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Brookhaven, Peachtree Golf Club sue each other over planned multi-use path

Construction began on this stretch of the path earlier this month. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Construction began on this stretch of the path earlier this month. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The city of Brookhaven is entangled in a legal dispute with the Peachtree Golf Club over plans to install a 10-foot-wide path for walkers and cyclists along the edge of the private club’s property.

The golf club and city sued each other this month due to a disagreement over who controls the land that abuts Ashford Dunwoody Road. The club says it should be compensated in exchange for the pedestrian and bicycle path being built on its property, according to court filings in DeKalb County Superior Court. Brookhaven’s lawsuit seeks a court ruling declaring that the city has rights to the land.

The dispute puts the government at odds with the city’s largest property owner: Peachtree Golf Club is an Atlanta institution formed more than six decades before Brookhaven was incorporated. The club has filed for a temporary restraining order against the city to bar them from continuing construction work on the new trail.

There is a disagreement over who controls the land between Ashford Dunwoody Road and the Peachtree Golf Club courses. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
There is a disagreement over who controls the land between Ashford Dunwoody Road and the Peachtree Golf Club courses. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Peachtree Golf Club occupies about 210 acres of land situated between Ashford Dunwoody, Peachtree and Johnson Ferry roads.

Brookhaven’s City Council approved a study in 2017 that calls for several improvements to Ashford Dunwoody, including a series of paths that stretch from Peachtree to I-285. Currently, there is no sidewalk along the eastern side of the road that borders the golf club and runs for roughly 1 mile between Johnson Ferry and Peachtree. City officials say the path would increase connectivity and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The city started construction May 4 on the northern end of the proposed path next to the golf club.

Several days later, on May 8, Brookhaven sought intervention from the court because it is “unsure of its rights and obligations” over who controls the land next to the road, according to the lawsuit. It alleges the golf club has acted “in bad faith” and has constantly changed its position over who owns the land, which is outside the chain-link fence bordering the golf courses.

Aerial view of construction of a new multi-use path along the eastern side of Ashford Dunwoody Road near the Publix on Tuesday, May 15, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Aerial view of construction of a new multi-use path along the eastern side of Ashford Dunwoody Road near the Publix on Tuesday, May 15, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

City Manager Christian Sigman said some of the property records for the land are old, making it unclear whether the 10 feet of land east of the road are in the public right of way and, therefore, under the control of the city government.

The golf club’s lawsuit, filed on May 11, states that the land is clearly the club’s property. It calls on the city to pay the golf club if it wants to use the land and build the public path.

The organization’s deed to the land stretches back to 1947, when the golf club was founded by legendary golfer Bobby Jones. He designed the sprawling fairways and greens with the famous golf course architect Robert Trent Jones.

Former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. and other newsmakers were known to play rounds of golf at the private club. Golf Magazine recently ranked it in the top 100 golf courses in the country.

Construction of a new multi-use path along the eastern side of Ashford Dunwoody Road near the Publix on Tuesday, May 15, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Construction of a new multi-use path along the eastern side of Ashford Dunwoody Road near the Publix on Tuesday, May 15, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

“Safe to say they have a very special asset that they have a vested interest in maintaining and protecting,” Sigman said. “They may not understand what we’re trying to do. We’ll be able to work this out.”

Through its lawyer, Scott Peters, representatives for the golf club declined to comment.

Sigman said he is confident the city will be able to work out the dispute and eventually install the path. He said it is important for the city to maintain good relationships with its large, historic institutions, including the golf club.

“The path will get built,” he said. “That’s something that needs to be understood.”

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