Gulch redevelopment opponents take fight to court

by Richard Lawson

Looking east across The Gulch from Centennial Olympic Park Drive, just north of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. Image: Keizers

Opponents of the Gulch redevelopment in downtown Atlanta will be in court next week trying to put a halt to the project.

On Monday, a Fulton County Superior Court judge delayed the hearing to validate the project’s public bonds for Los Angeles-based CIM Group’s $5-billion plan to bring residential and commercial development into the former rail yard area near Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Since the Atlanta City Council narrowly approved $1.9 billion in incentives last month, a group called Red Light the Gulch has been raising money for legal fees to halt the incentives.

A GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $11,000 of its $30,000 goal over the past month. The opponents, who have dubbed the project “The City of Atlanta’s Bucks for Billionaires Gulch Scheme,” have filed 28 objections to the financing package in court.

The group hopes to stop validation of the public bond approved for the project. By law, a court has to validate publicly issued bonds.

The development’s opponents claim that 15 years of future school taxes were improperly added to the financing package. They maintain that the Atlanta Public School Board has to approve that.

“The city’s bond filing is an end-run around the school board’s legal authority over school tax dollars,” the group stated in a Facebook post. “If any mere citizen tried that sneaky move, it would surely be called fraud.”

Organizers also believe the public financing package should go before the Fulton County Commission for approval. Furthermore, the group says it’s working with local attorney John Woodham to make the argument that the tax plan set forth in the Gulch deal is unconstitutional. “Under the Georgia Constitution, enterprise zoning is for employers of the unemployed and low-to-moderate income people,” the group asserted in a press statement. “The Gulch scheme attempts a blanket subsidy of the entire 40-acre office tower and luxury apartment development. That is not a subsidy to specific employers of people in need.”