The board, which is chaired by Tad Leithead, talked about spending an extra $1.5 to $5 million on the diverging diamond interchange at Windy Hill Road over Interstate 75. Peter Drey, a representative of Montreal-based DE Design and Environment Consultancy, presented bridgescape plans for the bridge running over I-75.
The CID paid the company $85,000 to plan the intersection.
The proposed interchange would switch lanes to opposite sides of the road without stopping, alleviating the need for a left-turn signal for motorists entering the interstate. After the interchange, lanes return to their original sides of the road.
The diverging diamond is expected to open in 2016 at a total cost of $20 million, said Jim Wilgus, deputy director for the Cobb Department of Transportation. The funding includes $5 million from the Cumberland CID, $6.5 million from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program and the remainder from the 2011 special purpose local option sales tax, Wilgus said.
Now, the board will decide if it wants to spend more money to improve the aesthetics of the bridge.
“This is simply a redesign, and a beautification of this bridge,” Drey said.
However, the design Drey presented did not go over well with the board.
Drey’s plan was to add 18-foot high steel chainlink fences to the bridge that would be “see-through” and well-lit. The bridge design showed three lanes travelling both ways with a 10-foot pedestrian path down the 300-foot long bridge separating the three eastbound lanes from the three westbound lanes.
Leithead likened the bridge to a shoebox.
“I think it’s ugly. I mean, I could have designed a shoebox,” Leithead said. “I’d love to see it redesigned.”
The board directed Drey to come back with another plan implementing lower barriers and more attractive chain-link fencing.
“Satin sheet” over
The board voted 6-0, with Bob Voyles absent, to allocate up to $30,000 to pay Joshua Winter to plan landscape improvements in the CID.
Winter, who owns the Marietta-based landscape architecture company Winter Design, said he will focus on three roads to plan for new foliage in the area. Powers Ferry Road, Cumberland Boulevard and the intersection of Cobb Parkway at Interstate 285 will all receive new grass and plants, according to Winter’s plans.
John Shern, the vice chair of the board, said he was concerned Winter would be landscaping near an area soon to be filled with Braves stadium construction.
“We’re about to face a huge redevelopment (near I-285 and Cobb Parkway), and we don’t know what it’s going to look like,” Shern said.
Leithead asked Mike Plant, executive vice president of business operations for the Braves, about the location of the plants, and Plant said the area in discussion was nowhere near the building site for the Braves.
The board then agreed to lower the price it paid Winter by $4,700 to an even $30,000, so he could move slower on the I-285 intersection planning but complete plans for the other two roads.
Leithead said he was happy to spend the money to beautify the area, even though this cost will only cover the planning stage.
“All three of these are key areas,” Leithead said. “So, I think it’s appropriate to get it all ready to go.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation paid to landscape the roads three years ago, but Winter said the department didn’t plant the right greenery and now it has all died.
“Some of this landscaping is not working as we’d hoped. That’s frustrating, but it’s going to look bad until we do something about it,” Leithead said.
Winter said it’s time to start over in the area. He said he doesn’t have an estimate of how much the landscaping will cost.
“Instead of a patchwork quilt, we wanted a satin sheet that says this is the Cumberland area,” Winter said.
Millage rate set
Before talking about the money it would spend on planning for future projects, the Board of Directors voted 6-0 to keep its millage rate at 5 mills.
The 5.5-square-mile CID is made up of a group of commercial property owners who agree to tax themselves at a higher rate. The revenue from this increased rate, which is $5.5 million per year for the Cumberland CID, is used to secure larger state and federal sums used for infrastructure improvements in the district, Leithead said.
The CID’s tax rate has been 5 mills since its inception 26 years ago, Leithead said.
But because property values are going up, Leithead said the board expects $500,000 more than it did last year, giving the CID $6 million to spend in the next year.
This year, the Board of Commissioners created a new tax district that roughly follows the boundaries of the CID.
Owners of apartment complexes and commercial property in that district will see their tax rates rise by 3 mills. Revenue from this new tax will be used to meet the debt payments on the money the county is borrowing to pay for the $672 million Braves stadium.
These taxes will be due in October, said Lynn Rainey, the attorney for the CID board.
Three mills under the new tax district created by the commissioners brings in $5.1 million, according to county Chairman Tim Lee.