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Road name proposal draws heat from S. Hall residents

Friendship Road residents worry about loss of community identity

POSTED: January 21, 2013 12:13 a.m.

What’s in a name? Everything, if you ask folks in the Friendship Road community of South Hall County.

A proposal to change the road’s name to Lanier Islands Parkway has touched a serious nerve among residents, many of whom say the identity of a community that is believed to date to the mid-1800s is at stake.

“Changing the name of this road will take some of the character and charm away from one of Hall’s unique communities,” said one of Friendship’s residents, Pamela Puckett, in a Thursday email to Srikanth Yamala, Hall’s planning director.

The matter goes before the Hall County Planning Commission at its Tuesday meeting, set to start at 5:15 p.m. at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville.

The planning board will hold the first of three public hearings — the other two taking place before the Hall County Board of Commissioners, which will make the final decision on the matter. The planning commission can only recommend approval or rejection of the proposal.

Craig Lutz, the board of commissioners’ South Hall representative, initiated the proposal “in hopes of bringing some continuity to the roadway as it undergoes (its) latest construction project,” said Katie Crumley, spokeswoman for the county government.

Lutz “is eager to engage the public in the discussion of the proposal to rename the road and feels like going through this process will ultimately result in what is in the best interest of Hall County,” she said.

Friendship Road now runs between Interstate 985 and Spout Springs Road, but as part of a Georgia Department of Transportation project to widen Ga. 347 — which Friendship runs along — it would be extended to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.

At one time, Friendship, along with Holiday Road and what is still Thompson Mill Road, ran between Lake Lanier Islands resort and Ga. 211.

That entire stretch also is Ga. 347, with DOT widenings under way in two projects between McEver Road and Ga. 211. Also planned is an improvement project between McEver Road and the resort.

In January 2010, the board of commissioners renamed Friendship and Holiday roads to Lanier Islands Parkway between the resort and I-985.

“One name, in and of itself, provides some clarity,” said then-Planning Director Randy Knighton, who is now the county administrator, at that time.

The remaining Friendship Road is mostly residential, except for an area around Spout Springs. Friendship Elementary School is on the road, and Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton will sit off what would be the Friendship Road extension.

Chris Puckett said he and his wife, Pamela, have lived on Friendship Road for 40 years. He explained some of the steep history of the community.

“My grandkids who live next to me are the sixth generation of the family that’s been on the land,” he said. “And there are lots of people around who have got deeper roots than that.”

He fears the county is “going to come in here and destroy our identity, all for the benefit of a private business down the road,” he said, referring to Lake Lanier Islands.

“It’s just wrong that the taxpayers are going to have to pay for free publicity for that company,” Puckett said. “We’ve already suffered a lot with the road (project). We’ve had to watch our houses being crushed up and thrown in the (trash) like they were garbage.”

Mack Burgess, interim director of the proposed Lanier Islands Parkway Community Improvement District, favors the name change.

“It would be positive to have that continuity and to have the same name,” he said. “The more you hear Lanier Islands Parkway, the more we want people to think of development and things like that.”

The proposed district, which is still in formation, now mainly encompasses an area between the resort and I-985, but its boundaries could end up stretching along Friendship Road to Hog Mountain Road.

“It would be convenient for the name of our CID, since it is road-centric, to have the same name,” Burgess said.

Stacey Dickson, Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau president, also favors the name change. She said the Friendship Road/Lanier Islands Parkway “corridor is our community’s gateway.”

“So, the more continuity and branding and sense of place we can have there, the better off we are as far as promoting and helping things make sense for visitors,” she said.

But for longtime residents, the plan makes little sense.

“This appears to be government and big business running over the people,” says a handout, “Reasons to save Friendship Road,” provided by one of the opposition’s organizers, Teresa Owens.

“We have a community of neighbors who care about each other and try to help each other when needs arise,” the handout states. “That’s called Friendship. You can’t put a price on Friendship.”


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