, some of the points are well-taken.

Chuck said that for the next meeting, the cityhood issue could be decided for us unless we engage before February. Do we want to get a neighborhood meeting together and do a straw vote to go on record with the legislature in case the legislature thinks Doraville will annex part of the neighborhood, so half of the neighborhood would wind up in Vista Grove and the other half stay unincorporated and then it not be annexed by Doraville. Chris said that Doraville does not want to split our neighborhood. Chuck said that happened in Brookhaven and it went to court. We’re not sure if a precedent was set or not. Deb and Chris said there does not seem to be consensus in the neighborhood. The Nextdoor poll favored Tucker. Alison said we would need to meet before February if we were to get involved, as the legislature starts in January and legislation is already under discussion. Deb said that Vista Grove would come and talk to us if requested. Chuck said a lot of our legislators are very much on the fence. But if it gets on the map and gets passed, we could still be in Vista Grove regardless of our wishes. We don’t want to be an island. Discussion ensued regarding Vista Grove, and the fact that police services have been dropped from their plans. Alison suggested we just provide information and let people decide for themselves. As a nonprofit we can’t influence legislators, but we can educate. Chuck said we might choose not to take an official position. Alison said that with more cities coming on board, DeKalb County is losing resources.

Liza gave the financial report. We have a balance of $7447.68, more than usual. That does not include the cost for newsletter, which we don’t know yet, but it’s around $900. Deb said we got extra copies of the newsletter and it was shipped, so we got more for our money. We also need the payment for some of the ads.

Matt will send us the text for the survey for us to look over. Alison will pull together some of tonight’s ideas for discussion next time. Matt will update the website and can put in a blurb about the upcoming board meetings. Thanks were extended to Jarek for hosting tonight’s meeting.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:49 p.m.

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