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Hwy. 9 study and Dawson airport among commission items this week
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At a work session this week, Forsyth County Commissioners gave approval to the purchase of $8.3 million worth of stream and wetland credits, support for a plan to bring an executive airport to the area and a study for Hwy. 9 were among issues discussed by commissioners.

All items were approved by a 5-0 vote unless otherwise noted.


Hwy. 9 study

 Commissioners approved a subgrant agreement with the Atlanta Regional Commission to look at the future of Hwy. 9 between Hwys. 306 and 369 brought to a previous work session.

“This is a scoping study more or less,” said Tim Allen, the county’s assistant director of engineering. “They’re going to determine what will be an appropriate corridor for that State Route 9 widening project. It’s really not a design of State Route 9. It’s more of a study of the existing, future development along that roadway.”

Allen said the county had never gone through such a study and it was a new project being funded by ARC.

John Cunard, Forsyth County’s director of engineering, said this would potentially be a first step to a future state project.

District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who represents the area, said traffic on the roadway gets backed up every day.

“Even when I went to lunch today at Rotary, it was stopped … back to Mountain Lake Church, and that’s all the time,” she said. “But from 4-6 [p.m.] it’s backed up to Spot Road, every day.”


Stream and wetland credits

Commissioners approved the 8.3 million dollar purchase of 11,643 stream credits and 156.45 wetland credits for the Ronald Reagan extension project, which is part of the $200 million transportation bond approved by voters in 2014 and will extend the road from Majors Road to Shiloh Road and Shiloh Road to McFarland Parkway.

County officials said the cost of the project was significantly more than was expected as recently as 2017.

“Back in late ’17, the mitigation costs were estimated at $5.8 million for Pond and Company [the company hired to design the project],” said Cunard. “As they continued to work with the [Army Corps of Engineers] and develop in line with what the corps would approve, the final costs of those mitigation credits came at $8.34 million.”

Cunard said the increased cost was tied to the increase in construction costs.

Stream and wetland credits are required for mitigation banking, which according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “is a wetland, stream, or other aquatic resource area that has been restored, established, enhanced, or (in certain circumstances) preserved for the purpose of providing compensation for unavoidable impacts to aquatic resources.”


Eagles Beak plan

A new plan will be developed for the portion of Eagle’s Beak Park formerly used for a model aviation airfield.

Commissioners approved a bid worth $37,900 for Hayes, James and Associates to create a new master plan for the park’s green space.

“There has been a [previous] master plan,” said Donna Kukarola, the county’s procurement director. “This is updating it to be perhaps an event location.”

Last year, commissioners approved allowing permits for events with alcohol at the park. The park was the site of the River Rock Fest.

Parks and Recreation Director Jim Pryor said the previous plan was done in 2011.

“At the time it was master planned, we had the airfield in this area,” Pryor said. “When the airfield moved away, it was classified as open green space.”

Pryor said the county considered doing the plan in-house but “with it being a floodplain, it just got too complicated environmentally.”


Airport approval

A resolution was approved at the meeting to show commissioners’ support for a proposed executive airport in Dawson County.

The county has favored the airport as part of an economic development plan with the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce and the county’s development authority.

Under the economic plan, a task force will be created to find where it should go. The aim is to give executives and other business officials a faster way to fly into the county than Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Per the Dawson County News, in a joint meeting of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and the Dawsonville City Council in October, both parties discussed plans for the city to take over a private airfield owned by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott as a non-commercial airport.