By Don Haddix
Mayor, Peachtree City
AJC columnist Jay Bookman wrote an opinion on the short-sightedness of my effort to move from the Atlanta Regional Commission to the Three Rivers Regional Commission due to the T-SPLOST proposal. I would reply his view is antiquated and does nothing but repeat the failures that have occurred over and over in all major cities with a single hub serving everyone for miles around.
Multiple hubs, on the other hand, relieve the pressures and allow a lot more green space and more time at home than on the road.
I am also saying the regional transportation bill is a bad bill, as has been stated all over the state. It needs to retracted and reworked. Legislators have, to date, dug their heels in, saying work with what you got. As in ARC we are not all the same, do not share all the same needs, plans or goals, but we are being told to merge into one unified whole, an attitude I understand some of one political mind set support but many of us do not. We believe in home rule.
As a mayor with a seat on the roundtable who will be discussing and voting on this measure and a 23-year resident of Fayette County, specifically Peachtree City, I believe I am in a far superior position to understand all the intricacies of the issues than Mr. Bookman is.
Some politicos are pushing the idea that not being in ARC would reduce our prosperity and property values, a claim Mr. Bookman repeats. That is political positioning, not reality.
Fact is, we were in what has become Three Rivers until 1991. Fact is we are a Planned Community that has grown from a crossroads in 1959 with only a handful of homes in the area to a city of about 37,000 people because we were different from Atlanta. People moved here to escape urbanism. Over half of our growth occurred while not in ARC. Same with our home values. Values are not based on the region that you join, but claims of loss are effective tools to scare people.
But these fears worked, at least for now. The vote at this time on the is 3-2 to remain in ARC. One voting to stay is pro rail, the only one on council, and pro regionalism. One is a Realtor, so the homes values fear stuck. One said nothing. The two of us who have been on council the longest, one being a former Gwinnett resident, voted to leave.
Mr. Bookman also describes the ARC urban model as the plan of the future. That was the plan of years gone by that failed right along with Build it and They will Come.
I am a proponent of smart growth, for which Peachtree City is an often cited model. It is not about bus, rail and multiple-lane highways and living one place then having to journey miles, as Mr. Bookman said, to work shop and play. It is about paths for walking, bicycles, golf carts and similar modes of transportation to get traffic off of the roads and working, shopping, schools, playing etc. where you live. It is about controlled growth. We do not even have a downtown, but five Village Centers.
Mr. Bookman does not seem to realize most modern jobs do not have to be located in big cities or dense urban areas. They can be in Fayette just as effectively as in Atlanta, and actually more effectively if zoning, landscaping, buffers and other ordinances are enforced.
More and more companies are realizing that, including NCR, which located hundreds of high-paying jobs here with an employee base that loves the area.
Am I knocking those who want the urban life? Not at all! But I am also saying, do not try to destroy our way of life. I am saying that trying to pack more roads, buses and rail into a transportation system that already isn’t working is not an answer.
Trying to plan for adding another several million more people to the already existing density in the same areas does not make sense with our water issues. Any ground we gain will be lost as more newcomers arrive. More than $200 billion of needed transportation projects have already been identified, and a regional tax that may raise only $6.7 billion the first ten years is not a solution.
Repeating the same efforts over and over expecting a different outcome is the definition of, well, you know. We need a different answer.