Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Greenway By Any Other Name

The latest hot topic in Dunwoody development is the resurgence of "multi-use trails".

This topic nearly came to a riot before the last election when the first "greenway" plan was presented.  The original version involved confiscating easements (private residential property that utilities pay to use for their equipment) and paving them over for general public use.  While some were willing to donate their property to this purpose, others, notably those who would stand to lose 1/3 or more of their lot and have the greenway uncomfortably close to their homes, objected.  Loudly.  The "greenways" were removed from the parks plan.

Now in 2012 the subject is "multi use trails".  Same concept, same purpose, different name, slightly different approach.

These trails run around Brook Run Park in this overlay drawing, except at the northwest end of the park where the trail diverts south so as to avoid private property that is surrounded by the park.  The rest of the trails (in red) run directly on the perimeter for the most part.
The sales pitch images are oddly familiar:

The text in the  links and warmfuzzyfeelgood pitch images are exactly the same as the original Greenway presentation.  The only difference is that "Greenway" has been substituted with "multi use trail".

Not only is this new proposal flat-out laziness, it assumes that no one will notice or call out city staff for it.

The best thing I can say about the Brook Run greenway is that it employs municipal land, rather than privately owned residential land.  The city can make whatever plans they want without intruding directly on anyone's castle.  The similar trails in Georgetown are being planned in with the rest of the development from scratch.  Again, nothing to tear down.  

(Note:  words are great, pictures supporting them would be better.)

There are still drawbacks.  First, the amount of construction involved.  Brook Run had a small network of forest-like trails to stroll or hike along.  We're talking nature trails, not paved highways.  Then that evolved into "paved walkways".  Now we're back to the original 12-foot-wide greenway.  Development projects in Dunwoody have a tendency to expand during discussion, along with their budgets (cf, Dunwoody Village Parkway).  I'd still like to know why this is the usual trend.

Second:  when the playground and skate park were built, homeowners on the opposite side of Peeler Road went completely ape at the number of trees being cut down and the lack of screening between their homes and the active parts of the park.  Does anyone think the reaction will be different this time?  The trees are not going to obediently uproot themselves and replant elsewhere.  The screening that immediate neighbors say they want is going to be completely demolished.  The Q&A claims that only a "minimum" of trees are going to be removed but doesn't clarify a number and there are no artist renderings or even sketches superimposed over photographs to demonstrate this.  Only the same greenway sales photos from the original presentation.  

Speaking of trees, how is this plan getting reconciled with the efforts of the Sustainability Commission who claim to want to preserve tree canopy in Dunwoody?  You can either develop land for greenways by cutting down trees or you can preserve trees via force of law.  You can't do both.  I don't find the Q&A credible when it implies that few trees are going to be disturbed.  There's 12 feet of pavement plus a buffer zone on either side, especially during construction.  Again, there are no photos of the area to be built itself to confirm anything in the City's documents.  

Next is the question of materials.  Sustainability Commission and related "green" advocates have been touting  "green" building and "green" materials to the sky since the city was founded.  Now they have a chance to put that rhetoric into action by using the much celebrated "pervious paving".  But wait, there's a snag.  It turns out that "pervious paving" materials are only functional if nothing "green" falls on them.  Like leaves, dirt, or pine straw.  So we're now back to concrete, the less expensive of the standard paving alternatives.  The "green" advocates have not been forthcoming about the disadvantages of "green" materials - we have to find them out the hard way when it's time to consider their use.  

These questions of mine are just for the Brook Run section of the greenway plan.  They don't apply to the Georgetown development because the land was already cleared for development.

Before I can decide what side of this plan I stand on, I'd like to see more than an aerial photograph of the entire park.  I would like to see on-location photos of the areas being developed with similar markups clarifying what is going to be disturbed and what isn't.  I'd like to see the engineers' reports that confirm that water runoff will not affect the properties on the opposite side of the street from the greenway where it runs along the edge.  (Especially along Peeler Road where the curbs are crumbling and water is a major issue during storms.)

I want to believe that what is being presented is the best option.  But no one at the city is showing it in any tangible way.  Recycled sales photos from the old greenway project and memos on city stationery don't cut it.

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