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SEPTEMBER 15, 2004


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OPINIONS
Rochelle Beckstine
Hurricane season not too unusual
I can remember watching a movie once where the main character was discussing where he wanted to live. He discounted all of the central United States because of tornadoes, California because of earthquakes, the northeast because of snow storms and the south because of hurricanes

Jana Mitcham
Grandparents, and those like them
Did you know that this is the week to celebrate grandparents? It began on Sunday, September 12, with the official National Grandparents Day. (I noticed this because Maysville Elementary School has an article inviting grandparents to breakfast all week.)


SPORTS
Leopards head to Norcross Friday to battle GAC
The Leopards will travel to Norcross Friday to take on the Spartans from Greater Atlanta Christian. The game will begin at 7:30 p.m.
The Leopards are undefeated on the road and GAC’s loss to Westminster came on Spartan territory.


News from
JACKSON COUNTY
White To Return
School Superintendent Rescinds Resignation, Gets 3-Year Contract Larry White’s retirement is now on hold for at least three years.

$70 million school bond vote ahead Tues.
Advance voting is under way this week
Some Jackson County voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of a $70 million school bond referendum.


News from
MADISON COUNTY
Eyes on Ivan
Storm headed west of us, but rain expected
Early predictions had northeast Georgia in the direct path of Hurricane Ivan, but the worst weather appears to be headed west.
Nevertheless, all eyes are still on Ivan this week as New Orleans prepares for the brunt of the blast, with people fleeing in droves, fearing monstrous winds and catastrophic flooding.

What’s in the numbers?
Budget talks begin amid many uncertainties
Will county use 2003 or 2004 digest?
With the county’s total land value — its tax digest — still undetermined for 2004, county commissioners will begin talking about the 2005 budget Tuesday night.

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Concerned about impact of development

Martha Threatt addresses the Banks County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, questioning the impact the 120-lot subdivision proposed by Tim Brooks will have on the county.


BOC approves zoning for 120-lot subdivision
Countians filled the courthouse Tuesday night for the Banks County Board of Commissioners meeting to hear the outcome of a rezoning request that left the planning commission without a recommendation last week.
The BOC approved a zoning request from Tim Brooks to rezone 159 acres on Hebron Road from Agricultural Rural Residential to Single Family Residential for the placement of a 120-house subdivision.
Issues surrounding the proposed subdivision were brought up by several citizens attending the meeting. Five citizens owning adjoining and adjacent properties came to the meeting and spoke in opposition to the request.
“I’d rather have 50 to 60 mobile homes on two-acre tracts than 120 stick-builds on one-acre lots,” said Martha Threatt.
Under ARR zoning, the minimum lot size allowed is two-acres, R-1 allows for one-acre lots with county water and one and a half acres if not serviced by county water.
Threatt was concerned about the impact on county services, such as police and fire protection and the school system, as well as the impact the development could have on the nearby wetland area.
“I believe the river property should be protected from exploitation,” she said.
Threatt said some form of industry would be better served in the area instead of allowing Banks County to become a bedroom community.
Ricky Simmons said he is also concerned about the impact on the wetland area.
“We kinda like the wetlands and want to protect them,” he said.
Simmons said he is also concerned about the influx of traffic on Hebron Road.
Keith Gray shared Simmons’ concerns about traffic.
“I have a problem with the massive amount of traffic on that road,” he said. “I do consider 120 homes to be massive, we don’t have the law enforcement to handle it. If a child is killed, how much is this man bringing in taxes?”
Ed Lindorme, Banks County Planning Commission member, attended the meeting and spoke to the board during the public hearing before the meeting, which began at 7 p.m.
“I believe our quality of life is directly related to the size of the lot we live on,” Lindorme said. “Someone with a 100-acre lot enjoys life more than someone on a one-acre lot.”
Lindorme made a motion to approve Brooks’ request last week at the planning commission, but the motion died when it didn’t receive a second. Lindorme said he recommended approval because of the quality of the development. But, went on to say, “R-1 zoning is a direct threat to our agricultural land, you have to be careful where you put it.”
“You commissioners have to make the decision on what direction the county is going,” Lindorme said.
Brooks said he respects the individuals for voicing their opinions, but he legally meets all the county and state requirements.
“I will abide by all the county and state regulations,” he said. “There is a means in place to address all of your concerns.”
Brooks also said he wanted to go on record as having a “Constitutional objection” to the manner in which the planning commission handled the recommendation for the application last Tuesday night. The planning commission sent the request to the BOC without a recommendation.
“There may be a concern as to the planning commission following a directive of how to pass the application from the planning commission to the BOC,” Brooks said. “It comes as a denial on the planning commission record, we feel we have met all of the requirements for a subdivision in Banks County.”
County attorney Randall Frost explained a zoning request could be denied if the proposed zoning doesn’t meet the county comprehensive plan or if the character of the area is unchanged.
“I don’t know of any constitutional requirement that would require this board to approve this request,” Frost explained during a break. “The fact that you can sell your property for a higher price if it is rezoned is not a reason.”
The BOC unanimously approved the rezoning request. Commission chairman Kenneth Brady explained that Brooks would have to appear before the planning commission again to approve the preliminary plat and the final plat of the subdivision.
Brady said an impact study would be required if the subdivision included any more than 120 lots, the Environmental Protection Division regulates impact studies.
Brooks said he was looking at developing the land in a “two-tiered” subdivision, including both starter homes, priced at $130,000 to $140,000, and more expensive homes, starting at $160,000.
CONDITIONAL USE APPROVED
In other business, a conditional use application from Bruce L. Oye for a home-based concrete business at 1520 Grove Level Road was approved. Oye has been in business at the location for nine years and needs the conditional use permit to erect a building to store supplies and for light maintenance and clean up of his commercial vehicles. Oye currently has five trucks on his property. Oye’s request was approved with the stipulation that he install an oil retention tank inside the building to contain the waste and that he not allow his business to grow to include more than six vehicles at the location. Commissioners Brady and Pat Westmoreland addressed citizens concerns over the business using Magnum Bridge Road to access I-85.
Larry Wiggins, adjacent property owner, said he is in favor of the proposed building, but was concerned about the road system.
“I think that since the county has allowed him to be in business this long, they should provide him with safe roads,” Wiggins said.
Westmoreland said he had looked at the damage to Magnum Bridge Road and thought it was the result of another business, located on Magnum Bridge Road, using the road. Brady suggested a new route, a suggestion that would keep Oye’s trucks on state routes to I-85. Oye said the new route would be 20 minutes out of the way and an additional 12 miles.
“I’ll keep telling my guys to not use Magnum Bridge Road,” Oye said.
Brady said the county is working on patching sections of Magnum Bridge Road.
OTHER BUSINESS
The BOC approved all other zoning applications, including the following:
•a conditional use application from National Wireless Construction to build a 260-foot telecommunications tower at the intersection of Partain Road and Bruce Kesler Road. The cell tower will provide service for Cingular Wireless.
•a conditional use application from Robert Evans for a bait and tackle shop at 137 Beaulah Lane.
•a conditional use application from Tim Farmer for a shop to house plumbing vehicles on Hickory Flat Drive.
•a rezoning application for Cynthia Farmer to rezone 121 acres on Hickory Flat Drive from ARR, Agricultural, Rural-Residential to CAD, Commercial Agricultural District for the placement of an equestrian center. Farmer said she is relocating her equestrian center from Gwinnett County to Banks County. Development on the property is expected to total $1.5 million, which includes a substantial barn for boarding and an estimated $350,000 house for the owners.
In other business, it was reported that Lightnin’ RV Sales and Service LLC withdrew its request for a recreational vehicle sales facility at 30600 U.S. Highway 441, South.

BOC seeks dismissal of charges
Brady denies sexual harrassment claims, to seek a jury trial
The Banks County Board of Commissioners seeks to have the sexual harassment suit initiated by county employee Natalie Dyer dismissed.
According to documents obtained by The Banks County News, Donald A. Cronin, attorney for the BOC, states that a county department or board of commissioners cannot be sued, only the county itself.
“In Georgia, individual departments of counties or municipalities are not legal entities capable of being sued…,” he said.
He cites a number of judgments in cases where individuals have sued boards of commissioners and county departments.
Judges in those cases denied the plaintiffs suits against the government entities but did say the defendants had the right to sue the county.
Kenneth Brady, who was directly sued as an individual and as the chairman of the board of commissioners, denies the allegations made against him. Further, he claims Dyer “failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to filing this lawsuit.” Brady has requested a trial by jury.
Natalie Dyer, an employee with the county board of tax assessors, alleges that Brady sexually harassed her six months ago. Commissioners Rickey Cain and Pat Westmoreland were also sued for taking no action on the allegations. Dyer is seeking $1.2 million in the lawsuit.

Alto looks at new abatement ordinance
By Shar Porier
Members of the Alto Town Council went over the first draft of a new ordinance regulating junked vehicles, appliances and litter at Monday night’s meeting.
It states: “It shall be unlawful to abandon, leave, keep, or store junk and salvage materials, including motor vehicles, appliances, machinery, equipment or parts out-of-doors upon any public or private land within the city of Alto, except within the confines of a licensed junk or salvage yard.”
If a violation is brought to the council’s attention, the landowner will be notified and given 14 days to remove the item. Failure to act upon the request will result in a minimum fine of $150 which must be paid or service to the property will be disconnected.
It goes on to say: “Upon failure, neglect or refusal of any owner or agent so notified to cut trim destroy and/or remove litter, weeds, grass, unsafe trees and shrubs, or unhealthful grottos, or other noxious matter growing, lying or located upon such owner’s property, or upon sidewalks abutting same, within 30 days of receipt of the written notice…the city will be authorized to cut, trim, destroy or remove such litter, weeds, grass, unsafe trees or shrubs or unhealthful growths or other noxious matter.”
Councilman Phil Lomax made a motion to continue applying the old ordinance until the council could further review the document. The motion was passed by all council members.
In other business, resident Carolyn Cabe again complained of the poor water quality in the city and said that it is an on-going problem, not an irregular event. She said that her family and friends bring their own drinking water with them when they come to visit.
She asked: “Why don’t you care about the filthy water? You say it’s due to shocking the lines, but that can’t be happening every day. It’s embarrassing. There has to be a solution to it.”
Mayor Audrey Turner said the city is almost ready to bring a new well on line and hopes that it will help the problem. With the extra water supply, the city will be able to flush lines using the hydrants to try to get sediment out of the pipes. That effort is two to three weeks away, she added.
Councilwoman Patricia Barlow-Ivry said she had been talking with Sautee officials where the same problem exists.
On another matter, the council, approved city-paid dental insurance for employees.

 


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Student enrollment up seven percent
With the first month of school completed, student enrollment is up almost seven percent at Banks County schools.
The increased student population was discussed at the board of education meeting Monday night. The school system shows a 6.87 percent increase in student enrollment for the 2004-2005 school year over last years enrollment count at the end of the school year. The percent translates into 165 new students in the system. Enrollment is calculated at 2,557 students.
Last year, the school system added less than 50 students and, five years ago, only 20 new students were added.
The completion of a new middle school and an expansion at the primary school could not have come at a better time.
“The Banks County School system is progressively planning and preparing for the number of students and their impact,” said Banks County superintendent Chris Erwin. “At the present time, with the opening of a new middle school and new second grade wing at the primary school, there are no mobile units being used for classrooms in the system.”
Banks County can expect escalated growth rates over the next few years with the development taking place within the county, officials said.
“The system has to be proactive with building projects in order to maintain the system with no portable units,” Erwin said.
On a related matter, Tommy Wiley, project manager for Banks County school projects with Charles Black Construction, discussed recently completed projects with the BOE Monday.
“It’s been a pleasure for me to work in Banks County,” Wiley said. “I’ve been with Charles Black for five years and that school is the best project I’ve ever completed.”
Charles Black Construction completed the middle school project, but small problems like leaking windows and drainage issues have some crews still working on the school. Wiley said the company will fix and replace any problems over the next few years.
“There’s going to be issues, just let me know what to do,” he said.


Liquor by the drink vote may be postponed
The Baldwin City Council again discussed how to bring the referendum of whether or not to allow liquor by the drink sales in the city at last week’s work session.
Though the council had hoped to put forth the option on the November ballot, that may not be possible.
In Banks County, probate judge Betty Thomas told city manager Betty Harper she did not want to change the ballot at such a late date.
City attorney David Syfan said the council could consider having two ballots; one for the general election and the other for the referendum. If the council chose to have a separate ballot, it would mean hiring additional poll workers to handle the ballots.
They discussed holding the referendum vote at city hall only. That would mean some Baldwin residents would have to cast their ballot in the general election at one place and then go to city hall to vote on the liquor pouring issue.
There was also some discussion about postponing it until March, even though it would mean having to wait another six months. No decision was reached.

Tax digest still in the works
Though Banks County residents have received their 2003 property tax bills from the tax commissioner’s office, the 2004 digest is still being completed, according to Nancy Sims, appraiser.
At a recent board of tax assessors meeting, there was no discussion about when the digest might be finished.
Sims said the staff is working diligently, but she could not give a date when people might expect to find the 2004 tax notices in their mailboxes.
Chief appraiser Connie Garrison said: “As a point of information, the penalty imposed by the department of revenue last year was not due to the digest being submitted late. The county was fined for falling below the acceptable rate, as mandated by Georgia law.”
Bill Ferris, WFP Inc. is currently working on the 2005 state mandated revaluation and has set a timetable for completion, which is well within state regulations, officials said.
The tax board is still waiting for word to move into a larger office. The request was made to the board of commissioners months ago. Garrison and board member Len Dalton agreed the additional space “is crucial to effectively and efficiently handle the revaluation project.”