The future of nearly 30 acres of woodland west of Clairmont Road has become the focus of citizens who want to preserve it.
“I want to talk about DeKalb County taking responsibility for permanently protecting this 30 acres of land in Ashford Park,” said Debra Kidd, who was speaking at a Sept. 28 town hall meeting presented by the North DeKalb Greenspace Alliance.
Up until about a year and a half ago, the land in question served as a “Runway Protection Zone (RPZ)” for a small cross-runway at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. That runway was closed, meaning the airport no longer needs the 30 acres across Clairmont Road from PDK as a protection zone.
“Since DeKalb County already owns the land, we believe it should be straightforward for them to designate it as permanent passive greenspace,” Kidd continued.
In a letter addressed to citizens that urged them to attend the town hall, Larry Foster, communications director of PDK Watch, wrote, “Now that the airport no longer needs the land as an RPZ, the FAA recently approved PDK’s request to release the land back to DeKalb County (its original owner), thus placing the land’s future status in question.”
The letter also urged citizens to sign a petition advocating the land’s preservation at apgreenspace.info, as PDK Watch is concerned that the land might be sold to developers. If the land is sold, the money by law would go back to PDK, and not the county or the city of Brookhaven.
PDK Watch has said that DeKalb County would not have to pay any money if it preserves the property as passive greenspace. Kidd said that could be accomplished under the Georgia Community Greenspace law, which protects land where rapid growth and dense development is occurring. Kidd said that the county is using the FAA as “an excuse to do nothing.”
DeKalb County District 2 Commissioner Jeff Rader, who represents Brookhaven, indicated during the meeting that the land is considered by the FAA as an airport asset, and that the county would have to pay fair market value for it.
However, he said the commission was open to ideas. “Y’all are still county commission constituents, and we are interested in what you want to do with that land,” he said. “You’ve just passed a parks master plan. . . . as it relates to that we are very interested in what you want to do.”
Marianna Yates spoke to the audience about why the North DeKalb Greenspace Alliance wants to preserve the land as is.
“The parks that are located in the north DeKalb region are pretty much developed out with recreational facilities and sports fields,” she said. “This tract is one of the only places with substantial old growth forest in this area. Leaving this land as passive greenspace provides north DeKalb with a completely natural haven.”
Mayor J. Max Davis told the crowd that the city currently has no plans for the property because it doesn’t own it. But he said that possibly the city could work with the county to get it free of charge or for maybe less than market rate.
“If this property gets transferred to the city of Brookhaven, unfettered, free of charge, as passive greenspace, I see no reason whatsoever for us to do anything other than keep it the way it is,” he said. “I just hope that can be a reality. That’s going to take some work with the county.”