MARIETTA — A traffic issue so contentious it pits neighbor against neighbor is brewing in Lee’s Crossing, a subdivision south of often-gridlocked Whitlock Avenue.
It will spill over into the Marietta City Council public safety committee meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
The neighborhood of more than 400 homes has found itself a victim of the cut-through culture, in which motorists will evade traffic snarls on commercial roads by taking detours through residential neighborhoods.
City Councilman Grif Chalfant represents the ward that includes Lee’s Crossing and its main roads of Trailwood Lane, Lees Trace and Manning Road.
He said the issues being debated so vigorously came to a head at a homeowners association meeting Tuesday, at which neighbors took sides on two separate questions.
Question No. 1 is whether to install six speed tables, which are asphalt platforms with ramps leading up to them. They’re meant to slow down traffic without requiring a full stop like a traditional speed bump.
The $3,000 cost of each speed table would be borne by the city.
“A lot of people don’t want them, and a lot of people do want them. Especially the ones on Lees Trace,” Chalfant said about the road where all six would be installed if approved by voters.
Question No. 2 is who can vote for or against the speed tables.
According to Chalfant, city law will allow 200 households, or about half the subdivision, to vote.
The deciding factor is access to Manning Road, a connector to Whitlock that becomes Lees Trace.
Residents of Trailwood Lane, the other half of the subdivision, have no voice in the matter.
Chalfant said they want a vote because, contrary to city engineering studies, they travel Lees Trace to exit the subdivision at Manning, which has a traffic signal, unlike the roads connecting Trailwood to Whitlock.
“The nonvoters’ biggest argument is to get to Marietta High School or Kroger, they always go through Lees Trace,” Chalfant said. “That’s why they want to vote on speed tables because they will be going over them.”
Trailwood residents may even want their own speed tables, he said, because of drivers who are new, who are texting while driving, or both.
“What brought this about was several wrecks in the last several months. Some of them have run into trees,” Chalfant said. “Out of 410 families, you have a lot of teenage drivers. And it’s not just them; some people don’t pay attention and just drive too fast.”
Opponents to the speed tables or to the process would not go on record, several citing fear of retaliation from their neighbors.
However, one concern aired was that newcomers should have investigated the subdivision’s traffic problems prior to their arrival.
Melissa Drehs, a Lees Trace resident and real estate agent, said the research she did before moving into her home in June 2010 could not have revealed the hazards she encountered.
“I knew it would be a great place to raise children because I had been experiencing the environment while my son was being babysat there,” she said. “I never anticipated my mailbox would be hit three times. Since I’ve lived here, my mailbox has been hit three times and completely knocked off.”
Drehs said her children, a boy, 6, and a girl, 4, are her main concern.
“People are angry at me that I just moved in and I’m stirring something up, but at the end of the day, if someone hits my child and God forbid kills them, it doesn’t matter how popular I am among my neighbors,” she said.
Drehs cited a conversation with another mother, who advised her not to let her children play outside the backyard, a strategy Drehs said she found impractical.
“You can tell your child not to go into the street,” she said. “But we all know that you can turn your back for a second and your biggest nightmare could be happening in front of your eyes.”
Another opposition viewpoint, that of ineligible households becoming eligible to vote through an ordinance amendment or variance, seemed like a stall tactic to Drehs.
“The ballot was supposed to go out already. The meeting was not to see if you want them. That was already determined,” she said about a December homeowners’ meeting. “People had enough time, and they didn’t voice their opinions the first time.”
Drehs said a third opposition argument was the nuisance that neighbors said would be caused by the speed tables.
“They’re not like huge speed bumps. They’re three inches off the ground and you have a ramp that leads you up. To say it will inconvenience you is a poor excuse, in my mind,” she said.
City Councilman Jim King said the five speed tables in his ward do not annoy him nor cause damage.
“There are a number of speed tables on East Park Boulevard,” he said about a road in the East Park subdivision, which borders his Brentwood Park neighborhood. “I have a low-slung sports car. If you go the speed limit of 25 mph, they don’t do a thing to your car.”
They do, however, work.
“In my opinion they’re very effective,” King said. “I have asked the citizens, and they tell me they’re happy.”
He said the five speed tables, installed about five years ago at an almost unanimous request from the 272-household subdivision, are among the only ones in the city.
City Engineer Jim Wilgus said there are three on Campbell Hill and five at Life University.
Others are in the pipeline.
“We’ve got a list of 60 locations that are looking at speed tables,” he said about subdivisions like Carriage Oaks, Hickory Hills and Whitlock Heights. “We’re getting ready to install them on Evelyn Street.”