Originally created 06/20/00

Road widening project concerns residents



Ruthie Jatho got a history lesson Monday.

The nature-lover and master gardener has been concerned about preserving green space along the Wrightsboro, Belair and Flowing Wells roads area for years. She and her husband have plans to one day build a botanical garden on their nearby 70-acre property.

Mrs. Jatho was among the nearly 200 people at a public information meeting Monday. Most were there to oppose the proposed widening of Wrightsboro Road.

"I hate to see every piece of land available developed," Mrs. Jatho said as she circulated among draft maps posted around the small cafeteria of Sue Reynolds Elementary School. "We need to protect it."

Mrs. Jatho learned about the history of several homes and structures along the road after listening to stories from nearby residents. For her it was one more reason to oppose the project.

"I'm sure we can all come to a decision that's not going to hurt anybody," she said, after submitting a comment card that suggested building an entirely new section of road.

State transportation officials, road designers and local representatives from the Department of Public Works were on hand to answer questions and address concerns about plans to widen the 2.6-mile stretch from two lanes to four, with raised medians and turn lanes as needed.

The open-forum's main purpose was to dispel rumors that the widening project might harm the Flowing Wells spring, located less than 10 feet from the corridor. Although the widened road is designed to avoid the spring house, those who visit the continuously flowing spigot say more needs to be done.

"Richmond County needs to think about what that well means for this area," said Marian Mosley, who weekly makes the trip from her home on Walton Way Extension to the spring. "Instead of only looking at development, we need to start looking at the quality of life here."

Many people supported suggestions that the well be provided with additional parking, picnic tables and sidewalks.

Others, like Ms. Jatho, said they believed the road project should be moved south hundreds of feet to avoid the more than 180 parcels of land that would be affected by the road improvements.

Business owners along the corridor were voicing an altogether different set of concerns, taking issue with raised medians planned throughout the widening.

"It's going to be detrimental to the property values along this road," said Walter Schmidt, owner of Schmidt's Gun Service and Repair shop at 3925 Wrightsboro Road. Access to driveways on the opposite side of the road would be limited because median breaks would occur only at intersections with traffic signals.

Comments about the project submitted in writing and recorded by a court reporter will be reviewed by state officials before the plan is approved late this summer.

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.