Applause rang out as the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved a site at DeKalb Peachtree Airport June 25 as the location to build the county’s new animal shelter.
The seats were filled and walls lined with attendees wearing red and green T-shirts; mostly members of Advocates for DeKalb Animals (red) and the Friends of Johns Homestead Park (green).
“Well, it’s not over until a new shelter is built but at least we’ll be able to sleep tonight,” said Sonali Saindane, chair of the DeKalb Animal Services Advisory Board.
The $2.75 million facility will be built using bond proceeds.
DeKalb Peachtree Airport (PDK), located in Chamblee, is owned and operated by the county under federal guidance and is funded through the revenue it brings in. The county would have to pay the Federal Department of Aviation for the site over a period of several years.
Saindane was a member of the 2011 committee appointed by CEO Burrell Ellis to survey locations for the new facility and recommend a site to commissioners. It proposed a list of 12 locations, selected from more than 80 potential sites.
In February 2012, the committee completed its study and recommended the PDK site as its first choice. However, commissioners were concerned with its location and created a task force to review the sites selected.
After reviewing the sites, the task force presented three final locations to commissioners. One of those sites was the PDK site and the other two, a used car lot and the Johns Homestead (JH) Park property, are located off Lawrenceville Highway.
In 2004, commissioners purchased the JH location with park bonds money. Although the site at JH would have been approximately $1 million cheaper, only Commissioner Elaine Boyer favored it.
“It would be a destination park that we don’t have in this area and I think it’s a win-win for all the constituents,” Boyer said. Boyer also suggested building walking trails and a dog park at the site.
However, many residents and advocates disagreed and stated that the 46-acre parcel of land is one of DeKalb County’s remaining historic green spaces. Built in the early 1800s, the Johns Homestead area was a working farm until the 1980s.
Resident Gretchen Gibbs said Boyer’s idea for the JH was nothing more than a “dream.” She said the PDK site is the one that “is supported by thousands of DeKalb’s residents.”
“There are huge legal issues with parks bonds that could be tied up in court for many years,” Gibbs said. “Being there will probably end up with a lawsuit.”
Wardell Castles, a member of Advocates for DeKalb Animals, said the group is happy with the board of commissioners’ vote.
“We look forward to seeing the timeline for a new shelter at PDK and working with the County to track the progress against the timeline,” Castles said.
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