Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Multi-Use Trail research presented by Dunwoody resident Joe Seconder

also posted at a second place if problems.

If you hang around city hall for any time you will have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Joe Seconder who is usually commenting on ways to make Dunwoody a friendlier place for bikes as well as fighting to improve the quality of life for all citizens.  Joe was last featured on this blog with his push to make Dunwoody the Roundabout capital of the South.  Today if you look at the transportation plan, something tells me Joe was heavily involved.

Joe asked that I post this document to the web which describes the benefits of a muti-use path as well as the fact that the idea of a path under the Dunwoody power lines is not new.   Joe is very interested where this discussion will lead so please give Joe a comment or two if you have something to say.

In fact I'll start, Joe I love the completing the short connections that could tie neighborhoods to schools and shopping where it it possible to do so but unlike your example of the railroad bed in CA and the Silver Comet Trail here in GA, the land where this path is planned is currently owned by the people who live on the power line.  Check out my city map tool and look at the tax plats, my research tells me that Georgia Power only has an air easement and can not change the easement type at this stage in the game. 

An equivalent example would be to plan a bike path through every back yard of every house on the east side of North Peachtree Road.  Just because it would make a great N/S travel route doesn't mean that those residents should be forced to have the path installed in their backyard against their wishes.  Maybe I am off base but that is the way I see this scenario on the Power Line?   It is all about property rights and the residents are holding all the cards except for the long shot possibly of a Royal Flush known as eminent domain.


  1. Gorsh, if Ga Power only has an air easement, who is responsible for the grass? Don't we have grass-height restrictions here in Dunwoody? Of course, enforcing that would be about the only thing more repugnant than invoking imminent domain.

  2. When the Silver Comet Trail was in the planning stages, it ran across the "not in my back yard" resistance. The people of Rockmart embraced the idea, while the people of Cedartown resisted it. When Rockmart denizens started enjoying the long, skinny park in their back yard, Cedartown jumped on the band wagon. That is the usual attitude evolution that accompanies multi-use trails. Ask the people who live along the power lines if the would like a place to run, jog, walk the dog, etc. without having to get in the car to drive there.

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  4. As one of those people along the power lines I can answer the question about if I would like a place to walk and run. It is not really as simple as yes or no. When you say 'not in my back yard' as though these are people opposing a nearby development you must not realize that we are actually talking about developing on our back yards! Not near them but on them, right through my garden and kid's swing set. It is not GA Power owned land. I own the land and put it to very good use already and don't see this concept as an improvement. Nearly all of my neighbors agree with me too. Nevertheless the City is considering doing it anyway which will mean taking mine and many others' back yards against our will to get it built. Let's not forget this is a not just a small foot trail but a linear park up to 100 feet wide that will require grading, landscaping, paving, and bathroom facilities. Property owned and used by homeowners is the primary issue. Concerns about crime, value, and privacy are secondary.
    So to answer the question another way, I do want great parks and recreation areas for walking. Brook run for example will provide many of these amenities. I also want more sidewalks and complete streets. But so long as the linear park is in the mix the planning process is going to be divisive and threatened by fears of eminent domain. It will scare people from wanting to cooperate with smaller transportation and park projects like small connecting trails or non-linear parks using unimproved property. It will certainly make people think twice before voting for a parks bond to acquire property.
    We should try to find common ground now rather than fight about this for years to come. That is why I am in this process and will stay involved. But common ground can only start if the planners of our parks decide to scrap the linear park through these back yards under the power lines. They have not been willing to do this yet even though the homeowners have been telling them they won't go along. Right now they are trying to call it a undefined concept while still proposing only one possible route and option.
    Davis Hightower

  5. Site admin,
    I mow my yard under the power lines every week in the summer. GA Power comes out 3 times a year and gets the areas near the towers. Neighbors around me help control the kudzu and we have hardly any as a result.
    A GA Power representative once defined our relationship as "(homeowners) graciously allow them to run lines over my yard."

  6. Would it be feasible to bury the power lines and put up privacy fences for the property owners who want that? We chose between 2 houses a couple of years ago, and chose against the one with power lines immediately behind it (but with a park along the Chattahoochee behind it) because we hated the way the power lines looked, and because of health concerns with the power lines. Under the really big lines, if you touch another person's skin, you can actually feel the electricity buzzing.

    Our last 2 houses had multi-use trails immediately behind them, and you do lose privacy with that. Privacy fences could really help with that though, and we loved walking out our back door to these fabulous paths. With a privacy fence and buried power lines, I would definitely choose the house with the path. We’ve missed having a path ever since we got here. I would prefer buried lines and a path, to above-ground lines.

  7. Hi Davis,

    I cannot recall hearing or reading the stated width of a 100 foot wide linear park. I believe that level of detail has not been discussed. If you look at similar urban/suburban trails in use today in Georgia and throughout the nation, you will find they require very minimal widths. Please take a look at the presentation on the Iron Horse Trail, which is quoted from their official website. It states it is 20 feet wide. If you also review the presentation on the "Dunwoody Trail" from the PATH Foundation study in 2000, it states "The power easement property is several hundred feet wide at most locations". So if you could imagine going out to the very middle of the power lines in the center of the field, drawing a line and going 10 to 15 feet on either side, that is all the trail would need.

    In the presentation on the Iron Horse Trail, you will also find photos of very tall privacy fences built up at the edge of the trail, separating the trail area from my friend's backyard (see the two photos of the twin teenage daughters on the trail with her mother at the BBQ).

  8. Hi Joe,
    On Thursday at the meeting we were told in most places they would need 100 feet for drainage reasons. Also accessibility for GA Power has not yet been considered. They need to be able to get trucks back there for emergencies and maintenance and the logical solution with a trail would be to make it wide enough for that. Otherwise it would force the trucks to travel closer to homes and require the removal of more homeowner landscaping, gardens, etc for passage.
    Privacy while a secondary issue would be more challenging under power lines too. A privacy fence must have access for GA Power trucks. Trees under the lines are limited to certain species and to 15 feet tall. Homes along my street are level or below grade from the proposed path so there would be no way to maintain the current level of privacy on upper floor windows. If the screening trees I saw in the presentation were considered safe by GA Power and allowed then that may be different.
    Why do we need a greenway to accomplish the transportation or recreation goals of our City? Wouldn't the connecting trails and sidewalks/bike lanes on the transportation plan accomplish the safe routes to school objectives, the walkable city goals, and give us walk/bike access between parks? And wouldn't small local trail connections to 'complete streets' be safer for our children than a path intended to be used by people from outside our local community? The Iron Horse looks like a great application for that community and I appreciate your contribution to the discussion (and to roundabouts!). I think most of the points raised for this concept could easily be accomplished without a greenway/linear park that would require taking property people don't want to give up. The sooner we start looking at other options the sooner we can start working together and get some of these worthwhile goals accomplished.

  9. A multi-use trail in Dunwoody sounds pretty nice. I realize a handful of residents who live along the power lines have raised objections over a trail running along the back side of their property. So I wonder, do their views represent a majority opinion or a vocal minority? How many private properties would be affected and how do the homeowners feel? If the majority of sentiment is an unwavering NIMBY, well, then Dunwoody should file away the plans until the sentiment changes. (And I think it will over time.) However, my guess is that an overwhelming majority of homeowners would be agreeable if presented with reliable information (both pro and con) and allowed to come to their own conclusions. After all, Dunwoody is a community that's a bit obsessed with property values, and a multi-use trail, from what I understand, would improve property values.

  10. Rebecca will the trail run through your backyard?The plan calls for it to run directly through mine which means I will lose all my privacy and half of my property.I want no part this and please try to put yourself in my shoes.

  11. I think it would be interesting to go door to door and poll the homeowners who would be affected. Too many times, in Dunwoody, the minority is very loud!!

    I would love to have a greenway behind my house...I lived in a wonderful community in South Florida with pathways and lakes running throughout the area. We had very expensive homes, townhouses, and apartments all connected together. It really brought the community together. I wish people would investigate the options before saying not in my yard!

  12. There seems to be the impression that Georgia Power Co. owns the land underneath the power lines. They do not. They have an easement, but they do not own the land.

    So let us not say "wouldn't it be nice to have a public space behind your property for all to enjoy" when what we're really saying is "we'd like to take your property and turn it into a public space".

  13. Part of the issue is that many of the people that live along the powerlines are not aware of what is going on. And the City of Dunwoody is trying to hide this in the Parks and Recs plan so once passed they can say (as they have been saying) "Well, we have been discussing this since last year and its all on the website". Supposedly there was a survey that was sent out to approx 2-4000 people in Dunwoody. Of that number, there were only about 5-700 that were returned. In a city that has a population of approx 40,000, those numbers are not even a drop in the bucket. And the funny thing is that everyone that I have spoken to who has property on the powerlines didn't get a survey.

    I am one of the people who would have property taken from them. My property butts right up against the property of the neighbor behind me. So there is no "extra" land to give. I bought this house because of the fact that it had a big yard. And as Davis mentioned, a privacy fence wouldn't cut it. I was the person that asked the Master Planner from Lose and Associates how much space it would take for this trail. His comments were min. 25 feet, max 100. Even if we did a min of 25 feet and split it half and half on the property, I can tell you right now that would be almost ALL of the family behind me's backyard. And a good chunk of mine as well.

    As Davis mentioned, we all take care of the area behind our houses. Its not overgrown or anything, all well maintained. And all the wildlife that we have back there would be gone. So long story short, I do not want it in my backyard. Oh, and by the way, the city is proposing to have the trail move along some streets. Well, I can tell you right now that it won't work on my street. I have 2 idiots that drive their trucks up and down the road, all hours of the day and any speed they like. That has been going on for 10 years and I am still trying to get Dunwoody Police to take care of that so one of the many children/pets that live along my street doesn't get killed. If I had a dime for every time they about hit something or sideswiped something, I would be a rich woman. Don't think that trail is going to work on my street either.

  14. If the general community and the homeowners who live along the proposed greenway aren't supportive, I'd be quite surprised if the city went the imminent domain route. I think that option would be costly in terms of both greenbacks and community morale.

    Yeah, sure, if you want to speak hypotheticals, I'd be fine with the greenway in my backyard, but then, a greenway is the sort of thing that would fit right into my lifestyle. I do realize that not everyone shares my values.

    My heart won't be broken if the greenway plan gets crushed. I'll just do what I do now--get in my car and drive to a community that has one. Communities are trending towards walkable/bikeable transportation plans, so it's really just a matter of time before the sentiment changes in Dunwoody too. It just might take a decade or two...

  15. Ah, Ms. Rebecca, well said, and so sincerely stated. What a delightful sense of cynicism you have!

  16. WSBTV had a piece on this "controversy" last night.

    Between redistricting and the walking-trail, well, we're just one big happy family here in Dunwoody....

  17. Here's the link to the video from WSB. I wonder if those folks looked at the presentation of the Iron Horse Trail in CA running through million dollar home neighborhoods? WSB also failed to interview those with alternate viewpoints.

    In a couple of weeks, I'll be headed back to CA and will take some video of the Iron Horse trail area with "regular" folks, etc. and will post for viewing once I return.

    I look forward to an open and informative process in public forums. Once that is complete, perhaps the city could call for a referendum with all of the citizens voting on it?


  18. I like the idea of the trails.

    However, I'm not willing to vote for something that would allow the City to take property that does not belong to them for this purpose.

  19. The WSBTV segment was shot a few doors down from me. The big problem is if this gets included in the plan they could eventually use eminent domain.
    The Portneuf (Idaho) Greenway Foundation may be an example of what we could expect long term. It is also a project with a lot of private property no one wants to sell. The foundation is trying to use eminent domain to take 27 individual properties. (link below)


  20. I live in the Fontainebleau subdivision along the power line and water (raw) line easement. Both of the easements (overlapping) are 100 feet wide. The easement boundary is about 35' from my house and is much closer (with 15' in some cases) on other houses down the line. I have had to endure about one year's worth of construction in my backyard (with at least another six months remaining) for the installation (replacement of an existing line) of an 8'diameter raw water line. While this has been an ordeal and an inconvenience (for which I received some compensation from DeKalb County), this project will come to a completion and be forgotten. The new pipeline has a 50 year projected life and I will be long gone before it needs to be replaced.

    Now comes the city with plan to install a bike/walking trail ("greenway") thru the backyard. I will grant that this new path could lead to higher proper values down the road. But what it will also do is irrevocably change (denigrate) the nature of my property. I back up to Winters Chapel road and I sit below the grade of the roadway thus ensuring that there will be no way to close off this busy road from house. There is NO WAY that I will willing sell my property for this path. It would leave my family vulnerable to predators (thieves walked into my garage last week at 8:45pm while I was home with my family and stole over $1500 worth of equipment from me) that would have unrestricted viewing and access to the back of my house during all hours of the day. No amount of increased home value is worth this risk to my family. One other note is that even if it would increase the value of my house, such a path would greatly reduce the number of potential buyers (i.e. only those that want to have public path in their backyard - think swimming pool in a house).

    I know that petitions are being gathered in my neighborhood from homeowners on and near the path. I understand that overwhelmingly, these homeowners oppose the path coming thru or near there back yards.
    So to me, the central question (as raised by John H.) goes back to this: Does the City Council (each councilman) support condemnation or the use of imminent domain to make this path a reality? If not, (or at least the majority of councilmen are opposed to using condemnation), then I would suggest not even putting a path on the master plan. To do so would be a false promise as the path would never be realized otherwise.

  21. If there is to be a referendum, it should follow the precedence set by the cityhood referendum. To wit, since all of DeKalb could not vote for a City of Dunwoody, only those within the proposed city limits, then only those along the proposed trail should vote in that referendum.

    Goose. Gander.


  22. Joe

    I don't live near the proposed path, thus I should not get to vote for it.

    No eminent domain to take people's land either.

    Move on from this, if the neighbors aren't interested.

  23. Please allow the discussion to continue. There's no rush. I believe that the city will do due diligence and personally contact EVERY property owner involved to ask their opinion.


  24. As a Dunwoody homeowner that would be affected by the proposed trail I have to say I'm completely against having the city take my property for this use. One of the "pros" that I see being quoted is that this will provide a "safe" place for our children to walk or ride their bikes to school or between neighborhoods. Well as a mother of 2 children, there is NO way on earth I would allow my children to walk to school on a trail such as this without adult supervision. Lets face it, we do not live in 1960's Mayberry. We live in a major metropolitin city with real crime. There are sexual offenders and predators that live in our immediate area. All you have to do is look at the Georgia Registered Sex Offenders websites to see this. I would not consider myself a responsible parent if I let my daughters walk or ride a bike to school on a public trail. Now, I'm sure that there those that will quote statistics that state crime won't be an issue. But even if its a small crime rate, that's a risk I'm not willing to take with my children.

    Also, although it would be of no use to my family, I'm actually not opposed to walking / bike trails as a concept. However, my family and I should not have to give up our backyard for this purpose. We have invested a lot of time and money into our backyard which we consider our private sancuary and use almost every weekend. Since we actually use our yard, taking any part of it is completely unacceptable.

    We as voting citizens of Dunwoody should not allow our representatives to abuse a power such eminint domain just so people can walk, run and bike. This does not seem to me a legitment use of this power. Especially if the homeowners refuse to donate or sell their land. I plan to fight this in anyway I can.

  25. After reviewing the comments, I received the following email from my friend, Tina who is pictured in the presentation at the start of this posting having a BBQ in her backyard with her two twin daughters on the other side of the fence on their trail in California:

    "I can understand the issue of losing your backyard, but I don't get the crime thing. I have never had a problem and I've never heard of a problem after living on the trail for almost 15 years. In fact, I remember talking to a police officer and they said living across from or in front of an open space is much more dangerous because no one is watching!
    The only thing I would say about giving up a backyard swing set for a trail (if that is the choice), I would take the trail....especially because kids outgrow the space of a backyard pretty quickly. I am a mom whose son was hit by a car standing on a sidewalk getting home from school. Having my kids walk and ride bikes on the trail meant everything to me. My neighbors across the street asked if their kids could use my gate to the trail instead of walking to school on the street."

  26. Joe, you seem to be the only person commenting in an objective, patient, tolerant, and analytical manner.

    The comments from the others read like Ruby Ridge or Posse Comitatus zealots. I'm sure they have valid points, but right now their words just appear as an engagement in blind bellicose chauvinism.

    I believe that my in-laws' home would be affected by this proposal and after what I have read here I do think I would advise them to side with you as you have provided the most logical and clear-headed argument. Thank-you. Bob

  27. Joe, I'm not exactly sure where in Dunwoody you live, but this trail is supposed to start on Winters Chapel Road. On one side of Winters Chapel is Dunwoody but on the other side is Gwinnett county which has low income housing, appartments, etc. Currently there are 9 registered sex offenders in the Winters Chapel Road area. We have 3 registered sex offenders off Happy Hollow Road where I live. One of them walk down my street every single day. We have had 5 breakins on my street of Happy Hollow in the last 3 years. This is not fantasy from a zealot but fact from a homeowner and parent who is completely aware of his surroundings. A homeowner who is now in fear of a paved PUBLIC path for these individuals to make their way into my backyard.

    As for your friend Tina, I have to question why her child was in a position to be hit by a car in the first place. Are you kidding? If this is supposed to comfort me into having a bike path through my back yard, you are way off. I can't imagine my children ever being in a position where they may be hit by a car coming home from school as I make sure they always arrive safe to my doorstep.

    BTW, are you employed by the PATH foundation? What is in this for you if it goes through? Why are you pushing this so hard when homeowners obviously are opposed?

  28. Ou! Typical fanatical polemics: prevaricate data and scream, "What about the children!" Triumphs over thoughtful discussion every time!

    Look, many upper-class communities around the United States have these type of multi-use trails much to the delight of their citizens bordering them or not, and none of them have ever become Ho Chi Minh Trails fraught with predators at every bend, commies popping up from thatched hole coverings, or even with lions and tigers and bears stalking up and down them.

    Please stop with all this unwarranted paranoia!

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  30. Well that just confirms the level of paranoia in this town.

    It was the Aryan Nations goofball who put his family in harm's way by thinking he was above the law and cowardly used them as shields. So stop reading William Luther Pierce's books as Timothy McVeigh was wont to absorb as well.

    I don't believe we have to fear anything we might face on a multi-use trail. What we really need to be scared of are those in our community that feel a need to defend Arayan Nation activists. Sends shivers down my spine!

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  32. And consider this -

    1) The man had a outstanding warrant and refused arrest
    2) But decided to hole himself up and cowardly use his wife and children as shields
    3) And here's the ball-breaker: "ARYAN NATIONS" and who does this group acquire its inspiration from? Is it Thomas Jefferson? NO! Is it Ronald Reagan? NO! Is it Bob Hope? NO! It isn't even Rush Limbaugh. New flash...it is Adolf Hitler!

    Really of all the causes you must rally behind, you choose a member of the Aryan Nations? Are you aware of their crimes and credos? Dude!

    That's like expecting me to shed a tear for SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich when Czech agents assassinated him in Prague in 1942 or when Joseph and Magda Goebbels offed themselves and their six children at the fall of the Third Reich. I believe they are all last on my list in the dispensation of sympathy.

    But I'm sure no one will ever accuse you of burying your head in the sand as I'm sure you would never want to get your white hood soiled.

  33. Hey Boob Turner,you've got to be your area's Village Idiot.

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  35. OK, let me tell you what I really do think:

    - I abhor Aryan Nations and The Order members especially when their credo is race hate and when one of their members was guilty of the shooting at the Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles, California.

    - I abhor Aryan Nation members avoiding arrest by cowardly shielding themselves with their wives and children. But if they duck and the wives and children get in the line of fire it is the fault of the cowardly Aryan Nation members not the FBI agent. But I guess you're just as cowardly and would do the same, so this is not an ethical dilemma to you.

    Therefore my sympathy or empathy for Aryan Nations members and their families is not of utmost importance to me, and the thought that you, a fellow member of this community, would want to be a supporter of the Aryan Nation scares me that you could possibly be walking on a city path makes me now ardently against a multi-use trail. And I really don't want to continue this ludicrous discussion with you.

  36. Tone it down boys or comments will be wiped. Please stay on topic of the post, Thank you.

  37. Here is a collection of 37 studies of greenway trails done by a government agency, under the auspices of a government agency, or by academics.
    The studies showed an overall approval of the trails after they were built. The general result was that fears about decrease in property value and increase in crime were seldom voiced after those concerned read the studies.

    The compilation of studies is at:


  38. I'm seeing that a lot of people are rejecting this idea because of an impression that the city has proposed to simply take their property under imminent domain but that hasn't been proposed and I think that probability of that scenario is close to zero. Typically there would be negotiations regarding fair compensation... any idea whether $10k, $20k, (or some figure per area) and erection of privacy fence or hedge might change some folks minds about allowing the greenway? If my property backed up to the powerlines, I would defintely go for it if I was getting some compensation for property with slightly limited usefulness and the trail and landscaping were done well. I use the Alpharetta/Roswell and Forsyth greenways very very frequently and they are great and the homeowners that I've talked to have been very happy about the greenways.

  39. Children using the easement today at Kingsley Lake to walk to school.


  40. Example of successful suburban use of power line greenway. Why not here? What's so different?