Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Why Cul-de-Sacs are Bad for You

Nowadays I usually get inspired to post on this blog by things that appear in my Facebook feed. Due to my long association with UGA Law many of my friends are in Georgia, and Georgia-related news gets lots of play.   Recently a few land use savvy friends have posted this article from Slate, "Why Cul-de-Sacs Are Bad for Your Health." 

My first thought - "Isn't this something the New Urbanists have been telling us for, oh, 20 years or so?" Andres Duany has certainly been on the topic for a long time - his book Suburban Nation came out in 2001.

But, this article supports the truth many of us have known for awhile - that living in the suburbs and commuting by car has a negative impact on one's health.  This is being confirmed by a recent study at Georgia Tech.  The article makes for interesting reading, regardless of where you live.

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 11, 2013 in Development, DPZ, Exurbs, Georgia, Housing, New Urbanism, Pedestrian, Smart Growth, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Atlanta Braves Stadium Change Causes Controversy

I no longer follow Georgia news closely, but recently my Facebook feed lit up with multiple article postings and opinions about the Atlanta Braves' plan to build a new stadium in suburban Cobb County, abandoning Turner Field, which they've occupied for only 16 years.  Sentiment amongst my friends is running about 20 to 1 against the move. It even merited national attention from a Huffington Post blogger.  He brings up the not-unfamiliar criticism that Cobb County has no business spending $450 million on a new stadium when they're furloughing teachers:

Now it seems that Cobb County is one of the 100th wealthiest counties in America, and the 12th most educated. So $450 million must be chump change -- it's not like they're Philadelphia, slashing public school teachers in the face of massive budget cuts. Oh, wait... actually they are sort of like that: "Cobb County's school board approved a 2013-14 budget Thursday night that will result in five furlough days for all employees, the loss of 182 teachers through attrition and a slimmer central administration staff."

The cuts are the result of reduced state aid and lower property tax revenues -- although apparently the lower property tax revenues that are low enough to mean fewer teachers aren't so low that they can't BUILD A NEW BASEBALL STADIUM! For a team that already has what you and I might, sanely, consider a pretty new baseball stadium.

I'm friends with several local government lawyers, and my friend, law school classmate, and former member of the Georgia legislature Rob Teilhet rightly pointed out that building the stadium has no direct relationship to school funding.  But, as Land Use Prof chief blogger Matt Festa noted in a blog post he wrote in 2009 on stadium controversies generally, claims are often made that the overall economic development caused by the stadium will benefit the community generally.  This project is no exception

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 15, 2013 in Development, Economic Development, Georgia, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Suburbs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Athens Wal-Mart Project Dies

So it's been quite awhile since my last post, but I felt compelled to share the end of the story about putting a Wal-Mart in downtown Athens, Georgia.  If you're a longtime reader of the blog you may remember that an Atlanta based developer proposed a mixed-use development, anchored by a Wal-Mart, in the center of Athens.  (See my previous post here.)  Although Wal-Mart never expressed official interest in the project, many local residents were highly opposed to the idea.

Yesterday the local paper featured a story saying that the developer has now abandoned the project entirely, due to market conditions.  The development featured student apartments as its residential component, and downtown Athens is already overbuilt in that category.  However, the site, while topographically challenging, is prime real estate.  I'm sure as market conditions improve something will eventually be built there.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 30, 2013 in Community Design, Development, Downtown, Georgia, Local Government, Planning, Real Estate Transactions, Redevelopment | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Church Fire in Athens

So I've been taking something of a break from blogging during my quasi-sabbatical, but I got a powerful lesson about the power of place this week, something that seemed worth sharing.  

Monday night Oconee Street United Methodist Church in Athens experienced a terrible fire.  This is the church my husband and I attended in Athens, and it's been powerful to see the effect of the fire on the community.  At first there was shock and grief but very quickly the community began to rally. The church is the home of the local soup kitchen, and only hours after the blaze they were serving breakfast in front of the still smoldering building.  A campaign has begun to restore the historic structure (originally built in 1903).  This church is an Athens institution, popularly known as the "church on the hill."

A few years ago I blogged about the rebuilding of another Athens insitution gutted by fire, the Georgia Theater.  The community banded together to help finance the two year rebuilding process, and the theater re-opened better and more beautiful than ever in 2011.  Here's hoping the same thing can happen with this wonderful little community church!

Jamie Baker Roskie

 

April 18, 2013 in Georgia, Historic Preservation, History | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

TDR Handbook Part II

Just wanted to follow up on Stephen Miller's post about the new TDR Handbook.  I've had the privilege of working with co-author (and planning consultant extraordinaire) Rick Pruetz on several TDR projects here in the Southeast.  This Handbook is a follow on to Rick's two previous books, Saved by Development and Beyond Takings and Givings.  Rick is amazingly knowledgable and very generous with his time and expertise.  We just finished helping the City of Milton implement a TDR program as part of their form-based code. I will continue to work with Rick during my year off (which starts Friday!).

Jamie Baker Roskie

 

June 26, 2012 in Density, Form-Based Codes, Georgia, Local Government, Planning, Property Rights, Transferable Development Rights, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Urban Land Use/Environmental Position at Georgia State

News from Prof. Julian Juergensmeyer on a very exciting opportunity:

Urban Land Use and Environmental Law Position at Georgia State University’s College of Law

Georgia State University College of Law is searching for a tenure-track Assistant/Associate Professor specializing in urban environmental and land use law.

This position is part of a university-wide interdisciplinary hiring initiative of four faculty members—one at the GSU College of Law, and one each at the GSU Departments of Economics, Public Management and Policy, and Sociology—who will collaborate in research and teaching relating to shaping the future of cities. These GSU faculties share a common strength in urban policy, featuring internationally recognized experts in the areas of urban economics, social networks, urban planning, environmental law, and land use law.

This tenure-track position will be associated with the College of Law’s Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth, whose mission is to advance interdisciplinary dialogue, academic exchange and research related to the challenges of cities. The Center’s current programs include: an interdisciplinary policy and research program (Urban Fellows Program); a certificate program in Environmental and Land Use Law; a dual degree program with Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning; a comparative urban policy course taught by foreign scholars; a summer legal study program in Brazil; and international and domestic conferences and symposia on environmental and land use law.

If you are interested in this position or have recommendations for candidates, please contact Julian Juergensmeyer at jjuergensmeyer@gsu.edu or Karen Johnston at kjohnston3@gsu.edu.

It looks like a fantastic land use/interdisciplinary opportunity.

Matt Festa

June 8, 2012 in Environmental Law, Georgia, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Atlanta Scrap Tire Commission Adopts Clinic's Recommendations

As we wind down the final days of the UGA Land Use Clinic there's a flurry of activity.  I'm gratified to report that, through the good work of our public interest fellow David Deganian and three semesters' worth of clinic students, the City of Atlanta Scrap Tire Commission has adopt a strategy largely based on our recommendations.

As reported on the Commission's website:

In 2010, approximately nine million scrap tires were generated in the State of Georgia, and it is estimated that one million of those were illegally dumped. Scrap tire dumping poses a substantial threat to both the citizens of the City of Atlanta and the environment. Stockpiles of waste tires create a breeding ground for mosquitoes and rodents. They also pose a significant fire hazard, and a scrap tire fire can lead to contamination of the air, water, and soil. Aside from these risks, scrap tires are unattractive and add to the blight of Atlanta’s neighborhoods.The City of Atlanta's Tire Commission has been created to alleviate this serious issue.

Student recommendations adopted by the Commission include:

Amending Atlanta’s Scrap Tire Ordinance to include provision whereby tire carriers must conspicuously display a “carrier decal” on their vehicles when in operation.

Including a provision in Atlanta’s Scrap Tire Ordinance requiring that scrap tire generators and carriers maintain state required documentation, including manifests.

Including a provision in Atlanta’s Scrap Tire Ordinance for fines of $1000 per violation per day for illegal tire dumping activity.

Amending the City of Atlanta Scrap Tire Ordinance to require scrap tire branding.

Lobbying the state legislature for the funding of the Solid Waste Trust Fund.

I'm so proud of the students and their hard work on this and other projects!  You can read the Commission's full report here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

May 11, 2012 in Environmental Justice, Georgia, Local Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fulton County Commission Urges Georgia EPD to Act on Environmental Justice

Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) is one of only a handful of state environmental agencies nationwide with no environmental justice policy, program, or employee.  On May 2, Fulton County’s Board of Commissioners (Atlanta is the county seat) passed a resolution urging the EPD to “take swift action to develop, implement, and enforce regulations and policies to promote environmental justice for the citizens of Fulton County and the entire state of Georgia.” The resolution uses findings from GreenLaw’s Patterns of Pollution report to show the need for these measures.  David Deganian, UGA’s Public Interest Fellow, authored the report, and Land Use Clinic students have been working with him to create environmental justice policies that can be adopted by local governments to prevent disproportionate siting of polluting facilities in low-income and minority areas.  It's been my great pleasure to work with David for the last two years, and it's good to see his work getting official recognition.

Jamie Baker Roskie

May 10, 2012 in Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Georgia, Local Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 13, 2012

The UGA Land Use Clinic and Food Carts

Today was the very last class for the UGA Land Use Clinic, and my last class as managing attorney. (If this is news to you, you might want to read this previous post for background.)  It's a bittersweet day for me, but now I want to take the opportunity to brag on my students a bit.

I've had a fantastic group of students this semester. (My students are always great, but this group is particularly great.)  They've worked really hard and taken up a lot of the slack as I've been distracted by my upcoming move and several other challenges, including my husband recently breaking his shoulder. 

Several of the students have worked on a Food Cart/Truck project with UGA College of Environment & Design students.  It's been a two year effort involving a "Mobile Food Vending Study" as well as a Food Cart Festival and, just this week, a presentation to a committee of the Athens-Clarke County Commission on proposed changes to the local Food Cart ordinance to allow for a few more spaces for food carts and food trucks in downtown Athens. 

Per Ken Stahl's recent post, food trucks are a controversial local land use issue.  Here there has already been lots of push back from local restaurants.  However, it's interesting to note that a local restaurant - Farm 255 - has provided much of the impetus for food carts in Athens, as a "Farm Cart" is an integral part of their business model.  My students tell me the reality is there's very little data on the impact of food trucks on restaurants, but that doesn't do much to sooth the fears of the restaurant owners.  I may not be around to see the ultimate impact of this project, but I'm very proud of the work the law and the design students have done.

Jamie Baker Roskie

April 13, 2012 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Downtown, Food, Georgia, Local Government | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 26, 2012

"Patterns of Pollution" - New EJ Report on Atlanta

I'm proud to announce that today UGA Law Public Interest Fellow David Deganian and the fine folks at GreenLaw published "The Patterns of Pollution: A Report on Demographics and Pollution in Metro Atlanta."    They were assisted by the consultants of NewFields LLC (who have also helped us in our work in the Newtown community of Gainesville, Georgia).

From GreenLaw's media release:

The report analyzes publicly available information to identify eight types of air, water, and land pollution points and compares this pollution information with demographic data on people living in the 14-county region. Using cutting edge mapping technology to visually combine these areas, we were able to see an overall pattern across the region indicating that a person’s race, income, and primary language spoken have a strong relationship to his or her distance from pollution.

The report website features an interactive map where you can enter an address in the metro Atlanta area and view pollution points nearby.

This report contains extensive fact-based analysis of the impact of pollution on communities of color in Atlanta, and I think it will be an influential part of environmental justice initiatives in the region for years to come.  Land Use Clinic students have been working with David and GreenLaw throughout his fellowship, and it's so exciting to see the work come to fruition in such a palpable way.

Jamie Baker Roskie

March 26, 2012 in Environmental Justice, Environmental Law, Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Walmart in Athens: Now in Salon Magazine

The possibility of Walmart coming to Athens, GA has now made the mainstream (albiet on-line) media with this story in Salon:

The Athens, Ga., soul-food joint Weaver D’s has barely changed in the 20 years since its slogan, “Automatic for the People,” supplied the name of a groundbreaking R.E.M. album.

You could say the same about Athens itself. After businesses fled in the ’80s, downtown Athens rebounded as an alt-rock mecca that spawned the soundtrack of Generation X. R.E.M., the B-52s, Widespread Panic and thousands of other musicians and artists helped create what is, in many ways, today a dream city: a mixed-use, walkable urban core filled with small businesses, plenty of green space — and a music scene that rivals that of cities 10 times its size.

Cue “The End of the World as We Know It.” A multi-building mall-like shopping complex, likely to include the dreaded Walmart, has set its sights on downtown Athens. Renderings by the Atlanta-based developer Selig Enterprises show a bricked concourse surrounded by large-scale retail, including a 94,000-square-foot superstore, topped with apartments. It also includes three restaurants — two of which are over 10,000 square feet — and 1,150 parking spaces. This is new for downtown Athens, which unlike most college towns, has largely kept chains away.

“There’s an Athens style,” says Willow Meyer, a 37-year-old lawyer who moved here with her husband [UGA law prof Tim Meyer] two years ago, “and if you just import this kind of ‘Anywhere, USA’ development, the city loses something.”

Another group in metro Atlanta is also fighting a Walmart, proposed by the same company behind the Athens development.

My previous posts on this issue can be found here, here and here.

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 27, 2012 in Community Design, Community Economic Development, Development, Downtown, Economic Development, Georgia, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Land Use Planning in a Recession - Newton County, Georgia

During his excellent stint as a guest blogger, Stephen Miller posed the question, "Does the best planning happen in a recession?"  Like him, I tend to think that currently most jurisdictions are focused on crisis management rather than forward thinking.

However, one exception is Newton County, Georgia - a community that just happens to be a UGA Land Use Clinic client since we began assisting them in 2003 with sprawl reduction tools like infrastructure planning, agricultural land conservation, and transferable development rights. Newton's forward thinking planning processes are highlighted in a four part series on CoLab Radio.  The first of the series is entitled "Planning for Growth in a Recession."

Jamie Baker Roskie

 

 

February 6, 2012 in Community Design, Development, Georgia, Local Government, New Urbanism, Planning, Smart Growth, Sprawl, Suburbs, Transferable Development Rights | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Opposition Heats Up or Wal-Mart in Athens Part III

Late last year I posted twice (here and here) about a proposal to put a mixed-use development, anchored by a 100K square foot Wal-Mart, into downtown Athens.  Today things heated up in a very Athens way, with Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers unveiling a protest song and a group called "Protect Downtown Athens" launching an incredibly thorough website analyzing many aspects of the development.  This group is supported by members and management of R.E.M., and other local movers and shakers. Release of the song has already increased coverage of this issue in the national blogosphere and MSM.  This just keeps getting more interesting!

Jamie Baker Roskie

February 1, 2012 in Community Economic Development, Development, Downtown, Economic Development, Georgia, Local Government, Redevelopment, Smart Growth, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jeff Foxworthy Puts a Conservation Easement on His Farm

Proving that he is, indeed, smarter than a fifth grader, comedian Jeff Foxworthy has placed a conservation easement on 1,000 acres of his farm in west Georgia.  From the article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“As someone who grew up in Atlanta and watched it explode, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if this could be here forever and nobody could develop it? ‘ ” said Foxworthy in a phone interview today from the property, which is based in Harris County between LaGrange and Columbus, about 100 miles south of downtown Atlanta. “It’s my escape. It’s my farm. I can drive through the gate and not have to be Jeff Foxworthy. Just Jeff.”

The land, which Foxworthy purchased in 2003, was being eyed as a possible golf course, he said. It was originally part of Cason Callaway’s 40,000-acre Blue Springs Farm, which was established as an agricultural experiment in the 1940s to promote better farm practices. The easement allows Foxworthy to maintain private property rights and the ability to live on the land. He also receives a tax break.

Foxworthy has spent most of his comedic career helping folks decide whether or not they were rednecks.  It's good to see him putting his success to good use in the land conservation arena.

Jamie Baker Roskie

January 12, 2012 in Agriculture, Conservation Easements, Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zoning "Can't Buy Me Love"

I had an interesting conversation this morning with Meg Mirshak, a reporter from The Augusta Chronicle. She contacted me for background on a series of stories she's doing on a proposed overlay zone that would allowed mixed-use development in a historic African-American neighborhood called Laney-Walker.  The overlay as proposed is very general, but requires specific permission for uses like pawn shops and liquor stores.  The community feels underinformed and is very concerned about the potential impact on their neighborhood. Also, this concept of an overlay zone is confusing to many, and the commission has delayed its vote on the overlay until January due to the confusion and to notice problems.

Mirshak asked me if I could provide examples of where overlay zoning has proved succesful, and honestly, this stumped me.  We've proposed particular types of overlay zoning in some of our client communities - to require more pedestrian friendly redevelopment on aging strip corridors, for example - but the time horizon on implementing these changes is so long that I can't honestly say I know of a "successful" use of overlay zoning.  Also, as I pointed out to her in a follow up e-mail, overlay zoning is really just a form, so it's kind of like asking if any type of form - buildings, novels, movies - are inherently successful.  Yes, those forms can be successful or they can be a disaster, depending on how you construct them and what you're trying to accomplish.  With any zoning tool the trick is to make sure they reflect the community's goals and market realities, and that they deliver what's best for the long term vibrancy of the city. And that often involves a lot of process, more process than they seem to have allowed for in Augusta.

Coincidentally, I stumbled across a blog post on Planetizen, written by an urban planner who lead a group of students to plant trees at a New Orleans school, only to be thwarted in their task by a schoolyard shooting.  The post, titled "Can't Buy Me Love - or Plan for It," points out the importance of human connection in urban planning.

In my first year and a half as a working urban planner, I've consistently come back to the lessons I learned in New Orleans in 2009: For all of the innovative design that you can bring to a city, and for all of the smart planning principles that they teach you in school, there's no match for literally and figuratively digging your heels into a neighborhood, getting residents invested in the work that you're doing, and—together—building a partnership that leads to the kind of community building that can't be taught.

I can't say better than that.  Here's hoping the planners in Augusta can do what it takes to get the residents invested in what they're trying to accomplish.

Jamie Baker Roskie

December 1, 2011 in Community Design, Development, Georgia, Historic Preservation, Local Government, Planning, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wal-Mart and Vested Rights or Wal-Mart in Athens Part II

So, today I waded into the local controversy about the possibility of a Wal-Mart in downtown Athens with an editorial in the local weekly. [Note - this article is no longer available on the original site, so this link is to a re-posted version.]  Specifically, I responded to media reports that the county attorney has said the developers have vested rights to develop the property based on the amount of money they claim to have spent on site preparation.  Now, Georgia has a pretty generous vested rights doctrine, but it's not that generous.  As in most states, you still have to have some kind of official assurance for rights to vest. Apparently now the county attorney doesn't want to talk about it, but other folks on both sides of the issue certainly have been.  

This type of controversy is not unique to Athens, apparently.  A casual perusal of media reports turns up vested rights controversies over proposed Wal-Marts in Hood River, Oregon, Leon County, Florida, San Antonio, Texas, and Abingdon, Virginia.  Is this some kind of trend?

Jamie Baker Roskie

 

November 30, 2011 in Caselaw, Community Economic Development, Development, Downtown, Georgia, Local Government, Planning, Politics, Property Rights, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wal-Mart Comes to Downtown Athens?

UGA Land Use Clinic alumnae Sarah Schinder (now Professor Schindler, Maine) must still follow Athens  news pretty closely, because she is the first to alert me of a controversial new plan for Wal-Mart to anchor a big new mixed-use development in downtown Athens. From our local paper:

An Atlanta developer is planning a major retail and residential development on the fringe of downtown Athens, two Athens-Clarke officials said Wednesday.

Selig Enterprises is planning to build 200,000 square feet of commercial space between East Broad and Oconee streets, “including a 90,000- to 95,000-square-foot big-box, most likely to be a Walmart,” Commissioner Kelly Girtz said.

Actually, rumors of this plan have been floating  around for awhile. Some folks are frustrated because this development supplants a more ambitious and community-driven plan to create a river district.  The development will also displace local coffee favorite Jittery Joe's Roasting Company, but will mostly be placed on a vacant parcel once occupied by a building supply company. It may also bring a grocery store to downtown Athens, which some residents would welcome. The site is only blocks from where Occupy Athens is currently camped - I wonder if we'll see any cross-protesting?

Jamie Baker Roskie

November 17, 2011 in Georgia, Local Government, Planning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy Athens Creates Controversy

We're having our own mini-controversy here in Athens over the Occupy Wall Street-related protests.  The Occupy Athens protesters are stationed outside The Arch, known as the "front door" to the University.  It's the entrance to the historic north quadrangle, and the main entrance from downtown Athens.

As outlined in this article from the local paper, the UGA police chief has been warning the protesters not to block The Arch or the stops leading up to it.  I've passed this protest on foot and in my car several times, and while protesters have been standing on the steps and near the Arch, I've never had my way blocked, nor seen them block anyone else, but apparently there have been complaints.  Now a UGA law professor has weighed in to say that the University is violating the protestors' free speech rights.

There have been arrests and violence at Occupy protests all over the country, mostly notably in Oakland. I doubt very much we'll see anything that dramatic here - we tend to be polite and quiet here in Athens, even in our protesting.

Jamie Baker Roskie

UPDATE: Some interesting parallels between the situation in Athens and controversy over Occupy London's site on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral - as reported in The New York Times.  The City of London Corporation is suing to have the encampment removed:

Last week, the corporation went to court to seek an order dismantling the St. Paul’s camp as a breach of the historic right of unimpeded access to the country’s “highways.” Though the St. Paul’s encampment is concentrated on the cathedral forecourt, a pedestrian area in normal times, a corporation executive, Michael Wellbank, overlooked the distinction. “Protest is an essential right in democracy, but a campaign on the highway is not,” he told reporters. “Encampment on a busy thoroughfare clearly impacts the rights of others.”

 

 

October 31, 2011 in Financial Crisis, First Amendment, Georgia | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Georgia Trust Releases 2012 "Places in Peril"

Today the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its 2012 "Places in Peril" list of historic properties under threat. (Historic preservation bufs will note this public relations gambit is not unique to Georgia.) As I expected, UGA's Rutherford Hall appears first on the list.  Rutherford is, as I previously blogged, slated for demolition.  However, several less imperiled, yet possibly more architecturally worthy buildings, such as the Randolph County Courthouse, are also listed.

Built in the 1880's, this masonry courthouse located on the town square of Cuthbert was built in the Dutch Romanesque Style, which is unusual for Georgia. With the construction of a new judicial center for Randolph County, the functions of the courthouse were relocated. The county is working with the architectural firm Lord Aeck & Sargent to redevelop the building as offices for many municipal functions including a welcome center, chamber of commerce, soil conservation lab and event space. The county is performing the restoration in phases, using prisoner labor. The courtroom benches have been restored as part of a rehabilitation program that trains prisoners to refinish furniture.

These lists of endangered properties must have value - I wonder how often a listing like this results in a property being saved.  I don't think there's much hope for Rutherford Hall, though. Despite significant opposition the University seems staunch in its plan to "retrofit" through demolition of the existing building.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 25, 2011 in Architecture, Georgia, Historic Preservation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

HOT Lanes Catch Heat in Hotlanta

Wednesday I drove into Atlanta to hear a talk by Rob Teilhet, the new executive director of Georgia Conservation Voters. Rob had some great things to say about finding common ground on environmental policy in this fractious political environment.

On the way home, though, I saw the new HOT (high-occupancy-toll) lanes in Gwinett and DeKalb counties.  HOT lanes are Atlanta's new version of HOV (high-occupancy-vehicle) lanes. Previously one could only use HOV lanes with two or more passengers. HOT lanes can be used by vehicles with three or more passengers, or with two or fewer passengers who have a "Peach Pass" (an electronic window sticker that records tolls to be paid from an account the driver establishes with the State Road and Tollway Authority).  The tolls depend on the distance traveled, and vary by time of day (a version of congestion pricing).

This week is the first week of operation for the HOT lanes, and so far everyone's confused and nobody's happy.  Despite the fact that it was rush hour, I saw absolutely no vehicles in the HOT lane (not even cars or motorcycles, which still travel free).  There were a couple of police cars in the median watching for violators, but otherwise the lane just seemed like an extra big shoulder.  Drivers have been extremely critical, and the Governor's office is lowering tolls to attract drivers and alleviate congestion.

HOT lanes have been touted by conservative commentators a better alternative to HOV lanes.  Philisophically I love the idea of carpooling, but in reality (and since there are no reasonable public transportation options between Athens and Atlanta) I'm often the only occupant of my vehicle, so I'm vaguely considering getting a Peach Pass. We'll see how things work once (or if) they get the kinks worked out.

Jamie Baker Roskie

October 15, 2011 in Georgia, Transportation | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)