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AUGUST 7, 2002


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A complete history of Jackson County, Georgia from 1796 to the present. Written in narrative style for easy reading. Includes material not found in other books about Jackson County.

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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page

Angela Gary
Are there any side effects?
Anyone who has read my column before is probably aware that I read my medical book entirely too much. The huge volume was a birthday gift from my sister one year.

Support Chamber
The Banks County Chamber of Commerce has many exciting plans in the works or already under way.

Frank Gillespiie
Judge’s poor ruling led to tragedy
A few days ago a reader greeted me with “I like your articles because you don’t care whose toes you step on.” Well, today I have a new set of toes to stomp. The toes belong to a federal judge.

Zach Mitcham
A view on simplicity
“The wife who keeps saying, ‘Isn’t that just like a man?’ and the husband who keeps saying, ‘Oh, well, you know how women are,’ are likely to grow farther and farther apart through the years.”


SPORTS

Dealing With The Dog Days
A host of tough foes await the Commerce football team this fall, but the opponent the Tigers are looking to beat right now is the heat.
In the face of local and national awareness in recent years to the dangers of August football heat, Commerce head coach Steve Savage said his team has handled the rigorous conditions well as they enter their third week of summer workouts.

New seasons start with practice
The dawn of a new school year brought with it a slew of fall sports teams eager to begin their seasons soon. Before they can take to the field and compete, however, local teams must first put the necessary work in during practice, which many officially began doing on Monday.


Neighboorhood News ..
MADISON COUNTY

Ila to go ahead with city hall renovations
Renovations on Ila’s city hall building will soon be under way.
The town’s mayor and council decided Monday night to proceed with the renovations using sub-contractors they select as the work progresses.
Mayor Mike Coile agreed to contact contractor and lone bidder Terry Seagraves to begin carpentry work as soon as possible.

School bells ring Friday
Madison County kids will head back to the classroom again this Friday.
The most significant county-wide change this year is a new afternoon bus routing schedule placing elementary age bus riders on buses separate from high school and middle school students.

High expectations
New MCHS principal says he has high hopes for students
Robert Adams already looks very much at home seated behind his desk in the new principal’s office at Madison County High School.


Neighborhood News...
BANKS COUNTY

Baldwin seeks counties’ help
City needs aid on building inspections
The Baldwin City Council may be asking Banks and Habersham counties for help in performing building inspections.

Little contributions, spending among local candidates
There has been very little contributions made to the candidates who will be on the ballot in the Aug. 20 primary election There has also been little spending going on among the candidates.

Students start school Friday
Banks County students will return to the classroom on Friday with an estimated 2,450 enrolled.

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ALL LINED UP

North Jackson Elementary School students proceeded through the hallways with wide eyes and an eager look on the first day of school on Thursday. See additional back-to-school photosi n the weeks Jackson Herald

BOC buys more Darnell Road property for courthouse
To pay $362,250 for house and seven more acres
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed in a split vote Monday night to purchase seven additional acres at Darnell Road for a courthouse.
BOC chairman Harold Fletcher and commissioners Sammy Thomason and Emil Beshara voted to purchase the property. Stacey Britt voted against the action and Tony Beatty abstained from voting.
The BOC agreed to pay the Swaim family $362,250 for the property. The BOC agreed earlier to pay $2.1 million for 157 acres on Darnell Road for the courthouse.
Beshara said the seven acres would make the Darnell Road property “complete.” He said the Swaim property is surrounded by the other Darnell Road property that the county already purchased. He added that purchasing it would “remove and eliminate any intrusions or disturbances” on the other property on Darnell Road.
“This property is essential to the development,” he said. “It makes the property whole.”
County manager Al Crace said the county determined the purchase price by getting appraisals from two independent firms.
In other courthouse-related action, the BOC discussed a request to seek engineering, surveying and design proposals for the proposed Jackson Parkway to serve the Darnell Road area. But Britt asked that the county hold off on this until it gets more information on the financing for the roadwork needed for the new MACI plant in North Jackson.
“I don’t see how we can afford to do both of them (at the same time) with everything else we are doing,” Britt said of the two road projects.
Fletcher said that the county must do both projects at the same time.
“I don’t see how we can not afford to do both of them at the same time,” Fletcher said.
Britt said: “It may be clear to some of you, but it’s not much clear to me. I’m still trying to figure out how we’re going to do it.”
Beshara said that it would be premature to authorize a road design without first hiring an architect for the project. The county has received 28 proposals from architects, which are being reviewed by the staff.
The BOC did approve a request to allocate $19,750 to go toward surveying services for Ringo & Sadler Engineers & Surveyors of Commerce for topographic mapping, recombination plans and maps for the courthouse project.
The BOC also agreed to seek proposals for surveying services for the county operations complex, including the fire training center.


City Council Ready To Move On Truck Parking Regulations
Aimed At Big Trucks In Residential Areas
The Commerce City Council appears poised to accept the recommendation of the Commerce Planning Commission Monday night on the subject of heavy trucks parking in residential areas.
The city council meets at 6:30 p.m. at the Commerce Civic Center.
The planning commission modified a proposed amendment to the city zoning ordinance that was prepared by City Manager Clarence Bryant and City Attorney John Stell. The result is that people who now park commercial trucks of 10,000 pounds or more in their yards may continue to do so if they meet certain provisions.
Among the provisions are that the person must own the vehicle, that there must be a paved access from the street to the yard (but not necessarily a paved driveway), the truck must be parked in a side or back yard (behind the front building line), and that all accessories be stored in a closed building.
The proposal would give truck owners until Oct. 1 to get a permit, which will allow them to park their vehicles – and any that might replace them in the future – in their yards. But no new permits will be given out after Oct. 1.
The planning commission had recommended that the side/back yard requirement be dropped after speaking to a driver whose yard is not big enough. The council apparently plans to retain that provision in the ordinance, but to give a variance or some other relief to the one truck owner.
The council also appears willing to accept the planning commission recommendations on rezoning requests by James Bailey for mini warehouses on the Maysville Road and by Reagan Reed, to rezone three lots from C-1 to R-4 to build houses. The lots are on Hill Street at MLK and Pine.
Also on the agenda for Monday are:
•an amendment to the city's Electric Department budget to cover an upgrade in a line along Homer Road from Pine to Cedar Drive to serve a new development.
•a proposal to amend the city retirement plan's death benefit. The city discovered a flaw in the plan when long-time city employee Daniel Strickland died. Strickland had left the city's employment but was not yet receiving retirement benefits for his 27 years of service. As a result, his widow gets no benefits. Had Strickland been drawing retirement or still working at the time of his death, she would have gotten benefits. All contributions to the retirement fund are made by the city; the employee contributes nothing, according to Bryant. The proposed "fix" would close that window to protect employees' spouses – but will not affect the Strickland case.
In other business, Bryant said the city will not be able to implement retroactive to July 1 a "pay plan update" that is the result of a consultant's survey of municipal pay. "It will probably be Oct. 1, the start of the second quarter, before we can implement it," he said. The plan will cost the city about $151,000 per year, and Bryant warned that "it's going to require some modification in our revenue stream next year."
Bryant also announced that the Department of Transportation expects to begin resurfacing Broad and Elm streets Aug. 16. The DOT is repairing bad spots now and will grind off an inch of asphalt before resurfacing the streets.


Chateau Elan residents say zoning change a ‘done deal’
The fate of a proposed change in a large residential and commercial development in Braselton is now in the hands of the Braselton Town Council following a unanimous nod of approval from the Braselton Planning Commission Monday night.
But several residents of Chateau Elan complained that the action, coupled with an attendant lawsuit that is currently under negoiation, made the development a “done deal.”
Braselton will act on the proposal to move 16 acres of commercial development in Strickland River Farms further north along Hwy. 211 when it meets next Monday, Aug. 12. The proposal would put the new commercial development next to ongoing commercial development at Mulberry Park.
An estimated 20 residents were present for an hour-and-half called meeting of the Braselton Planning Commission on Monday. Many of the residents came after fliers were distributed alerting them of the called meeting and urging them to attend. Although just three residents stood up to state their opposition to the proposed change, several residents unofficially asked questions throughout the public hearing.
Bill Bright asked that the commercial element be moved adjacent to Mulberry Park, since it would eliminate the need for a traffic light at New Liberty Church Road. A traffic light will be placed at Hwy. 211 and Thompson Mill Road for Mulberry Park.
Several residents agreed to Bright’s request.
But if the commercial element is moved adjacent to Mulberry Park, as many residents suggested, it would be in Gwinnett County. The point was not addressed during the public hearing.
When the planners voted to make a recommendation, however, they revised the conditions to include moving the commercial element as a top priority. Other conditions included a 50-foot buffer surrounding the property, dimming outdoor lighting after business hours and no restaurants with drive-thru service.
Mitch Peavey, a representative of Strickland River Farms, also presented several conditions on behalf of the developer, which included the prohibition of gas pumps, inter-parcel access between commercial and office tracts and signs not to exceed 12 feet.
Peavey said the development is being marketed to pharmacy stores. A steak and seafood restaurant has shown interest in the project, which could include up to two full-service restaurants. A bank with a drive-thru teller window is a possibility as well, he said.
The project will not include “big box” stores, such as Wal-Mart or The Home Depot, he said. No deals have been made with any retail store to locate on the property.
“I don’t want to have a ‘Chateau’ theme, but we do want to have controls and make sure that the theme we come up with is consistent,” Peavey said, while adding the development will have a “village” or “old-town concept.”
INVOLVES LAWSUIT BY BARROW COUNTY
In December, the former mayor and town council approved Strickland River Farms’ request to rezone and annex the property to Planned Unit Development (PUD), following a recommended denial from the town planning commission. The property is located on Hwy. 211 and Liberty Church Road in Barrow and Gwinnett counties.
At the time, the request included more than 500 single-family homes with no commercial development.
For the rest of this story see this weeks Jackson Herald.


Family subdivision changes spark debate at BOC
If the turnout at Monday night’s board of commissioners’ meeting to discuss the future of family subdivisions is any indication, the issue will see a flood of inquiries August 16 when a workshop on the matter is slated.
Consultants working with the county have recommended that language in the existing county codes related to family subdivisions be changed. Legally, county codes cannot differentiate zoning requirements based on family relationships, said officials. Jackson County is the only county in the state with such language in its zoning codes.
A workshop with consultant Bill Ross is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 16, from 3 to 6 p.m. for landowners concerned about the issue to get specific answers to questions about how the proposed changes would affect their plans and property. Residents are asked to bring plats of their property to ask Ross about how the county’s regulations will affect them.
FAMILY SUBDIVISIONS
At issue is property that is handed down from parent to child and access concerns related to that property. In counties with large tracts, such as family farms, small tracts of land are often cut off from the main parcel and given to children for a home. In some cases, family farms are subdivided among children for residential use.
But county officials say the way those have been handled in the past was based on a code that is illegal. In addition, these “minor” subdivisions did not have in place some of the setback standards required in other residential code sections.
The impact of these non-standard lot divisions has an impact on public safety, surrounding landowners and future property owners, officials said. While the proposed changes in the code’s language would not prevent parents from giving their children land, it would clear up access requirements that are currently in conflict with other parts of the county’s zoning codes. In addition, the proposed changes would delete the language that official say is unconstitutional that allows family members to, in effect, do rezonings other property owners are denied.
One of the key issues in the division of land is access to public roads. By Georgia law, no land can be “landlocked” without legal access to a public road. That means when land is divided, or given to children, those lots must also have legal access to an existing public road.
In the past, the division of land among family members called for a 60’ strip of land to access the parcel. That would be eliminated under the proposal because it conflicts with another part of the zoning code that requires a 20’ easement per lot, recorded by deed, and filed in the courthouse. While a child may continue gain access to the property through some other means, such as an existing driveway to a parent’s house, that legal easement would continue to exist on paper for any future owner of the property to ensure he has legal access to the land.
None of the proposed changes would affect the lot size requirements for residential building. The minimum size requirements for a house would still be governed by whatever zoning category the property was in.
A related issue concerns the proximity of driveway easements into the main public road. While regular subdivisions are required to have internal roads to service building lots, the division of family land could have many individual easement access roads that would create traffic safety issues.
MONDAY NIGHT
At Monday night’s BOC meeting, a number of citizens from the Nicholson-Center communities peppered the board about the proposed changes for over an hour.
Several people questioned whether the changes would require property owners who give land to their children that doesn’t have road frontage to put in a road that meets subdivision regulations.
County leaders said that would likely not be the case and that property owners could apply for a variance in such situations. There would be no guarentee that a variance would be approved, however. The details of each request would have to be judged on a case-by-case basis, said officials.
Angeline Scarborough of Center was among those expressing concerns about the proposed changes. She questioned whether the changes would “punish the family.”
“A lot of people will be impacted and not know it until it is too late,” she said.
John Palmer said: “These rules you’re making say I can’t give my young-uns something unless y’all approve it.”
But BOC members said that was not the intent of the changes.
“Families will still be able to divide their property among family members, but they will do so in a manner consistent with methods available to everyone,” commissioner Emil Beshara said. “Easement access can still be granted to accommodate parcels with no frontage. Flag lots would be discouraged, but would still be allowed through the variance procedures proposed. Not every division would require them to build a road.”
There has been a moratorium on family subdivisions for several months now while the county zoning ordinances are updated. This has led to many “hardship requests” from citizens being heard by the BOC.
Once the moratorium is lifted, the administrative staff will once again be able to approve three minor subdivision requests, including recombining lots, dividing land into five lots that meet several requirements and dividing land into lots of 10 acres or more.
Copies of the proposed changes are available in the county planning and zoning office in the Administrative Building in Jefferson.


Elections on tap Aug. 20
Three local races to be decided
Three local races will be decided in the Aug. 20 primary election.
In the District 3 Jackson County Board of Commissioners race, incumbent Emil Beshara and Jerry Presley, both Republicans, will face off. No Democrat will be on the ballot in November.
In the District 5 Jackson County Board of Education race, incumbent Jill McEver Elliott and Sammy Qualls both qualified as Republicans. There will not be Democratic opposition in November.
In the District 2 BOE seat, incumbent Tim Brooks and challenger Alvin Marlow both qualified as Republicans. No Democrat qualified for the November General Election.
One of the House district seats serving Jackson County will also be decided in the Aug. 20 election. In District 24, Joe Hutchins, Winder, and Warren Massey, Winder, both qualified as Republicans. No Democrats qualified.
In District 25, incumbent Pat Bell, Jefferson, a Democrat will face challenger Chris Elrod, Jefferson, a Republican, in the Nov. 5 General Election.
Three Senate districts are in Jackson County, including District 46, District 47 and District 49. These races will also be decided in the Nov. 5 election.
In District 46, Doug Haines, Athens, a Democrat, is pitted against Brian Kemp, Athens, a Republican.
In District 47, Robert Banks, Canon, a Democrat, will face Ralph Hudgens, Comer, a Republican.
In District 49, Sueellen Simmons, Jefferson, a Democrat, will be on the ballot with L.S. Casey Cagle, Gainesville, a Republican.


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1,400 Expected Today As City
School Year Begins
Nearly 1,400 children were expected to enter the doors of Commerce's three city schools this (Wednesday) morning on the first day of the 2002-2003 school year.
A higher-than-expected number of kindergarten students had school officials scrambling Tuesday to see if they could add another class.
Principal Kim Savage explained that she had to implement the Commerce Board of Education's new policy limiting enrollment to city residents as kindergarten, third and fourth grade classes reached their capacity.
"We can only have so many students in a class," Mrs. Savage explained. "We can have 22 in kindergarten, 22 in grades 1-3 and 30 in grades 4-5. When we get close to that, we have to say we can only take city kids."
The board's policy was designed to limit enrollment in just such cases where the addition of another child or two might require the system to hire another teacher.
No matter how crowded the schools get, however, any child residing in the Commerce city limits will be accepted. But once space nears capacity, the policy kicks in.
After city residents, priority is given to non-resident children with siblings already enrolled, non-resident children whose parents own property in the city and to non-resident children whose parents are graduates of the city system.
But after open house Monday night, Mrs. Savage and Superintendent Larry White concluded that just to serve city children and those with siblings in the city school system, a sixth kindergarten class is needed.
"Mr. White is calling the parents (of children on the tentative list) to see if that's what they (the parents) want to do," Mrs. Savage said Tuesday.
That course of action could mean a delayed start for the students while a teacher and a portable classroom are found.
The extra classroom would also give the school some leeway to accept additional students that will trickle in over the next week or two. Enrollment typically climbs steadily for a week or two after the first day.
NEW STAFF
Students will see a number of changes, including new staff members or former staff members with new responsibilities.
At Commerce Elementary School, new staff members include Terra Griffin, counselor; Gail Bellew, MIMH instructor; Tori Boulieau, learning disabilities; Mary Anne Bradford, behavior disorders; Becky Duke, third grade; and Ben Osborne, physical education.
Other new staff members include Ruby Fleeman, secretary, who taught kindergarten 24 years at the school; Nicole Spear, second grade paraprofessional; and Michelle Edwards, special education paraprofessional.
In addition, Lori Martin, formerly a special education instructor, is a new kindergarten teacher and Deborah Watkins has switched from teaching fifth grade to teaching an EIP class.
New staff at Commerce Middle School include Katie Bassett, learning disabilities; Janice Hanley, study skills and reading; Ben Osborne, physical education and health (shared with the elementary school); and Sandy Davis, school nurse.
New teachers at Commerce High School include Walt Massey, math; and DeMaris Hooper, special education.


School enrollment up 3% this year
Overall school enrollment was up a modest three percent in the Jackson County and Jefferson City School Systems this year. School doors opened last Thursday in both systems while the Commerce City School System opens this week.
Combined, the Jackson and Jefferson school systems have 6,734 students this year, a three percent gain over the start of school last year.
For the first time, the Jackson County School System topped the 5,000 mark in total students with 5,188 enrolled in all its various schools. That does not include students in the Regional Evening School, Alternative School, or Pre-K.
The largest percentage of individual school increase was West Jackson Primary School which had an additional 55 students, an increase of 16 percent. Jackson County Comprehensive High School had the largest increase in raw numbers, up 84 students over last year for a seven percent increase.
Jefferson Elementary School saw a six percent increase with 46 additional students. That puts JES above the 800 mark at 837 students enrolled.
Both Jefferson Middle School and Jefferson High School had fewer students as the doors opened last week.


Political forum set Tuesday in Hoschton
A political forum will be held in Hoschton on Tuesday, Aug. 13.
It will begin at 6:30 p.m. and be held at the Hope Christian Worship Center on Merchant’s Park in Hoschton.
Candidates to be featured in the forum include:
•Jackson County Board of Commission District 3 seat, where incumbent Emil Beshara is facing Jerry Presley. Beshara and Presley are both Republicans.
•Georgia House of Representatives District 24, where Joe Hutchins, Winder, and Warren Massey, Winder, both qualified as Republicans. No Democrats qualified.
•Georgia Senate District 49, where Sueellen Simmons, Jefferson, a Democrat, will be on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot with L.S. Casey Cagle, Gainesville, a Republican.
The forum is sponsored by the Hoschton Women’s Civic Club.