Big crowd attends public input meeting on Ga. 400 corridor

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – A large contingent of Lumpkin County residents filled the Parks & Recreation Department meeting room Thursday evening to share their thoughts on future development of the Ga. 400 corridor.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Dockery said, “We want to make sure we represent what you want to see in that corridor. This is an opportunity to get that public input. That’s very important to us.”

While the development of the corridor is a county responsibility, Dahlonega Mayor Sam Norton joked, ”One reason I’m here is I thought we were going to have pizza tonight.” But Norton added, “The 400 corridor is our gateway. We are very much committed to collaboration and supporting the county in any way.  With me and the chairman and the council and commission, there is no my box, your box. We are very much one community and we have to get this right.”

Rebecca Mincey

The planning process has been under way for some time and Development Authority Executive Director Rebecca Mincey provided some background on where that process stands.

The architect firm of TSW presented details about design guidelines with examples of previous projects they have worked on.

Mincey shared information developed from stakeholder meetings as well as the results of a public preference survey that has been online since Aug. 1.

Because it will be such an important presence on the corridor, representatives from North Georgia Health Systems were on hand to provide an update on the hospital that is planned for Ga. 400.

Northeast Georgia Medical Center Lumpkin has already opened where Chestatee Medical Center used to be. Shawn Couch, Director of Public Relations, said planners are using the flow there to help determine the number of beds that will be needed when the new hospital opens in 2022.

Scott Pippin, a planner with Carl Vincent Institute at the University of Georgia, said that Carl Vincent has been collecting input from everyone about what they want to see. “We have met with county and city officials and others to talk about their interests and concerns and we have had a remarkable uniformity of vision,” he said. He added that the talks centered on transportation, zoning and aesthetics.

Pippin added that questions about transportation included: How will traffic get into and out of the developments along the corridor; How will it affect traffic on Ga. 400?  Zoning questions centered on what kind of uses citizens want to see and aesthetics questions involved the type of landscaping, architectural style and signage that would be included.

Adam Williamson of TSW explained that his company will work with Carl Vincent to create a design guideline book that includes before-and-after renderings of the project including things like typical street sections, sidewalk widths, walking trails, landscape, travel lanes, building types and architectural styles. The guideline book can be used as an economic development tool for the county in branding. Since zoning regulations are typically text, the book can also be more user friendly for planners.

TSW’s Julia Brodsky gave attendees a brief summary of the input that has been gathered in stakeholder meetings so far. “A lot of what we have heard has to do with walkability,” she said. “People are interested in having more trails, bike lanes and sidewalks to walk on. The types of uses that seems to be of interest to bring to the corridor are office, mixed use, different types of housing, green spaces and any needed services.”

Now, the county will pull all the information from stakeholder meetings, citizen input and the online survey together and staff will make some preliminary recommendations to be considered. The final product will be presented to the Board of Commissioners in December and could be enacted by January.

Commissioner Bobby Mayfield elicited a round of applause from attendees when he said, “As far as regulations go, I’m all in favor of mandating these requirements because I’ve had to live with what we have now. So if you want to develop 400, the commissioner from District 2 is going to say it’s going to look like you want it to look.”

Forms were provided for everyone to fill out regarding their preferences for the corridor and members of the county’s planning staff stayed to answer questions from attendees.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Controversy brewing over Tea and Spice Exchange

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – A new franchise that is expected to open on East Main Street in September was the focus of a lengthy discussion and some controversy at the Dahlonega City Council meeting Monday evening.

 

Some local business owners along with the Downtown Business Association and Downtown Development Authority believe Main Street is no place for a franchise like The Spice and Tea Exchange.

 

John Clower, president of the Downtown Business Association, addressed council during the public comments portion of the meeting to say, “I encourage council to consider ways to mitigate franchise businesses from coming into down town.”

Clower said his association is not opposed to the Tea and Spice Exchange, but, “There is concern about what this means for the character of our city.”

Tina Lucas, proprietor of The Cool Collective, located at 84 Public Square North, said it is hard enough to be a mom and pop (business) without having to compete with corporate run businesses and the unique properties and characteristics of these shops.”

Councilman Mitchell Ridley said, “We do not have anything in place that stops businesses from opening here. I’m not advocating for franchises. I’m just saying, how do you process it that you can’t have a franchise.”

Mayor Sam Norton said there are some things on the books that have somewhat deterred franchises in the past. “Parking ordinances somewhat deter franchises,” he said. “The historic district is sometimes a bar too high for franchises and our sign ordinances. Most franchises won’t conform to our sign ordinances. A combination of those three things and a willing landlord that values small city values have been successful in the past.”

Norton added that sometimes the landlord is the controlling factor.

Tony Owens, chairman of the Downtown Development Authority said, “I don’t know that we can make ordinances that stop businesses from happening. I think Sam (Norton) nailed it when he said we have to work on the sign ordinances and other ordinances that will limit the interest of these franchises.”

Norton agreed to place the issue on a future work session agenda and to make it a high priority.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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School board a no-show at public hearing

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Public hearing or public embarrassment?

The Lumpkin County School Board advertised for a public hearing and invited citizens to speak about a tentative tax increase last Monday then declined to listen to a single word they had to say.

Four of the five board members were present when the work session started. Mera Turner was absent. But before the public hearing started, the four disappeared into a backroom and did not emerge until the public hearing ended.

Superintendent Dr. Robert Brown conducted the public hearing, despite the fact that a quorum was not present. Three speakers rose to be heard in a room absent of their elected officials

Questioned about the highly unusual situation Brown defended the board. “The board is not required to be present,” he said. (Public hearings) are for the superintendent to receive comments from the public.”

Some would argue that public hearings are for citizens to address their elected officials and for those officials to consider what the citizens have to say.

Dahlonega Mayor Sam Norton said, “It doesn’t make much sense for your elected officials not to be there for a public hearing. It defeats the purpose. The reason for you to have a public hearing is to gather public input. It’s an information opportunity not only for the public to be aware of what you’re doing but for you to be aware of public sentiment.”

In a Facebook posting Saturday, school board member Craig Poore said, “Just because I was not at one meeting does not mean that community input was not important to me. Monday during the hearing we were in executive session and had further business to attend to so we sent our representative to the meeting to report back to us.”

But that does not pass the smell test.

School boards, county commissions and city councils all across Georgia routinely hold public hearings on the same day as executive sessions. They simply open the public hearing, listen to citizens’ comments, close the public hearing then go into executive session. It is not that difficult. Monday’s public hearing lasted only about half an hour.

Poore continued his Facebook rant by inviting citizens to “Come by the tire store and sit down with me let’s talk about the issues, or call me, email, or just stop me in Walmart. Hey that’s my job it’s not going to bother me. I always appreciate people taking interest in our schools and children.”

One county official who asked not to be named said the meeting was not a legal meeting because no quorum was present when the public hearing was held. If he is right, any action taken at the meeting can be rescinded, and fines could be imposed on the board as well as the individual members.

The same official added, “I’ve seen these things done right and I’ve seen them done wrong. Sometimes they get called out on them but most of the time they just keep on moving and no one knows the difference. I don’t think that is right.”

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Council green lights Garrett-Green downtown hotel Parks and Butler buildings to come down

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. – After a three-year standoff with Roberta Green-Garrett and her attorney, the Dahlonega City Council approved a consent order Tuesday that will allow her to build a hotel that will replace the old Butler and Parks Buildings in Dahlonega’s historic downtown.

The vote was 4-2 with District 1 Councilman Roman Gaddis and District 4 Councilman Bruce Hoffman opposed.

“People who were against the consent order assumed the council folded but we stopped it dead in its tracks for three years at a lot of time and expense,” Mayor Sam Norton said. “I don’t think either side is particularly satisfied with the agreement but we did the best we could do given the circumstances.”

But as councilwoman JoAnne Taylor stated in last month’s work session, ““We’ve either got to put our thumbprint on this design with Mrs. Green-Garrett, or roll the dice and see what the judge will say,” something most councilmembers were unwilling to risk.

During the public comment period, half a dozen citizens stood up and spoke out forcefully against the project. Ken Akins said, “This is our history, our heritage. This is what we’re all about and we are destroying that.”

The city and Green-Garrett’s attorney Joey Homans engaged in a lengthy mediation period and agreed to several conditions. For example, the premises can only be used as a hotel and must include an exercise facility, a lobby, a small outdoor pool, a breakfast lounge area and parking.

In other business, council unanimously approved a request to rezone 2.97 acres on Torrington Drive from B-1 (business) to R-3 (residential) to allow for the construction of apartment units.

Council denied Lynn Allred’s appeal of a Historic Preservation Commission decision that pertains to the construction of a fence at her Appalachian Gold business.

Council also agreed to move forward with plans to construct a kids play area at Hancock Park.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on FYNTV.com and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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City begins process of amending zoning ordinances

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DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Dahlonega’s City Council unanimously approved a motion to initiate the process of amending the city’s zoning ordinances Monday.

City Manager Bill Schmid explained that many, perhaps dozens, of the changes will involve minor changes in text, such as typos, while others may be significant. “Either way,” Schmid said, “there is a process to be followed.”
Rather than bring a laundry list of amendments to council, Schmid added that staff would prefer to bring them to council incrementally.

The motion council approved Monday does not short change the process. “It doesn’t commit you to any specific outcome,” Schmid said. “It will just let us begin the advertisement. There will still be a public hearing before the Planning Commission before it comes back to you in a work session.”

After the work session, council will still have the final vote on any proposed amendment.

Schmid said staff also has identified a couple of types of event centers the city has, or would like to have. Staff would need to propose definitions to accommodate changes to those zoning ordinances.

The University of North Georgia women’s basketball team won the Peach Belt Conference regular season and tournament championships.

Monday was a day to recognize athletic excellence at the University of North Georgia. Mayor Sam Norton read a proclamation honoring the 2017-18 University of North Georgia women’s basketball team for an outstanding season. The Nighthawks posted a 29-5 record in winning the Peach Belt Conference (PBC) Championship and the Peach Belt Tournament Championship before advancing to the NCAA Sweet 16.

Coach Buffie Burson was named PBC Coach of the Year for the third time in her 24-year career. Abbie Franklin was chosen conference Freshman of the Year and Julie McKie was named PBC Tournament Most Valuable Player.

Schmid said the city has applied for the Georgia Recreational Trails Program grant offered by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the amount of $135,000. The grant requires a 20 percent city match. The grant would be used for the Yahoola High Trestle Trail. If the city receives the grant, Schmid said the project can be completed within two years

Council unanimously approved:

  • A 5K Bike Ride event and Hancock Park rental Team Give Back Fundraiser;
  • A change to the existing special event permit for Movies Under the Stars concessions;
  • A grant to renovate the Visitor’s Center restrooms; and
  • Ratification of the Cemetery Committee appointments.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

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Kemp brings campaign for governor to Dahlonega

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From left, Dahlonega City Councilman Bruce Hoffman, Mayor Sam Norton and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – Improved technology in state government and the simple act of doing what you promise voters were issues foremost on the mind of Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp when he brought his “Putting Georgians First” campaign for governor to Dahlonega Tuesday.

Kemp blamed Republicans in Congress for losing the White House to President Barrack Obama in 2008.

“Republicans in both houses of Congress did not do what they told people they would do. They continued to run up the deficit, had a big-spending mentality, weren’t as conservative, weren’t as efficient as they should have been. Because of that, people were not motivated in the presidential election of ’08 to vote for our candidate and as a result, we got Barrack Obama as president,” Kemp said.

Kemp said when he ran for Secretary of State, “I made a commitment that I would simply tell people what I’m going to do if I get in there and then do it. That’s what I’ve done as your secretary of state. I told people I would use technology to make the office better and we’ve done that.”

Small crowd welcomes Georgia Sect. of State Brian Kemp to Dahlonega’s Wagon Wheel restaurant.

The use of improved technology, he said, has “made our system better and more secure, everything from our website to the voter registration system. With the click of a button, you can now register to vote either on our website or over the phone.”

Kemp said he was proud that his office had saved taxpayer dollars.

“At one point, we cut our budget by 25 percent and lost almost 30 percent of our people, but our workload never changed. So, we truly have done more with less and the best thing is that we have saved your tax dollars along the way,” Kemp added.

Kemp was asked if he supports House Bill 366 that recently passed in the Georgia Senate. The bill, requires cities and counties to conduct a wage and compensation study periodically for law enforcement agencies in their jurisdiction.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I believe in local control, and I don’t think the state needs to be mandating how much a county pays a county employee. Another thing, if there were state money to do that, there would also be state oversight, and I can promise you a lot of sheriffs do no want state oversight of their office.”

Elected officials who attended the event included Dahlonega Mayor Sam Norton, Dahlonega City Councilman Bruce Hoffman and Hall County Commissioner Scott Gibbs.

Norton said he has not committed to any candidate yet. “I’m still looking at the different candidates, evaluating their platform and trying to make a well-informed decision,” he said. “I do like the way he is pro small business. Small business is not only the backbone of this district, but the state and the country.”

Hoffman said he, too, is undecided. “I agreed with just about everything he said. I’ve known him for a while. He’s down to earth. He is what he says he is and I appreciate him coming to Dahlonega,” Hoffman stated.

The Kemp “Putting Georgian’s First” bus tour departed Lumpkin County and headed for Fannin, Gilmer, Whitfield and Walker counties to close out a busy Tuesday.

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at FetchYourNews.com

 

 

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