GreenRoom: February 2009

Atlanta Beltline Inc. has dissolved NE Corridor Partners, a joint venture it created with Barry Real Estate Cos. in 2007 to buy and develop some five miles of the 22-mile loop of parks, trails and trains city leaders are hoping will revitalize the city. The cost of dissolution, $3.5 million, was a compromise between the $10 million Barry Real Estate Cos. had asked for and the $1.74 million initially offered by the Beltline, an arm of the Atlanta Development Authority.

The move was necessary to secure $64.5 million in Tax Allocation District bonds issued by the city in order to meet the Oct. 31 deadline set for the sale. The city plans to issue another lump sum in TAD bonds for further Beltline acquisitions when the market stabilizes.

This deal leaves a bad taste: The city feels it paid too much to Barry, Barry feels it was forced to take too little because of the market, and the city council is disappointed in the unequal spending required for different portions of the loop, which is intended primarily to boost depressed areas of town. It is a lesson in how public-private partnerships can go awry.

But there is some good news: Voter approval of school district participation in TADs last fall substantially increases the amount the city can raise in bonds for the Beltline project.

The Georgia Supreme Court has overturned the Georgia Court of Appeals overturning of a ruling in favor of Cumberland Harbour, a 1,000-acre development across from Cumberland Island; a decision which the Southern Environmental Law Center says leaves “nearly 400,000 acres of one of the world’s most productive natural re-sources in uncertain hands.”

At issue was not the development itself or even Cumberland Island, but “residential upland areas” that would be polluted by increased stormwater runoff into marshlands, but which are not included in the 1970 Coastal Marshlands Protection Act, the judge ruled.

A month before the ruling, however, Land Resource, the project developer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, placing the controversial project up in the air (and community investors in turmoil). Only 25 of the 1,000 homes in the project have been built, and landowners can’t build without access roads or water and sewer lines. St. Marys has called in performance bonds against Land Resource, which has several other developments in the area.

The city of Sandy Springs has purchased Lost Corner Preserve, a 22-acre site, home of the late Margaret “Peggy” Miles, who ensured that the land would be permanently protected.

The property will be used for passive recreation space, hiking trails, and parks. It was purchased with assistance from the Georgia Land Conservation Program, the Trust For Public Land and the Sandy Springs Conservancy.

Emory University’s new bookstore and admissions building will feature a parking deck topped by a green courtyard, with “greenwalls” outside the deck covered with native vegetation.

The facility combines three bookstores and will serve as a “green gateway” to the campus. The 58,000-square-foot building is being built in accordance with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and is expected to be completed next year.

The U.S. Forest Service has entered into an agreement with environmental groups to thin the pine population in the 6,200-acre Chattahoochee National Forest over the next five to eight years.

The project is designed to stop Southern Pine Beetle infestations and allow thousands of acres of pine stands along the Chattahoochee to mature to the proper native mix of hardwoods and pine species. It is hoped that the agreement will help the Forest Service to take on similar projects to help maintain other swaths of Appalachian wilderness.

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