The Hall County Planning Commission has recommended denial of a county government proposal to change the name of Friendship Road to Lanier Islands Parkway.
In a Tuesday night vote, the board members cited overwhelming opposition by residents as they gave reasons for their recommendation.
“The purpose of these public hearings is to hear from the public, and I hear them, and I tried to come into this with an open mind this evening,” said Planning Commissioner Chris Braswell. “To me, it does not make sense to change the name at this time.”
The issue now goes before the Hall County Board of Commissioners. Public hearings are set for Feb. 14 and 28, and the commission is set to take its final vote on Feb. 28.
Those meetings will take place at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville.
Friendship Road now runs between Interstate 985 and Spout Springs Road, but as part of a Georgia Department of Transportation project to widen Ga. 347 — which Friendship runs along — it would be extended to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.
At one time, Friendship, along with Holiday Road and what is still Thompson Mill Road, ran between Lake Lanier Islands resort and Ga. 211.
That entire stretch is Ga. 347, with DOT widenings under way in two projects between McEver Road and Ga. 211. Also planned is an improvement project between McEver Road and the resort.
In January 2010, the board of commissioners renamed Friendship and Holiday roads to Lanier Islands Parkway between the resort and I-985.
Brian K. Rochester of Gainesville engineering firm Rochester & Associates spoke at Tuesday’s meeting in favor of renaming the rest of Ga. 347 as Lanier Islands Parkway.
“The entire length of Ga. 347 will have one name, one consistency from end to end of the project,” he said.
“We think that’s a very good thing for Hall County and we think it’s great for the development of that area — one of the fastest-growing areas in the entire country.”
Mack Burgess, director of the proposed Lanier Islands Parkway Community Improvement District, was another supporter of the new name.
“When people hear the name of Lanier Islands Parkway, we want them to think of a thriving economic area with a lot of development,” he said.
A stream of residents spoke against the proposal, including a few not living off the road.
Vicki Bentley, who lives on Gaines Ferry Road, which is off McEver Road in West Hall, said she supported the 2010 name change but not the current proposal.
“You’re comparing apples to oranges,” she said, noting that Ga. 347 between the resort and I-985 is heavily commercial while the remaining portion is mostly residential.
She said she also would fear that many people would get lost going to Lake Lanier Islands if they’re trying to reach it by I-985 and both sides of the interstate are named Lanier Islands Parkway.
“Right now, it’s very clear — the islands are to your left if you’re going north on I-985 and Friendship is to your right,” Bentley said.
Also, Braselton Mayor Bill Orr opposes the proposal, as part of Ga. 347 lies inside the fast-growing town.
He wasn’t one of the speakers, but he sent a Jan. 7 letter to Hall officials saying that Chateau Elan Winery and Resort has notified the city “that it objects strenuously to having a road terminating near its entrance named for another resort, and we understand and echo their concerns.”
He suggested that the county consider naming Ga. 347 Lanier Islands Parkway from I-985 to Spout Springs Road and Chateau Elan Parkway from Spout Springs to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.
“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.
Planning Commission Chairman Don Smallwood didn’t address Braselton’s suggestion directly, but he did say, “We’re proud of Lake Lanier Islands and Chateau Elan and we need them both, but most of all, we need the citizens of Hall County.
“And we need the people who live on Friendship Road. I don’t believe this is the time to uproot that and start moving that all around.”