Commission hears residents’ protests, delays vote on bypass

Tue, 05/19/2009 - 3:02pm
By: John Munford

The Fayette County Commission Thursday night postponed a vote about the staff-proposed alignment for the second phase of the West Fayetteville Bypass.

More than a dozen people addressed the commission, either urging them to change the road path or abandon the project altogether. Several residents complained about a lack of documented need for the project; others alleged the road’s main purpose was to serve owners of undeveloped land nearby.

Edgar Williams, who lives on Lees Mill Road, threatened political ramifications for commissioners who voted to approve the bypass.

“I will get a small army and go to schools and band booster meetings and they will listen,” Williams said. “We will get a small army to vote out everyone that votes against it. ... I just hope you find a new job real easy.”

The current bypass alignment would result in the need to acquire three homes and one barn, county officials have said. One of those homes, owned by the Randy Blount family on Lees Mill Road near Mallard Creek Lane, found itself in the crosshairs of the bypass as a result of the most recent road alignment due to the need to make the intersection of Lees Mill Road and the bypass road safe, officials explained.

Megan Blount tearfully told the commission that she and her family were having a hard time coming to grips with potentially losing their home. She asked commissioners to be fair in negotiations to buy the property so they could buy a similar home elsewhere.

Blount said the past month has been difficult for her family. But in the end, she said, they will always have each other “and that’s something you cannot take away.”

Dennis Chase, a member of the Line Creek Association in Fayette County, said he has been helping a group of residents who oppose the bypass completely. Chase said he has spoken with the region administrator of the Environmental Protection Division who “anticipates” receiving an environmental impact statement on the project.

“You are heading down a road that is going to end up with a restart on this thing one way or another,” Chase said. “... I am helping these people and you are going to have to toe the line on this kind of detail probably more so than any other application. I told you in November you were better off if you stopped and you looked at it.”

The bypass will have to cross eight streams as part of the current alignment for the second phase. After the meeting, Chase suggested that the county could abandon the first phase of the bypass, currently under construction, and use Gingercake Road instead. Doing so, he acknowledged, would require motorists to travel briefly on Ga. Highway 54 instead of just crossing the road.

Steve Smithfield of the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition alleged that voters were “misled” because the bypass project was not detailed on the ballot for the county’s transportation special purpose local option sales tax. The road is being paid for largely with SPLOST funds.

Smithfield said there are 1,100 acres of undeveloped property along the bypass route, and those landowners would benefit from having the bypass built.

“Here we find a development need for the road,” he said.

In addition to the Blount home, two other homes are currently in the road’s path on the end of Janice Drive. But they will not be the only ones affected by the road, as other homeowners anticipate hearing noise from the road due to its proximity to their homes.

Several such homeowners spoke, bemoaning how the bypass will result in Fayette losing part of its rural charm.

The second phase of the bypass will pick up at where it currently ends on Sandy Creek Road just south of the new school campus. From there it will follow a stretch of existing road on Sandy Creek before continuing onto a portion of the existing Tillman Road.

The road will not follow the northwesterly turn on Tillman but instead will continue in a fairly straight pattern to Eastin Road before meandering around a subdivision and continuing to cross Lees Mill Road just north of the private drive, Mallard Creek Lane.

From there the road goes toward the end of Janice Drive where two homes are in the road path before continuing around another subdivision and linking up with Hwy. 92 at West Bridge Road.

Once all three phases are complete, the bypass will connect Ga. Highway 85 south at Harp Road so motorists can navigate around Fayetteville instead of driving through town.

The county hopes, in the future, to have improved access to Interstate 85 off Hwy. 92, officials have said. But there is no such active project in the regional transportation hopper at this point.

The bypass was initially conceived as a two-lane road with enough right of way to expand it to four lanes in the future. But after that drew significant concerns from residents, the county commission elected to reduce the right of way width from 120 to 100 feet, effectively preventing the bypass from ever being widened to four lanes, officials have said.

At the end of the public’s comments on the bypass, commission Chairman Jack Smith said residents could “rest assured a lot of these (comments) will be and already have been taken into consideration. We have asked staff for multiple changes and realignments to see how we could best do this.”

Smith then noted it was “unfortunate” that any decision would be unable to please everyone, and he assured the audience the commission didn’t take its responsibility lightly.

“We understand it impacts families and entire areas, wetlands, subdivisions and neighborhoods,” Smith said.

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Submitted by Billinfayetteville on Fri, 05/22/2009 - 9:53am.

Since it seems this decision is already made and the Fayette County Commission is totally in the pocket of the few beneficiaries of this project, I hope the members will understand that the voters will make decisions on both the SPLOST and their jobs "that will be unable to please" those currently holding office.

Of course, there is the highly improbable chance that the County Commission will actually make the intelligent and morally right decision and cancel the whole project. Their call.

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Thu, 05/21/2009 - 6:22am.

As I said in my column, Chairman Jack Smith does not have the fortitude to come clean on the West Fayetteville Bypass. Doing the right thing is not an option for him at this point.

The whole modeling process was corrupted from the start. Commissioner Hearn knows this more than anyone.

Even though most people oppose the bypass, they have no idea of how severe the development implications will be in the future.

This is no better than Mayor Logsdon's support building 80 homes at the end of runway at Falcon Field against the comprehensive land use plan. Both make no sense at all.

Submitted by lat1047 on Wed, 05/20/2009 - 4:54pm.

Who Needs/Wants the West Fayetteville Bypass/Parkway (WFB/P)?

As my Daddy told me many times, “There is a big difference in what we need and what we want.”

It appears to me, after all the meetings and realignments of the WFB/P I am finally getting a clearer picture of:

Question: Who NEEDS this road?
Answer: Land developers and County Commissioners

Question: Who WANTS this road?
Answer: Land developers and County Commissioners

Question: Who BENEFITS from this road?
Answer: Land developers and County Commissioners

Fayette county residents elect commissioners to serve the best interests of all residents of the county, not just the wealthy land developers who possibly make big contributions to political campaigns.

When the WFB/P is completed it will literally pave the way for some of our most well known developers to fill 1,100+ acres with many, many more Fayette County taxpayers. This huge expansion of the tax base will no doubt allow the commissioners to give themselves another big pay raise and therefore justify the need for the WFB/P. What is that famous line, “Build it and they will come.”

The Fayette County residents who currently live south of Hwy 54 might benefit from the WFB/P, but they were well aware of the commute when they moved to rural, quite, secluded, slow moving Fayette County. It might shorten the commute for them at the expense of the real reasons they moved to Fayette County.

Now for the WHYS?

Question: Why was the project not detailed on the SPLOST ballot?
Answer: People will vote for general road improvements every time.

Question: Why hasn’t the county published traffic studies showing the need?
Answer: There are none.

If we can’t build schools fast enough to accommodate new students,

If we can’t afford to pay our teachers now and we have to lay them off,

If our taxpayers’ homes are being foreclosed in record breaking numbers because of job losses,

Why would any Fayette county taxpayer, vote for Commissioners who insist on building this multi-million-tax-dollar road?

I don’t know. Do You?

grassroots's picture
Submitted by grassroots on Wed, 05/20/2009 - 4:34pm.

The West Fayetteville Porkway.

Submitted by ginga1414 on Wed, 05/20/2009 - 7:27am.

I would like to thank The Citizen, Steve Brown, John Munford, Ben Nelms and all of the folks who have sent in comments for your support. I was raised that if you just tell the truth, you will never go wrong. The West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition is just trying to let the truth be known.

Submitted by mysteryman on Tue, 05/19/2009 - 6:27pm.

Fayette Commisioner of the year??? Cast your vote now!!!!! BLESS...

grassroots's picture
Submitted by grassroots on Tue, 05/19/2009 - 5:46pm.

There are just too many unknowns and unclear reasons to go forward with this. Environmental, noise, financial, traffic studies, permits, etc. Not to mention the pressure for the need has officially changed the name from bypass to parkway according to web site. By definition it is NOT a bypass nor was it voted on according to SPLOST wording so the public should be questioning the use of tax money. Now this surprise rabbit out of a hat trick that this will require an eventual connection of the 92 to HWY 85. That should be the final deal killer to unravel this fiasco. Commissioners did well to postpone voting.

Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Wed, 05/20/2009 - 5:16am.

What possible reason or errand or job-related activity would require any productive citizen and taxpayer to need a direct connection from Hwy. 92 to Hwy. 85? Isn't that near Riverdale? What are we doing here beside wasting a lot of tax dollars.

Submitted by Dondol on Wed, 05/20/2009 - 10:17am.

you can figure this out. First of all we will be providing a corridor for criminals to use as a get away to I85 that has long been needed.
And as a added bonus the developers will make our once beautiful county into an eyesore the likes of Gwinnett county. I'm just glad that in 4 years my kids will be out of school here and then I won't have to look at it anymore.

Obama's weapon of Choice!

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