A new crack has appeared in efforts to build sidewalks along Wieuca Road to provide a safe path for students to walk to the new Sarah Smith School campus.
By John Schaffnereditor@reporternewspapers.net
A new crack has appeared in efforts to build sidewalks along Wieuca Road to provide a safe path for students to walk to the new Sarah Smith School campus. The problem is that the city does not own the right-of-way in front of 13 houses on Wieuca Road. The city needs the property to complete the sidewalks between Mountain Way and the school. The right-of-way problem could delay that portion of the project up to a year, city Public Works project manager Madelyn Grant said. Residents of the area who have fought for more than a year for this sidewalk project say they just found out about the right-of-way problem. City officials have known about it since November. Gordon Certain, president of the North Buckhead Civic Association, e-mailed about 1,600 people on Jan. 22 saying the right-of-way ownership issue is delaying the city’s efforts to construct “the sidewalks needed to let young students walk to their new Sarah Smith campus on Wieuca Road.” Certain asked representatives of Atlanta’s Department of Public Works, which oversees the sidewalk project, to attend the association’s board meeting Jan. 25 to explain the problem and what effect it would have on the project’s completion. The sidewalks were scheduled to be done by the end of February.Grant said the city is proceeding with work on the sidewalks in other areas along Wieuca except in front of the 13 houses. Grant told members of the association’s board and neighborhood residents—mostly from along Wieuca Road—that the city first discovered the right-of-way problem after the association held a community meeting on the school and sidewalk project in November.She said one property owner in the 4200 block of Wieuca Road raised the question of right-of-way ownership. That caused the city to check plats on the properties and hire a surveyor to check out the homeowner’s claim. Grant said the project was originally designed with the idea of having a 16-foot right-of-way setback from the street. The survey showed that rights-of-way on the school side of the road had been reduced to the point that there too little to build the sidewalk. The city has determined how much additional right-of-way it needs in front of the 13 properties. It must now determine a fair market price for the purchase of the land and then purchase the parcels.Grant said that process could delay the sidewalk being completed in that area until early 2011.In response to a question, Grant said the city would prefer to purchase the needed land through negotiations with the property owners, but indicated the city would use its powers of eminent domain if necessary. Most children are walking on the other side of the road where there are sidewalks, one resident said. However, it was pointed out that those sidewalks have been washed out in spots by recent rains. Board members and visiting neighbors was that safe ways to cross Wieuca are needed for the school children until the new sidewalk can be completed. One board member indicated that students are now walking in the bike lane—which is part of the roadway—to walk to and from school where there are no sidewalks. A resident asked if a traffic signal could be erected temporarily at Loridans and Wieuca “so kids can cross the road.” He said the neighborhood would not be happy if the city does nothing.