News from Banks County...

June 13, 2001


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OPINION
Mike Beatty
Why we must confront the illicit use of video poker
There are people in the halls of our state capitol who say I am frantic about the unchecked growth of illicit video poker gambling in Georgia. I am.

Todd Simons
Even Granddad was a Braves fan
As my grandfather grew closer to the end of his life, he had whittled his activities down to two: he watched television, mostly sports and mostly baseball, and he cared for his yard.


SPORTS

Directions to Area Schools

Banks County Recreation Department summer events posted


Neighborhood News...
JACKSON COUNTY
Maysville holds closed meeting for 'personnel'
The Maysville City Council met in closed session for two and a half hours Thursday night for a "specific personnel matter."

Grimes Suspected Of Embezzlement
The man who was Commerce's top law enforcement officer for 14 years until his death June 1 is now suspected of embezzling thousands of dollars from the city of Commerce.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Chamber to locate office in old county courthouse
Madison County commissioners approved office space in the old county courthouse for the Chamber of Commerce Monday night. The Chamber agreed to a five-year lease for use of the old probate judge's office and adjoining space.

Wymbs case may open next week
Prosecutors hope to open the trial of Albert Wymbs next week.
Wymbs, of Creekwood Drive in Hull, was charged with the November 1996 stabbing death of Angela Harris in her parents' home near the Clarke County line off Hwy. 106 in Madison County.


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Mobile home park stirs controversy in Baldwin

Residents living on Charlie Davis Road attended the Baldwin City Council meeting Monday to voice their disapproval of the rezoning of 45 acres to accommodate a new 172-unit mobile home park.


Baldwin mobile home park approved
The Baldwin City Council agreed in a 3-1 vote Monday night to approve the controversial rezoning request of Sterling Investment Partners to develop an "upscale" 172-unit mobile home park on Charlie Davis Road.
The vote came after a public hearing Monday that included statements from Habersham County residents living on the road outside the city limits.
Attorney Chan Caudell represented property owners Dean and Kay Swanson, who do not want to see the area developed in that manner. They said in a letter to the council that the road is too dangerous to handle the additional traffic that 172 homes would bring. They also stated that the rezoning does not hold with the traditional use of the area.
Another issue they cited was the lack of notification of the zoning hearing. Though Baldwin officials had posted a sign, it had been nearly covered with kudzu, they said. They did not feel this was appropriate notification.
Caudell suggested the council take the rezoning seriously.
"This is not something you want to do just to make money," he told the council.
He suggested the council had not taken into consideration the impact the development would have on the road and the school system by increasing the city's population 20 percent. He also said the Habersham commissioners are not happy with the increase in size of the mobile home subdivision.
The mobile home park would also decrease property values in the area, according to Caudell. Further, since they depreciate upon leaving the lot, as a car does, the tax base would diminish, he added.
He asked if Sterling Investment Partners had done an environmental impact study and pointed out the planned road into the development, as shown on the drawings, would cover an existing springhead. He also questioned the impact on a nearby stream.
"When you go from 50 lots to 172, you've got to present more than just 'We're gonna provide the city with x amount of dollars because we're going to tie into water and sewer,'" he said. "There are some serious concerns on this type of development."
The Upper Chattahoochee River Keepers are interested in the project as well, said Caudell.
Another problem, he said, would be to get power to the park. In speaking with Georgia Power, Caudell said that he was told that the power company would not allow access into the existing easement. He said there would be a problem getting new easements from adjoining property owners and that if Georgia Power is granted easements, they would have to pay a high price. "There is a property owner by the name of Gailey," Caudell said. "Mitchell, I don't know what relation that is to you, but that could be of concern." Council member Mitchell Gailey replied that the person is his cousin.
Caudell said "it was interesting" that the title search showed the title work had been done by the same firm as the city's attorney.
Caudell recommended that Sterling be required to perform an environmental impact study and a traffic impact study before approval of the rezoning request.
Mayor Mark Reed's response was that property along Highway 365 was already planned to be zoned high density by Habersham County authorities in 1992 and invited the group to look at the documents spread out on a table that showed the county's designation of the land. He read the stipulations that the council needed to follow in deciding their vote and said that some of the points of the resident's argument were in the zoning ordinance.
Mark Brown, a property owner along Charlie Davis Road, said: "Let's don't lose the concept of why the majority of us are here. It's a safety issue. They may be able to develop an A-1 development, but the traffic issue's the problem. That road cannot support any additional traffic. The taxpayers of Habersham County are not going to want to spend hard-earned income to make a road better just for a 45-acre development."
Councilman Robert Bohan-non asked Bryan Wright if he had been in contact with the county concerning improving the road. Wright responded: "They're not going to improve Charlie Davis Road until there's some development."
Adjacent land owner Carol Lovell suggested the council ask the Georgia Mountains Regional Development Author-ity to do a study on the impact of a development that size for the city at no cost.
Council member Ray Holcomb said he wanted the issue tabled until further impact studies could be done and made such a motion. It was not seconded and was declared dead. A motion to rezone the 45 acres was then made and council members Bohannon, Gailey and Jeff Bohannon voted in favor of the rezoning. Ray Holcomb voted against it.
Caudell said he would talk over the outcome with the Swansons and see what they wanted to do. They may choose to appeal the council's decision. One of the property owners present said, "It ain't over."


School system asks BOC to lower tax collection fee
Banks County school leaders are asking the board of commissioners to lower the tax collection fee the board of education is being charged.
Superintendent Deborah White and BOE chairman Neal Brown asked BOC chairman Kenneth Brady to lower the tax collection fee, White told the board members at the school board meeting Monday night.
She said that based on the current fee of 2.5 percent, the school board has paid $454,501 in the last five years. Last year alone, the board paid $115,787, almost enough, White said, to run the tax collection office.
Meanwhile, White said, the board has had to borrow money from Regions Bank to pay its bills because tax notices are not sent out on time.
"When they're late collecting taxes, then we pay more interest," she said.
For the 2000-2001 school year, the system borrowed $1 million and paid $22,957 in interest before the tax money was available. In three years, the system has borrowed $3.1 million and paid $65,283 in interest.
White told the board that Brady said he would talk to the other commissioners and they would consider doing away with the fee or reducing it. Brown said it needs to be rolled back and a cap put on it.

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Banks students must leave cell phones at home
Banks County students will no longer be able to carry cellular phones or pagers to school, according to a new policy passed by the board of education Monday night.
Students who disobey the new policy "shall be subject to placement in an alternative education program."
Board member Bo Garrison said he had a problem with the new policy at the work session Thursday night and at the regular meeting Monday night.
"I think kids should be able to have cell phones for safety reasons if they're turned off," said Garrison. "I send my daughter off with one every day. It's turned off."
Superintendent Deborah White told Garrison that the policy was mandated by the state and it must be passed.
"It must be passed for safety reasons," she said. "The state is concerned about students using cell phones for drug deals and if the school has a real bomb threat, the cell phone can set [the bomb] off."
Garrison said that if students aren't allowed to carry them, then school employees should not be allowed to carry them either. White agreed, saying that the issue will be addressed.
Another one of the new policies outlined the alternative school program, which the county will soon provide in conjunction with Commerce and Jefferson city school systems. The policy states that the program will provide a learning environment that includes the quality core curriculum. The program is designed for students who are suspended from the regular classroom as well as students who are more likely to succeed in a nontraditional setting. According to the policy, the same amount of federal, state and local funds will be allocated to any student, whether in the regular program or the alternative program.
The board approved eight other policies, which were based on new state guidelines. The policies handled expulsion, suspension, requiring immunizations, duty-free lunch for kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers, procedure for non-renewal of contract and separation, fingerprinting all employees, the necessity of having two-way radios on school buses and removing any board conflict of interest.