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Letter to the Editor – Jeff McCord

Letter to the Editor
Dear Porch Press:
An important vote was taken on a resolution at the September meeting of the Grant Park Neighborhood Association (GPNA). I was one of only two votes against the resolution at the very lightly-attended meeting, and it has bothered me that I didn’t speak out against it more vocally or more eloquently, because I think the resolution sends the wrong message about our neighborhood. The GPNA resolution as it was passed asks the Atlanta city council to exempt a big developer from having to meet the requirements of the city’s new affordable housing ordinance for a proposed apartment development in our neighborhood.
The heart of the matter is that the apartment developer wants to build a(nother) BeltLine apartment complex on a formerly industrial property at Berne Street. I don’t object to the development. I think it’s inevitable that it will happen, as the BeltLine is intended to promote density and quality development. I agree that the project will be an improvement to the currently vacant property. I also understand and am sympathetic to the fact that this particular developer had plans and a proposal in place before the City of Atlanta’s enactment of the affordable housing ordinance, and now will have to change plans to meet the new requirements for affordable housing. As such, litigation between the developer and the city is sure to follow. However, why should GPNA be involved in taking sides with the developer in this legal matter?
There are people in our neighborhood who work tirelessly to promote affordable housing, who feel passionately about it, and who would not want GPNA representing to the city that our neighborhood is willing to backtrack on the issue because a developer may have a problem with it. Personally, I think the developer has a good case to make in court, but GPNA should not be inserting itself into the middle of the matter.
The GPNA chair for land use, zoning and transportation presented and spoke favorably of the resolution at the meeting, saying that the new development would be good for the neighborhood (a matter of opinion), that it would “restore the historic street grid” (not true), and that the developer wasn’t being treated fairly by the city (not our problem). What I didn’t hear was a compelling reason for GPNA to take the unusual step of intervening in a legal dispute between a developer and the city. The developer didn’t even attend the meeting to ask GPNA to take this unusual action.
Just a few short years ago, GPNA successfully lobbied the city council to retroactively zone 800 Glenwood in order to try to block the suburban-style shopping center that exists there now. It could be pointed out that it is somewhat hypocritical of GPNA to now tell the city that retroactive zoning ordinances should be set aside because they are “unfair to the developer.”
More importantly, I believe it sends the wrong message for GPNA to take this action against the affordable housing ordinance, whether it can be sustained in court in this instance or not. Whether or not the developer has been wronged, the message that GPNA’s resolution sends is that we are unsupportive of affordable housing in the city, and I don’t believe it reflects the values of our neighborhood. Maybe I’m wrong about that – I was on the losing side of the vote, after all – but I prefer to believe that our neighborhood still has some compassion, supports social justice, and isn’t completely in bed with the developers just yet.
Jeff McCord

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