City residents voice strong opposition to Ensite development

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawsonville residents packed the city hall meeting room during Monday’s City Council meeting to voice their opposition to a proposed development that would add 172 new residences on a 38.58 acre tract at 592 Hwy. 53 West.

The developer, Ensite Civil Consulting, LLC, has asked for the property to be rezoned from R-3 to Residential Planned Community to be marketed to senior citizens. However, before the meeting, Ensite asked for and received a postponement until the April 22 meeting.

Council did go ahead with the public hearing and seven area residents marched to the podium to explain why they don’t believe the development is in the best interests of the city. No one spoke in favor of the project.

Dava Hudgins spoke first to say the area is already heavily congested. “Add in this many more units they are requesting and this is going to be a dangerous intersection,” she said. “I don’t want another child in this county to wreck or be injured or killed because of poor planning where this road is concerned.”

Jeff Chastain, whose property is adjacent to the proposed development, expressed concern about an underground stream that crosses the property and flows into a branch which then feeds into Shoal Creek. Chastain said the runoff will damage the water quality and threaten endangered species.

“There is no way you can put 170 homes with two or three vehicles per home and keep the oil and gas and everything you’re going to get from that out of the waterway,” he said. “I don’t see how that is environmentally possible. This is beyond ridiculous. That is some of the cleanest water you will find around here.”

The planning commission unanimously recommended that council deny the request to rezone the property.

Councilman Mark French said, “I believe we should uphold the planning commission’s decision.”

He pointed out that if the residents are required to be 55-and older in a few years, many of the residents would be eligible for a senior tax exemption and sales tax generated by the development would be insufficient to pay for the additional services the city would have to provide. “I’m just concerned we would not be able to do that.”

While some opponents pointed out that the developer could not legally limit the sale of the units to non-senior citizens, City Attorney Dana Miles explained that under federal law, the City could do so.

“Under the Housing for Older Persons Act, there can be a requirement that (council) can put in by ordinance as a stipulation if you see fit to rezone this property,” he said. “It allows (government) to discriminate in the sale of housing units to people under 55. At least 80 percent of the residences must be owned by and lived in by someone 55 and older.”

 

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Judge Fuller Could Rule This Week on City’s Motion to Dismiss Mayor James Grogan’s Appeal

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City Attorney Dana Miles

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Enotah Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge C. Andrew Fuller could rule as early as this week on a  motion to dismiss an appeal by Mayor James Grogan of his impeachment by the Dawsonville City Council.

City council has accused Grogan of violations of the city charter and, on May 15 by a vote of 3-1 with Councilman Mike Sosebee opposed, removed him from office.

Steven Leibel

Grogan and his attorney Steven Leibel immediately filed an appeal de novo in Superior Court and the mayor was reinstated while the appeal process played out.

City Attorney Dana Miles then filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the appeal for a new trial de novo is not the correct method and that the only method for review is by certiorari.

Leibel countered that Miles is wrong and that the legislature gave his client the right to determine if he wants to go by cert or de novo.

If the appeal is not dismissed, Miles wants Grogan removed from office and his salary of approximately $3,600 per month and benefits returned to the city.

Fetch Your News has reported the decision to impeach the mayor has already cost taxpayers approximately $73,000.

Grogan is accused of lowering rezoning fees for applicants without prior approval of city council, allowing a business to pay a lower rate for water/sewer service without prior approval of city council and approval of payments to non-profit groups, something that has been a common practice of the city for many years.

Grogan has maintained his innocence and said he has done nothing wrong.

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Cost to Impeach Mayor Grogan Skyrockets Taxpayers Now on the Hook for $73,000

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Mayor James Grogan

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Just three months into the process, the cost to taxpayers for Dawsonville City Council’s effort to impeach Mayor James Grogan is skyrocketing. According to city documents obtained by Fetch Your News, the cost has already topped $73,000.

According to those documents, City Attorney Dana Miles’ law firm of Miles, Hansford and Tallant has billed the city a total of $31,296.63 so far.

The law firm of Hulsey, Oliver and Mahar has billed a total of $10,929.12 for Ab Hayes to serve as the independent third party to investigate the actions of the mayor and prepare a report based upon the investigation of the mayor.

The law firm of Ragsdale, Beals, Seigler, Patterson and Gray billed $1,420 for fees to the City Court Judge for handling matters prior to and in conjunction with the hearing for removal of the mayor and the recently hired law firm of Webb and Powell has thus far billed $3,674.

Grogan has said all along that he did nothing wrong and has filed an appeal. As an elected official, he is entitled to legal representation at city expense. Attorney Steven Leibel represents the mayor and thus far, he has billed the city approximately $26,000, which brings the cost to Dawsonville taxpayers to just over $73,000.

“The mayor said at the last meeting this would be very expensive for taxpayers and he suggested finding a resolution short of impeachment,” Leibel said. “Unfortunately the taxpayers now have to shoulder the legal expenses because they didn’t resolve this unconscionable impeachment effort.”

City Council has accused Grogan of violations of city code and policies including lowering rezoning fees for at least three applicants without prior approval of city council, allowing a business to pay a lower rate for water/sewer service without prior approval of city council, and approval of payments to non-profit groups, something that has been a common practice of the city for many years.

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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City Council Addressed AMP-Related Issues

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – The Dawsonville City Council was expected to render a decision on Atlanta Motorsports Park’s request to modify existing zoning stipulations at the track at Monday’s meeting but the applicant decided last week to withdraw the request.

Several related issues were on the agenda. An ethics complaint against former Downtown Development Authority member Seanie Zappendorf was rendered moot by her resignation. Zappendorf was accused of misrepresenting herself as a city employee.

City Attorney Dana Miles pointed out that the most an ethics committee could do would be to issue a letter of reprimand or direct counseling but since Zappendorf is no longer associated with the city, the issue should be considered moot. He recommend the board direct City Manager Bob Bolz to write a letter to the complainant explaining what had happened. Councilwoman Angie Smith made that motion and it passed unanimously.

Council was also expected to appoint an ethics committee but decided to postpone appointments until  the July meeting. The three-member committee is to be made up of one member appointed by the mayor, another appointed by the council and a third to be chosen by the mayor and city council together. That member must be a member of the Georgia Bar.

On May 1, council tabled a request by Len Reeves to modify existing zoning conditions on property located at 280 Maple Street zoned R-6, (residential multi-family) to await the results of a traffic study. But Planning Director Casey Majewski told council she had only received the study on the day of the council meeting and did not have time to review it. The request was tabled until the July meeting.

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