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Flowery Branch City Council to close on land for government buildings
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Flowery Branch City Council voted Thursday night to go forward with buying about 7 acres of downtown property for a future city government complex.

Closing is set for Oct. 18 on the lots at Gainesville and Main streets, overlooking the downtown area.

The city is spending $262,500, with the money coming from special purpose local option sales tax revenue, water and sewer money owed to the general fund and general fund reserves.

"This (move) allows us to control our future and spruce up our downtown," said Interim Mayor Kris Yardley. "I think it's a positive move we're making."

Other council members echoed that sentiment.

Newly elected Councilwoman Amanda Swafford abstained from the vote, drawing reference to family ties to the property. Her grandfather owned Mooney Manufacturing Co., which sits on the property and would be razed as part of the city's future plans.

She further distanced herself from the land deal, saying, "I didn't even know about the (city's interest in the property) until one month after qualifying (for election)."

City Manager Bill Andrew also vouched for Swafford, who won the Post 1 race on Sept. 21.

"Discussions with the family, informally and formally, began before I ever knew of you or you running for council," he said. "We were well along in this process prior to Miss Swafford qualifying to run or being elected."

The city's plans for the new City Hall have been fixed since the city's 2005 comprehensive plan.

Flowery Branch has talked to a landscape architect to sketch a possible design on the properties.

"What we want to have is ... a building that's large enough to house some people in a decent-size meeting room. We would like to have a drive-through (window) for bill pay," Andrew has said. "And we'd like to have something connecting to a park."

A financing plan for a new city hall hasn't been laid out.

However, "part of financing (the construction project) would be us being able to sell off all we own on Main Street," Andrew said.

The city owns property on both sides of Main Street between Church Street and Railroad Avenue, including City Hall, the police department and two storefronts recently put under lease.

In other business Thursday night, the city heard public comments about Christmas plans for the downtown area.

"It's very important for the merchants down here to have a Christmas function for the children," said Janet Upchurch, owner of Sample Pleasures on Main Street. "... I'll do anything to help the city."

Andrew, citing problems with past parades, including legal issues, said, "There is going to be a Christmas in Flowery Branch. I'm just not sure to what extent."