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Traffic calming devices in White Columns draws pushback

MILTON, Ga. — The Milton City Council voted May 2 to defer a potential agreement with the White Columns Homeowners Association to install four new radar feedback signs in their neighborhood.

Following an hours-long discussion and pushback from several residents, the City Council voted 5-2 to defer a decision on the measure. Councilwoman Juliette Johnson and Mayor Peyton Jamison cast the dissenting votes.

Milton’s Traffic Calming program allows subdivisions to apply for city funding to share in the costs of installing traffic calming devices on local public streets. Using data collected by the city, White Columns Drive and Treyburn Manor View inside the White Columns Country Club met the threshold in the city code, stating that 50 percent of vehicles must be exceeding the posted speed limit for such measures to be considered.

Public Works Director Sara Leaders said that in the past decade, the city has reached similar agreements with eight neighborhoods on traffic calming measures, most of them for additional speed tables.

However, Leaders said, the White Columns Homeowners Association had recently installed four signs in the golf section of their 440-plus residence community, so, had the agreement been approved on May 2, the city would have paid $6,853 for them to install four additional signs. The homeowners association would have then covered the remainder of the costs and upgrades.

During public comment, only two residents said they were in favor of the additional radar feedback signs and 12 spoke against, citing a lack of neighborhood input. Because White Columns has a mandatory homeowners association, it is not required to get 2/3 approval from residents to make changes.

Resident Karin Kemper said there has never been a community vote on traffic calming solutions in White Columns. She added that in December 2021, the homeowners association allegedly sent a letter to the city requesting a meeting with residents to hear their concerns and potential solutions, but by then they had already purchased four radar signs without neighborhood consensus.

“[Roddy Motes of the Public Works Department] mentioned that White Columns streets only accommodated three radar signs, but since the HOA had already purchased four, this 12-foot-high unnecessary radar sign with a solar panel on top wound up in a default location in front of our house,” Kemper said. “Again, the community was not made aware of the location of this extra sign until installation began.”

Still, White Columns Homeowners Association President Tony Palazzo insisted the signs were needed to address the ongoing “speeding problem.”

“Speeding is sort of addressed within the community, but nothing ever really seems to happen, and so what we decided as an association and as a board was safety of children, safety of residents, addressing an issue that seems to be getting worse,” Palazzo said. “… We wanted to take steps to address it.”

Moore said he didn’t feel comfortable with the city getting involved and possibly overturning a homeowners association decision.

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“I think this is a significant mistake,” Moore said.

But, Jamison pushed back.

“I personally might not agree with what the HOA did, but I fully respect their charter and what they’re charged to deal with,” Jamison said.

The City Council will revisit the matter in 90 days. In the meantime, the city is required to conduct a speed study, install additional stop signs at two intersections, collect information on speed-related warnings and citations issued by Milton police and strongly encourage the homeowners association to conduct a survey gauging neighbors’ support for the radar feedback signs.

In other business at the May 2 meeting, Deputy City Manager Stacey Inglis said Milton has received half of its $14.7 million American Rescue Plan Act allotment and should receive the balance by the end of the summer. The law states the city has to indicate how it plans to use the funds by the end of 2024 and has until 2026 to spend it.

Inglis said the city is considering spending $10 million on a new active park with potential athletic fields, courts, structure and other facilities, as well as another $776,730 to offset the costs related to public health and the negative impacts tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the city also plans to spend approximately $560,000 for “premium pay” for eligible front-line workers, which would exclusively apply to currently active city employees. Lastly, Inglis said, the city plans to spend $2.4 million on water and sewer infrastructure, with about three-quarters going toward hydrology improvements at the former Milton Country Club.

During the meeting, Communications Director Greg Botelho asked the City Council to weigh in on a new name for the facility. The clubhouse and a new trail at the former Milton Country Club were unveiled during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 23.

Out of 211 suggestions received from the public, Botelho said the five finalists are: Milton Acres: Parks and Rec, Milton Central Park and Preserve, Milton City Park and Preserve, Milton Meadows and Milton Valley Park.

To vote on a name, residents can visit surveymonkey.com/r/FMCCnaming. The winning name is expected be announced in mid-May.

The next City Council meeting is slated for May 16 at 6 p.m.

Reach Chamian Cruz at 770-847-8079. Follow her on Twitter @xchamian.