City Government Peachtree Rd northbound

Published on August 5th, 2015 |

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NPU-B delays votes on Connect Atlanta Plan changes until September

After two months of discussing the city’s proposed legislation changes to the Connect Atlanta plan, the board members of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B were still not ready to take a vote Tuesday night on three of the the more controversial items, but did vote to approve one.

The three most contentious ordinances for adoption among board members were: “a design manual for active, balanced & complete streets,” “a strategy for advancing transit-oriented

NPU-B chair Andrea Bennett, center, during one of the recent board meetings.

NPU-B chair Andrea Bennett, center, during one of the recent board meetings.

development,” and “Cycle Atlanta phase 1.0 study.”

The one item approved unanimously by the board was an ordinance to adopt Cargo Atlanta: A Citywide Freight Study, largely because they see no harm in it even though they were not sure of its need or how it might affect Buckhead or NPU-B.

However, the board members largely felt they had not had time to fully study the updated 80-page Connect Atlanta Plan Appendices—which they indicated they had just received a day or two prior to Tuesday’s meeting. Therefore, consideration of three of the items for a vote was put off until the Sept. 1 meeting. The NPU is asked to take its vote on the ordinances before Sept. 14.

Members of the NPU-B board listen to a discussion during the July 7 meeting.

Members of the NPU-B board listen to a discussion during the July 7 meeting.

When the Connect Atlanta Plan appendices first came before NPU-B at its June 2 meeting, most concerns and objections among board members seemed to be related to the city’s proposed strategy for advancing transit-oriented development.

The major arguments voiced at the June 2 meeting were that the city already has sufficient legislation in place defining TODs (transit-oriented developments) and that this new proposed change could adversely encroach on established residential neighborhoods in Buckhead.

But NPU-B chair Andrea Bennett told the board at its July 7 meeting that she had been in communication with the city’s Planning Department and

NPU-B Board Chair Andrea Bennett

NPU-B Board Chair Andrea Bennett

there were changes being made to the proposals regarding TODs, delaying the required vote on the legislation until NPU-B’s August meeting.

Bennett said the item dealing with Transit Oriented Development “initially raised some concerns because of the language encouraging this within a 1/2 mile radius of MARTA stations. That would have impacted many solidly single family neighborhoods. In addition, the areas around the MARTA stations are already governed by SPI’s which define where TODs can take place,” she explained.

“They (city planners) agreed that the update needed to be clarified to make it plain that it was not intended to extend TODs into existing single family neighborhoods,” Bennett said. “They are updating the maps and the text of the proposed amendments but they are not finished yet. That is why I suggested that we not vote on the matter yet,” Bennett said on July 7.

NPU-B Board member Jim Cosgrove

NPU-B Board member Jim Cosgrove

At the Aug. 4 meeting, Bennett indicated she no longer had a problem with the ordinance dealing with TODs because she said the city planners had changed the language of the ordinance “to make it clear it is not intended to impact in any way on single family neighborhoods.” She said it states that now in several places throughout the ordinance.

Board member Cathy Boston, who lives near the Brookhaven MARTA rail station, said she is concerned about the broad verbiage of the ordinance….that it can allow several story buildings right next to single family homes.

Board Secretary Jim Cosgrove said he is not in favor of this ordinance. “I think it is dangerous. We as an NPU are supposed to make these decisions on an ad hoc basis,” he said. “It is ammunition for developers to increase density in these areas.”

Cosgrove asked, “What is the benefit that comes from this? We don’t want this additional density in many areas of Buckhead.”

Board member Bob Staslowski said, “It would be good to have a few days to read through it and maybe then have a meeting with some board members and Jonathan Lewis,” the city planner who authored all four ordinances that are part of the Connect Atlanta Plan Appendices.

Most members of the board agreed they had not had time to fully digest that ordinance and two other controversial ones involved in the appendices and wanted to delay voting until the September meeting.

Also at the June meeting, some members of the NPU board had voiced strong concerns about the direction the Bike Atlanta plans were going and the placement of new bike lanes on existing major city thoroughfares, which reduces the travel capacity for motor vehicles. There was concern not just about the present changes proposed, but for the precedent they might set.

At the June meeting, Cosgrove voiced objection to the city’s plan to add bike lanes to major thoroughfares, including Peachtree Road in Buckhead. He said he has nothing against having bike routes in the city, but they should be routed through less dangerous areas and on less congested roadways.

“We have to decide do we want to ride bicycles or drive cars on Peachtree,” Cosgrove said. “I think this is really, really critical.”

At the Aug. 4 meeting, Cosgrove carried his concerns further and initially offered a motion for NPU-B to “disapprove” adoption of the Complete Streets ordinance. He likely also would have offered a motion to “disapprove” the Cycle Atlanta ordinance if the discussion had gone that far.

Board member France Campbell pointed out that the Complete Streets ordinance “follows GDOT’s (Georgia Department of Transportation) plan for complete streets” and apparently feels the NPU board should let the road engineers design the streets.

Board member Amy Hillman said she wanted to hear why people were against the Complete Streets ordinance.

Cosgrove replied, “Simply speaking, look at Pharr Road. We need to decide whether we are going to drive on streets in Buckhead or going to ride on bikes and streetcars. This is about the bicycle lobby,” he said. “I cannot drive my kids to baseball practice on a bicycle.

“This is almost about whether single family residences will continue to be viable,” Cosgrove added. “Plans that are afoot downtown are hostile to the way I live and the way most people in Buckhead live.”

“No new bike lanes are proposed within NPU-B at this time,” Bennett told board members. “Obviously, if that were to change at some point in the future we would need to know the details and be able to weigh in.”

Cosgrove said the purpose of the ad hoc committee, or discussion group, was to come up with suggestions to provide to the city along with the results of the NPU’s vote. He said he hopes the group can follow through with that and have a meeting with Lewis prior to the votes in September.

Cosgrove withdrew his motion to “disapprove” of the Complete Streets ordinance but told the board he will like renew that motion on Sept. 1.

To read BuckheadView’s coverage of the NPU-B June 2 meeting click here, and for the July 7 meeting click here.

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    16 Responses to NPU-B delays votes on Connect Atlanta Plan changes until September

    1. Currie Cole Smith says:

      “I cannot drive my kids to baseball practice on a bicycle.” NPU-B secretary Jim Cosgove.

      Why not? That is exactly my goal as a future parent in Atlanta, to ride my bike with my kids to their activities (school, soccer practice, dance lessons, etc…). It’s not that he cannot do it, it’s that he chooses not to do it. Riding a bike isn’t for everyone right now with the current infrastructure, but the Cycle Atlanta Plan will help improve the bike infrastructure and make a bike ride to baseball practice safer and more feasible, even for Mr. Jim Cosgove. I’m glad that NPU-N passed Connect Atlanta Plan and hope other NPUs follow suit.

    2. Jett Marks says:

      Although many parents on my daughter’s soccer team did drive to practice, most wished they could ride bikes. Safe bicycle routes allowed me to ride with my daughters to practice. The lack of safe routes is often the reason given for not riding. Cycling amenities add greatly to my residential lifestyle; it’s one of the main reasons I live where I do (Virginia-Highland).

      Buckhead recently jumped a few spots as one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Atlanta, so it’s a little surprising to me that a community that values pedestrian amenities might be at odds with cycling infrastructure. Streets are for people. It seems like Buckhead recognizes this, so the concerns about accommodating the residents’ desire for improving their residential lifestyle surprises me.

      I first commuted down Peachtree by bike in 1980 (Brookhaven to Georgia Tech). The acceptance of cyclists’ presence on Peachtree (and across the city) has grown steadily. I think we’re at the point we can recognize it’s time to address the safety of all road users, and with safe bicycle routes, more of us can ride bikes with our kids to practice.

      • Jake says:

        Absolutely. If Jim is concerned about his children’s safety, then he should be supporting safe streets. I suggest you share your comments with Jim directly so that he knows how the public feels. His email is jim@buckheadrealty.com.

    3. WJ says:

      As a cyclist and driver in Atlanta, I can vouch that Peachtree is, without a doubt, one of the better North-South thoroughfares for bicycling. It is built along a ridgeline, meaning that cyclists don’t have to go up and down huge hills (relatively speaking, for Atlanta). Northside Drive & Parkway…now there is a road where you don’t want to bike.

    4. Jeff says:

      We are very grateful for the bike infrastructure near us that allows us as a family to go to soccer and baseball practices on bike. It gives our kids a sense of freedom and accomplishment. It is also a great time as a family (versus driving which often is not fun).

      I hope that more places in our city can adopt policies that allow for individuals and families that chose not to drive the opportunity to do it safely.

    5. Sad says:

      It’s sad to see someone in a position of power like Jim Cosgrove who has such a myopic, ill-informed view of bicycle commuting. The point of making our streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists is exactly so people can tote their kids around by bike safely. People like Cosgrove simply ensure that the status quo will be maintained during their lifetimes. Buckhead needs a new vision lest it become Cobb County South.

    6. Eric Ginzer says:

      Mr. Cosgrove, if you’re not ready to get on a bike, that’s fine, but your kids will likely want to. Certainly Atlanta wants to continue to attract young and young-acting dynamic people who nowadays want to bike and walk and not just drive everywhere. Nobody’s talking about banning cars; it’s just that some of us are concerned about our health and the planet’s health and we need to make room for these decisions on the public right of way. Streets are for everybody, not just opinionated guys driving to NPU meetings!

      • John Schaffner says:

        In fairness to Jim Cosgrove, if all of you read all of his remarks you would know that he is not opposed bike riders or having designated bike lanes for them. He rides a bike himself, but he does in through neighborhoods and not on busy thoroughfares like Peachtree Road in Buckhead, where the travel lanes are already fairly narrow and there are many curves (some more severe than others) where drivers often tend to drift across the lane lines. Cosgrove has said he favors designating bike routes through neighborhood roads less traveled and including through his Buckhead neighborhood. So, lets not paint him as totally opposed to bicycle riding and riders.

        • guest says:

          So people on bikes should not be able to reach the destinations on Peachtree Street? That’s the exact opposite of what a lot of business owners would want. Providing a multi-modal network that connects origins and destinations can increase foot/bike traffic to businesses, whereas drivers may not stop because of the hassle of parking, etc. It’s about connectivity, not segregating people on bikes to specific areas. That might provide recreational opportunities for riding, but businesses can thrive with the increased access of other groups.

    7. Todd Mathison says:

      If you want to add bike lanes, fine, but do it without taking away vehicular lanes. Too many streets have already been significantly narrowed throughout many parts of the city now because of vehicle lanes being transformed into bike lanes. Traffic congestion gets worse as a result, yet usage of the bike lanes is minimal compared to the displaced cars.

      Seems to me that the real goal of all these bike lanes is to push people out of their cars and onto bikes, buses, streetcars, etc. by making vehicular traffic a bigger headache. That agenda I cannot support.

      • Sad says:

        Streets don’t belong to cars, they belong to the people who live and work on them. Traffic in the city isn’t caused by too few lanes being dedicated to automobiles, it’s the presence of automobiles in too small of a space to fit them. Complete streets is exactly a cure for this problem—it presents people with options for getting around OTHER than automobiles. If you want to drive, so be it, but that’s no excuse for refusing to give your neighbors more options.

        • Todd Mathison says:

          Streets don’t belong to cars? That’s an interesting perspective. Last time I checked, that’s what streets are intended for. That’s like says sidewalks don’t belong to people. There are other choices for getting arounds besides automobiles. Doesn’t mean you need to reduce the ability to use automobiles to create or expand those alternatives. Most people prefer to get around by a motorized vehicle, sorry if that’s not your vision of utopia but it’s reality.

          • Will says:

            What people in Buckhead who prefer cars will never understand is that the real luxury is being able to walk and bike where ever you want, not driving around in some money-wasting, traffic-inducing, pretentiously godawful Range Rover.

            Your assumption that streets belong only to cars reveals your lack of critical thinking skills in regards to urban planning and its consequences.

            Research shows that when car lanes are reduced from 12ft to 10ft and separated bike lanes are added in addition to trees and wider sidewalks, it encourages people to walk and use bikes, thus reducing speeding, reducing traffic, reducing traffic accidents, reducing fatalities and encouraging healthier, more active lifestyles.

            Think about it: cars run on money and make you fat and stressed out where as bikes and walking run on fat and save you money.

            If you’re interested in subsidizing induced demand with more roads, more traffic and more accidents, understand that there are many negative externalities to that decision. A recent WSJ blog posted cited suburban sprawl and lack of access to walking, biking actually imposes a $1 trillion drag on the American economy each year.

            Get with the rest of the developed world and create a city for people, not a city for cars! You might enjoy it!

    8. Tolley Jenkins says:

      “This is about the bicycle lobby.”

      Sounds like Cosgrove was working on some standup material. That’s gold, Cosgrove. Gold!

    9. Jonathan says:

      We absolutely need to do something to make it safer to walk and ride a bike in Buckhead. Right now myself and family cannot cross PT street safely so forcing us to use a car even for short trips. Same applies to Pharr Rd and Cosgroves remarks show how out of touch he is with people. With all the new apartments and residents moving in we need wider pavements, safe bike lanes and less roads.

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