A contract between Fayette County and the Georgia Department of Transportation for a State Road 74 Corridor Study opened up feelings of disappointment with Fairburn at Thursday night’s County Board of Commissioners meeting.
On the agenda was a request for approval of the County’s portion of the cost for GDOT to do a SR 74 Corridor Study. The study is the next step in a plan between invested entities to establish a cohesive vision for 74 and a plan for bringing it to reality. It represents a large step forward in a collaborative effort of the SR 74 Gateway Coalition between Fayette County, Tyrone, Peachtree City, Fairburn, and the South Fulton Community Improvement District.
Commissioner Steve Brown had the item pulled from the consent agenda for discussion, ripping into Fairburn for not doing their share of protecting the corridor in a way that the coalition sees fit.
“When this collaborative project was discussed early on, we were looking at ways we could bring Fairburn into the fold and get more of a collaborative approach in terms of design and flow of traffic,” said Brown, who noted he has been working on the corridor since 2002 when he was the Mayor of Peachtree City. “My biggest concern is, since this project has started, Fairburn has built every fast food franchise imaginable on both sides of the highway coming all the way down to the Fayette County border.”
The study’s full cost comes in at $390,000 and Fayette County was pledged to contribute 20 percent of the cost at $78,000. Brown felt that because Fairburn has not held up their end of the bargain, the county should not fulfill its side either yet.
“There was a commitment that they would be an advocate of the plan and fall within the parameters of the plan,” said Brown. “They have done nothing of the sort since they made that commitment.”
Mayor Eric Dial of Tyrone urged the county to not back out, in part because Tyrone has the largest stake in the corridor. Dial, serving as a reluctant representative of the 74 Gateway Coalition, warned that failing to approve to promised portion could have a large impact on relations.
“They have funded other things thinking that we were going to fund the local matching portion of this study. I think we wouldn’t be a very good neighbor if we did that,” said Dial. “We would maybe not be destroying bridges, but we would be burning them at least to the point where we’d have to replace some boards.
“If they find out that you didn’t pass this tonight, it will be a shock to them.”
Commissioner Charles Oddo thought that it made the most sense to continue with approving the funding, as the study would need to be done before work would be done on the corridor, with or without Fairburn playing along.
“We’ve already got it in the works. We’ve got one piece that isn’t fitting now,” said Oddo. “I’m still saying approve our part of this thing tonight. Everybody’s been working on this. It’s up to Fairburn whether they want to be a part of it. If they don’t want to be a part of it, we’re still going forward with it.”
Brown was not ready to commit to any funding without hearing from Fairburn. He asked that the county draft a letter to Fairburn with three key questions: What are their future plans for development along the SR 74 corridor, what are their intentions relating to zoning changes along SR 74, and what is their commitment to adhering to plans for the corridor once they are finalized.
“Before I pass something like this, I would like to see a commitment from Fairburn saying they’re going to do something towards the goal of the study,” said Brown. “Otherwise it’s not really worth spending $80,000 on it as far as I’m concerned.”
Chairman Eric Maxwell did not express optimism that Fairburn would step up to the plate.
“I think we’re going to be disappointed by Fairburn,” said Maxwell. “They’ve disappointed me for years, and I think they’re going to continue to do it.”
Commission voted 3-2, Oddo and Charles Rousseau opposed, to table the request until the February 9 meeting, allowing Fairburn time to respond to the County’s letter.