By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

A continuum of lawsuits that have held up BeltLine Tax Allocation District (TAD) funding since September of last year have forced BeltLine Inc. to attempt to find creative ways to move forward with the purchase of land for green space, parks, and transit right-of-way, according to BeltLine Inc. CEO Terri Montague.

Speaking to a July 18 meeting of the Northwest Community Alliance of neighborhoods and businesses, Montague said the court will hear the next round of oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by Atlanta attorney John Woodham to halt the $200 million in TAD funding. The appeal of a favorable ruling last January in favor of the city will be heard this September, with a full ruling not expected until March 2008. They are confident the court will rule in the city’s favor.

Because of the need to secure certain key parcels of land before they might be purchased by developers (not friends of the BeltLine) Montague said Atlanta City Council created a smaller $28 million bond issue.

Woodham intervened in that as well, but the judge went ahead and validated the bolds anyway. The judge also ruled Woodham had to post an appeal bond of $600,000 if he chose to appeal her ruling.

Woodham is now appealing the order to pay the appeal bond. The city now will have to wait until Fulton County gets this action on its court docket.

Montague told the 50-plus people attending the meeting that she came to give them an update on BeltLine progress. However, she said, “Perhaps more importantly, to dialogue with you about the future of the city of Atlanta—where we are going, how we get there, the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

She said, “There is a move across the country for cities to basically reinvent themselves and to undertake transformative investments. A transformative investment is an effort to remake the physical landscape of a city in a way that fosters economic growth, fiscal vitality and promotes environmental sustainability.”

According to Montague, Atlanta’s transformative investment is the largest urban development project in the country right now.

“The BeltLine is not an amenity,” she stated. “It is a solution for Atlanta. It is an integrated solution that combines an important discipline, but more importantly it is Atlanta’s way of managing and accommodating future growth and remediating some elements that have not caught up with the growth to date.”

She said she was asked why she would want to come into a city where the neighborhoods are so highly organized. Her answer was that “a project like this can’t get done without strong local neighborhoods, strong local policies. If you don’t have a partner at the local level to meet you in decision making, then you can’t take on and effectively implement something like this,” she added. “That is one of the benefits that makes this project doable and viable from my point of view.”

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