August 5, 2008

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Ahead of the Curve Column

By The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Aug. 3--Are federal officials siphoning off Lake Lanier's water to keep freshwater mussels alive downstream in Florida, or is metro Atlanta sucking Lanier dry?

There's no simple answer, leading to a raging debate among those paying attention to the 18-year-old water war between Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Since last fall, when a falling Lanier threatened this region's water supplies, Georgia's politicians have used the man vs. mussel argument with particular skill.

But for months, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been careful to say it is releasing only enough water from Lanier to meet metro Atlanta's water supply and wastewater needs. That answer would seem to bolster Florida and Alabama's contention that North Georgia's growth is as much to blame for Lanier's record-low levels as the ongoing drought.

Then last week, on a bi-monthly drought conference call with representatives from the three states, the answer got even murkier.

James Hathorn, a hydraulic engineer with the Corps, said water released from Lanier meets other downstream needs in addition to providing metro Atlanta with its drinking water, while still leaving enough in the Chattahoochee River to safely accept its treated sewage.

"It's difficult to give the exact amount of releases for" various purposes, Hathorn said. Water released from Lanier generates hydropower, for example. Hathorn said the Corps also uses Lanier in tandem with the Corps' other four federal reservoirs on the Chattahoochee to send enough water downstream for endangered species in Florida and a nuclear power plant in south Alabama.

So, to sum up: Water released from Lanier satiates metro Atlanta and then flows downstream to keep the critters wet in Florida, keeping a few power plants running along the way. Got it?

--Stacy Shelton

BATTLE OVER FRESH MARKET SITE: The two sides are taking their positions in a battle in west Cobb County over a proposed shopping center on 20 acres currently zoned for houses and a small office project near The Avenue of West Cobb.

And the twist in this zoning battle is that the project is designed to cater to the well-heeled residents moving into the upscale neighborhoods west of Kennesaw Mountain. The development is the latest design to start sweeping across Atlanta's distant suburbs ?- an open-air shopping complex designed to encourage people to walk among shops and restaurants and sip coffee on outside benches.

The public debate is slated to begin Aug. 5 before the county's Planning Commission. The site is at the intersection of Ga. 120 and Casteel Road.

Fresh Market, the boutique grocery store, is the anchor tenant in a retail development proposed by Columbia Properties. The grocery is to take up about 25,000 square feet in a project that would be about 94,000 square feet.

The project is expected to draw sharp opposition from one of Cobb's influential neighborhood groups, People Looking After Neighborhoods. The group was formed in 1997 with the purpose of "promoting the quality and integrity of community development, while maintaining the safety and aesthetic appearance of surrounding areas."

--David Pendered

DEVELOPER PLANS LUXURY UNITS: An Atlanta developer is proposing to build nearly 400 luxury apartments and live/work units on North Druid Hills Road, just north of the Toco Hill shopping center in central DeKalb County.

The developer, Ashkouti Development LLC, is asking DeKalb County to change the property's land use designation from suburban to town center, which allows for more dense development.

According to development papers filed with the state this week, the development ?- to be called Gables North Druid Hills ?- is at the intersection of North Druid Hills and North Holly Lane.

The county has already designated the area around Toco Hill as a town center.

Ashkouti's request is the second land-use change recently proposed in the Toco Hill area. Atlanta-based Julian LeCraw and Co. plans to seek town center status for an apartment complex it owns just south and east of the sprawling shopping center.

--Paul Donsky

HIGH-RISE SOUGHT FOR PERIMETER: DeKalb County commissioners are slated to consider this month a proposal to build a high-rise office building and hotel in the Perimeter Center business district.

The proposed project would be built on the site of the current Chequers restaurant, at the southeast corner of the intersection of Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center Parkway, near the northern end of the bridge across I-285 that opened late last year.

Developer David Canaday has asked the county to rezone 3.9 acres from commercial to office/institutional. Canaday also requested permission to take the two buildings up to 25 stories, or 334 feet.

--David Pendered

THIS WEEK -- FRIDAY: This month's topic at the Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable is water conservation. The Roundtable, hosted by Atlanta-based Southface, an energy think tank, starts with networking at 7 a.m. at All Saints' Episocopal Church, 634 West Peachtree St. in Midtown Atlanta. The program begins at 7:30 a.m. with presentations from Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper's executive director Sally Bethea, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division's water policy and planning adviser Alice Miller Keyes, and the Atlanta Regional Commission's environmental planning chief Pat Stevens. The cost is $10 to $20. For more information, go to


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