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New eatery's location upsets neighbors
AW WinnTacoBell
Azalea Street resident Kathy Winn has a direct view from her front yard of the construction of a new Taco Bell across from her home. - photo by Andrea Washington / Coastal Courier
When Kathy Winn has left her house in the morning the last few weeks, instead of being greeted by the smell of fresh morning air, she's treated to the scent of construction work and gas fumes.
Her Azalea Street home is directly across from where a new Taco Bell is being built in Hinesville.
The construction, Winn said, has a major inconvenience for residents of the close-knit neighborhood, especially when it comes to traffic and parking problems caused by construction vehicles on the street.
"One morning I was going to class and I couldn't even get out of my own driveway because (a construction company truck) was right in front my driveway," she said. "I had to get out of my truck and say, 'Excuse me, can you move your truck?' and I don't feel like I should have to do that."
Commercial dumpsters and portable bathrooms near residents' homes have been another problem.
"I have to back out all the way in the street almost before I know if anything is coming," homeowner Sarah Danielson said about a dumpster near her driveway. "And that's an open dumpster. When it gets hot and (construction workers) are throwing their food and everything in there, we're going to have problems with the flies again."
Danielson said she also worries that if not properly maintained, the portable bathrooms near her home are going to smell
But both Winn and Danielson fear the current problems with traffic, parking and trash are only a fraction of the troubles residents will face once the restaurant opens.
With entrance and exit points for the fast food restaurant on Azalea Street, Winn believes overcrowding on the road will get worse.
"Look at the congestion already on this little street," she said as a driver swerved to go around trucks parked on the road. "You're going to have traffic off that Taco Bell coming on this street every night, plus the people that live on this street."
"It's just going to be a mess trying to get out of here in the morning," Sally Landers, a 42-year resident of Azalea Street said. "Especially with the school buses."
"Uncle" Ned Brown, who has lived on the street for 54 years, is concerned the eatery will not be properly fenced, leaving residents' yards open to customers' comings and goings. He said he was told a fence would only be built halfway up the side of the restaurant facing his street.
"We want a fence that comes all the way to the tree (near the curb where Azalea Street meets Gen. Screven) so nobody can walk through here," Brown said.
Residents said some of the problems could have been avoided had they known about the project before it began. They fault their city councilman, Charles Frasier, for not informing them.
"He could have at least come to us and said we need to come to a city council meeting because there's going to be something that affects us. But no one came and told us. When we found out, everything was done," Winn said. "And our voice, our city councilman, he wasn't there for us."
Frasier has met with Azalea Street residents since being made aware of their concerns and had a public meeting for them last month.
The councilman said he has spoken with a Taco Bell representative who said the company plans "to do all that it can in order to be a good neighbor to the citizens of Azalea Street," including adding an additional entrance and exit point.
"(Drivers) will be able come in off of Gen. Screven, come into Taco Bell and be able to exit back on Gen. Screven as well," Frasier said. "There will still be a point of exit out of Taco Bell onto Azalea Street, but we expect that to be limited amount of traffic because Taco Bell is going to take some initiative to have some signage there to discourage the use of Azalea Street."
He added dumpsters and portable bathrooms on the construction site would be moved further away from homes and an additional 40 feet of fencing would be added.
Frasier said he was sorry for the inconveniences and would "be more vigilant about these matters" in the future.
"The only thing that I would ask is that the citizens of Azalea Street know that I, as well as the mayor, are doing all that we can to make this a good development and as compatible to Azalea Street development as possible," he said.
Officials with the Bravo Food Group, the franchisee who will own and operate the facility, could not be reached for comment.
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