Greenroom: September 2007

• The Altamaha and Satilla Riverkeepers won a legal victory in July when State Administrative Law Judge John Gatto ruled that developer Robert M. Torras, Sr. repeatedly disturbed a buffer and failed to stabilize the two-acre Brunswick Landing Marina on Aiken Island. The ruling reverses the decision of State Environmental Protection Department Director Carol Couch to grant a variance for the project, and comes after several years of complaints filed by the two River-keeper organizations.

The variance allowed Torras to bulldoze much of the site and dump 127 truckloads of fill dirt, according to the Waycross Journal-Herald. “The EPD regional staff made recommendations that strong enforcement action should be taken against the developer in 2004,” says Satilla Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers. “Instead, the EPD leadership ignored the staff recommendation, which led to continued environmental damage to waters of the state.”

Atlamaha Riverkeeper James Holland adds, “If the state regulators had enforced the law in the beginning instead of playing politics, the environmental damage could have been avoided.”

• U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal has introduced legislation to establish the Mountaintown National Scenic Area in the Chattahoochee National Forest, the largest remaining unprotected roadless area in North Georgia at more than 13,000 acres. Mountaintown is located southeast of the Cohutta Wilderness Area in the Chattahoochee National Forest north of Ellijay.

The legislation (HR 707) also includes some 8,500 additional acres to be designated as additions to existing wilderness areas, among them Blood Mountain, Brasstown Bald and Cohutta Wilderness areas.

• Atlanta resident John Wood-ham continues to block the city’s efforts to begin acquiring land for the Beltline, though it may eventually cost him plenty: Fulton County Superior Court Judge Gail Tusan granted a motion requiring Wood-ham to post a $657,051 appeal bond in his lawsuit challenging the validation of $28 million in Downtown Development Authority Bonds for the Atlanta Beltline. “The judge is putting him on notice that it is in the city’s public interest to have security for the substantial damages and costs it may incur as a result of his intervention,” wrote Serena L. Sparks, deputy city attorney for the city of Atlanta.

Woodham’s motions blocked the city’s access to tax increment funds previously authorized by the Beltline Tax Allocation District Bond validation; the $28 million had been granted as a result of Woodham’s challenge to the use of TAD funds. (The TAD case is docketed to be heard before Georgia Supreme Court later this year.) Woodham believes the city’s constitution forbids Atlanta to use education funds, and is challenging any educational component to the Beltline, although the Atlanta Board of Education has approved use of the funds. – Ben Young

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