Positioned on busy Interstate 85 and in four counties, Braselton’s growth is certainly having an economic and geographic effect as it starts to sprawl.
But it’s also having political impact, as the two seats up on the Braselton Town Council for the Nov. 5 election are contested, with candidates citing heavy development and snarling traffic as primary issues.
The races have drawn five candidates — two incumbents and three challengers.
Braselton is in Hall, Gwinnett, Barrow and Jackson counties. A couple of its fastest-growing areas in South Hall or affecting it are on Spout Springs Roads and Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211.
Officials also believe Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, which is off Friendship Road in South Hall, has helped spur commercial and medical office growth in the area.
Joy Ba sham
Occupation: works for Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation
Political experience: none
Richard M ayberry
Occupation: works in marketing
Political experience: Braselton Town Council member 2005-15
Occupation: works at Liberty MutualPolitical experience: incumbent; she is finishing her first four-year term
Incumbent Becky Richardson is facing two challengers, Joy Basham and Richard Mayberry.
Basham said she has made a point to follow development in the town, taking an active role recently in a developer’s proposal for Reveille, a multi-use 500-acre development off Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 that was approved earlier this year by the Hall County Board of Commissioners.
“I’m just an advocate for smart growth,” she said. “The right research needs to be done
to be able to bring the right things to Braselton. Braselton is a hot area to be in, and developers know it.”
Basham said she’s also concerned about warehouses becoming empty in a less robust economy.
“I think there are ways we can repurpose warehouses,” she said.
Concerning traffic, “I think we are in a crisis, red-alert situation.”
“Can we possibly fast-track some of these improvements that we are doing?”
Mayberry is trying to reclaim a seat on the council, having served 2005-15.
He said he was asked to consider running again, as “there’s been some dissatisfaction as far as how things are going. There are a lot of issues, mainly the rapid growth of the area and handling it properly.”
“We as a town have to be proactive to stay ahead of the growth,” Mayberry said. “I just want to be clear that I’m pro-Braselton. We’ve just got to protect the future by not approving everything.”
One worry is the growth’s impact on infrastructure.
“Ga. 211 gets really congested at times,” he said. “You might get to Atlanta faster. ... It didn’t help to widen Friendship Road without widening Ga. 211.”
Richardson is completing her first four-year term but has lived in the town all her life.
“We know that growth is going to occur,” she said. “The question is how we, as a council, can assure our citizens that growth will be reasonable and measured. It needs to be gradual. A burst of growth will come back to bite us.”
She said the council needs to “start with a neutral position on every proposal, looking at both sides and considering what’s best for Braselton now and in the future.”
The town “is growing very fast and needs strong leadership, with the ability to look at new ideas and smart growth, as well as preserving its unique history and character,” Richardson said.
Tony Fu nari
Occupation: Funari Realty president
Political experience: incumbent; he is finishing his third four-year term
Jim Joed ecke
Occupation: lawyerPolitical experience: none
Longtime incumbent Tony Funari is facing first-time opposition from Jim Joedecke.
Funari, who is finishing his third four-year term, said he was originally talked into running for council by Henry Braselton, one of the late sons of town founder John Oliver Braselton.
“I’ve been enjoying it ever since,” he said.
As the town has grown, it has faced pressing traffic issues, particularly on its main state routes, Ga. 53 and Ga. 211. Ga. 211, also known as Old Winder Highway, flows into South Hall.
Spurring much of the growth is Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton, which sits off Friendship Road, but as the road was widened, “we were stuck with four and six lanes dumping onto a two-lane road,” Funari said.
“Braselton is just going to grow — and it’s about location, location, and we’ve got sewer.”
He said some may disagree, but “we’re trying to have controlled growth.” Also the city is trying to be frugal with its money.
“We build what we need and fund it affordably to serve the citizens, not just impress citizens with grandeur,” Funari said.
Joedecke, a New York native who became rooted in the South after going to law school at the University of Georgia, said he had been involved in community and public events in Braselton before deciding to run.
What propelled him to seek office was “I look at my kids, think about my growing up in a small town, and I want the same (kind of environment) for them. There’s a lot going on here, and I thought I could do some good.”
He wants to see a comprehensive transportation plan, especially given that Braselton is in four counties and experiencing widespread development.
Plus, “I want to see better maintenance of our roadways and rights of way,” Joedecke said. “They should all be maintained in a pristine way.”
Also, he would like to see a “strengthened development code.”
“We were a sleepy little town that now has a development project coming online pretty much every month,” Joedecke said.
He also would like to see a uniform sign ordinance “so we don’t end up with a hodgepodge of neons, LED lights and that kind of stuff.”