City Representation Discussion: Atlanta & Lakeside

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles intended to provide information for those considering becoming part of a newly incorporated City of Lakeside or annexation into the City of Atlanta in west-central DeKalb County. Information presented herein in no way represents an endorsement of either scenario by Lindbergh LaVista Corridor Coalition Inc.

By Darian Bilski

As neighbors consider joining the City of Lakeside or the City of Atlanta, one issue to consider is the level of representation the citizens will have in each jurisdiction and the mechanism through which citizens make their voice heard.
The City of Atlanta has 12 districts each with its own city council member and three members at large. District Six, represented by Alex Wan, is closest to Woodland Hills, Druid Hills, LaVista Park and the other neighborhoods currently investigating cityhood in either Atlanta or Lakeside.
The City of Atlanta has a defined system, the Neighborhood Planning Units (“NPUs,”) through which residents express opinions on a variety of local issues. With respect to zoning and development, developers must start their development discussions at the NPU level prior to moving to the City Zoning stage of the process. While NPUs do not have final say on development and zoning issues, often, many issues are resolved at the NPU level in a manner that is approved by the neighborhoods.
The number of citizens represented per elected official in the City of Lakeside would be drastically reduced from the number of citizens represented per elected official in DeKalb County. This factor brings government closer to the people and results in more local control over city services than within current DeKalb County.
The City of Lakeside is evaluation the NPU system to determine if that system makes sense for its residents. Lakeside has zoning attorneys, city planners and experienced community members who have volunteered to explore options.
Note that because Atlanta is an established city, more information is readily available regarding this topic as well as most topics under consideration.
Additional information follows:
CITY OF LAKESIDE
http://lakesidecityalliance.org/pros-and-cons-of-incorporation-cityhood/
The DeKalb County government oversees approximately 700,000 whereas a local Lakeside board would representing 50-60 thousand people in the area. Currently a DeKalb county commissioner represents approximately 130,000 people and 54 sq. miles. A city of approximately 60,000 residents could potentially have 5-6 commissioners, who live in the community and represent fewer citizens, thus bringing government closer to the people and resulting in more local control over city services.
One few related benefits of cityhood per the Lakeside City Alliance webpage follow:

  • More control over land use (zoning) and development to decide on things like new subdivisions, teardowns, construction, nightclubs, apartments, strips malls and other uses.
  • Mechanism to revitalize residential and commercial areas, parks and common areas.
  • Many incorporated cities have a downtown development authority and economic development professionals on staff. Staff could work for the benefit of the city, including the collection of state and federal grants.

CITY OF ATLANTA
Source: http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=739
NPUmapWhat is a Neighborhood Planning Unit?
The City of Atlanta is divided into twenty-five Neighborhood Planning Units or NPUs, which are citizen advisory councils that make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council on zoning, land use, and other planning issues.  The NPU system was established in 1974 to provide an opportunity for citizens to participate actively in the Comprehensive Development Plan, which is the city’s vision for the next five, ten, and fifteen years.  It is also used as a way for citizens to receive information concerning all functions of city government.  The system enables citizens to express ideas and comment on city plans and proposals while assisting the city in developing plans that best meet the needs of their communities.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neighborhood_planning_unit
History
The system was established in 1974[2] by Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Holbrook Jackson. His aim was to ensure that citizens, particularly those who had been historically disenfranchised, would be in a position to comment on the structure of their communities, and to ensure that the citizens would not have this ability stripped of them by politicians who found an involved and engaged public inconvenient. Mayor Jackson had the NPU System placed within the City Charter, which can only be changed by the Georgia Legislature. That same section of the Charter also contains the Office of the Mayor as well as the Atlanta City Council.
Structure and Operations
There are 25 NPUs, lettered from A to Z, except U. Each NPU represents the citizens in a specified geographic area. Each NPU meets once a month to review applications for rezoning properties, varying existing zoning ordinances for certain properties, applications for liquor licenses, applications for festivals and parades, any changes to fees charged by the City, any changes to the City’s Comprehensive Development Plan, and any amendments to the City’s Zoning Ordinances. Once an NPU has voted on an item, that vote is then submitted to the relevant body which makes the ultimate determination with regard to that issue as the official view of the community on a topic.
NPUs operate according to a varied set of guidelines. Each NPU is permitted to create its own bylaws and the only requirement is that once a year the bylaws are voted on and every resident and business owner is permitted to vote on those bylaws. Some NPUs permit anyone to vote while other NPUs operate in a representative governmental fashion with only elected representatives voting on the issues at hand. Given the variances of demography within the City of Atlanta, the idea that a one-size fits all system of community governance would successfully reflect each community’s view is unrealistic. Therefore, NPUs are permitted to operate as the citizens see fit.
Each NPU is assigned a City of Atlanta Planner who attends the monthly meetings. Planners are charged with recording official votes, responding to questions about issues of Land Use & Zoning, to present the various items that are sent by the City government for NPU review, and to assure that meetings are reasonably orderly and moderately democratic. The NPUs are staffed entirely by citizen volunteers who receive no compensation for their efforts. NPUs are not given any funding by the City for supplies or other needs.
Each NPU sends a representative to the Atlanta Planning Advisory Board, which is a city-wide entity that was created contemporaneously with the NPU System. The Board addresses issues of city-wide concern and sends its recommendations to the City Council and/or the Mayor depending on the issue being addressed. The Board makes various appointments to City Commissions and Boards on behalf of the citizens.
Source: http://citycouncil.atlantaga.gov/ccinfo.htm
The Atlanta City Council Mission The City Council is the chief policy making body for the City of Atlanta. The Council’s mission is to ensure that Atlanta is led by a groundbreaking, strong, and capable group of leaders that work for the good of all citizens across the city. As a legislative body, the council’s main role is to make laws. In addition, the Council has oversight of multiple agencies, boards, and commissions. The Atlanta City Council is comprised of 15 members and is led by Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell. Each member of the Atlanta City Council tirelessly works to improve the lives of Atlanta’s citizens. Together, they work to ensure safer and cleaner streets, bolster Atlanta’s economy, and institute many community-based programs. Working hand in hand with Atlanta’s mayor and the members of the executive branch, the Council plays a key part in the budget process and financial wellbeing of Atlanta.
Making Laws for the City of Atlanta/ How City Council Works As the legislative branch, the Council is responsible for the creation of laws enacted to run the city government. Legislation can be introduced in two ways. The first way is that it be introduced on the floor of Council by a Councilmember. This is known as a personal paper. The other way is that the legislation can come through a committee. Here in the City of Atlanta, legislation takes two forms — ordinances and resolutions. An ordinance establishes a permanent rule of government. Every official act of the Council, operating with force and effect of law, must be an ordinance. Ordinances must be read before full Council at two regular meetings. Resolutions express intent or support of various projects and enterprises or establish legislative policy of a general nature. Resolutions, unlike ordinances, need be read only once and can be introduced and adopted at the same meeting. In some cases, the Council is required by law to hold a public hearing and must notify the public about the hearing.
Government Oversight In addition to legislation, the Atlanta City Council works hard to ensure that city government works for its citizens. Through the various Council Committees the council assesses various government programs and agencies. Each year, the Council is in charge of holding budget hearings in which the City’s budget, recommended by the Mayor, is strictly reviewed prior to being voted on by the Council.

What’s Up With Trail Under SR-400 & I-85

Love the Bright Orange Road Construction Barrels? You’re in Luck!
February’s weather cost the Georgia DOT contractor two weeks of work on flyover ramps linking Interstate 85  to SR-400. Traffic on Cheshire Bridge Road and Lindbergh Drive will keep dodging construction barrels at least until April.
Loren Bartlett, DOT project manager, says the project continues to move as fast as possible because of financial penalties in the state contract with Archer Western.
“The contract calls for $1869 daily penalties,” she says, noting it was to be complete by January 14, 2014.
What about the two weeks when ice and snow kept Atlanta immobile?
 
The Department will consider inclement weather as
reason to be exempt from daily fines.  The project construction budget is at $21 million. (AW’s contract is $21,423,500 for better accuracy.)
The nature trail along the creek is coming into clearer view as the ramps above are connected. By March 1 contractors laid beds of large stone along the creek, topping it with smaller gravel and compacting them into a smooth trail. The largest bridge across the main span of the North Fork is in place.  Several smaller culverts across feeder creeks will be part of the trail. At least one is poured on site, and others are expected in early March.  Decorative fences and approaches leading to the main bridge are likely to be among the last elements to be built.
Sally Sears 
Executive Director, The South Fork Conservancy

Atlanta Council Delays Vote on Walmart Development

Jaclyn Hirsch – Buckhead Patch
Atlanta City Council failed yet again on Monday to make a decision on the controversial mixed-use development plan off Lindbergh Drive west of North Druid Hills that includes a Walmart.
Council voted to send the zoning request back to committee to address the land use issues, according to a note sent to residents by the Lindridge Martin Manor neighborhood association.
Developers want to build a mixed-use development that would include a Walmart off Lindbergh Drive near the MARTA station.
But the property is zoned for residential use, and Monday’s city council vote indicates that council will not approve the project unless the property is rezoned.
“The Walmart development cannot go forward with out the land use being changed,” Lindridge Martin Manor Neighborhood Association President Roxanne Sullivan wrote to neighbors. “There was lots of speculation as to what does this mean. Most of them involved the fact that the developer did not have the votes for approval. It most likely will not come back from committee.”
Developers battled with neighbors for roughly two years in an effort to move the project forward.
Many residents in and around Buckhead opposed the project due to the size of the development and the location.
Andrea Bennett, who chairs NPU-B’s Development and Transportation Committee, told Reporter Newspapers “the accusations of prejudice against Walmart are unfounded.”
“We voted against this before Walmart ever entered the picture, before we even heard Walmart was involved,” Bennett said. “Our issue isn’t whether this is a Walmart or whether it’s a Nieman-Marcus or something else. It’s about the form of the development.”

Buckhead Walmart zoning issues… a tangled web

from Buckhead View
Editor’s Note: The following is a news analysis piece by BuckheadView related to the controversial proposed “big box” mixed-use development near Lindbergh Center and the intersection of Piedmont and Lindbergh roads in south Buckhead. This piece is based on known facts, overheard statements, off-the-record conversations with public officials and civic leaders and rumors from credible sources.
BuckheadView has learned that Sally Silver, the chairman of Neighborhood Planning Unit B who also works in the City Council office of Dist. 7 representative Howard Shook, has been told to stop speaking out against the proposed Sembler Co./Fuqua Development Lindbergh Center area project, which likely would include a big box Walmart store.

NPU-B Chair Sally Silver

The proposed development, which started out as a totally commercial project and has morphed into a mixed-use commercial and residential plan, has been repeatedly denied zoning and land-use changes by the NPU-B board and its Zoning and Development & Transportation committees over the past year and a half.Silver has been very vocal about her objections to the “big box” aspect of the planned development, its huge surface parking lot and its lack of urban design and transit orientation, both during NPU-B meetings and before the city’s Zoning Review Board hearing last month.
As reported this week by the Garden Hills neighborhood’s Town Crier web site, and confirmed to BuckheadView by other sources as well, both Shook and fellow Councilman Alex Wan have told people they will support the land-use and zoning changes to allow the development to move forward.
However, at the August meeting of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods Thursday night, Shook denied he had told anyone that he would cast his vote in favor of the developers and their plans. From what BuckheadView’s sources say, he may have miss-spoke to the BCN.
(For BuckheadView’s coverage of Councilman Shook’s comments on the Lindbergh area development at the BCN meeting, go here.)
Several sources told BuckheadView that Silver was muzzled on this issue by Shook himself, and, if she did not stop speaking out on the issue, she might lose her job in the councilman’s Dist. 7 office, a job she has held for many years.
Councilman Howard Shook and Sally Silver are shown together at an earlier annual meeting of the North Buckhead neighborhood association.

In response to a phone call from BuckheadView asking Sally Silver if she had been told not to continue speaking out in opposition to the proposed Sembler/Fuqua development, Silver provided the following email, which she said would be the full extent of her reply:“As current Chair of NPU-B I have 1 1/2 yrs of involvement with this case. At no time during this process did I receive direction or instructions from Councilman Shook. As NPU-B overwhelmingly voted to oppose this rezoning, I attempted to do my best at explaining that stance to the Zoning Review Board (ZRB). Although NPU-B voted to deny the rezoning, Planning Staff, and the Zoning Review Board support the rezoning.
“This project has now moved forward and will be heard by the Council Zoning Committee and Council Community Development/Human Resources Committee. Both of these committees are aware of NPU-B’s stance regarding this case.
“I can report that the Zoning Committee will be meeting the morning of 8/20 (before the scheduled Council meeting) and the case will be held (deferred).”
That likely will be the last we will hear from Silver on this issue, as a public servant (chair of NPU-B, which is directly involved with this project, and a member of Howard Shook’s council staff) or an Atlanta resident. She may, however, be heard relaying the Dist. 7 office’s public line.
District 7 Councilman Howard Shook

Speaking to the BCN Thursday night, Councilman Shook defended the Lindbergh Center area project by saying, “With well-connected developers and their attorneys, and an administration that would love to see us start crawling out of our depression, I don’t have a monopoly on the outcome of this,” Shook said.He went on to explain that council members are going to be told that the development meets the legal criteria as asserted by the planning department, ZRB and some neighborhood members — even ones that don’t like the project.
The telling point Shook made in that statement, however, was that the mayor wants development to get us moving out of the recession and to add tax monies in the city’s coffers—providing we don’t then give Sembler and Fuqua tax credit incentives to build the project. But he said the mayor definitely is involved in the outcome of this.
BuckheadView also has learned that Mayor Kasim Reed may be personally calling the shots on getting this development approved because of commitments he made to Walmart to help the company obtain other locations in Atlanta as a result of Walmart agreeing to take over the failed Publix market location in Atlanta’s West End Village.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed

Several credible sources have told BuckheadView that Mayor Reed has “a very good relationship with the Walmart people.” These sources say Walmart wants to expand its presence in Atlanta and that Mayor Reed supports them in that. Word is he also may be helping facilitate Walmart being able to open a store in the Cascade area. BuckheadView is told that is not yet approved, but will be very shortly.One thing for sure, the processes and procedures for granting land-use and zoning changes for this particular development have been escalated in the past couple of months and at the same time, the scheduling has become totally screwed up.
For instance, the request for changes in zoning for the project went before the Zoning Review Board on July 12 and narrowly was approved by the ZRB. However, it has been determined that it should never have been presented to the ZRB at that time, since a required Development of Regional Impact (DRI) study had not been done.
That DRI study was not even requested by the city’s Planning Department until July 13, the day after the ZRB hearing.
But the confusion does not stop there. City Council also cannot take action on either the zoning or land-use changes for this project until the DRI study is completed and presented to Council. However, the City Council’s Zoning Committee had scheduled a hearing on the zoning issues last week, but was unable to act on it because of a lack of a quorum.
This was the latest site plan presented to NPU-B earlier this summer. The 150,000-square-foot bix-box Walmart is the brown area at the top left.

The Council Zoning Committee deferred action on the zoning issue until its Aug. 20 meeting, the same day the full Council returns from summer recess and was to have voted on the zoning issue related to this project.To even further confuse the issue, the Council’s Zoning Committee apparently cannot take action on the zoning issues on this case until the Council’s Community Development/Human Resources Committee first votes on the requested changes in land-use, which involves the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan. The CD/HR Committee does not meet until Aug. 28.
But in reality, none of these city bodies can vote on any aspect of this project until the DRI study is completed, and that is not likely to happen before Aug. 20.
A photo of a fairly typical modern Walmart big-box store.

Does this not make Atlanta residents wonder if the right hand knows what the left hand is doing down at City Hall? These procedures are nothing new. But it could be that the process is being forced forward to meet someone’s agenda—possibly Mayor Kasim Reed’s.You have to wonder why the city’s Planning Department staff originally denied the developers’ plans and then ended up approving them.
You have to ask why the DRI study was not applied for until July 13, the day after the ZRB voted on the zoning issue involved with the development. And why would the developers say they were told a DRI study was not necessary?
At one of its last NPU-B board meetings where the site plan
was discussed, Silver and others on the board said they
likely would be willing to accept one of Walmart’s new
Neighborhood Market grocery stores, but not a big box.

Why did one of Mayor Reed’s top policy advisors show up at a zoning meeting for the very first time when this development’s zoning issue was being considered?Oh, and should be ask why Walmart is putting up the $25,000 for the winner of the contest to design the park across the street from City Hall? Will there be a Walmart there too?
Should we ask why a member of City Council might ignore the wishes of his constituents and vote for a development the NPUs and neighborhoods have said they do not want?
And, you have to ask why Sally Silver, the chair of NPU-B, had to leave Aug. 7 at the end of the regular NPU-B board meeting and before several members of the NPU board met to discuss the Lindbergh area proposed development in a special executive session.
Those who attended that meeting decided to draw up a formal document outlining how the proposed development conflicts with both the letter and intent of the SPI-15 ordinance by which the development must be judged.
Like Councilman Shook, BuckheadView is awaiting that document and will bring it to our readers as soon as we get it.

Public Meeting About Nature Trail Set for April 10

By Sally Sears
A plan to link two  major nature preserves in Virginia-Highland and Morningside is gaining momentum in the neighborhood.
The South Fork Conservancy and  Park Pride are leading discussions about a trail along the south fork of  Peachtree Creek connecting Morningside Nature Preserve and Herbert  Taylor-Daniel Johnson Nature Preserve.
The first public meeting scheduled for Tuesday, April 10 at 6 p.m. at Haygood  Methodist Church could demonstrate some of the benefits and challenges  of creating more greenspace with easy access to walkers, joggers and  perhaps bikers.
Creek  cleanups and trail building are expected later in the spring.
Here’s  what one avid creek paddler found on a cleanup downstream from Cheshire  Bridge Road.
From Richard Grove, Georgia Kayaker:
There are good river days and there are great river days. Today was a great one. Today  after 9.5 hours, 25 more tires were removed along with 3 shopping  carts, some carpet, a picnic table umbrella, 3 golf balls, mirror,  fishing reel, vehicle tail light lens, sleeping bag, trash can lid, PVC  pipe, wire, metal stud, shoes, shirts, roof shingles, safety fence, silt  fence, fire extinguisher, lots of aluminum cans, plastic bags &  bottles, a disposable razor. Still looking for a toothbrush. The pile is  huge. Next work day will be from Cheshire Bridge Road.
I have  never removed a Herbie trash container or a shopping cart from the  river. I thought the Herbie was a bear to get out but nothing compared  to the shopping carts which took more than an hour to dig each one out.
One  day next week I will cut up the tree in the river across from the trash  pile area which will make the river look much better from that view  point.
I see and hear people walking the trail when I am in the  river working but the only chance I get to talk to anyone is when I’m  either starting or finishing and at my truck.. When I was cleaning in  the area of the trash pile several people came to the riverbank to say,  hello. Sunday I met a couple who walk the trail several times a week.
A  year from now there will probably be less trash in the river but more  on the trail. Fact-of-life, Americans are pigs. Where they go so come  their trash.
Sally Sears is the Executive Director of the South Fork Conservancy,  a nonprofit that seeks to restore, conserve and protect the Riparian systems of the South Fork of Peachtree Creek Watershed. Follow South Fork on Facebook. Learn more on their website.

1959 Film from ULI and National Association of Homebuilders Warns of Urban Sprawl

This 1959 film, “Community Growth, Crisis and Challenge,” warns citizens, developers, and city officials of the dangers of urban sprawl.  This historical artifact, co-sponsored by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Urban Land Institute ULI) provides alternative approaches to land development.  The film was produced by the NAHB. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1W3onge7BY&feature=colike
For more information on ULI’s historical 75 years, go to:  http://www.uli75.org

Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th

Next Sunday, November 20th at 9am, Generation Green and South Fork  Conservancy will partner to clean-up trails, build benches and plant trees at  Peachtree Creek in Atlanta. The trail clean-up area is located near the  intersection of Lindbergh Drive and Armand Road. Volunteers are asked to  register for this event, to wear boots and bring gloves.
Generation Green is a program of  the Georgia Conservancy creating “exciting and inclusive” opportunities for  future generations of environmental leaders who will protect Georgia’s  environment. The program uses educational opportunities, social events,  adventure trips and service projects as mediums of engagement.
South Fork Conservancy is a  volunteer organization of neighbors and businesses with an aim at sustaining  Atlanta’s creeks and quality of life.  The organization is the beginning  part of an initiative aimed at restoring, and repairing Peachtree Creek to its  “rightful place in the forefront of the region’s natural resources.”
For directions, and registration information for this event, click here.
Continue reading on Examiner.com Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th – Atlanta healthy living | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/healthy-living-in-atlanta/georgia-conservancy-event-trail-clean-up-at-peachtree-creek-nov-20th#ixzz1dcaWxTe7
Continue reading on Examiner.com Georgia Conservancy Event: Trail Clean-up at Peachtree Creek Nov., 20th – Atlanta healthy living | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/healthy-living-in-atlanta/georgia-conservancy-event-trail-clean-up-at-peachtree-creek-nov-20th#ixzz1dcaPKAJg

Atlanta Beltline Corridor Public Input Opportunities

Posted by Tracy Gould Sheinin for Virginia Highland/Druid Hills Patch
MARTA and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) invite the public to share input on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) during public hearings.  The EIS will determine the alignment of transit and trails in the Atlanta BeltLine Corridor and the technology for transit – either Modern Streetcar or Light Rail.  During the hearings, attendees will have the opportunity to talk with project representatives about the environmental study and review plans and graphics.
The public hearings and the official comment period ending on September 17, 2011, will be the final opportunity for the public to provide vital input on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.  During the hearings, the public will be invited to submit written comments about the project.  A court reporter will be on hand to record verbal comments.
The Public Hearings will take place on:
August 16, 2011, 1:00pm – 3:00pm & 6:00pm – 8:00pm at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 634 West Peachtree St. NW (Take MARTA to the North Avenue Station, parking also available).
August 18, 2011, 1:00pm – 3:00pm & 6:00pm – 8:00pm at Hager CTM Building, 19 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. NW (Take MARTA to the Ashby Rail Station, parking also available).
If you are unable to attend the hearings, you can provide comments by calling 404-524-2070, faxing to 404-848-5132, emailing dwa_beltlinestudy@bellsouth.net or visiting the project websites here and here.

Livable Cities Don’t Have Freeways

from www.sustainablecitiescollective.com

//

England’s A3 tunnel will cost $402 million per mile, making it the most expensive project of its kind in the United Kingdom. Photo by Tom O’Donoghue

We recently wrote about Glasgow’s controversial and expensive road expansion—an elevated six-lane highway to complete Glasgow’s ring of motorways that will cost more than $200 million per mile. But despite the hefty price tag, the road is only the second most expensive project in the United Kingdom. This month the U.K. will witness a 1.2-mile tunnel project, the A3, in Surrey, a county in southeast England. The estimated cost of the project: $402 million per mile.
Once completed, the expensive yet short tunnel road will become the longest of its kind in the U.K. Although most people reading the prices of these projects may still be in sticker shock, Geoff French, the vice president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, does not find it surprising at all. “There’s a huge cost penalty when you put a road up in the sky or down in the ground,” he says.
According to Transport Scotland, the cost for a new three-lane highway on average is $47 million per mile. Based on these calculations, the 1.2-mile tunnel in Surrey will be 10 times the average cost of a new highway. Part of the reason for the high cost, at least in the case of Glasgow’s M74 extension, is that the construction project requires the compulsory purchasing of property. With the addition of the cost of planning consultation and public inquiries, the cost goes up—and that’s for an elevated road. “An underground road costs even more—roughly twice that of an elevated one,” BBC reports.
Going Underground
The higher cost makes sense. In addition to difficulties of actual construction, underground projects must deal with geology. The presence of rock, for example, is recorded as an ideal opportunity for underground space development, according to Australasian Tunnelling Society. Digging through soil is even better. However, running into granite during the construction process can become time-consuming and more expensive because it’s more difficult to blast and dig through.
Besides geological obstructions, a tunnel construction project must consider the excavated soil and rock: what to do with it, where to get rid of it and how to take it there. Another factor to consider is support for the dug up tunnel. The machine responsible for digging the tunnel is considerably smaller than the tunnel itself. Once the machine goes deeper in the path, the dug up tunnel must be supported with precast circular segments, to avoid the collapse of the earth. All of these details considerably add to the price of a tunnel project.
“But sometimes there is no alternative to going underground,” reports the BBC. “[The A3 tunnel] allows the road to expand to four lanes by digging up to 195ft (60m) under Hindhead Commons.” And according to Rob Fairbanks, director of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, “Building a dual carriageway on the surface would have caused great damage,” perhaps because the surface has significant landscape value.
Sir Peter Hall, a Barlett professor of planning at the University College London, explains that spending on such projects will be a rare occurrence in the future. “Indeed, road projects like the M74 extension and A3 tunnel may never be repeated,”  the BBC reports. “Nowadays, most city councils subscribe to the view that urban motorways fracture communities rather than aid economic development.”

Demolition work on Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct started in February 2011, relieving the city from maintenance costs. Photo by Cliff.

Knocking Down Freeways
In the U.S., cities are tearing down freeways to avoid maintenance and replacement. Just this past March, NPR ran a story on freeway removal that highlights a contradictory trend to Europe’s expensive new roads. The freeways built in the ’50s and ’60s are deteriorating to a condition where they are no longer safe to use, so cities are choosing to dismantle them instead of repair them. “Milwaukee removed a freeway spur for $30 million,” according to NPR. “Officials estimated it would have cost between $50 million and $80 million to fix that roadway.”
Money is a big motivator for such a decision and it is by no means a localized issue. Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct, with the wear-and-tear of the years and the damage of a 2001 earthquake, was demolished in February 2011, making way for an underground tunnel in the region. But money is not the only motivator. Portland’s four-lane freeway, Harbor Drive, was shut down in the ’70s in a beautification effort of the west bank of the Wilamette River. The space is now occupied by a greenway and the current success of Portland’s downtown is credited mostly to the demolition of Harbor Drive.
San Francisco went through a similar transformation with its Embarcadero Freeway. Although the freeway’s actual demolition didn’t come to fruition until damage from a 1989 earthquake, the road was believed to be “the city’s worst planning mistake” and “denounced as an eyesore” that blocked the waterfront early in its lifetime, according to a New York Times article from 1990.
Today, a handful of U.S. cities are joining the movement. New Haven, for example, has been debating whether to convert a one-mile expressway corridor into a network of city streets. The Board of Alderman decided in December 2010 that it would accept a federal grant and pursue the demolition.
But perhaps the trend hasn’t gone national quite yet. Similar to Glasgow’s M74 or Surrey A3, Boston completed a $20-billion, 3.35-mile tunnel project that re-routes the city’s main highway. In early June, we reported on a new study by Smart Growth America that said, between 2004 and 2008, states spent $37.9 billion annually on repair and expansion projects for their roads and highways.
By the same token, “Anyone who follows infrastructure maintenance can tell you that this country has not been doing it’s job when it comes to maintaining roads,” as blogger James Sinclair wrote for Stop and Move, saying we face a potential future of “crumbling” highways and “structurally unsound” overpasses. It looks like we have a long way to go.
Outside of the U.S., cities have gained international recognition for tearing down unnecessary concrete. One recent high-profile example is Seoul, where city planners helped to restore the Cheonggyecheon river by removing three miles of elevated highway, which help cut air pollution and reduce air temperatures.

According to Patrick Condon, Vancouver owes its livability to its lack of freeways. Photo by Evan Leeson.

Livable Cities Don’t Have Freeways
Early this year, Vancouver was named the world’s most liveable city for the fifth consecutive time. Conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, Vancouver received high scores in terms of stability, health care, culture, environment, education and infrastructure—or the lack thereof. According to Patrick Condon, a visiting professor of livable environments at the University of British Columbia, the main reason behind Vancouver’s prestigious title is the city’s “determination in the 1970s and ‘80s to resist the lure of freeways as an easy answer to traffic problems.”
Instead of building freeways, Vancouver’s local councils gathered to draft a long-term plan for the city’s growth. “Central to the plan was investment in public transport, cycling and pedestrian measures—not freeways,” explains the Age. “The theory was that congestion, and the desire to avoid it, would drive commuters to alternatives: moving closer to their work and using the trains and bus system.” No freeways, no way to run off to the suburbs.
Interestingly enough, a study by Brown University found that a city’s population can decrease 18 percent because of the building of a major highway. In an interview with Planetizen, Nathaniel Baum-Snow, the economist behind the study, explains the reasoning:

“If suburb A builds a highway to connect to suburb B, that’s going to affect the distribution of commutes not only between those suburbs but also the commutes in the region as a whole. So there are going to be these externalities where someone in suburb C has a faster way to get to work, so they’re going to start using it and filling up this new highway. And a business downtown might say, hey, there’s this new infrastructure, let’s go locate out there and I can have a lot more space to work with. So anytime one part of a region changes something, it’s going to affect population and employment throughout the metropolitan area. So I think it’s important to engage at the regional level.”

DeKalb businesses launch second improvement district

Atlanta Business Chronicle – by Dave Williams, Staff Writer
Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 10:41am EDT – Last Modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 11:24am EDT
 
Guardrail work along Mountain Industrial Boulevard

A second self-taxing community improvement district has sprung up in DeKalb County.
The new Stone Mountain CID was approved by the county commission last week and has elected its first board of directors.
The new CID’s members elected developer Emory Morsberger the district’s president, and Larry Callahan, CEO of Pattillo Industrial Real Estate, was chosen to serve as chairman.
Stone Mountain becomes the 14th CID in the metro region, all formed by commercial property owners who agree to pay a tax to finance improvements inside their districts.
The Stone Mountain CID is bordered roughly by Hugh Howell Road, East Ponce de Leon Avenue and Tucker Industrial Road. Other major roads running through the district include U.S. 78, also known as Stone Mountain Freeway, and Mountain Industrial Boulevard.
The new CID already has completed its first project, repairing and replacing guardrails along Mountain Industrial.
The county’s first CID, located in the portion of the Perimeter area inside DeKalb, has brought in more than $100 million in grants since its formation in 1989.