Brookhaven City Council on June 7 punted a vote until next month on a controversial neighborhood traffic calming resolution after dozens of neighborhood activists packed City Hall to voice favor and opposition to the proposal.

Brookhaven Heights residents supporting implementing traffic calming measures in their neighborhood wore green shirts to the June 7 City Council meeting. Those opposed sat on the opposite side of the room. (Photo Dyana Bagby)

The council will hold another public hearing July 12 and consider voting on a request from residents living in the Brookhaven Heights neighborhood to implement traffic calming in the neighborhood including speed bumps as well as partial closing of some roads.

“We’re obviously disappointed [no vote was taken] but that’s OK,” said Giles Stevens, president of the Brookhaven Heights Community Association that is behind the petition.

“We’ve had multiple public meetings where the entire neighborhood has been invited so we feel the neighborhood has been informed and that’s why there is so much support,” he said. “We’ll definitely be ready [to come back July 12].”

The traffic calming resolution includes a request to partially close Standard Drive and Thornwell Drive by making them right-in only from North Druid Hills Road and also partially closing Oglethorpe Avenue by making it right-in right-out only from North Druid Hills Road.

Many residents opposing the traffic calming petition say if those three roads are partially closed off, the remaining two roads off North Druid Hills – Pine Grove Avenue and Colonial Drive – will be flooded with even more traffic congestion.

“This is not traffic calming, this is traffic diversion,” said Tom Sanders, who said he has lived on Matthews Street since 1999.

Supporters of the petition said the traffic measures, which also include 12 new speed humps and a roundabout at the intersection of Oglethorpe Avenue and Colonial Drive, would force cut-through traffic out of their neighborhood and provide safety for families.

Traffic calming measures proposed for Brookhaven Heights include partial road closures, roundabouts and speed tables. Click to enlarge.

Those opposing it say they don’t want their streets to absorb the relocated traffic. Many of those opposing the plan also questioned if the required 65 percent of signatures from residents required by the city to consider implementing traffic calming measures in a neighborhood were valid. The city’s ordinance requires a minimum of 65 percent approval from property owners affected by the plan.

Chad Boles, who opposed the proposed plan, directed his comments at Councilmember Bates Mattison, who represents Brookhaven Heights.

“Bates, we are all your constituents. Because you are dividing our community – you referred to this side as the Hatfields and this side as the McCoys — that’s wrong,” Boles said. “Your lack of leadership is why we are here discussing and not celebrating together a comprehensive solution of our neighborhood traffic.”

Public Works Director Richard Meehan said traffic analysis by the city showed that during one day:

  • 4,000 cars traveled on Colonial Drive
  • 1,500 cars traveled on Standard Drive
  • 1,000 cars traveled on Thornwell Drive
  • 400 cars traveled on Oglethorpe Avenue

The decision to partially close access roads into the neighborhood came from the residents living in the neighborhood, Meehan said, who added his analysis predicted there would be no significant increase of traffic on other streets by partially closing Oglethorpe Avenue, Thornwell Drive and Standard Drive.

All residents and city officials agreed that the main traffic problem is on Peachtree Road at North Druid Hills Road and Dresden Drive. The backup at these intersections results in motorists seeking a quicker route to I-85 and Buford Highway and taking residential streets to get there.

One person explained that most of the cut-through traffic goes down Standard Drive, Thornwell Drive and Oglethorpe Avenue and then motorists take a left onto Briarwood Road

There were calls from residents to come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with the congestion on Peachtree Road because it’s the motorist wanting to avoid delays on Peachtree Road who seep into neighborhoods seeking for a quick cut through.

One resident suggested closing or partially closing the bridge on Colonial Drive where much of the 4,000 motorists cross to cut through Brookhaven Heights. Councilmember Joe Gebbia jumped on that idea and thought there might be a creatuve way to do to try to make sure everyone is satisfied.

Meehan, however, said enforcement of signage or other measures to keep out cut-through traffic on the bridge would put an unnecessary burden on the police department. Gebbia said perhaps it would be wise to take the $25 annual fee each homeowner pays to install traffic calming measure and put that money toward a police officer.

Mattison said he understood the concerns raised by all residents and made the motion to delay a vote for 30 days so he could meet with residents in the neighborhood to ensure they receive accurate information and are included in the process of coming up with a solution.

“The reason [to defer] is that it has been the history and experience of myself and council that when we have petitions and considerations like this that have a lot of controversy it’s because there [are a lot of people] who don’t have a lot of the facts,” he said.

“As a government we need to make sure to move slowly and deliberately and do things right,” Mattison said.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.