GILMER, Ga. — The Ellijay City Council met Oct. 18 to make a decision regarding the proposed test period for closure of parking on the downtown roundabout. Reese Sanford spoke for the Downtown Development Authority, and gave the council the DDA’s new recommendation.
Sanford addressed the council saying, “As requested at the downtown traffic workshops [that] city hall had this summer, the DDA’s been doing due diligence on the roundabout parking.” Sanford noted that the DDA recommendation is a product of consultation with the joint development authority, the police department, the city council, and local business owners.
He explained that the consideration first arose as a way to improve public safety in the downtown area, citing three incidents on the roundabout in the last year: “Third party reports have suggested that the traffic congestion downtown is a long term business risk. The easiest solution is to move parking away from traffic and away from the pedestrians.” He also mentioned that the DDA has already requested more signs to direct visitors to safer parking locations, like behind Dalton State College. However, when he went to check, Sanford says, “Of 230 [parking spots], only 32 were in use. If we can guide cars to this lot, we can alleviate a lot of our issues.”
The DDA, as Sanford brings up, had previously published a recommendation to shut down all roundabout parking; however, “as a result of the September town hall, we have revised our original proposal … and this is the result of the community input we received at this meeting.” Sanford then explained the revised proposal: “We will not touch the nine spaces, which includes the one handicap space, on the north side of the roundabout … Our revised proposal is to barricade parking on the nine spaces on the south side of the roundabout, and the parallel spaces on River St., just after River Street Tavern. The businesses in these areas are supportive of it, and are very interested in seeing what they can find in the trial period.”
Sanford noted that parking is not being reduced, only reallocated. He says the period might even increase business activity, suggesting that outdoor dining, artists, or walking tours could occupy the new space: “If this test period goes well, and leads to a desire for a long term change, paving over the spaces is not the only solution.”
Sanford finished, “We are proposing a test period from Oct. 23 to Jan. 2. The spaces will be blocked off 7 days per week.” He says then the DDA will host another town hall, and convene to settle on a final opinion to present to the city council.
After his presentation, the council members took the opportunity to raise their concerns. Kathryn Lancey spoke first, wondering why the DDA revised their original proposal. Sanford responded, “Why force an experiment on some people, when there’s others that are offering their space?”
Tom Crawford brought up the community saying, “I’m kind of astonished that you’re making a recommendation after the town hall was a resounding ‘no.’” Sanford replied by mentioning that not all citizens go to town halls and the businesses are willing, but Crawford continued: “If you’re gonna do a test period … why on God’s earth do it at the busiest season of the year?” Both Sanford and the council members discussed these concerns, but ultimately decided to close parking.
When time to vote on the issue, Kevin Pritchitt asked to amend, saying, “I make a motion to [limit the] downtown parking elimination test for River St. only.” The motion was unanimously passed, and the parking spaces on River St. are planned for closure beginning Oct 23.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Highway 382 has seen construction on the roundabout project to connect a direct route to Highway 515 for nearly a year. The Georgia Department of Transportation project began in the latter half of 2019 despite the COVID-19 outbreaks and is still continuing today.
However, the project has hit the point now where all traffic has been moved from the old route passing directly beside Green’s Country Store to the new path curving off just past Dollar General, if you’re traveling towards Ellijay.
The stop signs at the old intersection have been removed and traffic is now fully engaging the roundabout with the Highway 382 extension in use as well.
Utilizing the extension that now crosses Old Highway 5, via the roundabout, and continues straight towards Highway 515 instead of merging with Old Highway 5 before a a small connector split off to intersect 515 at Powersports Drive.
The new direct path intersects Highway closer to town at the Gun Pro Shop. However, the intersection is not a traffic stop.
Instead, drivers traveling to 515 along the new connection are forced to turn right (Southbound) away from Ellijay before using a turn lane a few hundred feet down the road in order to turn back towards Ellijay.
The project reaches all the way back to 2016 when the Gilmer Board of Commissioners and the City of Ellijay received letters from GDOT about the coming project. Original seeking letters of support, discussion later turned towards lighting and maintenance costs for the roundabout itself as GDOT wanted the county or city to take over those costs while they continued paving maintenance for 382 itself.
Current understanding is that these are the remaining steps in the project as GDOT has put some lighting on the roundabout for night traffic, but it was not seen operational over the weekend.
While the project continues these steps and clean-up, the larger portion of the project is now complete and has begun traffic flow only in the last couple of days. GDOT stated earlier this year that expectations were to complete the project over the summer. The project has seen delays through weather over the last year, but no specific details are available at this time on whether returning COVID-19 numbers or increasingly heavy rainfall in some weeks were the cause of any major delays.