Thursday, February 25, 2010

Democratic congressman wins victory — against Inman Park

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 9:09 PM


Perhaps David Scott is so fed up with getting pushed around by Republicans in Washington that he decided to take his frustrations out on his own neighbors.

Otherwise, it's difficult to fathom why the veteran congressman is fighting a proposed community garden on public parkland across the street from his Inman Park home with a fervor usually reserved for battling toxic waste dumps.

"Why should this be ram-rodded through?" Scott asked neighbors during a rancorous community meeting last week in a church basement. "Don't we deserve a voice?"

Now, to be fair, Scott and his outspoken wife aren't the only ones who oppose the garden. At least 16 of his fellow Hurt Street residents have signed a petition affirming that they don't want the view from their porches ruined by the sight of organic produce.

But clearly it's Scott's clout as a congressman that has put the brakes on a garden that's been several months in the planning and had enjoyed strong support from much of the neighborhood. According to one bemused observer, Scott's been seen so much at City Hall in recent weeks you'd think worked there.

It's worth noting that Scott doesn't even represent Inman Park. His 13th Congressional District lies predominantly to the south and west of Fulton County.

To recap the situation, the city launched its community gardening initiative three years ago in partnership with Park Pride, the nonprofit volunteer organization that supports Atlanta parks. Every approved garden is given a chunk of land in a public park and city residents can apply for a 4-foot-by-8-foot plot in the garden. Park Pride is responsible for overseeing garden upkeep and can take back a resident's plot if they fail to maintain it.

A dozen community gardens have already been approved for parks across the city. Last summer, several Inman Park residents began to line up support for their own local garden. The plan was discussed at neighborhood meetings and written about in the community newsletter, and more than 150 neighbors — including some Hurt Street residents — signed a petition in favor of the garden.

A number of locations were considered, but the organizers ended up selecting a site in Freedom Park near the Inman Park MARTA station, within sight of the Scotts' brick mansion. A ground-breaking was held at the site about three months ago. All that remained to be done was to gain approval from the city's Urban Design Commission, since Inman Park is in a historic district.

Although Scott seems not to have been paying attention during the project's early stages, when he finally found out about the garden, he sprang into action, lobbying city Council members and rallying his Hurt Street neighbors. Under the kind of pressure only a congressman can apply, the UDC has deferred a vote on the garden on six separate occasions. The commission is next scheduled to consider the matter at its March 10 meeting.

In the meantime, tempers simmer in the neighborhood as park officials and residents strive to find a "compromise" site that's to the Scotts' liking. One woman summed up the heated environment at last week's Inman Park Neighborhood Association meeting when, between the shouting, accusations and catcalls, she observed: "It seems ironic that this garden was supposed to bring the community together."

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