A New Day For Franklin Road? Deciding vote on corridor's future takes place Nov. 5
by Jennifer Hafer
November 04, 2013 07:00 AM | 2079 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA - Not many folks who live in Cobb County remember that Franklin Road was named after a family-owned pottery shop that once called the area home, but Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin does.

"I've got a picture of myself sitting on the front porch of the Franklins' house," Tumlin said. "That's where I celebrated my first birthday."

Just as people evolve and change over time, so does land usage, Tumlin explained. Back in the days of Tumlin's childhood, Franklin Road was mostly farmland, with a small amount of residential housing. In the '80s and '90s, the corridor and surrounding areas became a mecca of apartment complexes and associated retail for suburbanites who worked in the city, and today, those apartment complexes remain, but neighborhood grocery stores disappeared long ago.

On Nov. 5, city residents have the opportunity to change the landscape of the area once more, if they approve a $68 million redevelopment bond issue. The money would be used to purchase and demolish 10 to 12 apartment complexes bordering Franklin Road between Cobb Parkway and Interstate 75, to create 179 to 190 acres of cleared land to entice developers.

"I expect it to pass," Tumlin said. "It will be a close vote, I think, but historically, the people of Marietta have passed general obligation bonds." 

There was the $25 million parks bond in November of 2009; in 2011, a $44 million SPLOST bond passed; and then there was the Marietta Board of Education $4 million bond for the performing arts center.

"A bond is an easier sell when people can picture what you're going to do with the money," Tumlin said. "This project is bigger and more broad in concept."

Opponents of the project want lower taxes and cite the lingering recession as reasons to vote "no."

While most residents have been vocal in their support of the bond, it has had its share of detractors, too, who often cite previous city-backed projects that have stalled.

At a recent town hall meeting, Edwin Dyer, who lives in the Laurel Springs neighborhood and is a U.S. Air Force veteran from the Korean and Vietnam wars, cited city-backed endeavors like the Marietta Redevelopment Corp.'s stalled project along Powder Springs Street, off West Dixie Avenue and Hedges Street, and the numerous federal housing projects the Marietta Housing Authority has torn down, leaving vacant lots in their place. 

"I was wondering if you can sell the (existing) properties and leave the $68 million off the heads of people," Dyer said.

Lower taxes is a common refrain in these kinds of debates, Tumlin said.

"In a lot of ways, it was the same rhetoric against those other bonds," he said, "but our city has passed bonds in tough times before, and to me, that speaks well of our city."

Of the $68 million, $4 million is earmarked for pedestrian and landscape improvements to Whitlock Avenue. Those improvements would include sidewalks, crosswalks, medians, lighting, repaving Whitlock Avenue and mounting traffic lights to metal arms, which now hang from wires.

Losing the vote would be a setback for the project, Tumlin conceded, but it would not kill it.

"You have to stick your neck out and ask (for the money), even if it doesn't pass," he said. "If it doesn't pass, we'll do what we've always done and go back to our businesses and try to figure out another way to do it. The sun will still come up the next morning, and I won't take it personally."

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