Flowery Branch City Council
Council also took these actions Thursday night:
- Scheduled a special election for Sept. 21 to replace former Councilman Craig Lutz, who is running for the District 1 post on the Hall County Board of Commissioners. Qualifying will take place June 7-11 at Flowery Branch City Hall, 5517 Main St.
- Approved a contract with The Jaeger Company, based in Gainesville, for design work associated with a $50,000 Georgia Department of Transportation landscaping grant.
- The city plans to beautify portions of Atlanta Highway between Thurmon Tanner Parkway and Waterstone Crossing subdivision at Vireo Drive.
After more than a year of study and discussion, the Flowery Branch City Council voted Thursday night to move forward on minor improvements to the narrow but heavily used Jones Road.
The council, however, also decided to keep open the option of a connection between Tide Water Cove, a large neighborhood that uses Jones Road, and a key city artery, Lights Ferry Road, which connects to McEver Road.
Either way, area residents could see some relief. Jones, at 12 feet wide, handles two-lane traffic, including school buses, and connects with Gainesville Street, which also is narrow and needs improvements of its own.
“Human lives are at stake here,” said Ann-Elizabeth Jones, a Tide Water resident, to the council.
The project, estimated to cost $16,000, calls for making Jones a one-way street from between Gainesville Street and Lorimar Court.
Jones would be two-way between Lorimar and Mitchell, where a slight realignment would occur.
City Manager Bill Andrew said the project would result in increased traffic on Gainesville Street, which needs milling and repaving that could shoot the costs up another $40,000 or so.
James Riker, the city planner, presented a second option to council that would widen Jones Road to 22 feet along the entire stretch, making it suitable for two-way traffic. Costs, not including right of way, would run about $220,000.
Andrew said it was possible to work in the cheaper project next fiscal year, which begins July 1, but the city would have to come up with a more creative approach — one taking several years — on the $220,000 project.
Council members heard from another Tide Water resident, Patty Chirico, who suggested closing the Jones Road entrance altogether, leaving only one entrance but creating more badly needed parking spaces for the neighborhood.
Chirico also conceded that option might not fly with some residents.
One opponent was Jones, seated two rows behind her. “I’m concerned about that. ... We’d be locked in.”
Council members ended up voting 3-2 on going with the cheaper option, with Diane Hirling casting her first tie-breaking vote in her four-plus years as mayor.
Councilman Chris Fetterman said he wanted to hear from more than just a handful of residents before making a final decision.
Councilwoman Tara Richards also cast a no vote.
The property between Tide Water and Lights Ferry Road had been planned for a town-home community before the economy collapsed.
Now, it is in bank hands, said city officials, who were directed by council to see if they could research the possibility of a connector.
Councilman Mike Miller asked Riker if he believed the $16,000 improvement would make Jones Road safer.
“Yes, I think so,” Riker said. “... Is it as safe as it could be? Probably not.”