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Flowery Branch looking at downtown traffic study
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Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew speaks about the need for a traffic study.

Expecting a planned, major downtown development to spur traffic, Flowery Branch is moving forward with a transportation study of its historic district.

The $30,000 study is expected to take six months to complete, Mayor Diane Hirling said in a March 19 letter requesting aid from the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

It would assess current and future transportation needs, recommend funding methods and cite specific costs as part of a projects program, Hirling said.

"Several stakeholder and community meetings will take place as part of the citizen outreach relating to the study," she wrote.

The planning group’s policy committee voted Tuesday morning to give the city $20,000 toward the study as part of its 2009-10 work program. The grant requires a $10,000 match by the South Hall city.

"Over the last several years, the Flowery Branch area has experienced a tremendous increase in population and, as a result, enormous pressure has been placed on our transportation system," Hirling said in her letter.

City Manager Bill Andrew spoke to the committee about the need for the study.

He said that Old Town Flowery Branch Development, a $15 million collection of shops, boutiques, town homes and a parking deck planned for the downtown area, could stir up plenty of cars in the area.

"It has caused us some concern in that much of the old town district isn’t really sufficient for handling the loads (of traffic) that they’ll be bringing in," Andrew said.

The turning radius and width of some roads are key issues.

"We’ve also never had a paving schedule for the city," although the city and Hall County are talking about fixing that issue, Andrew said.

"We’re very appreciative of that, but we still feel there’s quite a bit of effort that needs to be done," he added.

Future work could include converting some two-way streets to one-way, widening some roads and shutting down others.

Also, it could mean improving some sidewalks and the turning radius of several roads.

"We have a real problem with trucks and larger vehicles handling some of the roads we have," Andrew said. "We think it’s beneficial to the county as a whole to try to help improve that area for that commercial development to take place."

Andrew said that despite the recession, the developer, Buford-based Hortman & Dobbs, is looking to start the first phase of the project in the first three months of 2010.

The project has been in the works for more than two years, stalled by the failing economy.

Flowery Branch City Council gave the project a lift in April by committing — as part of its tax allocation district — up to $135,000 in property tax increments for demolition work already done toward the project.

And then, last week, the council voted to spend $405,000, including $5,000 in closing costs, for the purchase of two buildings it had leased from Hortman & Dobbs.

"The best-case scenario (for the purchase) is the $400,000 ... puts (the firm) over the tipping point to where they now can start phase one of that development," Andrew said at the time.

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