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Roads reflect racing

Name change doesn’t suit some in the city

POSTED: August 7, 2013 4:00 a.m.

Formerly-numbered streets in Dawsonville will be renamed, though the move doesn't appear to be quite as popular as first thought.

The city council voted Monday to change the names of First through Fourth streets as part of an effort to revitalize downtown by incorporating Dawsonville's racing heritage.

One of the first steps in the plan was to rename the streets in honor of eight men with local ties to victory at Daytona's famed race track.

Among those who will be celebrated on street signs are Ted Chester, Bill Elliott, Roy Hall, Bernard Long, Harry Melling, Raymond Parks, Lloyd Seay and Gober Sosebee.

Before a vote on the proposal, however, Councilwoman Angie Smith shared with her colleagues concerns she had heard from residents.

"I think it would be remiss of me to not let the council know what I have been hearing ...," she said. "The business owners are concerned about the amount of ... money it will take to change their addresses. They don't feel like they have been given a fair opportunity to speak on these matters."

Smith also noted that some residents were concerned about how fast the city had moved on the issue and the lack of warning they received.

At a meeting last month, the city presented the idea of the road name changes to the public, but was counseled by City Attorney Dana Miles that the council would need to take official action before it could go into effect.

"I'm concerned about ... the way this was handled. In our July meeting, this was presented here as this was going to happen," she said. "I thought, at that time, we had a little time, that there would be a public hearing or some sort of outlet for the public. I even requested a meeting and asked for that to happen."

According to Smith, it wasn't until the information came out in the newspaper that residents began calling.

"That's when I found out that in letters dated June 21, the marshal ... announced new addresses and that this would happen," she said. "On June 21, it hadn't even been presented in the city council meeting. Nobody knew about it."

According to David McKee, the county's planning and development director, Deputy Marshal Robbie Irving sent letters to property owners alerting them that their addresses had been changed on the tax map and for 911 purposes. The letters were dated June 21.

"The newspaper even said that the city had already ordered signs and had plans for formal unveilings within the next few weeks," Smith said.

Councilman Chris Gaines said that there had been several outlets for public comment.

"There has been extensive opportunity for public input on the revitalization plans and have had a terrific response," he said. "This has been a part of this plan and many open conversations have been had including an open town hall meeting allowing opportunity for people to speak. I have not received any negative comments from my constituents."

Smith countered that she had no memory of the revitalization committee discussing the idea.

"I've been at the steering committee meetings and no street names were ever brought up," she said. "I did have several property owners apologize and say they received their merchant meeting letters but did not have a chance to be there. They wanted to be involved, but the timing did not work out for them."

She suggested naming the streets for influential members of the community instead of racing legends.

"The people that I have talked with believe that we are selling our souls for a couple of tourism dollars," she said. "When you stand at the courthouse in Dawsonville and you look north and you look south and you look east and you look west, the racing that you see is that car sitting in the median, with the four flat tires.

"You look north, south, east and west and you see buildings built by people who have contributed to this town. There needs to be a compromise and there needs to be a place for both."

Smith then formally proposed that the city delay its vote until October to allow a public hearing in September.

"Nobody is saying stop or don't do it at all. People are only asking for this to be put off for a month or two to get their bearings on the situation," she said. "I'm hearing people say that they would like an opportunity to speak."

When the motion failed to draw a second, Mayor James Grogan declared it dead, which allowed Councilman Mike Sosebee to make a motion to approve the renaming.

"I can understand where Angie is coming from about recognizing these people ... We can put these people's names on the buildings and that'll be fine, but that won't draw tourism," Sosebee said.

He added that having a photo taken by the Bill Elliott street sign would.

According to Gaines, renaming the streets brings value to the city.

"Whereas now these streets are just letters and numbers the names will add character and encourage more pass thru traffic to stop and engage in our city," he said. "This helps create a vibrant and active business community that will ensure its vitality for the next generation."

Gaines said the goal of the revitalization plan is to find creative ways to weave in the area's racing history.

"However, I do agree we also need to highlight the incredible accomplishments of those that built and have contributed so much to this city in other ways," he said.

Because of this, Gaines, offered to amendment Sosebee's motion by requesting the city develop a comprehensive plan to include ideas such as plaques and other street names as they move forward with the revitalization.

Sosebee accepted the amendment to his motion with Gaines seconding it. The vote was 2-1, with Smith voting against and Councilman Jason Power absent from the meeting.

 

 

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