Wayne Mason has had enough of the City of Atlanta’s management of the Beltline project:
For more than a year, the Gwinnett County businessman had wrangled with Atlanta City Hall over his proposal to develop his five choice miles of the Beltline, the city’s 22-mile transit-and-trails loop planned around the urban core.
But on Tuesday, the city presented Mason with a surprise deal that would require him to swap his property on the potentially lucrative Beltline in exchange for the right to build elsewhere in the city. And then Mayor Shirley Franklin wouldn’t meet with an incensed Mason and his lawyer — former Gov. Roy Barnes — who still wanted to salvage their project, Barnes said Friday.
“I wanted to take Wayne down to the mayor and tell her eyeball to eyeball, ‘Don’t be surprised, we’re going to withdraw our applications,’ ” Barnes said. “She was booked. I said I’d come anytime, anyplace. She couldn’t do it. I said I’d await her call.”
On Thursday, Barnes withdrew Mason’s rezoning applications for his 70 acres of Beltline property in northeast Atlanta, the week before the rezoning consideration process was set to begin.
Atlanta officials declined to comment at all on Friday, saying the only comment was the one issued Thursday by the mayor. Franklin said, “The long-term project has been met over the past two years with many mistakes. But make no mistake, it will happen.”
But what will happen to the Beltline is unclear.
You can’t fight City Hall. So what’s next?
One possible outcome is for Atlanta to buy Mason’s land, said Mark Randall, director of Wood Partners, a residential developer who served on the Beltline task force.
“The city is going to figure out a way to get that property for the Beltline, and then the city can control and influence what gets done along there,” he said Friday. “If the city could acquire all that land, the city could sell it and more than get back its money, and do it in a way that the development’s guided by the city and not by individual developers.“
It seems to me that’s what the City wanted all along. Time will tell if the Beltline is a success, but government guided developments often turn into boondoggles.