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Commissioners blast bypass critics

After enduring another round of criticism for proceeding with the West Fayetteville Bypass project, several members of the Fayette County Commission could hold their tongues no longer at the end of their meeting Thursday night.

Commission Chairman Jack Smith chastised “the political machine” that circulated untruths that the commission could abandon the bypass and also that Smith in particular was working to bring mass transit, specifically in the form of MARTA, to Fayette County.

“Yet people such as you continue to show up at this meeting and believe that a vote to replace two of us is a vote on that particular road,” Smith said, addressing one of the critics, Bob Ross of Peachtree City. “That road may well have been what the misinformed public used to defeat two members of this board, but that does not change the fact that that road was voted on by the citizens of this community and we as a board are bound by our oath of office to uphold what the citizens of this county vote.

“... And when you stand before us, and accuse us, of insubordination, malfeasance of office or whatever other terminology you wish to use — doesn’t make it true.”

Smith is one of the two commissioners who were voted out of office in the July primary, as he was defeated by former Peachtree City mayor Steve Brown; the other is Commissioner Eric Maxwell, who lost to political newcomer Allen McCarty. Brown and McCarty, who take over on Jan. 1, have pledged to stop the bypass, but they will likely be outvoted by the other three commissioners who recently joined a unanimous vote to begin land acquisition for the second phase of the bypass: Lee Hearn, Robert Horgan and Herb Frady.

Smith also addressed a criticism by Gordon Furr of Tyrone that he was in favor of MARTA coming to Fayette County in the future.

“There is not now, nor has there ever been an intention by any member of this board, me included, to put MARTA in Fayette County,” Smith said, further adding that no one has ever lobbied for any form of mass transit to come here.

“It is simply another myth and untruth that is being perpetuated and it was developed to defeat two people in office and they were defeated. Yet somewhere in the political machine that fact — that it has never been true — has been missed.”

Smith also noted that the bypass, while on the referendum for the 2003 transportation sales tax as an eligible project for funding, was on that list when he wasn’t even in office.

Commission member Herb Frady noted that the commission a number of years ago was the only county in metro Atlanta to turn down the express bus system that was implemented by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority.

“There has never been any intention of bringing rapid transit into this county, never, and I can’t imagine where they get that from,” Frady said.

Commissioner Lee Hearn noted that a recent traffic study predicted that at the intersection of the bypass and Lees Mill Road there would be 8,000 cars a day traveling through.

“We have an opportunity to do a real good thing with this project and I think we’re doing the right thing for the right reason,” Hearn said.

Hearn also drew a parallel to the late 1980s when the county had to buy 780 acres from south Fayette residents, taking homes and barns, to build the Lake Horton reservoir, which was desperately needed both then and for the future.

The move drew criticism for the commission at the time, Hearn said.

“Those folks were ill about that project, but the board had actual forethought and vision to be able to say we’re doing what’s best for the whole county and we’re going to buy this land and treat people as fairly as we can,” Hearn said.

The bypass has drawn harsh criticism and at several property owners have indicated they won’t cooperate with the land acquisition phase of the second portion of the bypass, instead forcing the county into court to condemn the property.

Meanwhile, a coalition of citizens against the bypass has threatened to file a lawsuit to delay and/or stop the bypass from being built.

The bypass, once all three phases are complete, will stretch from Ga. Highway 85 south at Harp Road up to Ga. Highway 54 at the former Huiet Road and then northward to its terminus at Ga. Highway 92 and West Bridge Road.

That will put motorists a short distance from Ga. Highway 138 in south Fulton County which leads directly to Interstate 85, and the current commissioners contend that will bring necessary traffic relief to downtown Fayetteville.

Critics have contended the road is to benefit new as-yet-unbuilt development in the central section of the county being served by the second phase of the bypass. But a study conducted by The Citizen determined that among all the undeveloped land along the phase 2 bypass route could be developed at its current zoning with or without the bypass.

Coalition member Dennis Chase, a retired biologist, has said the projected eight stream crossings needed for the bypass would ultimately have a negative impact on water quality.

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