North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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August 20, 2010

GFBC flock crowds roads

GARDENDALE — An abundance of Sunday traffic was a big concern Monday at the Gardendale City Council meeting.

Ben Hogeland, who lives near the new Gardendale First Baptist Church (GFBC), said he is glad the church is there but added that increased traffic is a problem.

The church’s north campus opened on Aug. 8, with more than 5,500 attending the two services. The influx of vehicles in the neighborhood choked nearby roads. Hogeland said his neighbor “got trapped in his driveway and waited 26 minutes to get out.”

GFBC Pastor Kevin Hamm said church leaders consulted with a traffic engineer when the church bought the land and developed a master plan. He said the church is following the engineer’s suggestions.

But he added some of the traffic problems are “out of our hands,” such as the scrapping of a plan to put in a third lane on Mt. Olive Road from Fieldstown Road to the church entrance.

Gardendale Mayor Othell Phillips said Hamm has been talking with city leaders to try to resolve the traffic issue.

Gardendale Police Department Lt. Marty Brown said traffic near the church was by far worse the first Sunday than the second. Hamm said attendance the second Sunday was down to 4,605.

“This past Sunday was a better experience,” Brown said. He added that GFBC has hired four off-duty police officers to direct traffic at the church, and that they were doing their best to keep vehicles moving.

There have also been cameras set up at three intersections so officials could study traffic patterns in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

The GFBC church bulletin on Sunday contained traffic suggestions, where Hamm asked church-goers to “be mindful of our friends in the neighborhoods” by letting them in and out of their driveways. He also asked church attendees to use the south entrance (Mountain Crest Parkway onto Mt. Olive Road) if heading south, and to use the north entrance (Harrison Drive onto Mt. Olive Road) if heading north.

Hamm said that other than traffic problems, the opening of the church’s north campus is going well, “maybe even better than I expected,” he said. On the first Sunday, 40 people joined the church.

Also at the meeting, the city council:

• amended the city’s yard sale ordinance to clarify confusion on placement of yard sale signs. The ordinance also specifies criminal penalties for not removing signs by midnight of the day the permit expires or for placing them on rights-of-way. The city does not charge for yard sale permits, but does require that residents get one from city hall before having a yard sale

• adopted the recommendations of the Jefferson County personnel board’s 2009-2010 Annual Classification Survey

• voted to cut the grass and assess charges at two properties: 125 Elm Street and 647 Odum Road

• changed the next council meeting because the regular meeting would have been on Labor Day. The meeting will be held Sept. 7, 6 p.m. at Gardendale City Hall.

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