JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The March 8 McGinnis Ferry Road public meeting was billed as a chance for residents to give input on ideas to mitigate the effects of widening the road to four lanes. But it turned into an increasingly angry meeting about why was the road being widened, who really benefits from it and how can the project be stopped?
Johns Creek Public Works Director Tom Black came to get feedback from mostly Seven Oaks residents about noise abatement solutions and ideas on privacy fences. Instead he got an earful of objections to the whole project.
The McGinnis Ferry widening has been a Georgia Department of Transportation plan for many years, it just lay dormant while other demands around the state took precedence. Now with the need to complete four lanes stretching from Ga. 400 to I-85, that time has come.
It also coincides with development emanating from south Forsyth County which is making Brookwood Road at McGinnis a major intersection. Johns Creek is answering by widening Jones Bridge Road on its side.
Black has design ideas for noise abatement along Jones Bridge Road and wanted to get feedback from residents. Likewise he sought reactions to his ideas on noise abatement on McGinnis.
“Seven Oaks will be well represented [by the city] in the final decisions. It is impacted on two sides with only one entrance and exit,” Black said. “We want to minimize the impacts as much as possible. It is my job to advocate for Johns Creek to get the best possible outcomes for the city.”
But the residents wanted answers to more probing questions such as:
Why is Johns Creek taking on most of the burden for widening the road when it benefits Forsyth County?
Can Johns Creek stop the project?
What is the timeline for key decisions?
Such questions were about policy, and Black and Assistant City Manager Justin Kirouac were reluctant to answer such questions because they don’t set policy; they implement it.
Their hesitation only made residents angrier. Residents appeared to get frustrated when they couldn’t get answers to the questions they were asking.
Councilman Lenny Zaprowski and Councilwoman Stephanie Endres tried to come forward to speak for the City Council, but they only seemed to confuse matters and make the residents more frustrated.
Several residents asked if they could stop the project if the city withheld its share of the funding.
When Endres said the council could take another vote about funding the project, that was taken as a sign by the residents that the city could stop the project by opting out. And perhaps by opting out, the project could be stopped.
However, Mayor Mike Bodker, who was out of town and could not attend the March 8 meeting said later there were several misconceptions that were not addressed at that meeting.
“First, it is not true that this improvement only benefits Forsyth County. It does benefit Johns Creek and it provides a four-lane, east-west link from Ga. 400 to I-85,” Bodker said.
This is a project that has been on GDOT’s books for a decade, probably longer, he said.
What the city is trying to do is make sure the improvements have the least amount of impact on residents as possible.
Asked if the city could block the expansion, Bodker said no, it would go through anyway. Besides, it is an approved plan that has been on the city’s transportation plan as well.