One last time, the folly of the West F’ville Bypass

Dennis Chase's picture

With my background, I usually don’t try to look into the future; it is not a useful venture for a scientist. However, my involvement with the strange process that is taking place with the West Fayetteville Bypass has led me to the following scenario for events surrounding this unfortunate project.

According to a letter just received from Georgia Department of Transportation, Fayette County has the option to use the SPLOST tax dollars to complete the engineering design and acquire the road right-of-way. At that point, they can prepare the documents needed to acquire the required federal permits.

It is possible that very soon, a large group of property owners will open their mail and find that Fayette County now owns part of their property.

The state DOT says this can be done without any approvals from anyone because it uses local tax dollars. It will take at least $1.5 million just for the land, more when the engineering and legal expenses are included.

Federal permits will be required to fill wetlands and to build bridges over streams and special permit conditions for some areas. This is where it will become very difficult for the county, since the federal and state agencies already know of the issues, courtesy of some concerned citizens.

We have filed complaints and provided those agencies with a lot of data and other information. We received confirmation from the Environmental Protection Agency that to accomplish this project the county will have to prepare and submit an environmental impact statement for the entire project — that means all phases of the bypass.

In addition to the National Environmental Policy Act, the county will have to submit requests for permits under the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and perhaps the National Historic Preservation Act.

The group of citizens, soon to be faced with forced sale of some or all of their property, recently asked for legal advice. They wondered what they could do to prevent the county from taking what belongs to them. The answer they received is — not much. There is very little protection when road right-of-way is being sought by a county government.

So here are my most important predictions. First, there will not be any construction work on the Fayetteville Bypass until at least 2020.

Second, if this road ever gets to the construction phase, it will NOT be along the route where they are currently planning.

These predictions are based on what I expect to see in the environmental impact statement and a companion review of the Section 404 permit for wetland and stream impacts. This process will kill their preferred route.

My final predictions come as a group, leading off with: In the end, we all lose.

A group of citizens will look out on property they once owned and sigh. The county loses any integrity that may have remained.

Gone will be huge quantities of dollars, both from our taxes and various legal actions.

The environment will suffer more indignities and all of the wildlife associated with those areas will lose as well. Water quality will likely be degraded.

If it is possible, there will be less trust in county government. Those who invested in the big chunks of property along the proposed route will have to wait for development to finally get to them and any new roads will be built at their expense rather than the taxpayers.

And what happens to all of that very expensive land they bought over the objections of our neighbors? Well, maybe the county can create a six-mile-by-150-foot-wide park.

Or better yet, commissioners could just declare the area to be a monument to total stupidity and have their names engraved on signposts at each end.

Perhaps I should end with a somewhat positive prediction. Dozens of years and many millions of dollars later, we can include this in our local history books as an example of how not to build a road in Fayette County.

But then I have to include one more negative prediction, and that is that since we never seem to learn from our past mistakes, this will be just an interesting footnote that will lead our grandchildren to laugh (or cry) over.

[Dennis Chase, now retired, was a fish and wildlife biologist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 26 years. Since retiring, he has worked as a consultant for Fayette County on environmental concerns, is a volunteer with the Line Creek Association of Fayette County, and has published numerous newspaper columns.]

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Submitted by Okie on Sat, 03/21/2009 - 1:27pm.

I found something today while researching at the Fayette County Historical Society. Personally I find it to be historical, but some may not. Ever eaten a Yates apple?? Well, Matthew Yates took cuttings from trees growing near a creek in Fayette Co. Soon he had hundreds of acres in Yates apple trees. According to the story submitted by State Rep. John Yates the only known tree left of the original ones is in a pasture near Coleman's Corner at West Bridge Road and Hwy 92 South. (You know, where the Bypass is going) Matthew Yates died in 1880 and is buried in the cemetery of the Primative Baptist Church just off GA Hwy 92, South of Coleman's Corner. The subdivision at the end of my street is called Yates Crossing...probably part of the original farm.

Submitted by mysteryman on Wed, 03/18/2009 - 8:31pm.

Already because of the economy, we have a paradox, on one hand we have the county administration, bent on vengence and destruction, to see this project through, despite being told that no one wants it. Then because of the foreclosure situation, and housing market collapse, now we have the government standing by to help people move into the community that should not be able to afford to do so, here come the flop houses. IE: Single family homes with 15 unrelated people living in them each paying $50 a week. Then you have the former apartment dwellers, who let their kids run amok in everyones yard. Living in the house that the flippers bought to turn a quick buck, only to have to rent it out... Welcome to Clayette County. When the bypass is complete MARTA will be able to make a complete loop from Old National Hwy down the bypass to 85 hwy then over to 54 on to 1941 where it will feed into C-tran.. Congratulations County Commision Mission Accomplished.........PEACE

Submitted by hometownmedic on Wed, 03/18/2009 - 4:10pm.

I have an idea. Let's solve 2 problems with one solution. Leave the infrastructure alone. Let people drive 54 to 85 like we have been doing for 20+ years and live with it. Save the millions of dollars it would cost and instead put it in a trust fund for the FCBOE. Limit the amount that the board can withdraw yearly and we have a solution.

We have built more houses, cut down more trees, paved over where there used to be cow pasture, that the beauty that was once Fayette County and been forgotten and we have instead followed the path of the rest of Metro Atlanta, a tarnish on the Souther Cresent.

Submitted by Spyglass on Wed, 03/18/2009 - 4:13pm.

County looks like the rest of Metro ATL you don't get out much.

Submitted by pips1414 on Wed, 03/18/2009 - 1:09pm.

Aptly said, Mr. Chase. I have yet to read a single article describing how building the West Fayetteville Bypass would be in the best interest of the Fayette County taxpayers. Normally,there are two sides to every argument. But in this case, the positive side being silent in the face of enormous public criticism for such an extended period of time leads one to believe that the negative side is the only side when it comes to supporting this project. It's plain to see that creating an expensive road over wetlands in a sparsely populated area serves an ulterior motive. The only conclusion this reader can come to is that no one can or will attach his or her name to any published defense of the Bypass. That just goes to show that when the county really wants to get something done, whether or not the project is justified, it can find a way to thwart public opinion and do what it wants to do. But it's not a "done deal" yet. It will be interesting indeed to see how the battle goes when droves of angry citizens demand that the regulatory agencies put the ecology and logic behind this project under a microscope. The result may not be "politics as usual".


Submitted by Okie on Wed, 03/18/2009 - 8:38am.

People downstream on Whitewater Creek should also be worried about this. Remember back in July of 1994, it rained for almost a month. The water was in Bennet's Mill and right up to the bottom of the Hwy 54 bridge. Well, picture years ahead, the bypass somehow gets built. The ones who bought up the large tracts of land have built houses all over it. Another hurricane parks itself over Georgia and dumps massive amounts of rain. With all the new construction there's more concrete, less grass. More runoff from the new construction and the new paved roadway. Where does all that water go...into the creek and it's headed your way! The same thing happened to me when I lived in Oklahoma. We lived on land with a creek behind it. For years, no problem. Then houses got built all over the hillsides upstream and guess what. It started flooding every time it rained hard. We're talking lots of water. My Dad raised our house up to about 4 feet off the ground. The water still got in the house. So, they'll probably go ahead and do whatever they want to do, but it won't just be those of us who will loose land that will be affected. Thank goodness we are above the flood plain.

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