Botanical Garden won't release parking deck documents

Over the past two months, Friends of Piedmont Park, the nonprofit that's leading the opposition to a six-story, 800-space parking deck in Piedmont Park, has attempted to use the state Open Records Act to wrench records from the city of Atlanta, the Piedmont Park Conservancy and the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

The city complied with the request. So did the Conservancy, handing over all of its plans for the park (after claiming it is a private agency that isn't subject to the Open Records Act).

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is also claiming exemption from the act. The claim mirrors a conflict that took place last month, when the state attorney general's office stepped in to inform the Piedmont Park Conservancy that it couldn't hold any more of its board meetings in private, because the closed meetings violate the state Open Meetings Act. The attorney general's office ruled that the Conservancy, despite being a private agency, is subject to the act because it oversees public land.

Ever since the Conservancy announced last May that the park's Botanical Garden wants to finance and build the parking deck, critics wondered why the garden wouldn't build the deck on its own property, which is leased from the city. Garden officials claimed the deck couldn't be built there because the garden sits atop a large mound of granite. The public parkland where the deck is planned is 50 yards from the garden.

Doug Abramson, vice president of Friends of Piedmont Park, is seeking verification of the alleged underground granite. Citing the Open Records Act, he requested a copy of the garden's geological survey. The garden's attorney, in a letter dated Jan. 7, informed Abramson he wouldn't provide the documentation because the garden is "not subject to ... the statutes." Ben Bradley, director of operations at the Botanical Garden, didn't return phone calls by press time.

Abramson has hired attorney Michael Jablonski, who helped craft the state's open records and meeting laws, to press the garden for the survey.

"We're developing our game plan," Abramson says. "And we'll file our letter with the state AG."??

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