Walker Brothers wins zoning lawsuit

Sat, 12/22/2007 - 9:47am
By: Ben Nelms

It was all over virtually before it started. Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford sided with Walker Brothers-owned First Victoria Properties Dec. 19 in upholding the company’s contention that it is within its rights to construct a controversial trash transfer station on Bohannon Road in Fairburn.

Citing approval for the project by Atlanta Regional Commission, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and Fairburn’s Planning Commission, attorney David Flint said Walker had been denied approval of a conceptual site plan for the project even though such a facility was a permitted use in the M-2 (Heavy Manufacturing) zoning district. Flint added that the council denied the request in its Aug. 27 meeting without stating a reason for that denial.

Fairburn attorney Brad Sears questioned whether Walker had exhausted its administrative remedies, suggesting that the company could have re-submitted the conceptual site plan with potential changes that would have enhanced the chances for an approval. Judge Bedford disagreed, likening such a move to a hamster in a wheel.

Sears also cited the numerous environmental, health and property value concerns voiced by citizens over having a receptacle for household trash and construction and demolition debris established in their neighborhood. The council at the time of the hearing was listening to the wishes of citizens, Sears said. Those concerns by residents were reflected in the motion to deny the conceptual site plan request, he said.

In the end, Judge Bedford held that the ordinance already in place when the request was made was sufficient for his decision to favor Walker Brothers. Those facts are overwhelmingly against the decision made by the council, Judge Bedford said.

“I understand the community’s concerns but I have to live by the law,” he said.

The judge also took issue with the council and citizens on other issues. He said the council should have stated a reason why it denied the request. Having done so would have provided some flexibility in possibly rendering an alternative decision, he said.

“I don’t understand what their denial was based on,” Judge Bedford said, adding that the council’s stand constituted a gross abuse of discretion and that Walker Brothers had a clear legal right to establish the transfer station on the property.

On the part of citizens objecting to the transfer station, Judge Bedford noted that residents merely stated their objections but provided no expert testimony, no studies to bolster their claims and no facts for the council to consider.

Judge Bedford said the 19 conditions listed by the city must be adhered to by Walker.

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Submitted by Dalmation195 on Sun, 12/23/2007 - 1:00pm.

If I remember correctly, I advised the City Council to approve this request. But, what did they do? They denied the plan after caving to the screams of Congressman David Scott and the "Race Card" that he played.

The city has chosen to fight this in court, and lost. They have cost the City thousands of dollars in wasteful spending on legal fees.

Let's all hope that the city council has come to it's collective senses and will not choose to appeal this ruling.It will just be a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer funds. As reported in this paper, the city's insurance carrier has refused to defend the City in this matter. Why? Because it is a losing matter for the City.

The Fairburn region needs a transfer station. The following area cities have transfer stations:

East Point
College Park
Forest Park

Let's hope that the Council finds some "intestinal fortitude" in the coming year and does not succumb to political pressure.

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