To hash out internal controversy over the proposed park over Ga. 400, the Buckhead Community Improvement District board held a special meeting Sept. 19 with little notice and no alert to the media. Specific details about what was determined during the special meeting remain unclear as the group takes a step toward forming a nonprofit to oversee the park.
The meeting was held in response to requests from board members that the board discuss the CID’s role in the proposed park over Ga. 400 and in the midst of forming a steering committee to create a nonprofit to plan and fundraise for the park.
The special board meeting, referred to as a retreat, was advertised on Sept. 12 in the Fulton County Daily Report, the county’s official legal organ, while other meetings are advertised on the CID’s official website and emails. It was held in the office of the board chairman, David Allman.
The Sept. 27 board meeting was the next meeting following the retreat and the next opportunity for the public to hear an update on the park and other CID projects. However, the agenda for the meeting was not posted until a half an hour before the meeting began, so the public had no way of knowing what the board would discuss. Jim Durrett, the executive director of the CID, said this was “an oversight.”
No reporters attended the special meeting, and Durrett said that he would have requested any press members leave the meeting if they did attend. Durrett said he could not require the press to leave because the board meeting is open to the public, but he would have asked that of them because he believes the board can speak more openly if the press is not present.
“When the reporters are there reporting on everything we say, it chills good conversation,” Durrett said.
Nothing about the special meeting was discussed at the Sept. 27 board meeting, but Durrett said in an earlier interview that the board “got into detail on everything we were working on so everyone had an understanding of our role.”
The board also used the meeting to “clear the air about any of the concerns or questions on the [park over Ga. 400],” Durrett said.
The CID is in the process of creating a steering committee to build a nonprofit that will manage the park and raise funds for its construction. Some core members have been determined, but not announced publicly, and the CID aims to have the steering committee members finalized by the end of October, David Allman, the board chairman, said at the Sept. 27 board meeting. The CID plans to provide an update at the November board meeting.
Howard Shook, the District 7 city councilmember who sits on the CID board, requested the retreat during the July 26 board meeting that provided major updates on the park. Shook argued the board needed time to learn about two new board members who were elected at the previous meeting and to discuss the CID’s role in the park.
“I think we need a full-blown pause with a retreat to find out who these new board members are, why are they here, what are their expectations of their fellow board members,” Shook said at the July board meeting. “For this [the park over Ga. 400] to move forward, we need to be a team. We need to be partners. This is not a partnership.”
Shook was expanding on CID board member Robin Suggs’ suggestion that the board needed to have further discussion about the park.
“We all need to have a better understanding as to where we are headed,” Suggs said.
Shook said in an interview after the retreat that he still has concerns about the park and questions that have not been answered, especially concerning how the park will be funded.
Durrett said the board also used the retreat to discuss and decide what the CID’s role should be in the projects proposed and suggested by the recently completed Buckhead master plan, “Buckhead REdeFINED.” During the interview about the retreat, Durrett said he had no more time available to discuss what the board specifically determined and asked the Reporter to send an email to follow up, but Durrett did not respond to the email.
Park over Ga. 400 update
Durrett played a video of a simulated tour of the proposed park over Ga. 400 created by Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers, consultants working on the park. The video looks similar to previously released renderings of the park.
The simulation is still in the draft stage and not released publicly, but will be released when it is completed, Durrett said.
Operation Shield update
The board ratified spending $29,150 more on the Operation Shield project, which has placed 52 cameras throughout the CID’s coverage area in Buckhead.
The extra money was used to install two cameras in Charlie Loudermilk Park, as previously installed cameras near the park did not provide a complete view of it, said Darion Dunn, the CID’s director of capital improvements and planning.
Public safety housing update
The CID committed $20,000 to start a new phase of its public housing program, a partnership with the Atlanta Police Foundation that provides a one-time stipend to help police officers move to the area.