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Gainesville works to fast-track intersection makeover

City needs project planned for DOT to buy right of way

POSTED: March 20, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Improvements to one of Gainesville’s busiest intersections — Jesse Jewell at Queen City parkways — might come sooner rather than later.

Gainesville officials want a project on the books so the Georgia Department of Transportation can explore acquiring right of way on nearly three-quarters of an acre that’s for sale at the intersection before it gets bought and developed.

Teri Pope, DOT district spokeswoman, has said the department “can and does purchase property before it is developed” to save money, but only on “active projects.”

To meet that requirement, Gainesville officials plan to ask that a project on the long-range list be moved to the short-range list when the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s policy committee meets May 13. The MPO is Hall’s lead transportation planning agency, and the policy committee, comprising top elected officials in the area, is its decision-making arm.

“That would sure save a lot of money in the long run,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan has said about the move.

Intersection improvements at Jesse Jewell and John Morrow Parkway, which picks up where Queen City stops at Jesse Jewell, are in the MPO’s long-range plan. The project, estimated at nearly $2.8 million, would be done between 2018 and 2030.

And that could change as the MPO starts updating the plan this year, an effort that’s expected to be completed by August 2015.

Also, Pope said, the intersection project would need to be designed meeting federal environmental laws.

“GDOT can’t purchase property unless you have plans and know how much land is needed,” she added.

The city has long eyed the intersection for improvements. It served as Gainesville’s only project among nine that Hall County listed as part of the failed transportation sales tax referendum in July 2012.

“If that (referendum) had passed, it would have been (done) relatively soon,” Dunagan said.

Regardless, “something’s got to be done with that intersection, he said.

Even Brent Hoffman of Berkshire Hathaway, who is handling the sale, agrees it needs to be improved.

“I don’t think anybody would argue with that,” he said. “The left-hand turn from Jesse Jewell onto Queen City is stacked up and the right-hand turn off Queen City onto Jesse Jewell desperately needs some improvement. I think the city has identified a huge need.”

However, as “the representative of the owner, the hope that I would have is if DOT were to condemn the property, they’d condemn the entire tract,” Hoffman said. “... If they don’t condemn the whole thing, whatever is leftover really won’t be marketable.”

The property, advertised as part of a two-lot package at $575,000, also showcases part of Gainesville’s past, featuring a house at least 100 years old overlooking the intersection.

“I’ve heard the history of it, and it’s just been in (the sellers’) family until just a few years ago, when one of the (family members) died,” Hoffman said. “I don’t know of any historical person having been in the building.”


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