By John Ruch
Planning for a park over Georgia 400 will move forward after a 4-2 vote of the Buckhead Community Improvement District board on Oct. 5, an approval that came amid concerns from major hotels and malls about possible higher business taxes and “conflict of interest.”
In addition, planning for the park will merge into the public process for a recently begun update of Buckhead’s master plan, now renamed “Buckhead Redefined.” The first public meeting for that plan, which is technically an Atlanta Regional Commission Livable Centers Initiative process, is slated for Oct. 17 at a time and location to be announced.
The Buckhead CID, a self-taxing business district, proposed the park over 400 more than a year ago. Last month, it unveiled a design for a 9-acre, half-mile-long park built atop a bridge-like structure over Ga. 400 between Lenox and Peachtree roads, with a roughly estimated cost of $195 million to $245 million.
The CID’s Oct. 5 vote authorized spending up to $340,000 for 16 weeks of further study of such issues as funding sources, traffic impacts and economic benefits. The vote does not authorize the park to be built at this point. But, like every previous board vote on the park concept, there was significant opposition from some members on costs and whether it is an appropriate project for the CID.
Board member Robin Suggs of Simon Property Group voiced some of the strongest opposition on behalf of her company’s Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza malls. She read a statement calling the park planning a “slippery slope” to higher taxes and a “distraction [from] more pressing needs.”
She also called for a vote of the entire CID membership, not just the board. Some board members own property abutting the proposed park, which is project to boost property values. That is a situation, Suggs said, “which we believe constitutes a conflict of interest…”
“Right now, everyone’s enamored with the idea of the park. Who isn’t?” Suggs said after the meeting. “But when it comes down to it, there’s going to be a tax.”
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