Letter to the Editor: April 21, 2015

To the editor:

In response to the article “Student homeowners say Atlanta BeltLine developments intrude upon property” by Miranda Hawkins, published in the Signal, Vol. 8 #27 and online at georgiastatesignal.com on April 16, 2015, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) would like to correct some errors and false information. In the interview for this article, ABI was presented with general questions about the Atlanta BeltLine, and not specific questions about the issues highlighted below which we will respond to now.

The headline and the content of the article imply that the passage of Senate Bill 4 – which allows the Atlanta BeltLine to seek funding from public/private partnerships – would cause the BeltLine to encroach on private property. The implication that there is a relationship between the two is erroneous. SB4 was passed (with overwhelming bipartisan support) to give the Atlanta BeltLine an alternate source of funding to enhance the development of the project. There is no basis for the claim that the bill’s passage causes us to alter our design in any way or expand in ways that encroach on private property. Eastside Trail extension is at 100% design and the documents are available in our office for public viewing. An extensive public engagement process is required before ABI can seek easements from property owners or commence construction.

The article sites an Atlanta resident that claims to have found trespassers in his backyard doing Eastside Trail survey work. The resident claims he was never notified, nor did he know that his property is adjacent to the Atlanta BeltLine. Our staff never had a chance to respond to these concerns as they were not presented to us in the reporter’s interview. The quote attributed to ABI about residents choosing to move to the Atlanta BeltLine was in response to a different question, and to position it as a response to the resident’s concerns greatly misleads the readers. Our team makes numerous attempts of notifying residents about work being done adjacent to their property and our team and our contractors are prohibited from entering private property without permission of the owner. While have no record of the resident attempting to engage us via our community engagement network to date, we encourage and welcome him to do so now if he still has concerns. ABI holds dozens of public meetings each year to receive public input and inform the community of design and construction progress. Our communications and community engagement team makes every effort to reach the public by way of meetings, mailings, electronic and print communications, and even door-to-door outreach.

Another source discussed her concerns about affordability. These concerns were never relayed in the interview, but our team works hard to create solutions for residents along the Atlanta BeltLine to stay in their homes, and to create affordable options for new residents. These efforts were discussed at great length in the interview for this article, but none of this information was conveyed in the final version. Once again, we encourage the resident to reach out to us via our community engagement channels if she still has concerns about affordability on the Atlanta BeltLine so she can learn about the opportunities that may be available to her by way of our programs. One of the opportunities that were discussed in the interview was ABI’s partnership with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta (of which we encouraged GSU faculty, staff and students to take advantage of) to provide down-payment assistance and funding for owner occupied rehab to potential homebuyers and homeowners on the Atlanta BeltLine. This is just one of several efforts currently in process. Finally, the resident was concerned about safety – since 2013, the Path Force has patrolled the parks, trails, and adjacent neighborhoods as a dedicated unit of the Atlanta Police Department and have done an excellent job doing so.

Our team is always glad to share information about the Atlanta BeltLine, but we expect integrity in the publications we work with and find the errors and misrepresentations in this article highly unethical and unacceptable.