GAINESVILLE - In a heavily debated discussion, the Hall County Commission voted 3-2 to rescind a vote from February 2013 that renamed Friendship Road from I-985 to SR 211 as Lanier Islands Parkway.
A crowd of blue-shirted citizens (see picture at right) turned out to the meeting to support the Lanier Islands Parkway name, although only one, Shannon Gilreath, took the podium to speak.
He said he has worked for Lanier Islands for 19 years, and keeping the name on the roadway would "enhance the awareness" within the community for the business, which produces millions of dollars in the local economy.
Many neighbors along the road, however, said the signage along interstates 85 and 985 provide more than enough direction for tourists and families to find the resort; they also said the community should not bend to the will of a single business.
"You don't have to live in Hall County, or on Friendship Road, to oppose bullying from a tyrant trying to impose his will on the public," said Chris Puckett.
Ken Cochran, who ran for Commission Post 1 unsuccessfully against Commissioner Kathy Cooper, said he's happy for the historical aspect of the decision.
"I'm overwhelmed...one thing (Cooper and I) agreed upon was that we would stand by these people and try to help them out, and thank God for the Commission. They've done it, and I'm proud of them for that," said Cochran, who lives in Flowery Branch.
He added that he served as president of the Hall County Historical Society for six years, and changing the name from Friendship Road to Lanier Islands Parkway diminished the historical value of the area.
"We lose historical sites constantly. By this (vote) happening this way, we've kept the Friendship community. We've kept the access to the old cemeteries (as well)," said Cochran.
He wasn't the only one making pleas based on ancestry, either.
"My ancestors are in those graveyards, but if they could be here (at the commission meeting), they would fill this room up," said Mark Puckett, who said he left the community and now lives elsewhere.
Others, like Brian Rochester, say the name change doesn't take anything else away.
"The reality is that decades ago, the Friendship community changed. Just like (Mark) Puckett said, he left. The farmers left," said Rochester, adding that Hall County gets a bad image if they are resistant to change.
Commission Chairman Dick Mecum, District 1 Commissioner Kathy Cooper, and District 4 Commissioner Jeff Stowe voted in favor of restoring the Friendship Road name.
District 2 Commissioner Billy Powell, and District 3 Commissioner Scott Gibbs voted to keep it where it is.
"I've been threatened in person with how I vote (on this issue), but I will always vote with what I think is best for the entire county," said Powell.
Cooper said she agreed with the statement Powell made, but also sent a pointed comment towards Rochester.
"I'm the farmer that stayed," said Cooper.
No word on how soon before signage in the area is changed.