Thurmond’s vote is decisive in Crystal Falls development

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Against a unanimous recommendation of denial by the Planning Commission and despite the opposition of two county commissioners and a large number of area residents, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners voted Thursday to allow a developer to add 1,012 new homes to the Crystal Falls Lake and Golf Community.

The property is located west of Cowart Road between Yellow Creek Road and Kelly Bridge Road. In 2005, the owner developed a golf course in the community but since then, only five homes have been sold and the owner’s representative argues that his client is losing about $1 million per year to maintain the golf course.

A large number of area residents filed into the meeting room to express their opposition to the development. Some said it would destroy the quality of life in this mostly rural southwest corner of the county. Others complained about increased safety concerns and traffic congestion.

Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix and Sharon Fausett joined with the crowd in opposing a request by Dawson Cherokee Capital, LLC to rezone 1,038.46 acres from Residential Sub Rural (RSR) to Residential Planned Community (RPC).

Commissioners Chris Gaines and Tim Satterfield voted in favor of the request, resulting in a 2-2 tie. Dawson County’s Chairman Billy Thurmond only votes when it is necessary to break a tie. In this case, he voted to allow the development to go forward.

In a phone conversation Friday, Fausett, who made the motion to deny the request, said, “I had a lot more phone calls and emails from people who did not want this than I did from those who supported it. My job is to represent them, if I didn’t, I would feel like I was not doing my job.”

Nix, who seconded the motion said, “When I was elected to this office, I promised to listen to the citizens who put me here. I listened and the people who are most affected by this development spoke very clearly, saying it will ruin their quality of life. That’s why I voted against it.”

Gaines said, “It was a tough decision, probably toughest decision I’ve had to make since being elected to the Board of Commissioners.”

Before the request was adopted, he added a series of stipulations aimed at making  the project less objectionable to opponents, including:

  • Reducing the number of entrances from three to two plus one for emergency vehicles only;
  • Developer is required to abide by the development of a regional impact study;
  • Developer must do another traffic impact study once 50 percent build out is reached;
  • Developer must pay $70,000 to help pay for a traffic light on Cowart Road once it exceeds acceptable traffic standards.

 

  

 

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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B0C approves reduction in impact fees and sets public hearing

News

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — New businesses wanting to move to Dawson County got a major break Thursday when the Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to reduce impact fees by a whopping 75 percent. Chairman Billy Thurmond cast the deciding vote.

The issue still must survive public hearings on March 7 and March 21 before being implemented. Both hearings are set for 6 p.m.

It was only six months ago the Board voted to set impact fees at the maximum amount allowed  by law. But the Board dynamic has changed significantly since former Commissioner Jimmy Hamby retired in December and was replaced by Tim Satterfield. Hamby was a strong proponent of impact fees and voted to charge the maximum amount percent.

Chamber of Commerce President Christie Moore appeared before commissioners two weeks ago to request the reduction saying two businesses had declined to move to Dawson County because of the fees.

“Our concern was not that the commercial impact fees would hurt the large businesses, the Olive Gardens of the world, they are used to impact fees,” she said at the time. “But it could really hurt some of our attempts to attract some other organizations that we really want in our community.”

Impact fees are payments required by local governments of new development for the purpose of providing new or expanded public capital facilities required to serve that development.

The reduction also impacts residential development. Instead of a 75 percent reduction, residential developments would only be reduced by 25 percent.

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett tried to get commissioners to consider a smaller reduction of 50 percent, but Chris Gaines, who made the motion said he felt the 75 percent reduction was the right amount.

“If we see that it hasn’t made an impact like the adverse impact that it’s made now at 100 percent, then we can look at increasing it at a future date,” Gaines said.

Fausett pointed out that Bill Ross of Ross and Associates, the firm that created the impact fee study and calculated the maximum amount the county could charge, told commissioners that impact fees do not slow growth.

“He’s an expert, and he’s done this for years and years and years. So if he made that statement, I wonder why it’s slowing growth here, and it’s not slowing it in other places” Fausett asked.

“We’re in kind of a boom now and I’d like to take advantage of that. Another thing that bothers me is that we as a board, we said we would seek alternate ways of (raising) revenue…if we said we were going to do it, I want to do it.”

Thurmond said that the sales tax money generated by businesses has allowed the county to maintain the same millage rate for the past 14 years.

The vote was 3-2 with Fausett and Nix opposed and Gaines and Satterfield in support. In Dawson County, the chairman is allowed to vote only in case of a tie. The public will have an opportunity to be heard on the issue in two weeks.

In other business, the Board voted 3-1 to censure Nix for disclosing confidential information to a county employee via email. Nix abstained from the vote and Fausett voted in opposition.

An emotional Fausett, who has been friends with Nix her entire life, said the resolution was too harsh and unnecessary. She spoke directly to Nix, saying, “I don’t think you’ll ever do this again, I still trust you, I’ve still got faith in you, I’ve still got confidence in you. You’ve had years and years of public service and I don’t want this to define you. I think you have been a part of great, great things for this county, and I appreciate what you’ve done.”

Nix said she accepted responsibility and publicly apologized for her action saying she had no desire to benefit herself or anyone.

“This was just done really to assist an experienced employee just packed with a knowledge and information, who I felt wasn’t getting all of the information needed to really do her job,” Nix said.

A motion of censure carries with it no penalty other than the written reprimand.

 

 

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, county officials strive for greater cooperation During day-long retreat at Amicalola Falls Lodge

News

DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. – City and county officials gathered for a day-long retreat at beautiful Amicalola Falls State Park and Lodge Friday to explore ways the two governments – that don’t always see eye-to-eye on issues – might be able to work together for the benefit of all residents.

Facilitator Langford Holbrook of the UGA Institute of Government led the joint strategic planning session while leaders discussed broad issues such as goals, a vision for the future and areas of possible collaboration between the two governments. Then they narrowed the discussion to more specific issues like impact fees, the importance of a truck route around the city and a potential local road maintenance and improvement tax.

The one goal that was mentioned more than any other was improved communication between the two governments and with the citizens they serve.

The session had just begun when Holbrook asked the leaders to identify important goals. Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond, who cited improved communication throughout his 2016 campaign, was first to answer.

“We should strive to improve communications between ourselves and with the general public,” Thurmond said.

County Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix, Sharon Fausett and Chris Gaines and County Manager David Headley quickly agreed, as did Mayor Mike Eason and commissioner-elect Tim Satterfield.

City officials did take a major step toward improving communications with the public earlier this year by streaming video of their city council meetings onto the website. Citizens who cannot attend meetings in person can now view them at their leisure.

The county is also taking steps to provide more information. Last month, Headley requested the position of public information officer (PIO) be added to the 2019 budget. So far, the PIO position has not been added to the budget, but Gaines, Nix and Fausett have all said they support the initiative.

In assessing the current relationship between the two governments, Eason cited a need for more “understanding of each other’s goals and willingness to work together to accomplish them.”

Headley said the “exchange of information has improved.” And, Fausett said she senses there is “more spirit of cooperation than ever before.”

Dawson County Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes said the two governments need “a more unified vision.” Stephen Tolson called for elected officials to consider how issues “benefit the whole and not just the part.”

Leaders also addressed future trends the two governments need to consider together and how they will impact city and county residents. City Councilman Caleb Phillips quickly identified “transportation congestion.” Satterfield cited infrastructure, including water and sewer and service delivery.

City Councilman Stephen Tolson surprised nearly everyone in the room when he said there are more than 110 homeless families in the county that need help. Tolson said finding jobs is not the problem. Many of the homeless, he said, have jobs. The problem is finding affordable housing for people in low-paying jobs.

There was also a discussion other issues that lend themselves to collaboration between the two governments – a local transportation and road improvement tax, downtown revitalization, a truck route around the city and the future of the airport.

Headley pointed out that a local transportation and road improvement tax collected over a five-year period could generate up to $50 million, all of which could be used to fund only local roads and bridges. He added there is a possibility the Georgia Department of Transportation would match whatever amount the tax generates.

City officials said rerouting truck traffic around the city is the key to revitalizing the downtown area.

Eason said more than 100 trucks pass City Hall every hour. “We have to get these trucks out of town,” he said. “GDOT says it will not restrict truck traffic unless we have a truck route. We have to do that before we can revitalize the city.”

 

 

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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Sheriff, County Remain at Odds Over Budget

News

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – After the second of three scheduled public hearings Thursday, the Dawson County Board of Commissioners and first-term Sheriff Jeff Johnson remain at odds over the sheriff’s 2018 budget request.

Johnson’s request to provide services that include the jail, K-9, school resource officers, 911 and court is $8,130,477. The sheriff’s budget in 2017 is $6,822,566. Commissioners have proposed $7,344,486, an increase of about half a million dollars but nowhere near what is being requested.

Johnson says, “That amount is inadequate. The amount budgeted last year wasn’t insufficient then. We’re just trying to increase it by a reasonable amount and not be excessive in order to meet what the needs are.”

Comm. Julie Hughes-Nix

He also points to the tremendous growth in retail and residential, especially along the Ga. 400 corridor that will place greater demands on his office. “We’re anticipating a 28 percent increase in the amount of calls we will respond to in 2018,” he said.

The sheriff’s request includes the unfreezing of seven employee positions, one new criminal investigator and a 2 percent cost of living increase for sheriff’s office employees.

Johnson and attorney Joey Homans have asked to meet with commissioners again before the budget is scheduled to be adopted on Sept. 21 to plead their case. As of Friday morning, Johnson said commissioners had not responded to that request.

County officials will point to a Georgia Department of Community Affairs survey that shows Dawson County citizens already pay more to operate the sheriff’s office and jail than any other county in north Georgia. In the 26 counties surveyed, Dawson County citizens pay $273 each, followed by Rabun County where citizens pay $210 each. Nowhere else do citizens pay as much as $200 each.

Johnson says that is an apples to oranges comparison.

“We’re the only law enforcement provider here,” he said. “There is no city police. No other law enforcement entity whatsoever. In all those other counties there is some sort of jurisdiction to help them out.”

But commissioners say that a $1.3 million increase is more than citizens should have to bear.

While next year’s millage will remain the same, homeowners will still see a 4.4 percent increase in their taxes next year.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the sheriff and the men and women of our sheriff’s office,” Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix said. ”It gave me great pleasure to vote for the wage and salary study that provided a well-deserved pay increase for them this year. But we have to be fair to our citizens and do our best to hold the line on spending. The sheriff is asking for an increase of more than $1 million in last year’s budget. I just don’t think we can spend that much more and be fair to the taxpayers.”

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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Sheriff, Tax Commissioner Races Will Be Hotly Contested

News, Politics

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — The three local races that have attracted the most interest in Dawson County this year are County Commission Chairman, Sheriff and Tax Commissioner where a total of nine candidates will campaign.

Sheriff Billy Carlisle, who has been Dawson County’s top cop for 18 years, will not seek reelection. Chairman Michael Berg, who has devoted nearly half his life to public service has announced his retirement and Tax Commissioner Linda Townley, who has served the county for 12 years, said she is leaving to spend more time with her family.
Their departure creates opportunities for others to serve. Billy Thurmond and Peter Hill have tossed their hats into the ring to vie for County Commission Chairman.

Four veteran law enforcement officers will battle it out for Sheriff. Tony Wooten is an 18-year veteran of the Dawson Sheriff’s Office. Jeff Perry has 26 years experience, serving the last 18 as a parole officer. Jeff Johnson has nearly 23 years of experience in both a sheriff’s office and police department and Frank Sosebee has 32 years experience. He is currently the chief of security at the Hall County Correctional Institute.

Townley’s departure has attracted three potential replacements, Karin McGee, Johnny Glass and Nicole Stewart
District 4 County Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix, who seeks her fourth term in office, has drawn one challenger in Heather Hulsebus.

Incumbent Board of Education members Elaine Wilson, Roger Slaton and Doris Cook will return to office without opposition and so will long time Coroner Ted Bearden.

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