Forces for and against a proposal to change the name of Friendship Road to Lanier Islands Parkway remained intact as the issue reached the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Thursday night.
Commissioners mostly listened as supporters and opponents hashed out the issue. The same people had argued their cases in January before the Hall County Planning Commission, which recommended denial.
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.
The proposal, initiated by South Hall Commissioner Craig Lutz, calls for that entire stretch to be named Lanier Islands Parkway, which is the name of the rest of Ga. 347 running from I-985 to the Lake Lanier Islands resort.
“There’s a lot of growth in this area,” said Brian K. Rochester of Gainesville-based Rochester & Associates, which does engineering work for the resort. “And as growth comes, areas change and we think this (new name) is a great thing for ... the future of Hall County.”
He also said “every major corridor in Hall County, typically, as it comes into or out of a major city, has a common name that is used.
“This would be the only one that would have multiple names on a major route, and this will become a major gateway into Hall County.”
Mack Burgess, director of the proposed Lanier Islands Parkway Community Improvement District, was another supporter of the new name.
“I see our CID as a component of a much larger comprehensive effort to galvanize our community ... and our supporters are really confident we can achieve this without taking anything away from the heritage or from the identity of the Friendship community.”
The community’s deep roots — families have lived in the area since the mid-1800s — have been a common theme in opponents’ comments concerning the proposal.
That was echoed again Thursday night.
“We have a long history in the area, and we don’t want to give it up,” said Teresa Owens.
She said residents have submitted a petition with the names of 811 people.
“This change will impact every resident and business in our area,” Owens said. “There’s a cost to the taxpayers to pay for new signage and there’s a cost to businesses to have to change business cards, stationery, checks, letterhead and advertising.”
Pamela Puckett took issue with the argument that one name would provide consistency.
“The continuity to the roadway is still there — it’s State Route 347,” she said.
She also rejected the idea that the name change would bring more visitors to the islands.
“When have you or anyone you know based their decision on the location of a vacation or a special event on the name of a road?” Puckett asked.
The last public hearing on the issue is set for Feb. 28, when the commissioners will cast their votes.
“This is a very important decision and we take your comments to heart, and this is going to be difficult for us,” said Commission Chairman Richard Mecum.