Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Beltline

After a long day of work, I went to the Neighborhood Planning Unit meeting tonight to help get approval of the draft Beltline Master Plan.

The Beltline, Atlanta's visionary plan for 22 miles of new transit and 33 miles of multi-use trail, has not been without controversy - last year, I got embroiled in the dispute over whether or not a segment of the multi-use trail should or shouldn't run through the middle of our local park, the last natural greenspace in this part of town (we eventually arrived at a compromise route). But despite that and numerous other controversies, the plan is not without merit - there's a lot to be said for more mass transit and more alternatives to automotive mobility in this city.

The Master Plan that was finally produced showed the trail along the correct compromise route (the earlier draft did not), but I did have a few issues with the plan as written, mostly regarding the proposed density of development in my neighborhood. And some of my neighbors had specific complaints about specific locations - unwanted side streets, poorly conceived intersections, etc.

At last month's meeting of the Neighborhood Planning Unit, I aired my concern to the community and listened to their complaints. Following that meeting, I worked with one of the neighbors to develop a list of "conditions" that we needed to see resolved before we could endorse the draft Master Plan. At tonight's meeting, I presented those conditions to the Beltline representatives in attendance.

The purpose of this evening's meeting was for a vote to either endorse or reject the draft Master Plan. After hearing my issues and following a spirited discussion among the neighbors, a suggestion was made that in these hard economic times, no government funds should be spent on this project, and the development should occur in the private sector. A motion was then made to reject the Plan in its entirety.

That would have been unfortunate. As I've said, despite my concerns, there's a lot to like in the Beltine and there's no other new mass transit proposal on the table right now. And while our "nay" vote would not have killed the Master Plan, our specific concerns would not have been heard. Fortunately, the motion did not get enough votes to carry.

At that point, I made a motion to endorse the Master Plan, subject to changes needed to address the conditional list of concerns we had drafted. The motion carried by a large majority.

Those opposed to the Beltline altogether are, I think, really opposed to the future. Growth is going to come to the City, recession or not, and the future will be more densely developed, more crowded, and more urban. The Master Plan acknowledges this growth and gives us the opportunity to direct it, plan for it, and create the infrastructure for it. Those who don't want to see the infrastructure really just don't want to see the inevitable tide of population growth here in Atlanta. And those who want to see the project developed not by the government but in the private sector are still living in a Reaganesque fantasia.

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