Concerns about a new Walgreens development on Peachtree Street causing more traffic delays for residents living near Colonial Drive were raised at the City Council’s March 8 work session.
Residents in the area said they were promised by city officials during the zoning approval process two years ago that a dedicated right-of-way lane on Colonial Drive would be put in by the developers – however as construction continues there is no sign of such a lane in sight, they said.
“There needs to be sense of urgency demonstrated to the residents to honor the commitment,” Bill Roberts of Brookhaven Heights told the council. Roberts was speaking on behalf of the Brookhaven-Peachtree Community Alliance.
Colonial Drive currently has a dedicated left turn lane and a shared through and right turn lane. City officials said the shared through and right turn lane acts as a defacto dedicated right turn lane because few motorists use it to go straight across Peachtree.
Ben Song, community development director, said that the 2014 agreement with the Walgreens developer made during May and July 2014 Board of Zoning Appeals meetings did not include the promise of constructing a dedicated right turn lane. Instead money would be put aside to build one if in the future it was decided such a lane was necessary dependent on future development, he said.
“I did review both meetings … and not knowing what private discussions may have been outside City Hall, as staff we are limited to information provided on the record,” he said.
Song explained that part of that official agreement stated that in lieu of a dedicated right turn lane the company would pay for the design and construction fees when such a lane was deemed absolutely necessary. The developer put up a $131,000 bond that runs every two years and the city has the option to renew it every two years, he said. The design would be for four lanes
There is also 60-feet of available right-of-way to use to widen the road to four lanes if necessary, he said. And cooperation from Starbucks and its property owner would also be needed.
“At that time the engineer for the applicant said based on their study that no dedicated right turn lane was necessary,” Song said. “This was based on that time.”
Since that time, however, Kroger has recently mentioned preliminary plans to the city of Brookhaven about installing a new traffic light on Peachtree Road and the uncertainty remains of will eventually go on what is known as the Hastings site.
“The idea was it may be prudent to let some time pass and find out what is contemplated at adjacent developments” before deciding on a final solution for the Colonial Road/Peachtree Road intersection, said Public Works Director Bennett White.
Song added it would be advisable for the city to “hold off for a short time to come up with an alternative” by re-striping the arrows on Colonial Drive in the near future to make the left lane a shared left and through lane and the right land a right-turn lane only. City council members agreed this was also the best idea.
Councilmember Linley Jones said doing something drastic now would only be a short-term fix. But Roberts said residents demanded an answer now.
“Residents expect improvement right now,” he said. “It’s obvious construction is going on. Why subject residents and the people in cars and pedestrians to a complicated Walgreens project … and then a complicated road project at the back end of another year. Why not do all of it now and everyone’s hassle is minimized.”
Councilmember Bates Mattison explained that intersection is just one part of the larger problem that is the thorny traffic problem on Peachtree Road and promised Roberts that the city is working to find ways to fix the Peachtree corridor.