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Moving ahead: City council takes steps for Sawnee Drive extension
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Crews are working to clear land for the new Sawnee Village mixed-use development between Dahlonega Highway and Pilgrim Mill Road. A road project to extend Sawnee Drive to Pilgrim Mill is being planned alongside the development. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

City of Cumming officials are moving ahead with a pair of land purchases for a road project planned to create a northern bypass around downtown.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 17, City Council members voted, after an executive session, to move forward with the purchase of a home at 201 Franklin Way for $272,000 and an adjacent lot for $77,000 for a project to extend Sawnee Drive from Hwy. 9 to Pilgrim Mill Road.

“The council approved for the city to pay appraised value [for the properties],” Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow later told the Forsyth County News. “There’s a house and a lot that have to be purchased for the road to go through there, so now it’s just a matter of either they can take the appraised value or if they don’t, then the city would have to do eminent domain, and they could challenge that. That’s how the process works.”

Brumbalow said the city had been working with both property owners for some time and doesn’t expect eminent domain to be used. He said the council vote was to make sure the purchase met deadlines for the road project.

“There has been good communication with the two different parcels,” he said. “It’s just the formality of authorizing the funds to pay for the properties.”

The plan for the road is to extend Sawnee Drive through Charles Place and Ann Avenue and through an upcoming development known as Sawnee Village to connect with Pilgrim Mill Road near the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit.

“Part of the road will be widening an existing city street, but then we come to a dead end, and we have to go through where this house is,” Brumbalow said. “Then, the rest of the road is on the developer’s property to get over to Pilgrim Mill by the Episcopal church.”

Brumbalow said the long-term goal is to have the road expanded to four lanes and the project would be a way for drivers and commercial trucks to avoid the downtown square if needed.

He said another project to connect new extensions of Buford Dam Road and Industrial Park Drive with a new traffic signal on Veterans Memorial Boulevard was also moving ahead and could also help some drivers bypass the city from the south side.

While the road is going through Sawnee Village, a planned residential and commercial development on more than 150 acres between Dahlonega Highway and Pilgrim Mill Road, Brumbalow said it will be open to all drivers and will not have a big impact on the development.

“This road, honestly, has zero impact on this development. Their entrances are off the existing part of Pilgrim Mill and Hwy. 9,” he said. “They have a small section that would enter from this new road, but that’s a very, very small part of the project.”

Under an agreement between the city and the developer of the project, The Providence Group, the development will pay all road impact fees – or fees paid by developers for increased use of roads – upfront rather than over several years, which will be used to fund the Sawnee Drive extension.

“Normally, you pay the impact fee when you buy the building permit, well, when this one was rezoned, they agreed to pay all of their impact fees upfront, so the city wasn’t coming out of pocket to build the road,” Brumbalow said. “They’re paying it all upfront instead of paying over a four- or five-year period.”

Brumbalow said that since the project is still in its early stages, the cost and timeline for the project have not been determined.