GDOT is asking property owners along the highway to vote on whether they want 22-foot high concrete walls to be built between their properties and the interstate when work begins on the reversible lane project. The walls would provide privacy and reduce noise coming from the interstate, said Karlene Barron, a spokeswoman for GDOT.
The barriers would be made out of a light-weight concrete composite, which is a new material the department is using, as opposed to the metal sheets used in the past, Barron said.
The managed lanes project, which will add two new lanes on the west side of I-75, is set to break ground in October in Cobb County, Barron said.
The city owns two pieces of land along the west side of I-75: the 348-unit, 24.32-acre Flagstone Village Apartments at 849 Franklin Road and the 386-unit 25.2-acre Woodlands Park apartments at 861 Franklin Road, said Beth Sessoms, the city’s economic development manager.
The city bought those properties for a total of $20 million from a redevelopment bond, which is a $68 million referendum voters approved in November. The city has plans to demolish the apartment complexes and sell the land to commercial buyers.
GDOT is proposing 43 sound barriers along different parts of I-75, but the department does not yet know how many miles of highway the barriers would cover because it depends on the vote, Barron said.
The city’s vote was due to GDOT on July 5, and it voted against the sound barriers. Mayor Steve Tumlin and Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly were vocal among the majority who wanted to vote against the barriers. The council agreed taking the advice of real estate agents would be the best decision.
Barron said it will take a 50 percent plus one majority vote for sound barriers to be built. Even though Marietta voted against the barriers, a concrete wall could still be built on the city’s property if a majority of property owners along the highway vote in favor of it.
“We don’t have the votes in yet. They’re still going through the process of tallying the votes,” Barron said.
After speaking with representatives from Jones Lang LaSalle, the Chicago-based company managing the city’s two properties, Sessoms advised the council to vote “no” to the sound barriers.
“From a commercial real estate standpoint, they feel like it would be detrimental to have the barrier there. So, if a company locates there, it won’t be visible,” Sessoms said.
The managed lanes will expand I-75, meaning some trees along the road will be removed and the properties along the interstate will be more visible. This will be to the advantage of the company choosing to buy the land from the city, Sessoms said.
“It was the general consensus of the real estate community is that we would not want sound barriers because it would block the view of the Franklin Road property on I-75 for commercial development,” Sessoms said.
Councilman Philip Goldstein, in contrast to the rest of the council, said he thinks the sound barriers would benefit the area, as long as they looked nice.
“There is a benefit to the barriers. I personally am in favor of the barrier,” Goldstein said. “I think there’s something to be said for quieting the sound coming from I-75 because it can be pretty noisy.”