By John Schaffner
A meeting to discuss the decision- making processes for the BeltLine Master Plan for Subarea 7, started out with Atlanta BeltLine Inc. CEO Terri Montague describing how the process had been altered to allow greater public input. Subarea 7 includes south Buckhead and alternative routes for the Atlanta Memorial Trail.
Then the meeting turned to a discussion of three PATH Foundation proposals for the Atlanta Memorial Trail to travel up Tanyard Creek from Tanyard Creek Park and through Memorial Park to Northside Drive. At that point, BeltLine and PATH representatives got an earful of input from residents of Collier Hills and North Collier Hills, as well as other nearby neighborhoods.
To some longtime residents, one of the plans was very reminiscent of a PATH plan presented years earlier that passed along the backyards of homes that front on Overbrook Drive and their backyards reach to the creek, the golf course and tennis facility. After years of meetings, that proposal was soundly defeated by all the area neighborhoods years earlier.
The end result of the May 5 meeting was that virtually no one at the meeting in Midtown liked any of the three alternatives as presented by Ed McBrayer, executive director for PATH. So PATH was to go back the drawing boards and come up with a hybrid of a couple of the plans.
The first criteria for the hybrid plan would be to keep the trail away from the backyards of homes along Overbrook Drive.
The second criteria would be to pick a route north from the Howard property on Collier Road that results in the least disturbance to a historic woods area behind the North Collier Hills neighborhood homes along western side of Golf View Road.
Mark Corrigan, who lives two homes up Overbrook Drive from the Howard property, told the group he and all the other residents along Overbrook Drive are under constant siege by the street being used as a major cut-through by cars going between Northside Drive and Collier Road during rush hours and all day long.
He said the one proposal from the PATH Foundation, which had the trail running right at the back of his property line, would virtually create another road at the back of his property, 25 yards from the back of his house.
Corrigan said, “Please come down to my backyard and see that this will do to my home, my life, my family’s life. It is devastating.” He said because of the traffic on Overbrook, his family’s life is based on their backyard and that privacy.
He and others at the meeting pointed out that there already are homeless people using the creek. “I hear them at night. My bed is that close. They do not have access to our backyards due to the banks of the creek,” he explained. “This would open up a direct after dark access right into our backyards.”
Another resident said the neighbors have already been told by the Atlanta police that this would pose a serious safety hazard.
The North Collier Hills residents who live along Golf View Road voiced their opposition to an initial PATH plan that altered the tee box for the 15th hole at the Bobby Jones Golf Club and put it deep into the woods behind their homes, requiring destroying many of the trees in the forest.
McBrayer said that he had meetings with the company that runs the golf course about some of the alterations PATH was suggesting making to the course in order to come up with another alternate plan.
He said the golf course management company had returned with a “wish list” of other course improvements they would want in order to approve the PATH plan. McBrayer said those items would be very expensive and difficult to justify.
One person in the audience suggested running either a boardwalk type trail, or one along a creek bulkhead from the Howard property to a point that would not disturb the golf course and then crossing the creek to an area near the Bitsey Grant Tennis facility.
It was pointed out that such a plan would eliminate the trail from the backyards of homes along Overbrook Drive and would minimize any impact on the woods behind the homes along Golf View Road.
Several agreed that PATH should study that plan and a routing for it and bring something back to the next meeting that looks at that possibility.
The BeltLine and PATH representatives present at the meeting agreed to evaluate such an option and return with something to the next meeting, which is scheduled for June 2.
That response from BeltLine and PATH was consistent with changes in procedures and processes that Montague had pointed to at the beginning of the meeting.
Montague had pointed out that the trail implementation process and the BeltLine Master Plan process are not the same. She said the master planning process has not started in this area of Atlanta even though the study group process has been going on for at least a year.
The BeltLine CEO said that meeting was essentially a continuation of the trail discussions, coming off the compromise made with the Tanyard Creek Trail based on neighborhood impact. She said the Tanyard Creek experience had altered the operation of the mayor’s BeltLine Sub Cabinet, which will work earlier into the process than before.
Although not directly attributed to the Tanyard Creek experience, Montague explained that additional opportunities have been added to the process for community review of proposed plans, which can result in additional input and revisions.
The concept, she explained, is to take revised options back to the committee and partners (such as PATH, neighborhood groups, etc.) and ask: “Did we get this right?” She said the final decision, however, still rests with Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI) on BeltLine related projects.
One part of the process that caused a furor with Neighborhood Planning Unit-C chair Eric Ranney was the revelation that the NPUs would have no vote on BeltLine trails within their jurisdiction area. In fact, ABI has no plans to make presentations before the NPUs relating to such trails.
Ranney said that seemed to be an anti-community outreach stance, rather than one to endear BeltLine and its programs to the communities.