Thursday March 21st, 2019 10:18PM

Gainesville Council approves alcohol sales amendment; hears differing opinions about recent traffic study

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter
  Contact Editor

GAINESVILLE – Tuesday evening’s meeting of the Gainesville City Council may have been very brief, but two things did clearly present themselves during the quarter-hour session: one, not everyone supports the “Sunday Brunch Bill”; and two, not everyone wants to give up on the idea of constructing a bypass road around the congested intersection of Dawsonville Highway and McEver Road.

Both of these items were part of Thursday’s city council work session.

The vote to amend the city’s alcohol ordinance moving the Sunday serving time up 90-minutes from 12:30 p.m. to 11:00 a.m. had one dissenting vote. 

Councilman George Wangemann voted against the earlier start time saying that his vote represents the segment of city residents that do not approve of the change.  Wangemann has said in the past that the results of the November referendum weren’t unanimous so he feels his “No” vote represents that portion of voters who disapprove of the amendment.  

Also at Thursday’s work session city leaders heard the results of an independent study examining the economic feasibility of building a connector road (or roads) in an effort to alleviate traffic volume at the busy Dawsonville Highway/McEver Road intersection. 

Infrastructure consulting firm RS&K determined that the cost-to-benefit ratio of a connector road would be negative and advised against such a move.

That, according to city leaders, would almost guarantee the Georgia Department of Transportation not supporting such a project.  City Manager Bryan Lackey said at the work session, “Obviously the cost/benefit ratio being negative showed that we don’t need to pursue this anymore; Georgia DOT, I don’t think, is ever going to put their support behind a project that has a negative cost/benefit ratio.”

Clyde Morris of Gainesville, however, isn’t so sure.

During public comment Morris told city council he was surprised to hear the consultant’s recommendation against building a bypass.  He said he doesn’t quite know how to take the news.  “I don’t honestly know whether a bypass is the best solution, perhaps it is not, (but) until I see the methodology and the data I won’t know whether the consultant’s report is even worth the paper that it’s printed on.”

“But I do know a few things,” Morris continued, “residents want traffic solutions more than they want GDOT cost savings, and we don’t want to wait a decade for them.  I don’t think you do either.”

“I would request that the council recommit itself publicly to getting the traffic problems solved as expeditiously as possible, and if that means we have to move forward without GDOT money, that’s something that we’re going to ask the council to do,” Morris said in closing.

Mandy Harris followed Morris to the podium and echoed his comments.  “I’d just like to say I agree 100-percent with what Clyde said.”  She asked council to make the study results more accessible and to allow the public time to comment.

Lackey said the final decision on a connector road rests with the Gainesville Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization (GHMPO).  The city, according to Lackey, simply wanted to release the study results as soon as possible, reiterating that the city is still open to all options.

“There will be at least two more public meetings on this,” Lackey explained to the council.  “It is an MPO study so it does have to go through their process.  Staff just wanted you to hear first about this news because of some of the surprising results about the cost/benefit ratio.”  

“The data will all be available through that process,” Lackey said.  “There’s a lot more time for the community to get a feel and an understanding of the results of that study.”

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