Editorial: Johns Creek Public Works Holds Meeting to Demonstrate Their Disconnect from Residents
Johns Creek City Council hosted a Public Information Open House for McGinnis Ferry and Jones Bridge roads projects on Wednesday March 8th starting at 6:00 PM. To say that the packed house left the session disappointed would be a gross understatement.
In preparation for the meeting, Public Works and City Management staff set up graphic representations of the affected roads and surrounding neighborhoods. Tables were set up with the intent of hosting stations to address specific questions. That intent, however, did not come to pass.
The meeting was called to order and facilitated by Public Works Director Tom Black, and Assistant City Manager Justin Kirouac. Attendees quickly became frustrated by several conflicting statements, and a nerve was touched when the crowd was told (more than once), “You voted for this.” It was at this point that the anger of the crowd ignited, and control of the meeting by Black and Kirouac was lost.
City Council members Stephanie Endres and Lenny Zaprowski stepped forward to help address some of the questions being posed. Councilwoman Cori Davenport was also in attendance, as was City Council candidate Chris Coughlin. Conspicuous by their absence were Mayor Mike Bodker, Councilman Steve Broadbent, and Councilman Jay Lin.
Several meeting attendees expressed their anger, stating that they had been encouraged to vote Yes on the T-SPLOST referendum this past November after being advised by Public Works staff that the widening of McGinnis Ferry Road was a “done deal”, and that the only way to minimize the impact was to support the T-SPLOST referendum. Then during the meeting on March 8th, they were told that final decisions on the McGinnis Ferry Road and Jones Bridge Road projects were within the power of Johns Creek to decide, and would be pursued since the public had “voted” to approve them. Conflicting information was provided throughout the meeting with regard to just how much control Johns Creek will actually have on these projects, further frustrating attendees.
Another point of concern is the degree to which Forsyth County is controlling the design of the McGinnis Ferry Road project. This project is being pursued based upon a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Forsyth County and Johns Creek, but delegates much of the design and decision-making to Forsyth County. Johns Creek residents expressed their concerns that they perceive that their interests are not being adequately represented by our City Council and Public Works department. Several residents are set to lose most of their private property, and over half of the value of their property if the project goes through as planned. While there will be a direct impact on those property owners who will have at least a portion of their property taken by this project, there will also be an impact to the value of all property owners, to the extent of their proximity to increased road noise and other associated impacts that will negatively affect quality of life issues.
The Jones Bridge Road project was described as entirely within the control of Johns Creek. Several residents commented that Jones Bridge Road doesn’t experience the congestion that would warrant a widening project, and that it seemed the project was being pursued as an adjunct to the McGinnis Ferry Road project.
Similar to a prior meeting to discuss the proposed widening of Medlock Bridge/141, residents expressed their concerns that our city seems intent on increasing road capacity due to traffic that originates outside of Johns Creek, and that the spending of our local tax dollars to accommodate that traffic comes at the expense of the quality of life in Johns Creek, and will result in a radical altering of the residential character of the community.
The two recent meetings to discuss road projects in our city demonstrate that our City Council and Public Works department have a significant disconnect between their proposed plans and the desires of the residents of Johns Creek. I applaud the City Council members who attended the meeting to listen to their constituents. It’s clear that the residents of Johns Creek expect the balance of our elected officials to make themselves accountable to the people who elected them, and to stop drawing false correlations between the desire to address traffic congestion, and what appears to be a wholesale effort to pave our way to some mythical traffic nirvana. If we continue to purse that path, we’ll be left with a massive concrete parking lot surrounded by residential For Sale signs.