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County changes course on Elliott Road project
BOC May 5 2022
County manager David Headley speaks to the Board of Commissioners about Elliott Road at their May 5 work session. - photo by Julia Fechter

After receiving a mixed response from area residents, County Manager David Headley told the Dawson County Board of Commissioners that efforts to improve Elliott Road will likely have to proceed apart from recently-drafted project plans. 

Headley shared the staff recommendation to overlay the road where possible on the eastern or non-residential side, adding a two to four-foot shoulder and pull offs to help improve sight distance. He said the latter would be based more on field determination than a complete redesign, which would incur additional cost. 

He shared that these steps would help “cut down on continuous maintenance with pothole repairs and shoulder grades.”

The roadway, which is close to Lake Lanier in southeastern Dawson County, was the first topic on the commissioners’ May 5 work session agenda. 

Elliott Road is about a mile long, beginning at its intersection with Couch Road and terminating at its hairpin curve, which turns into Sunset Drive. 

Thirty-five parcels border Elliott Road, and Sunset Drive and Ruby Lane provide access to an additional 30 residential properties, Headley said. 

The road’s asphalt width can vary from 12-23 feet, with the right of way ranging from 12-40 feet. For years, residents have voiced concern about overall safety, particularly as it relates to sight distance, alignment and pavement widths. 

Throughout the fall, plans for a proposed realignment and widening took place, with the county paying Davis Engineering & Surveying $23,000 from SPLOST VI funds to design the project. 

In March, the county hosted a public meeting at Fire Station 2 to give residents information about the project, relevant plats, legal details and donation waiver forms. 

As of Thursday night, the Public Works Department had only received one donation waiver form and one verbal response from a resident saying they would not sell or donate. 

BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond acknowledged the county’s work with the issue and said he and the county commissioners have met with multiple residents who weren’t pleased with the idea of “any type of donation.”

After Thurmond gave a nod to the recommended ideas, Headley clarified that road improvement costs would depend on field examination, given that the right of way varies along the road, narrowing near the residential side. 

That said, he estimated that these efforts would represent a roughly $170,000 project versus an almost-$2 million one that would be a complete road reclamation project. He later added that more exact budget figures could be made available toward the end of the year.

“There’s really kind of a split decision as to which way they want to go on it,” Headley said. “There’s just not a whole lot of interest in getting anything done [along] there.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines suggested engaging with the property owner near the hairpin curve about shaving it back about 20 feet to increase the sight distance. Headley agreed, saying the county could look at the right of way there and work with the owner to get additional needed area via a construction easement rather than taking over or buying additional right of way. 

“People don’t want to give up their land, that’s the biggest thing,” District 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield said. “They don't want to give up their right of way to make it wider. They want it safer, but then… we don't have the right of way to make it safer.” 

Headley said the county attempted to narrow down the right of way as much as possible to 40 feet to keep it consistent, but that was a non-starter for residents.

Gaines clarified that right of way doesn’t necessarily mean “pavement coming right up to your door.” District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett pointed out that the proposed pavement proximity was “pretty bad” for the one person who verbally dissented, though, saying that she “wouldn’t have liked it either.” 

In related news, the board went into executive session and subsequently reconvened to vote on land-related litigation. 

Gaines made a motion for the county to approve a settlement agreement between Dawson Forest Holdings and Dawson County for the forthcoming GrandView at Lanier project. 

The board voted 4-0 for the settlement’s approval. Now, the proposed project will have a public hearing at the BOC’s June 2 meeting. 

This development first came into public discourse in the beginning of 2018. 

In February 2018, a lawyer for Dawson Forest Holdings sued the then-county commissioners individually and in their government capacities, alleging that their refusal to change the R-A zoning classification infringed the developer’s property rights. 

This type of zoning issue has been alluded to at more recent public meetings over the past several months. 

As last presented, Grandview at Lanier will be located behind the Tractor Supply off of Ga. 53. The development is expected to have townhouses, detached senior homes and a shopping center.
DCN will report updated details on the development closer to the June 2 BOC meeting and once the settlement documents are available.