Berkeley Lake 'concerned' over demographics

BERKELEY LAKE - Mayor Lois Salter on Thursday shared with the council her findings regarding residents' concern over the changing demographics at Berkeley Lake Elementary School.

"Several residents have expressed their concern over this," Salter said. After trying unsuccessfully to establish a citizen committee to look into the issue, Salter took on the task herself.

Berkeley Lake residents have been voicing their fears about a possible decline in property values because of the increasingly international makeup of the school's student body. In a letter to Salter from Principal Leigh Westcott, Westcott acknowledges that, while demographics have changed over recent years, standardized test scores meet or exceed standards, and 100 percent of the students passed the language arts portion.

Salter's written report to the council said "the student population is about 30 percent white with increasing numbers of ESOL

(English as a Second Language) students." Based on further research Salter conducted comparing county and state data, she added, "What stood out to me in studying this data was that although they do have a growing percentage of ESOL students, the test scores do indeed continue to look very good. Their (the school's) population as compared to other Gwinnett County schools has less black students than the county average and more Asian and Hispanic ones. The large majority of retained students were Hispanic."

The mayor has also taken residents' concerns to District 2 county commissioner Bert Nasuti, who reassured her there are several factors that should help keep Berkeley Lake property values healthy.

"(Nasuti) noted that the county has not been approving any more multifamily residential developments for quite some time," Salter said. Nasuti also made reference to a planned police precinct in the Peachtree Corners area, which will be much closer than the Gwinnett Place-area precinct which now serves Berkeley Lake.

Also, the planned park/aquatic center just across Peachtree Industrial Boulevard from the city will be under way soon, an attractive feature to both current and prospective homeowners nearby. Salter also said she has persuaded officials to add a dog socialization park to Pinckneyville Park, adding to that park's value to residents.

Salter concluded the report by encouraging residents, whether they have children enrolled in the school or not, to get involved by volunteering. "Our citizens of all ages could visit BLES regularly to read to students, to share their talents or experiences in specific careers, to mentor struggling students as individuals, or to do any number of volunteer tasks."

Council considers

cutting back meetings

Council members will vote at the next council meeting whether to continue to hold two meeting per month or scale back to just one, which would be held on the third Thursday of every month.

New city inspector, procedures on board

City residents can soon go online to request building permits soon, City Clerk Jackie Wall said. Permit fees also will be published on the city's Web site.

"I think this is going to be a good thing for the city," Salter said.

Under the new policy, residents do not have to travel to Lawrenceville for permit issues, then duplicate some of the same efforts for the city. The entire process is a city matter now, saving homeowners time and money.

Permit fees are lower than when the county was involved because, the mayor said, "We don't want to charge citizens any more than we have to."

Permit and inspection fees are not intended to be a source of revenue generation for the city.