Hoping for progress in Forest Park

Dear Editor:

On Oct. 14, the Forest Park Ministers Association sponsored a voter forum for Forest Park candidates running for mayor and council candidates for wards 1 and 2. Because of time constraints and also, probably a lack of complete knowledge of some of the topics, I decided to write a letter concerning some history on those topics.

As a member of the “past” administration, a term I hear often, I am proud to have had a part in these projects.

Fort Gillem is now called the Gillem Logistics Center. We have been working with the Army since 2005, in some capacity, to get title of Fort Gillem for the city.

We have submitted various reports to them, answered their questions, hired professional groups to work in their areas of expertise to study the area and draw up reports, talked to them about our needs and our concerns. One thing we have not been able to do is speed up the process. Now that the shutdown has finally ended, we can continue to work toward developing the area and making it be a valuable resource for the city and its citizens and businesses, the county and the state.

It it doable? Yes, it does have contamination, a maximum of 300 acres. It is mainly in the northwest quadrant and to the southeast of Stevens Lake. It is not randomly over the entire property. The contamination does not rise to the level of Superfund and the process is underway for it to be put in the brown field program which is for much less contaminated land. There are plans for the Gillem Logistics Center, but there have been no dispersals of land. No one has been given 500 acres already.

Our master developers do continue to market this property to companies and to encourage them to come to the city and see what the Gillem Logistics Center has to offer. We have had some good prospects and continue to receive interest in the property. The master developer does have an option to buy 500 acres at a lower rate than outside companies but only after we receive the property from the Army. Their acreage will be included in some of the first 700-plus acres to be developed. This is in payment for the marketing and work they have done thus far for which they have not received any payment.

The reason there is no adult entertainment businesses in Forest Park is because the two businesses were found to have allowed illegal activities, such as drugs, gambling and prostitution into their establishments. After this was verified, the city could not tolerate the activity. The businesses had plenty of warning. They attempted to operate with only a liquor business, but skirted the law with nudity.

They refused to follow our ordinances and were forced to close. They have filed 15 lawsuits against the city, all were judged in city’s favor, There are two lawsuits outstanding, one is on appeal, the other was re-filed in federal court, but it is one of those that has already been judged in Superior Court in the city’s favor.

The city is asking for summary judgment, which is asking for it to be denied.

In 2008, the city had a plan drawn up for the State Farmers Market. This report showed how the State Farmers Market could be redesigned to make it more retail friendly. It also had a plan to tie it in to the airport so passengers with layovers could spend some time at the Market. The new agriculture commissioner, Gary Black, is aware of the plans and would like to implement them. However, state budgets are restricting them from being put into place. He has made many changes to the market and if the money becomes available, the plans will very likely be part of his plans for the market. Unlike the DeKalb Farmers Market, which is a private enterprise, the state farmers market is owned entirely by the state and has to depend on state funds.

The properties that were bought on Main Street were bought at a time when property values were low, the properties were in decline and needed to be torn down or improved, all of the properties were built in a time when asbestos was a popular construction material. The plan was to rebuild Main Street in a way that families, citizens and businesses would be able to live, work, play and worship in Forest Park. The Gillem Logistics Center will draw workers who will need a place to live. We don’t want them to make money in Forest Park and go back to their homes in other areas — we want them to live, work, play and worship in Forest Park.

The housing planned for Main Street would be reasonable and affordable for most of our citizens, some probably more than others, but a range that local salaries at the Gillem Logistics Center can support. We have plenty of houses in Forest Park that can be renovated or razed so that homes can be built for those not wishing to live on Main Street.

The plans that were done were a sample of what can be done. GRTA will not come into Forest Park, but our transportation system could tie onto GRTA, MARTA and any system offered in our area. We need a system that gets our citizens around the city and to other areas either by that system or connecting on to another system. Our citizens deserve a transportation system that will allow them to get around the city and also be able to access other parts of the Atlanta area.

I hope Forest Park can continue to have the progress that the city, its citizens and businesses deserve. Don’t forget to go vote Nov. 5 for the city and its future.

Early voting goes through Nov. 1.

Linda Lord

Forest Park City Council, Ward 5