By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

Resident comments from about 70 who attended the public information meeting about the Peachtree Dunwoody corridor improvements were overwhelmingly against the widening of Peachtree Dunwoody Road between Abernathy and Spalding Drive, and almost unanimous in wanting turn lane improvements at the Spalding Drive intersection.

Several residents also expressed concern over developer Charles Robert’s plans for the stripped and barren development site on the east side of Peachtree Dunwoody Road almost across from the MARTA rail station. They wanted to know what Roberts plans to build there and what the impact might be on the corridor.

City Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins, who represents District 4 where the Peachtree Dunwoody corridor is located, told the group that Robert’s property was zoned by Fulton County, prior to Sandy Springs becoming a city, for a mixed-use development with buildings that can go to 10, 12 or 14 stories.

Jenkins said, however, Roberts has put the project on hold because of what he says is a “recession” period. She said he has 36 months from the time the zoning was passed to start construction, but must show progress along the way. He has one more year left of that 36-month period where he has to begin work. That is why he keeps earth moving machinery on the site and has recently planted grass, to remain in compliance with his zoning agreement.

Jenkins said Sandy Springs can only get involved with the zoning of the property if Roberts fails to perform according to the agreement he made with the county.

Several of the residents were unhappy that Roberts had gotten the right to close off the lower end of West Peachtree Dunwoody Road, which had been an entrance into their neighborhoods. This has forced those residents to go to the north end of the short West Peachtree Dunwoody Road, make sharp turn and double back to their neighborhoods.

Sandy Springs Public Works Department transportation planner Mark Moore emphasized that everyone from the city and its consultants working on the corridor improvement study were at the Nov. 12 evening meeting at Woodland Charter Elementary School to hear what residents were there to tell them. He said there are no draft plans or proposals to show to the residents.

Jerry Brooks, who is with Kimley-Horn and Associates consultants, who were hired to do a database, traffic study and environment impact study on the corridor, said his firm was literally hired a week or so before the meeting. That is one reason those attending were seeing the current situation and not future forecasts.

He told the group that the corridor had mainly been done in bits and pieces—and primarily by developers—and that is why the roadway varies so much, including with turn lanes that are often required as part of the requirements placed on developers by the city or county. He said it would be nice to see a common corridor through the area.

Mary Jo Marx came to the meeting with a list of concerns and requests from a meeting of several area neighborhood associations representing more than 1,000 homeowners.

Standing at the podium in front of a digital map of the intersection of Abernathy and Peachtree Dunwoody roads with present day levels of moving traffic, Marx said the consensus of the group was it would not support widening of Peachtree Dunwoody Road. She said the group would support improvement to the intersection at Spalding Drive, with the addition of a right turn lane onto Spalding.

Among the other items on her list were: that MARTA should move the bus stop further down the corridor to avoid backing cars up into the intersection, the timing of traffic signals should be improved and make the office park open North Park Place Drive during the evening rush hours. She said the group she met with felt there already were sufficient sidewalks through most of the corridor and felt there was no need for bike lanes.

One resident said he felt Peachtree Dunwoody should be two lanes each direction through the area at Embassy Row, where the Art Institute of Atlanta is located. Others suggested that cars should be restricted to entering Embassy Row offices at the northern entrance to reduce the backup around the traffic signals at Abernathy and North Park Place drive.

Many of the residents complained about the high speed at which motorists drive on Peachtree Dunwoody and the improper use of lanes to try and beat other motorists. Julius Alembik, who has his law offices in the office buildings at 7000 Peachtree Dunwoody, said his complex shares a left turn lane with the Post Dunwoody Apartments across the road at a point that is referred to as “dead man’s curve.” He said it is a wonder no one has been killed in an accident there.

Moore told the group since this is not a project of the Georgia Department of Transportation, there will likely be many mini projects rather than one total corridor project.

Those attending were encouraged to fill out comment sheets attached to their handouts. All comments are due in by Monday, Nov. 26 and will become a part of the project record. The corridor study project is expected to continue through August 2008.