DeKalb Still Considering Movie Studio Land Swap For Park Property
DeKalb County continues to consider a proposal to swap some of its park’s land with a movie studio. It’s an idea that got pitched a couple of years ago, and some who live near the properties are excited about it. But it’s run into opposition too.
Under the proposal, Blackhall Studios would give the county about 55 acres of its property. In exchange, DeKalb would give the studio about 40 acres of Intrenchment Creek Park. Ryan Millsap, the CEO of Blackhall Studios, didn’t come up with the land swap himself but he pitched it to the county.
Blackhall is offering to build out parts of the park, such as a new trailhead, restrooms, new parking and security lights. And it’s offering other benefits, like internships for students and a media program at McNair High School. The studio also says its expansion will create jobs, though it’s unclear if the jobs and expansion are contingent on the land swap happening, or if the jobs would necessarily go to residents.
“The current park offers us no pedestrian access, whereas the new park will offer this access, along with better lighting, increased security, better amenities for our community,” Alison Clark, who lives near the properties, said at a virtual public hearing on Thursday.
Critics of the idea say the county could offer those things at the existing park, and say Blackhall could be offering job training now. They say they’re also concerned about the environmental impact of cutting the trees in the part of Intrenchment Creek Park that would be given to the studio and how that would affect stormwater runoff. Consultants for the county say the swap would protect more large trees.
A crowd of land swap opponents gathered at the park to protest the proposal at the same time as the county’s public meeting, joining via Zoom to express their concern.
Shannon Lee, with The Conservation Fund, said she’s worried about the precedent the swap would set.
“Now you’re going to have every developer at your door who owns floodplain in DeKalb County wanting to know what piece they can trade,” Lee said, with a group holding signs and cheering behind her.
The Trust for Public Land originally acquired the county park’s land with help from the Blank Foundation. George Dusenbury, the state director for the Trust For Public Land, said his group had asked the county for a set of requirements before they’ll sign off on the swap, but these have not yet been met.
The DeKalb County commissioners who joined the virtual meeting said they were interested in hearing from the public. They withheld their own opinions on the proposal, except for Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, who said she is excited about the plan and ready to go.