Guest Column – Jeff Rader, Dist. 2 commissioner

Demographic studies clearly show that DeKalb County’s population is aging, just like the rest of the country. It is estimated that in the year 2030, one in five Atlanta citizens will be 60 years or older, according to a report by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC). That report led the ARC to develop an initiative, “Lifelong Communities,” which is a set of principles and strategies to help deal with the aging population. The Lifelong Communities initiative addresses housing, transportation, lifestyle and community networking. The county commissioners, in response to a resolution that I introduced, unanimously endorsed the principles of Lifelong Communities. The aging issue is of particular interest to District 2, because it has the largest percentage of senior citizens in DeKalb, an issue I discussed last summer. If the county does not plan for this rapidly expanding demographic, then seniors will face dwindling options if they wish to remain in their current neighborhoods. Having seniors present is important for a community, which should be represented by people of all facets from young to old, and modest to considerable means. That creates an inclusive community, a stronger community, and a better quality of life.

North Druid Hills LCI

Earlier this year, DeKalb County was awarded a grant to develop a long-range plan for development in the North Druid Hills Road corridor from Buford Highway to Clairmont Road. The county commissioners accepted a bid from an outside company, Arcadis, to conduct the study and write a plan. Public participation and feedback will be a major and leading part of the study.

The plan will address three primary issues: transportation, land use and connectivity. How to alleviate the traffic congestion in the corridor? How to manage future development in order to become a Lifelong Community (see paragraph above)? How to improve access to and from the corridor to other pockets within the district? The cost of the study is $150,000 with 80 percent coming from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) via its Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) program. The other 20 percent of the funding is from the county’s general transportation fund.

Road Paving

One of the casualties of the Georgia’s budget cutbacks was its Local Assistance Road Program (LARP). The program, administered by the Georgia Department of Transportation, provided matching dollars for road resurfacing work. For every $3 dollars put forth by local governments, LARP typically provides $2 for pre-approved projects.

This year, the LARP program was frozen to the entire state. As a result, none of the projects on the 2009 list were completed. That puts DeKalb County behind another year with a backlog estimated last fall at 330 miles of roads badly in need of repair at a total estimated cost of $83 million. By comparison, the county’s general budget provides about $4 million this year for road resurfacing. The numbers underscore the need for the county to be more assertive in taking its future into its own hands.

The county is now submitting its wish list for 2010 which will be the same list it submitted last year. Road resurfacing projects on the wish list are subject to a rating system based on objective analysis by the county’s transportation department. To see the wish list of projects for District 2 and my lengthier comments on this topic:

Commissioner Jeff Rader was elected in 2006 to a four-year term representing DeKalb County Dist. 2, which includes the southern half of Brookhaven.