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

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.


Community Development Update

The Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Corporation will hold its monthly board meeting at 10 a.m. July 26. Promptly at 11, we will hear an update from APD Solutions on its plans for Panola Slope, the townhome development on Covington Highway near Young Road. You are welcome to attend the meeting. It is at Mainstreet Community Center, 5001 Mainstreet Park Dr., Stone Mountain, GA 30088.


Updates on Community Development Effort

Liquor Store – Improvements have begun. The owner of PJs Package store is willing to make improvements to his property, and the shopping center owner has already begun to improve the entire lot. The sidewalk has been pressure washed and steps have been added to make it easier to cross from the upper parking deck to the lower level.

PJs Edit

We went before the Board of Commissions July 22 for the Special Land Use Permit hearing on enlarging PJs. After giving the Board the improvement list that we agreed on, the Board deferred the vote for two weeks. The Planning Staff is making minor adjustments to the list and including it in the legal petition. The next (and probably last) meeting on this matter will be August 5.


There will be landscape improvements, additional security coverage, four garbage receptacles, and exterior painting.



Imagining Ways to Retrofit the Closed Golf Course

One of the concepts we have considered as a way to re-purpose the closed Hidden Hills golf course is to provide housing for seniors in the center of the property. The overlay zone allows that area to have higher density (something that would make it attractive to developers) IF the links are kept as greenspace, to be used for passive recreation.


We had the opportunrsz_columbia_heritage_-_porte_cochere-1_0ity to visit a beautiful, four-story senior living community in northwest Atlanta last Saturday. Columbia Heritage is part of the West Highlands neighborhood that was built on the site of the dilapidated and depressing Perry Homes public housing project 10 years ago.


Talk about an amazing transformation! The seniors live in a clean, well-appointed building, with a theatre, fitness center, business center, library, craft room, and all-purpose room. They have two-bedroom apartments with nine-foot ceilings and many thoughtful architectural details. The center has been open for 10 years, and it has long waiting lists. The building is well maintained by staff and by residents.


The residents have varying income levels, but they all enjoy the same high quality standard of living. Says Columbia Residential, Inc., CEO Noel Khali, “We have mixed incomes, but we do not have mixed standards.”

photo - crop

We plan to visit other communities to see what might work well in our area.


(The following people attended the tour: Jan Costello, Frankie Bryson, Larry Coles, Phyllis Frierson, Calvin Sims, John Sims, Sally O’Harrow, and Charlene Taylor. We represented the GHHCDC, Hidden Hills, The Highlands, Scarbrough Square, Mainstreet, and Chapman’s Mill/Redan Park).



From: Jan Costello, President Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Association
July 25, 2014

To see the file with photos, click on this link:
Middle Photo by Columbia Residential, Inc.

Liquor Store-some improvements

We made some progress on the liquor store expansion issue.

Three members of the Greater Hidden Hills Community Development Corporation attended a meeting July 17 with the owner of the liquor store, Tony Nguyen; the shopping center owner, Ricky Sharma; and the store’s engineer, George Awuku on July 17. The GHHCDC was represented by Jan Costello, president, Nadine Rivers-Johnson, board member , and Wendall Ervin, member. It was a good opportunity to express our points of view. We worked out improvements to the plan.

This is what they agreed to do during the meeting:

1. Implement the landscape improvements noted on the 7/15 pdf from El Mina, Inc. This includes new plantings of trees (four) and shrubs in three areas.

2. Add security coverage on Sunday, during the hours PJs is open.

3. Pressure wash the sidewalk

4. Add garbage canisters in at least four places where they would be most utilized.

5. Provide a clear pathway from the upper parking deck to the business strip.

6. Paint the exterior.

We made other suggestions such as clearing the sidewalk of obstacles and reviewing the overlay design guidelines. We invited them to become members of the GHHCDC. We all are united in a common vision to make the area aesthetically pleasing and prosperous.

This was the first time we have had face-to-face contact with the shopping center owner. He has owned both the NW and NE corners at Redan and Panola for 15 years. Mr. Sharma is interested in improving the appeal of the commercial space. He is working with MARTA to install a bus shelter at the bus stop on Panola near the Chevron station, which he owns.

It is unlikely that the expansion request will be denied because the planning staff, the Community Council, and the Planning Commission have approved it. On July 22, it goes before the Board of Commissioners, at 6:30, in the Maloof Auditorium (1300 Commerce Dr.) My opinion is to accept the expansion as long as these conditions are attached to it. I believe that we can continue to build on this relationship and do more to improve that part of the community.

You are welcome to respond to this post or write us at I would like to know what you think.

Jan Costello
President, GHHCDC

GHHCDC@gmail.comSketch Plan-liquor store