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City Council Transportation Committee To Hear Lake Claire Traffic Controversy

Special needs facility, residents of Ridgewood Road at odds over traffic concerns.

The Atlanta City Council's Transportation Committee is expected to hear from some Lake Claire residents today regarding traffic and safety concerns they have with MARTA mini-buses that transport special needs adults to the in neighboring Druid Hills.

The residents are pushing for legislation that would limit the maximum weight of vehicles that use two Lake Claire streets to transport those adults to the Frazer Center, which says if enacted, would force the organization to nix the program.

The issue stems from the Frazer Center's use of its rear entrance off Ridgeview Road NE to bring in developmentally challenged and special needs adults to its day program.

The Frazer Center, located at 1815 So. Ponce de Leon Ave. NE, is a not-for-profit organization that provides services to infants, preschoolers and adults with physical and developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down's syndrome and autism.

Three years ago, the Frazer Center rerouted the mini-buses — MARTA Mobility — from the So. Ponce de Leon Ave. entrance to the Ridgewood Road entrance at the back of the property because the narrow bridge they must cross to get to its facilities from the front entrance is not graded to support the buses' weight.

The bridge, which dates back to the 1920s, is strong enough to bear vehicles weighing up to four tons. The MARTA vehicles weigh 5 tons by themselves and can weigh up to one additional ton when full of passengers.

But the decision to reroute the buses to the Frazer Center's southern entrance is not sitting well with Lake Claire residents who live on Ridgewood Road and Marlbrook Drive.

Many of those residents who formed a group and created a website, Lake Claire Info, to explain their position, say their residential streets can't handle all the bus traffic.

What's more, they say the MARTA drivers will idle the buses on those streets and speed and fail to follow traffic laws. They say it makes it more dangerous for residents as they push strollers, walk their dogs or go out for a jog because those streets have no sidewalks and pedestrians have to use the road.

"While Lake Claire residents support the mission and programs of the Frazer Center, many are extremely concerned about issues detrimental to the neighborhood that have arisen as a direct result of the Frazer Center’s expansion," the Lake Claire Info website reads. "Neighbors have repeatedly attempted to address these primary concerns over the past several years, to no avail."

The residents are in support of the proposed ordinance that would bar any vehicles that exceed four tons from using Ridgewood Road and Marlbrook Drive.

The proposal is sponsored by Atlanta City Councilwoman Natalyn M. Archibong, whose District 5 includes the Lake Claire community.

Frazer Center officials say they want to be a good neighbor and have worked to address concerns beyond traffic issues such as noise.

Trace Haythorn, the Frazer Center's executive director, said the organization has already cut the number of daily bus trips from 40 to 9.

"With 40 buses, we felt it was excessive as well," Haythorn told East Atlanta Patch, explaining the decision to rezone client pick-up maps to reduce the overall traffic coming in from Ridgewood Road.

Frazer Center officials say the ultimate goal is to change the bridge so that it can accommodate heavier vehicles.

Even then, Haythorn said the facility would still need to use both entrances because the bridge is too narrow for two-way traffic.

The aim would to have the buses enter from the Ridgewood Road entrance and leave via So. Ponce de Leon.

"The reason we think its good to come in the back and go out the front — if you are over on the west side of the road, if you get too close to that edge, it's easy for a bus, if they go off the side, they can roll," Haythorn said. "On the other side of the road it's pretty much a berm all the way and where there isn't a berm, it's pretty flat so you don't have the same issue."

Complicating the bridge repair work is the designation of the Frazer Center itself.

The property is split into five parcels: two, the ones which have the facilities, are in unincorporated DeKalb and the other three are in the city limits of Atlanta.

The facilities are zoned residential or R-85, by DeKalb code but that designation doesn't exactly cover what the Frazer Center does. That's why county officials are reviewing it to develop a new designation or amend existing zoning codes to include organizations like the Frazer Center.

But until that's settled, the facility cannot get the permit needed to repair the bridge.

The repairs are going to be an expensive undertaking. The lowest bid gave a range of $85,000 to $100,000. Another bid had a $4,500 price tag just for design plans for a new bridge alone, Haythorn said.

Archibong, who has heard from number of her Lake Claire constituents, said they are not opposed to the Frazer Center's mission.

"They support and respect and appreciate the programs they offer," Archibong told Patch. But with so much vehicular traffic on those two residential streets that don't have sidewalks, "it's just not the best situation," she said.

She added she likely will seek to have the proposal pushed back to the transportation committee's May meeting to see if the all sides work toward an acceptable solution to everyone.

"There is no way I want to see services end or compromised as a result of wanting to make the streets safer," she said.

Kelvin Scythe March 28, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Here, here, Alice. Yours is the best post here. I'll not comment further, incl. the notes that may attack my characterization of this very real problem. Folks, before you judge, please walk in our shoes.
Kelvin Scythe March 28, 2012 at 09:26 PM
There seem to be a couple of other issues confusing this one, Kathy. Today's meeting was solely about safety on our side streets. I remain optimistic that we can all work this (and the other issues like noise) out without name calling.
TooBusytohate March 28, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Careful Sydney, you are getting to close to the truth. The LC/IP/CP Triumvirate in conjunction with the illuminati, the CIA, the Free Masons and Chairman Obama will send the black helicopters after you if you keep exposing our secretes. Since you were able to deduce out master plan to close Coan and the Frazer Center, I have no doubt you have used your clearly superior intellect to also deduce that LK/IP/CP is responsible for: 1) The explosion at the Chicken Man's house in Roswell. That was no suicide. 2) Denying a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods to Decatur and instead giving them a Wal-Mart. 3) Closing the Varsity Jr. and Tortilla’s 4) Putting a Starbucks in Little Five points. 5) The increase in Coyotes in town 6) The APS cheating scandal 7) The early spring and record high Pollen count 8) Overplaying Goyte and Foster the People 9) REM's Around the Sun album 10) Wal-Mart in Downtown Athens 11) The parking design for the Caroline street shopping area, that shopping center on Ponce where Whole Foods is, and Atlantic Station. 12) two-buck Chuck 13) Pink Slime 14) Pants with juicy written on the bottom. 15) Framing Michael Vick on bogus animal cruelty charges 16) No 85 North Exit on 400
Joe March 28, 2012 at 11:05 PM
To be exact, 160 people have ask that the buses be removed from the street via a petition from August 2011. This is a public safety issue. No one has ever suggested shutting down the adult daycare, in fact, we are happy to give a reasonable amount of time to resolve the bridge issue, which Trace Haythorn, director of the center has heard numerous times at meetings with the community, Marta, and officials in both county and city.. We just want a plan. After almost 3 years, no plan is forthcoming. The city of Atlanta public works has done a study that recommends that ALL Frazer Center traffic be removed from the street. To the person who commented on the buffer signs being juvenile, after the Frazer Center cut down a 50" buffer of old growth trees and underbrush between the homes near them and the center and put in a parking lot without permits, they got a stop work order because they did not get permits and did not have the right to get them, as under their current zoning or their current use, they cannot expand and any commercial property in Dekalb, such as the center requires a 50' buffer. The center tried to use their single family zoning to get around the law. That is not the fault of the neighbors, that is the fault of the management and board of the Frazer Center. To blame their lack of compliance with their zoning on the surrounding neighbors is unfair. The neighbors in the city of Atlanta do not control zoning laws in unincorporated Dekalb.
AngStahl March 28, 2012 at 11:11 PM
The term 'short buses' is antiquated and has a history associated with discrimination and ridicule of people with special needs. For the author of the article, we are discussing MARTA's Mobility Buses. I was at the meeting to support the amazing work of The Frazer Center today. It is a one-of-a-kind facility not only in Atlanta but in the state. As a parent of teen twins on the autism spectrum, I can say the adult program at Frazer is the only one I'd consider for my sons once they reach adulthood. The unintended consequence of the war that has been waged against The Frazer Center by a small handful of its neighbors is that it does, in fact, affect the delivery of the Center's programs. The proposed legislation to limit traffic to vehicles under 4 tons would very specifically DISCONTINUE adults' access to the Center. If the neighbors believe, as they purport to do, that The Frazer Center's mission is unimpeachable, then they should stop tying the Center up with legal fees and hours upon hours of time spent by people who have much more important and vital work to do, and work with the City of Atlanta, MARTA, and Dekalb County On traffic calming measures such as speed bumps.
AngStahl March 28, 2012 at 11:14 PM
It is not an adult 'daycare', it is an adult day program. The Center cannot repair the bridge until the city and county resolve zoning issues (not to mention the enormous expense). Of the 160 signatures, several admitted they re not aware of the proposed legislation and the fact that it would effectively END accessibility to the Center for the people who rely on it.
TooBusytohate March 28, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Oh 17) that M&M's commercial where everyone thinks the chocalate M&M is naked.
Sydney Barker March 28, 2012 at 11:32 PM
While I was already pretty sure about #2 and #7, and suspected on #5, aren't they also responsible for Bush being anointed President by the Supreme Court and the Real Housewives of Atlanta? I also heard they were the reason Jill Becker was forced into retirement.
TooBusytohate March 29, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Ah, the force is strong with you. You are correct about our connections with the Supreme Court. While I am not a liberty to give you details, I can let you know we are working on some changes to the PPACA that will only apply to those South of Dekalb.
Péralte Paul (Editor) March 29, 2012 at 01:29 AM
Hi, AngStahl: Please know no ridicule or discrimination was intended on my part. I sought to describe them physically since I didn't want readers to think these were full-sized city buses and not everyone would know the MARTA Mobility name.
Jaclyn Hirsch March 29, 2012 at 02:07 AM
UPDATE: Residents, Parents Discuss Frazer Center Traffic Issues http://vahi.patch.com/articles/residents-parents-discuss-frasier-center-traffic-issues#video-9441962
Steven P. Raimonde March 29, 2012 at 02:23 AM
I would like to offer a couple of clarifications from a Ridgewood Road resident. First however, I would like to expressly and sincerely state that I support the Frazer Center's mission for adults and have seen first hand the wonderful work they do with children. I love having them as my neighbor as do all the neighbors with whom I have spoken to about Frazer. The issue is safely and the issue has only existed for the past three years after traffic was rerouted off of Ponce to Ridgewood. Most of my neighbors are long time residents and chose this street and neighborhood well before this significant traffic issues existed. I am unsure what the reference to nine buses is but the implication is that our concern is about 9 drives up and/or down the street per day. This representation would make me too think we are making much ado about nothing as many have so kindly pointed out. The reality is that nine MARTA Mobility busses pass my house every 5-10 minutes during morning and afternoon traffic. I invite anyone who does not believe me to come to my home, sit on my front porch with me and my wonderful 21 month old son, have a cup of fresh coffee (on me) and count MM buses and speeding cars for parents running late for work. If you'd like to take me up on this, I will name the time and my email address is steveraimonde@gmail.com so we can coordinate…
Steven P. Raimonde March 29, 2012 at 02:24 AM
…Some additional clarification, notice the speeding SUV at the beginning and tail end of the video. These folks are approaching the rear entrance of the Frazer Center which has a significant dip that acts as a natural speed bump. These cars are moving at a pretty good clip; imagine their speed as they roll down our narrow, sidewalk-less street, unencumbered by this dip. Also notice in the video there is one of the nine buses...dumb luck, I guess; fair amount of traffic for a video less than 2 minutes. Mr. Hawthorne is a master at providing partial truths. Neither the beautiful plantings nor the chain link fence removal were done unilaterally but rather after significant prodding to replace the old growth trees he had torn down to convert the unused construction area into a gravel parking lot…outside of zoning restrictions, directly adjacent to neighbors’ back yards without regard to buffer; feel free to come check that out too, I am glad to walk down the street with you while we drink our coffee and dodge buses. To my knowledge and until now, Mr. Hawthorne has never expressed publicly the Center's intention to build a bridge nor have I heard the plan is to only cut traffic in half; the illusive engineering studies that restrict the Frazer Center’s bridge off of Ponce from carrying any weight greater than 4 tons seem to be impossible to obtain from them...
Steven P. Raimonde March 29, 2012 at 02:25 AM
...To say “cut traffic by half yet again is akin to a store increasing their prices 20 fold and asking the customers to be happy when he runs a sale at 4% off the new price. There is much more clarification that could be provided and I again offer my front porch as a venue. I am not the monster some have portrayed me as in these posts, I am just a guy who wants my street a little safer for my wife, dog and baby...
Thisten March 29, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Where will the Weigh Station be?
Peace probability March 29, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Love me some Lake Claire (really, I do). But back in 1997 or 98 I distinctly remember when MARTA was considering rerouting some of their buses. Those of us in Inman Park living on Lake Avenue had been watching a mostly empty bus #3 rumbling along next to houses 15 feet from the curb every 15 minutes since the #3 was rerouted from North Highland due to bridge construction (and never put back on its original route after the bridge was repaired). Mercifully, we did get a reprieve for a couple of hours during the wee a.m. We thought "great - very few people seem to be using the bus along this leg of the route and our houses are shaking, so why not support having the #3 rerouted back to North Highland?" Lake Claire trotted out the disabled and minorities in a public forum to label us "latte drinking, SUV-driving yuppies" who just don't like public transit and the "undesirables" it brings. Never mind the fact that our tiny houses were the "affordable" ones (and ours had a bullet hole in the front window) and shared a back yard with O4W. I post this comment for several reasons: 1) I've never quite gotten over that incident and it makes me feel better to finally say it; 2) MARTA buses really are a problem along residential streets that lack adequate building setbacks to buffer the noise and vibrations, particularly if the buses are frequent; 3) It's not OK to dismiss the concerns of residents outright or to impugn their motives.
Thisten March 29, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Steven, you say that while you "support the Frazer Center's mission for adults and have seen first hand the wonderful work they do with children" that [t]he issue is safety." That's understandable and a credible concern, and, from what little I saw of the meeting video, that appears to be the main concern for the Lake Claire residents who spoke yesterday at the City Council Transportation Meeting, and sadly the impetus behind that one-page woefully-drafted unnecessary ordinance. However, that clearly is not the case for the person or persons behind the lakeclaire.info website, as they clearly have issues with Frazer that go beyond safety, and include, among other things: (1) sanitation / health hazards, (2) event center noise, (3) setback / property line buffers, and (4) traffic volume. It is my sincere hope that the person or persons behind this site (and it's clear from which residence the photos and surveillance videos were taken) does not speak for the rest of the Lake Claire residents who appear to be legitimately concerned with safety.
AngStahl March 29, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Wanting your street to be safer for your family is a legitimate concern, but unless you, your wife and 21-month-old play in the street, these concerns are unfounded as regards to The Frazer Center. The way the neighbors have gone about this campaign is tragic.Residents claim to support the Center's mission but their mean spirited-ness (hanging a message on a sheet in view of the Center? Really?) is evident. These folks DO NOT CARE about the mission of The Frazer Center because if they did, they would accept the laundry list of accommodations the Center has made already (you list them in your post) at significant expense, and for which money is no longer available to support the programs stated in the Center's mission. As one LC resident pointed out yesterday, 10-15 people on a bus means 10-15 fewer cars. This legislation was specifically crafted to rid this street of the MARTA buses and I believe will be found in violation of ADA because it limits access. And Mr. Raimonde, Mr. Haythorn (that is his name) as well as the Center's attorney have made it clear that the bridge can't be repaired until the zoning issues are settled, and the Center can't make the City of Atlanta and the Dekalb County suddenly become efficient and functional. I may believe the 'safety concerns' defense if certain neighbors had not approached this issue so callously or if they focused their efforts on traffic calming through MARTA, the city and the county. But going after the Center? Unconscionable.
Thisten March 29, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Councilwoman Archibong stated at the meeting yesterday that the City of Atlanta does not have the money to pay for speed humps, yet presumably, the City would have the resources and money needed to enforce an ordinance that that prohibits vehicles in excess of four tons from entering The Frazer Center off of two tiny residential streets in the Lake Claire neighborhood? Absolutely absurd (not to mention draconian). Moreover, realistically, how would this ordinance be enforced? How would a vehicle's weight be determined? Along those lines, how would "vehicle" be defined under the ordinance? What constitutes a "sign" for purposes of this ordinance? In addition, and most importantly, what is the penalty for running afoul of this ordinance? There is no specified penalty of which I'm aware. The proposed ordinance is utter claptrap and not a serious attempt to deal with an important issue.
AngStahl March 29, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Mr. Paul, thanks very much for your clarification. Perhaps different wording could be used such as "MARTA mobility buses, which are smaller and able to transport up to three passengers in wheelchairs and nine ambulatory passengers." Again, thanks so much for your clarification. Some people may call it 'political correctness' on my part, but the words we use matter :)
Péralte Paul (Editor) March 29, 2012 at 08:46 PM
@ AngStahl: Not at all. I changed it to mini-buses.
Steven P. Raimonde March 30, 2012 at 12:07 AM
My wife, son dog and I walk our streets to the Lake Claire park, as a form of exercise and sometimes to visit the Frazer Center. Our desire is to safely do so without the lumbering MM buses. Neighbors hung signs after exhausting several, more traditional means of mediation with no results. A parking lot was constructed at the edge of these neighbor's property line over a holiday weekend; now that is cause for a REALLY? Really? I don't recall a laundry list of positive things the Center has recently done but I will repeat that M. Haythorne (I hope I spelled it right) & the Frazer Center did plant some replacement to the old growth trees they took down without permit after being required by law to do so. They reluctantly fixed what they destroyed only after it was forced on them. While I am not 100% sure of this, I believe it was the Center (not MARTA, no city or county) that decided to re-route the traffic. So I am guessing you don't like coffee, or you just prefer the safe confines of the lonely side of your keyboard. My offer stands...
Steven P. Raimonde March 30, 2012 at 12:59 AM
Peace, thanks for your thoughtful comments and, on behalf of one Lake Claire resident, I apologize. While I was just moving into the neighborhood at that time and neither supported or opposed your cause, it sounds like my predecessors were ugly, at best. Fir what it is worth, it is often the loudest voice that gets heard rather than the majority opinion. It takes a person of true character to look beyond personal injustices and see things objectively. Thanks and sorry.
Peace probability March 30, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Steven, thank you but no apology needed. Just had to say it. Those at the public MARTA forum back then were some of what Lake Claire used to be: peace loving, inclusive ex-hippies. Their fire was misdirected in that long ago incident, but overall their motives were good. We young'uns just never had the chance to smoke the figurative peace pipe with them after that. Much of Lake Claire still has part of that vibe, and any ire directed toward the neighborhood as a whole for being of the "gated community" mindset is sadly misplaced. It seems some of the criticism about this is caught up in the current school issue.
Rose Walker, Simple Gifts Galleries March 30, 2012 at 03:29 PM
There are speed bumps one block over. Funny there was money for that...but I'm not an Atlantan. I live in Henry County.
AngStahl March 31, 2012 at 09:32 PM
I'm sorry, Mr. Raimonde, but you are incorrect about the sign that was hung on a sheet. What, exactly, was that supposed to accomplish? Or than being very petty and mean-spirited? And you are wrong to assume that I prefer the lonely confines of my keyboard. But you've made it clear in your posts and your allies have made it clear in their complaints, website building and pursuit of legislation that you don't want MARTA mobility buses on your street. Have you ever read the specs on these buses? Or seen the conditions one must meet to ride them? Are you and your (again, few) neighbors really so convinced that quiet during your morning coffee is more important than the work that is being done at Frazer on behalf of those who ride MARTA mobility buses? It is no wonder this hasn't been resolved with that kind of attitude. And yes, the sheet thing (along with the despicable website) deserves a 'REALLY?'
AngStahl March 31, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Thanks so much for this, Mr. Paul.
Sydney Barker March 31, 2012 at 10:53 PM
@AngStahl asked: Are you and your (again, few) neighbors really so convinced that quiet during your morning coffee is more important than the work that is being done at Frazer on behalf of those who ride MARTA mobility buses? Sadly, the answer is obvious. What's worse is the bullying and threats against anyone who points this out, followed by the "taking my ball and stomping home" when there are no logical defenses. These people - not everyone in the neighborhood, but those who are loudest - don't take the hints or the direct statements under advisement. They don't have the self awareness or empathy to realize that if so many people are pointing out how awful they are being, perhaps they are being awful. How does the old story go? If one person says you have a green tail, you can write that off as someone being ill informed. If person after person starts pointing out your green tail, you need to turn around and check out your green tail.
Peace probability April 01, 2012 at 02:00 AM
It's absolutely none of my business because I don't live there, but all parties seem to have behaved badly at some point so there's no need to pile on any one. No matter how admirable and necessary the mission of an organization, they are not immune from their regulatory requirements. If they're operating a business contrary to their zoning, they need to rectify it. If they need a parking lot they need to go through the proper channels and approvals to get it done. If the neighbors have issues with the noise from events, they need to work it out. LOVE the work they do, but they don't get a free pass around the law because of it.
Steven P. Raimonde April 01, 2012 at 05:23 AM
Who, besides me, digs Peace Probability's perspective! Fantastic! Glad there are people like you Peace! Peace!!!

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