UPDATE: Etowah Village is off the table

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The largest and most controversial development to come before the Dawson County Board of Commissioners in years is off the table.

Dawson Village Partners informed Dawson County Planning and Development Director Jameson Kinley today (July 17) it has withdrawn its request to rezone more than 700 acres to build Etowah Village.

In a letter addressed to Kinley, Dawson Village Partners President Yong Pan wrote, “Upon careful consideration of the responses from the county planning committee and county board of commission one of our primary investors has decided not to proceed with the project.

“The compounding requirements and restrictions placed upon the project through the continuing zoning process especially the non-approval development on the property of west side of the river have exceeded his expectations to the point he  believes it is no longer in his best interest to pursue the project.”

The project was to include 338,000 square feet of retail space, 243,200 square feet of Class A office space, a convention and performing arts center, a site for a future fire station, a cultural center and public awareness of Chinese arts and gardens, four-story hotel, 800 units of multi-family housing (apartments), 180 units of single-family attached homes, 205 units of single-family detached homes, a continuing care center and 156 acres for parks and green space.

Unconfirmed reports of the withdrawal began to circulate on social media two days ago, but Kinley did not receive official notification until today, too late for the issue to be removed from the Board of Commissioners Thursday agenda.

All that remains now is the likelihood of commissioners voting to accept the withdrawal.

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett expressed relief, saying, “This was just not a good fit for Dawson County. We do not have the infrastructure to support something like this.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said, “While this one is over for now the growth pressure on Dawson County inevitably will continue and I will continue to review and take the time to research each one and listen to citizen feedback in order to make the best decision for the community.”

Dava Hudgins, an outspoken opponent of the development said she is thrilled to receive the news. “While in theory, it sounded like a wonderful development, the reality is that it was just not the right fit for this county.”

 

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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Commissioners approve addition of a $100,000 emergency contingency to the general fund budget

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – By the narrowest of margins, Dawson County commissioners voted Thursday to add $100,000 contingency to the general fund budget that County Manager David Headley will have the authority to spend in case of an emergency without receiving Board authorization.

Prior to the vote, Dist. 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines asked for three stipulations:  The expenditure would require dual signatures from CFO Vickie Neikirk and Headley, a maximum amount of $25,000 for each emergency expenditure with an aggregate amount of $100,000 annually and the expenditure be included in the public record at the next Board of Commissioners meeting.

Chairman Billy Thurmond, Dist. 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield and Gaines voted to approve the contingency.

But Dist. 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix and Dist 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett, who wanted Headley on a shorter leash, voted no.

Nix reminded commissioners that the money they spend is not theirs, but belongs to taxpayers and that commissioners should maintain a tighter control on spending.

“I would really like to know up front what it is,” she said. “I’m really guided by the fact that the money belongs to our citizens and we need to be more accountable.”

In other decisions, commissioners voted to approve a Landbridge Development, LLC request to rezone property located between Krystal and the movie theater just off Hwy. 400 from Commercial Highway Business to Residential Multi Family for the purpose of building five apartment buildings with 12 rental units each.

Commissioners unanimously approved Amber Popphan’s request for a variance to the Land Use Resolution that will allow her to build a mobile home on property of less than five acres that was given to her by her father.

The Board also approved a request by Planning Director Jameson Kinley to hire an Alcohol Licensing administrative assistant at a rate of $15.84 per hour.

Two weeks ago, the county received a low bid from CT Darnell to execute a design-build contract for Fire Station 9. However, no contract was awarded and since then, the county discovered it could save as much as $75,000 by entering into negotiations with Darnell. Commissioners unanimously agreed to allow the negotiation to proceed.

The Board also voted 4-0 to approve a local share commitment letter for Legacy Link.

Thurmond read a proclamation to celebrate Arbor Day on April 26. The event this year will be celebrated by the Dawson County Tree Preservation Committee and Keep Dawson County Beautiful planting a tree on April 26th and encouraging others to plant trees across the county.

 

 

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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Chamber of Commerce wants commercial impact fees reduced

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Commissioner Sharon Fausett

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Impact fees dominated much of the discussion at the Dawson County Board of Commissioners work session last week.

Chamber of Commerce President Christie Moore made a presentation and requested commissioners consider reducing impact fees on road projects and fire protection categories to 25 percent. Moore said impact fees are the reason at least one company declined to open a business in Dawson County.

“We’re not here to speak about the residential side,” she said. “We’re here to speak to the commercial side of things. We can’t calculate how many businesses we’ve lost (as a result of impact fees). We can only calculate what we have received. So far only $73,000 has been collected from commercial impact fees. Our concern is not the large businesses like the Olive Gardens of the world. They’re used to impact fees. But it really can hurt some of our attempts to attract other organizations that we really want in our community.”

Moore provided the example of one large fitness center that had planned to build a new facility in the community but backed out when it was learned the impact fee would be $51,000.

Commissioner Chris Gaines

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett challenged the notion that the impact fee was the sole reason the company backed out.

“What would have been their tap fee,” she questioned. Moore said she didn’t know. Fausett said, “But you know it would have been a lot more than that right.”

“It certainly would have been,” Moore said and that is another entity we’ve been advocating with.”

“(Impact fees) are nothing compared to that (tap fee),” Fausett added. “It just seems to me like this is all being blamed on impact fees and I disagree with that.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said the announcement that Northeast Georgia Medical Center will open a new hospital at GA. 400 and Hwy. 60 in Lumpkin County will create new opportunities.

“We’ve all continually said we want to diversify our economic base beyond just retail,” he said. “I think we have a great opportunity of attracting commercial office space when it comes to the medical aspect that is going to be ancillary to the hospital. It seems to me (impact fees) are a barrier we’re putting in place that we do control. I think we need to take a good look at this to make sure we don’t miss out on some high paying jobs that can revolve around the new hospital.”

Items discussed during a work session are typically not voted on until they come before the Board in a regular meeting.

 

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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Board approves comprehensive plan with future land use map

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted the county’s comprehensive plan during Thursday’s work session that includes the future land use map.

Commissioner Chris Gaines’ motion to approve included directions to Planning and Development Director Jameson Kinley and Terri Tragesser, chairwoman of the Long Range Planning Committee to meet in the next 30 days to develop a plan on how to move forward and create a Hwy. 53 overlay. “That overlay is critical,” Gaines said.

The comprehensive plan is the road map commissioners use to plan for future growth. The state requires counties update the plan every five years and submit it to the Department of Community Affairs in order to attain Certified Local Government status and to be eligible to receive state grants.

The county has held numerous public information meetings and conducted an online survey to keep citizens in the loop about the proposed plan.

Commissioners also discussed whether it would be more cost effective to contract with a law firm for legal representation or hire an in-house attorney.

County Attorney Lynn Frey retired in December, citing health issues. Since then the county contracted with Cumming-based Jarrard & Davis to handle legal issues for a 60-day period.

Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix pointed out that department heads had communicated their satisfaction with the firm and Gaines and Chairman Billy Thurmond expressed support for contracting with a firm.

“I think we find efficiencies in a firm that brings a depth of knowledge in various areas that we have to go through,” Gaines said.  “Whether it be zoning, HR, litigation or whatever it may be that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every issue I want it to be a firm that represents other communities and has already been there, done that type of thing.”

Other issues discussed include:

  • Presentation of the Capital Improvement Element annual update;
  • Presentation of the FY 2019 Legacy Link Nutrition Program Services Addendum
  • Presentation of the Community Development Block Grant Language Access Plan;
  • Presentation of the professional exemption request for the interim county attorney;
  • Appointment of Christie Haynes Moore, John Drew and Betsy McGriff to the Joint Development Authority;
  • Discussion of grant application procedures.

Items discussed during work sessions are not generally voted on, but placed on the agenda for the next voting session.

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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BOC needs more time to finalize comp plan

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawson County Board of Commissioners held one final public hearing on the 2018 comprehensive plan Thursday.

The plan is one of the county’s most important documents because it provides elected officials with a road map to use in planning the county’s future. It was developed after months of gathering public input at citizen meetings and in an online survey.

The state requires that a county’s comprehensive plan be updated every five years and approved by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in order to qualify for Certified Local Government Status and to be eligible for state grants and programs.

Thursday’s discussion centered on whether commissioners should base their zoning decisions on a future land use map, as it has done for years, or consider the character area map approach.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said the character map offers more flexibility in zoning decisions but is less restrictive than the current future land use map.

“That’s the reason we wanted to look at both,” he said.

Dawson County Chamber of Commerce Christine Moore said, “This is a document that people live and breathe every single day. The character area map to us does make the most sense because of the flexibility and control it provides and also because It allows an adaptability to our ever changing economy.”

Tony Passarello, who serves on both the Long Range Planning Commission and Comprehensive Board is Plan Commission favored the future land use map. “It is more consistent and legally supportable,” he said.

He did recognize some changes needed to be made.

As a member of the Dawson Development Authority, Passarello said one comment he hears constantly is “What we are trying to attract is business that offers higher-paying jobs and more professional growth so we can have our children who are being educated in our fine schools can stay in Dawson County. The current land use map we have has not been adjusted to make room for those types of businesses.”

Passarello also whatever plan is selected needs to “reflect the input we have received from the citizens.”

Terri Tragesser, co-chairman of the Long Range Planning Commission, said, “We have more comfort at this point in time with the future land use map. Not because we don’t believe the character area map has value. We just don’t know enough about it to feel comfortable with it. I’ve seen the future land use map in high-growth areas work very well.”

Like Passarello, however, Tragesser said the future land use map needs some changes.

“You have to put some overlays on those maps so they are more specific,” she said. “So they address things like Dawson Forest Road and Hwy. 9 intersection. That will build out with a lot of uncertainty. Right now, we have absolutely no definition in that intersection as to how it’s going to look, how it’s going to build out, how it’s going to work from a transportation standpoint. That’s the type of work that is still to be done.”

The DCA has already approved the comprehensive plan that includes the character area plan, but Hazell said only one section would need to be changed should the Board of Commissioners vote to approve the future land use map and that section has already been submitted for the DCA’s review and approval.

Commissioner Chris Gaines said, “I’d like to step back. I want to make sure we’re doing this correctly. I want to wrap my head around this from a legal standpoint personally before I’m willing to put my name on something that is the future guiding document for the county.”

The Board then directed Gaines and Commissioner Sharon Fausett to meet with the new interim county attorneys, Ken Jarrard and Angela Davis and come to next week’s meeting with additional information.

 

 

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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County budget approval postponed two weeks

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Approval of Dawson County’s $27.1 million FY 2019 budget will have wait a few more weeks after commissioners made several recommendations, including the elimination of one new position in the fire department, hiring the position of public information officer and extending library hours during Thursday’s third public hearing.

Commissioners voted to table budget approval while Chief Financial Officer Vickie Neikirk calculates the impact the recommendations will have on the final budget.

Chris Gaines

The proposed budget called for hiring a new fire training officer at a cost of approximately $61,000 annually. District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines recommended that current personnel provide the training in addition to their normal roles. He also proposed awarding the department an additional $15,000 of overtime pay to compensate officers for the additional responsibilities. The savings would be approximately $46,000.

“By allocating those resources, it would be a little more efficient,” Gaines said.

The county is attempting to address important needs that have existed for a long time but could not be addressed due to the recession and recovering economy.

Julie Hughes-Nix

“We’re trying to plug as many holes as possible and still be responsible with the citizens’ money,” Gaines said. “My goal and my desire is to go into next year’s budget with the mentality of how can we not ask more of the citizens when it comes to property taxes.”

County commissioners have long felt the need to improve communications with the public and District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes-Nix recommended the county hire a public information officer to perform those responsibilities.

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett asked for a breakdown of cost to provide extended hours for the Dawson County Library’s satellite office on Hwy. 53. “I don’t think it speaks very well of us when people come and it is closed,” she said.

Shron Fausett

The satellite office is currently opened on Mondays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and Thursdays from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

No citizen rose to speak in opposition to or in favor of the budget.

Commissioners voted 3-1, with Dist. 2 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby opposed, to postpone several requests for annexation of property into the city of Dawsonville for two weeks.

Commissioners unanimously approved:

  • A request to accept a 2019 Victims of Crime Act Grant funds in the amount of $74,088.84. No county match is required;
  • A request to apply for a Department of Natural Resources Land & Water Conservation Fund Grant to repair/replace the fishing pier at War Hill Park. The minimum fund grant that can be applied for is $25,000. The maximum grant if $100,000 and the county will have to provide a 50 percent match;
  • A request to hire a legal assistant. The position is already included in the 2019 budget, but the request is to fill the position this year at an additional cost of $6,956.20 for five pay periods through the end of December;
  • A Service Delivery Strategy Agreement;
  • A request by Michael Turner, executor for the estate of Kenneth K. Turner to have property located at the intersection of Perimeter Road and Allen Street annexed into the City of Dawsonville. The Dawsonville Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the issue on Oct. 8. The Dawsonville City Council will hold a public hearing on Oct. 22 and the annexation could be awarded final approval on Nov. 5;
  • A request by Board of Tax Appraisers Chief Appraiser Elaine Garrett to approve a contract for the services of an additional appraiser for the current year and next tax year.

 

 

 

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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Commission to set millage rate, impact fees

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County Commissioners have two important issues to decide during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners meeting:  The millage rate and impact fees.

The millage rate is set for the third of three required public hearings. Commissioners could vote to keep the current millage rate 8.138, apply the rollback rate of 7.393 mills or increase the rate.

The most likely course of action is to keep the millage rate at 8.138, where it has been the last 10 years. That would allow the county to raise an additional $1.3 million in revenue above last year. Setting the rollback rate would mean the county would generate the same amount of revenue as last year. One mill equals about $1 for every $1,000 in assessed property value.

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines said Wednesday, “My first goal as a conservative is always going to be to find a way to save on taxes and roll back as much as possible. I know we won’t be able to roll back much because the county does have some tremendous needs.”

Gaines mentioned the need to replace aging equipment rather than paying for costly repairs again and again as one need.

“I’ve gone through budgets many times before both here and during my time on city council,” he said. “But this year I’ve spent more time than ever before trying to make sure I’m looking at every single dollar of efficiency.”

During previous public hearings, only one citizen spoke out against keeping the millage rate at 8.138.

Last Thursday, Mike Wenson told commissioners, “My taxes are going through the roof. I know as government employees you can turn around and raise taxes and not take into consideration the problems that people have paying them.” He also said his taxes had gone up more than 100 percent in three years.

Commissioners also will hold a second final public hearing on impact fees Thursday.

Commissioners approved impact fees in 2006, but suspended them during the recession of 2009 when new development was practically non-existent. The fees are imposed on new development projects to pay for all — or a portion of the costs — of providing public services to those developments.

Bill Ross whose company, Ross and Associates, has been working on an impact fee program for the county outlined that program during the Aug. 9 commission meeting.

He pointed out that the county’s population is expected to double in the next two decades and that there will be 2,700 more housing units by then. “By 2040, almost half the traffic on your roads will be generated by new development that has moved into the county,” he said.

The program looked specifically at the impact growth will have on library services, parks and recreation, fire protection, law enforcement and road improvement.

By 2040, it is projected that the county will require one new library and twice the volume of books, computers and DVDs. Four new fire stations will need to be built and 16 firetrucks purchased. The county, Ross said, will need 137 additional acres for recreational facilities.

The maximum fees the county could impose on various types of development include $3,400 for a single-family home, $1.64 per square foot for a shopping center and $1.88 for a super market.

Commission meetings are held in the second floor assembly room of the Dawson County Government Center, located at 25 Justice Way in downtown Dawsonville.

 

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 fail to reach budget agreement

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Chairman Billy Thurmond

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. — Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson and county officials failed to reach an agreement on the sheriff’s 2018 budget during a 90-minute meeting Tuesday which places the decision back in the hands of Senior Superior Court Judge Fred A. Bishop Jr.

Johnson filed a lawsuit against the Board of Commissioners, claiming the budget they approved was not sufficient for him to perform his sworn duties.

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said he, Commissioner Chris Gaines and County Attorney Lynn Frey met with Johnson and his attorney Joey Homans Tuesday.

“We had a good discussion but did not reach an agreement,” Thurmond said. “It was cordial on both sides. We explained we would continue to look at the revenue and would need time to see what the final numbers are from the property tax evaluation.”

Sheriff Jeff Johnson

Thurmond said he would update the rest of the Board of Commissioners on the meeting when they go into executive session during Thursday’s meeting.

Unless the board decides something different, Thurmond said he expects the case to go back to Bishop for a verdict.

Homans and Frey will prepare briefs for the judge to review. Regardless of which side prevails, there is likely to be an appeal.

Fetch Your News reached out to the sheriff for his comments, but he did not return our call.

 

 

 

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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