Dan Pool / Photo
Jasper business owners and residents ponder plans presented to improve the town’s transportation and its effects on downtown commerce at a public forum last Thursday in the county admin building.
One planning consultant commended Jasper with a “good job” for the tremendous turnout to offer input into the town’s roads, signs and appearance at a meeting Thursday at the county administration building.
The room was indeed packed with more than 70 business owners, local officials, chamber leaders and residents providing their two-cents-worths on a number of topics concerning Jasper through the Downtown Transportation
Enhancement planning process.
Billed as a transportation study, much of the discussion stretched to how transportation might enhance the commercial fortunes of downtown.
Ideas ranged from small and practical (signs pointing to the courthouse and parking) to the large (redevelop the strip mall with the closed Piggly Wiggly).
Project Manager Marsha Swider from Kimley Horn transportation planners went over some of their initial observations that Jasper has a lot of potential with city-owned areas near downtown, such as the vacant lot across from 61 Main and the modern courthouse as a gathering spot.
Other areas elicited mixed feelings such as the small water fountain park on the north end of Main Street and the old depot, which was nice but not used to its potential.
And some areas are recognized problems, among them the walkability of the east side of Main Street on Highway 53 and the area around Walgreens on Burnt Mountain Road, which Swider termed a “hostile pedestrian environment.”
She said many of the areas had a “complicated” rather than flowing connectivity.
From their preliminary meetings, Swider said “a lack of vision” was identified as the chief obstacle for Jasper. But she soft-pedaled that by saying, “not necessarily a lack of vision, but a lack of commitment to and involvement to make the vision come to life.” She said it was a matter of getting “everyone on the same page.”
The planners unveiled some preliminary thoughts to get feedback on how they would be accepted by the public. But, it was noted repeatedly that a lot would depend on what the Ga. Department of Transportation did with Highway 53 from the fourlane into town, which has been in different planning stages since at least the mid-1990s. Also in flux is the possibility that Jasper Middle School may be relocated for a new campus.
Participants were asked to give feedback on notes for different designs on roads and signage.
Mayor John Weaver, however, vocally made his feelings known on some of the differing proposals, referring to them as “cartoons.”
Weaver said it was ridiculous that some ideas were presented that called for new roads that cut over existing homes and businesses.
An inflamed mayor noted those would be impossible to implement as the city is not about to try to acquire properties and build new roads. He asked them to clarify and update with some specific ideas he has proposed to be shown as at least an option.