Johnson Ferry remake would be ‘boring, sterile’
by Pete Borden
April 29, 2013 12:59 PM | 5703 views | 10 10 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I have lived within a half mile of Johnson Ferry Road in east Cobb since moving back to “God’s country” in early April 1984. I chose this area as a desirable location for my home, primarily because of the rural atmosphere and the lack of formality in the development.

During the ensuing 29 years, the “corridor”, as the area of Johnson Ferry Road from the Chattahoochee River to Shallowford Road has come to be known, has seen many changes. But mostly it has remained inviting to both commercial and residential development, while still retaining the “quasi-pastoral” atmosphere which many of us find attractive and desirable.

I have seen Parkaire Landing go from a nondescript shopping center built around a circular ice rink to a vital shopping center attracting huge crowds.

I watched the quaint shops and streets at Merchants Walk disappear. In their place is a vibrant center housing a variety of opportunities for shopping.

I saw the golf driving range on Roswell Road, just west of Johnson Ferry, die and come back to life as The Avenues at East Cobb, the test model for a major breakthrough in shopping center design.

In the meantime, residential development has continued in the areas adjacent to Johnson Ferry Road.

You might question my purpose in pointing out this history. It’s quite simple. Throughout all these developments, and numerous others, the area has managed to retain its small-town character and ambience, as well as its originality.

However, there is trouble in Paradise. Some weeks ago I attended a public meeting during which the plan for the future of the Johnson Ferry Corridor was rolled out by the Cobb community development department. The aim of this plan appears to be to change the corridor into a replica of the neutered, antiseptic, uniform and unbelievably boring main street of a theme park.

The plan is to force all new development into a preset mold, so that everything looks like everything else. Yuck! Uniform street lights, uniform benches, uniform sidewalks, uniform trash receptacles, ad nauseam, add up to a nightmare for us who love the serenity of the small-town character that originally attracted us to the area.

During the presentation, the phrase “aesthetically pleasing” was used several times. Since that term is subjective, I asked the obvious question. “Who gets to determine what is aesthetically pleasing?” The response from a lady in the audience was, “We did.” I am not sure just who “we” are, or just how “we” or any group, gained the wisdom to determine what is aesthetically pleasing to me or anyone else. In fact, what we have now fills the bill quite nicely.

Anyway, it was obvious they had not anticipated that question. In asking it, I think I dropped a proverbial “clod in their churn.”

When the question of funding was brought up, we were quickly told that no taxpayer funding would be used, that this is going to be paid for by the developers, but that no developer would be forced to do anything he did not want to do. I think we all know how that works. “Conform or we will be less than congenial in the approval of the building permit.”

Let’s get back to the “no taxpayer funds” statement. That dog won’t hunt! First, it was county employees who developed the plan, county employees who wrote it and drew it up with all the nice little illustrations, county employees who dug up all the statistical information and county employees making the presentation at the meeting.

I am not sure what prompted all this. I have not heard any loud cry that Johnson Ferry Road is tacky, from any of the residents or merchants who have been here for any length of time. Most likely this move was engendered by some “Johnny-come-lately” group determined to force its tastes on the rest of the community.

My only consolation is that to accomplish this will take the better part of a quarter century, as it is aimed at a gradual metamorphosis as new developments come along. So, I won’t live to see this travesty come to fruition. Unfortunately for them, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have to live with the boring, sterile world these folks will create.

It is for them, I make this plea, “We like it the way it is. If you object, feel free to relocate to an area more pleasing to you. Leave Johnson Ferry Road alone. It ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Pete Borden is a retired masonry contractor in east Cobb.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Statement - Answer
May 01, 2013

You stated that "I am not sure what prompted all this."

That would be Mr. Ott sir, yet you probably already knew that.
SW Gal
July 01, 2013
Numerous citizens have contacted our commissioners to express concerns about the Johnson Ferry URBAN Design Plan, to no avail. REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT, the Chamber of Commerce, the American Planners Association always come before the citizens of Cobb County. When Government gets in the Real Estate business. Our private property rights go out the window. Pay attention, people! Even if you do not live on Johnson Ferry Road, this still impacts all of Cobb County, because they have the same plans for you next! Your neighborhood might be declared a"blighted" area next. Then, our County will use eminent domain to destroy your home and neighborhood. The best solution? Replace every one of the commissioners with new people with gumption and belief that the County Government should not be in the real estate, medical or entertainment business (remember the mules & the golf course?)
Old timer
April 30, 2013
I live in west Cobb, the sidewalks in this area are awful. They trip them with brick pavers,obviously not planned well. They are covered over with weeds. They look terrible. I would think spraying with round up a few times a year would help. New construction along Corner Road and McLand already look like the unkept hood.
April 30, 2013
Interesting Pete, that they want to fix something that isn't broke, while they neglect or worse other corridors in the county. Have you taken a look at Barrett Parkway lately? They've decimated the once-nice trees (in the spirit of preventing you from accidentally dying when you hit one), they've been working on it for months and worse, they went against their own land-use plan to put dozens of curb cuts that only make traffic worse East Cobbers would never put up with what we get in the west. Cobb also loves Barrett Pkwy for a speed trap, keeping the speed limit artificially low when it's supposed to be moving cars. Then, they allow Dallas Hwy traffic to speed through congested areas near the West Cobb Avenue even though that is most dangerous and people have been killed. JF Road probably sees mowers and street cleaners every week, yet other areas never do.

This is all about attracting more new business to the kingdom of east Cobb so they can turn it into a semi-urban "center" and grow the tax base there. Meanwhile they neglect to point out to developers the upscale demographics of west Cobb. Also Pete, if you are from west Cobb, JF Road (I grew up there also) is now way too crowded and has the feel of a city rather than a suburb.
April 30, 2013
"East Cobbers would never put up with what we get in the west"

- I guess you are saying West Cobbers are too lazy to effectively push back on things

"THEY neglect to point out to developers the upscale demographics of west Cobb"

- I didn't realize that developers relied on a company called THEY to put out upscale demographics to them. I always thought they did their own research to determine where to invest.

April 30, 2013
I think Mr. Borden's point is that lots of people in E Cobb do not want JF Rd. to be an 'urban center', nor do they want it to become more like Barrett Parkway, etc. If you don't like JF Rd. now, imagine what you might have after government 'beautifies' the area.
April 30, 2013
"Yuck! Uniform street lights, uniform benches, uniform sidewalks, uniform trash receptacles, ad nauseam, add up to a nightmare for us who love the serenity of the small-town character that originally attracted us to the area."

- This is absurd. I'm looking forward to a more uniform look - as opposed to the trashy look today

Johnson Ferry Rd - described as a serene small-town environment????????????????

April 29, 2013
PS: Pete, I think you need to get a pair of glasses or get out and see the world more if you think Jferry is small town and not tacky.
April 29, 2013
I have lived near Jferry since 1980.

In no way, shape, or form can it be described as:

"the serenity of the small-town character"

It is indeed, extremely tacky. Small weed-filled sidewalks, signs of all types, strip shopping centers, the new wonderfully tacky Mt. Bethel elementary marquis, etc.

I welcome consistent guidelines for the developers/redevelopers to follow - to create some character to the area. Frankly, if it isn't de-tackyified, I'm likely to retire to Vinings.
I agree
April 30, 2013
That Mt. Bethel monument is absurd! Who do they think they are, a high school?
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