Atlanta City Council passed an ordinance May 1 that will allow a developer to route a storm water drainpipe through a public park.
The developer, Ashton Woods, will install a four-foot storm water drainpipe in Peachtree Hills Park, emptying into Peachtree Creek and requiring the removal of seven park trees.
Councilmembers Michael Julian Bond, who holds the Post 1-At-Large seat, and Felicia Moore, who represents District 9, voted against the ordinance.
Ashton Woods is building a townhome development on Peachtree Hills Avenue and they and city officials haven’t been able to come up with a different solution that would appease some neighborhood residents who have been vocal in their opposition to the ordinance, which they see as setting a dangerous precedent.
The ordinance passed May 1 is an updated version from the ordinance last read at the April 17 meeting that was sent back to committee by Shook. The substitute adds that developers must work with the city to protect stream banks and design the opening of the pipe to be safe, Councilman Howard Shook, who represents the area, said at the meeting.
The developers have also signed an agreement with the Peachtree Hills Civic Association in which they agreed to donate $30,000 to Park Pride that will be used toward future improvements for the park, Shook said.
Four people came out to the council meeting to speak against the ordinance, bringing with them a petition signed by 80 neighborhood residents urging city council to vote against the ordinance.
Kathleen Moriarty, the zoning chair of the PHCA, spoke in support of the ordinance at the meeting, saying that the opposition is small. Most members of the PHCA didn’t respond to an email asking for comments on the matter, which shows most aren’t concerned about the plan, she said.
She said the PHCA has spent hours with developers and city officials trying to understand the ramifications of the plan and determine other options. The decision to support the ordinance was “not an easy choice to make,” Moriarty said.
Meanwhile, opponents have said in emails to Shook and at the meeting that developers have not exercised due diligence in determining if there are any other options for storm water drainage, specifically running the pipe underneath Peachtree Hills Avenue.
“They have not been required to give due diligence to do this the right way,” Laura Dobson, a resident, said at the meeting.
Another resident, Melanie Bass Pollard, said at the meeting that if another solution can’t be found and the only option is to use the park’s creek, the development isn’t suitable for the area and should be built somewhere else.
Residents are also concerned about the safety of children attending programs at the gym the pipe will run behind, saying children may try to enter the four-foot wide pipe.
“I hope nobody gets injured but you and I know they will,” Pat Reynolds, a resident, said.
Others are concerned about the removal of trees in the park. However, the developer will be required to replace the trees.
The main concern is that this will set a precedent, making it easier for developers to remove trees or build in a public park. Shook said City Attorney Cathy Hampton has said this project will not set a precedent because each case is reviewed individually, but opponents of the plan are not convinced.
“What a loss for our city and our beautiful parks,” Dobson said in an email after city council passed the ordinance.