Monday, November 17, 2008

How to piss off your constituents

I usually take neighborhoods projections of how a development will impact their area with a grain of salt, since it typically worst-case scenario situations and a fair dose of NIMBYism. I am not unsympathetic, and usually feel like compromise scenarios should be reached in most cases. I just wanted to highlight a situation that is a perfect example of why people hate development and government. Gwinnett is building a new school in Lawrenceville. In the process of doing so, they have managed to piss off the neighbors:
“We consider GCPS projects to be exempt from the zoning resolution,” said Bryan Lackey, Gwinnett County’s deputy director of planning and development. “If the school board owns a piece of property they can build really whatever they want to.”

That means the Gwinnett Board of Education does not have to adhere to RA-200 zoning requirements prohibiting tall buildings in residential areas. Neither is it obligated to notify neighbors that school construction could impact traffic and trees.
Then there were construction related problems:
On June 11, crews hit a gas line, causing a leak.

“We did have to evacuate the townhomes that were right across from the school,” said Capt. Thomas Rutledge, spokesman for Gwinnett County Fire Department. “No injuries were reported.”

The next day there were more emergency calls. One was a gas leak at 8:32 a.m. prompting an encore performance by the fire department. “It was under control in less than an hour,” Rutledge said. Later that afternoon, after 2 p.m. a fire ignited. “A power line had been pulled down by the construction crew. It sparked a fire in the grassy area,” he said.
Compare this to Atlanta Public Schools, where a new elementary school in northeast Atlanta has a derth of public information available. Not that APS is any model of school behavior, but Atlanta is actually pretty good about involving neighborhood groups in these sorts of decisions (which was learned the hard way after the I-415 and Stone Mtn. Freeway experiences, fwiw).

The new APS school has to go through rezoning, btw. I don't see the point of having zoning rules if the government doesn't have to follow them. Part of the point of zoning and planning is to establish areas for civic space early on and plan for growth. Giving a government department carte blanche to do what they want with land seems like a great way to lose re-election.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post. You touch on a bunch of important topics. And of course you're right on the money about government needing to follow the rules.

    FYI, dearth has an 'a' in it. Sorry to mention that; just thought you might want to fix it.


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