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Notes from Commission Agenda Setting Session Sept. 18, 2001

Here's the report on last night's agenda setting meeting.

For those who have never gone to one of these, the purpose is to establish what will be on the agenda for the next voting meeting (in this case, on October 2). There is an opportunity for citizen input and opportunities for the commission to discuss issues and get clarification from staff, but no actual voting. You'd think these meetings would be fairly short, but last night's meeting lasted over four hours; I'm going to focus my coverage on issues of most interest to Grow Greeners to keep this reasonable in length.

Citizen input:

Several people spoke in favor of a moratorium, or in favor of helping the Garden Springs Community in general. Jason Henderson spoke on multiple issues, including the road widening projects and Garden Springs. A pair of 14-year olds asked for a skate park. I missed the first two comments, because I was five minutes late.

Greenspace property evaluation:

There was more discussion about the proposed plan for evaluating properties for acquisition under the county's greenspace program. Many of the commissioners spoke in opposition to a numerical ranking system for properties, fearing it would prevent them from acquiring properties they really want to acquire. Instead, they preferred a narrative description, seeing this as less binding on them.

Barnett Shaols Road widening project:

One of the problems with attending these meetings is that the county does little to make information available about agenda items, so it sometimes is difficult to understand exactly what the discussion is about. Apparently, though, the county plans to turn Barnett Shoals into a 5-lane road (2 lanes each way plus a turning lane). John Barrow and Carl Jordan spoke in favor of a 4-lane alternative with a narrow median lined with trees and limited left-turn options. This would be safer, more attractive and, perhaps most importantly, make the county eligible for state DOT funding in the amount of $2.5 million or more. Other commissioners pointed out that this project has been on the table for many years and it's time for it to move forward, whatever the cost. Bike lanes are *not* currently part of the plan, for reasons unclear (David Clark, ACC transportation, said that the impossibility of putting a bike lane on the College Station Rd bridge is the problem; they don't want bike lanes that go nowhere, although a case could be made that there are reasonable origins and destinations just along Barnett Shoals). In any case, it may be worth calling commissioners and asking them to consider a median-strip option at the Oct. 2 meeting, if you feel this is a good idea.

Danielsville Road widening:

In this case, John Barrow suggested a 3-lane option is preferable, rather than a 4-lane, which is apparently planned. This project is at the stage of preliminary construction plan approval, while Barnett Shoals is still in project concept stage, so it may be late for changes to the Danielsville project. Southeast Clarke Community Park: Sheats, Barrow and Jordan all spoke in favor of a skate park; Jordan also advocated for other activities which get less attention from the parks department: basketball, volleyball and passive recreation (trails, etc.). Chasteen pointed out that the current plan is based on community input and priorities and he was reluctant to change it. Jordan also was unhappy with the stormwater management system in the plan and advocated sending it back for reworking.

Five-Points Fire Station:

There were two discussions on this issue, both driven by Barrow and Jordan in favor of looking into a multi-use option. Cardee Kilpatrick pointed out that the commission had already dismissed this option in the past; Barrow and Jordan argued that the situation had changed, now that the property was in hand. They suggested the county could be saving a great deal of money with a public-private partnership. Some of the other commissioners showed at least a little interest in this, but Sims, who was acting in the capacity of Mayor, declined to direct staff to consider a mixed-use option. This is another case where I believe phone calls to commissioners might provide the votes at the Oct. 2 meeting to bring the mixed-use concept back into consideration.

Resolution for a housing study and construction moratorium:

County attorney Ernie DePasquale reviewed several changes his staff had made to the two options for a moratorium. One of the options, apparently, would only apply to projects for which no permit had been applied; in other words, the moratorium would not apply to the Garden Springs situation. The other option would apply to any project for which no permit has yet been issued (which would include Garden Springs). John Barrow didn't think much of the one option, obviously, and told Ernie as much. Tom Chasteen pointed out that the guidelines for the housing study were very nebulous and provided little clear direction.

This and all other topics summarized here will be on the discussion agenda on Oct. 2. That means there will be a debate and vote on each item separately, as opposed to the consent agenda for which there is just one vote on multiple items (these are supposed to be non-contentious or procedural items).You can contact your commissioner in advance and you can comment on any items at the beginning of the Oct. 2 meeting. Please let me know if you find any errors in this. Thanks!

Seth Wenger