Public Works Holds Meeting to Demonstrate Their Disconnect. Johns Creek City Council hosted a Public Information Open House for McGinnis Ferry and Jones Bridge roads projects on Wednesday, March 8th starting at 6:00 PM. To say that the packed house left the session disappointed would be a gross understatement.
In preparation for the meeting, Public Works and City Management staff set up graphic representations of the affected roads and surrounding neighborhoods. Tables were set up with the intent of hosting stations to address specific questions. That intent, however, did not come to pass.
The meeting was called to order and facilitated by Public Works Director Tom Black, and Assistant City Manager Justin Kirouac. Attendees quickly became frustrated by several conflicting statements, and a nerve was touched when the crowd was told (more than once), “You voted for this.” It was at this point that the anger of the crowd ignited, and control of the meeting by Black and Kirouac was lost.
City Council members Stephanie Endres and Lenny Zaprowski stepped forward to help address some of the questions being posed. Councilwoman Cori Davenport was also in attendance, as was City Council candidate Chris Coughlin. Conspicuous by their absence were Mayor Mike Bodker, Councilman Steve Broadbent, and Councilman Jay Lin.
Several meeting attendees expressed their anger, stating that they had been encouraged to vote Yes on the T-SPLOST referendum this past November after being advised by Public Works staff that the widening of McGinnis Ferry Road was a “done deal”, and that the only way to minimize the impact was to support the T-SPLOST referendum. Then during the meeting on March 8th, they were told that final decisions on the McGinnis Ferry Road and Jones Bridge Road projects were within the power of Johns Creek to decide, and would be pursued since the public had “voted” to approve them. Conflicting information was provided throughout the meeting with regard to just how much control Johns Creek will actually have on these projects, further frustrating attendees.
Another point of concern is the degree to which Forsyth County is controlling the design of the McGinnis Ferry Road project. This project is being pursued based upon a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Forsyth County and Johns Creek, but delegates much of the design and decision-making to Forsyth County. Johns Creek residents expressed their concerns that they perceive that their interests are not being adequately represented by our City Council and Public Works department. Several residents are set to lose most of their private property, and over half of the value of their property if the project goes through as planned. While there will be a direct impact on those property owners who will have at least a portion of their property taken by this project, there will also be an impact to the value of all property owners, to the extent of their proximity to increased road noise and other associated impacts that will negatively affect quality of life issues.
The Jones Bridge Road project was described as entirely within the control of Johns Creek. Several residents commented that Jones Bridge Road doesn’t experience the congestion that would warrant a widening project and that it seemed the project was being pursued as an adjunct to the McGinnis Ferry Road project.
Similar to a prior meeting to discuss the proposed widening of Medlock Bridge/141, residents expressed their concerns that our city seems intent on increasing road capacity due to traffic that originates outside of Johns Creek, and that the spending of our local tax dollars to accommodate that traffic comes at the expense of the quality of life in Johns Creek, and will result in a radical altering of the residential character of the community.
The two recent meetings to discuss road projects in our city demonstrate that our City Council and Public Works department have a significant disconnect between their proposed plans and the desires of the residents of Johns Creek. I applaud the City Council members who attended the meeting to listen to their constituents. It’s clear that the residents of Johns Creek expect the balance of our elected officials to make themselves accountable to the people who elected them and to stop drawing false correlations between the desire to address traffic congestion, and what appears to be a wholesale effort to pave our way to some mythical traffic nirvana. If we continue to pursue that path, we’ll be left with a massive concrete parking lot surrounded by residential For Sale signs.
I am among the majority that voted for TSPLOST based on the Tier 1 and 2 lists. What happens to the revenue if 141 isn't widened and MGF or Jones Bridge isn't widened ? Starting next month we will be paying .75% extra sales tax to fund these projects. If these projects are not going to happen due to the neighborhoods bordering the roads objecting, where will the revenue allocated to these projects be diverted to? Would they flow to Tier 2 instead of these Tier 1 projects?
The money will sit in the appropriate account until the City is ready to spend it.
The projects must be "substantially completed" within the 5-year TSPLOST time period or tax revenue will be redirected to other jurisdictions. Johns Creek can not just "sit" on these funds...
When it was first approved to be on the ballot, it was stated all projects must be completed within 5 years. Then it morphed to substantially completed within 5 years. And finally, it was the projects had to be started. During the Mayor's town hall in October 2016, the Mayor stated his personal opinion it would be 7-12 years for these projects to be completed.
Review the video of the comments - go to 28:00 - 28:35 minute mark.
The City has had the projects posted since the vote. At the meeting where the project list was approved, Council members voiced considerable concern that the list could not be publicly vetted due to the time constraints the pending legislation placed on the process, and the penalty of taxation without a return if they didn't approve something immediately. There are tier 2 and 3 projects to be considered, and a process for reprogramming to be explored. I hope that the Council follows up on the concern they rightly voiced when they voted on the list. A good step would be revisiting the methods instituted when the city was founded. Engineers would more actively consult with and engage residents at HOA meetings, meet with business owners, local schools (not the transportation folks downtown) as well as monitor data, and come up with innovative solutions. There was a great connection there. The staff knocked themselves out and the community for the most part knew them and respected their talents ---and we got some amazing improvements. Folks will never get exactly what they want, but they can be part of the process and the solution. The City has an amazing and innovative staff that will come up with an array of engineering solutions if they are allowed to go out into the community, as they used to, and hear from the folks impacted. Council can't be upset that people don't watch the meetings or attend. Residents engage when you approach them directly about a project in their back yard. Imagine how dysfunctional a place this would be if we all didn't have better things to do than watch government TV!
Patty, I concur. The only thing I'd clarify about the projects being posted since the vote was a lack of detail around the projects. I think all the McGinnis Ferry folks knew, for the most part, about the widening. What they did not know is the actual width of the widening renderings that came out after the vote and that's why nearly everyone was caught off guard at the Jan 10th open house that Forsyth hosted - http://www.forsythco.com/News/PostId/333/open-house-regarding-the-widening-of-mcginnis-ferry-road-in-south-forsyth-county-to-be-held-january-10. The 13 foot mixed use path and 20 ft median add so much additional space that just can't fit there without taking the land from hundreds of homes and I think that's just as much the issue as the communication. I'll start hitting doors with city staff for all projects henceforth so we can inform our populace.
Obviously, there is a reason for the 20ft median.
Could it be for future MARTA expansion to the 'District'?
Who knows. I think Marta is way too far in the distant from even possibly coming to MGF. First they have to push up GA 400 along the super artery. Even that is a long shot with the opposition. They are currently focusing on Emory / CDC possible light rail and within Atlanta city limits and Clayton County.
The 20 foot median is wide enough to add a third lane in each direction in the future if needed. Maybe they can shrink the median and cause less impact on the property needed to be taken from homeowners impacted.