The Atlanta Prison Farm (Courtesy of Google Maps)

A controversial plan to use land earmarked for greenspace as a public safety training facility for police and firefighters was tabled by the Atlanta City Council during its Aug. 16 meeting.

The council narrowly voted 8-7 to table after listening to four hours of public comment and demonstrators gathered outside to protest the vote. The item is now set to appear on the council’s Sept. 7 agenda.

Councilmember Joyce Sheperd, who sponsored the original legislation, said she was disappointed by the delay and refuted claims that there hadn’t been enough engagement with the community.

However, Councilmember Natalyn Archibong said their had been “missteps” in public engagement on the issue.

“We are going to work aggressively to make sure we correct the public engagement missteps, and do a much better job of making sure we are clear and making sure we have addressed the concerns,” Archibong said.

The legislation before the council would lease 85 acres of a 350-acre city-owned property in DeKalb County off Moreland Avenue, to the Atlanta Police Foundation for creation of the police and fire training facility.

The property has been known variously as the “Prison Farm,” ‘Honor Farm” and, more recently, as “Cop City” after plans for the training facility were announced. The property was used as labor farm for low-level offenders, but has been abandoned since 1995.

The council’s finance committee unanimously voted last week to advance the proposal to the full city council with an amended agreement requiring that the remaining land be used for greenspace. trees cut down during construction be replanted, and community meetings be held about the design of the training camp and usage of greenspace.

The move by the city council and support from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has drawn sharp criticism since the city had originally earmarked the property as part of a proposed “South River Forest” park.

The South River Forest Coalition – made up of residents from City of Atlanta and unincorporated DeKalb County, various civic, business, neighborhood, and environmental organizations – adopted a resolution opposing the creation of the facility.