Why Fayette should leave the ARC

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.

2 comments Add your comment

Pierce Randall

October 27th, 2010
10:49 am

First, although this shouldn’t be construed as an ad hominem reason to reject Haddix’s argument per se, this letter looks like a very rough and ungrammatical draft. Shouldn’t Peachtree City be represented by someone who takes the time to proof what he sends to the paper?

Second, the only people who cite Peachtree City as smart growth have very different ideas of what is contained in that concept than mainstream planners. The only difference between Peachtree City and any other huge exurb is the golf cart trails. These do not in themselves free residents from the need to rely on driving almost everywhere they go.

Third, commute times surely matter to residents. The congestion on 85 south of the perimeter is testament to that. Multiple hubs is a nice idea, but at present obviating the need for travel to the center of the metro region for residents is more pie-in-the-sky than developing reasonable commuter transit alternatives, even considering the hostility of elected officials like Maddix.

Fourth, poor congestion planning as the mayor suggests might limit some of the population growth projected for the Atlanta region, but it won’t prevent adding several million more people as the population and urban/rural ratio of America and the South continues to increase. Meanwhile, failing to plan for congestion and transportation equity will make life difficult for Atlantans even if it does manage to deter people who might have moved here for quality of life reasons.

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October 30th, 2010
6:17 am

What amazes me about this letter is how this guy not only fails to mention that most Peachtree City population works outside of Peachtree City in Metro Atlanta, but he tries to make it sound as if they don’t and Peachtree City is a perfectly planned community where everything is at balance.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t take all the benefits of being apart of the region, but not pay for the infrastructure needed to support it.

I also don’t know where this “pro-regionalism” stuff is coming from. This isn’t a black and white political issue. People from Peachtree City and Fayette County work across Atlanta everyday! The citizens and the free market already decided that Fayette County and PC are apart of the region, so I guess it is “pro-regionalism.”

It is a well-planned commuter suburb! It is not planned to have jobs for all of its residents. It is very much apart of the Atlanta region, because that is where it’s citizens choose to work.

I agree with the comment about a need for multiple hubs, but one only needs to go as far as the TPB’s Concept 3 plan, which clearly shows the transit vision for the future is not a single hub in Downtown Atlanta, but a regional system with multiple hubs that is just as geared at helping suburb-to suburb commuters and importantly for Fayette County, suburb to airport commuters.

He also correctly admits that this tax plan does not raise enough to carry out the transportation projects that are needed for Atlanta’s future, however that is a far cry from choosing to not move forward with something. It is also certainly no rational reason to pretend like you are not apart of the region and leave ARC, because the plan does not tax/go far enough.

As for property values…. I have no idea what the worry is about. I would love to see a properly conducted social science/economic study that shows that a commuter rail station connected to a regional transit system in a major metro area actually hurts property values. Across America they almost always raise property values, since it is an easier, quicker, stress-free way of commuting to work.

For someone who is in such a superior position to understand the intricacies of these issues, he sure does gets lots of things wrong and makes his arguments on flawed assumptions.

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