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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Corps Question Wieland About N. Fulton Wall In Stream

By JEREMY REDMON http://www.ajc.com/

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating whether prominent developer John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods violated the federal Clean Water Act by erecting a roughly 18-foot-high retaining wall in the middle of a stream in north Fulton County.

The corps sent Wieland a letter May 5 announcing the probe and asking for information about the developer's work on a 60-acre site near the intersection of Birmingham Highway and Crabapple Road. Wieland did not get a federal permit to erect the wall in a stream, the letter says.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is investigating whether Wieland violated state law, which requires buffers for streams.

The unnamed stream flows year-round and drains into Copper Sandy Creek, a tributary of the Little River, which empties into the Etowah River and Lake Allatoona, according to the Coosa River Basin Initiative.

Wieland officials say they erected the wall to prevent stream bank erosion and to protect water quality. Last week, water trickled down a stream a short distance from one side of the wall, while murky water pooled between what appeared to be natural stream banks on the other side.
Wieland officials say they relied on Fulton County when it marked the boundaries of the stream and then approved the wall's location in 2006, before the city of Milton broke off from the county and formed around the area. Fulton County spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt said the construction plans the county approved did not show a wall in any wetlands.

Chief Executive John Wieland said his company is applying to the corps for the wall's approval. Wieland officials have voluntarily stopped work on the site, according to the corps, and are cooperating with the investigation and have hired an environmental consultant to answers the corps' questions. "We had a change in development management, and we prepared the request to the corps, but in the changeover it was never mailed," said Wieland, a renowned Atlanta businessman and philanthropist.

Called "Braeburn," Wieland's development is planned to include 45 houses, 49 townhouses and about 53,000 square feet of office space. Neighbors reported the wall to federal authorities, according to the corps.

State environmental officials and the city of Milton are pointing at each other over the matter.
State officials say they are looking to the city of Milton to take action. Bert Langley, manager of the EPD's Mountain District office, said Wieland could be required to take down the wall.
A top city official said Friday he was awaiting word from the state.

Joe Cook, executive director and riverkeeper for the Coosa River Basin Initiative, said his organization is prepared to take legal action, if state and federal authorities don't require Wieland to take down the wall. "They have basically used the stream as a dumping ground for their dirt," Cook said. "It has destroyed that portion of the stream above the wall, and it is creating increased storm water runoff below the wall and causing erosion of the stream on downstream property owners."

Wieland officials deny the wall has damaged any streams and insist they have reduced the rate of water flowing off their site onto neighboring properties.

Last week, Milton's Board of Zoning Appeals granted Wieland a variance to let another retaining wall on the site encroach into a required stream buffer. Wieland applied for the variance after the wall was built. City officials worried requiring Wieland to remove that wall would cause more damage to the stream compared to letting it stand.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a jerk...

Anonymous said...

who cares

Anonymous said...

Who cares?

Everybody in Milton should care.

The next time a developer whines to the media that Milton is anti-development, they should think about this.

This is a new chapter in a saga that started when Wieland came in in November of 2006, right between the end of Fulton and the start of Milton, when nobody was in charge, and clear cut 60 acres. He says the timing was just a coincidence.

Instead of putting retention ponds on the property, which would have taken land where he wanted to jam in more houses, he built cement tanks on the sides of huge hills he constructed at the edge of properties in Kensington Farms, decimating the property values of a number of Kensington Farms residents.

Part of the system is the wall that dams up an active stream.

Since the clear cutting and the construction of the tanks, runoff has been fouling a freshwater lake in the Six Hills subdivision.

Talk to any environmental authority, and you will find this is absolutely typical of John Wieland's actions throughout the state.

They knowingly break the law in the name of maximizing profits and hope nobody will notice. If somebody does notice, they say (a) we're very embarrassed about this (b) the people who have done it have been fired (c)if you just let us keep this in place, we'll make sure it never happens again. Then it does happen again -- and again, and again, and again. In the long run, all very cost effective.

They will also tell you that John Wieland will look you right in the eye and lie. Ask anyone involved in local committees that created the Crabapple overlay about the assurances he gave about density, traffic and green space. Ask how those committments were simply ignored.

Just look at his excuses about the wall: the county approved this (the county responds that there was no wall presented in any plans)and -- my personal favorite -- they filled out the paperwork for a permit, but we forgot to mail it. WHAT?????

As to his statement that they were just protecting the stream bed -- go to Wieland's Braeland property and walk behind the Baptist Church. Look down at his damn, and the filthy water backing up into the stream. Look at the trees that are being killed. Look at the mounds of rubble piled in the stream. And then call John Wieland and ask exactly how that is "protecting" the stream.

Talk to the EPD, Army Corps, Coosa River Basin, and they will tell you that a permit to block an active stream that backs up water into standing timber would never, ever be granted. John Wieland knew that.

We don't care how many millions John Wieland gives to museums and symphonies in Atlanta. that is philanthropy, not corporate citizenship. Citizenship is reasonable density, thought out traffic flows, a healthy environment, protection for neighbors. Look at Wieland's actions (not words) and ask yourself if he cares about any of that.

Fulton Country got it's revenge was to give John Wieland anything he wanted: density that was far above what was painstakingly planned for Crabapple; land distrurbance that allowed him to rape one of our most beautiful forests, a retention system that allowed him to pour his mud onto the private property of others. (Note to Dunwoody: watch your back.)

Were it not for determned and angry neighbors who fought this for almost two years, Wieland would have been allowed to quietly arrogantly, destructively have his way with Milton and our environment. We all owe them a debt of thanks.

Wieland will fight to keep his dam over our stream. Phone calls will be made, favors called in. We can't let him slide below the radar again. We have to watch this, and fight this, every step of the way. Fortunately, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Georgia Soil and Water Conservation Commission, and the Environmental Protection Division are all actively and publically involved. It will be much harder -- but not impossible -- to hide.

Contact Council. Contact the BZA. Contact Community Development. They are all easy to access on the Web site. Tell them this is place is called Milton, not Wielandville, and that you demand protection.

Who cares about turning one of our natural streams into a stagnant retention pit?

Anybody who has a vision for what this city can be and is determined to fight developers who are more than happy to destroy that vision to make a few extra dollars.

Anybody whose home borders a stream or a lake or a pond that the next developer might find it convenient to ruin.

Anonymous said...

That was brilliant. Thank you. I CARE!

Anonymous said...

If all this is true -- and it sounds like it is -- Milton should not give Wieland permission to build even a dog house here.

Anonymous said...

Milton's BZA favors developers, builders and politicians. That's the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to ruthless, Wieland rates right up there with the "SHERIFF".

Milton's BZA is nothing more than a JOKE.

Anonymous said...

The affected property owners should sue. The City of Milton should impose a fine to the amount it takes to reconstruct the natural flow of the stream.

Anonymous said...

It never fails to amaze me. This major story ran in the AJC. Yet, the Milton Herald, our local paper, ignored it.

If two council members have a disagreement, it's on the front page. But the develper who ruined Crabapple gets a perpetual pass.

Is the Herald so deep in the pockets of developers that it can ignore a developer illegally building a dam over our streams?

A newspaper is supposed to serve the community, not kiss the ass of its big advertisers.

Anonymous said...

What gets me is why our current BZA is even still in place...didn't they meet illegally when they decided to vote out their previous chairperson? Has anyone reported this to the State Attorney General's office? How can we let people like that make decisions about what a developer can and can't do? Are they really acting in the best interests of Milton?

Anonymous said...

Who would like to start the process of contacting the State? Where is the BHA these days? What happened to their active role in protecting Milton?

Anonymous said...

Picture of Wieland reminds me of a jacka$$ eating sawbriars>