On August 16th, 2017, the 12th Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting was held at the City Hall, Taylor Farms Conference Room to review the draft Transportation Master Plan (TMP), to discuss the status of the Comprehensive Plan process, to review current public input, and to discuss how to continue to engage the public. Twelve (12) CAC members were in attendance.
The meeting opened with a reminder that the Comprehensive Plan Update is still open for public comment and will be until at least September 15th and possibly longer if the Mayor and City Council decide to continue to extend the public comment period. Director Ebert announced that several department staff were leaving to take other positions: Allison Tarpley, the Department’s Executive Assistant will become the City’s Assistant City Clerk; Kylie Adams is leaving to become a Senior Planner for the City of Suwanee; and Christopher Wheeler will be leaving to become a Planner II for the new City of Stonecrest. In addition, the City has decided to in-source the Community Development Department in lieu of contracting for services with CH2M, which will become effective October 1, 2017. Also noted was that the City is temporarily moving City Hall functions to the old ITT Technical Institute building located at 10700 Abbotts Bridge Road, while it renovates the new City Hall building located at 11360 Lakefield Drive, which was purchased earlier in the year. Starting in October, City Council and Board meetings will be held in the Municipal Court/Police building located at 11455 Johns Creek Parkway. Because of the City Hall move and loss of key planning staff there will not be a CAC meeting held in September, but staff will try to hold two CAC meetings in October to discuss public comments and decide on any needed changes to the draft Comprehensive Plan Update.
Director Ebert then spent a few minutes going over the hand outs for the night’s meeting that included the meeting minutes from the June 21st CAC meeting; an Agenda Report from the City Council Work Session held on August 14, 2017 regarding the prioritization of the first six (6) TSPLOST projects; a presentation on the draft Transportation Master Plan (TMP); The TMP’s Executive Summary and Section Three; and a list of public comments thus far received by the City’s consultant TSW from the ConnectJohnsCreek .com website.
Director Ebert then discussed how the TMP relates to all of the regional transportation planning efforts and used a diagram within her TMP presentation to explain how the City’s Transportation Master Plan correlates to not only the City’s Comprehensive Plan as an element of the that plan, but how it fits within several regional transportation plans including: the Fulton County TSPLOST; the North Fulton Comprehensive Transportation Plan; the Atlanta Regional Commission’s (ARC) Long Range Transportation Plan; the ARC’s Transportation Improvement Plan; and finally the ARC’s Regional Plan.
The TMP projects are divided into three time periods: years 2018-2023; 2024-2028; and 2029-2038. TSPLOST Tier I and II projects will dominate the first five years of the TMP, with Tier III projects highlighted for the next five year period. Other City Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) included installing new sidewalks, street repaving, and routine traffic signal, road and bridge projects. The last ten years will include other projects that should money be available. There was some discussion as to whether the plan should go out 20 years, since the area’s grow is still changing and making transportation improvements in the next 10 years , may or may not solve some of the City’s transportation congestion problems.
Director Ebert then showed a comparison of the TSPLOST projects that the CAC prioritized and how that list matched up against the proposed list being presented to the Mayor and City Council. While most of the CAC’s top 10 TSPLOST projects were in the Public Work’s list of top six projects, most notably missing was the roadway improvements to the intersection of Medlock Bridge and State Bridge roads.
A discussion then ensued over: why we continue to discuss projects that are already decided upon and why we are not focused on future transportation projects; how moving forward on the Medlock and State Bridge Roadway capacity improvement projects might impact the design of the intersection improvements; how fixing the traffic signalization system on Medlock and State Bridge roads may also impact the design of the intersection; and how adding trailways may have an impact as well. In short, many CAC members felt the entire Medlock Bridge and State Bridge intersection and roadway improvements needed to be designed as a comprehensive solution and not done in sections. Others argued that incremental improvements along both roadways may reduce the amount of changes needed to the intersection. Most agreed that the solution needed to include pedestrian and electric cart transportation solutions, including pedestrian underpasses and overpasses.
Also discussed was the list of sidewalks that the City plans to complete over the next several years. Sidewalk funding was in the FY 2017 budget and is currently in the proposed FY 2018 budget. A list of sidewalks to be constructed was included in the presentation materials. Director Ebert explained that many of our roadway improvements also include new sidewalks. Discussion of where sidewalks are most needed and whether sidewalks were needed on both sides of every street ensued. Comments on sidewalk and roadway improvements evolved into a discussion on how these types of decisions need to be discussed at the local community and residential level and not just as projects presented by Public Works staff to the City Council. CAC members asked if it were possible to establish local neighborhood planning units (NPUs) or Community Boards (CBs) throughout the city that break the city down into smaller geographical areas where citizens would be more likely to be engaged in whether sidewalks were needed on both sides of a roadway, or whether street lighting was needed or wanted, what type of park and recreational facilities should be built, etc. Director Ebert agreed that this is a great way to increase citizen participation and agreed to propose a couple of ways the City could be divided into smaller residential areas where residents and commercial property owners felt they have a stake in what happens “in their backyard” and where standing Community Review Committees could be established. The proposed area maps will be sent out to the CAC members over the next several days for their review and comments.
Director Ebert, then directed everyone to the last page of the handout, which had a list of the six transportation categories and asked the CAC members if they would rank them in order of importance. Several CAC members stated that they did not see how they could rank them. They stated that to rank bridge maintenance below other categories wouldn’t make a difference because if a bridge needed work, then clearly it would get repaired by the Public Works Department. They decided that it would be better for them to prioritize the transportation projects. The CAC asked that all of the transportation projects be listed under each of the six categories so that they could see how they fit in the planning process as well as how each project is estimated to cost. This could will be how the STWP should be organized and the group felt that them within each category the projects could be ranked. The consultant Pond Associates will be able to provide this document in the final draft of the TMP.
The group also discussed the existing 12 Character Areas and Director Ebert commented that the 2018 Comp Plan draft did not include any written descriptions of the areas and suggested that perhaps this Update should also have a paragraph or so about each Character Area and what makes them different from each other. Irene Sanders agreed to review the existing written descriptions of all 12 Character Areas and to work with at least one CAC member from each of the 12 areas to draft newer versions of the essence of each Character Area.
There was also a discussion on whether we need to make further changes to a few of the boundaries of the 12 Character Areas. From some of the comments received to date from the public, residents of Shakerag are expressing concern that both sides of Bell Road should be included in the Shakerag Character Area and that the density for this area should remain at one unit per acre with a country or rural feel.
There was also a brief discussion about where we are in the planning process. The Comprehensive Plan Update was started in October 2016, a year ahead of time, so the 2018 Comprehensive Plan document does not need to be approved by the ARC and City Council until November of calendar 2018, not calendar year 2017. This means we can take the time to get the document right. If we keep the public comment period open through September 30th, then we can review public comments the beginning of October. Get the draft document revised and if acceptable make a recommendation to the Mayor and City Council by the end of calendar year 2017. Then the document would have a public hearing at the City Council in early 2018, if approved by the Mayor and City Council the document is then sent to the ARC for a 90-day review period. Comments from the ARC would then come to the City for incorporation into the document and the plan should be ready for adoption at the end of spring 2018. A Gantt chart will be sent to the CAC members to illustrate the rest of the process. The TMP does not need to go to the ARC and so when that document is finished it will go directly to the Mayor and City Council for review and approval.
Several CAC members recommended changing the look and marketing strategy to engage and outreach to our residents. It was suggested that the City’s notice ads be changed to be more engaging. Also suggested was to get out to meet people where they are at grocery stores, school events (i.e., football games), Targets, Starbucks, etc. Engage the students, perhaps even engage the candidates campaigning for election this fall. Director Ebert noted that the Department will be under staffed during the month of September and that the City is moving City Hall but will try to come up with ways to get more residents out during the upcoming month.
An October meeting date was not set. Staff will reach out to the CAC members in early September to establish the next meeting. The meeting ended around 8:30 PM.