When Anthony Woods signed the lease on his auto repair shop, he knew his business may be in the way of the Spout Springs Road widening.
“It may shut the business down,” said Woods, speaking from behind the front counter at A+ Auto Service last week. “If that happens, then I’ll just find another location to open.”
Woods would be far from the only person having to weigh options.
Hall County officials expect 162 properties in the project’s first phase, between Hog Mountain Road and Union Circle, will be targeted as they start buying right of way in January — two years earlier than expected.
Although that stretch is mostly residential, officials said they don’t know yet the breakdown in the number of affected homes and businesses.
“Once the active acquisition process begins, each property will be reviewed and assessed on a case-by-case basis, so those numbers are not yet available,” Hall spokeswoman Katie Crumley said.
“We would like for property owners to know that they will play an active role in these discussions.”
Spout Springs Road has been a longtime traffic nightmare, particularly as residents continue to pour into the area and homes keep getting built.
Sterling on the Lake, a 1,000-acre development approved for 2,000 units, is opening a new 115-home section and developing another section featuring 1-acre home sites.
And the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted in September to OK the rezoning for a 186-home subdivision off Spout Springs near Quincy Drive. The developer said construction could begin in early 2017.
Work began years ago to widen Spout Springs, with a few modest improvements here and there — such as a traffic light at Sterling — to ease drivers’ pain until the project is done.
Then, this summer, officials announced the widening would now start a couple of years earlier than expected.
It will be done in two phases, with the second phase focusing on Spout Springs between Union Circle and south of Friendship Road/Ga. 347 in Braselton.
“This project will relieve congestion, accommodate current and future travel demand, reduce crash frequency and severity and improve intersection operations to an acceptable level of service,” South Hall Commissioner Kathy Cooper said at the time.
The first major step is right of way acquisition, with construction to start in 2018-19. Right of way acquisition and construction on the second phase would follow the first phase, with 93 properties that could be affected.
“Preliminary right of way paperwork has begun,” Crumley said. “However, the acquisition process … is not expected to begin until January 2017.”
In addition to homes and businesses, the project also will affect government buildings, including Flowery Branch High School and Spout Springs School of Enrichment, which sit almost opposite of each other on Spout Springs.
“We have only had preliminary discussions with (county government) about the (project),” said Matt Cox, facilities director for the Hall County School System. “I am due for an update now that they are moving closer to right of way acquisition.”
However, he expects “the impact will be greater to the elementary school than the high school, and will involve left-turn lanes and realignment of the two driveways to include a common traffic light for our two facilities.”
Also planned in the project is a realignment of Elizabeth Lane so it connects to Lake Sterling Boulevard, the Sterling entrance. Flowery Branch High has entrances off both Spout Springs and Elizabeth.
The Spout Springs library also sits at Sterling’s entrance, on a hill overlooking Spout Springs.
“We haven’t heard of any direct impact on the facility itself,” Hall County Library System Director Lisa MacKinney said. “It’s set pretty far back from the road.”
However, she said she “wouldn’t be surprised if our foot traffic is negatively impacted, since it may be more difficult for those in the area to reach the library during times they are doing the road work.
“Luckily, our Blackshear Place branch (in Oakwood) is quite close and offers a solid alternative for those who want to avoid the road project.”
And, ironically, even an old Georgia Department of Transportation building might be affected by the project.
A nearly 50-year-old, long-abandoned maintenance shop that the DOT is trying to sell overlooks the road from a brush-covered hill.
The project will “affect the property, but it shouldn’t affect the (DOT) building at all,” said David B. Millen of Kennesaw-based Vaughn & Melton, which has been tasked with marketing DOT surplus properties statewide.
Jean Bartlett, who lives nearby off Spout Springs Road, on property behind a church, said, “I wouldn’t want to lose this place. I love it here — it’s just so peaceful.”
She is worried that more vehicle accidents will happen when the road is widened. She believes more traffic lights would help slow traffic and get residents in and out of subdivisions.
Bartlett also believes a raised median could create a backlash.
“People will be selling and getting out (of their homes) if they can’t get in and out of their roadway without having to turn and go up half a mile and come back,” she said. “That’s not feasible. That’s why they need turn lanes.”
Despite the project possibly having a direct impact on his business, Woods said he know it’s needed.
“In the evenings, it’s literally stopped cars in front of the business,” said the Pendergrass resident. “They’ve got to widen the road. There’s nothing else they can do.”
He is hoping he might be able to stay on the property, with a new building built deeper into the property.
A bigger road, after all, equals more cars — and that’s what his business is about.
“The higher car count, the better,” Woods said. “And more people who settle in this area, the more customers.”