Do you live near Mableton Parkway or Veterans Memorial Highway? Do you consider those roads, in their current condition, a source of community pride: pleasant places to walk, cycle, or drive? If you answer no to those questions, you are not alone. The roads are marked by long barren stretches with poorly designed or completely absent sidewalks, punctuated by 1960s and 1970s-vintage strip malls. They are not roads you would visit to take an afternoon stroll.
Cobb County’s planning division and many residents of Mableton want to change that. Possible improvements include features to make the corridors safer and more pleasant for pedestrians, streetscape improvements, and architectural guidelines that create a higher quality visual experience for residents and visitors.
A workshop was held Thursday evening to get citizen input on what they want to see in design guidelines for those corridors. When the guidelines are developed they will affect a stretch of the roads beginning where both meet the Chattahoochee River on the east, to the point the two roads intersect, and continuing along the Veterans Memorial corridor to the Austell city limit on the west. The lead consulting team working on the guidelines is The Collaborative Firm.
John Fish of JON Benson and Associates, gave an introductory presentation explaining the goals of the project, then community residents were asked to visit stations with maps, and place dots on the maps detailing various aspects of the draft plan (land use, transportation, architectural guidelines, etc). The residents were given red dots to signify “I don’t like this” and green dots for “I like this”. They were further encouraged to ask the consultants and planners who were at the maps questions, and were given post-it notes to write comments to stick on the maps.
In his opening remarks, Fish said “Why are we here? Our assignment is to develop some roadway and architectural standards that can be used … to assist areas of the county in approving the visual appeal, integrating historic features, and providing guidance to placemaking initiatives. This comes right out of the request for proposals that the county issued for this work. The goal of the guidelines is to assist staff, architects, engineers, landscape architects, planners, developers and the community to allow each disparate group to make informed design decisions for private developments, public facility investments, down the road. ”
He showed examples of design styles that residents chose in a visual preference survey in a previous community meeting to collect public input for the design guidelines.
Jason Gaines, Cobb County planning division’s manager, was asked what would happen after the input was gathered. He said, “We’re talking about a final presentation sometime around the first or second week of February. We’re targeting February 7, but we’re trying to confirm the availability of the venue for that meeting. And at that time staff will have collected all of the information from the public, all the feedback from this exercise, as well as the visual preference survey [ collected during a previous public meeting ], and any other comment that comes in via email or however between now and that time.”
He said that in addition to the public feedback, the plan would also utilize the technical expertise of the consultants, that the implementation will be up to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, and that commissioner Lisa Cupid would lead that discussion.
Cupid, asked her impression of the community meeting, said “I enjoyed tonight’s presentation, and hearing the results of the survey, and then tying it in to practical stuff that the county can take to incentivize redevelopment here. I think the diversity of residents who are here across the entirety of Mableton is a good sign. I’ve seen people from east Mableton, from the south parts of Mableton, to people toward north Mableton, so it’s a good representation of people who want to know what is going to be done in their area … it’s a positive sign that we’ll come up with something that the community is supportive of and that preferably we’ll get more momentum for the county to ultimately be supportive of.”
Mableton resident Doug Couch, standing in front of one of the maps lining the walls, talked about the proposal for pedestrian and cycling improvements for Veterans Memorial Highway. He said “Driving up and down Veterans Memorial I see more cyclists riding illegally on the sidewalks than I see pedestrians. Cyclists don’t want to take the road because Veterans Memorial is really dangerous for bicycles. If they were to improve the sidewalks on Veterans Memorial to be multi-use paths, make them a little wider, then not only do you solve the needs of the pedestrians, but you solve the needs of the bicyclists.”