Proposed Shopping Mall Threatens Coosa River Basin

Building in inappropriate locations continues to be one of the greatest hazards to Georgia’s natural resources. In Cherokee County yet another shopping mall—this one to be called Canton Marketplace—has been proposed by Sembler Atlanta, Inc. Sembler has selected a site on a 118-acre parcel with steep terrain, forested wetlands, and three perennial streams in the Upper Coosa River Basin. GreenLaw has filed two lawsuits on behalf of the Coosa River Basin Initiative challenging the permits for the 700,000 square-foot regional retail center.

Proposed Impact
In order to build the proposed mall, Sembler plans to fill in the wetlands, place the three spring-fed perennial tributaries to Canton Creek into artificial pipes, and then bury the piped streams under truckloads of fill material. If allowed to proceed, Sembler will permanently impact over six acres of stream buffer, half an acre of wetlands, and 5,350 linear feet of intermittent and perennial streams that feed into the Etowah River in the Upper Coosa River Basin.

Legal Action
Sembler has obtained a Clean Water Act Section 404 permit to fill in the wetlands and bury the streams on the site, as well as a buffer variance that will allow it to destroy 6.14 acres of buffers on the site.  The Section 404 challenge was filed in federal court against the United States Army Corps of Engineers. In response to the lawsuit, the Army Corps withdrew the permit for further consideration. While the federal government recognized the need to reevaluate the impacts of this monumental project, a state administrative law judge ruled to allow the destruction of the buffer to occur. GreenLaw challenged that decision in Fulton County Superior Court.

Staff attorney Jennifer Pennington, our leader on water issues, commented, “We are optimistic about the outcome of this case. The law does not allow developers to destroy stream buffers without protecting our resources.” A ruling by the Superior Court is expected in the next few months.