News from Jackson County...

JANUARY 22, 2003

Jackson County

Jackson County
Jackson County


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Lady Panthers split pair against Classic City foes
A Jackson County team averaging better than 25 free-throws a game expected a hostile environment when they traveled to Clarke Central (13-4, 4-1) Tuesday night, what they might not have expected was for their team to come out on the short end of the referee’s whistle, at least not as much as was the case.

Mat Tigers’ Getting Ready For Area Duals
Though the Commerce grapplers have only been wrestling for a month, they’ll soon be turning their attention to the first phase of area tournament competition.

Dragon win streak at seven and counting
There comes a time in every team’s season where no matter what they do collectively, at some point they’ve just got to jump on the back of their biggest horse and ride him into the sunset.

Neighboorhood News ..
Brown resigns as IDA chairman
In a surprise move, Industrial Authority chairman Ed Brown announced his resignation Monday night, at the end of the IDA board’s regular monthly meeting.

School board hears tennis complaint
Madison County tennis coach Cliff Craig came under heavy criticism at the board of education meeting Tuesday night. Local attorney Lane Fitzpatrick gave board members copies of a report he said would show the coach was “dishonest and incompetent.” Fitzpatrick’s daughter is on the tennis team.

Planners split on rezoning request
The county planning commission was split 3-3 Tuesday night on a rezoning request to pave the way for a large-lot subdivision.

Neighborhood News...
Top Teacher

When Scott Wheatley graduated from Washington-Wilkes High School in the late 80s, he wasn’t thinking about being a teacher.

County gets minimal input in tax hearings
Two public hearings last week on the millage rate increase drew participation from only two citizens.
The next hearing will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. A vote on the increase will follow.

DA can’t use tax money yet
Commission chairman Ken Brady said last week that county attorney Randall Frost has made a legal opinion on access to funds from the economic development tax—it’s frozen.

BOE pushes back millage rate vote
A technicality forcing the board of education to advertise its millage rate decrease for an additional week will push back the mailing of tax bills even further.
The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
Telephone: (706) 367-5233
Fax: (706) 367-8056


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This is one of the wrecks reported on Thursday when a light snow fell across Jackson County. Harry James McIntosh Jr., 23, Jefferson, was traveling south on Athens Street when a vehicle in front of him began to slide due to the icy roadway, according to an incident report filed at the Jefferson Police Department. He reportedly swerved to avoid hitting this vehicle and then hit a car driven by Donna Lynne Howell, 48, Athens, head-on. A third vehicle, driven by Jared Heath Brock, 19, Hoschton, was behind Howell. He reportedly had no where to go to avoid a collision and struck the other two vehicles.

UPDATE 1/27/03
SJES students, staff evacuated to JCCHS Mon.
Gasoline truck overturns near elementary school
Students and staff at South Jackson Elementary School have been evacuated today from SJES to the Jackson County Comprehensive High School auditorium after a gasoline truck overturned around lunch time near the elementary school.
No students or staff have been injured, reported school superintendent Andy Byers.
Buses will run at their regular times, Byers said. Parents who pick up their children are asked to do so at JCCHS as soon as possible, he added.

MACI project endangered by takeover attempt?
Water authority moves forward with Jan. 30 public meeting
Jackson County’s largest industrial catch ever may be endangered by the attempt of the county commissioners to take over the county water and sewerage authority.
That prospect came to the fore Tuesday night during a called meeting of the water authority.
According to the authority, it lacks funds to continue work on the sewer line for the Michigan Automotive Compressors, Inc. plant north of Jefferson pending receipt of federal grant funds. The money is being held up because it is unclear, given the takeover controversy, exactly who the grant recipient will be. And with its future in jeopardy, the authority is not about to make a draw on a previously-approved GEFA loan and incur more debt.
“The engineers say if we don’t get it going, we won’t have it ready in 2004,” said Jerry Waddell, water authority manager.
Before the funds will be released, Jackson County must provide a detailed description for the project, signed by engineers, said Pepe Cummings, president of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce. That has not been done, he said.
Meanwhile, the controversy over the potential takeover has begun to draw the notice of other groups in the county. Several petitions opposing the takeover are circulating in the county and last week, the Jackson County Builders Association took a stand opposing the move. Several towns in the county are also reportedly poised to adopt resolutions opposing the takeover effort.
At Tuesday night’s water authority meeting, the group reaffirmed its plans to hold a public hearing Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. at Jackson EMC. That meeting had come into doubt over the weekend as members of the board of commissioners and water authority discussed the potential for a “compromise” plan.
But the compromise proposal given the authority, while not rejected by the group, was met with serious questions during the Tuesday night meeting.
“I think it’s a trap. If you buy this, you’ve given up the authority,” said authority attorney Julius Hulsey. “The whole thing is a Trojan Horse. That (abolishment provision) would kill you.”
Hulsey was referring to a clause in the proposal that would allow the BOC to abolish the water authority if the authority were ever out of debt. Hulsey also advised the authority to go ahead with the Jan. 30 meeting before taking any official action.
“If you do anything before your public hearing, you will have misled the public,” he said. “Before any decision is made, you should at least go to the public hearing with an open mind.”
Following an hour-long discussion, member Tom Crow made a motion, seconded by Dean Stringer, to take no action until after the Jan. 30, public hearing. The motion passed unanimously, although member Warren Walker was not present.
The BOC compromise also included adding two county commissioners to the water authority board, among other changes.
Early in the meeting, authority chairman Elton Collins admitted a preference to accepting the county compromise.
“My goal all along was to save the water authority,” he told its members, adding that when he believed in something, “I will fight harder and meaner, but I also know I have a tendency to give up quicker.”
Although the authority voted to stand pat through Jan. 30, Collins warned that the commissioners might not wait for public input.
“Knowing these county commissioners, I’m not sure they care what the public thinks,” he said. “If we don’t do this, by the time we have the forum, this will be at the legislature. From their actions, I don’t think they care what the people say.”
Crow reminded the authority that it had asked the board of commissioners for guidance on water and sewer allocations – what percentages should go for residential use and what percentages for commercial use – but never received an answer.
“They don’t want to help us on that, but they want to run it day-to-day,” he said.
Stringer also expressed frustration about the matter.
“Everything I hear the commissioners say, they want to tell us where to put water lines,” said Stringer. “I’ve talked to a lot of people and nobody’s come to me yet and said it’s a good idea.”

The stage for Tuesday night’s meeting was set starting the previous Thursday when all five commissioners spoke at the authority’s regular meeting in support of the county assuming day-to-day operations. When that meeting ended, both groups committed to attending the public forum, but days of phone calls and one-on-one discussions between members of the two groups since then suggest that the commissioners wanted to avoid a public confrontation.
The two groups discussed the commissioners’ plan to assume control for about two hours. And while both sides were cordial, neither broke any new ground.

BOC takes on health dept. septic tank rules
Residential development in Jackson County could be hindered if officials from the county and local health department can’t resolve their differences regarding septic tank placement.
At stake is a policy that will either suppress high housing density in Jackson County or ensure the health of neighborhood residents—depending on whose message local residents will believe.
Last week, Jackson County commissioner Emil Beshara said a policy enforced by the Northeast Health District wasn’t valid because the county board of health never voted to accept a policy change as it’s supposedly being enforced today.
That “policy” states new residential lots on public water must have 25,500 square-feet of “usable soil” in order to place a septic tank.
At that requirement, homes would have to be on lots at least 1.5 acres in Jackson County.
But one health official said that “policy” is actually protecting local residents and their pocketbooks.
“We want to work with the development community to get the greatest yield (in the number of homes) possible, but we also have to protect the Jackson County Board of Health, the homeowners and the environment,” said Tony Huff, environmental health director for the Northeast Health District. Some homeowners in Gwinnett County had to pay $18,000 to connect their homes to sewage systems, after their septic tanks failed, he added.
Huff explained that the policy was established to ensure residential lots would have enough room of “usable soil” in case a septic tank failed and a second system was needed. Already, Jackson County has the highest rate of septic tank failure in the 10-county area served by the Northeast Health District, he said.
More than 800 septic tanks were inspected by county environmental health specialists last year.
And with the county on the verge of Metro Atlanta growth, the county board of health needs to prepare and protect its citizens from residential waste, Huff said.
High-priced homes, Huff said, would become less valuable if their septic tanks failed and the county didn’t have another plan or provide sewage to the residents.
Fulton, Gwinnett and Newton counties, Huff said, enforce similar requirements for “usable soils” to place septic tanks. Jackson County hasn’t been enforcing such a policy for years, he added.
For the Jackson County Homebuilders Association, however, requiring 25,500 square-feet of “usable soil” for each residential lot will put a strain on growth, Beshara said.
Homebuilders association representatives Keith Hayes and Keith Hightower told health officials that the policy, along with high prices for land in Jackson County, will make developers give a second thought to building homes here.
“We’re not out here to butt heads with you,” Hayes said. “We’re here to build good communities.”
One of the key debates during the nearly three-hour discussion last Wednesday was determining how much “usable soil” is acceptable for residential lots and if any state or local laws give the health department the authority to require such amount.
Neither side of the debate could reach an agreement. Beshara said the health department doesn’t have the authority; Huff said state law implies it can enforce the 25,500 square-feet of “usable soil” requirement. Both parties said their attorneys would further review the law.
On Monday, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners agreed in a 3-2 vote to allow county attorney Daniel Haygood to look into whether the county health department had the legal authority to enforce the “usable soils” policy.
Commissioners Beshara and Sammy Thomason voted in favor of the legal investigation, while Stacey Britt and Tony Beatty voted against it. BOC chairman Harold Fletcher, who also serves on the county board of health, broke the tie by voting in favor of the motion.
Beshara continued to state Monday night that the policy was illegal.
Besides the question of the policy’s legality, Jackson County officials said last week they will continue to face a newcomer population that may not realize the responsibilities of maintaining septic tank systems.
Newer residents of the county may not even know they have a septic tank, Beshara said. And that will likely cause problems for homeowners.
“Septic tanks are designed to be pumped out every five to seven years,” Beshara said.
Beshara and Huff did agree that the county should consider a requirement that homeowners pump their septic systems every 10 years.
Jackson County manager Al Crace and planning and development director B.R. White were present at the board of health’s meeting, although neither one spoke much during the debate. Commission chairman Fletcher said nothing should be designed “that’s designed to fail.”
Beshara and Huff agreed to meet with one another to review the “science” of each argument before presenting their views to the county board of health.
Also at the meeting, Beshara asked the county board of health to consider amending its policy on septic tank placement for proposed “conservation subdivisions.”
According to the proposed Jackson County Unified Development Code (UDC) lot sizes for Master Planned Developments would be 21,780 square-feet (half-an-acre) on public water with septic tanks. Developers could develop homes on half-an-acre lots if they designated at least 20 percent land for greenspace.
Beshara said he wanted the UDC and county health department to have the same policy for 21,780 square-foot lot sizes in those subdivisions, if the new zoning code is approved by the commissioners.
He said he wasn’t asking for action from the county board of health at the present time, but would later ask for such a position.
Angela Gary contributed to this story.

Two juveniles charged with shooting at motorists
Two teenagers were charged this week with shooting at motorists on Hwy. 124 over the weekend.
Sheriff Stan Evans said one motorist reported being shot at on Friday night, while two incidents were reported on Saturday night. One woman received minor injuries from breaking glass from the windshield. Her 5-year-old son was with her, but he wasn’t injured. No other injuries were reported.
Two boys, ages 13 and 14, were charged in the shootings. They had allegedly been shooting from behind a bush near the road.
Evans said the boys allegedly began shooting paintball at motorists and then moved on to use a .22 rifle.
The two juveniles are being held at the Youth Detention Center.

Planning Commission To Consider Retirement Subdivision Concept
The Commerce Planning Commission is expected to approve a conceptual plan for a "retirement subdivision" at its 7:00 meeting Monday night at the Commerce Civic Center.
The planning commission makes recommendations to the Commerce City Council, which will act on them at its Feb. 10 meeting at 6:30 at the Commerce Civic Center.
Developers of Falcon Crest Subdivision, located on 29.4 acres between Mt. Olive Road and Hospital Road, want to put 96 lots for single-family homes for older residents. The property is zoned R-4 (multi-family), but single-family homes can be placed on lots of 11,000 or more square feet.
The developers have apparently agreed to restrictions on use of the property.
The only other item on the agenda is a request from Brenda and John Wood, Wood Street, who want their lot rezoned from R-1 to R-5 so they can upgrade their mobile home, which currently is a noncomforming use.



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Braselton rezoning requests top 700 new county homes
Zion Church Road plans calls for 526 new homes
Braselton’s limits in Jackson County could see more homes this year, if two rezoning requests for more than 700 homes is approved.
Both of the requests, which have been submitted to the Braselton Town Council, are on property owned by Armand Delaperriere. And both properties run along I-85 in Jackson County.
The largest request calls for 526 homes on 118 acres on Zion Church Road with one portion touching Hwy. 124.
According to the request submitted last week, Norcross-based Oakmont Residential, LLC plans to construct 4.4 single-family detached homes per acre. Each residential lot would be 5,000 square-feet.
Fifteen acres would become open space and 1.2 acres would be used for a recreational amenities center.
Currently, the property is zoned M-1 and abuts unincorporated Jackson County.
Since the proposal is considered a large-scale development that is likely to affect other government agencies, such as the county school system, a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) study has been submitted to the state and other government bodies.
The Braselton Planning Commission is expected to hear the request at its March meeting.
Another rezoning request undergoing the DRI process calls for 178 homes on 67 acres behind The Vineyards subdivision.
Ray Vaughn, who serves on the Jackson County Greenspace Committee, submitted plans showing the subdivision’s entrance through The Vineyards on Chardonnay Trace Drive. Two undeveloped residential lots would serve as the entrance for the new subdivision. No other road serves the property.
Vaughn is seeking a rezoning from Planned Commercial Farm to Planned Unit Development (PUD) with 22 acres for open space. Braselton requires 20 percent of greenspace for PUD projects.
Already, residents of The Vineyards have been notified of the proposed development and a meeting with homeowners is set for Feb. 3, said Braselton town manager Jennifer Scott.
The Braselton Planning Commission will hear Vaughn’s request at its February meeting.
A third development, this time a commercial project, will also be considered by the Braselton Planning Commission.
Greg Reidling is proposing a seven-store retail center on Hwy. 53, at the former location of the Braselton Hardware Store. Reidling’s initial request for gas station and storage facility was denied by the town council last year.
Reidling is seeking to annex the two-acre site into Braselton.
The Braselton Planning Commission will hear his request in March.

County reviews legislation on airport authority
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners received a copy of the proposed legislation Monday night to change the terms and make-up of the county airport authority.
The BOC had agreed two weeks ago to take this action and asked county attorney Daniel Haygood to prepare the proposal. The BOC is expected to take official action on the proposed legislation when it meets at 8:30 a.m. Friday in the Grand Jury room, located adjacent to the Administrative Building in Jefferson.
The proposal calls for one-year terms, but commissioner Emil Beshara said he would support two-year terms. The five members, one from each district and one at-large, would be appointed in January 2004.
Additional proposed changes would grant the county government responsibility of the day-to-day operation of the airport. The county currently provides informal day-to-day oversight of the airport.