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Piedmont parking deck passes first hurdle 

To the surprise of few, the Piedmont Park Conservancy has officially endorsed the construction of a six-story parking deck within Piedmont Park.

The proposed deck would have 800 parking spaces and be used by visitors to Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The deck is part of a major expansion plan that will add 53 acres to the park's footprint and calls for removing a 120-space asphalt parking lot, which would be replaced with greenspace.

Piedmont Park Conservancy Executive Director Debbie McCown says the approved plan is "consistent with Piedmont Park Conservancy's mission, which is to facilitate and contribute to the renewal and preservation of Piedmont Park as a vital, healthy green space."

Yet despite McCown's claims, opposition to the parking deck is strong -- rivaling any intown neighborhood movement of the past decade.

Led by Friends of Piedmont Park, a group that has clashed with the Piedmont Park Conservancy over its management of the park in the past, the movement against the deck has only strengthened since the Conservancy first unveiled the proposal in May.

In August, Friends of Piedmont Park came up with an alter-nate plan for the park that doesn't call for the deck's construction.

More recently, vitriol for the deck increased when state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, and former City Councilman Derrick Boazman led a rally of about 50 anti-deck protesters.

Sally Bethea, executive director of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and member of the state Board of Natural Resources, also has chimed in. "I firmly believe that there are alternatives to destroying existing greenspace in the park and building a brand-new parking garage," Bethea wrote to the Conservancy. "Therefore, I want to register my vote in strong opposition to the parking deck."

In the end, however, the vocal resistance to the deck made little difference. On Nov. 18, the board of the Conservancy voted 6-1 to approve a plan that includes the parking deck.

Next, neighborhood-planning units around the city will have a chance to vote on the Conservancy's plan. After that, the proposal has to go through the city's planning department and ultimately could be voted on by Atlanta City Council.

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