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Notes From the ACC Commission Business Meeting - February 5, 2002

Highlights:

  1. Stormwater Management Program: Brooklyn Creek Construction Package using SPLOST funds passed. Priority rating for the 57 Level 1 problem projects tabled until the next meeting.
  2. Baxter Street Streetscape Project passed as presented.
  3. Greenway Network Plan tabled due to concerns about wasted money.
  4. Ordinance to allow bike riding on sidewalks outside of downtown tax district and other prohibited areas passed. Signs will be posted in prohibited areas.
  5. Bus Stop Improvements for coming year passed.

1. ACC Stormwater Management Program:

There were two items on the agenda which dealt with the Area Wide Storm Drainage Project. The first item was a proposal to fund the next phase of the Brooklyn Creek Pilot Basin Construction Package using SPLOST funds. This project is an attempt to solve the flooding problems on Baxter St. by diverting some run-off to a detention pond behind the library and channelizing part of Brooklyn Creek to convey water downstream. There was no public comment and this item passed.

The second storm water item was to approve the priority ranking of 57 drainage problems. The current priority list was developed with more than 1 million in funds. Most of the projects call for larger stormwater conveyance structures to reroute the water downstream of the problems.

Public Input:
Several people spoke of the need to take a more comprehensive approach to storm water management in ACC instead of the proposed solutions that carry a large cost and often serve to diminish stream quality. Summary of comments about current proposals:

  • Do not address area water quality problems and may exacerbate existing quality problems.
  • Collect and convey stormwater runoff further downstream resulting in increased channelization and erosion of streams.
  • Do not address the source of the problems: inadequate detention of runoff from properties along the stream basin.
  • Several of these streams and the North and Middle Oconee River are already designated as impaired water by the GA EPD and are on the state TMDL list due to contaminated run-off.
  • Some projects will need to be redone in the future to meet the permit regulations of the EPA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Commission Discussion:
Major Eldridge began by stating that staff has been questioned about why certain sites are on the list. He then presented Option 3 which would table the priority listing until more information is gathered about the sites. However, the Baxter Street project will continue because of the severity of the problem and the project is an essential part of the Baxter Street Streetscape project. Manager Reddish added that the commission should determine why projects in their districts are on the list and provide direction to the staff.

Commissioner Barrow stated that the staff needs a policy for prioritization. The current policy is chaotic. In addition, the current project plans are only moving the problem downstream and concentrating water runoff in our streams and rivers. We are spending too much money on old technologies and the current fix will result in more expense in the future to correct the problems that they cause. We need to investigate alternatives. Barrow also asked if tabling the list will give enough time to evaluate other approaches. Manager Reddish replied that there is only time to reprioritize the list. Commissioner Barrow asked if we will be able to reconsider the approach in the future. The answer was yes.

Option 3 to table the list until the next meeting passed ( 9 yes 1 no)

2. Baxter Street Streetscape project:

Commissioner Jordan started the discussion by stating that he had consulted with some of the business owners on Baxter who thought the project plan did not adequately address lighting and signage. He thought that overall the plan would not hurt the area but that it is not innovative or creative enough to attract sufficient new business to the area.

Commissioner Barrow wanted clarification on whether the final design will involve the business owners (yes).

Commissioner Jordan then stated that the initial elements of the plan need to start here.

The item passed 9 yes, 1 no.

3. Greenway Network Plan:

Leisure services and SPLOST Program Management are working with the mayor and commission to develop a plan that identifies and prioritizes the next set of Greenway Corridors.

Commissioner Discussion:
Commissioner Kilpatrick started the discussion by stating that there is redundancy in the funding to consultants for the project when there is staff already working on the project. She felt the money could be better spent. Commissioner Ford agreed that staff might be better used in the project.

Mayor Eldridge stated that perhaps there is a need to address these concerns and that the plan is not time sensitive and could be tabled. Commissioner Kilpatrick forwarded a motion to table approval of the plan and work with staff and user groups to cut back on the funding for consultants.

The item was tabled.

4. Bike Riding on Sidewalks:

An ordinance was presented to allow bicycle riding on public sidewalks in areas outside of the downtown tax district. Apparently, bike riding has always been allowed on these sidewalks but this ordinance is meant to make revisions and add clarity to the rules. Commissioner Logan had concerns at a previous meeting about being able to exclude bikes from certain areas. Therefore, there were various options to this ordinance although the public did not have the specifics on them. Option 5 apparently places signs at the beginning and end of sections where bikes are prohibited while Option 1 calls for no signs in prohibited areas. (NOTE: After the meeting, we learned that Option 1 would only prohibit bikes on sidewalks in the downtown business district; Option 5 would allow commissioners to propose and designate other areas besides downtown where bikes would be prohibited; these areas would require signs to be posted.)

Commissioner McCarter stated that Option 5 addresses Commissioner Logan's concerns and moved to adopt this ordinance.

Commissioner Chasteen claimed that Option 5 will put signs all over town and moved to adopt Option 1.

Commissioner Jordan stated that bikes should yield to pedestrians and the burden is on bicyclists to watch for people, car doors, etc. He moved to vote on the substitute motion Option 1 with no signs but this option was voted down 4 to 6. (Although apparently Logan voted yes for Option 1 even though Option 5 was presented to satisfy his concerns)

Commissioner McCarter again moved for Option 5. Commissioner Barrow stated that signs are needed in order to enforce the law.

Option 5 passed 8 to 2.

5.Bus Stop Improvements:

This SPLOST project is the upgrade and improvement of major transit stops along the Athens Transit Bus System routes. About 150, or 30%, of the bus stops will be improved over the next five years. The vote was to approve the 2001 to 2003 construction implementation plan.

Commissioner Sheats started the discussion by informing the commission that 6 bus shelters have been in storage for a few years. He requested that these be used to upgrade 6 bus stops in his district that were given a lower priority (Level 1 - minor paving around a sign) to a Level III priority (bus shelter). These 6 sites serve mainly the indigent population and he felt that there was a need for these people to be sheltered at the bus stop.

Manager Reddish stated that 13 Level III bus shelters were budgeted for this year but by using the shelters from storage it would be possible to now construct 15 bus shelters. Therefore, the 6 stops that Sheats mentioned and 9 that were already on the Level III list could be constructed this year. Commissioner Sheats forwarded this motion and it passed unanimously.

6. Other Business:

A citizen asked that the hearings board meeting for the Timothy Road variance request that would allow 250 units on land that is only zoned for 19 be rescheduled from 3 in the afternoon to a better time for the public to attend.

Commissioner Barrow forwarded a proposal to ban any use of cell phones in a moving vehicle, including hands-free phones.

Commissioner Jordan expressed concern about the degradation of Cook's Trail by the impact of the new adjacent large residential development. While money has recently been received from a DNR Grant for maintenance of Cook's Trail, Leisure Services needs to look at remedies for the problems that are degrading the trail, especially the direct discharge of stormwater from the development onto the floodplain but also the increased use of motorized vehicles and bikes on the trail.

Elizabeth Little