Banner year
by Kristal Dixon
kdixon@cherokeetribune.com
January 02, 2010 01:00 AM | 2388 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kelli and Brent Sholl take their 5-year-old twin sons, Jack, left, and Nick, all of Canton, to lunch at Canyons Burger Company in downtown Woodstock. The Sholls are among the many visitors taking advantage of the city’s new downtown parking lot.<br>Photo by Samantha Wilson
Kelli and Brent Sholl take their 5-year-old twin sons, Jack, left, and Nick, all of Canton, to lunch at Canyons Burger Company in downtown Woodstock. The Sholls are among the many visitors taking advantage of the city’s new downtown parking lot.
Photo by Samantha Wilson
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Woodstock city leaders are counting 2009 as a year of accomplishments, with another slew of projects planned for the coming year.

Topping officials' lists of notable achievements are: securing funding for the long-anticipated Rope Mill Road interchange at Interstate 575, increasing downtown parking, forging a partnership with the county government to fund the Greenprints initiative, opening a new senior center and avoiding job cuts.

"Some of these were huge because they were so long in the working," Councilman Randy Brewer said of the year's successes.

Officials also touted as successes the government's move to the City Hall Annex on Highway 92, which gave staff more space and centralized city operations; not increasing property taxes or cutting services; approving the downtown pedestrian crosswalk; and purchasing Woodstock Community Church as its future City Hall site.

The Woodstock City Council in July voted to take out a short-term loan to purchase to the church and a 23,030-square-foot parking lot next to Morgan's Ace Hardware downtown. The parking lot opened the weekend before Thanksgiving.

The loan was for $4.1 million, with $3.7 million for the church and $400,000 for the 35-space parking lot.

The city is now in the process of evaluating the church's 1913 sanctuary for use, and the council will hear a formal presentation on it this month.

In May, the council announced the state and federal government would fund the bulk of the $22 million proposed Rope Mill Road I-575 interchange. The city used Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to fund right-of-way acquisition, which totaled $3.1 million.

The diamond-shape interchange would be between Sixes Road and Towne Lake Parkway and will relieve traffic on both roads. The project is expected to take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

Mayor Donnie Henriques said he's expecting dirt to be turned on the proposed interchange in either February or March.

He said he's also expecting commercial components in the surrounding Ridgewalk area to "show some activity" as the project moves forward.

The proposed pedestrian crosswalk would allow foot traffic across Main Street from Elm Street to Chambers Street.

"It's very difficult, especially if you have children, to cross at the signal at Towne Lake (Parkway) and Main" Street, Councilman Chris Casdia said.

The city also secured as much as $5 million in county parks bond revenues to begin constructing portions of its Greenprints Initiative. It will add trails, parks and greenspace throughout Woodstock as part of a network connecting surrounding city and county trails.

For the new year, city leaders said they would like to move forward with plans to demolish the old municipal complex and expand Woodstock City Park. The expanded park would include an amphitheatre and would allow more space for the city's annual summer concert series.

City Manager Jeff Moon said he would like to see the city start the first phase of Towne Lake Parkway and Arnold Mill Road improvements, which would install a left-turn lane at the intersection. He added it's unlikely the project would begin in 2010 as the design is not yet ready.

Moon said he also would like to see more businesses come and open up shop in the downtown area.

Henriques said he would like to see construction begin on the proposed roundabout at North Main Street and Haney Road, one of two planned for downtown.

"This design will continue traffic flow while making it safer for residents who live in the area by slowing cars down," he said.

Casdia said he wants the city to begin the process of returning its operations back to downtown and further decrease spending in the next fiscal year.

Brewer said hammering out a proposed master plan for the Ridgewalk area is one of his top goals. With the area's future uncertain because of the bankruptcy of developer Bill Butler, Brewer said it's imperative the city "stick to its zoning" to protect surrounding property owners.

For Councilman Bob Mueller, his goal is for the city to maintain its level of service and not lay off any employees.

Also, he said, the city must continue to spend taxpayers' dollars very wisely.

"We'll try to stay in the black," he said.
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