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44 Comments

  1. 1

    Lewis

    Thinking the purchase of the PDK Greenspace is a great idea. If Brookhaven wants to control the usage and programming, they need to pay back the citizens of DeKalb County, and I get that we are citizens of DeKalb, but if we want to control it, we should own it and that costs money.

    We should actually be thanking DeKalb for allowing us to purchase it way below what they could get for it should they want to develop it.

  2. 2

    Reasonable is an Adjective

    The only guaranteed method of preserving the green space is a conservation easement. DeKalb County gets a tax break. Citizens of Brookhaven voters are removed from a special interest no one voted for with cityhood. If City of Brookhaven owns it, current or new politicians in office will rezone it R-75 and sell it to the highest bidder. Or build a city hall?

    Perhaps the frontage along Clairmont can be purchased by the city with the recurring revenue accruing in the Brookhaven Development Authority bank account. As voters, we have no say on how it is spent.

    The article ended in a troubling manner, “(insert any Economic Development Plan) has shown that there is a $4 economic return for every $1 invested in the Peachtree Creek Greenway.” HOG WASH.

  3. 3

    Dean

    I second your HOG WASH!

  4. 4

    Tom Reilly

    Thoughtful article, Jim!! I’m all for the acquisition, but perhaps the financing needs some tweaking!!–Tom Reilly

  5. 5

    On the Record

    The citizens that have been advocating to preserve this green space need to become very vocal very quickly.

  6. 6

    Jon

    Me Eyre has been working for years to see this developed – what a shock from a developer. This is the same man that said traffic backed up on Dresden is a GOOD thing. See his commentary from this summer.

  7. 7

    Van

    @Jon. I have to disagree with you. Mr Eyre mentions a strategy of using a Conservation Easement. If he wanted the space developed, then he would not mention that strategy. GA Conservation Easement laws would prevent any development from ever being built on that property. It allows you to keep your greenspace without worrying about future politicians.

    As a CFP, I think Mr Eyre points out some good financial sense.

  8. 8

    Saul

    Unlike many, I think Jim is looking at the big picture and related finances and costs. For Brookhaven that’s refreshing.

  9. 9

    Buy Brookaven Park

    It will be preserved. Dekalb County is encouraging a conservation easement. It won’t ever be developed for anything. Why does our city want to spend all that money do the same thing?

  10. 10

    Good neighbor

    The goal of Jim’s column is to create doubt in an effort too defer the vote to purchase the property. Why does he want to defer the vote? In order to help Councilman Bates secure funding and support to build a new home for the Brookhaven Innovation Academy (you can see “charter school” buried in the last sentence of “option 4”). The other options are mostly false choices meant to distract (it is the classic “look over here at this bright shiny object” approach). Let’s look at a few examples:

    — — Option 1: “pay for this property a second time” is clever, but the residents of Brookhaven made that decision at the voting booth when we decided to incorporate our fine city. It is also not a real option. If Brookhaven doesn’t buy it…Dekalb is going to build another school in addition to the new John Lewis School being built for over 1,000 students only a few blocks away.

    — Option 2: This is actually a good idea but it isn’t a real choice. We should sue to get what is owed, but there is no need to delay the vote. As Jim clearly stated in paragraph 3, we will need the money for the 2016 Parks Master Plan. We are going to try to get that money regardless, so let’s not pretend it is an alternative worth waiting on and evaluating.

    — — Option 3: Conservation easements are a good idea albeit under increasing IRS scrutiny but…this can done after the acquisition by Brookhaven.

    — Option 4: developing the frontage on Clairemont Road is worth considering but it can also be done after the purchase by Brookhaven. –

    — The real intent of this entire column is to help the Brookhaven Innovation Academy by delaying the vote. For those of you not familiar with “BIA”, it is a fantastic idea that, I hope, will one day be a very successful institution. However, it isn’t for Brookhaven…it is for all of Atlanta and Georgia children. BIA is a statewide charter school….meaning, any child in the state of Georgia can attend. A child does not have to live in Brookhaven. Schools can be fantastic economic development drivers for towns like Brookhaven if designed the right way with the right economic incentives.

    Let’s take the Atlanta Classical charter school for example: anyone can submit their name to the lottery. If the child gets in, the family must move to Fulton County. In fact that is what one of BIA’s board members did. They were residents of Brookhaven, their child was accepted to Atlanta Classical, and they left Brookhaven and brought their tax dollars with them.

    — I truly respect Jim’s history of public service, but I prefer direct and honest communication. Let’s vote tomorrow and let our kids play in one of the few untouched forests in all of Atlanta.

  11. 11

    Charles

    $5.7 million really is a steal. Land for the State Farm building at perimeter went for $6 million per acre.

  12. 12

    Eddie E.

    It is truly a shame the Brookhaven City Council didn’t move to purchase this property during the first administration before the Airport Director and the Airport Advisory board got their grubby little fingers into the process and DOUBLED the appraised value in a vain attempt to PREVENT the city from doing the right thing. Any further delays will just lead to irrational, unwarranted increases in pricing.
    Protection of this entire property in it’s current, forested state is vital to preventing massive increases in stormwater remediation costs for all of Brookhaven. This land includes the headwaters of Tributary A of Peachtree Creek North Branch. Disturbance of the watershed to provide short term profits to some WILL add to the municipal costs for everyone by a factor of 5 over the purchase costs.

    Enough delays, excuses, pipe dreams and artificial price increases have occurred during the evaluation of this forest. It is time for the City to purchase it and keep it permanently in the irreplaceable state it currently exists.

  13. 13

    Eddie E.

    Siting a school on the forest (which is a truly terrible location for a school) would leave all of the Citizens of Brookhaven on the hook for the costs of operating our quasi-private school once the state (inevitably) cuts funding. Such an idea with massive ongoing, increasing costs should certainly be put to a referendum before action.

  14. 14

    Ken Yates

    Regarding a delay in the 30 acre greenspace acquisition… a 1.39% 20 year conservation loan from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) http://gefa.georgia.gov, the amortization works out to be about 55 cents per person per month. To preserve 30 acres of forest from development destruction and use it for environmental and conservation instruction has a much higher value on many levels. As a bonus, GEFA loans require a “deed restriction” that prevents any use other than passive greenspace land conservation.
    Preserving clean water, air and habitat is a symptom of a healthy community. Please save the greenspace. If DeKalb does not sell to Brookhaven, they would likely sell to private development that would destroy the forest for a quick profit. Once gone, a 30 acre forest does not magically rematerialize. It would be gone forever.
    Please attend City Council Meeting.
    TONIGHT, 7:00PM Brookhaven City Hall
    Save the greenspace.
    Thanks
    Ken Yates
    North DeKalb Greenspace Alliance

  15. 15

    Janine

    Now that’s a Dream Team! Bates & Eyre, one wants the land for the school that barely supports him, the other wants to develop the rest of it. Both part of the first administration of Brookhaven. Based upon that perspective only – I say buy it immediately!!!

  16. 16

    Toff

    Do no harm. Spend no money. Leave as-is.

  17. 17

    Erik Steavens

    I appreciate Jim posting positions on this issue. I think there is a well intention here of creating more greenspace but at what cost. This is ALOT for our budget and future expenditures to buy off.

    Why are we having to acquire a second time? Has there not been any thought to engaging foundations or conservation groups?

    This action my keep the City from being able to do other functions drainage, road improvements, fixes to existing parks.

    I think Jim has done a good job to point out that the costs and trade offs for this well intention has not been well thought out for the long term benefit of Brookhaven.

  18. 18

    Rob Turner

    Thank you for the perspective Jim! Funding existing parks per the Master Plan should be a key priority for 2017 and beyond until the improvements are complete.

  19. 19

    What the?

    Why would we spend $5.7M to purchase the land to put into a conservation easement when DeKalb County said they would do the same thing? Unless there is another reason the City wants to own the property…

  20. 20

    District 2

    Put the entire acreage in a conservation easement. No School, no development, everyone wins their ‘stated’ initiatives. Make City Council defend their position which is not really to leave it in its natural Greenspace setting.

  21. 21

    Ken Yates

    Facts first.
    A. There is a financial obligation assigned to the greenspace property as it was included in airport assets. FAA documents detail this as basis for airport grants. Municipal airports must follow FAA guidelines to be eligible for future grants.
    B. When the property was taken out of airport service by the runway closure, the obligation’s appraised value is scheduled to become due. That is due and payable to the airport fund, NOT the county general fund. FAA documents detail this with a letter dated September 14, 2014 from Larry F. Clark, FAA Manager to Mike Van Wie, PDK Director.
    C. The original appraised value as published in the release document was $3.6. That amount is what the FAA expected the sale of the greenspace to generate for PDK airport, NOT THE DeKalb County general fund.
    D. PDK airport is a Dekalb county agency. Property can not be deeded from owner to recipient when both are the same intity.
    E. The same document that outlines the FAA financial obligation also details how airport lands can be made “…available at less than fair market value rent for public recreation…”. FAA Order 5190.6b appendix E.

    So, if the airport and county had or choses to do so, the greenspace could be preserved at “de minimus” value. As they do not choose this, the FAA obligation comes due 5 years after the release letter.

    There was no safety reason for runway closure. For light planes it is much safer to operate in cross winds using a cross wind runway. The runway closure was designed to put money into the airport coffers. The leases from construction of hangers where the runway used to be plus the cash infusion from the commercial sale of the subject land west of Clairmont Road were all part of a plan to cash in on public assets to benefit airport operations.

    As the airport management and county leaders do not appear to want contribute this land to benefit citizens and future generations as a ecological preserve, land purchase is the alternative. If not protected, this forest will be lost forever. If not purchased by Brookhaven from Dekalb, nothing keeps the county from selling to another party that does not have land conservation in their agenda.

    Our non-proft corporation, the North DeKalb Greenspace Alliance, supports the immediate purchase of this PDK land by the City of Brookhaven if a land conservation deed restriction or conservation easement is assigned to perpetually protect this area as passive greenspace.

  22. 22

    On the Record

    I certainly would not presume to understand Jim Eyre’s motives for advocating against the purchase of this important green space legacy. But this is not a new issue, it’s been in process for well over 2 years and it’s time for our elected officials to act. Three of the four options suggested by Jim require a cooperative county government inclined to supporting it’s north DeKalb citizens. Has never happened and will not happen. Two years ago, Jim could have invested time and effort to bring the fourth option to the table. But writing is easier than action.

    If we are going to preserve green space for the future, a 30 acre tract of forest is clearly a worthwhile investment.

  23. 23

    Barbara

    I’m not for the BIA but why is a school sitting on the edge of a forest which you champion Brookhaven to takeover a bad thing? If the for st is so important to you why is a school on the edge of it for the kids to enjoy and use a bad thing?

  24. 24

    Good Neighbor

    If the vote gets deferred this evening, a school will be built on this space. Period. The vote tonight is: Yes (we want a 30 acre park) or No (we want a school). — there is no scenario where we have more time to think of more ideas. — There are ACTIVE discussions with conservation groups and foundations to invest in the greenspace and there will continue to be. The problem, however, is that the city didn’t have enough time. — Jim’s column clearly overstates the cost of acquiring this land in an effort to get a charter school built. In addition to the overstated interest costs, the true cost is closer to a net cost of $3.7mm to be conservative. ($2mm+ of capital expenditures will be spent to update storm water infrastructure if this park is bulldozed and a new school is built). In other words, $2mm is out the door regardless of the vote. The city can also apply the funds collected from the Skyland site that was sold to Dekalb for the new John Lewis school.

  25. 25

    Easy Rider

    Sorry, solution #4 makes sense. Paying $5.7M for a property that benefits a few doesn’t. The green space initiative form our city leaders is commendable, but this has to be balanced with reasonability.

  26. 26

    Calling it like it is

    Jim is on the airport advisory board which asked for a second appraisal when the realized the city was interested. Jim has been pointed to as the person that behind the bribe offer to “give” Ashford Park residents their own swim and Tennis club on the prpoerty if they would support an exclusive subdivision development. Jim is on record in his own words as thinking Dresden should be developed as apartments mixed use buildings and that more traffic is better for the community. Jim has responded to neighbors who want development at the same density as we currently have by calling them names, most recently Density Dogs.

    Why would anyone who know about Jim or Bates trust anything they say?

  27. 27

    Gardener

    Good Neighbor – They can’t spend the same money twice. The money from John Lewis has been promised to the current parks and their Master Plans which is only fair and the right thing to do.

  28. 28

    Good Neighbor

    I would agree that parts of #4 make sense such as the possibility of developing the frontage on Clairemont. However, that is not the issue being voted on tonight. The vote is for a 30 acre public park or another 1,000+ student school either to be used by Councilman Bates’ statewide charter school or a school that absorbs smaller surrounding schools such as Ashford Park.

  29. 29

    Eddie E.

    Destruction of dozens of acres of trees, installation of gas, water, sewer and electric utilities, paving of parking lots, massive pulses of weekday traffic and general destruction of all the things that make the forest intrinsically valuable.

    There are so many other parcels that would be better suited for a school, if the Citizens of Brookhaven want to saddle themselves with responsibility for a school system and the concurrent, eventual increase in property taxes.

  30. 30

    Eddie E.

    Do you have any idea of what the infrastructure costs (roads and drainage, one of the core services) would be to develop this PUBLIC PROPERTY for the massive profit of a very few?

    The long term benefit is to keep it as it has been since before WWII.

  31. 31

    Eddie E.

    A plan that would no doubt do substantial harm to at least two (if not more) of the best elementary schools in the State.

  32. 32

    District 2

    Can someone describe how the Bates Charter School would be built here? Is that on the agenda?

    Any thing Bates touches turns to crap. Entrusting him with additional funds to support his wayward lifestyle of unemployment and bankruptcy would be a very bad mistake. I can’t see how the City Council would even consider it.

  33. 33

    Charles

    What is on the table is to carry out the agreement with DeKalb County and buy the property and preserve it as green space per the contract. Or delay the vote and other entities get to bid for the property. May or may not be BIA or DCSD. The city is not going to purchase the property and give it to the BIA or “Bate’s School”.

  34. 34

    Debra

    The $5.7M goes directly to PDK’s coffers under FAA requirements since it was at one time part of the airport. Since PDK asked to release the land it is no longer an airport asset. The FAA requires that the airports financial accounts be balanced. DeKalb County does not get any financial benefit from the sale or transfer of this tract of land. Yes, the property was originally purchased by DeKalb Co but once it was used by the airport (listed in their Exhibit A), federal obligations became attached to the property.

    DeKalb County is also prohibited from moving funds from one program or department to another. DeKalb Co would have used Greenspace funds to pay off PDK a couple of years ago if it had been allowed, in order to keep the land as passive greenspace. The funds remaining for our district would have more than covered the cost since finding undeveloped land in this district has been nearly impossible. Remaining Park Bond funds cannot be used to pay PDK for this tract of land for the same reason.

  35. 35

    Eddie E.

    When did the County suggest they would preserve the entire forested area?
    Why didn’t they just hand it off as parkland to the city?
    Because neither is an option under the FAA/County operating agreement that has been in place since the runway was built.
    Somebody has to buy it and the Airport receives the money (under the agreement).
    Therefore, it is IMPERATIVE the City buy it if we don’t want to see deforestation, downstream flooding, increased airport noise and the loss of the last undisturbed area of this size in North Dekalb.

  36. 36

    Barbara

    Do you have any idea what it will cost to make this greenspace open to the public? Aside from the $6 million purchase price. Prob another $2-3 million.

    Let’s just keep spending money we don’t have for parts of town that already have parks. I’m sorry, !85 this is a dumb idea. It is only important to those in ashford park and they are the ones who should be buying it, not the rest of us.!

  37. 37

    Lead Zep

    He also said “for a charter school”.

  38. 38

    Mary

    An easement sounds like a buffer zone. So the rest of the property would be developed? With subsequent flooding down Skyland and beyond? Talk to folks in Drew Valley about the impact of the 11acres developed on Dresden.

  39. 39

    Van

    Actually Eddie the City would not have to buy it. Having a private investment group buy the land from the County, they could use a Conservation Easement structure. Under these laws, the investment group would receive a charitable tax deduction when they donate the land to the City. The Conservation laws would require the land to never be developed.

    I think this is what Mr Eyre had in mind when he listed it as an option.

    The City gets the land without paying a penny. The investment group gets their tax deduction and the County gets the cash from the sale.

    Win-Win-Win.

  40. 40

    Steve Walker

    Why can’t the City just zone the property as Park land and then force the county to sell/transfer it as ParkLand at $100.00 per acre or some nominal amount.

  41. 41

    Eddie E.

    Barbara, tell me, how much does it cost to open a wilderness area as a wilderness area?
    Aside from a small insurance rider and for the police to enforce the urban camping rules, pick up the last of the trash and flotsam from the airport years and it’s open.
    You might have missed the point but part of the reason for purchasing this land is to KEEP IT AS IS for stormwater control and remediation of noise and air pollution from the County entity across Clairmont.
    Some people don’t grasp the value of nature.

  42. 42

    Eddie E.

    The idea of purchase for a Conservation Easement was available for years until the LOI was proffered by the city.
    No takers.
    Of course, the option you are suggesting would probably be to conserve the bare minimum and develop (ruin) the rest, which would be a ridiculous misuse of the property.

  43. 43

    Eddie E.

    The owner must (the County) must request the rezoning. The weird operating contract with the Airport requires proceeds of the sale be redirected to the Airport. The County and the Airport were always able to identify a much smaller value and be content with it. Wonder why that didn’t happen?

  44. 44

    Van

    @Mary. I think you are confusing the easement that utilities have along the front of our residence. That’s not how a Conservation Easement works. When a property is put in Conservation Easement, the whole property would not be allowed to be developer.

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