Published on June 16th, 2015 |2
Council OKs Moores Mill Rd. project funds, but challenge feared
Moore’s ordinance, which had been passed by the Council’s Finance/Executive Committee last week, calls for allocating $800,000 from the city’s Transportation Impact Fees fund of approximately $9.7 million to help pay for the road extension project.
The $800,000 will be combined with $500,000 already committed by Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, to build an extension of Moores Mill Road that will serve a long awaited $40 million retail complex anchored by a 45,000-square-foot Publix supermarket.
The road extension, according to South Carolina-based developer Edens, is required by Publix in order to proceed with the redevelopment of the derelict Moores Mill Shopping Center, a project that has been on the approved list for more than a decade, but stalled due largely to lawsuits.
During what Moore said stretched out to be a five-hour discussion on the issue, the initial ordinance by Moore was at first passed by a vote of 9 to 6 and the road project and future of the shopping center redevelopment appeared on track toward construction this year.
But the victory was short-lived. Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is a close ally of Mayor Kasim Reed, immediately called for a “reconsideration” of the motion to adopt the ordinance and that motion to reconsider was passed.
That sent the council members into a lengthy “executive session” after which Bottoms and Councilman CT Martin introduced an amendment to
the ordinance that calls for the distribution of the remaining amount of $9.7 million in the Transportation Impact Fees fund to be distributed evenly among each of the 12 City Council districts.
“If I got some, they all needed to,” Moore wrote in her email Tuesday morning.
That amendment passed City Council with a vote of 10 yeas and 5 nays. “I voted no,” said Moore, and she was joined by Council members Natalyn Archibong, Alex Wan, and Buckhead’s Howard Shook and Yolanda Adrean. All other council members voted for the amendment.
“The amendment placed on (the ordinance) by Bottoms and Martin will cause all kinds of legal issues,” Moore told BuckheadView. “I could not support it, for the good of the city.”
Thus Moore was forced to vote against her own ordinance and the funding of the Moores Mill project she has fought tirelessly for over more than a decade as a councilwoman. But, as passed, the $800,000 has been authorized for the project….at least for now.
Northwest Atlanta resident and Neighborhood Planning Unit-D vice chair Karyn Hudson, who has worked on the project from its inception, wrote
in an email, “I am very disappointed in what I witnessed at the Council meeting yesterday. Shame on Council for undermining what should have been a very clean and simple piece of legislation.”
Hudson wrote: “That amendment was nothing more than a ‘poison pill’ to give the mayor a legitimate reason to veto this legislation and/or have legal challenges launched due to the amendment. This will virtually guarantee further delays.”
Hudson pointed out, “The city’s Law Department clearly stated, several times, that Felicia’s legislation met the criteria for use of Transportation Impact Fees and clearly stated that to divide the remaining unallocated funds equally 12 ways would not meet the criteria nor the law. All of us in the audience were able to understand these simple facts.”
There was a strong showing of support for Moore’s original legislation at the Monday Council meeting, and estimated crowd of 75 or more and 22 of diverse demographic and economic backgrounds and numerous neighborhoods who spoke in favor of the original proposal.
Rhetta Kilpatrick, who was at the council meeting Monday as a supporter representing Whittier Mill Village, posted a note on Moore’s Facebook page stating, “It seemed like some of the Council members didn’t understand where the $800,000 figure came from and that they were unaware of the timeliness of the issue.”
Ridgewood Heights resident Carol Baird, who attended the Monday council meeting, posted notes on the proceedings and pointed out that Moore requested that the proposed amendment by Bottoms and Martin be voted on separately from her proposal for the Moores Mill extension, but that did not happen.
Baird wrote that she thought the concern during the meeting was that “the amendment could run afoul of the state law requiring the City Council to consider the proximity of where the funds were generated in determining where the funds are spent.”
That was Moore’s concern that it could lead to legal challenges against the city.
As explained to BuckheadView, the law requires the City Council, in designating Transportation Impact Fees to specific projects, to spend those funds near to where they were generated. The
funds Moore was requesting have been generated in either Councilwoman Adrean’s District 8 (across Peachtree Creek from Ridgewood Heights, toward I-75 and Buckhead) or Moore’s District 9, which would meet this requirement.
However, by making a citywide allocation of funds to each City Council district, without this consideration of the specific use of funds by project, the amendment may open up the ordinance to legal challenge….not because the Moores Mill extension does not comply with the law, but because other parts of the city that were added by the amendment do not meet the requirement.
Moore therefore asked her Council colleagues to vote down the proposal as amended to allow her original legislation to be split from the amended part that deals with the rest of the city.
She was joined in her vote against the amended ordinance by her strongest supporters: Council members Adrean, Shook, Wan and Archibong. At-Large Council members Mary Norwood and Andre Dickens, who strongly supported Moore’s efforts on this in the past, voted in favor of the amended ordinance.
In a posting to Moore’s Facebook page, Dickens wrote: “The Moores Mill extension project and the grocery store are critical to the continued success of this entire region. It was the promise of this project for the past decade that has inspired people to move to this wonderful community.
“I’ve lived in this community for 13 years and want this project like all of my neighbors. This project will improve the quality of life for Atlanta residents living up and down the Westside and will catalyze future development.”
Dickens concluded his posting saying: “City Council passed this legislation today after it was amended. I want to encourage you to please stay involved on this important issue. As your neighbor, I know how critical this is. That’s why I have consistently supported this project.”
One person who is not giving up is Councilwoman Moore. She told BuckheadView and her constituents in an email, “Stay tuned for next steps regarding Moores Mill Road extension funding.”