A developer’s plan to run a storm water pipe through Peachtree Hills Park, cutting down trees and affecting a creek, is drawing opposition as a precedent for private impacts on a public park.
Ashton Woods, a developer building townhomes on Peachtree Hills Avenue adjacent to the park, wants to run a storm drainage pipe into the park, which would require the removal of nine trees near Peachtree Creek. Ashton Woods did not respond to requests for comment.
If the Atlanta City Council approves the project in a vote scheduled for May 1, it would be the first time the city has allowed a private developer to build within a public park, City Councilmember Howard Shook said.
“If the ordinance passes, every park in the city of Atlanta, not just Peachtree Hills Park, will be at risk for private developer interests,” Julia Murphy, an area resident, wrote in an email to City Council members and neighbors.
“We’ve given up a lot of our city to development,” said Laura Dobson, a resident concerned the project would set a precedent. “How far is this going to go?”
The ordinance was sent back to the Community Development and Human Services committee by Shook, who represents the area, during an April 17 council meeting because not all the questions surrounding the easement have been answered, he said.
The Peachtree Hills Civic Association approved the Ashton Woods development in August 2016, but the storm drainage pipe project was not a part of that neighbor agreement. However, the agreement included a non-disparagement clause, which forbids any member of the board from speaking against the development in a public city meeting.
Shook said there are about a dozen residents who are against the proposal for various reasons, including a fear that granting the easement would set a precedent for developers to cut down trees and build in a public park. Some are also concerned that the creek the storm water would drain into would be damaged.
Others fear for children’s safety because the creek runs behind the park’s gym, which holds many after-school activities.
Shook said City Attorney Cathy Hampton has said this project will not set a precedent because each case is reviewed individually.
If developers want to cut down trees, they should give something back to the community, said Greg Lavine, co-executive director and chief program officer for Trees Atlanta, and the developers have agreed to replant trees cut down in the park and repaint the gym.
Painting and cleaning the gym, which is the site of one of Atlanta’s Centers of Hope, a recreational afterschool program, is not enough for some in the community.
“The parks department shouldn’t be selling off an easement into a public park for work they should have already done,” Carey said.
“A private developer should not be putting an open pipe in a public park,” Pat Reynolds, who lives in the area, said at an April 17 council meeting, adding the open pipe would pose a danger to children who may climb inside it.
The developers have said any guards or fencing put in front of the pipe would cause clogs, but Shook said they are exploring the possibility of installing several smaller pipes instead one large pipe.
The creek the storm water would empty into was recently restored and the community doesn’t want to see it damaged by the extra water, Lavine said.
The Department of Watershed Management and Parks and Recreation have both pledged to work with developers to armor the stream banks as strongly as possible and the developers would pay the costs.
Shook and several of the pipe project’s opponents have said that they believe another nearby development, Isakson Living’s Peachtree Hills Place, would also use the storm water drainage system. But Isakson says it is not using the pipe.