Roswell city council gave the go-ahead for the creation of goals and objectives for a Canton Street task force that will study whether to close a portion of the street to vehicular traffic on weekends.
But there is conflict among elected officials on whether the city is moving too fast on an issue that many of the businesses in the popular entertainment district oppose without the city first constructing a parking garage and making other preparations.
Mayor Kurt Wilson wants to close Canton to vehicular traffic from Highway 9/Magnolia Street to East Alley including Elizabeth Way.
During a City Council committee meeting Tuesday, Wilson said the narrative that he’s rushing the process is “political fodder.” Wilson has been the leading proponent of the closure, and business owners have accused the mayor of lacking transparency in pushing the plan forward.
“I find it’s selling something that’s not really true. So I really wish it would stop,” Wilson said.
City Council approved a deadline of next Tuesday for staff to deliver guidelines and criteria for the proposed task force. About half of the council members plan to be on vacation next week.
“I don’t understand the rush for that to be next week versus the next committee meeting,” Councilman Peter Vanstrom said. “I’m a little confused again. I feel (there’s) this urgency to move this thing along.”
Moves to transform Canton into a promenade has riled business owners and residents. It’s also creating friction between Wilson and two councilmembers — Vanstrom and Sarah Beeson — who were excluded from the mayor’s initial conversations about the closure.
“... We can’t not address the elephant in the room that this was a very, very quick process,” Beeson said. The councilwoman added that she learned in mid-April that the road closure could start Memorial Day weekend.
Jenna Aronowitz, spokesperson for 22 establishments on Canton Street and co-owner of 1920 Tavern, said in a statement that businesses owners and residents expect to be on the task force.
“This needs to be done slowly and carefully,” Aronowitz said of the planning process for closing the road. “… Don’t even consider closing Canton without first addressing parking and traffic downtown.”
Councilwoman Lee Hills says a sense of urgency on the Canton Street project is a good thing.
“My push is a rush, because I would like to move on with this and not hold up the merchants … and not have merchants sitting in turmoil,” she said.
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