Hamilton Road business owners generally support expansion

Asia Ashley Staff Writer

January 31, 2014

Hamilton Road businesses owners, which could be affected by the proposed expansion of the road from two to four lanes, mostly support the project, though it may mean relocation due to demolition or alteration of the property.

“It’s necessary and it’s about time,” said Dorothy Rowe, owner of Roots & Branches Salon in the 800 block. “It’s a busy highway. We do good here, but if we have to move we will.”

The project had been in the works for more than 20 years and will widen Hamilton Road from Morgan Street to just before Lukken Industrial Drive. The delay over the years has been the drafting of the environmental document that must be signed off by state and federal highway officials.

Over 40 structures could be demolished because they would interfere with the right-of-way construction.

Waid Tire Service owner Tom Mclaughlin, who said he’s been to nearly half dozen meetings concerning the project over the years, was originally opposed to the project.

“I was opposed to it at first because they originally said they were doing it because traffic was a problem,” he said. “I see more traffic on Whitesville Road and I just don’t think it’s justified.”

Mclaughlin said he likes the convenience of his location to the interstate, located near the Whitesville Road intersection with Hamilton Road, but supports the project since it will clean up the area.

“I think it’s a big waste of money, but if everyone else supports it then I support it,” he said.

Juanita Harrell, owner West Georgia Mortuary in the 1400 block, supports it as a “clean up” project as well.

“It is needed,” she said. “It’s hard to get off these streets. It will improve the appearance of the area and I’ve seen the design for the area and it’s very nice.”

Willie Edmondson, owner of Lakes Dunson Robertson, supports the project due to safety concerns.

“It’s a dangerous road and it was needed,” said Edmondson. “It’s more about safety and with people crossing and traveling, it’s become a dangerous area. If I have to sacrifice my business for the safety of people, I’ll do it.”

Harrell said her concern with a possible relocation is her clientele.

“I would like to stay in the Hamilton (Road) or Whitesville (Road) area,” she said. “A lot of people don’t have cars and walk here. If I get too far out I won’t be able to accommodate them.”

Though parting with the area will be an emotional experience for the business, having to relocate is also a positive move for the business.

“I’ve outgrown my place so I need to expand,” she said. “I really don’t want to move, but if it’s going to improve the area, I’m for it.”

Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Project Manager Adam Smith said the GDOT will evaluate all options to preserve as many of the buildings as possible, whether by relocating parking to the rear of a building, cutting and refacing a building, working around a sign or adding a wall to limit impacts.

“We go to extreme lengths to avoid relocations, though sometimes they are unavoidable,” said Smith. “We make every effort to make a fair offer. We understand and are very sensitive to the inconveniences that our projects can have on the public even though we have to keep the greater good in mind.”

If the property can not be made a whole property, it will be relocated and be settled through right of way negotiations. The businesses will be offered relocation assistance and many other services, he said.

“The acquisition of any of the properties along this corridor is not something that will be rushed,” Smith said.

It will likely take 30 to 36 months minimum to purchase the right of way for Hamilton Road and the public will have input on the project.

“There is always the chance that there will be individual citizens that do not want to relocate and we are sensitive to that,” Smith said. “That is one reason that we put such an emphasis on public involvement and encourage the public to participate. If there is a consensus from the public that they are not favorable to the project, we will certainly take a step back and consider that.”

A public hearing for the project could be held as early as March 31, pending signatures of the environmental document.