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Proposed tax would help Flowery Branch redevelopment
Funds to go to new City Hall, community center
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SPLOST VII vote

The Times this week will preview projects proposed under the special purpose local option sales tax VII. Today we spotlight Flowery Branch government projects.

Early voting: Begins Monday at the Hall County Elections Office, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Election Day: March 17

A visit to downtown Flowery Branch will often provide a view of a city employee crossing Main Street, going from one government office to another on opposite sides of the street.

If an upcoming referendum passes, officials plan to use funds from the special purpose local option sales tax to consolidate government offices into one building.

Total projected revenue for SPLOST VII is $158 million, with Flowery Branch set to receive $4.27 million. The bulk of that, $1.62 million, is slated to go toward construction of a new City Hall and public meeting space.

“We need the space,” Mayor Mike Miller said. “Our police station is very inadequate at this point to serve the needs of our citizens.”

Along with extra space for city employees, a new City Hall would also provide a gathering place for Flowery Branch residents.

“It creates, obviously, a City Hall office suite that we can move our offices into, but it also creates a community center that we want to use for the public,” City Manager Bill Andrew said. “It would also have a park behind the City Hall as a public space, and it would also create the angled parking around that entire block.”

This new downtown addition is part of Flowery Branch’s redevelopment plan, approved by council members in 2014.

If SPLOST VII passes, the five-year tax would go into effect July 1.

“I think we would start interviewing architects and engineers pretty quickly,” Andrew said in a previous interview. “We’ve already talked to two different funding sources for a loan to begin the City Hall construction if SPLOST passes. We’ve talked to the Georgia Municipal Association — they do a bidding process — and we’ve talked to a bank.”

Along with making it more convenient for employees, a new City Hall location would free up space along Main Street for commercial business in the downtown area.

“Many people want to see good, quality development in the downtown,” City Planner John McHenry said in a previous interview. “They want to keep what they like about this in terms of it looking good, in terms of some open space and in terms of architectural integrity. They just want to see more development take place.

“I think that ... doing City Hall along with the roads around it and the parking plan is a total game changer for the downtown,” McHenry added. “It would really push so many of these goals in terms of getting us off of Main Street (and) basically doubling the amount of retail we have on Main Street.”

The planned community meeting space, or a “multipurpose facility” as Miller described it, would help drive even more foot traffic to the downtown area.

There’s also $1.11 million allocated in SPLOST funds for roadwork, with a plan to bring in more access to the historic downtown district. Around $378,000 of that is slated to add sidewalks and angled parking along Railroad Avenue, from Main Street to Chestnut Street.

“The total downtown (redevelopment) plan includes an addition of a bunch of parking spaces to accommodate the retail growth and the events that would be in that community center,” Miller said.

Also in SPLOST VII funds, the city is planning a nearly $347,000 extension of Pine Street, running from Railroad Avenue to Church Street.

And there’s $1.31 million set aside for water and sewer infrastructure maintenance, and an additional $231,000 for police cars.

“One thing we’re kind of excited about are these electronic meters,” Andrew said. “They would accomplish several things. Staff would come in the morning and the computer would automatically flag any customers that seem to be using more water than what would be customary, and that way we can contact them and just let them know they may have a leak.”

The vote for SPLOST VII is set for March 17, with early voting beginning Monday.

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