Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson speaks to the Board of Commissioners about an annexation request from the city. (Photo by Christopher Fairchild)

Citing fears of adding to an already congested commute, the County Board of Commissioners turned down an annexation request from the City of Fayetteville to annex 44 acres for 162 residential lots near Lowe’s. While rejecting it currently, commissioners expressed a willingness to accept it later if a number of concerns are addressed.

The property on Ellis Road and Banks Road in question is currently designated as Low-Density Residential (one unit per acre) on the Fayette County Future Land Use Plan, whereas Fayetteville seeks to a gross density of 3.65 units per acre, something that the commissioners weren’t ready to commit to, in part due to traffic concerns. The plot would connect to a 30-acre plot fronting Hwy. 85 across from the Fayetteville Lowe’s that developers are eyeing for a mix of business in front and 68 townhouses behind.

Commissioner Steve Brown cited the state’s impending widening of McDonough Road that is expected to bring additional traffic through the city.
“It’s going to hit right about where this development is,” he said. “We are going to have a massive traffic jam in the heart of downtown Fayetteville.”

Brown compared the potential problems to those seen with explosive growth in Dekalb, Gwinnett, North Fulton, and Forsyth.

“I pray we learn from the lessons of the counties north of us north of I-20. They have all done this. They’ve all created this traffic nightmare,” he said, warning about the need for properly planned growth.

Brown said the lack of a direct connection to the interstate has allowed the county to grow slowly, and that ties in with the message the county received from surveys regarding the comprehensive land use plan.

“Protect the rural, residential lifestyle. That was loud and clear,” he said. “Let’s try and do this in a way that we protect the transportation corridors, the school system, and our quality of life.”

Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson expressed a willingness to work with the county to ease their concerns.

“We will not allow the density if it cannot be accommodated by the infrastructure or traffic,” he said.

He did note that the city is trying to cater to the message they received from their residents, which runs counter to what the county has heard.

“Just as your comp plan has indicated from the citizens that you want to maintain the rural atmosphere, our comprehensive plan indicated that people want downtown development, and you cannot have successful retail in the downtown without density,” he said. “Oftentimes, when we talk about traffic, people see it as a traffic jam. Sometimes, it’s seen as a success jam, when traffic comes through Fayetteville we get people who want to stop and shop.”

Johnson asked that the county have faith in his city to handle development properly.

“This is a new day, new time. If we want our city, our county to be progressive, we really need to be able to exercise the right to be able to have increased density, but let us manage it and trust and believe that the council and the staff at the City of Fayetteville are capable and competent enough to be able to manage the growth.”

Johnson said the city would get back with the developer and ask them to rescind their request until more concerns with the project could be addressed and common ground could be found with the county.