At the Fulton County commissioners’ meeting Wednesday, Commissioner William “Bill” Edwards blasted what he said were developers who took advantage of the system to avoid responsibility for erosion and pollution.
He said he visited construction sites in Fairburn operated by Conyers-based Crown Communities, also referred to as Crown Builders, and downtown Atlanta-based Cousins Properties.
“What I saw was a travesty,” he said. “Not only are you violating codes in some places but you are causing the destruction of homes of people who have been there two, three years. I saw detention walls giving way, mud in people’s backyards. I saw silt in lakes that were not protected. I looked at a lake that looked like chocolate milk.”
Edwards asked Chief Erosion Control Inspector Charles Thomas to verify a report of “almost physical altercation” with a developer.
“Yes,” Thomas said. “I’ve had one incident where we had to call the police out.”
Stop-work orders were either ignored or countermanded, for which Edwards blamed the county itself.
“What I’m hearing is these developers will call in, speak to somebody and get it overrode. That should not be a part of our policy,” he said. “When you override Charles, and he is one of the best inspectors we got, you better have a doggone good reason for doing it. If you’re going to override an inspector, put it in writing and let it be reviewed.”
Vice Chair Emma Darnell agreed.
“It does no good to have policies and rules if no one is enforcing them,” she said.
Edwards asked County Attorney David Ware to bring to the March 19 meeting a definition of “applicant,” which Edwards said now allows builders and developers to evade code enforcement citations by transferring legal ownership.
“They’re hiding behind these LLCs,” Edwards said about limited liability corporations. “They go from one LLC to another LLC and we find there is a connection between each and every one of them.”
Edwards also said, especially with residential real estate construction rebounding, the county should put more teeth into its building permit process up front.
“Just because you come to get a permit don’t mean you’re going to get one,” he said. “Development is coming back, but if we do the same old thing the same old way you’re going to have people coming back [to complain].”
Several complainants addressed the board, including Kevin Leonard regarding the Crown buildout at Hampton Oaks and Regina Mincey regarding the Cousins project in the Lakes of Cedar Grove.
“We have things such as nails, rocks, cement, construction materials in our roadways,” Leonard said. “When it rains, these materials flow like river down our streets toward our lakes and our drainage system.”
Mincey decried “substandard” and “shoddy” workmanship and “disrespectful” treatment, as well as county indifference.
“They’re polluting our lakes. They’re getting away with it. They’re being allowed to continue because they’re the big guys with money,” she said. “We need to be treated fairly in south Fulton. The entities that allow them to disobey the laws need to be investigated.”