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Tiny Rest Haven is at crossroads between history and progress
New Road, Bufords influence are hamlets future
Angels of Earth owner Billy Angel has seen many changes throughout the years in Rest Haven. He is aware of the road-widening project that will put a sidewalk directly in front of his store front. The Ga. 13 road widening from Buford to Lanier Islands Parkway/Ga. 347 in South Hall could start late this fall or spring 2017.

Landy McDaniel hasn’t seen much change in his 33 years pastoring the church that sits atop a hill above Rest Haven, a tiny city straddling Gwinnett and Hall counties.

“There’s just a whole lot more used car lots in it,” he said.

Car lots and other businesses now dominate about a 1-mile stretch of Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13, which threads through the center of the town. A few homes are scattered off side streets and there are remnants of a former town — including an old shotgun-style cinder block building that once served as city hall.

But changes are coming, as the town, incorporated in the 1930s, slowly becomes become part of neighbor Buford and plans to widen Atlanta Highway move forward.

The city has a history of honky-tonks, restaurants with carhops and filling stations.

But over the years, the city “didn’t grow, didn’t annex, didn’t do anything, and then Buford just surrounded them on both sides,” said Phillip Beard, Buford Board of Commissioners chairman. “We encircle (the city) now. Rest Haven is an island, really.”

Through the state legislature, Buford incorporated part of the city’s Gwinnett land and “we’re drawing the paperwork up now to further that this year,” Beard said. “I don’t know if we’ll get it done this year or not.”

Buford also manages special purpose local option sales tax revenues for the city. In December, Hall officials, realizing that Rest Haven had been left out of talks for a SPLOST vote that passed in March, agreed to give the town $22,555, a figure based on population estimates.

“We agreed to spend this money in Rest Haven’s old territorial limits,” Beard said, “so it won’t be anything we gain any windfall from. It’ll be spent on what few streets they’ve got — and they don’t have but three or four streets.”

Buford has generally “looked after” Rest Haven over the years, Beard said.

“They just don’t have a staff or anything,” he said. “If they’ve got a ditch that needs cleaning out, we clean it out.”

The town still has a mayor, Kenneth Waycaster, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

Georgia Municipal Association spokeswoman Amy Henderson said her only contact for Rest Haven — not a GMA member — was City Clerk Linda Greenwood, who also couldn’t be reached for comment.

One of the city’s biggest changes lies on the horizon, with the 1.65-mile Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 widening from Buford to Lanier Islands Parkway/Ga. 347 in South Hall.

Construction on the $10 million project could start late this fall or spring 2017, Georgia Department of Transportation district spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

The DOT is buying right of way for the road, which will feature sidewalks and bike lanes, she said.

Billy Angel, owner of Angels of Earth, a landscaping supply company, will be affected by the project.

His business operates out of a house that, because of its historical nature (it’s been dubbed locally as “the preacher’s house”), will be spared from bulldozers.

Still, the road will run close by, with a sidewalk planned mere yards from the front door.

Angel doesn’t particularly mind the traffic — and there already is plenty, as cars constantly zoom past his location off Bryant Road.

“When I lived here in the ’80s, there was nothing here,” he said. “Over the years, it got busier and busier. This was like country ... then, next thing you know, it was like, ‘Boom.’”