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UPDATED: Residents File Lawsuit Seeking Judicial Review of 280 Elizabeth St. Project

Several Inman Park residents say the Urban Design Commission was wrong to approve the $45 million mixed-use project.

Several Inman Park residents, who oppose a $45 million mixed-use development that would bring high-density construction to 280 Elizabeth St., are appealing a city board's decision to green light the project.

The plaintiffs in the case — Milner "Scott" Ball, Frank Schultz, Janet Grace and Marguerite Sweet — filed the appeal in Fulton County Superior Court Sept. 21.

They want the judge to review the process by which the developer was granted several variances and if it meets the requirements of the Inman Park Hisrtoric Overlay District Ordinance.

The named defendants are the city of Atlanta, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission and JPX Works LLC, one of the developers behind the project.

Both the city, on behalf of the AUDC and JPX Works, in their answers filed with the court in response to the appeal, have asked for it to be dissmissed, for the plaintiffs to pay the defendants' legal fees and for the court to impose whatever damages it deems appropriate.

The plaintiffs' core charge in their appeal is that the AUDC acted outside the scope of its authority in granting the three variances the developers sought for the project at its August meeting.

Granting the variances and approving the consolidation of lots for the project is in violation of two city codes, the plaintiffs charge, and undermines the safeguards that come with the area falling in Inman Park's Historic District Overlay, which govern what types of development can be constructed and how.

"By approving JPX Works' application for a certificate of appropriateness for three variances, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission acted beyond the scope of its discretionary powers, abused its discretion, and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner," the plaintiffs — who are representing themselves — wrote in their complaint.

"As aggrieved homeowners residing in the Inman Park Historic District, the appellants have the right to seek judicial review of the Atlanta Urban Design Commission’s approval of a certificate of appropriateness for variances in the Inman Park Historic District."

The project calls for building 204 rental units, a swimming pool, between 38,000 and 39,000 square feet of retail, and a 570-space parking deck.

The subject property is a 3.4-acre lot that fronts Elizabeth Street, is bounded by North Highland and Lake avenues to the north and south, respectively, and the Inman Park Village project to the west.

(South City Partners, the other group behind the project with JPX Works is not named in the lawsuit because it was not a signer on the certificate of appropriateness application.)

In a statement to the Inman Park community issued Oct. 19, Ball wrote the appeal are not out of ill-will toward the developers or the residents who worked with them to come up with a final site plan and design that the Inman Park Neighborhood Association ultimately voted to support at its July meeting.

"The appeals have been filed without animosity towards either JPX Works LLC or the neighbors who have participated in the design process," Ball wrote in the letter to Inman Park residents.

The appeals are being made from a desire to be "cautious" with the Inman Park Historic District Overlay Ordinance, he wrote.

"The critical thing is that the law is enforced," Ball told East Atlanta Patch later.

"If the judge determines that the required findings do not need to be made, then that is the law and there will be a legal opinion that those requirements are unnecessary for any applicant to meet," he said.

"The story here is not the proposed development. It is whether we want historic preservation or not. You can't turn on the law sometimes and turn it off [on] others."

JPX Works' attorney, Warren W. Wills Jr. told Patch Friday he expects to AUDC's approval will be upheld.

"The Atlanta Urban Design Commission heard all the relevant facts and its approval of this very carefully planned and positive development was supported by the vast majority of Inman Park residents," Wills said.

"JPX Works regrets that an appeal from the AUDC decision has been filed by one individual (naming a few others). It expects the Superior Court to affirm the Commission's decision."

Eric Richardson, deputy attorney for the city of Atlanta, expressed similar sentiments, and said the AUDC acted appropriately in its decision.

"We believe that they made the correct decision after hearing from all interested parties," Richardson told Patch.

A trial date has not yet been set before Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams, who will hear the case.

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