DeKalb official calls for more studies at Atlanta training center site

Commissioner Ted Terry wants closer look at controversial proposal

A DeKalb commissioner wants the team behind Atlanta’s controversial new police and fire training center to conduct more thorough environmental and noise testing before permits are approved by the county.

In the resolution he introduced Tuesday morning, Commissioner Ted Terry is also asking that an existing community advisory committee be given a more formal “recommendation vote” on approval of the training center’s site plan.

“What I don’t want to happen is for our planning department to move forward on something that hasn’t been given sort of its full due diligence,” Terry told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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Despite significant public outcry, the Atlanta City Council approved last fall a ground lease clearing the way for the Atlanta Police Foundation to build a sprawling new facility in southwestern DeKalb County. The 85-acre site is part of a much larger, densely forested property that, despite being in DeKalb, is owned by the city of Atlanta.

That means the county has little say in the project, but its planning department is responsible for granting various permits required for construction to begin in earnest.

The Atlanta Police Foundation applied for a land disturbance permit in March and while the county has declined to put a timeline on the process, an APF spokesman estimated late last month that approval could be granted sometime in August.

The new resolution from Terry, whose commission super district includes the training center site, would likely slow that down — if it’s both approved by his DeKalb colleagues and accepted by Atlanta and its development team.

Terry wants a Phase II environmental study of the site, which he said would offer a clearer picture of the potential contaminants and other issues throughout the long-neglected property.

A similar idea has recently caused controversy. Lily Ponitz, who Terry appointed to the community stakeholder committee reviewing the training center site plan, was recently voted out by her colleagues after going to the media with concerns about what she dubbed lackluster environmental testing and other aspects of the project.

APF spokesman Rob Baskin has previously described Ponitz’s assertions as “misguided,” but deferred comment for this story to the city of Atlanta.

Reached Tuesday, an Atlanta spokesman said only that the city “continues to work with the county on permitting for the project.”

Terry’s resolution also calls for “noise testing” on the training center site to ensure that residents in the area will be disturbed as little as possible by training exercises. The police foundation has said it already agreed to move a planned gun range to part of the site furthest away from residential neighborhoods, and has nixed initial plans for explosives testing altogether.

Terry asked as well for the formation of a “history, reconciliation and reparations committee” to appropriately explore and memorialize the property’s not-so-distant past as a prison farm.