By John Schaffner

editor@reporternewspapers.net

A small but engaged group of residents representing neighborhoods in lower Buckhead and northeast Atlanta met with representatives of Atlanta BeltLine Inc. in the McRae Auditorium of Piedmont Hospital Oct. 5 to discuss what community benefits they want from BeltLine developments.

The two-hour session focused on identifying principles to guide BeltLine developments that would become part of a Community Benefits Agreement — a legally biding and enforceable contract — between the Atlanta residents, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and the developer/builder of BeltLine projects.

To a few attending the meeting, who have been embroiled for years in negotiations with the city, ABI and the PATH foundation over a trail through Tanyard Creek Park, it seemed like a little too late to be defining principles for development. The Tanyard Creek/Atlanta Memorial Park trail is presently under construction.

James Alexander of ABI, explained that the purpose of the combined meeting of the Northside and Northeast BeltLine Study Groups was to review principles set out at earlier meetings and provide input on additional principles for citywide and geographically specific BeltLine projects.

Alexander explained that some principles also will be determined by other stakeholder groups, such the city’s Neighborhood Planning Units for zoning and land-use issues, and the BeltLine Affordable Housing Advisory Board on affordable housing issues. ABI is the developer only of parks, trails and transit projects related to the BeltLine.

After a series of additional meetings from now until March, there will be a citywide briefing on the final outcomes of the community benefits principles development process and the community benefits policy will be presented for approval to ABI, the Atlanta Development Authority and Atlanta City Council.

The 40 or so people who attended the Oct. 5 meeting were separated into two breakout sessions: people who reside in the Northside Study Group area and those in the Northeast Study Group area.

Some of those principles raised by those in the Northside Study Group session, which includes the lower part of Buckhead, were:

• Improve sidewalks within a reasonable distance that feed into BeltLine developments.

• Improve connectivity between MARTA and BeltLine stations and employment centers.

• Maintain and create meaningful green spaces.

• Restore creek beds to prevent further destruction and provide storm water management in flood plains for protection of property and drainage.

• Maintain the character and environments of local neighborhoods and communities with the new improvements.

• Construction should adhere to best practices and community should be kept informed and maintain direct involvement.

• The process should be driven by transparency and accountability.

The groups were urged to nominate representatives from their neighborhoods to participate in additional upcoming study group meetings.