Last week, the council discontinued the process of sending ballots to residents, stating it further complicated the issue instead of giving a clear result of what a neighborhood wanted.
As Marietta and surrounding cities have grown, neighborhoods bordering the downtown area along Whitlock Avenue have dealt with commuters cutting through residential streets to avoid gridlock while traveling into and through the city.
Speed humps gained momentum in Marietta after voters approved a 1-cent special purpose local option sales tax March 15, 2011, to fund transportation improvement projects in the city and Cobb County.
The 2011 SPLOST Traffic Calming project has $385,000 in remaining funds from the original $400,000.
The City Council created a process two years ago for residents to request city-funded speed humps on residential streets.
Since then, residents have accused the council of constantly changing the requirements, such as what it takes for a road to qualify for a speed hump based on traffic studies conducted by the city, and what is considered a majority vote by property owners.
“Just look at the maneuverings that have taken place to achieve this most dubious goal,” said William Wilson, whose home is in one of the most recently balloted areas of Marietta.
Councilman Jim King, chairman of a committee that oversees the policy, has led an effort to streamline the speed hump procedures.
The council recognized that the balloting process was further dividing neighborhoods that were already battling over installing speed humps.
“I don’t know how to write a policy to reduce that friction,” King said. “We have frankly made this too complicated.”
The new policy allows for petitions that will give input from residents without binding the council to a neighborhood vote.
Councilwoman Annette Lewis said the balloting was never the deciding factor in what is ultimately the City Council’s decision on a public safety matter.
Lewis said there has been a lot of “crushed expectations” when the council made a judgment call on how to bring speeds “within a safe range.”
City Engineer Jim Wilgus said the city conducts traffic studies after speed humps are installed, on both the road with the installation and adjacent streets.
“We have seen dramatic reductions in the top speeds on the streets while the drivers at the speed limit don’t have to slow down,” Wilgus said. “We have also seen a reduction in volume on the roads.”
Mayor Steve Tumlin said whether it is in the council chamber, at the supermarket, during a football game or by email, the public knows how to voice their needs.
“They are going to get us the message one way or another how they feel,” Tumlin said. “We are not living or governing in a vacuum.”
Now concerned residents will have an opportunity to file a petition that would give the council guidance as a sampling of support or opposition.
Councilman Grif Chalfant said he wanted an open procedure for the public to weigh in and a petition would allow residents to “buy in” to the decision making process.
The petition would include a signee’s name and address. People would be able to sign the form even if they do not live on or around the route in question.
Council members would consider the importance of responses from people outside of Marietta.
“If you get 100 people from Smyrna, you could count them if you want,” said Councilman Johnny Sinclair.
Sinclair supported the balloting process because the number of voters was predetermined by verifying which properties qualified and gave each owner a chance to respond with a firm yes or no.
He said the petition would not be as reliable, but did admit the balloting process has not been smooth.
“People have been outraged at our science,” Sinclair said.
Parts of the speed-hump policy remain unchanged, such as the first step that requires a written request for traffic calming from a resident on the street being considered.
If authorized by the council, traffic data will be collected over a 24-hour period on the street, which must show 95 percent of cars travel at a speed at least 5 mph above the limit or 85 percent of cars travel at 15 mph above the limit.
A public meeting would give information about the location of a speed hump. A petition, whether in support or opposition, is an option, but not a requirement.
Then council would have a public hearing to listen to speakers about the problem before voting if speed calming should be installed.
The streamlined process eliminates the concerns about homeowners association boards getting to vote for parcels of land that contain swimming pools, club houses and landscaping.
Tumlin said whether to install speed humps should not rely on who owns a piece of property in the neighborhood, as was the case for the Lee’s Crossing subdivision, across from Kennesaw Memorial Cemetery off Whitlock Avenue.
The returned ballots showed 60 percent of the votes were in favor of speed humps, which is the minimum needed if a neighborhood is governed by a home owners association. Except the four votes that pushed the approval over the top came from extra ballots given to the Lee’s Crossing Homeowners Association Board of Directors.
Tumlin said the decision on whether to add speed humps to Lee’s Crossing would still be under the previous speed hump policy because that neighborhood is too far along in the process to ignore the results.
Sinclair agreed and said the voting at Lee’s Crossing was already stressful and the subdivision should not start over.
“Some neighborhoods have been hurt a lot going through this process,” Sinclair said.
The council will make the final decision about whether to table Lees Trace at the Wednesday, August 14 meeting.