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Group protesting Gulch development deal prepares for court battle

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Redlight the Gulch activists say public bonds should not be used to progress the $5 billion project

The overarching Gulch vision, complete with new construction aplenty.
Everyone knows the Gulch would be better off developed. But how it gets there is a subject of debate.
Rendering courtesy of CIM Group; designs, Perkins + Will

Little more than a month after the Atlanta City Council approved a massive development agreement that brings downtown’s Gulch closer to a planned $5 billion overhaul, city officials and opponents of the deal will be headed to court to debate the use of public bonds.

On November 5, the council sided with “Green-light the Gulch” yeasayers and approved the deal, paving the way for Los Angeles-based developer CIM Group to use almost $2 billion in public funding to help build out the 40-acre barren pit of parking lots and railroad tracks.

About a week later, the protest group Redlight the Gulch announced it was raising funds to take the city to court.

The organization has pulled in more than $10,000 for legal fees, according a GoFundMe page run by Redlight the Gulch organizer Julian Bene.

“Sadly, litigation is not cheap, even with attorneys working at steeply cut rates,” Bene wrote. “We’ll need to raise $30,000 quickly to pay the legal team to prepare filings and object at the bond validation hearings and, if necessary, to appeal.”

On December 19, the City of Atlanta and its opponents will be back in front of a Fulton County judge to argue the merits and pitfalls of using public bonds to help fund the private development.

Usually, validation hearings are just quick and easy procedures in which a judge verifies the legitimacy of a bonding agreement with a government agency.

But according to the more than two dozen objections filed by Redlight the Gulch advocates, it’s clear they think the Gulch’s incentives package is illegal, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Opponents of the Gulch deal assert that it would direct some tax dollars that would otherwise have gone to Atlanta Public Schools to the private development.

“Atlanta Public Schools never agreed to school taxes being used in the Westside TAD beyond 2023,” according to a Facebook post by Redlight the Gulch. “Yet the city’s bond filing—if nobody had intervened—would have grabbed at least $312 million of school taxes over the additional 15 years to 2038.”

The organization also complains that the Fulton County Commission has not yet approved the use of the future tax dollars, although a spokesperson for Chairman Robb Pitts told the AJC that county officials are still figuring out if that’s actually necessary.

According to Redlight the Gulch, it is necessary.

“When the Fulton County Commission agreed to extend the Westside TAD out to 2038, they required commission approval for any new projects developed in the TAD after December 2018,” the Facebook post says.

So, in short, the saga continues.