The city’s preliminary design plan for Cauley Creek Park is overly developed and completely out-of-place where this parkland sits in the city.
In comparing Cauley Creek to another high activity sports park - North Park in Alpharetta - we found that up to 2000 cars were generated on a busy day of weekend sports activity. North Park has parking for only 659 cars. It also has two entry points, is only 97 acres and houses only 8 softball fields and 2 multi-purpose sports field plus 7 tennis courts.
The preliminary Cauley Creek plan covers 133 acres, has parking for up to 1200 cars, is much more dense with 13 plus fields and amenities, and has only one entry/exit point. As proposed Cauley Creek will likely generate 3000-4000 car trips on Bell Road during a busy weekend of high activity.
Traffic on Bell Road is already significant during afternoon and evening hours when school buses are out and people are trying to get home from work. The expected traffic from this park would create additional traffic congestion weeknights and on weekends. Do we really want thousands of more cars racing to their next game or practice on Bell Road, even on the weekend? Do we really want traffic jams 7 days a week on that tiny, two-lane road?
The 2016 traffic study completed for this parkland, recommends additional studies be done to determine the feasibility of Bell Road for tournament traffic. The current sports complex plans for Cauley Creek are designed to host tournaments in soccer or lacrosse, which would generate significant additional traffic. The entrance/exit would either require adding east-west turning lanes or converting it into a roundabout. Added improvements will be necessary and are NOT included in the current $16 million estimated build-out cost.
Based on a 2009 traffic study done for a similar project at the now Chattahoochee National Preserve site (adjacent to Cauley Creek) the city rejected the project because it would generate too much traffic on Bell Road. How is it possible that the new city council (with exception of Mayor Bodker) now finds a bigger park with more fields and parking is acceptable despite the fact that it would generate significantly more traffic?
The Comprehensive Plan states that Bell Road is to remain a two-lane road and that the Shakerag Character area is to be maintained as a pastoral, rural residential area. This intensive sports complex/tournament facility design does not match the Comprehensive Plan description of what is appropriate development in this character area.
Redirecting the 16 Million estimated for the Cauley Creek build out toward the purchase of the old Dean Gardens property will provide a park for an area of the city that currently has zero parks and will preserve a riverfront parcel of land for the city! Likewise, it will allow more time to research a more appropriate development of Cauley Creek park while helping to provide the best parks availability and services for ALL Johns Creek citizens. Since several acres of the Dean Gardens property can be put into conservation covenants, providing the city significant tax benefits, this purchase is a fiscally responsible move that keeps the preservation of one of our natural assets, riverfront property, under the protection of our city government.
While some city representatives continued to suggest that this facility will generate revenue, I have found no evidence to support that argument. This facility will cost a great deal to operate and maintain. For example, it costs Alpharetta $78,000 annually just to operate and maintain the somewhat smaller North Park. Operating and maintaining Cauley Creek as proposed will cost taxpayers significantly for the foreseeable future. And honestly why are we trying to develop our parks as money makers? Parks are supposed to be for the enjoyment of the taxpayers who fund them, not for bringing in people who live outside the city to use our roadways and facilities in trade for the slight tax earned on a hotel stay and a meal or two. It is not the job of city government to generate guests for hotels and restaurants. That's the job of those businesses to attract patrons.
What about the environmental impact of this intensive development? There are rare birds living there whose ecosystem will be significantly disturbed. These species include the Henslow sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, Sedge Wren, and Lincoln Sparrow, along with protected woodpeckers and owls. What about runoff into the Chattahoochee?
This development will also have unintended side effects on residents, such as light pollution, crowd noise, late night games, etc. We've seen several instances in Johns Creek where residents were impacted by decisions made, and our politician's answers were never better than "well, we never thought about THAT happening!" Those factors will also affect property values for those citizens who own property nearby.
Some development of Cauley Creek for sports use is reasonable. The current plan for a large sports complex is unreasonable and needs to be re-designed with the city’s own Comprehensive Land Use Plan, and the protection of its own citizens in mind.