Commissioner DeKalb again withdraws from resolution on further review of training center – SaportaReport
By John Ruch
Just days after renewing a call for a closer look at the controversial Atlanta Public Safety Training Center plan, a DeKalb County commissioner said he would withdraw the resolution due to a lack of “ consensus”.
District 6 Commissioner Ted Terry said he’s backing away from one of his key demands, a more thorough environmental review of the site. He said “the problem is not moving and I have no power to force the problem”.
Another major request – reducing some uses of the site in accordance with the department’s long-term land use plan – could return, depending on the results of noise studies.
Terry’s nonbinding resolution, drafted last week, also called for a new DeKalb Bicentennial Historical Commission to consider how to commemorate the site’s history as the infamous Atlanta Prison Farm. This idea will continue in other ways, he said.
“…I have spoken with commissioners, community leaders and neighbors over the past few days[s]said Terry in an Oct. 4 text message. “There is no full consensus on this particular resolution, so I recommend withdrawal of the next BOC [Board of Commissioners meeting.]”
Terry said he would “keep pushing” on several other issues:
- A “follow-up” of noise studies for a shooting and driving course at the training center. Both are underway, although the planning team, led by the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), said protesters on site delayed work.
- “A full environmental site assessment and remediation plan” for the remainder of the former Prison Farm site, which totals more than 200 acres and is slated to become a type of public park, although no agency has has assumed explicit responsibility.
- Access to the trail easement to connect the South River Trail to the Oldcastle Nature Trail, where it could connect to the Atlanta BeltLine in the Custer Avenue area.
When asked how he was going to “push” for these items and why he didn’t let the resolution go through the BOC voting process, Terry replied “…there are other conversations about all these fronts which advance on an agenda”.
Terry’s withdrawal is just one example of political efforts to scrutinize the plan which failed to gain traction despite widespread local, regional and even national controversy over the secret planning and impacts of the facility. .
In July, Terry presented another resolution that would have been binding and which also failed. In June, 64 local and national organizations signed a “no support resolution” that was to be introduced by an anonymous member of the Atlanta City Council that has yet to materialize more than three months later.
With the city of Atlanta and the APF – which is financially backed by many big corporations – already wielding enormous political power, stances have hardened further amid a protest movement called “Defend the Atlanta Forest which focuses on environmental issues and police reform. The movement has involved numerous peaceful protests, but also trespassing, vandalism and harassment of contractors, both on site and in company offices. Members of the Atlanta Police Department and the Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee (CSAC), a body created by the city that reviews the plan but managed by the APF itself, used terms such as “agitators.” and “eco-terrorists” to describe all protesters, and APD and APF officials at CSAC meetings sometimes blurred criticism of legal and illegal protests as if all of them were violent.
The APF is a private, non-profit organization, but because its project is on behalf of a government, it is exempt from typical zoning restrictions – the property is zoned residential – and review processes, although it still needs a building permit. Ongoing reviews are being conducted by CSAC, which the APF manages, and by the county for a land disturbance permit application to begin site preparations.
The $90 million establishment of the training centerwhich would train police and firefighters from Atlanta and outside departments, is planned for 85 acres of the former Prison Farm, a property owned by the city of Atlanta but located outside the city limits on Key Road in DeKalb unincorporated.