Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Fort Oglethorpe’s Downtown Development Authority has re-elected officers, has restated its goals and is moving forward on plans to revitalize a section of U.S. Highway 27/LaFayette Road in the coming year.
During their October meeting, members of the DDA decided that Jeff Epperson would continue his role as chairman and that Derek Rogers and Louis Hamm would retain their respective roles as vice chairman and secretary/treasurer in the coming year.
The group also decided to officially relinquish its sponsorship of the monthly Cruise-ins that have been held for several years along a section of U.S. Highway 27/LaFayette Road that stretches from roughly the entrance to Chickamauga Battlefield Park to Sears Shoe Store.
Epperson said the DDA’s goal is to promote development and serve as a liaison between local government and businesses, not solely to promote events. Though the events have drawn crowds to the city, he said few businesses other than some restaurants have benefited.
“This [Cruise-ins] benefit the city in no way,” he said. “If it doesn’t attract dollars to the DDA zone retailers, why involve the DDA?”
The owner of Gateway Mall, located near the intersection of Interstate 75 and Cloud Springs Road, will assume control of the Cruise-in series next year, which does not trouble the DDA and its officers.
Hamm said if a coalition of merchants operates the program, the DDA could be — should be — involved, but only in a supporting role.
“The Cruise-in is a good thing for our city, but it is not our job to run the event,” Epperson said.
Currently the DDA is focused on an ambitious plan to revitalize the very stretch of road that has been home to the Cruise-ins and was once the town’s center.
Plans for revamping the roughly one mile of LaFayette Road call for reducing the number of lanes, making the road more friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists as well as making it more closely resemble a “main street” than a high-speed motorway and will be presented to the City Council Dec. 10.
“This has been better planned than anything previously presented,” DDA board member Harold Silcox said.
The master plan prepared by William Shealy, senior project manager with The Jaeger Company, is on display at City Hall or can be viewed online at www.fortoglethorpedda.com.
Rogers said the Council will not be asked to commit any taxpayer funds to the plan, only to accept its overall design.