BOC tables Dawson Village vote for 30 days

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County commissioners voted to place a rezoning request by Dawson Village Partners, LLC to build the largest development in county history on hold for 30 days last night (May 16).

The controversial project attracted very strong public participation. The meeting room was nearly full and two dozen Dawson County residents rose to share their views with commissioners. Eighteen opposed, eight supported.

Rod Bishoff

The project, if approved, would add 2,175 new residential units, 338,000 square feet of retail space and 242,000 square feet of office space to the county which, many argued would over burden the roads, law enforcement and public safety. It would be built on 777 acres from the intersection of Ga. 400 and Lumpkin Campground Road west to Etowah River Road before crossing Etowah River.

The county planning commission voted 3-2 to recommend denial to the Board of Commissioners based on the impact the development would have on the health, safety and general welfare of the citizens and the environmental impact on the Etowah River and flood plain.

Approval of a mixed use village is a two-part process. The initial phase calls for a concept plan in which the county looks at proposed uses, designates areas, open space, amenities, the road system, access points, location of streams and public and private streets for the development.

Dwight Roberts

If the concept is approved, the project would come back before commissioners who would then take a deeper dive into water and sewer locations, a stormwater plan, building areas and landscaping and architectural standards

Rod Bishoff, a retired developer who said he has developed property in Fulton, DeKalb, Forsyth and Gwinnett counties, called the project a fantasy.

“These (developers) are doing a great job but not one of them is going to build a darn thing in this county,” he said. “Not one of them has any money to build these things. I have friends in the banking and insurance industries and not one of them knows anything about this project.”

He added, “Once you do this zoning, you open the door to a whole lot of problems. I think it’s a great idea, but you need the right people to do it with you. You need people to say, ‘this is my project. I’m here to build it with you.’ We don’t have that and that is a problem.”

Dava Hudgins 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.”

Dwight Roberts, a realtor, said he had not made up his mind before attending last night’s meeting. “I wanted to learn more and see more,” he said. “But after listening and knowing how many good people there are in the community and how concerned they are about this project, it makes me think they are probably right. There is something here that is precious. There is something here that should not be bought or sold. So, I just want to say that I am now against it.”

Tony Passarello

On the other side, Tony Passarello argued in favor of approving the project.

He pointed out the project complies with the county’s future land use plan (FLUP) and gives the county a way to manage the growth that is headed to Dawson County.

“Let’s assume that each of these properties were developed individually over the same time period according to their assigned zoning,” he said. “In this hypothetical scenario, there would be no zoning and planning commission hearing required. There would be no opportunity for citizen input, and in most cases, there would be no commission vote.”

Passarello then asked, “Is it not better to treat these 777 acres in a managed planned development with the scale, quality and vision of Etowah Village or piecemeal without continuity or vision.

In addition to planned management, he said the project presents a number of opportunities, including controlled growth over eight to 10 years, development of Dawson County as a destination spot, living wage jobs for decades and the opportunity to attract millenials and members of Generation X,

Chairman Billy Thurmond said, “When you look at the portion east of the river toward Ga. 400, the majority of that property is currently zoned where most of the pods (A,B,C,D,E, and F) they are requesting could be done without the approval of this Board.”

Those pods consist of retail space, office space, performing arts center, convenience center, 300-room luxury hotel, art museum, Asian garden and retirement community.

Thurmond said he could see the negative side of the project across the river. “You have flood plain issues that will require a floodplain analysis. It could require a bridge that may or may not get approved by the (U.S. Army) Corps of Engineers, and EPD. You have endangered species in the river that have to be taken into consideration. Most of that is outside the current zoning and land use plan. That’s a lot to think about when you look at the vast complexity of a project such as this.”

Thurmond’s motion to table the request for 30 days was unanimously approved.

 

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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Planning Commission recommends denial of Dawson Village Partners development

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DAWSONVILLE Ga. – The Dawson County Planning Commission voted 3-2 Tuesday to recommend the Board of Commissioners deny the controversial Dawson Village Partners plan to build a Master Planned Village on 777 acres starting at Lumpkin Campground Road and Ga. 400, stretching to Etowah River Road then across the Etowah River.

Chairman Jason Hamby joined John Dooley and Neil Hornsey in voting to recommend denial. John Maloney and Tim Bennett voted to recommend approval.

The Government Center Assembly room was packed with residents, mostly opposed the development. When the vote was announced, many applauded and some shouted “thank you” to the commissioners. But the recommendation is non-binding. County Commissioners will make the final decision next month.

Shaun Adams, an attorney for the developer, outlined the project, which he said would include 250 acres of green space, a five-star hotel with approximately 300 rooms,  a performing arts center for concerts, approximately 300,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space, 200,000 square feet of office space, land to build a fire station, a 40-acre park with canoe launch on the Etowah River, a continuous care retirement community with an assisted living and nursing center with about 450 beds and a Chinese cultural arts center.

The plan originally called for a 2,700 residential units but that has since been reduced to 2,175 units.

The development would be built in five phases and would take between 10 and 15 years to complete.

Dooley expressed concern about the project’s density and added it would risk, “turning us into our neighbors to the south.”

Hornsey said, “It might be a little too ambitious for us.”

More than two dozen residents rose to express their views regarding the project. Nineteen were opposed.

Tony Passarello was one of only six who spoke in favor of the development. “To me it represents a management vehicle for growth,” he said. “It is a larger development and therefore you can manage it. Based on the restrictions and the planning and some of the stipulations that have been discussed tonight, the scale is large enough for us to have some predictability as long as financing and their demographics work out.

He added that the development is consistent with controlled growth metered over the next 10 years and that it is the type of development that citizens indicated they wanted in a comprehensive plan survey conducted last year.

Several speakers said they did not want Dawson County to become another Cumming, Alpharetta or Gainesville. Others said the county is not ready for a development of this size.

Johnny Burt said, “I don’t have a problem with people making money. The problem I do have is when people come into the county, make their money and leave us with the problems they’ve left behind.”

 

 

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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Commissioners set millage rate, impact fees

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Dawson County’s 2019 millage rate is set at 8.138. During Thursday’s third and final public hearing, commissioners voted 3-1 to keep the rate the same as it has been for the last 10 years.

The rollback rate of 7.393 would have generated the same amount of revenue as it has in 2018.

The lone citizen to speak Thursday was Tony Passarello who asked commissioners to consider a compromise between the proposed rate of 8.138 and the rollback rate

Passarello said his position had evolved over the past several months from one supporting the current millage rate to where he could see the argument for a rollback rate.

“Is there an opportunity for us come to a compromise,” he asked. “As someone who has been in sales for a number of years, I can tell you that the best negotiations are the ones where nobody comes away happy.”

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines made a motion for the millage rate be set 8.0635. District 3 Commissioner Jimmy Hamby asked how much that would save individual homeowners. Finance Director Vickie Neikirk came up with a quick calculation of about $7.45 on a $250,000 home. The motion failed 3-1.

After two weeks of open departmental budget hearings, commissioners felt they needed the extra revenue to balance the budget, improve the infrastructure provide the services citizens want.

Commissioners also voted to impose the maximum impact fees on new development, again on a 3-1 vote with Gaines opposed. The maximum fees include $3,400 for a new home, $1.88 per square foot for a super market and $1.64 per square foot for a shopping center.

Dawson County Chamber of Commerce President Christie Haynes said, “Our chamber is very concerned that a move from zero impact fees to maximum impact fees will overnight change our community into one that is perceived to be anti-business.”

She asked commissioners to consider adopting impact fees at 25 percent of the maximum for at least the first year and she pointed out that the maximum rate would place a higher cost of doing business in Dawson County than much larger counties like Hall, Forsyth and Cherokee.

Gaines said he, too, worried about sending an anti-business message. “We all want to attract higher-paying wages, he said. Setting impact fees at the maximum, he added is, “Simply putting another road block.”

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett argued that by not setting the maximum impact fees, the cost of new services created by the developments shifts to taxpayers already in the county. “I don’t think it should shift onto somebody else. It should be on those businesses.”

Chairman Billy Thurmond, who does not have a vote except in the case of a tie, said, “I think it would be in the best interest that we start the business category at 25 percent.” He stated, the fee could always be raised if it did not appear to discourage desired businesses from moving to the county.

“We talked about that a long time, where we’re looking for technology-based companies or medical,” he said. “We don’t want to take the chance where we may not get the high-paying jobs that come along with that.”

 

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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Planning Commission unanimously recommends denial of Dawson Forest Holdings variance

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DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – Nearly one year after the Dawson County Board of Commissioners turned thumbs down on Dawson Forest Holdings plans to build 177 single-family homes and 95 townhomes near Hwy. 53 and Elliott Road, the plan resurfaced at Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting.

It turned out to be no more popular in 2017 than it was in 2016. Dozens of area residents braved evening thunderstorms to attend the meeting and many stood up to voice their opposition to the plan. When the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial on two separate applications for a variance, the opponents applauded the commission’s decision.

Attorney Joshua Scoggins, who represents Dawson Forest Holdings, said there had been some “legal deficiencies” with the application last year and that a Superior Court judge had remanded it back to the county so those could be corrected. “That’s the reason we are coming back before you,” he said.

There were two variances applications. The first called for 15.828 acres to be rezoned from residential agriculture (RA) to residential multi-family (RMF) to build a 95-unit townhome community. The second requested that 59.497 acres be rezoned from RA to RMF to build 177 single-family homes.

Hugh Stowers speaks in opposition to Dawson Forest Holding development.

Hugh Stowers asked who will pay for the added services the development will require. “Who will pay for the added cost of law enforcement?” he asked. “Dawson County has increased the Sheriff’s Office budget more than any other department, and I’m sure you know the closer you put people together, the more crime there is.  This will reduce our quality of life and drive our property taxes higher than we have ever dreamed.”

Tony Passarello voiced concerns about the added traffic along Hwy. 53, a major artery between Dawson and Hall counties.

“To put this all in perspective, by 2020, the area buildup will include a 2 to 9 percent increase in peak traffic load along Hwy. 53,” he said. “We will have the addition of 300 apartments being built behind Dawson Forest Publix and the development of a 67-acre tract along Dawson Forest Road these same developers had already sold. The fully-opened Publix Shopping Center and Kroger Shopping Center would, of course, put more pressure on the intersection of Hwy. 53 and Dawson Forest Road.”

Passarello added that approval of the variance would create a density that will “have a serious effect on the safety of existing and future property owners in the area.

The proposal now goes to the Board of Commissioners for a final decision.

 

 

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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Controversial rezoning resurfaces after 2016 denial

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Planning Commission meeting set for 6 p.m. Tuesday on second floor of the Dawson County Government Center.

DAWSONVILLE, Ga. – A controversial rezoning request denied by the Dawson County Board of Commissioners one year ago, almost to the day, is back on the planning commission agenda Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held on the second floor of the Dawson County Government Center.

Bill Evans, of Dawson Forest Holdings, has submitted two applications. One would allow him to build 95 townhomes on property located at 20 Hughes Court and the other to build 177 1,200-square foot, single-family houses on property located on Hwy. 53, adjacent to Fire Station No. 2 and the Tractor Supply Co.

Area homeowners, who joined forces to oppose the influx of new housing last year, attended county commission and planning commission meetings and submitted a petition signed by more than 400 area residents in opposition of the applications.

On Dec. 13, 2016, commissioners unanimously denied the application stating the developer’s plans did not align with the future land use plan for the area.

In January, Evans sued the county, the board of commissioners and each commissioner individually for denying the applications, stating the commission’s refusal to rezone the parcels from residential agricultural to residential multi-family violated his constitutionally protected right to use his property for any lawful purpose.

Tony Passarello, an Elliott Road resident, sent an email last week urging residents to attend Tuesday’s planning commission 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 NOn.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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