Johnson Ferry Road Design Unveiled
Corridor project guidelines were presented to East Cobb residents Wednesday night.
Nearly two years after the approval of the Johnson Ferry Urban Design Plan, East Cobb residents on Wednesday got a closer look at proposed Road Design guidelines for the project.
At an informational meeting attended by around 50 people at the East Cobb Library, Cobb officials provided details for the portion of the Johnson Ferry Road corridor south from Roswell Road to the Chattahoochee River.
The provision that drew substantial interest would have business owners incorporate such amenities as street lights, widened sidewalks, trees, green buffers and other improvements into their plans if their property comes up for redevelopment.
Existing business owners who do not go through the rezoning process will not affected.
"A guideline is a recommendation, a code is a law," said Dana Johnson, the planning division manager for the Cobb Community Development Agency.
Johnson and District 2 Cobb Commissioner Bob Ott also stressed that there will be no cost incurred by taxpayers for the design enhancements.
"The county is not preparing to spend money," said Ott, who pressed for the creation of the Johnson Ferry corridor study group that was formed in 2009.
The guidelines stem from that study, which was adopted by the commission in early 2011, after months of meetings and public hearings involving the county and East Cobb residents and business owners along the route.
They reflect a long-held desire by some in the community to create a more aesthetically-pleasing atmosphere in a bustling, largely commercial area.
"Some people said it looked just like any other strip corridor in the area," Johnson said. "There was a desire to create a distinct identity.
"We're talking about the character of frontage and how it connects with the rest of the community," he said.
Some of the features of the guidelines (see attached PDF), which will be presented to the Board of Commissioners next month, include the following:
- Sidewalks in commercial areas as wide as six feet, including curb cuts for handicapped access;
- Park benches, street lighting and trash receptacles along sidewalk routes to create a more pedestrian-friendly environment, as well as enhanced crosswalks and signals;
- Landscaping, including trees in preserved green buffer areas.
In the mostly residential stretch between Lower Roswell and Paper Mill Road, the guidelines call for an 11-foot multi-use trail for pedestrians and cyclists on the west side of Johnson Ferry.
Trish Steiner of the East Cobb Civic Association, who was involved in the Johnson Ferry corridor study, said she was thrilled to see the next phase of the project take shape.
"I think it's wonderful, it's very good," she said.
She was among the civic activists who met with business owners "up and down the corridor," and said that having those who redevelop or acquire property to shoulder the expense for the design changes is about showing "a commitment to your community."
Others were more skeptical of the plans.
When one resident asked "who got to decide what was aesthetically pleasing?" Johnson responded that East Cobb citizens and business owners came to the county and asked "would you please look at this and help us?"
East Cobb resident Jan Barton feared the Johnson Ferry area would become more commercialized.
"I believe this will change the character of the community," she said. "The developers are the ones calling the tunes."
Resident Sheila McCutcheon said she wondered if enough business owners would get on board.
"Some will want to do it, and others won't," she said. "I don't see the continuity."
Ott admitted that the guidelines, which must be adopted by the commission, will involve the art of persuasion, since they don't have the force of law, but that's a common element in most rezoning cases.
He said a rezoning request that came before the commission on Tuesday included an agreement to install street lights in accordance with the Johnson Ferry Road Design guidelines.
Ott also acknowledged that for as long as some in East Cobb have been longing for a better design, the final vision will require more patience.
"This is all ultimately 15 to 20 years down the road, but that's okay," he said. "You've taken out the variable of [who's in office], and you've had community input to design a master plan."