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Traffic woes plague county's rapid growth


Groups call for slowed, planned development growth



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Motorists on Mullinax Road say they average 30 minutes to travel two miles during peak traffic hours. Source: Fix Forsyth Traffic. (click for larger version)

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September 30, 2013
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The growth in southwest Forsyth County has caught many by surprise, but others have seen it creep and say it has to be reduced.

While development was predicted to take 10 years to catch up to the slowdown in the economy, growth has happened much quicker for this portion of the county.

A number of citizen-led groups have sprung up around Forsyth County uniting around the effort to stop high density development and traffic.

One of the groups, Forsyth HOAs and Homeowners, has collected some 5,000 signatures for a petition, while another, FixForsythTraffic.com, generated 300 personalized emails and letters to the county in five days.

Other groups that have been in place for some time have joined forces in the call for slowed development, including the Forsyth Citizens for Responsible Growth and Smart Growth Forsyth County.

Forsyth County Commissioner Todd Levent, who is the representative for most of the southwest portion of the county, said he's working to solve these residents' concerns.

Levent also places much of the responsibility with the state.

"There are no homes that have been built that have created new cars from anything I zoned," Levent said. "They were created two years before I was in office. The day I got in office, I realized we were getting on this path."

Being on the Department of Transportation Committee, Levent said he has held numerous meetings with state representatives asking for Ga. Highway 9 to be widened.

"If they would fulfill the state road obligations, we wouldn't have to put so much traffic on our county and roads such as Mullinax Road," Levent said.

Mullinax Road has been the outcry for many motorists behind the FixForsythTraffic.com website. But Post Road and the Fowler region are close behind in their calls for a solution.

County leaders say traffic relief is coming with commissioners asking the engineering department to put a priority on these intersection improvements, which were approved in the latest round of SPLOST VII.

Improvements to Union Hill and Mullinax roads are planned as soon as right-of-way can be purchased.

"When you look at Post Road, there are a number of improvements there. They were done by the county," Levent said.

Levent said that when the state approved a sidewalk at Vickery Creek Middle School, he worked to increase the culvert pipe. This will create a 900-foot stacking lane to let parents with their children get off Post Road while they wait to get into Vickery Creek Middle School, thus allowing traffic to flow.

Forsyth County Chairman Pete Amos said money sometimes holds up road projects, but another state and county road improvement is underway at Ga. Highway 9 and Bethelview Road.

"When the state says do it, we do it," Amos said.

He touted finishing Bethelview from Castleberry Road to Ga. Highway 20 and turning that into a four-lane road. In addition, work to make the area from the Chattahoochee River east to Samples Road on Ga. 20 into a four-lane road is next.

"We have to do it," Amos said.

One thing that has held back road work includes being nearly $60 million short on SPLOST VI, the 1 percent sales tax added to goods that are bought in the county.

"We are trying to get projects done through SPLOST so that property taxes can remain low," Amos said.

As far as high density development, Amos said all of these lots built in now were approved in 2005-06.

"They said it would take us 10 years to get rid of our empty lots, and in the southside we got rid of every empty lot in three years," Amos said. "All those lots that were sitting empty caught everybody by surprise."

Amos insists the county is not seeking high density developments. Most of the lots in the county are below 2.5 units per acre, he said.

"We are trying to keep everything with a normal rate of speed with medium density," Amos said.

But bloggers and community grassroots groups say the county needs a better plan.

Smart Growth Forsyth County, which has been working toward balanced development for about 10 years, said they have a solution to the recent emergence of high density rezoning applications that includes changing the formula for buildable acres by decreasing the number of homes allowed by increasing open spaces.

Smart Growth has had pushback from landowners with large undeveloped lots of land, who want to develop their land to its fullest.

"The county doesn't understand the position of strength they have — a great school district, great place to be, green space, great access into Atlanta and the airport," said Claudia Castro, managing director for SGFC. "Yet, they want to give away the farm. We need to say, 'here are the rules, if you want to play, these are the rules and if you don't want to play by the rules, another county will welcome you.'"

To read SGFC's plan, visit www.bit.ly/16MCsQ1.

list visuals View images.
Projects underway include
  • GA. 20 project from where the four lanes end at Samples to James Burgess roads. GDOT is buying rights of way on the project, estimated right of way cost is $45 million on 86 parcels. It is schedule to be let for bid February 2014, so work will begin late spring 2014. Estimated construction cost is $21 million
  • Expected to begin in the next 2 years are the bridge replacement projects on GA. 369 over Lake Lanier for the 2015 fiscal year. The bridges are at Two Mile Creek and Six Mile Creek.

    GA. 369 at 2 mile Creek Bridge, right of way estimated to cost $1.8 million and construction cost estimate is $6.2 million. GA. 369 at 6 mile creek, right of way is $1.6 million and construction cost estimate is $6.2 million.

    Under Construction Now
  • Ga. 141 at Ga.9 and Bethelview Road widening and realignment project.

    Now it is one lane on all four legs of the intersection. This project adds one more lane in each direction and turn lanes with sidewalks.

    The project widens Bethelview Road to two through lanes with turn lanes at each intersection and sidewalks.

    The project improves intersection, moving more vehicles through in the same amount of time.

    New dual left turn lanes and a new right turn lane are being added to get motorists turning out of the through lane so through traffic can continue straight.

    Source: Georgia Department of Transportation

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    1. report print email
      2-4 yrs until relief is considered "Priority"?
      October 01, 2013 | 01:58 PM

      Relief, per the County, is estimated to be 2-4 yrs away. I do not consider this "priority" relief. However the county defines "priority", the Commissioners must not approve variances involving more dense developments OR they must require developers to put in turning lanes - even if they are temporary!

      We sent an email to John Cunard, Forsyth Engineering Director and Tom Brown, Planning Dev. Dir expressing our concerns. Brown didn't bother to respond however Cunard responded 9/3 with the 2-4 yr estimate in the following email:

      The construction funding for the Union Hill Road/Mullinax Road widening project was in SPLOST VI as a B1 project. Since those funds were not collected due to those possible revenues being received the funding is now in SPLOST VII as an “A” project. SPLOST VII began July 1st of this year and will run for 6 years. A schedules for all the transportation projects will be developed as soon as a cash flow is available. I would estimate that construction funding for this project will likely be available for it to begin in two to four years. Right of way acquisition is ongoing on this project and will likely be complete over the next year. We’ll then be ready for construction when the funding is available.

      As you know, the proposed entrance for this development is on Windy Hill Drive. A left turn lane would not be required on Mullinax Road for this development as it would be considered an offsite improvement and would not be warranted due to the impact of this development as required by County ordinance. Along with the widening project turn lanes will be provided at the intersection.

      Required improvements of each development are independent of each other based upon impacts, zoning conditions, ordinances, timing, etc. The plan and the need for the widening of Union Hill Road/Mullinax Road was partly with the anticipation of not only these property being developed but other properties along Post Road, State Route 9, and other areas that will also produce traffic that will contribute to the existing traffic issues along this and other corridors.

      Please let know if you have any additional questions for me.


      Beth Tipton
      Alpharetta
    2. report print email
      Windy Hill Drive Disaster
      October 07, 2013 | 11:22 AM

      As a resident of Windy Hill Court, just off of Windy Hill Drive, I feel this development is a dangerous proposition for my family and my neighbors. We turn left onto Windy Hill Drive (I turn left 90% of the time I'm leaving my street) onto a hill, where more and more drivers are cutting through to Francis Circle due to the severe traffic on Mullinax. They disregard the posted speed limit and the fact that the road is hilly and curvy. Adding 32 homes to this already unsafe road is a recipe for disaster. I fully expect to get T-boned every time I make a left turn onto Windy Hill Drive. When one of my children, neighbors or myself are injured perhaps the county will pay attention. But I'm not holding my breath. They seem to only have the interests of the developers at heart.

      Resident
      Alpharetta
    3. report print email
      Roads
      October 08, 2013 | 05:08 AM

      If you widen the roads and make it more attractive for people to move to Forsyth, you will just expand your traffic woes.

      What you need are new roads, two lane, to relieve the traffic on the main arteries. These should be in the direction people need to access 400.

      Widening roads mean more cars sit in traffic next to each other.

      BillinSuwanee
      Suwanee
    4. report print email
      Road Capacity
      October 08, 2013 | 10:06 PM

      Bill,

      Widening roads means increased capacity. Increased capacity, without increased cars means better traffic flow. Thus, our requests are two fold--more road capacity and no more high density developments. This, coupled perhaps with the new roads you suggest, will mean proper infrastructure development and urban planning. Currently,

      Forsyth County is doing the opposite--zero road expansion due to funds being tied up for a $100,000,000 courthouse and jail, and every last high density zoning being approved.

      Greg
      Cumming
    5. report print email
      Road Capacity
      October 08, 2013 | 10:06 PM

      Bill,

      Widening roads means increased capacity. Increased capacity, without increased cars means better traffic flow. Thus, our requests are two fold--more road capacity and no more high density developments. This, coupled perhaps with the new roads you suggest, will mean proper infrastructure development and urban planning. Currently,

      Forsyth County is doing the opposite--zero road expansion due to funds being tied up for a $100,000,000 courthouse and jail, and every last high density zoning being approved.

      Greg
      Cumming
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