Growth is creeping Lula’s way, but when and where — and how to respond — are big questions for the northeast Hall County city.
“We need to start prioritizing things and putting them in place,” City Manager Dennis Bergin told Lula City Council during a retreat at City Hall Tuesday.
The meeting was part brainstorming session, with council members discussing priorities and possible ways to respond.
“(Ga.) 365 sewer is a must, when I see what’s happening a little south of here,” Mayor Milton Turner said. “If you want to continue downtown (development), parking should be a priority.”
Councilman Garnett Smith said he like to see Lula annex more land, put in sewer and then “get some growth.”
“I suggest to you that’s a timeline type of deal,” Bergin said, speaking particularly of sewer infrastructure. “Timing is the key. You build up too soon and it’ll just sit there. If you don’t build fast enough, Hall County is going to run right past you.”
He said the city is looking at a plan to phase in sewer throughout its service area, then approach property owners and say, “Let me show you how your property would be served by sewer — all utilities for that matter.”
“That (effort) is going to be a real benefit to us,” Bergin said.
One of the “biggest impacts” on Lula’s future growth, Bergin said, is Lanier Technical College’s planned campus off Ga. 365 and Howard Road.
The 95-acre campus is set to open in the fall of 2018.
Another influence is the 500-acre Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365, just north of White Sulphur Road. The park houses the Georgia Poultry Laboratory, and Kubota Manufacturing of America plans to begin production out of a 500,000-square-foot building in spring 2017.
And earlier this summer, council members cited potential economic development as a key reason for putting on the Nov. 8 ballot a referendum asking Lula voters if they favor being allowed to buy liquor at restaurants and other establishments.
Lula itself is seeing some improvements, particularly downtown, where the city has completed another phase of landscaping and sidewalk work along Main Street. Also, a couple of restaurants are preparing to open.
And Norfolk Southern is planning to repair the historic Cobb Street bridge off Main Street.
In July, Lula officials visited Sugar Hill in North Gwinnett to see how the city has grown over time — and how the city has responded.
Sugar Hill Mayor Steve Edwards “sees a correlation between Lula and where we are today and where Sugar Hill was 10-15 years ago, when opportunity began to knock and they had to start making some tough decisions,” Bergin said earlier.
He mentioned the trip at Tuesday’s retreat.
“When they set their goals, they weren’t afraid to amend them over time,” Bergin said.
Traffic also is an issue for Lula, with Main Street at Athens Street serving as a crossroads for motorists and the town straddling Hall and Banks counties.
With public safety a worry, officials are looking at possible improvements to a narrow, graffiti-laden tunnel under tracks on Homer Road, jutting off Main Street in what is a link from one side of town to the other.
“Our biggest problem is traffic,” Councilman Lamb Griffin said. “We’ve gotten chicken trucks running all day and all night.”