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