Archive for September, 2011

Atlanta-to-Griffin rail line getting second look

Dave Williams
Staff Writer – Atlanta Business Chronicle

A commuter rail line linking Atlanta with Griffin, Ga., that appeared to be out of contention for funding through a proposed regional transportation sales tax may get a new life.

The committee of metro-Atlanta mayors and county commissioners that has been assembling a list of highway and transit improvements to submit to voters in 10 counties next year will reconsider the commuter rail project on Wednesday.

An amendment to the $6.1 billion project list proposed by Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell, a member of the regional “roundtable” developing the list, would set aside $350 million to build the rail line.

The roundtable had rejected the Atlanta-to-Griffin line last summer as too expensive. But Bell’s amendment, seconded by Union City, Ga., Mayor Ralph Moore, contends the work could be done for more than $900 million below original estimates by scaling back the scope of the project.

“As the first investment in the corridor between Atlanta and Savannah, this is the only project of significant regional and state impact,” Bell wrote in the form he submitted requesting the amendment. “This will be the only rail investment south of I-20, has strong support in the corridor inside and outside Atlanta, and meets every roundtable criteria.”

Supporters, including commuter rail advocates, complained vigorously when a five-member subcommittee of the roundtable recommended a project list that did not include the commuter rail line.

Under the 2010 state law that established the roundtable process and next year’s referendum, the full 22-member roundtable has until Oct. 15 to finalize the project list that will appear on the ballot.

Bell’s amendment recommends a series of cuts to the list to offset the $350 million that would go to the rail line. The largest would involve reducing the funds that would go toward a planned light rail line from Midtown Atlanta to the Cumberland Mall area by $85.7 million and cutting the proposed Clifton Corridor rail line by $70 million.

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September 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm Leave a comment

Sembler grocery store plan for Lindbergh and Piedmont area hits a few major approval snags

From BuckheadView by John Schaffner
 

Those who read early in August that a large grocery store might be coming to near the intersection of Lindbergh Drive and Piedmont Road, and were anticipating their first shopping trip, might want to put those shopping bags back in the closet.

That grocery store, which was anticipated as part of a Sembler Co. commercial retail strip development on 10 acres bordered by Lindbergh, Morosgo and Adina drives has run into a heap of denials for land use changes and likely will be a long time in the future if it happens at all.

At its Aug. 2 board meeting, Neighborhood Planning Unit B approved unanimously two zoning ordinances, which amended the Piedmont commercial corridor regulations to remove a minimum residential requirement for the property. The NPU board recognized the need for a major grocery store to fill a huge void and provide a needed amenity in the area.

From the August NPU-B meeting to its September meeting, the support seemed to dramatically erode. When it came to deciding on whether or not to approve an amendment to the land use element of the 2011 Atlanta Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) at the September meeting the NPU board questioned a number of factors.

First of all, while the NPU-B board had been envisioning a Public or Kroger grocery store as part of the development, the Sembler people had mentioned a Wal-Mart Super Store during discussions with the Design Review Committee. That was not acceptable to the NPU board.

Then board members asked to see a site plan for what Sembler was planning to build. They were told there was no site plan and would not be one until after all the approvals for the project. That too was unacceptable to the NPU board members.

The NPU-B board offered attorney Larry Dingle, who attended the September meeting representing Sembler, the opportunity to defer action on the land use amendment request until Sembler could present a site plan for the board to review along with assurances of what the grocery store would be.

The board even agreed to wait for a day or two to hear from Dingle if his client wanted that or wanted the NPU board to vote on a denial of the request. The board had agreed to do a formal vote by email after hearing from Sembler.

Dingle said there was no reason to wait, he knew his client would prefer for and up-or-down vote that night from the NPU on either approval or denial. The NPU board voted 25-9 for denial of Sembler’s request.

The request for the amendment then went before the city’s Zoning Review Board and Sembler asked for a deferment and received it.

The issue of the CDP amendment was up for a public hearing on Sept. 12 and NPU-B chairperson Sally Silver presented that the NPU board had voted 25-9 for denial of the amendment change for this proposed development. Silver told BuckheadView that the city’s staff also recommended denial.

On Sept. 13, the issue again went before the Design Review Committee, which decided it could take no action, according to Silver, because there was no site plan and no support of the proposal by the NPU or city staff.

The issue is destined to again come before the NPU-B Zoning Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 26, and Silver is sure the committee will vote for denial.

According to Silver, the issue is not necessarily dead in the water, but it certainly has been delayed at this point. She said she has placed a call to the Sembler people to see that they plan to do—proceed along the path they have chosen thus far, or make some changes and come back through the process—but she has not yet heard from them.

In August, Silver was one of the most excited over the prospect of having a grocery store in that area. “That is the big important thing that is going to make Lindbergh work,” she said at the time.

September 25, 2011 at 5:17 pm Leave a comment

Report: Atlanta region ranked as the worst metro area for seniors’ access to transit

By Maria Saporta for www.saportareport.com

The Transportation for America, a coalition that promotes smarter transportation investment, has ranked Atlanta as the worst metro area in providing seniors access to mass transit.

Such a ranking is especially devastating for metro Atlanta — a region that is projecting a dramatic increase in senior citizens.

The report — “Aging in Place, Stuck without Options” — determined that the majority of the nation’s metro areas with a population of more than 1 million people provided seniors with poor access to transit.

The number of senior citizens with poor access to transit will continue to grow as the baby boom generation continues to get older.

“While some aging baby boomers and empty nesters have been moving from suburbs to downtowns, the vast majority of older Americans continue to reside in car-dependent suburban and rural communities,” the report stated.

“Inevitably, their ability to navigate these communities by vehicle will diminish or disappear over time, and millions of older adults will need transportation alternatives in order to maintain their independence,” the report continued.

The Urban Land Institute, in its Urban Land publication, reported on the Transportation for America’s ranking and determined that was a wide variation of metro areas providing seniors with access to transit.

The study defined seniors as people aged 65 to 79. And poor access was defined people having fewer than two bus, rail or ferry routes within walking distance of their home.

“Not surprisingly, the metros offering the best transit access for seniors are typically larger, coastal metropolises with larger transit systems, such as New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.,” the report stated.

“The worst metropolitan areas for seniors’ transit mobility tend to be more inland, with stagnant or shrinking bus systems,” the report continued. “Interestingly, the 11 worst metros include several places with rail systems, such as Atlanta, Charlotte, and Nashville, suggesting their systems may be too small.”

The finding of this report comes at a particularly significant time for metro Atlanta. Currently, the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable is considering a draft list of transportation projects that would be implemented if voters approve a one-cent regional sales tax next year.

The draft project list would invest 55 percent of the revenue in transit projects and 45 percent in road projects.

The Urban Land Institute said that the metro areas that rank the worst for seniors’ access to transit offers an opportunity for its members and real estate professionals. It stated that those metro areas could be “ripe” for senior housing projects that are part of a transit-oriented development with bus or rail stops.

The 11 worst metro areas for seniors’ having access to transit are:

1.     Atlanta. In 2015, it is projected that the region will have 503,543 people between the ages of 65 to 79. Ninety percent of that population would have “poor transit access” in 2015.

2.     Kansas City. Senior population in 2015: 230,023 with 88 percent with poor transit access.

3.     Oklahoma City. senior population: 136,571; poor transit access: 86 percent.

4.     Nashville. senior population: 151,995; poor transit access: 85 percent.

5.     Raleigh-Durham. senior population: 127,931; poor transit access: 80 percent.

6.     Indianapolis. 181,073; 79 percent.

7.     Charlotte. 170,815; 79 percent  (a tie).

8.     Jacksonville. 127,958; 77 percent.

9.     Virginia Beach-Norfolk. 147,285; 69 percent.

10. Rochester.  116,565; 69  percent (a tie).

11.  Riverside-San Bernardino.  278,305; 69 percent (a tie)

September 14, 2011 at 10:10 am Leave a comment


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