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Our environment in Fayette is under attack: A tale of two roads

Dennis Chase's picture

The West Fayetteville Bypass project has developed into a significant election issue for all of us. Eric Maxwell and Jack Smith, County Commission incumbents, are up for re-election and both are staunch supporters of this project. Candidates running against them are Allen McCarty and Steve Brown. Mr. McCarty and Mr. Brown stand very much against the proposed bypass.

Following are some details that will help you understand the problems I see and I think the new candidates will agree with my analysis:

As currently proposed, Phase I and Phase II of the Fayette County plan for the West Fayetteville Bypass will connect Ga. Highway 54 near Huiet Road to Ga. Highway 92 at Westbridge Road. At no point has the county provided a need or justification building a new road on this route.

Simpleton statements, without backup, that a new road at this location will relieve congestion in Fayetteville would be laughable if the consequences were not so significant. Repeated requests and now demands for a basis for this project has resulted in no response other than “this is where we want a new road.”

If that wasn’t bad enough, they then want to build a new road where a nearby road already exists and serves very much the same area. Gingercake Road runs parallel to the proposed route between Hwy. 54 and Hwy. 92. So, based on whatever logic they are using, they take a very bad decision and make it worse by trying to build a useless new road. At our expense no less.

My challenge to their route selection, because they have already applied for a Corps of Engineers permit, is as follows. A comparison between the county proposal and Gingercake Road should help you understand the issues, but remember, this should not even be considered until there is a clearly demonstrated need for a road on the West side of Fayetteville:

1. Gingercake Road will have a near-zero environmental impact.

The county road will have significant environmental impacts on wetlands, stream ecosystems, forests and a general intrusion into some of our treasured open spaces.

2. Gingercake Road will have near-zero impact on populations of birds, reptiles, mammals and fish and many other organisms.

The county road will splinter significant forests, wetlands and have a negative impact on several streams destroying a great deal of wildlife habitat.

3. Since Gingercake Road runs along a small ridge line between Gingercake and Whitewater creeks, there will be a near-zero impact on stormwater runoff.

The county road will have significant impact on stormwater runoff in many areas and the county will have to pay for maintenance forever.

4. Gingercake Road will have no impact on flood levels.

The county road will be constructed in, or immediately adjacent to, floodplains on many areas of the Sandy Creek, Whitewater Creek and numerous tributaries. All assurances aside, the proposed road will impact flood levels of the surrounding area.

5. Gingercake Road will have no requirements for Clean Water Act permits.

The county road requires Clean Water Act permits for destruction of at least eight wetland areas which will mean much higher costs for purchasing mitigation credits.

6. Gingercake Road improvements will cost a million dollars or less.

The county road will, and already has had significant costs to the taxpayers. Projections to complete Phase I, Phase II and the intersections on Hwy. 54 and Hwy. 92 as well as secondary road intersections will run to $28 million or more.

7. Gingercake Road improvements will require very little, if any, private property.

The county road will take many acres of private property, including several homes and buildings, not to mention front or back yards.

8. Gingercake Road will have little impact on the value of adjacent properties.

The county road will split neighborhoods, reducing values of many homes in those areas. Those homes that end up with a new road close to the front or back door will be significantly reduced in value if they can be sold at all. Larger lots currently with forests or pastures will be divided and reduced in value to the owner.

9. Gingercake Road will have little impact on the neighborhoods adjacent to that route.

The county road has already created a significant level of animosity against the county government. It will also split neighborhoods, divide properties and take away areas that citizens value for their enjoyment of a beautiful and quiet area.

10. Gingercake Road will use mostly existing right of way along the street.

The county road could eventually lead to “taking” of private property. Currently the county insists condemnation will not be used, but nobody believes such statements.

11. Gingercake Road, with the exception of two stop signs, is now a 45 mph roadway.

The county road will be a 45 mph roadway.

12. Gingercake Road already has signal lights at both ends.

The county road will require a very expensive signal light and intersection improvements at Hwy. 54 and similar work will be needed at Hwy. 92.

13. Gingercake Road will have no need for the county to cover high legal costs since there will be no law suit over road improvements.

The county road will lead to significant legal costs if/when a Clean Water Act permit is approved.

There are some additional comparisons as well as advantages/disadvantages of the two roads that may also help you understand why this is such an important issue in this election:

Gingercake Road:

A traffic signal will not be needed at Hwy. 92 and Westbridge Road.

The work can be accomplished in a matter of a few months as opposed to many years for the county road.

Homeowners along Gingercake Road will experience several months of inconvenience, some loss of driveways and replacement of mailboxes and shrubbery.

Many other traffic needs can be funded with unspent money from the county road.

County road:

The taxpayer-funded West Fayetteville Bypass will allow developers much improved road access for homebuilding on what is now large tracts of mostly undeveloped land.

So far, the Fayette County Commissioners have not refuted, actually have refused to answer, any of the above points and all five commissioners have rejected appeals for reason where protection of our environment is concerned.

In their campaigns, I expect they will make statements about how much they care about our environment, but based on all of the above information, you know that their actions tell a very different story.

We have a chance to replace two of these commissioners and give the replacements an opportunity to return common sense to our local leadership.

[Dennis Chase, now retired, was a fish and wildlife biologist with the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 26 years. Since retiring, he has worked as a consultant for Fayette County on environmental concerns, is a volunteer with the Line Creek Association of Fayette County, and has published numerous newspaper columns.]


grassroots's picture

Vote out the incumbents. Town Hall Meeting where you can meet and ask all the candidates questions. See:

I disagree with Mr. Chase. I have lived on Ginger Cake Road for many years. And I have seen the traffic increase and increase more. Ginger Cake is not a road that was meant to move traffic like a by-pass or parkway. This is a road that is part of neighborhoods.
It starts at a very busy point in the City of Fayetteville, the intersection where a Flash Gas Station, A large drug store, and a bank and small office complex are located. Then you go not even a half mile to a four way stop. Hood Ave. Again Mr. Chase leaves things out, at the other end of Hood is two elementary schools and next to the Fayette County High School.
The City of Fayetteville’s transportation plan has big changes for the end of Hood Ave and intersection of Hwy. 92. They want to merge them together and change the intersection on Hwy 85. Why? Because the traffic is increasing. When I moved to Fayetteville their was only one traffic light.
There is so much traffic already on Ginger Cake and the intersection of Hood that it is very congested. I agree that a new passage way from Hwy 54 to 92hwy North is a great idea. I am on the roads a lot. The traffic is not going to get any better in Fayetteville only more cars and traffic. Why not build a road now! There are only a few citizen that are being impacted. And I am very sorry for that. But I do know they are being given above fair market value for their property.
Its wrong for Mr. Chase to say what people can and cannot do with their land. Its not his place. As far as the environment; every effort I know will be taken to ensure that no damage will be incurred. How did all the other roads in the county get built that cross over a stream or go next to a wet land area. As far as I know, we do not have any environmental disasters in the County. Mr. Chase is very one sided. I would be more worried about the PSC plant and the pollution that comes from South Foulton and the Harts Field airport into our streams and water ways.
This is called progress people. I would rather have it built now and plan for the future than to be like the north side and can’t do anything about it.

So when the suggested Bypass area gets close to home, you don't want it, either? That's what the folks in its final alignment path didn't want, as well. Mr. Chase is an expert environmental biologist with extensive experience in government permits such as the Bypass would require. What he says makes much more sense than the Commissioners saying "Fayette County needs it because we say it does." He went through county files trying to find a rationale and justification for the project, but none was there. He lives a very long way from any proposed part of the bypass, but feels that the project violates the environment, so his effort is truly unselfish. Ginger Cake Rd. was suggested by many impacted landowners because it already connects Hwy. 54 to Hwy. 92. Like it or not, it is an alternative route that is less damaging to the environment than crossing 8 wetland areas in a water recharge area.

Anyone who actually believes the 2 lane road is a bypass just fell off the turnip truck. Commissioner Smith sits on the Board of Directors at the Bank of Georgia, which caters to developers.

ginga1414's picture

Save, so now you know more than a biologist that has been in the business of evaluating such information for most of his adult life? Oh, Save, I know you are smart but I value Mr. Chase's expertise more.

However, I have to say that you know something the commissioners don't know because according to the commissioners no money has changed hands in the purchase of property along the WFB. However, I, too know that money has changed hands. Isn't that something? The commissioners say that no money has changed hands for property along the WFB, yet you and I know that isn't true. You and I know the county HAS purchased property along the WFB. Even though the county's application for the Federal 404 Permit with the Corps of Engineers is bogged down within the Corps due to lack of justification, the county has purchased people's homes and property along the proposed route of the WFB. If the Corps denies the 404 Permit, what will the county do with that property? Some of that property is in a subdivision. That situation is extremely similar to the situation the Board of Education has where they have built schools and they can't even come close to filling one particular school.

Save, Mr. Chase is the expert.

I think you are wrong about the buying of property. It is public information when the county buys property. As far as I know, and I may be wrong, it has to be public rcord when the county buys a pice of property and has to be voted on by the commissioners in public at one of their meeting that are open to the public. I don't think they can buy property behind closed doors.

ginga1414's picture

In your reply "Chase Is Wrong", you said, "There are only a few citizen that are being impacted. And I am very sorry for that. But I do know they are being given above fair market value for their property." That statement led me to believe that you know exactly what I have been told by some residents along the route of the WFB. I have been told by a former resident that the county bought his home and property in order to build the WFB. That resident has moved from his home and the house sits empty. Another resident told me they will receive their money from the county this summer. I have been present at many many commission meetings where the commissioners will adjourn to talk in executive session about "real estate" matters.

If I misunderstood your statement, I whole heartedly apologize.

Also, I have to differ with you about the portion of your statement that says, "There are only a few citizens that are being impacted." Just in my area alone, one neighbor will lose quite a number of acres and a huge barn that provides shelter for his horses. Another neighbor will lose a goodly portion of land that was farmed by their grandmother. Another neighbor will have the bypass run within a few feet of the side of their home and take out a goodly portion of their property. Another neighbor will lose their home completely. Another neighbor who has 20 acres will lose 10 acres. One person on Janice Drive has already sold out to the county and the rest of his neighbors will be left with the bypass cutting through many yards. Some of those folks will be left with the Bypass coming within a very few feet of their homes. That is just one portion of Phase II of the Bypass, which doesn't even take into account the folks who live on Tillman Rd. Save, that is far more than "a few citizens." If you had worked and saved for your property, would you want the county to take half of it? If you had preserved a beautiful old barn that your grandmother had built and the property she had farmed,
would you want the county to destroy that property? If you had just moved into your home and less than a month later received a notice from the county that they were building a road and taking a goodly portion of your property, would you be happy? If your home were being leveled, would you be happy? If you were close to retirement and your home was paid for, would you rejoice when the county came on your property and surveyed to build a Bypass within in a few feet of your bedroom window?

If as you say those folks are being "given far more than market value," can you imagine how much money that will entail taking into account that Phase II of the Bypass is approximately 5 miles long? That doesn't even address the fact that the Bypass runs through almost 2000 acres of developer property. Will the county pay those developers for their property, also? Or, will the county make deals with those developers on the basis that the Bypass will provide other access to the developer's property. Then we have the question of crossing 8 streams and wetlands. The county will have to pay $800,000 plus in mitigation to a bank in Fulton County for the privilege of building the Bypass.

Having said all of that, it still doesn't address the ground water recharge area, the floodplains or other environmental issues. The dollar signs are rolling over. All of that adds up to millions upon millions upon millions in taxpayer dollars. That is your money and my money. That means that all of the folks who own property and homes along the Bypass will be paid for their property with their own tax dollars and your tax dollars. If I had a vote in the matter, I would personally vote to take out some mailboxes and shrubbery. Better yet, forget the whole thing. There is a lot more to the situation than a "few citizens." That is why there are almost a hundred people on the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition roster and that doesn't even touch the numbers that support the Coalition but are not on the roster. Believe me, Save, there are far more than a few people involved in this matter. Forget the people, what about the dollars? Forget the dollars, what about the environment and ecology?

I looked on Google maps and Mr. Chase's argument is a very good one.

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