News from Madison County...

JULY 21, 2004


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OPINIONS
Frank Gillispie
We must eliminate state financed primaries
How many of you are frustrated over Tuesday’s election? Did you go to the polls with a list of people you wanted to support only to find out that if you voted for one, you could not vote for the other?

Zach Mitcham
The roots of growth are spreading
Madison County’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA) lives up to its name. It works aggressively to develop business in this county. This is either a blessing or a curse, depending on how you feel about growth.


SPORTS
The summer time race begins
Shortened preseason leaves MCHS opener with Franklin Co. less than a month away
The starting gun was fired at the Raider practice field Monday in the Madison County football team’s race to prepare for its Aug. 20 season opener.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Popphan, Mote in magistrate run-off
Chapman wins over Anderson
Winford Popphan and Ivan Mote will be facing each other in a run-off for the magistrate judge’s seat on August 10.
Popphan came away with 912 votes in Tuesday’s election, while Mote had 750. Frankie Gardiner had 644 votes; Luke Parson had 318; and Danny Lord had 276. Incumbent Henry David Banks did not seek re-election.

New BCMS nearing completion, Erwin says
School system’s construction project ahead of schedule and under budget
Construction at the new Banks County Middle School is nearing completion. Superintendent Chris Erwin said Monday the project is two weeks ahead of schedule and under budget.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
Landslide!
Bell boots Fletcher 84% to 16%. Thomason ousted by political newcomer. Crow elected to BOC without a runoff in 4-person race. Benton looks to have unseated Elrod in a squeaker
Other local election winners: Thomas, Chandler, Wheeler
A loud voice calling for change echoed across the Jackson County political landscape Tuesday night as voters ousted two incumbent county commissioners. One lost by the largest margin in the county’s history. The other fell to an unknown political newcomer.

Largest County Departments
Ranked by Expenses in 2003
(Only departments above $150,000 expenses in 2003)
Rank Department Expenses Expenses
2003 2002

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At a Crossroads

Madison County commissioners will vote Monday night on whether to approve a rezoning for a shopping center at the intersection of Hwy. 98 and Hwy. 172. The issue has sparked much debate about how this county should grow.

BOC vote on shopping complex set for Monday
Zoning board divided 3-3 on proposed development
Madison County commissioners will vote “yes” or “no” Monday on whether to approve a shopping center in a largely rural area of Madison County.
It’s a hotly debated topic, pitting two opposing views of what’s best for the county.
The commissioners will hear many different opinions, but they will make the choice without a clear recommendation from the county zoning board, which split 3-3 Tuesday on whether to approve a rezoning at the intersection of Hwys. 98 and 172 for a shopping center.
Concern about possible abandoned store buildings from a failed commercial endeavor caused some on the planning commission to reconsider supporting the controversial rezoning of the proposed shopping center development, which was first considered last October.
Last fall, county planners recommended approval of the request, while the board of commissioners voted 3-2 to turn it down.
The request for the rezoning was presented to the zoning board Tuesday by attorney Victor Johnson, representing developer John Purcell of PlanSouth, project coordinator Lee Naylor and property owner Barbarianne Gaulding-Russell. They are asking to rezone a 30-acre portion of a 112.54-acre parcel from A-1(agricultural) to B-2 (commercial) to combine it with an adjoining 16-acre B-2 property. The remaining acreage will remain A-1.
Johnson listed a number of reasons why his clients feel the property should be rezoned, pointing out that the adjacent property has been rezoned B-2 since 1996; that it is consistent, in their view, with the comprehensive land use plan; that it could provide as many as 150 new jobs for county residents and that it is located across the road from other commercial property including Madico Industrial Park and a convenience store. Johnson also said that the developers are working to attract a major chain grocery store to the shopping center.
And Johnson added that a mid-June traffic survey showed that more than 13,000 vehicles travel through the intersection each day, making it one of the busiest intersections in the county and that statistics show that more than 25,000 people live within a ten mile radius of the intersection.
He also disputed rumors of a truck stop, poultry plant or other commercial use, saying such businesses would be incompatible with the developers’ plans of a grocery store, which he maintained is their main objective.
“We submit that it will benefit the county to allow this (rezoning),” Johnson told the commission.
He also pointed out that several major subdivisions on Hwy. 98 have just been improved: one in Comer and another just east of the city limits of Danielsville.
Johnson said that his clients have collected more than 300 signatures of residents who support plans for the shopping center.
Speaking on behalf of those who oppose the rezoning, attorney Eric Eberhart of Athens pointed out that one of his clients biggest concerns was that there have been “for sale” signs on the 16-acre parcel already zoned B-2 for some time and that those signs have only been removed recently.
“Does this suggest a preparation for development of the property?,” Eberhart asked.
And Eberhart disagreed that the comprehensive land use plan supports such development in that area, arguing that it was located in a rural area of the county “most dedicated” to remaining agricultural.
Eberhart said his clients had collected 259 signatures opposing the rezoning.
“There are 236 residents within a two-mile radius of the property; where do you think most of those signatures come from?” Eberhart said.
“Once you say ‘yes’ to a non-conforming development, can you ever really say ‘no’?” he asked.
He also stated that his clients contended that there was, in fact, not enough population in the area to support such a major development and pointed out that a large section of the shopping center in Dogsboro has remained vacant since the grocery store moved into a new section.
Several others also spoke against the rezoning, stating that they feared a commercial development would destroy the rural atmosphere of the area.
Jenni Edwards, who lives several miles from the intersection off Hwy. 172, urged planners to resist approving such a development in the area until after the comprehensive plan is updated in 2006.
But Chamber of Commerce president and Industrial Authority executive director Marvin White spoke in favor of the rezoning, pointing out that Ingles alone brings in 11 percent of the county’s sales tax revenue as well as significant ad valorem taxes each year. As for a water supply, he pointed out that there is a 150,000-gallon water tank located across the road at Madico Park, along with several businesses.
Johnson followed up with some statistics on business rezonings in the county in the past 10 years, pointing out that 95 had been approved, with 75 of those along major highways in the county.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Jouranl.


Athens man rescued from Broad River
An Athens man is recovering at home this week after experiencing a “memorable evening” while floating down the Broad River in Madison County Monday.
According to a press release from Madison County chief deputy Bill Strickland, Jonathan Short was with friends and relatives Monday afternoon when they decided to float down the river in canoes.
When Short failed to meet his group at the end of the route and darkness fell, authorities were notified.
Madison County First Responders, Madison and Elbert County deputies, Department of Natural Resources officers and troopers of the Georgia State Patrol converged on the area.
A specially-equipped helicopter with a heat detecting device from the Georgia State Patrol was also called to aid in the search.
Short was located about 1:30 a.m. on a sandbar several hundred yards from his original destination near the bridge on Hwy. 172.
According to the press release, when troopers in the helicopter saw Short had visible injuries, Trooper Greg Mercier landed the helicopter in the river on a large rock where Trooper Jeff Adamson, also an EMT, then went to the victim and administered first aid until help arrived by land.
Short, who apparently already had a previous injury with broken ribs when he went into the river, became separated from his party after his canoe overturned and made his way to the nearby sandbar where he waited for help.
The canoe was located a distance away lodged on some rocks.
Strickland said “the sheriff’s office would like to thank everyone involved in the search” and to commend “the State Patrol for their heroic efforts in the rescue.”


Schools planning for growth
SPLOST projects come to a close, but handling facility needs is an ongoing process for local leaders
One construction chapter is nearing a close, but school leaders can never shut the book on facilities needs.
Local voters approved a one-cent tax last March for a wave of school construction projects, including — among other things — a sports complex, new classrooms at elementary schools and a high school theater.
Those top-priority improvements are all done, except for a few punctuation points. Now, local school leaders are beginning to look at more long-term needs.
Of course, tops on the list is a new middle school — MCMS is overcrowded. And a new middle school is expected to be the primary ticket item when the sales tax comes up for renewal in 2008.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Jouranl.

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To read more about the local events in Madison County, including births, weddings, sports news and school news, see this week's Madison County Journal.


Runoffs set for Aug. 10
Bellew, Chandler to face off for chance to run against Nash in November
Skipper, Mason runoff set for BOE District 5 seat. Lavender retains DA’s seat; Thomas, Scoggins claim primary victories
Two local runoffs will bring Madison County voters back to the polls in August. No one gained enough votes for the Democratic nomination for chairman of the board of commissioners.
As a result John G. Bellew with 968 votes, for 47.6 percent will face of against Burton “Chip” Chandler who ended up with 581 votes for 28.6 percent of the vote. Both candidates are former commissioners. Current District 4 commissioner Melvin Drake finished third with 421 votes. Wendell G. Williams, who withdrew at the last minute, received 64 votes.
Due to his withdrawal, Williams’ votes’ will not be counted. By eliminating his 64 votes from the total, Bellew ends up with 49.1 percent of the qualifying votes, still not quite enough to win the nomination.
A tight three-way race for board of education District 5 left incumbent John Mason with 242 votes and 36.7 percent, Melissa Skipper with 211 votes and 32 percent and Robert Fields with 205 votes and 31.1 percent. Mason and Skipper will face each other in the runoff for the office. The board of education is a non-partisan race with the winner of the runoff taking the office.
In other local races, Stanley Thomas defeated Wayne Douglas for the Republican District 1 nomination. He will face Democrat William Taylor, the incumbent, in the general election in November.
John Scoggins easily defeated Wesley Jordan for the Republican District 4 nomination. He will face Democrat Mike Sales for the seat being vacated by Melvin Drake when he entered the race for chairman.
Republican John W. Pethel, Sr. will face incumbent Democrat Johnny Fitzpatrick for the District 2 seat.
For the rest of the story see this weeks Madison County Jouranl.


BOC, tax board to meet Tues.
The long saga between the county commission chairman's office and the tax assessor's department, which has included two state investigations, will be the focus of a commissioners' meeting with the tax assessor's board next week.
County commissioners called for a work session Tuesday, July 27, at 6 p.m. in the county government complex to discuss implementing recommendations from a three-person committee composed by the state Department of Revenue that conducted an investigation of the tax assessor's office in May.