Senoia citizens talk recreation, shopping and golf cart paths

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Stephanie Savage writes suggestions made at Senoia’s town hall meeting.

By W. WINSTON SKINNER winston@newnan.com A consultant is tabulating and evaluating responses from a town hall meeting in Senoia where residents shared their dreams for the future. Senoia residents shared their vision for their town's future on Thursday evening -- focusing on recreation, shopping and golf cart paths. Paul Kraeger was the facilitator for the meeting at the Freeman Sasser Building in the city's Seavy Street park.
Kraeger has visited Senoia several times in recent years for similar meetings. Following opening comments, Kraeger moved through the room, asking people for comments about what they would like to see in Senoia. At the end of the meeting -- which lasted about 90 minutes -- citizens were given five adhesive dots which they could place beside topics they felt were most important. Among the top issues were: • downtown shops being open Sunday afternoons, 19 dots. • a community center with a pool and tennis courts, 19 dots. • paths around Merrimac Lake, 18 dots. • a golf cart path to Peachtree City, 18 dots. • more recreational activities for children, 17 dots. • a shop local campaign, 12 dots. • better code enforcement, 12 dots. • a community organic garden, nine dots. • short-term parking, eight dots. • more local golf cart paths, eight dots. • organized activities for teens, eight dots. The top topics reflected the overall interests of those attending -- which at its peak totaled about 100. Senoia's Downtown Development Authority sponsored the town hall meeting. Suzanne Helfman, DDA chairwoman, said Kraeger will tabulate and sort the responses. He will identify those that fall within the DDA's purview, as well as those that would have to be handled by the city or some other entity. For those that could be tackled by the DDA, Kraeger will also make recommendations about which committees -- such as design, promotion or economic restructuring -- should be involved. A number of suggestions related to businesses residents would like to see. There were suggestions for a conference center, a chain grocery store, an Ace Hardware, a Wal-Mart, a Waffle House, a cigar shop and a suggestion to improve cellular telephone service. There also were suggestions for restaurants serving Italian cuisine and Indian food. Several people talked about the need for short-term parking -- particularly for deliveries -- on side streets just off Senoia's downtown, and extending sidewalks and improving drainage in downtown Senoia. There also was a suggestion to get a Georgia Regional Transportation Authority express bus stop either in Senoia or in nearby Fayette County. City Manager Richard Ferry and Police Chief Jason Edens both said the town needs to have better Mapquest directions. An IPhone app with information about facilities and programs in Senoia was proposed. Recreation was another focal point. It was suggested local ball parks be managed by the city, rather than the Coweta County Recreation Department. Several suggestions related to recreation for children including more sports facilities for youngsters and organized afterschool programs. Councilman Maurice Grover said he has an affinity for baseball but added he would like to see recreation options in the city "more multi-faceted." The idea of a community center had many different facets depending on the speaker. Suggestions included a meeting room, exercise facilities and organized activities for adults and children. Other suggestions include a seasonal ice skating rink, an old-fashioned cinema, a community theater, a fitness center, a skate park, an amphitheater and more events for artists. Local minister Nathaniel Long said organized activities were good but there also needed to be opportunities for "free play like we have in this park." A suggestion that fishing be allowed for more of the year at Merrimac Lake drew a response from City Councilman Bobby Graham, who said the council is looking at allowing fishing there year-round. Another idea -- for a weather siren alert system -- is something that was discussed by the Senoia City Council on Monday. Kraeger talked about downtown development authorities and what they do. He said DDAs can "initiate and change things, bring things to life" in their communities. "There's nothing magic about it. It's just seven people who have worked in a community -- at no pay -- to plan what their community might like to see and have," Kraeger said. He said Georgia has some 750 cities, and about 150 of them have a DDA. The organizations work best "in small towns like Senoia where you can see the changes." He added, "There's a lot of work and hands-on involved." Kraeger described DDAs as apolitical. "It's about you and what you want to see in your community," he said. Kraeger said many of the suggestions made at town halls across the state are not feasible. Two frequent wishes are for a store that sells newspapers and magazines and for a Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop, he said. Kraeger also stressed that the success of DDA projects is dependent upon volunteers. "Some DDAs have 100 volunteers. It's a matter of pride to me because you're working for the whole community," he said. He said the most popular ideas are often not the first to become reality. Less expensive projects are likely to come to the forefront and get completed earlier. "That's just a reality in today's world," Kraeger said.


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