BCN Members Version – PDF (login required).
I. Welcome & Introductions
Jim King called the meeting to order at about 6:35 PM.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the August meeting were approved.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be admitted to BCN.
IV. Guest Speaker – Laura Beall, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority
Laura Beall is the Division Director, Land Use of Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (Her presentation is GRTA Overview 09.12.2013. Laura is a third generation Atlantan and has lived in three different Buckhead neighborhoods. She has Georgia Tech degrees in architecture and city planning, specializing in public policy. She has been with GRTA for eight years. The Georgia Planning act of 1989 created regional commissions including the Atlanta Regional Commission. It defined “Developments of Regional Impact” (DRI) and delegated authority for the act to the state Department of Community Affairs. DRI thresholds are defined in DCA rules. Developments are designated as DRIs by the regional commissions. GRTA was created by the General Assembly in 1999 as an arm of the governor’s office and by state law GRTA is charged with reviewing all DRIs. GRTA started reviewing DRIs in 2002. GRTA does not have the power to approve a development as a land use – that power rests with local governments. But, as part of its review GRTA is empowered to allow or disallow expenditure of federal and state funds for land transportation related to the DRI. Once a development is determined to be a DRI, local action to approve the development is frozen pending the state’s technical review. The state review happens before the local review (including NPU reviews). When completed, GRTA’s review then “informs” the local government’s decision process by issuing a binding “Notice of Decision”. GRTA reviews DRIs in 13 counties, four regional commissions and four GDOT districts. Along with the decline in the economy in recent years, policy changes recently made by the state have reduced the number of DRI reviews GRTA has been conducting. In 2007, there were over 90 DRIs reviewed, followed by over 60 DRIs in 2008, at which time the GRTA review staff was 10. Staff is now one (Laura). Two types of reviews are conducted by GRTA: Non- Expedited and Expedited. Non-Expedited reviews require a full blown traffic study. It is a longer review and the applicant has to submit more information. Specific criteria are employed to determine if the development has a lessened impact on traffic and projects meeting those criteria are “Expedited”. Expedited reviews take about half the time of Non-Expedited reviews. Much less information is required for Expedited reviews. The next figure shows the parties involved in a DRI review. The developer is required to pay for professional traffic, site design and legal studies and services. Importantly, while local government components are included in the GRTA review process, neighborhoods are not typically involved. The logic here is that the GRTA process precedes the legal approval of the land use. It is assumed that neighborhoods will be involved in the local government’s consideration of the land use. This point resulted in considerable discussion later in Laura’s presentation. Neighborhood leaders feel they are far more aware of their traffic particular issues than city planning/transportation officials are. The premise of this policy is that neighborhoods are concerned about the development itself and not about transportation changes made to accommodate the development. Some felt a principal deficiency in the process is that neighborhood groups are not able to offer support or criticism of to draft Notices of Decision prior to their issuance. The focus of the GRTA decision is about that development’s transportation issues, not all transportation issues in the area. GRTA meetings are open and neighborhood representatives may attend. Neighborhoods are able to submit written statements of concern, which are recorded in the documentation for the GRTA review. Laura said we are welcome to come to her office and look at any of the information related to a DRI application. The figure at the right outlines the objectives of GRTA reviews. An objective of the GRTA review of DRIs is to assess and mitigate the impact of the development. They also seek to reduce the number and length of vehicle trips and encourage other kinds of trips. Regarding maximization of transportation investment, Laura cited an example where GRTA ruled against disturbing a newly built bridge and DeKalb overruled that decision—this shows that GRTA’s power involves access to funds and that their Notices of Decision are not absolutely binding. In this case, the bridge was intended to support free flowing traffic and Laura was disappointed that the public investment in it may be degraded. In evaluating each DRI, GRTA considers pedestrian accessibility and vehicular connectivity to the project. Access management involves the impact of the driveways to a project on surrounding traffic. They also consider consistency of the project with regional policies and plans. An example of a Expedited Review might be a waste handling facility, which involves generation of a limited number of trips. GRTA hasn’t had a mixeduse application qualify for an Expedited Review. Developments adjacent to a MARTA rail station may qualify for Expedited Reviews. Several recent LCI developments have qualified for Expedited Reviews. Laura then discussed the elements of a DRI traffic study. These include defining the scope of the project. Based on the type of development and its size, the number of individual vehicle trips that will be generated is projected. This is reduced by various factors such as the extent to which alternate transportation will be used and whether the origin and destination of some trips are both within the development as can happen in mixed-use developments. “Trip distribution” involves the portions of total trips forecast to be generated by a development that will flow onto each of the roads making up the road network surrounding that development. Trip data are developed by the applicant’s traffic engineers and are reviewed by GRTA and other DRI review partners. The traffic study forecasts traffic conditions at several stages of a project’s development. Stages reported might include:
- Current traffic conditions
- future conditions including the impact of “background growth” of traffic
- future conditions including implementation of proposed infrastructure improvements, and
- future conditions including growth, improvements and impact from the completion of the development
A number of factors are considered in approving a DRI. One factor is whether the project is encroaching on the planned right of way for future roads. Interestingly, if a project is built after not being approved by GRTA because of ROW preservation concerns, the government will pay for the land occupied by the project when the road is ultimately built but will not pay for the unapproved improvements. In looking at the figure to the right, “site driveway access” involves limiting or not allowing access onto some adjacent streets. Shared driveways are encouraged so every subdivision of a site doesn’t require its own driveway. “Transit supportive facilities” means bus stops, not rail stations. Nearby intersection improvements may be required. For example, the Sandy Springs Gateway project approval required that the intersection of Windsor Parkway with Roswell Road be moved and reconfigured. Yolanda Adrean asked who decides who pays for required improvements. Laura responded that it might be the developer, local governments or state/federal. Yolanda explored what happens if the project involved a location adjacent to two municipalities, one with the project approval authority, the other with the obligation to make improvements needed for the project – then what? Laura said they are careful in such situations. A developer may be required through zoning conditions to make the improvement in the neighboring jurisdiction or pay for it. She also said they have a policy that they will not hold a local government responsible for some other jurisdiction’s improvements or the refusal by the other jurisdiction to make needed improvements. There were extensive discussions about the lack of involvement of neighborhood and elected officials in the early parts of the DRI process. This appears to be a result of the City of Atlanta’s selection of its representative(s) in the DRI process rather than a problem involving GRTA. The consensus of attendees was that neighborhoods, their city council representatives, and their NPUs should be much more involved in Atlanta’s DRIs from the earliest stages. Traffic studies under the DRI process involve a narrow focus: the orientation is to typical traffic conditions, not the normal range of good traffic days and bad ones. Recommended improvements coming from the DRI process thus do not focus on solutions that will save motorists the most time and inconvenience, just the solutions that will avoid inconvenience on most days. Another way to look at this approach is it results in the approval of projects that might not be approved if a more rigorous review had been conducted.
V. Development Issue – Grant Valley Estates at West Paces Ferry Road
Michael Golden and several other Grant Valley Estates neighbors explained their concerns about a large development on East Andrews Drive extending from Roswell Road to West Paces Ferry Road. Their particular concern was with a Regions Bank planned at the corner of East Andrews and West Paces Ferry. The bank was originally explained to the neighborhood to be a small waste management facility but is now being expanded to a large facility with five drive-through lanes. The neighborhood opposes the road cut onto West Paces Ferry Road and the interconnection of those driveways to apartment units at the overall complex. They said that Regions had been difficult to communicate with. Jim King asked Yolanda Adrean to determine if the curb cut onto West Paces Ferry was required or could be removed. Jim also asked Michael to keep BCN apprised.
Gordon Certain reported on a technology he learned about at a briefing at APS Headquarters. CopDots is a new commercial product that lets people mark their valuables with micro tags. If the items are later stolen, the micro tags can be used to establish who the owner is and to prosecute the thieves. See Gordon’s presentation is at CopDots.
VII. Committee and Liaison Updates
Did not meet. No report.
Transportation, Development and Infrastructure
Gordon Certain reported on a meeting held with Sandy Springs Public Works and with neighborhood and business representatives about alternatives related to the Windsor Parkway relocation. No progress was made on alternatives. Debra Wathen said there had been no problems reported with the opening of the new North Atlanta campus. Jim King and Yolanda Adrean spoke about traffic problems and solutions at the old new Sutton middle school campus. Yolanda also spoke about road improvements being made for E Rivers.
VIII. Old / New Business
IX. Community Concerns
Yolanda Adrean announced that a CryWolf meeting on the security alarm ordinance would be held on September 17.
XI. Next Meeting – October 10, 2013
XII. Adjourn – The meeting adjourned at about 8:15 PM.