An issue over city streetlight charges may have led Fred Richards to local politics, but his pet project has more to do with water and sand than bulbs and light poles.
Richards, elected to City Council’s Post 3 seat in an April 3 runoff, said he “doesn’t know the feasibility of it,” but he would like to see Flowery Branch City Park become a family destination.
“I’d like to see the fishing pier put back and the beach re-established,” he said, speaking Thursday morning at the park, which sits at the end of Mitchell Street and faces Lake Lanier.
“I think this would attract more people into the old town section and would have a carryover effect to businesses on Main Street. One of my goals in becoming a councilman was to attract retail and commercial activity to the Main Street area, and I think this would all tie in together.”
Richards was drawn to the political scene over streetlight assessment districts.
As longtime treasurer of Madison Creek subdivision, he and other residents complained in 2010 to City Council that they were paying a high rate to Georgia Power for lights while the city was covering the costs for others.
City officials have continued to discuss how and whether to charge residents to cover streetlight costs.
But what really prompted Richards to seek the seat vacated last year by Kris Yardley was the chance that “the entire City Council and mayor were going to come from Sterling.”
Sterling on the Lake off Spout Springs Road is one of Hall’s
largest residential communities, with some 2,000 homes planned on 1,000 acres.
“I felt like we needed to keep some kind of representation for this side of town.”
Madison Creek is off Radford Road, between McEver and Jim Crow roads.
As part of a campaign that began in the fall, Richards began talking to residents about needs and wishes for the town.
He said older residents spoke fondly of City Park and recalled how it served as a nice spot for fishing and picnics.
The park has part of a beachhead, as well as concrete steps leading to a tucked-away part of the shoreline.
Otherwise, there are some fairly new amenities, including an arbor and benches, picnic tables and a playground.
It’s not in the city, but officials are “moving forward on the annexation,” City Planner James Riker said. “We hope to submit an annexation application to (Hall) County sometime in the next few weeks.”
Richards has other interests in the South Hall city, including improving roads, sewer and an aging and problematic stormwater system.
“We have to keep developing infrastructure because when you have it in place, it makes your vacant property more attractive to developers,” he said.
And he believes growth is coming.
“We’re in a quiet period right now because of the economy and housing market, but that will return. It may be another two or three years,” he said. “Just by our location, we’re the next in line to get developed. Urban sprawl is going to keep creeping north.”
He said he would like the city to develop while retaining a rural feel.
After all, that’s what drew him to the area in 2005.
The Lake Forest, Ill., native and his wife, Hinda, had been living in New Jersey, where he owned a brokerage appraisal and property management company. Their son had moved to Atlanta.
“We knew he wasn’t coming back to New Jersey, so we followed him down here,” Richards said.
“We looked in Forsyth, Gwinnett and North Fulton (counties), and we chose Flowery Branch because of the mix of rural and urban ... and the proximity to the lake.”
These days, he’s focused on key government issues, including resolving the streetlight and stormwater issues.
“The main thing is I want to represent the people of Flowery Branch to the best of my ability,” Richards said.
“That’s No. 1 on the list.”