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DeKalb Commission Kills GM Plant Development Deal | Business

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DeKalb Commission Kills GM Plant Development Deal
Business

DEKALB COUNTY, GA -- One of Metro Atlanta's largest economic ghost towns will probably remain a ghost town for the foreseeable future.

The 165-acre General Motors auto plant site that sits off Interstate 285 on Atlanta's north side has sat vacant for two years.

After seven months of intense negotiations among Florida developers, GM, the UAW and various local governments, a joint public-private partnership to turn the industrial wasteland into a new Doraville town center fell apart Tuesday.

DeKalb County Commissioners killed the $60 million mixed-use retail, office and residential deal by a five-to-two vote.

"You are doing all of us a disservice," community activist Viola Davis told the board during a public hearing on the proposal.

She and others accused DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, Doraville city leaders and the developers of putting together the deal largely behind closed doors.

Several DeKalb Commissioners also echoed the worry that the deal was too risky for taxpayers who would have to shoulder more than half the cost by repaying $35 million in federal stimulus bonds, plus interest, over the next 30 years.

One commissioner suggested that another developer is bound to come along and snap up the attractive property, with its close connections to I-285 and a MARTA rail and bus line.

"If it's attractive for future development, there will be a developer that will develop this piece of property on its own," said Commissioner Lee May.

Only two of the seven commission members spoke in favor of the project, which promised 9,000 construction jobs right away and maybe 6,500 permanent jobs once it's completed in a few years.

"The first thing we have to see is new jobs," argued Commissioner Katie Gannon. "That is the biggest, biggest thing to stimulate this economy and we're saying, 'No, not in DeKalb County'."

After the five-to-two defeat, the developers and DeKalb CEO Ellis expressed disappointment over what they called an opportunity that may not knock again.

"I think it's a shame because there really was a great opportunity to create immediate term jobs, like literally in 30 to 60 days," said David Pace, President of New Broad Street Properties.

"It was a real opportunity lost," said county CEO Ellis.

"At the same time, we're going to continue to move forward; we're not going to give up hope; we've got to work to get our people back to working," he added.

But no one will be working at one of Metro Atlanta's biggest ghost towns, not for some time to come anyway.

Business