New ARC chairman: Water accessibility big Metro concern
by Nikki Wiley
January 29, 2014 12:54 AM | 2643 views | 1 1 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kerry Armstrong
Kerry Armstrong
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TOWN CENTER — Water accessibility continues to be an ongoing problem in Cobb and metro Atlanta, Kerry Armstrong, the new chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, said Tuesday.

Armstrong spoke to a room of elected officials and industry leaders on Tuesday at the Town Center Area Community Improvement District’s monthly meeting.

Armstrong, a Gwinnett County resident, was elected by the 39-member ARC board that represents 10 metro Atlanta counties in December.

He is a senior vice president with Pope and Land Enterprise, the same company that employs the Town Center CID’s chairman, Mason Zimmerman.

Armstrong replaced former ARC Chairman Tad Leithead, who also chairs Cobb’s other CID in Cumberland.

The regional commission is keeping a close watch on a lawsuit filed by the state of Florida against Georgia with the U.S. Supreme Court, though Armstrong is hopeful the high court will decline to hear the case that is the next step in the long-running water wars between Georgia, Florida and Alabama.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi filed suit in October seeking an injunction against Georgia’s use of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basins. They accused Georgia of taking too much water and argue it has a negative impact on Florida’s oysters and the businesses that rely on them.

“We will see what happens,” Armstrong said. “Frankly, it will probably take as much as 10 years to work our whole way through that process.”

An Alabama senator in July also accused Cobb County’s water wholesaler, the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority, of taking more water than allowed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-operated Lake Allatoona, an accusation refuted by Brig. Gen. Donald Jackson, commander of the South Atlantic Division of the Corps.

Legislation making its way through Congress has caught the attention of the ARC. Two seemingly inconspicuous paragraphs in the lengthy Water Resources Development Act had the potential to reverse years of headway made in Georgia’s fight for water access, Armstrong said.

“Both of them took away everything we gained in recent battles and would actually take us back to the water supply prior to 1974,” Armstrong said.

The problematic statements were removed from the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives and the legislation is now under review in a committee.

But the problems surrounding water access aren’t going anywhere.

“Water will always be a challenge for Atlanta given where we are and what our resources are, but we think we’ve got our eye on the ball,” Armstrong said.

Transportation and aging population priorities

Armstrong told members of the Town Center district he is done looking at the region’s transportation woes in the context of the failed 2012 transportation special purpose local option sales tax known as TSPLOST.

Metro Atlanta voters overwhelmingly voted down the

1 percent sales tax for transportation.

“TSPLOST is so rearview in the mirror for me,” Armstrong said. “It’s over. It happened.”

Transportation is a conversation that will never end, Armstrong said, particularly with redevelopment and growth on the rise in the 10-county, 68-city region the ARC oversees.

He pointed to concerns surrounding traffic at the Interstate 75 and Interstate 285 interchange in light of the plans for a new Braves stadium near Cumberland Mall.

“I’ve never seen a project of any worth in metro Atlanta that didn’t cause any traffic problems,” Armstrong said.

Metro Atlanta’s growing aging population is another challenge Armstrong said both Cobb and the region need to prepare to tackle.

“Atlanta’s aging population is a growing component of an overall picture,” Armstrong said. “Personally, I don’t think we’re prepared for that.”

Armstrong encouraged Cobb’s CIDs and “anybody who will listen” to factor in the mounting needs of the baby boomer population.

“Money is tight and shrinking from all sources,” Armstrong said.

It’s an issue Cobb Chairman Tim Lee, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, plans to take up on April 28 at a county-wide senior symposium.

Lee first introduced the idea to have a summit regarding needs of Cobb’s retiring population during re-zoning hearings for the controversial 843-unit, 53.7-acre senior living community proposed by developer Kevin Isakson of Isakson Living.

Critics have argued the senior development is too large and dense for its proposed site next to East Cobb Park while supporters contend Cobb’s increasing population of retirees needs more housing options.

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Cobb Taxpayer
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January 29, 2014
Stop building apartments in metro Atlanta.

Stop allowing the high density residual.

Pretty Simple
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