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Tyler Perry's deal to buy Fort McPherson faces more controversy

Aug. 22, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Tyler Perry
A state senator has slammed Tyler Perry's plans to buy a portion of Fort McPherson, Georgia, to be used as a studio. (Heidi Gutman/AP)
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A Georgia state senator wants the Army’s top civilian to “carefully consider the ramifications” of selling part of the shuttered Fort McPherson to movie mogul Tyler Perry in a process he calls “a terrible act of injustice.”

Sen. Vincent Fort, a Democrat whose district includes the land, said the deal ignores years of work by community members to build a master, mixed-use plan for the nearly 500-acre site. In an Aug. 7 letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, the senator says the proposed sale is “an abandonment of the approved ... plan and is a betrayal of the citizens of East Point and Atlanta.”

The deal, announced in an Aug. 8 news release by the city of Atlanta and approved by members of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority board, would sell Tyler Perry Studios 330 acres of land for $30 million. More than 144 acres would be retained by the redevelopment authority, according to the release.

Perry’s studio plan also faces a legal challenge from Ubiquitous Entertainment Studios, which sued Perry last month, arguing it had proposed building a studio to the head of the authority in 2011, only to have Perry unfairly persuade the board to sell to him instead.

The Army is named as a defendant in the suit, and Fort mentions it in his letter to McHugh, although he said he has no dog in that particular fight.

“I’m not advocating for one [studio] or the other,” Fort said in a Friday interview. “There was a master plan in process that went on for several years. The community was engaged in that process ... sometimes weekly, sometimes multiple times per week. Any process should go through the usual steps. It should not be a shortcut.”

Larry Dingle, a lawyer at Atlanta's Wilson, Brock & Irby, which represents Perry, said Thursday he could not comment on the matter and forwarded requests for comment to Perry’s publicist, who did not return them by Friday.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in June that the years of planning efforts did not lead to any bidders other than Perry.

“We’ve now been at this seven years, so for all of the planning that folks have discussed, no one has ever come up to Fort McPherson for anything,” Reed said in June. “None of that has happened and no one has ever put up a dime.”

A target of the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission, Fort McPherson officially shut down in 2011. A redevelopment official told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that plans call for the final deal, which much be approved by the Army, to be signed by Oct. 15.

Fort questioned the need for a deadline.

“This process needs to be slowed down,” he said. “We need to make sure the property is conveyed in an open and transparent process.

“People are saying, trust — Tyler Perry is a good guy, and we can hold him accountable after the fact. And that’s not how it’s supposed to work. Legally, that’s not how it works. ... The community is very frustrated.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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