By Gerhard Schneibel
The Sandy Springs City Council took no action July 15 on the North Fulton Comprehensive Transportation Plan after questioning the value of the plan during a council work session July 8.
Council members reviewed an Atlanta Regional Commission draft memorandum of understanding among North Fulton cities that would cost Sandy Springs $70,019 as a contribution to a $250,000 transportation study.
Sandy Springs would pay the most for the study, followed in decreasing order by Roswell, Milton, Johns Creek and Alpharetta. The cost breakdown is based on city populations.
Public Works Director Angela Parham said the goal of the plan is to serve “the interests of all those communities and (to be) coordinated rather than doing it individually.”
Mayor Eva Galambos said she is skeptical the study would benefit Sandy Springs because the only connection across the Chattahoochee River it shares with the other north Fulton cities is Roswell Road.
“This is supposed to improve traffic flow throughout all of North Fulton?” she said. “I think all of the emphasis is going to be on the river. I don’t know whether this is worth $70,000 on top of all the other money we’re spending for transportation improvements.”
Dist. 4 Councilwoman Ashley Jenkins expressed concerns about Sandy Springs losing autonomy over its transportation projects and about the division of the study’s cost.
“We won’t benefit at all from this,” she said. “People who live in Roswell and Alpharetta use my streets to get to their place of work. So, obviously, they’re going to want me to widen all of my streets so they can get quickly in and out of Sandy Springs. Are they going to have veto power over what I say in my city?”
City Manager John McDonough said he anticipates a trend toward the funding of transportation projects by groups of municipalities, which can exert more influence together.
“I think this type of planning effort in northern Fulton County is going to be the very basis for the list of projects that is going to be developed and may very well get through the legislature this year,” he said. “So I would be hesitant to say that we should not participate in that process and have a seat at the table.”
City Attorney Wendell Willard, who represents Dist. 49 in the Georgia House, echoed those comments. “Georgia DOT is emphasizing — what they’re looking at in road projects — is the regional planning aspects and what are local governments doing.”
But Jenkins argued that partnering with municipalities north of the Chattahoochee to address transportation would be counterproductive. “North of the river has nothing to do with us,” she said. “We’re better off partnering with Cobb County and DeKalb to look at transportation going east-west and the city of Atlanta. Let north of the river make their own plan.”
Dist. 3 Councilman Rusty Paul said the plan would be helpful if it provided a way to coordinate projects with Roswell.
“I think what I’m hearing is if we’re not involved in this on a regional basis, we could be left out of that funding mechanism,” he said. “I don’t know whether it’s worth $75,000 to do this. … I mean, really, the interconnectivity in this plan really relates more to Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton and Roswell.”
Galambos said that before she would support the memorandum of understanding, she would want to know what Sandy Springs roads would be in the study.
“I want them to study Glenridge. I want them to study Johnson Ferry. I want commitments like that before we give them $70,000,” she said. “I think we’re going to have to go back to the North Fulton mayors, where all this originated, and we’re going to have to get some commitments.”