Bypass targets 183-year-old Bowlden family farm
For Paul and James Bowlden, Fayette County’s controversial West Bypass means splitting their cattle farm and a large tract of land that has been in their family for 183 years.
Proposed land acquisition plans for a portion of Phase 3 of the West Fayetteville Bypass between Ebenezer Church Road and Harp Road would have the road splitting the Bowlden’s pasture land and potentially prohibiting their cattle from being able to access water and other farm facilities.
Meantime, Fayette County says planners looked at other routes and concluded that issues such as minimizing the impact to existing homes and other structures are the reasons why the Bowlden’s property was considered for the new roadway alignment.
Both lifelong residents of Fayette County, Paul Bowlden, age 85, and James Bowlden, 67, own approximately 200 acres of primarily pasture land on the north side of Harp Road between Redwine Road and Ga. Highway 85 South. Neither knows of a comparable cattle farm still operating in Fayette County.
James owns approximately 60 acres of property that runs largely north-south while Paul owns approximately 140 acres of adjacent property to the east. The proposed alignment for a portion of Phase 3 would essentially split their property along the dividing line.
James Bowlden explained that their nearly three dozen cows do much of their grazing on his property but have to go onto Paul’s property to the east to access water from the ponds located there. There is no water supply for the cattle on James’ property. The barns and farm equipment used on both pieces of property are also located on James’ property, he added.
Paul explained that the proposed alignment would also cut through his family history, a history of the land where not only cattle are raised, but corn and cotton used to grow. Their great-grandfather purchased the property in 1828.
Fayette County Public Works Director Phil Mallon said the proposed alignment came after the consideration of other alternatives.
“We looked at using the existing right-of-way and an area west of Redwine Road (extending from Ebenezer Church Road to Harp Road),” Mallon said.
Mallon said the consideration of the alternatives presented a number of problems. Among those were likely environmental issues associated with Perry Creek and the impacts to several homes and driveways. Those impacts, Mallon said, would also lead to having more driveways entering the bypass roadway. From a traffic access management perspective, that is something the county would hope to minimize, Mallon added.
Still another reason to attempt the proposed alignment is that undeveloped land would present less impact compared to land with existing homes and other structures, said Mallon.
And finally, there is the future traffic flow along Redwine Road if the bypass section was routed along the Redwine right-of-way. Redwine is already expected to see increases in traffic in coming years, so the use of that section of roadway as a section of the bypass would potentially strain the flow of traffic, Mallon said.
“If they put the road in we can’t use the land, we can’t lease it,” Paul Bowlden said. “The cows use it for grazing. The water is on my side (of the adjoining properties) and the barns are on James’ side. I think it makes more sense (to use the existing right-of-way) instead of using our property. It would take only about a minute maximum (for drivers) to use the existing right-of-way. If this alignment would accomplish something I could see it. But it doesn’t make any sense.”
In its entirety, Phase 3 of the bypass would begin at Ga. Highway 54, where Phase 1 ends, and extend along Lester Road south to Ebenezer Church Road on its way to tie in to Hwy. 85 south of Fayetteville. As currently conceived, a new section of roadway would be constructed from where Ebenezer Church Road dead-ends into Redwine Road.
The new extension would cross Redwine, extend to the southeast, just south of the new Haddonstone subdivision, cross Perry Creek and then turn primarily to the south as it enters the northern portion of James Bowlden’s property.
The proposed roadway would continue south for close to a mile, splitting the two brother’s property, then wrapping slightly to the east to connect to Harp Road a short distance from Hwy. 85 South.
James Bowlden also had another concern with the proposed alignment, saying it would lower his property value. He said the current proposed alignment would shave off portions of the north side of his property into small sections that would be difficult to sell in the future. And he cited yet another reason for his opposition.
“I enjoy the private lifestyle here and the rural living,” he said of his family’s generations on the property.
Mallon said he anticipates that the design team to be established in the short-term will begin to assess the issues such as those brought out by Paul and James Bowlden. The Request for Proposal that will lead to the establishment of the team should be ready soon, said Mallon.
“We want to understand and we need to understand their concerns,” Mallon said, adding that he has already spoken with some of the area property owners.