A South Hall community’s efforts to stop a road name change ended in defeat Thursday night.
In what ended up being two separate votes, the Hall County Board of Commissioners voted to rename Ga. 347/Friendship Road to Lanier Islands Parkway between Interstate 985 and Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway in South Hall.
Commissioners unanimously voted to rename the planned six-lane section of Ga. 347 that’s under construction between Spout Springs Road and Ga. 211.
But then, spurred by Commissioner Scott Gibbs’ concerns about emergency responders’ confusion about multiple names for the same road, they split 3-2 to rename the mainly residential section of Ga. 347, or between I-985 and Spout Springs.
Chairman Richard Mecum and South Hall Commissioner Craig Lutz were opposed to the change, and Gibbs and Commissioners Jeff Stowe and Billy Powell supported it.
The mainly residential section of road will be under construction later, with the Georgia Department of Transportation estimating completion of the entire project between I-985 and Ga. 211 in October 2015.
The new name won’t take effect on the residential side until January 2015, or until construction is complete. Commissioners said the extra time would give residents and businesses time to change addresses on checks, letterheads and other documents.
The commissioners made the decision over the protests of residents, who filled much of the meeting room at the Hall County Government Center on Browns Bridge Road.
Several spoke against the move for a range of reasons, including that the new name takes away from the heritage of the Friendship community, which dates to the mid-1800s.
Bill Frazier, owner of Frazier’s Harley-Davidson on Friendship Road, said he has about $30,000 in inventory with the business name and Friendship Road address.
“I love Lake Lanier Islands,” he said. “I just don’t feel like we should promote Lake Lanier Islands only throughout the whole road.”
The votes sparked immediate grumbling in the audience, with one person shouting, “How about a public discussion?”
Braselton Mayor Bill Orr, in his comments to the commissioners, said the town would “reserve the right to support litigation as our only option” if the name change is approved.
“We have never in the history of our dealings, with the four counties that make up Braselton, been shut out of a discussion like this, when a road crosses into our town limits — in this case, two times,” Orr said.
In a Jan. 7 letter to Hall officials, he suggested that the county consider naming Ga. 347 Lanier Islands Parkway from I-985 to Spout Springs and Chateau Elan Parkway from Spout Springs to Ga. 211.
“We believe this gives tribute and honor to both resorts that are so important to Hall County and the state of Georgia’s economy,” Orr wrote.
Ga. 347 is already called Lanier Islands Parkway between I-985 and Lake Lanier Islands resort
Lutz said earlier that he initiated the name change proposal “in hopes of bringing some continuity to the roadway as it undergoes its latest construction project.”
The DOT is widening Ga. 347 in two phases — McEver Road to I-985 and I-985 to Ga. 211.
Currently, east of I-985, Ga. 347 runs along Friendship Road, Spout Springs Road and Thompson Mill Road before ending at Ga. 211. Ga. 347 between Spout Springs and Ga. 211 involves a new alignment, with Thompson Mill becoming a local road.
Brian K. Rochester of Gainesville-based Rochester & Associates, which does engineering work for the resort, has spoken in favor of the road name change at each public hearing, starting with the Hall County Planning Commission. The planning group recommended against the name change.
“This is one of the largest DOT projects in the state,” he said Thursday night. “This is going to change the world as we know it in South Hall. (Ga. 347) will be the major (artery) in South Hall.”
One of the proposal’s staunchest opponents was Teresa Owens, who told the commission that 1,357 residents had signed petitions against the name change.
“They are saying, ‘We matter,’” she said.
Owens also referred to a legal notice in Thursday’s edition of The Times that said local legislation will be introduced in the General Assembly changing the name of Ga. 347 between Spout Springs Road and Ga. 211 to Lanier Islands Parkway.
The notice is signed by state Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, who couldn’t be reached for comment.
Concerning that stretch of road, “I’ve been looking at the names of highways and a lot of them (suggest) destinations,” Lutz said.
“This is a destination that the highway is going to. It is going to terminate at Lake Lanier Islands, so it makes sense for that portion of the (name change) to occur.”
However, Lutz said, he struggled on the entire name change.
“I have been back and forth on this three times today,” he said.
Mecum said he also has struggled with the decision, saying he saw the need to change the name from a “business point of view.”
However, “I know a lot of the history of this community, of the heritage, and I think we have a tendency to forget who we are and where (we) come from,” he said. “I’m going to have to vote against this.”
He received loud applause from the audience.
Stowe said he “understands tradition and sense of community, but I also see that there’s not another road in Hall County that is going to be six lanes.
“It’s the hardest decision I’ve had to make, but for several reasons, unfortunately, I’m going to have to vote for it.”