Response to Media Coverage on Panola Slopes

The entertainment complex planned at Panola Slopes is suddenly getting a lot of attention. The zoning was approved by the Board of Commissions, with conditions, on Dec. 16.  Now, various objections are surfacing.

CEO Vaughn Irons wrote a letter addressing the concerns. A portion is quoted elow:

I see a means of changing the economic outlook of South/Central DeKalb with what we have envisioned for Panola Slope. The project is planned to be a resort for visitors and entertainment district for locals. We are bringing the finest amenities, unique experiences and safety to that corridor.

This new project will bring a total of $28 million of new investment to the area. We are providing 3 new upscale restaurants, a one-of-a-kind Barcade, 4 retail boutiques, lodging of 72 sleeping rooms, swimming pool, outdoor performance pavilion and finally a top notch full service 10,000 SF conference center.

But attempts to lift up our community are never without controversy. Some media outlets are trying to suggest that because one of my investors owns casinos out of state, that this is a “backdoor” attempt to bring casino gambling to Georgia.

These allegations are ludicrous. Casino gambling is illegal in Georgia. Our Barcade at Panola Resort will include amusement games for adult patrons that are legal and allowable under Georgia law. Any suggestion to the contrary is an intentional misrepresentation of the facts.

To see the full letter, please click on the link below; when the new page opens, click on the link once more.

Irons Letter to DeKalb

Building Momentum in the Greater Hidden Hills Community

We completed our first full year of operation, and we have achieved much for a new organization. We are building momentum and making plans for 2015.

We formed the Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Corporation to push for revitalization, economic development, and beautification. We are working to achieve the vision we have for the Greater Hidden Hills Overlay Zoning District, which is roughly the area within and next to Covington, Hairston, Redan, and Panola.

We are working to bring the right kind of economic development to the Greater Hidden Hills area.

Our advocacy on behalf of the community included the following volunteer efforts:

  • Met with James Davis, owner of the 188-acre closed golf course, to review the overlay vision and the opportunities for redevelopment.
  • Worked with PJ’s Liquor Store (1241 Panola Road) on his expansion plans, leading to design, landscape, and security improvements.
  • Met with a planned community developer (Columbia Residential) and toured a senior community as part of the effort to attract a senior community to a portion of the community.
  • Had several meetings with APD Solutions about plans to retrofit Panola Slopes on Covington Highway into an entertainment and resort complex. The DeKalb Board of Commissioners approved the zoning requests with neighborhood-sensitive conditions on Dec. 16.
  • Created and distributed a brochure (available on this website under the “About Us” tab) that shows why the effort is needed: billions of dollars flow out of our neighborhood; people spend their money in other communities! Let’s build a better business environment and keep the dollars at home!

We are gratified to have the support of businesses in the community. Thanks to Jerome Chavis, owner of the tax advisory services firm NTRC at Rockbridge/Hairston; Joe Hubbard, owner Apex Automotive Services at 1131 S. Hairston Road; Vaughn Irons, CEO of APD Solutions; Jay’s Place at Redan/Hairston. These businesses have joined the effort early because they know that we can make big improvements by working together.

We also appreciate the neighborhood associations that have contributed: Mainstreet Community, Muirfield, and the Hidden Hills Civic Association. Individuals have also donated.

As a result, we raised enough money in 2014 to file for 501(c)(3) status. We are preparing the documents and plan to file in January 2015. Once we are a federally recognized non-profit, your contributions will be tax deductible and we will be able to apply for community development grants.

We welcome your annual membership. For individuals, it is $20. Businesses and subdivisions may join for $75. The application is on our website (under the “Contact Us” tab ), or you can request one by email ( .

We continue to build a network of residents, business owners, and commercial property owners to improve the economic viability of the community. Community development experts from Tucker and Lilburn shared experience and advice with us in the summer.

Based on a survey we conducted in the fall, we learned that businesses would like a workshop on Taking Advantage of Technology, with a key focus on using technology to build and maintain the customer base. With the help of consultants at the Small Business Development Corporation, a resource provided by the state, we will have the workshop in the spring 2015.

We plan to have the Touch-a-Truck affair in late March. This is a fun community affair that showcases emergency and county vehicles. It will be in one of the shopping center parking lots at the Redan/Hairston intersection. This affair will create a fun community event, promote the organization, provide opportunity to promote the business seminar, and raise donations.

Our next meeting will be Jan. 24, 10 a.m., at Mainstreet Community Center, 5001 Mainstreet Park Drive, Stone Mountain, GA 30088. All are welcome.


Submitted by Jan Costello, President Greater Hidden Hills CDC.

I would like to give special thanks to the hard work of the Board of Directors: Nadine Rivers-Johnson, Joyce Russell, Charlene Taylor, and Phyllis Frierson.

Panola Slopes Project FINALLY Receives Approval

At the Dec. 16 meeting, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the Panola Slope zoning requests. Now, work can get underway to redevelop the vacant townhomes near Young Road, Hidden Creek, and Covington Highway. APD Solutions plans a luxury resort and entertainment complex, with restaurants and electronic games. The goal is to open the new facility by Summer 2015.

The project passed with the conditions suggested by the DeKalb Planning Department. These conditions limit the number of games and the square footage of entertainment space. They require a new access road into the facility and a 50-foot tree and shrubbery buffer between the development and the residences. It also requires no alcohol service after 2:00 a.m, a minimum number of security officers, and compliance with the county’s noise ordinance.

The Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Corporation supports this initiative to invest in our area.

Panola Slopes Project Vote Deferred until Nov. 4

At this week’s meeting, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners deferred a vote on the Panola Slope zoning requests until Nov. 4, 10 a.m. This is the proposal for the redevelopment of the vacant townhomes near Young Road, Hidden Creek, and Covington Highway. APD Solutions proposes to redevelop the property into a luxury resort and entertainment complex, with restaurants and electronic games.

The Board of Commissioners wants to know more about the gaming operations. In addition, Commission Sharon Barnes-Sutton requested a meeting with the developers.

 The DeKalb Planning DepartmenPanola Resort-aerialt staff recommended approval under   specific conditions. These include a limit on the number of games, a limit on the square footage of entertainment space, a new access road into the facility, and a 50-foot buffer between the development and the residences. It also set a condition of no alcohol service after 2:00 a.m, a minimum number of security officers, and compliance with the county’s noise ordinance. The full list is included below.




The Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Corporation supports APD Solution’s redevelopment project, and all the recommended conditions, for the following reasons:

  • the commitment to an aesthetically pleasing and safe environment that APD Solutions has demonstrated as owners of the property for five years;
  • the concept of a moderate- to high-end resort and entertainment complex;
  • the prospect of 150 new jobs;
  • the addition of two full-scale restaurants;
  • the addition of four retail shops;
  • the addition of an outdoor venue;
  • the attention to security;
  • the attention to building synergy with other entertainment venues in the area, such as Stone Mountain Park and local golf courses; and
  • the willingness to be “good neighbors,” paying careful consideration to the needs of the adjacent residential communities.



Full List of DeKalb County Planning Staff’s Recommended Conditions

The DeKalb Planning Department staff recommended approval of rezoning the property from Office-Commercial-Retail to Commercial (C-1) with the following conditions:

  1. To the revised conceptual site plan entitled proposed Panola Slopes Resort dated 8/29/14 and stamped received by the Department of Planning and Sustainability on September 2, 2014. The maximum building square footage of all uses shall be limited to 83,679 square feet. Said site plan is conceptual and must meet or exceed the development standards of the C-1 (Local Commercial) District and the Greater Hidden Hills Overlay District and approved conditions.
  2. Indoor amusement to serve adult patrons shall include 425 games consisting of simulators, virtual realities and coin operated machines. All prizes to be redeemable on-site. No cash redemption.
  3. No more than 3 restaurants on the subject site.
  4. Location of access, number of curb cuts and transportation improvements on Covington Highway shall be subject to approval of the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and the Transportation Division of the Public Works Department.
  5. Provide one (1) curb cut on Hidden Creek Drive. Location is subject to approval of the Transportation Division of the Public Works Department.
  6. Provide inter-parcel access from the adjacent C-1 (Commercial) zoned property as shown on the submitted site plan.
  7. Refuse areas shall be screened from the public street and not be visible from adjoining properties. Enclosures shall be constructed of building materials matching the primary buildings.
  8. Provide 50-foot wide undisturbed transitional buffer adjacent to residential zoned properties subject to the requirements of the Tree Preservation Ordinance.
  9. Maintain the open green space area designated as park space on the submitted site plan.
  10. Provide sidewalks along property frontages (Covington Highway and Hidden Creek Drive).
  11. The approval of this rezoning application by the Board of Commissioners has no bearing on the requirements for other regulatory approvals under the authority of the Zoning Board of Appeals, or other entity whose decision should be based on the merits of the application under review by such entity.



The DeKalb Planning Department staff recommended approval of the Special Land Use Permit for a late-night establishment with the following conditions:

1) The late night establishment shall be limited to the ground floor within Buildings A, B and C as depicted on the revised conceptual site plan entitled proposed Panola Slopes Resort dated 8/29/14 and stamped received by the Department of Planning and Sustainability on September 2, 2014. Said site plan is conceptual and must meet or exceed the development standards of the C-1 (Local Commercial) District and the Greater Hidden Hills Overlay District and approved conditions.


2) Late Night Establishments shall stop serving alcohol by 2:00 a.m.


3) A minimum of one outdoor security officer and a minimum of two indoor security officers shall patrol at regular intervals.


4) Compliance with the DeKalb County Noise Ordinance.


5) No dance floor allowed as part of the subject late night establishments.


6) The SLUP is non-transferable. Any new owner operator

Panola Resort Plans – Please review and attend Aug. 18 meeting

The proposed redevelopment of Panola Slopes, the mixed used townhome community on Covington Highway near Young Road, is worthy of your serious consideration. The request to change the zoning will come before the Community Council Aug. 18, 6:30 p.m., at Redan Library.


The developers want to recreate Panola Slope as a high-end entertainment and resort complex. In their words:

Panola Resort-front“The project originally contemplated as a residential/commercial development, will be converted into a luxury resort mixed-use concept. Panola Slope will be a one of a kind paradise destination in Atlanta, if not the Southeast, targeting a moderate-to-wealthy income clientele looking for the ultimate in luxury and seclusion.”

“A main feature of the project will be the provision of adult amusement through a first of its kind ‘Barcade’ that will provide a series of adult oriented video games, virtual reality and coin operated amusement.”

“The villas will be rented as high-end hotel options, vacation rentals, extended stay lodging, and time-shares.”

Panola Resort-aerialA document provided at some community meetings includes information about a second phase of development: “an additional 20,000 square feet of retail/commercial space and 100 mini suite hotel rooms.”



The developers are asking to change the zoning from its current overlay zone to commercial.

In addition, the developers are seeking a special land use permit to allow alcohol to be served past the current12:30 a.m. cut-off; this would apply to three buildings, a total of 17,862 square feet. When DeKalb County grants such approval, the cut-off time is usually extended to 2:00 or 2:30 a.m.


Rezoning Application


SLUP Application


Concept Plans filed with DeKalb County (includes pictures)


Posted by Jan Costello
President, Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Corp.

Panola Slope Resort Plans and July 26 Minutes

Panola Slope – Plans to Redevelop as a Resort
APD Solutions CEO Vaughn Irons and Business Manager Chapman Walsh presented information to the GHHCDC on the redevelopment plans for Panola Slope at 5600 Covington Highway (near Young Road) July 26.

Panola Resort PlansThis is the townhome community that used to be Dominique’s. APD bought it in 2011 and put $5 million into improvements. It offered 23 townhomes and space for retail. Unfortunately, only four units sold, and the future for this concept does not look promising.

APD Solutions wants to turn the project into a destination resort with entertainment and meeting space. The 23 villas would be converted into 72 sleeping rooms. A welcome center would be added. Mr. Irons said the firm plans to invest abother$26 million in the property.

On the ground floor, there would be 31,359 square feet of commercial space. In this space, APD Solutions would offer virtual reality games, live experience (virtual reality) simulators, amusement machines, and two upscale restaurants. Some of the entertainment would allow the consumer to accumulate points for prizes, meals, or other experiences at the resort. The restaurants would be owned and operated by APD Solutions. One, an upscale, white linen tablecloth steakhouse, would be named Bernard’s, after Mr. Vaughn’s late father.

There would be four retail stores with unique merchandise, owned and operated by APD Solutions.

The greenspace that runs parallel to Covington would include a covered, small amphitheater for outdoor events.

The plan will require a zoning change to C-1 (currently OCR-mixed use), and a Special Land Use Permit hearing. The first hearing is tentatively set for Aug. 18, 6:30 p.m. at the Community Council meeting, usually at Redan-Trotti Library.

If any other general information, community meetings are scheduled, the firm promised to let us know.


Minutes of the July 26 Meeting

Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Corporation (GHHCDC) Meeting
Mainstreet Community Center, July 26, 2014, 10 a.m. -10:50 a.m.

Attending: Jan Costello, Nadine Rivers-Johnson, Phyllis Frierson, Charlene Taylor, Pauline Dailey


11:00 – 1:00 Meeting with APD Solutions regarding redevelopment plans for Panola Slope

Attending: all of the above and Obert Jordon, Diane Parks, Larry Coles, Lois Dunlap, Lowell Magee

We had an efficient board meeting.

Treasurer’s Report
Phyllis Frierson reported that we have $268.22 in the bank. We received membership payments from Mainstreet Community, Muirfield Community, and Marian Long.

At the meeting, we received additional dues from Scarbrough Community and Gerald &Pauline Dailey.

Thank you!!!!

Charlene is going to contact other neighborhood associations and ask them to join.

 Plans for a meeting with businesses at Redan/Hairston and Redan/Panola.
Nadine is going to help Wendell work on this. We’ve been following up with the Kroger contact, but so far, she has not been able to respond. Nadine will get the phone contact for the shopping center on the NE side of Redan/Hairston. She will contact Mr. Sharma (owner of two corners at Redan/Panola).

The plan is to let them know what the GHHCDC is trying to do.

We will also show them how improving curb appeal and storefront décor can increase business. Charlene Taylor plans to work on a brochure that will help them visualize the improved conditions. Please send pictures to Char ( and GHHCDC. This brochure would also include the design guidelines that are part of the overlay code.

501(c)(3) – Nadine will check with Jerome Chavis about a meeting on Aug. 4 or 11 at 6:30. We would like to give him an update on the filing of Form 990 (Joyce); the one-year and five-year projection of accomplishments (Nadine); and the narrative explaining who we are and how we evolved (Jan).


The biographies of the board members is posted on the website.

We have a phone number: 508 591-3526
This number will allow callers to leave a message. It is linked to Phyllis Frierson’s email, and she will monitor the calls. Please call the number periodically so that it stays active.

The business cards and checks are going to be done (I promise – Jan)


Aging-in-Place concept
We discussed the tour to Columbia Heritage. It gave us a lot of good ideas. Our next step is to visit more communities, meet with Community Development, and meet with some of Columbia Residential’s nonprofit partners. Nadine is going to find out about a community in Peachtree City that we might tour. Jan will incquire about Park Place in Stone Mountain. We should also drive by the Columbia property being built on Columbia near Memorial.


Our next Board meeting is Aug. 23, 10 a.m., at Mainstreet.


Proposed Development at Adcox and S. Hairston Out of Compliance

The development proposed at 1332 S. Hairston Road does not comply with the Greater Hidden Hills Overlay Code, signed in law in DeKalb County in Dec. 2011. The proposed development (between Adcox Road and The Reserve at Stone Creek apartment complex) falls in Tier Two. In this tier, the overlay allows “lower-density development in a mixed-use context more compatible with the adjacent single-family neighborhoods. Sec. 27-730.4.5. 

The property was purchased for $427,500 on Oct. 9, 2012, by Kawaljeet & Son, Inc., according to DeKalb County tax records. The purchase was made ten months after the overlay code went into effect. The developer and architect discussed their plans with the community on Nov. 5, at Hairston Library. (Site plan photo attached).

Gas Station Site Plan-Compliance Issues








Among the ways the proposal does not comply are:

  1. Proposed gas station is prohibited in Tier 2 Sec. 27-730.4.10

  2. Proposed convenience store is prohibited in Tier 2 Sec. 27-730.4.10

  3. 3.      Does not provide publicly accessible open space. Twenty percent of the development must be publicly accessible open space, directly accessible from a public sidewalk and building entrances. Sec. 27-730.4.23

  4. 4.      Does not provide multimodal access (required to provide safe and convenient pedestrian access routes to sidewalks along streets and to each building entrance; required to provide connections to driveways, sidewalks, and bike paths; required to provide bike parking facilities) Sec. 27-730.4.31, and Sec. 27-730.4.13 (h) and (i).

  5. 5.      Does not meet sidewalk width requirement. Sidewalks along Hairston must be at least 10-feet wide Sec. 27-730.4.27

The plan is not complete, so we do not know if the requirements on transitional buffer zones are met. There must be 30 feet or more of natural state or landscaped area to provide a visual screen between the building and the adjacent property. Sec. 27-730.4.14

Overlay Created to Enhance Economic Development

More than one dozen neighborhoods worked for several years to create a vision for the economic vitality and quality of life of the Greater Hidden Hills community. These neighborhoods include Chapman’s Mill, Essex Farm, Hidden Hills, Kennon’s Walk, Kingsgate, Kings Ridge, Mainstreet Community, the Meadows, Muirfield, Redan Park, and Scarbrough Square.


DeKalb County established the Greater Hidden Hills overlay zoning district to:

  • Encourage economic development and smart growth
  • Improve connectivity on foot, by bike, and by motorized transit.
  • Attract preferred types of businesses
  • Conserve greenspace
  • Create design standards for new buildings, signage, landscaping, streetscaping, and parking lots


Certain kinds of businesses are specifically prohibited because they do not meet our economic and community goals. However, we actively encourage many enterprises. The overlay zoning code allows streamlined approval for these community-supported businesses:

  • Banks, credit unions and financial institutions
  • Business and professional offices
  • Educational services
  • Production, audio and video studios
  • Fitness and health centers
  • Medical and health services and supplies
  • Mixed-use development
  • Restaurants and late night establishments
  • Retail shops
  • Personal services such as day spas, beauty and barber shops, laundry and dry cleaning, alterations and repair
  • Family entertainment centers, including bowling and games
  • Art gallery, cultural facilities, movie theaters, and art supply stores
  • Hotels
  • Animal hospital or clinic, supplies, grooming


If the owner wants to pursue his development plans, he will have to go through the special land use process. This entails hearings by the Community Council, the Board of Zoning Appeals, and the Board of Commissioners. The Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Corporation will continue to monitor the situation. We have asked to meet with the developer again to try and work out an acceptable solution.