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Residents vote on new look for city
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The committee to revitalize downtown Dawsonville has held its first town hall meeting to present ideas to the public. One of the proposed improvements includes opening a bed and breakfast one block from the downtown square.

Approximately 50 people attended the event and used hand-held devices to vote on drawings and ideas to improve the look, safety, and vitality of what has been called the heart of Dawson County.

Danny Bivins from the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia led the presentation.

"This is a work program," he said. "Nothing has been decided, and we are looking at all our options. We are also looking at funding that is available to make something happen."

Among the ideas city and county residents voted on were setting aside green space for parks, renovating a two-story home for a bed and breakfast, constructing new buildings for "in-fill" between existing stand-alone units, planting trees, constructing more sidewalks to increase walk-ability, and even making use of the hillside in front of City Hall for built-in slides and a children's playground.

The bed and breakfast idea is gaining momentum quickly.

"The property belonged to George David, and the family is willing to work with us," said Nick Nicodemus, president of the Dawsonville Development Authority and a member of the revitalization committee.

Bivins said that making the best use of available space is key.

"We've identified several areas around the square where you can eliminate asphalt and put in grass and trees without having to acquire property," he said. "It's such a small thing that can make a big difference in how things look and feel."

Parks and green space were top priorities for several attendees.

"Right now, the downtown is pretty bad," said Myrna Ruiz, a resident of Dawson County for four years. "But I liked what I saw, especially green space and trees. It's good to start with the basic stuff that improves the look without too much money."

Resident Lenny Squeo agreed.

"This is really a positive way to go," he said. "Parks provide places that are safe and give kids something to do."

Both residents said they spend a lot of money in Gainesville dining out.

"If there were better restaurants downtown, I'd spend more time and money there," Squeo added, although he admitted there were some downtown he hadn't tried.

In addition to adding restaurants, shopping and parks, other parts of the revitalization efforts include renovating a two-story home near the square for a bed and breakfast.

Residents expressed concerns about heavy truck traffic and speeding through downtown Dawsonville.

"I tried to cross the street and almost got killed," said longtime resident Arlene McClure. "The downtown area just isn't safe."

Both concerns are being addressed by members of the revitalization committee who are working directly with GDOT.

The next step is for a booklet to be completed and published with full-color drawings and descriptions. A publication date has not been released.