Winder OKs development study

WINDER -- City councilmen Tuesday voted to approve Winder's Livable Centers Initiative study, the product of a seven-month effort between consultants, residents and government leaders.

Some of the highlights of the study's recommendations include streetscape projects, more pedestrian-friendly access to downtown, a trail connecting downtown Winder and Fort Yargo park and several street improvements. The consultants also recommended that Winder host an annual event, such as a music festival or sporting event, that could be associated with the city's new personality and bring in regular tourists.

Woody Giles, a consultant with TSW, the consulting firm that facilitated the study, said that once the study received council approval, the application and approval process is quite lengthy and can be tricky to navigate. Giles said that, if the process flows smoothly, construction on some of the recommended projects could begin as early as 2014.

Granite Hotel renovation under consideration

Councilmen also voted Tuesday to pursue a $500,000 DCA grant, planning to use the funds for renovation of the Granite Hotel. The hotel, described by several councilmen Tuesday as a "bad purchase" by the city, cost taxpayers $526,000 initially. The hotel is located in downtown Winder, and its presence is an unsafe eyesore.

By committing to spend $729,000 in addition to the $500,000 DCA grant, city leaders got the ball rolling toward refurbishing the old hotel. In light of the already difficult economic climate, however, councilmen Bob Dixon and David Maynard insisted on making sure that the city can return the grant money and demolish the hotel should the $1.29 million price tag not be accurate.

Maynard cast the only "no" vote on the issue.