Clarkston City Council discusses abandoning Wagoner Street

A map of Wagoner Street. Image obtained via the city of Clarkston

Clarkston, GA — During a lively conversation at the Clarkston City Council work session on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the council discussed a request to abandon Wagoner Street.

The city received a formal request from Kathleen Andres and Steve Goff who own 3757 and 3769 Church Street. The request was made “based on hardship caused by the traffic impediment and sanitary problems,” according to the agenda packet.

The two properties run between Church and Rowland Streets and Goff said they are investment properties.

The street was appraised by Atlanta Marketing Data at $5,000 and the city has not received any formal development plans at this time.

“We’d like to do something with both of our properties, but the traffic issue on Wagoner Street and the trash is untenable,” Andres said.

Andres would like to put cottage housing on her property but also seeks input from the council and the community about what they would like to see there.

“We are investors, we don’t live there, but we are stakeholders, we want to do what’s right for the city,” Andres said. “I know I couldn’t sell a house with that traffic there. Or I couldn’t put a business there with that traffic there. That’s why we’re asking for it to be abandoned.”

Goff explained that Wagoner Street is typically used as a cut through street for travelers, particularly those who live in the apartments on N. Indian Creek Way and Jolly Avenue S. There is currently a no through traffic sign posted on Wagoner Street although it is not enforced by the city.

The city has no documents regarding the no through traffic sign, City Manager Robin Gomez explained.

“We have not found where the street was formerly declared or listed as a no through traffic,” said Gomez, adding that the signs were put up before the council-mayor form of government.

A council member likely asked the public works department to put the sign up, but there was no formal adoption of whether they had the authority to do so, Gomez said. Wagoner Street has operated as a city street for a long time and the city could remove the sign, he added.

Abandoning the street means the City Council taking an official action to take away the property of the street that’s for public transportation, so the public would no longer be able to travel on it, but it would still be city property, City Attorney Stephen Quinn said.

“Broadly speaking I would advise the City Council be very careful about letting its right of ways go to private property owners because it’s very difficult or impossible to predict how this property might be valuable to the city in the future,” Quinn said.

Quinn later explained that as part of the abandonment process the City Council is required, under state law, to include a finding that the road being abandoned no longer serves a public transportation purpose.

“Usually that means that it’s fallen into disuse or many times it’s never really been opened, but it sounds like in this case, those are not the facts,” Quinn said.

Councilmember Laura Hopkins said what she was hearing is the road should be abandoned because it has no value to the city because it’s too popular. The street is seemingly highly valuable to the city as a thoroughfare and it’s not a problem to the residents who use it, she added.

“People who live on Rowland and live in the apartments back there are using it and the excessive amount of traffic, i.e. the excessive use of that road, is bothersome for [Andres’] ability to develop it,” Hopkins said.

Andres wants to develop on the back of her property but said she wouldn’t build a house there because it wouldn’t sell due to the traffic. She added that there are other streets people could use besides Wagoner Street.

“There’s lots of other access points that could be traveled on,” Andres said. “We’re not doing it because we think it’s a nuisance and we’re trying to be prima donnas.”

— In other business, the City Council discussed creating a task force to provide recommendations on policies and training for the police department.

Clarkston is a unique city with different needs in terms of engagement, Mayor Beverly Burks said. She emphasized that the police department is great and doing everything in terms of their outreach to the community.

“But this task force is to also help to look at training that would assist our police department to be more focused on community policing,” Burks said.

The task force would report to the city’s public safety and legal committees and would be composed of members from various organizations. These include the NAACP, faith based organizations, schools, mental health experts, domestic violence advocates, those seeking criminal justice reform, nonprofits that work with teens and multicultural organizations.

Burks also explained that there would also be individual representation from people with experience in criminal justice, law, and diversity and inclusion.

“What they would do is within a year or two years, at the most, provide recommendations and meet and within 60 days of the conclusion of this provide the final report to the public safety and legal committee and then present that information to the mayor and council,” Burks said.

— The City Council additionally discussed adopting a mask mandate ordinance and better educating the public about wearing masks and the mask policy the city would have in place.

—The Council is also seeking to dissolve the Clarkston Development Authority as the territorial area of the authority is now the entire city rather than just downtown Clarkston. The original intent when creating the CDA was for it to be a downtown development authority.

The City Council will meet on Tuesday, March 2, for a regular meeting at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

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