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City projects still on track
Delays include suit, economy
Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt addresses the Rotary Club of Forsyth County. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Cumming is still holding out hope for two major developments, Mayor H. Ford Gravitt told the Rotary Club of Forsyth County during a recent meeting.

The city’s aquatic center and a proposed indoor water park and resort may have been delayed, but the city is still in hot pursuit of both.

Gravitt said the city has “done what we told them we’d do” to attract the resort, which would feature a large hotel, to Mary Alice Park on Lake Lanier.

“Right now Great Wolf is in a holding pattern," said Gravitt, citing the economy. "They say they’re still committed. They’re working on the financial end.”

Great Wolf has confirmed its interest and the local chamber of commerce and state, county and city officials have openly talked about their efforts to lure the Wisconsin-based firm.

The Army Corps of Engineers has also approved plans for the lakeside resort.

Gravitt said just one piece of the puzzle -- improvements to the Hwy. 9-Mary Alice Park Road crossing -- remains for the city to complete.

“The city committed $1.5 million on that intersection, but the state and the feds keep pushing it back," he said. "It was supposed to be done January of [2010]. Well, they sent me a letter a few weeks ago that said they’ve set that back another 18 months.

“That’s a project I’ve personally been working on for 20 years. That’s one of the worst intersections ... that we have in the city, so hopefully we’ll get that done.”

Gravitt talked about some of the city’s other road and water projects during the meeting with Rotarians.

He also touched on the city’s aquatic center, originally pegged with an October 2010 finish date.

The city began preparing the site on Pilgrim Mill Road early this year. In April, however, the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper notified the city of its intent to sue over the project.

The organization claims the city violated four laws protecting water quality and natural resources. Among them, that the city cleared more land than the Environmental Protection Division had approved.

“We were being sued by them because we had encroached on state waters,” Gravitt said. “There never had been water on that property except rain water when it rained.

“They said it was state water. And if you’ve got a ditch that has water in it 24 hours after it rains, then that’s state water, they tell us ... Basically all the ditches in this county are state water.”   

Since receiving the letter, the city has been working with the EPD to get things back on track.

“Hopefully, we’ll get that resolved,” Gravitt said. “We have $15 million reserved in the bank for the aquatic center.

“We’re working real hard to get that all figured out.”