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MARCH 3, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Boys’ Track Team Sees A Jump In Numbers This Spring
A new track season will mean new faces for the Commerce track program.
Though the girls’ numbers have remained relatively the same from last season with five participants, the boys’ number is more than double what it was last spring with 20 members.

Just out of reach
Jefferson state tourney run ends at Elite Eight
Rome — For two-and-a-half games the Cinderella slipper fit nicely on the foot of the Jefferson girls’ basketball team, but this past Monday their run through the Class A state tournament eventually came to an end.

‘04 Diamond Panthers short on experience
Jackson County will once again have a young team on the diamond this spring. After a 3-20 season last year that saw a youth-laden squad field just one senior, this season ‘s team will only have two.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Tax bills to be mailed this month
Banks County residents won’t have to wait much longer before receiving their 2003 property tax bills.
According to Banks County’s chief appraiser Connie Garrison, the bills should be mailed by the end of the month.

Edwards wins in county primary
Nearly one-third of the 6,600 registered voters in Banks County turned out for the Super Tuesday primary election.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Long division
A look at how the lengthy redistricting process could affect Madison County. A proposed redistricting plan, put forward by the State House Democrats would split Madison County into four sections.
The current district map, recently rejected by a three-judge federal panel, divides the county into three segments. A proposed Republican plan would keep the present split.

Edwards carries Madison County
But Kerry the victor in Democratic primary
John Edwards carried Madison County in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. But the victory went against the state and national totals, which showed Democrats supporting John Kerry as their presidential candidate.

Our Time and Place:
A History of
Jackson County, Ga

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.

Order this book online

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A snowy day in Jackson County

Down the slippery slope. Cole Pace, 12, Jefferson, joined the other children and adults sledding down the snowy slopes in front of Jefferson High School Thursday. While Jackson County schools were already out for acceleration days, Jefferson students and staff will have a snow make-up day on March 19, formerly scheduled as a teacher workday. See this weeks Jackson Herald for more snow photos.

Citizens blast request for extended rock quarry hours
Residents who live near Martin Marietta rock quarry filled the clubhouse at Monday’s Jefferson City Council meeting to oppose a request for extended hours at the Academy Church Road business.
Gary Canter, Martin Marietta engineer, spoke on the company’s request to extend its hours of operation from 12 hours a day to 18 hours a day. The request calls for the rock quarry to be in operation from 6 a.m. to midnight daily.
In December, the company had requested it be allowed to go to a 24-hour a day operation. These plans were changed to the current proposal after initial citizen opposition.
Canter presented the latest plans Monday and more than 50 people attended the hearing. The city council will take action on the request when it meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the clubhouse.
At this week’s meeting, Canter said there would be no additional blasting during the extended hours. He said ‘non-crushing” activities such as maintenance and shipping work would be done during these extra night-time hours. He said no blasting would be done after 3 p.m.
“We really believe it is imperative that we be allowed to operate these hours in order to address the needs of the county and surrounding areas to provide construction materials,” he said. “...This is a growth-oriented county.”
Canter also said Martin Marietta is a “viable industry” that provides jobs and tax base to the city.
Canter said the plan also calls for locating a “berm” or buffer around a portion of the site, including neighboring property. It will vary in height from 30 to 75 feet.
“The berm provides the opportunity for a visual screen as well as an acoustic barrier,” he said. “...It is also vegetative which provides long-term coverage for prevention of erosion.”
Mayor Jim Joiner and councilman Steve Kinney asked Canter about complaints they have received about the current operation of the quarry. The mayor said he had received complaints about people hearing trucks from the quarry at 4 a.m.
“Not our trucks,” Canter said.
Kinney said he had received complaints about dishes falling off the table when the company is blasting. Canter said the quarry is regulated by the state and meets all requirements. He said they are also “pro-active” about complaints and would take a seismograph to a home if someone has a complaint about the blasts.
OPPOSITION
There was loud laughter when Joiner asked the crowd if anyone wanted to speak in opposition to the request. Several people spoke and a petition was presented with the signatures of 56 people opposed to the request.
Story Porter said the blasting has began to crack the structure of Academy Baptist Church, which was built in 1812. He added that there would be a “lot of noise and dust” if the quarry is run “the long hours” being proposed.
Linda Wade also spoke and said her home is “being shaken.”
“Something is wrong,” she said. “...Hear our concerns. They are heartfelt.”
Pamela Finney said she was home earlier in the day napping and a blast was so loud that she woke up. She said the blasts “rattle the windows” and “shake the house.” She added that she is also concerned about additional trucks being on the road due to the extended hours.
Scott Southerland said the additional truck traffic on the road up to midnight and the air quality are among his concerns.
Shelley White addressed the buffer that is in place and the one being proposed. She said the current buffer is non-existent in the winter because the trees are bare.
“The dust is unbelievable,” she said. “...The blasting is horrendous...If they lived there, they would understand.”
After the citizens spoke, Canter was given three minutes to rebut any comments they made. He reiterated that the extended hours will not change the current operation of the quarry.
“We’re not going to do anything different than we are now,” he said.


Proposed subdivision could bring 1,400 homes to Nicholson
City leaders to consider plan that could also bring water treatment plant, supermarket
Nicholson leaders will have just over two weeks to ponder whether or not they will support the construction of a subdivision on Hwy. 335 that could eventually bring as many as 1,400 homes, a water treatment plant and maybe a supermarket into the city limits.
That was the question that representatives of developer Bud Chandler posed to the Nicholson City Council at their Monday night meeting. Chandler’s team will hear back from the council at a March 18 work session.
Project engineer Tom Bowen, speaking on behalf of Chandler, reiterated that the plans for this subdivision are only in the preliminary stages.
The land on Hwy. 335 has yet to be purchased and Bowen said that even before Chandler started the extensive engineering work and required meetings with the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and Rural Development Center (RDC), he wants to know how Nicholson feels about the project.
“Mr. Chandler doesn’t want to move forward until he knows (the council) is behind it,” Bowen said.
Some on the council indicated that they had questions about exactly how many houses Chandler had in mind for the subdivision.
“I would feel a lot better if I know more about the amount of homes,” Nicholson Mayor Ronnie Maxwell said.
“I would have some questions about the density of the homes and the road structure,” councilman Chuck Wheeler added.
Bowen said that 1,400 homes is an approximate figure for an 800-acre planned community development that would include residential, commercial and green space property. Of those 800 acres, nearly 50 percent will be flood plain.
A major part of the plan, however, is to construct a water treatment plant that would service the subdivision and could potentially be expanded to serve a large area of Nicholson if the city wanted to buy it.
Even if the council were behind this plan, the city’s current ordinances wouldn’t allow it right now.
Bowen said that lots in the subdivision would be less than 1.25 acres. Nicholson doesn’t allow lots smaller than that.
According to Nicholson city attorney Chris Elrod, Nicholson would either have to draft an entire comprehensive planning urban development ordinance or have a city-wide zoning plan — something that Nicholson has been opposed to in the past.
The land would also have to be annexed into the city as well. The property boarders Nicholson’s city limits on Hwy. 335.
Bowen stressed that if the city supported the project, it wouldn’t see 1,000 homes come into Nicholson overnight, calling the subdivision a long-term endeavor.
“This is a 10-15 year project,” he said.
Chandler’s team has developed similar projects including a development in Braselton which has homes that range from $287,000 to $400,000 and includes a Kroger and CVS on the commercial segment of the land.
Bowen said their plans for Nicholson would be constructing a similar type subdivision which could potentially lure a retail store like a Kroger, Publix or CVS.
“You have to have the roof tops before you can build the store,” he said.


Jefferson considers rezoning for two conservation subdivisions
The Jefferson City Council is considering rezoning requests that would allow two conservation subdivisions locating in the town.
Tim Wilbanks and Alex Bryan both presented their plans to the Jefferson City Council at a work session on Monday. The council plans to take action on the requests when it meets at 6 p.m. Monday at the clubhouse.
At this week’s meeting, Wilbanks spoke on his request to rezone 55 acres on Old Pendergrass Road from A-G to R-1 for a 100-lot conservation subdivision. He said several subdivisions have already been approved for the area.
“This area is fast becoming the residential corridor for the city of Jefferson,” he said.
Mayor Jim Joiner looked at the proposed site plan for the subdivision and asked Wilbanks whether the interior lots would have access to green space. He said green space has to be available to every home-owner in a conservation subdivision. The mayor added that he didn’t think the site plan would meet the city’s conservation guidelines.
Wilbanks said it is “just a site plan” and that the concerns would be addressed by the engineer who does the final plan.
“Whatever those guidelines are, I’ll put them in,” he said.
The guidelines require that 40 percent of the property in a conservation subdivision be open space.
Several people spoke in opposition to the request, including Linda Wade who said her concerns include the burden the development would place on the school system and the traffic level on the road.
“The traffic is incredible out there,” nearby resident Robert Langley said. “...It will only get worse.”
Scott Southerland also spoke on his concerns about the increase in traffic on Old Pendergrass Road. His concerns also include the water level in the area.
Mark Brock, another area resident, said the development would be too high density for the flood plain area.
In his rebuttal remarks, Wilbanks pointed out that there are several conservation subdivisions in the area. He said he wants the same rights as all other property owners to use their property in the “fullest and best way possible.”
Also at this week’s meeting, Bryan spoke on his request to rezone four tracts, for a total of 268 acres, on Old Swimming Pool Road to locate a 347-acre lot conservation subdivision. He is asking that the four tracts be rezoned to R-1 residential conservation.
No one spoke in opposition to the request. Mayor Joiner did say he would also like for green space to be “more readily available” in the plan.
OTHER ITEMS
Other items discussed at Monday’s work session that will be on the agenda at next week’s meeting include:
•a request from Gary Morgan to rezone 0.532 acre at 168 Elm Street from M-1 to R-1 to locate a single family residence. Morgan spoke on the request at the work session and said he plans to sell the property to someone interested in constructing a home on it. No one spoke in opposition to his request.
•a request from Marcia Bryan to annex 79.42 acres along the Middle Oconee River and part of the proposed Bryan farm development into the city.
•a resolution supporting Georgia Cities Week April 18-24. City manager David Clabo said the town may hold an open house or other events to help promote city government and the “important role it plays, particularly in economic development.”
•a recommendation from Clabo on a firm to handle the construction management services for the civic center renovation. Clabo said he has received three proposals for the project.
•a recommendation from Clabo on a consultant to handle a development impact fee study and ordinance. The proposals for this are due by Thursday and Clabo said he will have a recommendation at Monday’s meeting.


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Gas Pains
Gas Line Relocation For U.S. 441 Widening To Cost $3.1 Million
The city of Commerce expects to have to pay more than $3 million to remove and replace gas lines along U.S. 441 as the widening of the highway takes place later this year.
At Monday night’s work session of the Commerce City Council, City Manager Clarence Bryant briefed the council on tentative plans for the work.
The bulk of the cost – an estimated $2.535 million – will go to replace most of a six-inch steel line going down one side of U.S. 441 from the bypass to a regulator station in Clarke County. The rest will replace three-inch and four-inch lines.
Most of the six-inch line will be replaced with eight-inch line, and a 150-pound per square inch (psi) system with 90 to 100 “farm taps,” each of them with its own regulator, will be replaced with a 60-psi plastic line. In addition to the larger pipe, the replacement will involve about 45,000 feet of low-pressure, low-maintenance four-inch mains.
According to Bryant, the DOT expects to bid the project in May and will start work sometime during the summer.
“They will commence in July, maybe August,” he said. “That’s when we need to be ready to go.”
There is a possibility that the project will not be funded this year; in that case, the city will delay its work as well.
“We won’t be doing any of this if they don’t do the work,” Bryant said. “If they delay two months, we won’t do any work for two months.”
Bryant told the council he’s seeking financial assistance from the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia (MGAG) in terms of a 15-20 year lease. MGAG, he said, would probably borrow the money through a local bank.
For its part, the DOT has acquired the rights of way for the project and is in the process of demolishing structures on the new 200-foot right of way.


Edwards, most recent flag get local approval
While Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry narrowly won the state’s primary election on Tuesday, John Edwards was the clear winner among Jackson County voters.
North Carolina Sen. Edwards won 55.7 percent of the vote locally on “Super Tuesday,” but Massachusetts Sen. Kerry garnished 34.1 percent of the election.
Statewide, the race was more competitive with Kerry earning 47 percent of the vote and Edwards gathering 42 percent.
Edwards is expected to formally withdraw from the presidential election today (Wednesday). Kerry is expected to be named the Democratic candidate to face Pres. George W. Bush in November’s presidential election.
Another key issue in the election was a decision from voters on the state flag debate.
Like voters across Georgia, Jackson County voters overwhelmingly favored the flag passed by the General Assembly in 2003 — a banner that doesn’t feature the Confederate battle emblem.
More than 78 percent of Jackson County registered voters agreed on the most recent flag, while 21 percent liked the flag that flew over Georgia from 2001-2003.
About 19 percent of Jackson County’s 18,758 voted in Tuesday’s primary election.
Other local tallies from the Democratic presidential race included: Al Sharpton, 3.8 percent; Howard Dean, 1.8 percent; Dennis Kucinich, 1.1 percent; Joe Lieberman, 1.1 percent; Carol Moseley Braun, .78 percent; Wesley Clark, .66 percent and Dick Gephardt, .53 percent.
Dean, Lieberman and Gephardt formally withdrew from the election prior to Tuesday’s vote.
For the Republican presidential ballot, all 1,167 votes cast in Jackson County favored George W. Bush.