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Public safety training center opposition group calls for delaying vote until election, creating mitigation agreement

A draft site plan of the reduce public safety training center as shown in a Sept. 2 public meeting.

In advance of a possible Atlanta City Council vote Sept. 7 on the controversial public safety training center, the main opposition group is demanding the issue be tabled until after the election. And if the project can’t be stopped altogether, the group says, it wants a detailed community benefits agreement.

In a Sept. 6 letter to councilmembers, the South River Forest Coalition says it continues to oppose the use of the former Atlanta Prison Farm as the training center site. Noting that the City’s part of the budget would be overseen by a new mayor and City Council to be elected Nov. 2, SRFC says the vote should be tabled until after election.

However, the letter also says the SFRC “is keenly aware of the pressure on the City Council to act decisively” and that the Prison Farm lease agreement may be approved Sept. 7. In that case, the SFRC demands, a “community stakeholder advisory committee” should be formed to create a legally binding community benefits agreement.

Among other things, the CBA would include mitigations for “any impact to wildlife habitat, dark sky, tree canopy, native plants, and water quantity and quality”; and “against dangerous conditions for surrounding communities from speeding police vehicles and anti-police protests.” Also cited is a list of conditions previously proposed by SFRC and partly added to the training center lease legislation by the council.

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 Sept. 7 council meeting is schedule to begin at 1 p.m. It can be viewed on the City Council’s Facebook page or the City’s Channel 26.

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