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Underwood Hills residents worry about plans to build apartment complex on land with Civil War ties

The concern comes over 14 acres of lush, undeveloped forest

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Residents of the Underwood Hills in northwest Atlanta are irate over a developer's plan to build apartments over 14 acres of lush, undeveloped forest, which some residents say may have a rich historical context that dates back to the Civil War.

The concern involves a developer's plans for a 236-unit apartment complex off of Defoor Avenue near Howell Mill Road on property the residents claim is linked to the Battle of Peachtree Creek. According to 11 Alive, Confederate army general Samuel French may have camped there leading up to the Battle of Atlanta.

"There was a Civil War encampment on the property," Wyatt Gordon, president of the Underwood Hills Neighborhood Association, tells CL. "The Atlanta History Center may be involved in recovering artifacts. Things are moving quickly."

Albert Ashkouti, who owns First Guaranty Real Estate Development, was surprised to hear of the news after previously meeting with the UHNA "three or four" times. "I don't know what else I could do," Ashkouti told us, adding that he was "blindsided" to hear about the property's Civil War ties.

Gordon says that First Guaranty had successfully rezoned the property several years ago to build single-family homes. With the housing market's downtown in recent years, the developer decided to change the zoning back in order to construct an apartment complex. With the recent news coming to light, the neighborhood association wants to make sure that the zoning change isn't hastily pursued.

But Ashkouti questions, given the timing and discovery of the historical property, if the neighborhood's concerns are valid. He was surprised that the UHNA didn't approach him about the issue first.

"I don't know what else I could do," he says. "I thought we had a pretty good relationship until the news hit WXIA and the Atlanta Business Chronicle."

Moving forward, Gordon says that the ideal outcome would be to preserve the land until more is known about its historical value. With that in mind, the UHNA hopes the that the complex, if built, doesn't look "repulsive" and has a "look and feel that will last for a while."

The neighborhood association, he adds, is ultimately open to negotiations, but wants the developer to fund a traffic study and take other necessary steps. The UHNA plans to discuss the issue further at its March meeting. Depending on the its outcome, the association and Neighborhood Planning Unit D, which encompasses the area, could offer a recommendation to the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment about the proposal.

Ashkouti intends to apply to the city's BZA sometime next month and hopes to break ground on the development sometime this year.