Some residents say community vision isn’t theirs
by Nikki Wiley
July 28, 2013 11:45 PM | 3692 views | 17 17 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Above is a rendering of the Johnson Ferry development plan.
Above is a rendering of the Johnson Ferry development plan.
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MARIETTA — Some east Cobb residents are crying foul at county design guidelines intended to improve Johnson Ferry Road, but county officials say the guidelines are a product of public input.

The Johnson Ferry Urban Design Plan was adopted by the Cobb Board of Commissioners in 2011 and put into the county’s comprehensive plan, a document that serves as a long-term planning guide for the county. Now, commissioners are considering a set of design guidelines based on that plan to encourage developers to follow the community’s vision.

The design plan and guidelines aim to create a walkable and biking-friendly community and were created after a series of meetings with residents and business owners.

But some argue it’s not their vision.

“I think somebody had a conclusion in mind before this thing ever got off the ground,” said Larry Savage of east Cobb.

Local effort or international influence?

Jan Barton, also of east Cobb, alleges the plan isn’t being driven by local effort but an international move toward more sustainable living. She points toward a non-binding United Nations initiative to create more sustainable, walkable and biking-friendly communities, called Agenda 21, that some Republicans and tea party members say will lead to a loss of local control.

“We have a bunch of people outside of Cobb County telling us we should be urban and suburban,” Barton said.

She likes her community the way it is and doesn’t want it to become more urban.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Barton said.

Savage says he didn’t have a chance for input so he’s using the approval of the guidelines as a chance to speak out and thinks most people still don’t know about the plan.

“If I wanted to be urban, I could move and be done with it and not spend years rebuilding my neighborhood,” Savage said.

Commissioner says he included public

Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb and Johnson Ferry Road on the Board of Commissioners, takes the blame for causing confusion by putting the word “urban” in the plan. He says urban design is a type of planning for developed communities, like suburban Cobb, and does not necessarily mean a move from a suburban neighborhood to an urban neighborhood.

“This is not a sustainability plan. … It is at the worst an attempt to improve the design and aesthetics of Johnson Ferry Road,” Ott said.

The design guidelines include specifications for developers about aesthetic elements like landscaping, sidewalks, traffic lights and trash cans. The guidelines are optional and will be taken up by commissioners at a meeting next month. Plans call for reducing the width of lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet and dedicating one lane to solely local traffic with a lower speed limit.

The goal, he says, was to find things that were detrimental to redevelopment along Johnson Ferry Road. Developers may choose to build on undeveloped land because it can be cheaper to purchase than existing properties that need infrastructure upgrades. That can lead to urban sprawl, Ott said.

He touted the process of developing the plan, saying a stakeholder group met routinely and public meetings were held to gauge input from more than a hundred participants. He says he did his part to ensure the community was involved.

Barton says she did not attend any meetings. Savage said he attended some but did not participate.

“Now I’m paying closer attention and I’m very upset about what’s happening to my county, particularly east Cobb,” Savage said.

He calls into question the people chosen to serve on the steering committee and said they are “hand picked” because some have ties to the influential East Cobb Civic Association which Ott was president of in 2003.

Comments
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Community Lynn
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July 31, 2013
For the sake of people who have recently moved to East Cobb, especially District 2 or have forgotten how things worked before Commissioner Ott was elected...holding many meetings to ask the community what THEY want did not exist (nor did frequent Town Hall Meetings to keep the community informed) One of Ott's platform ideas was if elected, he wanted to run a "bottom up" instead of the normal "top down" approach to serving. As a community member who attended every meeting and felt I had a voice in shaping where I live,(I would indeed like to walk more and even ride a bike safely), I don't appreciate people like Larry Savage and Ms. Barton who spout untruths. I do appreciate all the people I saw at the meetings wanting to better their community too. Thank you.
EastCobbVoter
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July 30, 2013
This plan is laughable - you can build all the sidewalks, bike lanes and trash cans you want, but where are the "walkers" going to come from?

The only CCT bus line down Johnson Ferry Road got the axe two years ago. There are few if any apartments and I'd wager that 99% of the businesses rely on car traffic for their livelihoods.

And with the amount of traffic and over-development in E. Cobb, riding a bike down Johnson Ferry is a high risk sport. Better have your life insurance policy up to date.

So if the vision is a bunch of people walking or riding their bikes down Johnson Ferry, I have to ask the obvious question, where are they going to come from? Suburban soccer moms going to start a van pool to drop them off at the corner of Johnson Ferry and Roswell Road?
Not a Politician...
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July 29, 2013
Being an active participant of this Johnson Ferry Study a few things need to be mentioned. While working on the study developers and property managers where already doing much of what the corridor study was focusing on. Merchant Walk was already working closely with Bob Ott to improve the setting. They reduced the ugly sea of asphalt and added landscape barriers within the parking lot. They brought business to the street with beautiful landscape provided between the road the the business. They were bringing in businesses that the people in the neighborhoods surrounding Johnson Ferry were seeking. They turned a very ugly setting into one that is vibrant and frequently used. Another developer/Manager was installing lighting along Johnson Ferry which gives the road a since of place as well as changing the color of older brick buildings. Kroger Shopping Center got an entirely new look and business is flourishing. The corridor plan was developed by many people stating what they would like to see: More connectivity among the businesses so that a car would not need to pull out on JF and then turn into another shopping center, The communities asked for bike lanes and sidewalks so if one chose to walk to a destination it would be viable and safe for them as well as their kids. The plan is only a guideline of what Johnson Ferry should look like. It was never intended to bring "Urban" to East Cobb but to visually improve the road. The plan is merely a architectural/landscape plan which can be used when existing businesses want to update their buildings. It was highly effective when AAA came to the county to develop the location in front of the Fresh Market Shopping center. The plan helped guide them to make the building more aesthetic and to fit into the setting rather than stand out as a metal building with a tin roof and work bays seen from the street. There is no hidden agenda and a lot of hard work was done by the committee and then even more work was done by the community who attended many meetings. So two people got to say what they think? They got paper time and they did not even take the time to come and attend the many meetings. So how can they speak on this plan when they provided no input? MDJ please get the real story from the community of those that took the time and have a vested interest in making JF a part of the community it goes through and not a Buford Highway.
Hank Moody
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July 29, 2013
Why doesn't the MDJ try and get feedback and quotes from normal citizens instead of Larry Savage? He went to the meetings but didn't participate but has no problem running his mouth off.

-Hank
anonymous
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July 29, 2013
Exactly

I made a similar remark and it hasn't come through the posting system

Ditto re: Jan Barton
Reality in Mind
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July 29, 2013
First any committee with people appointed by politicians will have their cronies and they all have their agenda in mind. The members will not be the average citizen with an open mind. Most of us are not naïve to think a plan by the public officials has the residents in mind.

Second, on the surface it is nice that the Cobb BOC wants Johnson Ferry Rd. to be a corridor that remains a viable business area, but Johnson Ferry Rd. is not some small town square or an in town shopping area for strolling residents. Local residents of course shop there, but it is also a main thoroughfare for cars traveling from one area of Cobb or another metro county to another. I know many people who live in West or North Cobb and work in Roswell or Alpharetta. They travel parts of Johnson Ferry Rd. daily. So to narrow the lanes from 12ft to 11ft is crazy. If this is done I am sure they will also take part of that 11ft and add a bicycle lane. Then when a bicyclist is hit, the fault will be with the driver of the vehicle. Cars doing 40 & 45 mph do not belong on an 11ft street with bicycles.

Narrowing lanes and adding painted, brick medians that grass grows between the cracks is a waste of taxpayer money and adds no lasting value. So BOC, if Johnson Ferry Rd. is to become a strolling shopping corridor, what road are the people who commute daily on it from one area to another going to use?
anonymous
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July 29, 2013
Bob Ott is usually on the right side of an issue, but this time he's wrong. People have a right to want to live in a more suburban setting, which means less density. Obviously, sprawl has already occurred in east Cobb, so now it's all about boosting the tax base for the ever hungry Tim Lee and commissioners who can't control spending. They need to back off east Cobb and focus on other areas of the county that are desperate for improvement.
Guido Sarducci
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July 29, 2013
To Bob Ott. We love you dearly, Bob, but this is not a semantics problem. Changing what you call it and eliminating the word "Urban" would only be putting lipstick on a pig.

The objection is to the concept, not the name.
Just Wait
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July 29, 2013
It is absolutely hilarious that anyone in east Cobb could be so full of themselves to honestly believe that the United Nations has a real interest in Johnson Ferry Road. I don't know what kind of tea your drinking at your party, but you just might want to get it checked.
Suburbs R Us
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July 29, 2013
Broaden your mind just a bit, drop the partisan politics and realize that in the world of "urban planning" they want to take away all local control because people SUCH AS the ones who came up with the Agenda 21 policies and tactics believe they are smarter than you, better than you and deserve to rule the world. Forget your personal choices and freedoms. You are some dumb housewife in the suburbs. Forget your personal property rights, they don't gel with their vision. And toss the Constitution out the window. This group has figured out a way to tie federal grants and other monies to forcing a behavior down the throats of duly elected officials who are desperate enough for money that they'll trade our freedoms for some bogus plan. Bob Ott doesn't usually fall for this kind of thing, so I'm surprised.
Just Wait
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July 30, 2013
Thanks for proving my point.
wrong place
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July 29, 2013
East Cobb is the wrong place for this because in East Cobb people want to LOOK rich, not to BE rich.

You just don't look rich when you're walking or riding a bike despite these being the absolute most cost effective forms of transporations that literally allow people to save ten thousand dollars per year, and by "save," I mean "save" as in "put into stocks and bonds," not the kind of "saving" East Cobb does while they "spend less" at the East Cobb WalMart.

Yes, cars cost their drivers around $10,000 per year, and that is for a CHEAP car! For "Luxury" cars the lease payment can easily surpass $10,000 per year for the luxuries of leather and a nice stereo inside your daily prison cell, plus commercials telling everyone (most especially YOU) how darn nice your prison cell is

So, NO, no bike lanes or sidewalks for East Cobb, please. If we have to spend money on sidewalks and bike lanes, how about instead starting at downtown Marietta and filling in all the sidewalk gaps in all the sidewalks expanding out from the Square?

How about bicycle lanes into the Square? 100 years ago, the square supported about 8x the shopping density it does today because people did not pollute the Square with motor vehicles. They rode bicycles. The merchants made more money then than they can today because they had 8x the customers!
drive 45 or bike 20
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July 29, 2013
East Cobb residents could coast a bicycle down the length of Johnson's Ferry pretty well all the way from 120 to the river and then pass through the Chattahoochee NRA and be in the Cumberland Galleria business district in less time than they can drive there.

HOWEVER,

- Nobody would know how important they are because their leased luxury car would be sitting at home accumulating dust.



- Everybody wants the drive to work and the drive home to be a total time waster because they WANT to go to the gym after work because they hate their families and use "the gym" as cover for their affairs

- It's a lot more difficult to ride a bicycle home drunk from the after-work bar
anonymous
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July 29, 2013
Issues
anonymous
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July 29, 2013
Somebody somewhere started this vision of taking away from what they consider to be old fashioned in that residential is what is says -- residential. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you want to live "urban" rather than "surbuban," they go for it. Midtown, inner city Atlanta and all others welcome you. Why do a handful of people try to change the fabric?
Real Motive
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July 29, 2013
One has to wonder if Barton and Savage are just looking for attention. Barton is quoted as saying she didn't attend any meetings and Savage said he attended a few but did not participate.

Why is the MDJ now giving these two a voice and not the 100 hundred of us who took the time to better our community.

You have to think that Barton and Savage are just looking for their 15 minutes at our expense.

Shame on them
A Men
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July 29, 2013
Concur

What is it with the MDJ and its relying on

"community input" and letters to the editor from these folks? I doubt if their pets even listen to them.
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