A passionate group of some 30 people gathered June 15 at Brookhaven City Hall to talk traffic – specifically what to do with the significant number of commuters cutting through their neighborhood to get from one end of the city to the other.
City Councilmember Bates Mattison held the first of three community meetings to go over a controversial traffic-calming petition for the Brookhaven Heights neighborhood that seems to have pitted “three roads against two roads.”
“There’s a lot of animosity and with that nothing will get done,” Mattison said as he listened to people voice opposition in several tense exchanges to the proposed traffic plan.
The major disagreement between neighbors is the desire by many in the neighborhood to partially close Standard Drive and Thornwell Drive by making them right-in only from North Druid Hills Road and also partially close Oglethorpe Avenue by making it right-in right-out only from North Druid Hills Road.
Limiting access into the neighborhood at these major access points, they say, will significantly reduce cut through traffic from motorists wanting an easier route to Buford Highway or I-85 from Peachtree Road, and vice versa.
Those living on Pine Grove Avenue and Colonial Drive, however, argue by limiting access to those three roads, the already bad cut through traffic on their roads will be worsened by more cars being dumped onto their two roads.
“The plan that’s on the table is essentially flawed … what it’s doing is benefiting the majority at the expense of the minority. Why should Pine Grove and Colonial have to suffer?” said Sarah Ford, who lives on Pine Grove Avenue.
Steve Blanchard, who lives on Thornwell Drive at North Druid Hills Road, said he is in full support of the petition even though he will be incredibly inconvenienced by the proposals.
“I work in Norcross and I won’t be able to go left out of my street. Also, those who won’t know [about the partial closing] will have to turn around in my driveway. But this is what’s best for the community,” he said. “Safety first. I can’t walk to my mailbox with my children without dodging traffic. I’m not going to sit back and watch someone get hurt.”
At its June 7 meeting, the City Council deferred taking any action on the petition for traffic calming measures in the neighborhood that also includes more speed humps and a roundabout until the July 12 meeting. Mattison said at the June 15 meeting he’s not sure 30 days will be enough time to come up with what will likely be some kind of new plan. The plan will be discussed at the July 12 meeting, he said, but it’s possible another delay in action will take place.
Mattison also promised that a website with traffic studies and traffic data will be created in the near future to allow access to everyone and not just those included in Facebook groups.
Terrell Carsten, a veteran neighborhoo
d activist who lives in neighboring Brookhaven Fields, requested future traffic calming studies done for Brookhaven Heights include input from residents living in her neighborhood.
“Our concern is the traffic will filter over to us,” she said. “Instead of this being a three road [versus] two road group, include us – we’re in the same character area.”
Danielle Gourley, who lives between Colonial Drive and Pine Grove Avenue, said she knows people who use the Waze app that tells them to cut through the neighborhood via Oglethorpe Avenue to get to North Druid Hills. If and when Oglethorpe Avenue is partially closed, she said what will keep Waze from directing them to Pine Grove Avenue.
“I strongly believe this is a traffic diversion plan and not a traffic calming plan — all we are doing is funneling traffic to Pine Grove and Colonial,” she said.
All those in attendance were able to agree there is a problem with cut through traffic in Brookhaven Heights and that something needs to be done.
“I’m not set in stone with any one idea. The proposed solution is very restrictive to the neighborhood and when I see a neighborhood willing to restrict its own access, it certainly speaks to the significance of the problem,” Mattison said.
But it appears some sort of compromise needs to be made, Mattison said.
“While the process [to bring about the petition before the council] was followed to the T, the council has the vote and will be implementing the changes. Everyone’s voices are extremely important,” he said.