Mayor Andre Dickens announced Aug. 16 that final agreements have been reached with Peoplestown homeowners who have fought for years to stay in their homes where the city wants to build infrastructure to alleviate chronic flooding and overflows. sewers.
The Atlanta City Council voted Aug. 15 to approve $5.3 million in negotiated settlement agreements between Dickens and the three remaining families who owned homes in the area needed to build the project. The deals come after an often tense, roughly 10-year battle between families who refused to sell their homes to the city even after being threatened with eminent domain.
“I have spent this year listening to the residents of Peoplestown, working directly with the families most affected and charting a course that will allow us to move forward in a way that is consistent with our values and fulfills our obligation to mitigate the challenges that have plagued Peoplestown,” Dickens said in a city news release.
“I thank all the families for their willingness to engage with me and be passionate advocates for the city we all love,” he said. “I know these families wanted to stay in their homes, and I am grateful for the sacrifice they are making for the community as a whole and our city.”
The board authorized a $1.975 million settlement for Tanya M. Washington; a $1.9 million settlement to Robert L. Darden; and a $1.473 million settlement to the family of Mattie Jackson. The total is just over $5.3 million.
The Department of Catchment Management will soon launch the tender process to find a company to construct an underground stormwater vault covered by a garden and water retention pond. The project will alleviate chronic flooding and sewer problems. Construction is expected to start in 2023.
The project will be housed in the block bounded by Atlanta Avenue and Connally, Ormond and Greenfield streets. The city had previously acquired all other properties in the block through an earlier deal brokered by Dickens in June.
“For nearly 10 years, I and my neighbors harbored a desire to stay in my home on Atlanta Avenue and in my beloved community of Peoplestown,” resident Tanya Washington said in the statement.
“It is clear that the city will move forward with its plans and that makes it reasonable to find a satisfactory solution,” she said. “My disappointment is mitigated by the respect and integrity Mayor Dickens has shown in the way he has dealt with us and this issue he inherited. We hope our fight will inspire other communities to stand up for themselves and to inspire the responsible exercise of authority by those in power,” Washington said.
“I am at peace with this outcome and grateful to Mayor Dickens for his role in bringing about a mutually respectful outcome,” she said.
Mattie Jackson was a longtime Peoplestown resident and civic leader who advised mayors and represented Atlanta by carrying the torch that symbolized the 1996 Olympics. The city council honored him when he died in 2020.
“The struggle to stay in our home for all these years, a home she loved and cherished, has been devastating to the family,” her family said in the statement.
“Today that chapter is closed. The family of Mattie Jackson commends Mayor Dickens for bringing this matter to a close. As a candidate, he promised to do so and he kept his word,” said the “We hope the city finds an appropriate way to honor our matriarch, Mattie Jackson, in the public space that will be provided on the land where she lived, raised her family, and so ably served the city of Atlanta. It would be a fitting final chapter for his legacy.
The Darden family acknowledged the difficulties they faced trying to stay in their longtime home.
“Like all the other families party to this settlement, we love our home in Peoplestown where we have so many memories accumulated over so many years,” the Darden family said in the statement.
“The threat of being uprooted has been a great ordeal and has taken its toll over the years. We are proud to have stood with our neighbors as we waited for our cries to be heard and justice served,” the family said. “It is a blessing that this fight is being brought to fruition, and for that Mayor Dickens is to be commended. He said he would and he did.
The parties to this agreement recognize the key role that Deborah Scott, CEO of Georgia STAND-UP, played in facilitating and mediating this agreement, according to the statement.
The project will mitigate sewer overflows from the combined sewer system and stormwater flooding that threatened the public health and safety of residents in the Peoplestown neighborhood.
The project is also the backbone of sewer infrastructure improvements for broader southeast Atlanta neighborhoods in the Custer Avenue sub-basin of the larger Intrenchment Creek basin. The project is an essential part of the city’s obligations under two federal consent decrees signed in 1998 and 1999 to upgrade sewer infrastructure and improve water quality.