The Atlanta Board of Education on Sept. 9 will consider leasing the athletic fields at the former Sutton Middle School to Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, but neighbors worry about increased traffic in an already congested area.

The Civic Association on Aug. 26 voted against the use of the fields by the church, saying the church’s athletics program will add to their traffic problems. Chastain Park already buzzes with activity year-round as people from all over Atlanta come to the park for concerts and youth sports.

PRUMC officials said the church is a long-time partner with Atlanta Public Schools, specifically with E. Rivers Elementary, and that the lease has been helpful to both parties. PRUMC requested a lease at Sutton because E. Rivers has temporarily relocated there while APS rebuilds the elementary school. Sutton has moved to the former North Atlanta High campus.

The former Sutton campus is located near the intersection of Powers Ferry and West Wieuca roads.

Atlanta Board of Education Chairman Reuben McDaniel called the situation “a debacle” and said the neighborhood is “rightfully concerned.”

“Obviously, the Peachtree folks have a 2,500-kid youth program and need some place to play soccer,” McDaniel said. “It’s already congested. One cannot deny the fact that intersection is congested.”

McDaniel said he is hoping for a “Hail Mary” to get both sides together before the Board of Education vote.

The Rev. Bill Britt with PRUMC said the church has rented the E. Rivers fields from APS since 1974 and described it as a mutually beneficial relationship.

“We lease the field, pay for its upkeep and maintenance, and the school’s PTA runs the concession stands,” Britt said. “It has been a true partnership that has ultimately benefited both the children of E. Rivers and those who participate in this recreation program.”

Mark Murray, with the Chastain Park Civic Association board, said the neighborhood deals with enough traffic as it is.

“The main concern is the direct noise impact it will have on surrounding neighbors and then the traffic congestion and the lack of sufficient parking,” Murray said. “We’re overburdened.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Mark Murray and this post has been updated with accurate information.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of Decaturish.com