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Dawson Village Partners informed Dawson County Planning and Development Director Jameson Kinley today (July 17) it has withdrawn its request to rezone more than 700 acres to build Etowah Village.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

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Emergency Services Director Danny Thompson made a heartfelt and emotional plea for a pay raise on behalf of the men and women of his department during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners work session.

Thompson said the attrition rate in emergency services is nearing a “crisis situation” with 11 percent of the employees leaving to work at other fire departments or to go into the private sector. “That is two-and-a-half times the national average, he said.

“In exit interviews, we’ve learned that a lot of them love working in Dawson County. The big reason for the exodus is money. Right now, there are 11 fire departments within 30 miles of this county that pay between $10,000 and $16,000 more.”

Thompson presented three options to commissioners for a potential salary increase.

When asked by Commissioner Sharon Fausett which option worked best for his department, he answered Option A – a 10 percent across-the-board increase for all personnel.

Dozens of firefighters/EMTs sat in the audience as Thompson spoke

“These men and women sitting back here tonight love this county. They love its residents. They’re willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. But, I need your help,” he said.

“Bottom line is I need you to stand up for these men and women. Don’t turn your back on them because tonight, if you need them, they’re going to be there for you no matter what decision you make. I’m troubled as you can tell. I’m tired of looking at these men and women knowing they’re living paycheck to paycheck. It’s sad and it’s got to stop. It starts with you guys.”

While Thompson said the situation is nearing the crisis state, Chairman Billy Thurmond, who used to manage the same department said, “I can tell you, having run this department that 11 vacancies is a crisis today. That is not a crisis tomorrow.”

Agenda items discussed during work sessions are generally voted on at the next 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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Developers last-minute changes to Etowah Village plan leads to another delay in vote by BOC

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga – Developers of the controversial Etowah Village announced during Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Commissioners that they have made major changes to their rezoning application. But they came unprepared to present a visible display for the public to view.

Commissioner Sharon Fausett

“We have revised our plan based on comments we received at the last public hearing as well as your comments,” said architect Jim King, speaking on behalf of Etowah Village.

As a result, District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett motioned to table a vote on the project until July 18. Her motion was unanimously approved.

The revision included taking out everything west of the Etowah River and changing the public entrance on Hwy. 53 from a public entrance to a gated emergency vehicle-only entrance and only emergency personnel will have a key.

King said by eliminating everything west of the river, the overall density of the project will be reduced from 2.8 units per acre to 2.4 units.

Fausett took King to task for not being prepared. “It’s really bad you don’t have anything the people can see,” she said. “People need to know that this is gone. This is left. This is still here but it’s being shifted to here. This is such a huge project whether you are for it or against it you would still like to have all the information.”

Fausett said later she was not told about the changes until just before the start of the meeting.

Planning Director Jameson Kinley said the revised project would 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 350 unit continuing care center and 156 acres for parks and green space.

Fausett said the delay will give the public time to understand the changes.

“If you don’t give people time, it’s like you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes. I want to give the public time to digest this.”

Commissioners did approve PR Acquisitions, LLC’s request for an update of the Master Plan for 338 apartments. The original plan was approved in 2006. The owner Michael Moore told commissioners he is simply asking that conditions included in the original zoning that are no longer relevant go away. Moore proposed that Harry Sosebee Road be aligned to tie into a future traffic circle at his cost.

Judd Hughes request to rezone property located at Harry Sosebee Road and Hwy. 53 from Residential Agriculture (RA) to Residential Multi-Family (RMF) was approved 3-1 with Commissioner Tim Satterfield opposed.

Other items approved during the voting session include:

  • An update of the land use resolution;
  • A Dawson County food drive conducted by the Public Defender’s Office;
  • An Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation easement for the new Public Works Complex;
  • A request for No Thru Truck Traffic on Blacks Mill Road;
  • Improvements for Red Rider Road;
  • Reappointment of Gail Smith to the Library Board;
  • Assignment of contract to Professional Probation Services.

 

 

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 set to vote on Etowah Village

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Two major developments that have attracted heated opposition from citizens will be on the agenda when the Board of Commissioners meets in a voting session Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Dawson County Government Center.

That session will be preceded at 4 p.m. by a work session and executive session.

Dawson Village Partners wants to have about 800 acres at the intersection of Ga. Hwy. 400 and Lumpkin County Road rezoned to accommodate Etowah Village, a massive development that would include 538,700 square feet of retail space, 243,000 square feet of office space and 2,174 residential units in addition to a hotel, convention center and Asian cultural arts center.

Opponents believe such a major development would overburden the infrastructure lead to overcrowding schools and lower property values. Even more important, they believe it will destroy the quality of life they enjoy and that has attracted many others to move here.

And, Dava Hudgins gave commissioners something else to consider at the last public hearing when she said some part of the project would be built on a historic site.

“My ancestors opened a trading post on that site,” she said. “They married Cherokee women. There are Indian mounds there and I know where there are two different Indian burial grounds. It’s not just a flood plain. It is historically important.”

Historic sites are protected by state and federal laws.

Hudgins took Dist. 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett and Dist. 4 Julie Hughes-Nix to visit the site Saturday. They are expected to report on their findings at Thursday’s meeting.

There is also a request by Judd Hughes to rezone 40 acres on Dawson Forest Road from Residential Agriculture (RA-1) to Residential Multi-Family for the purpose of building a 240-unit apartment complex is less contentious but has drawn a significant amount of opposition.

Other items on the voting session agenda include:

A PR Acquisition, LLC request to update zoning conditions on property near the intersection of Harry Sossebee Road and Lumpkin Campground Road because some of the original conditions no longer apply to the property which was approved for 388 homes;

Consideration of a Dawson County Food Drive spearheaded by the Public Defender’s office;

Consideration of a request by an Eagle Scout to build a Bocce Ball Court at Rock Creek Park for an Eagle Scout project;

Consideration of Amicalola Electric Membership Corporation power easement for the Public Works Complex;

Consideration of No Thru Truck Traffic on Blacks Mill Rd;

Consideration of improvements to Red Rider Road;

Consideration of appointments to the Library Board.

 

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 legal fees are twice the budgeted amount

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Joey Homans

Joey Homans

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Legal services in 2019 will cost Dawson County taxpayers about $250,000 more than what county commissioners had budgeted.

The budget was set at $160,413. But, after four months less than $20,000 remains so the Board of Commissioners were forced to approve an additional $250,000 during Thursday’s commission meeting.

Most commissioners agree the fault does not lie with the interim law firm of Jarrard and Davis. Some blame the overrun on former in-house counsel Lynn Frey who resigned in December due to poor health.

Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix and Sharon Fausett say Frey frequently did not show up for work and rarely worked an eight-hour day in the office. Both say they told County Manager David Headley and other Board members about the problem in 2017 but nothing was done. They also say that much of the work he was supposed to do was left for Jarrard and Davis to complete.

Julie Hughes-Nix

Nix said, “In the fall of 2017, department heads were saying to me we have an issue. (Frey) isn’t coming to work. He’s not getting the work done. I alerted the rest of the Board to that. I wanted him in the office from 8 until 5 because that’s what we hired him for. I think that was doable. I kept trying to get the attention of the Board but they didn’t have an issue with that. As a result, we let this linger on and this is what we created. If we had addressed the issue in 2017 when I tried to, we would not be in the situation we are in now.”

After the meeting, Fausett said, “We definitely sounded the alarm a long time ago but got nowhere. We made it crystal clear many times that we wanted him in the office five days a week. We even wrote him up on performance evaluations.”

Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “Mrs. (Angela) Davis did say last week that as soon as we cleaned up the remainder of the stuff that is pending, we would see a downward trend.”

Two years ago, county commissioners decided the $180,316 they paid attorney Joey Homans for legal services for one year (2016) was too much. After 20 years of service, they declined to renew his contract and hired Frey to replace him.

But Homans’ fee was a bargain compared to what the county will spend this year and he was on hand to take a victory lap during Thursday’s meeting.

“Two years ago, when you made another appointment other than me after 20 years, you asserted that it was done to save the taxpayers money,” he said. “With this request (for additional funding) your total legal fee will be $410,000.

“The comment that it was done to save taxpayers money, I took as an attack on my integrity and my character. It was an indicator that I was gouging or overcharging. The fact, that legal fees now are twice what they were, I submit, absolves me of that. I submit that what you’re paying for legal services to very competent legal counsel reflects there was no overcharging. There was no gouging. In fact, taxpayers are now paying more.”

 

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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Tanner, Gooch discuss bills passed in 2019 General Assembly

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega and State Rep. Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville were the featured speakers at last night’s Dawson County Republican Party Meeting at the Bowen Arts Center.

Gooch represents 200,000 north Georgia residents, including those in Dawson, White, Lumpkin, Union and Forsyth counties. The district is made up of about 75 percent Trump voters.

“It’s the most conservative district in the state senate and the third most conservative in the country,” he said. “So, it’s pretty easy for us to go down there and vote a conservative agenda cause that’s who we are and who we try to represent back home.”

Sen. Steve Gooch

He said he had took some heat from liberals for his vote in favor of the fetal heartbeat bill – the bill that bans abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat — but added, “I was proud of my vote on that heartbeat bill, saving hundreds of thousands of unborn children. It was probably the best vote I had taken in my nine years in the senate.”

Gooch also talked about passing enabling legislation to create business courts in the state. The legislation will allow businessmen and women to take a case directly to a business court rather than the Superior Court. “A lot of business issues are highly specialized and not many Superior Court judges have business experience,” he said. “In a business court, they would be able to bring in experts that know a lot about the subject matter.”

Another issue he has spearheaded for several years is the expansion of high-speed internet access to rural communities. He and other legislators who understand that high-speed broadband internet service is essential to schools, businesses and hospitals made it a priority this year. They passed legislation that allows power companies and phone companies to begin selling internet service in rural areas.

Rep. Kevin Tanner

Tanner also weighed in on the fetal heartbeat bill, saying, “I have several in Lumpkin County who are very much opposed to that legislation. There is no way I could ever change their mind and I’m very much pro-life and there is no way you could ever change my mind. It’s a moral fiber issue for me.”

Tanner worked hard on getting new voting machines for the state. The bill passed in the House along party lines with Democrats opposed. The new machines, which will cost between $150 million and $200 million, will allow voters to cast a ballot electronically, print out a copy for their approval then scan it to have it recorded.

“I have yet to be able to get my democrat colleagues to give me a reason they would be opposed to that particular machine,” Tanner said. “The reality is (opposition) is coming from the national party that they should oppose the legislation. I will say this, it is proven statistically that the best way to rig or cheat in an election is paper ballots. If you want to stuff ballot boxes and rig an election, paper ballots are the best way to do that. These machines make it very difficult if not impossible for that to happen because if there is an audit, there is a trail we can follow.”

Tanner has been a champion of mental health reform in Georgia which has led to the creation of a behavioral health reform and innovation commission made up of 23 members. Four will be legislators but the majority will be experts in the field of mental health.”

“The problem is once you graduate from a mental health court, there is no follow up,” he said. “If you have schizophrenia, or you have bipolar, or acute depression, you have to be followed your entire life to make sure medication is being taken and you’re not having an episode.”

Last night’s meeting was the first since the election of a new slate of officers at the County Convention. The new officers include Seanie Zappendorf (chairperson), Mike Berg (first vice chair) Pepper Pettit (second vice chair), Dale Smart (secretary) Katie Hulsebus (treasurer) and Norman Samples (committee member at-large).

Among the elected officials who attended the event were Mayor Mike Eason, Commissioners Julie Hughes-Nix, Sharon Fausett, City Councilman Stephen Tolson and former Commission Chairman Mike Berg.

 

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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