CORNELIA - A request by Fieldale Farms to close portions of two Cornelia streets adjacent to its processing plant would make the area safer, company officials say.
They shared their vision with the public Tuesday night.
"We conducted a public hearing tonight based on a request from Fieldale Farms to close a portion of Wayside Street that runs in front of their plant and a portion of Faye Street that runs beside their plant," said Cornelia City Manager Donald Anderson following Tuesday night's city commission meeting. "We received input for and against the proposal, then we closed the public hearing. Now there's some legalities that need to be worked out, and they need to get us a little more in-depth plan because some of the concerns are about landscaping and what it will look like."
The proposal includes closing Wayside Street from Irvin Street to Faye Street, and closing Faye Street from Wayside Street to Fieldale's rendering office at the bottom of the hill.
"Every day we have 1,400 people crossing Wayside Street," said Fieldale Farms President Tom Hensley. "If any of you have ever driven through there at 3:00 in the afternoon, you know you're in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"We'll pay for every cent," Hensley said. "We'll put in the cul-de-sac [on Wayside Street at Faye Street], we'll put in the gates [at Wayside and Irvin Street]."
Faye Street is only 15 feet wide, yet some 35 tractor-trailer trucks use the street every day, leaving no room to meet a car.
By closing the requested portions of those streets, Fieldale will be able to bring its trucks in on Industrial Boulevard, onto what then will be access-controlled property and across to Faye Street on Fieldale property. It also will take any tractor-trailer trucks off Irvin Street, Hensley said.
During the public hearing, Cornelia resident Joe Goss said he thought closing the roads is the best idea in many years.
Some residents who live on the South Main Street end of Wayside Street said the closure would force them to go out of their way to reach the grocery store.
A nonresident property owner on Wayside Street asked for more time to determine how his family estate would be affected.
"All in all, the businesses in the area are all for it," Anderson said. "I've talked to Barron & Brothers and Waste-Away and GMS, and they think it's the greatest thing, so I think it will move forward now. It just makes sense. Fieldale is so large and such a traffic nightmare. Their parking lot - there's issues there with law that our police department has had to address in the past, and this will close off the entire complex. Like they said, it will be one way in, one way out, you'll have to go by their security guard to get in and out. I just think it's a win/win."
Once the streets are closed and the complex is fenced with access control, Fieldale plans a three-phase expansion that ultimately would add 200,000 square feet to the Cornelia processing plant. That expansion would take place in what now is Wayside Street.
Phase 1 calls for an additional 42,000 square feet, followed by a 30,000-square-foot Phase 2, and a 127,000-square-foot Phase 3.
"They ultimately want to expand their plant and operation and create more jobs, so obviously that's a major plus to the city," Anderson said.
While no potential employment figures were given during the meeting, Anderson said, "I think we're looking between 500 and 1,000 jobs."