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County awaits judges ruling
Aims to halt work at Bethel Park
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Forsyth County News
The next legal decision in the fight over Bethel Park is expected this week.

Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard said he expects a ruling soon on the county’s motion to stop development of the 62-acre site.

“The county was happy to go ahead and have at least a first day in court, but this is going to be a long process,” Jarrard said. “This is just the first battle.”

That first battle unfolded during a hearing Friday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.

Court documents show that on Sept. 22 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers executed a lease with the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta for the property in northeastern Forsyth.

The county was notified of the lease on Sept. 23.

Also Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard W. Story granted the YMCA’s motion to intervene and allowed the organization to join the corps’ defense.

According to that motion, the YMCA’s plans include a summer camp and parking lot on two of the park’s three peninsulas.

The camp, the document shows, will serve inner city and “other camping youths.”

The YMCA has worked since 2003 to develop the park.

The corps expected in 2006 to lease the site to the organization, but residents complained and the county also sought to lease the property, submitting its plans in 2007.

On Nov. 9, the county filed a renewed motion to stop the YMCA from building at Bethel Park, after construction of a sign began at the site.

A permit for the sign was approved by the county planning and development department, though no one notified Jarrard or other officials at the time.

The original injunction against the corps, filed in June 2008, was ultimately dismissed because of negotiations between the county and the corps.

The renewed motion shows those discussions lasted until Oct. 9.

The county sought legal action in 2008, after the corps announced its plans to lease the site to the YMCA.

Jarrard said Monday the county didn’t expect the YMCA to move forward with any development until the case had been litigated.

Corps spokesman Patrick Robbins has said the government’s decision to enter an agreement with the YMCA was based on proposals submitted by both the organization and the county.

By its own regulations, the county has argued, the corps should have given right to first refusal to the local government before leasing it to another county.

Dan Pile, YMCA senior vice president, said Tuesday that the organization is continuing with the design and development process.

“There’s no immediate construction that will take part because we’re still in the design stage,” he said. “At the point that we finish those drawings we’ll be submitting them to the proper departments at the county administration building.

“So we’re continuing to do our due diligence in planning and to complete the sign as soon as we get all our schedules coordinated with the construction company.”

Pile said he does not foresee any problems with getting the plans passed and the organization intends to follow county rules and regulations.

“We are under no obligation to cease any activity until the judge says so,” he said. “Obviously, there’s no emergency at hand or he would’ve said stop.”

He praised county staff and department heads for being cooperative and helpful.

Pile has previously said plans include a youth camp and family retreat center and that children would stay for a week at a time.

He also said facilities would be available for families and community meetings throughout the year.

Citing the county’s financial woes, he said it doesn’t make sense for the local government to fight the corps in court.

In its motion to intervene, the YMCA also argued that the county commission, in consultation with the Cumming-Forsyth Chamber of Commerce, turned down repeated chances from 2000 to 2004 to lease the park.