Judge denies request to halt land work at public safety training center site

A Fulton County judge has denied an injunction that would have pressed pause on construction of Atlanta’s planned public safety training center in DeKalb County.

Superior Court Judge Thomas A. Cox Jr. ruled against plaintiffs — DeKalb County resident Amy Taylor, DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry and the South River Watershed Alliance — who have challenged the land development permits recently issued, citing environmental concerns. They asked the judge to issue an emergency Temporary Restraining Order that would have halted work at the site until the matter can be heard by the county’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Cox wrote in denying the request that plaintiff’s argument did not apply: “Property owned by a governmental entity for governmental purposes is exempt from local zoning ordinances.”

The judge also called “speculative” the argument that continued construction of the project may result in high levels of sediment in Intrenchment Creek. He noted that since the construction was approved by both DeKalb County and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, a sediment deposited within legal limits is allowed.

Likewise, Cox ruled that the harm caused by potential disruption of enjoyment of Intrenchment Creek does not justify a full stop to the project.

“Plaintiffs have failed to show that the grant of a (Temporary Restraining Order) would be in the best interest of the public,” Cox wrote. “Plaintiffs have articulated only a vague, speculative potential harm to them if the TRO is not granted.”

The training center property — a now-forested site that was once home to a city prison farm — is owned by Atlanta and leased to the Atlanta Police Foundation for the construction of the planned $90 million facility. It sits off Key Road in southwestern DeKalb County.

Initial land disturbance permits were issued by DeKalb County’s planning department on Jan. 31.

Not long after, Taylor filed a formal challenge of the permits, accusing the city and county of overlooking existing restrictions on sediment discharges and exaggerating the amount of greenspace that would be preserved.

The original filing cites a DeKalb County code section that says an appeal of land disturbance permits issued for a development “on residentially zoned property” should automatically result in work being stopped until the matter is resolved.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will likely hear the challenge April 12.