John F. Schaffner
This job takes me to a lot of meetings—many of which are public input sessions for one study or another. All of those input meetings seem to follow the same pattern. One might expect that all of the consultants conducting these studies—and thus the public meetings—either all went to the same school or least have read the same “how-to” books.
One thing that has always amazed me is that these meetings are designed to obtain input from the public—seemingly about items on which no decision has yet been made—and yet rarely do you see anyone from the consulting group taking detailed notes.
Of course, it is part of the practice to have someone with a notepad on an easel jotting down topics or subject matters, but rarely detailed notes. Every once in a while—mainly connected to state Department of Transportation projects—you will see a stenographer at one of these events. That person ostensibly is there to take the detailed comments of anyone who wants there comments put on the official record.
The big question that I have asked many times—and recently I now have heard other participants in the process ask—is this: Is anybody listening?
I mean are they really listening or is this an exercise they are required to go through?
For instance, I recently attended a meeting of the BeltLine steering committee for the part of lower Buckhead that the BeltLine is mapped to include. Not only I, but others attending the meeting, were more than a little shocked to discover that routes for a PATH Foundation trail that had presumably been removed earlier, were either still on, or back on, the maps being shown just before the final meetings before finalizing the master plan for this section of the BeltLine.
The same was true for alignments of proposed roadways, densities of proposed development along Peachtree Road and stepping back from Peachtree both to the east and west.
And, there was the total confusion for Piedmont Heights when the proposal for the master plan was to keep the Armour Drive and Armour Circle area—which was just made part of the Piedmont Heights residential neighborhood this year—an industrial area, rather than transitioning it to mixed-use with residential.
The incensed Piedmont Heights representative at the meeting was told it was going to remain industrial because Mayor Shirley Franklin decided she wanted it to remain industrial.
So much for paying attention to what the public wants.
The question bears repeating: Is anybody listening? Or, are members of the public just talking to themselves, for their own amusement?
I also like to give credit where credit is due. Denise Starling, executive director of Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association (BATMA), and the Kimley-Horn consultants who worked with her on the Piedmont Corridor Study did listen to and responded to public reaction (maybe I should say rebellion) against a proposed realignment of Piedmont Road where it intersects with Habersham and Roswell Roads.
When the final proposals for the corridor were brought back to the public for its final review, that proposed change in alignment had been removed.
Residents don’t mind giving up their time to attend meetings—even when there may be several in one week—if they believe there is a point in them being there—if, in fact, what they are saying is being listened to and registered.
But, urging them to provide input and then ignoring, or just not listening to, what they have to say is fodder for rebellion in the ranks of residents and taxpayers. Take note of that, city officials and hired consultants.
Speaking of consultants
Have you ever known of a city that hires more high-priced consultants to conduct seemingly redundant studies? We have had consultants doing studies for the BeltLine transportation routes. Another group has worked on transportation on the Peachtree Corridor. Another still has worked on the Piedmont Corridor Study. And, the list goes on and on. Now we have hired another group of high-priced consultants to study what all of those consultants have studied and try and come up with the city’s first comprehensive transportation plan, “Connect ATL.”
With all those millions of dollars being spent, maybe I need to become a consultant and be hired by the city. I would just have to buy that same text book and I too could be set for life.
Hello Buckhead, I’m home!
On Dec. 5 I closed on the purchase of my condominium in the brand new Gallery Residences at 2795 Peachtree Road and, on Dec. 10, my wife, Karen, and I moved in—the very first residents in Gallery.
I won’t say that everything went perfectly smoothly, I was reminded that there are always unforeseen glitches that come up when you are a “pioneer.” I think being the first resident to move into a brand new high-rise, on which construction work is still being completed, qualifies my wife and me to be labeled “pioneers.”
But on the night of Dec. 10, after the movers had finally finished and left, we sat on our balcony overlooking Fellini’s and up Peachtree Road with a glass of wine and thought how much we are looking forward to this new lifestyle in Buckhead.