Most members of the board of the Buckhead Community Improvement District got their first look Tuesday at proposed changes to the intersection of Peachtree and Roswell roads in the Village area of Buckhead and decided there was too little data and too many questions to present the plans to the public at a meeting that had been planned for May 17.
The consensus of the board members was that they have not had the opportunity to review the traffic study data that had been used to prepare the proposals presented to them at their April meeting Tuesday, much less any data from a second consulting firm the BCID hired at its March meeting.
Hunter Richardson, OliverMcMillan’s project manager on Buckhead Atlanta, was the first to object to the May 17 date for a public meeting, saying he thought it was “putting the cart before the horse…pretty pictures without the data” and there remained too many questions about the impact of the various proposals.
Board vice chair John Lundeen, principal of Coro Realty Advisors, said he thought the BCID was “opening up a Pandora’s box” by holding the meeting before the BCID had all of the traffic data in hand, had time to review it all, and could determine as a body if the proposals were ready to be presented to the public.
Richardson told the board, “We are within a month or two of having the data in hand from two sources.” He suggested the public meeting could easily wait until all of that data was in hand and had been fully vetted.
|Area of the Buckhead Village Transportation Study proposals|
Notice of the meeting had been sent out by the BCID staff earlier in the week with and had been published briefly by BuckheadView, as well emails of the meeting notice having been sent out by community leaders to their constituents.
BCID board chairman David Allman said the May 17 meeting could be cancelled and rescheduled at a later date—two or months in the future.
The BCID sent out the following official statement regarding cancellation of the meeting today to explain the board’s cancellation of the public meeting:
“The Buckhead Community Improvement District’s May 17 meeting to obtain public input on Buckhead Village Transportation Study proposals has been postponed until later in the year. BCID recently hired Parsons Brinckerhoff, one of the world's leading planning, engineering, and program and construction management organizations, which will run additional modeling on the proposed transportation concepts. This will ultimately provide a clearer picture of traffic implications. BCID looks forward to completing this additional analysis and presenting it to the public for feedback in the coming months.”
BCID project manager Brian McHugh pointed out that the data used by Kimerly Horn to produce the proposed changes to the five-way intersection and the triangle Charlie Loudermilk Park was presently available and could be sent to the board members for review.
However, Allman and other board members pointed out that Parsons Brinckerhoff had just been hired to do an analysis of the traffic patterns in that area of Buckhead, as well as other areas, and that information might suggest major changes in the proposals introduced on Tuesday.
In fact, the financial aspects of the Parsons Brinckerhoff contract were just approved at Tuesday’s meeting. It was said that the firm could complete its initial analysis of the area in a month.
In addition to the analysis of traffic data related to the Phase I proposal, it was also pointed out that the BCID also approved Tuesday $5,000 for Plexis R&D, an architectural/engineering firm, to study the impact on the commercial properties on the northwest corner of the intersection of Peachtree, Roswell and West Paces Ferry roads.
The proposed plan would essentially move back from the road the facade of the two-story retail and commercial building owned by George Rohrig, in order to create a better right turn onto West Paces Ferry from southbound Roswell Road and to straighten the shift of alignment of lanes of Peachtree Road with Roswell Road at that intersection.
Lundeen said he would not support at this time even Phase I of the proposed projects—primarily a streetscape proposal and adding a median and bike lanes to Peachtree Road—in preparation for Buckhead Atlanta because it would reduce Peachtree Road by one lane of traffic.
McHugh pointed out that the Phase I proposal, which begin almost immediately upon approval, would reduce Peachtree Road by one lane from Bolling Way/Sardis Drive to Pharr Road. The one lane lost southbound would be between Bolling/Sardis and Paces Ferry Road.
McHugh said Peachtree Road would be reduced to five lanes in order to provide bike lanes on both sides of the road and to provide space for a median and left-turn lanes.
Lundeen said he had not seen any traffic study data that tells him how that would impact traffic flow on Peachtree Road and the traffic stacking area and back-up between Bolling Way/Sardis Drive and Paces Ferry Road.
Both Allman and Lundeen agreed that is a major “pinch point” to look at with the traffic analysis.
McHugh suggested that if the traffic analysis proved that this plan would not work between Bolling Way and Pharr Road, then the bike lanes would have to be moved off of Peachtree onto a parallel route through the Village, such as Paces Ferry.
The other long-term Phase II proposals presented by McHugh to the board Tuesday are considered for five years down the road or beyond and would have far greater impact on properties around the major intersection.
Among the changes shown in those proposals would be the elimination of the present Bank of America office at the corner of Roswell Road and Sardis Drive, the elimination of a whole block of property along Bolling Way, where the former Hi-Fi Buys store is located, to realign the road to connect to Fulton Avenue instead of dead ending into East Paces Ferry Road.
One option would move the Charlie Loudermilk Park up against the fronts of the commercial buildings along Roswell Road (including the Buckhead Theatre), which would create a four-way intersection at Peachtree and Paces Ferry and a four-way intersection at Roswell and Peachtree roads.
McHugh told the board, “It works best for cars, the least for pedestrians.” He said the stakeholders did not like that plan.
Robin Loudermilk, who owns several of the properties that would be involved with the Phase II options, told his colleagues on the PCID board that he objects to all of the options.
“I am a property owner on all four sides of this and I know not only how it impacts property owners, but I also know financially this is one big project when you start taking that much land, Loudermilk told the board.
“We are not talking about inconsequential pieces of land,” said Loudermilk. “I have one piece I would love to put trees on but you can’t open up. It is a brown field.” He said dealing with remediating a brown field is very expensive.
Loudermilk said he had been in three meetings and has said “these don’t work.” He said he was referring to the Phase II options. “I’m good with Phase I” he said. But in terms of Phase II options, Loudermilk said, “I don’t think it has been vetted with the property owners yet.” He suggested some of it would cost millions of dollars.
But Lundeen told the board he was not even convinced about Phase I, because of not having the necessary traffic data to review on the proposal. “I am just saying that, with what I know right now, I would vote no, because I don’t have enough data.”
With that, the board voted to put off the public meeting until later—possibly September when school is back in session and people are in town to attend the meeting—when the board has had time to analyze the data on traffic and property impacts.