The Atlanta City Council has delayed a possible vote on the controversial public safety training center until Sept. 8 to hear out an estimated 17 hours of public comments.
The council’s Sept. 7 agenda included the lease agreement allowing the training center’s construction on the former Atlanta Prison Farm site. At the 1 p.m. start of the meeting, council President Felicia Moore announced that the council and its committee of the whole had received more than 1,160 public comments ahead of time.
“That will be a total of 17 hours of public comment,” much of it related to the training center, Moore said. “Of course, we are not going to be able to accommodate all of that today.”
The council’s plan was to listen to public comments until 10 p.m., go into recess, and resume at 9 a.m. on Sept. 8. Moore estimated the council could take up the actual legislation between late afternoon and early evening that day, possibly around 6:30 p.m. “I’m gonna try to get in as much public comment as I can,” she said.
The Atlanta Police Foundation, which has taken the lead on the planning, has pitched the training center as urgently needed to respond to crime and to recruit and retain officers with a high-quality facility. It also would simply be cheaper and easier for Atlanta to have a centralized, City-owned facility instead of today’s rented and scattered ones, it says. The Prison Farm site was the best among those reviewed by a City-appointed advisory council, APF says.
The Prison Farm site is a City-owned property along Key Road within unincorporated DeKalb County already used as a shooting range and once hosted the police academy. That use is in conflict with another City-approved vision for the Prison Farm: a piece of the South River Forest, a proposed 3,500-acre network of green spaces in southeast Atlanta and southwest DeKalb.
The council on Aug. 16 tabled a vote on the lease agreement due to concerns about public input regarding impacts on green space and neighborhoods. The council also voted to amend the lease agreement language to require more specific public input and far more study of environmental impacts, among other changes.
The South River Forest Coalition, the main opposition group, on Sept. 6 demanded the council delay a vote to after the Nov. 2 municipal election or, if all else fails, the creation of a detailed community benefits agreement.
Update: This story has been updated with the Atlanta City Council’s revised times for recessing and resuming their meeting.