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Posted: Thursday, October 31st 2013 at 2:58pm

Gainesville looks at carrying of weapons in city parks

By Marc Eggers Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Melvin Cooper presents amendment
GAINESVILLE – Carrying a firearm in Gainesville city parks has been illegal according to city ordinances, but those regulations do not conform to Georgia statutes. As a result, an amendment was presented to the City Council at Thursday’s work session aimed at rectifying that disparity.

Park and Rec Director Melvin Cooper told the Council that he had been working with the city attorney to determine their options. "Since the Senate Bills 308 and 432 were enacted into law in June of 2010 our current ordinance…is in conflict with state law."

"So," Cooper continued, "it is recommended by the Parks and Recreation Board, who reluctantly is bringing this to you, but there is really no option that we have if we want to comply with state law."

Cooper then listed a number of nearby communities that found it necessary to change their ordinances in order to comply with state law, including some who had filed suit to keep their gun-ban laws in place. “Every time it has been taken to that (the State Court of Appeals) they have been defeated,” Cooper said.

"It scares me," Mayor Pro-Tem Myrtle Figueras said. "I want us to be in compliance with state law but I’d like to also say that Figueras loves to walk in the parks and I don’t like the idea that some crazy would have a gun in me."

"You still have to have a permit," Cooper interjected. "Those ‘crazies’, as you call them, are going to have one (a gun) with or without it (a permit)."

First reading of the amendment to the ordinance will be at Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting at the Gainesville Justice Center on Queen City Parkway at 5:30p.m.

MIDTOWN UPDATE

The Community Development Department updated the Gainesville City Council on the status of the greenway in the midtown area.

Director Rusty Ligon said, "A couple of years ago the city got a $500,000 transportation enhancement fund grant; that’s the great news. The bad news is the process is very lengthy…a lot of bureaucracy you have to go through to use those funds."

The grant combined with other funds designated for midtown development would allow for $625,000 to pay for construction costs.

Councilman George Wangemann referred to the most visible evidence of midtown redevelopment and the source of countless inquiries, the pedestrian bridge across Jesse Jewell Parkway at the Brenau Downtown Center.

"I swear that bridge is going to be a bridge to somewhere," Wangemann said. "It is there for connectivity, but I think it is also there as a community landmark."

Ligon said his department’s intentions have been, "Make strategic public investments to promote private investment."

Planning Coordinator Jason Justice said, "We have a unique opportunity to do streetscaping as well as to continue to lengthen the greenway."

Justice explained that the grant would fund about 1900-feet of lengthening.

"If we can push and get through the environmental and right-of-way (challenges)…we will push and, if any way possible, to get started next year on the construction," Ligon said.
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