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NOVEMBER 17, 2004


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OPINIONS
Jackson County opinion page


SPORTS
Solid guard play will be crucial to success in ‘04-05
Jackson Co. to use balance to make up for loss of dynamic trio
Coaching can be a tough profession to remain calm in sometimes, especially when dealing with youth and inexperience.

Devils Strike Late
Lincoln Co. Puts 21 On CHS In Fourth Quarter In Playoff Win
Commerce’s postseason hopes got lost somewhere in the fourth quarter fog that rolled into Lincolnton this past Friday night.

Quest for third straight region title season starts Sat.
For the Jefferson boys’ basketball squad it may be hard to follow what was arguably the best team in school history, but they’ll sure try this season.


News from
BANKS COUNTY
Honoring those who served
BCMS recognizes area veterans at special program
The mood at the middle school was somber on Thursday as the students, faculty and citizens welcomed veterans of the armed forces of the United States of America for a special Veterans’ Day program.
Some came dressed in uniforms with rows of medals hanging over their hearts, others wore suits and ties, but all the men and women who came to the program had memories and stories of a different time.

Proposed subdivision topic of discussion in Lula
Lula residents voiced their concerns about a proposed 120-lot subdivision during a public hearing held Monday night before the city council meeting.


News from
MADISON
COUNTY
Special connections
for special parents
New support group forms for parents of special needs children
Pam Moore knows what it’s like to feel isolated while caring for a special needs child.

Early deadlines for next week
The Madison County Journal will have early deadlines for next week’s Thanksgiving issue.

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The Jackson Herald
Jefferson, Georgia
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POLICE RESPOND TO SHOOTING
Jefferson police officers and emergency personnel responded to the shooting of a man driving on Hwy. 11 Monday. The 73-old-man was shot in the head by his step-grandson, who was apparently in the car with him. Sydney Pope is expected to recover, officials say.

Jefferson man charged in shooting step-grandfather
A 73-year-old Jefferson man is expected to make a full recovery after being shot in the head by his step-grandson Monday.
Sydney Pope was shot as he drove on Hwy. 11 with his step-grandson, Robert Thomas Johnson, 20, Jefferson. Pope was taken to an area hospital.
Johnson was charged with aggravated assault, reckless conduct, obstruction of an officer and underage possession of alcohol. Drug charges are also pending, according to officials.
Police chief Darren Glenn said Johnson was at the scene when officers responded to the 911 call Monday afternoon. He reportedly originally told officers that the shot came from outside the vehicle, however, Glenn said further investigation found that it came from inside the car.
“He originally told us that somebody shot into the car,” he said. “But there was no way from the direction of the bullet. We started asking him and he subsequently confessed.”
Glenn said Johnson told officers that he found the gun in the car and was looking at it when it accidentally discharged. He added that officers found the weapon along the roadside where Johnson had discarded it before the police arrived.
“It is fortunate that he wasn’t killed after being shot in the head,” Glenn said.


Arcade customers could lose water service
Political feud over service area could force county to turn off water
Some 411 residentS of Arcade could find themselves without water as the result of a bitter political fight in Jackson County.
Arcade city leaders have demanded to be given a water service area by the county, taking territory away from the county water authority in the process. Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner signed the agreement last week, the last local government to do so and clearing the way for Arcade to have its own water service district.
While county water officials are fighting that action to defend the financial security of their own water system, they learned this week that caught in the crossfire may be the existing customers of the water authority who live in the new Arcade service district.
If the Department of Community Affairs approves Jackson County’s revised “shared services agreements,” the county water authority could lose its ability to apply for loans and grants if it does not turn off water to existing Arcade customers.
According to authority chairman Phillis Holland, “As soon as the DCA signs off, we will not be in compliance because Arcade is not in our service district. We will be forbidden from giving any water (to customers in Arcade).”
All of that came to the fore at a meeting with DCA officials earlier this week. Holland, Commission Chairman-elect Pat Bell, authority Vice Chairman Hunter Bicknell, authority interim manager Paul Mims and authority attorney Julius Hulsey met with Rick Brooks, director of the EPD’s Planning and Environmental Management Division.
The authority has 411 customers in Arcade. At the stroke of the DCA pen, those customers will become the customers of the city of Arcade and the authority cannot legally provide them with water, Holland said. Meanwhile, Arcade could be months from being able to become a wholesale purchaser of water. It lacks the master meters, the utility billing system, even a knowledge of who the customers are.
“Basically, he (Brooks) told us the DCA is not a regulatory agency. They just make sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s dotted and the form completely filled out,” she said. “They don’t check what’s in the agreements.”
The DCA has 30 days from receipt of the signed agreements to approve them.
According to Holland, Brooks informed the delegation that the DCA had no ability to enforce that the shared services agreements meet the guidelines of House Bill 489.
“The biggest thing we got out of this meeting is that if we continue to serve the 411 customers in Arcade after this agreement goes into effect, we will not be in compliance,” Holland said, adding that being out of compliance means the authority will not be eligible for loans or grants.
The authority had previously voted to file suit over the agreements on the grounds that the authority, which is a state-chartered entity, was denied participation in the HB 489 negotiations.
In the HB 489 negotiations, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners purported to negotiate on behalf of the authority. In doing so, they gave up authority territory not just to Arcade, but also to Commerce and Braselton, a move the authority believes was political, given the long-standing feud between the authority and the board of commissioners.


High-density project nixed by planning group Jefferson City Council to hear proposal in December
A proposal to build a high-density subdivision on property currently owned by county board of commissioners chairman Harold Fletcher along Hog Mountain Road got a chilly reception at Tuesday night’s Quad Cities Planning Commission meeting.
In the end, the QCPC voted unanimously to recommend denial of the rezoning and Jefferson annexation request, but not before a lot of debate between board members, several area residents and potential developers of the project.
The request will come before the Jefferson City Council at its work session set for 6 p.m. Monday, December 6, at the club house.
Being proposed by James B. Braden of Lawrenceville are 100 homes on 1/4-acre lots, with greenspace and a lake, on a total of 54 acres. Wayne Woodall, Winder, who represented Braden at Tuesday’s meeting, said developers wanted to annex the property into the city limits of Jefferson because “the general attitude of the school system is better, much better, than that of the county (school system),” as well as because of sewer access.
The land is on Hog Mountain Road and is part of the Edgar Fletcher estate. It is currently zoned PCFD and A-2 in the county, but developers want to rezone it to R-2 for a conservation subdivision. The developers said they wanted to have access to city sewerage service from lines located in the nearby Heritage development.
QUESTION PROJECT
Woodall said that the subdivision would include 57 percent greenspace, with a lake, streams and walking trails and 11 entrances from the residential area into the shared greenspace. But some members of QCPC and the audience questioned his math.
“These would be like quarter-acre lots,” QCPC member Nancy Pollock said. “Basically, it’s 100 houses on 25 acres.”
Bobby Wilkins, whose family farm would be wrapped around by the subdivision, added: “I don’t see how they can have 57 percent greenspace with 100 lots and a lake on 54 acres.”
Pollock also questioned the statement on the application that said the development would have very little impact on the school system. “You say limited or no impact on the school system – how?” Pollock asked.
Woodall admitted that anytime there is development, there is impact, but added that “with a subdivision this size, we feel there would be a minimal impact. The schools absorb the children of people coming in.”
“Any subdivision will impact the schools,” Pollock said, pointing out that the city is already looking at needing to build a new elementary school.
Woodall said that Gwinnett County has had to have trailers at its schools and, while that is not desirable, sometimes it is necessary.
“A community that doesn’t grow, stagnates,” he said.
QCPC member Larry Benton wondered: “What would be the advantage to city taxpayers to have another 100-lot subdivision coming in when the schools are already crowded?”
Woodall responded that the property owners have a right to sell and develop their property and that those who come in can’t close the door behind them.
“I don’t know how long you all have lived here, but when you move into a place, you can’t just close the doors,” Woodall said. “If you close the doors, we quit growing and the only thing that is positive is change...This could be industrial or a plant, but we feel the lay of the land is a perfect setup for a subdivision for families, to grow and be a part of the community, like you and I.”
Benton, who said he has lived here 60 years, responded: “My point is, we can only absorb so much.”
SAYS PROJECT WILL BRING COMMERCIAL GROWTH
Mark Vercelote, an assistant to James Braden, also spoke about the subdivision proposal and addressed Benton’s question about how the subdivision could benefit the local taxpayers.
“Our subdivision is going to bring people and people bring commercial development,” he said. “A Publix shopping center with retail outlets, for example, which would increase the tax base. I am looking for land to bring shopping centers to this area. People will bring that growth.”
Benton responded: “Commercial tends to pay its own way. Residential doesn’t really add anything, it just brings people.”
He also pointed out the increased need for police and fire protection, as well as schools, that comes with those people.
“It’s a catch-22,” Vercelote admitted.
‘NATURAL BUSINESS CORRIDOR’
The question of industry and commercial development arose again when Bill Carpenter, a nearby resident, spoke against the proposal, saying that Hog Mountain Road is a natural business and light industrial corridor, connecting two interstate exits.
Carpenter, who said he has 7.75 acres adjoining the property, explained that “we don’t want to build a fence around Jefferson, but we are concerned by the type of growth.”
“These houses will be 45 feet from my property,” he said. “The lot width is about the size of a tractor trailer, there are five feet between the houses and a 20-foot back yard.”
He pointed out that there are 47 single residences on Hog Mountain Road — not any subdivisions — but that those homes are giving way to industrial development.
Kubota will be a mile from the Fletcher property, he said, and listed Holox and other industries as also close by. It is two and a half miles from the end of the Valentine Parkway, Carpenter said, and “Martin Marietta is three miles across the way.”
“I hope the new land use plan will be followed for Hog Mountain Road,” Carpenter said. “We need business. This is a natural business corridor.”
Wilkins, another of the residents who spoke, presented a petition signed by 80 percent of the homeowners in the area and pointed out the bad curve in the road where Storey Lane and Hog Mountain Road intersect.
He, too, referred to the future land use plan, which he said has the area listed as industrial.
“This is a shared tax district,” Wilkins said. “Both Jefferson and the county benefit from commercial. If it is residential, we get trailers at the schools.”
Wilkins’ family property is currently in farming, with two pastures on either side and with old chicken pits scattered about.
“That is contaminated soil,” he said. “You can’t build houses on that.”
As for the developer’s claim that the project would bring in jobs, Wilkins said that he is a self-employed landscaper, and “we see no jobs from the Gwinnett County projects. They bring their own crews.”
Resident Harvey Warmack also questioned how the road situation would be handled.
Realtor Stacey Flowers spoke, saying that realtors in the area are begging people to come into subdivisions.
“If people are looking for a place to live in Jackson County, they aren’t looking very hard,” Flowers said.
In rebuttal, Vercelote said the property in question is adjacent to residential property.
“The property would be difficult to develop as industrial,” he said. “The people who want to deny this would likely ask to deny industrial, as well.”
Vercelote said that having homes close together is the idea of a conservation subdivision.
“It creates open space and each yard has access to the open space,” he said. “It is not a typical neighborhood.”


Sheriff wins battle with the county marshal’s office
Jackson County Sheriff Stan Evans is optimistic that his dispute with the county marshal’s department has been resolved.
Evans said he met with county manager Al Crace on Friday and that Crace agreed that the blue lights be removed from the marshal’s vehicles, along with all markings of a public safety vehicle. In addition, marshal department employees will no longer be outfitted to look like law enforcement personnel.
Evans impounded the three marshal’s department vehicles last week after two years of tension between the two agencies. Evans complained that the marshal’s department misrepresented itself as law enforcement when the agency was only a code enforcement agency.
The marshal’s cars will now be marked with only a Jackson County emblem and will read “code enforcement.”
“We will take Mr. Crace at his word,” he said. “I appreciate the help with this. The response from the public has been amazing to say the least.”
Evans said all weapons that had been issued to the marshal’s department will be relinquished to the county manager and all clothing bearing law enforcement ensignia will be destroyed, along with badges, handcuffs and pepper spray that are currently being carried by marshal personnel.
Crace also agreed that employees of the marshal’s office will not be allowed in the secure area of the 911 dispatch office where law enforcement information is held.
“Employees (of the marshal’s department) will not represent themselves to the public as law enforcement personnel,” the sheriff added.


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Mixed-Use Project Goes Before Planners Monday
Stores, Houses, Townhouses Proposed At Intersection Of U.S. 441, Old U.S. 441
A development that will combine 114 acres of commercial space with 108 acres of houses and townhouses will come before the Commerce Planning Commission for rezoning Monday night.
The planning commission will meet at 7:00 p.m. in the Peach Room of the Commerce Civic Center. It makes recommendations to the Commerce City Council on matters relating to zoning and land use.
A group called Commerce 441 LLC seeks to rezone from AF and M2 to C2 a total of 267.38 acres between U.S. 441 and old U.S. 441.
The triangle where the two meet would be developed first, according to City Clerk Shirley Willis, as a commercial component, followed by the residential section.
The plan calls for a 20-acre shopping center of big-box stores and 30 out-parcels from 1.3 to 4 acres. The residential part calls for 253 lots for single-family houses and 250 units of townhouses.
There would also be 34 acres of greenspace, 31.2 of them in a single park, and 10.6 acres of right of way.
The developer is Chattham Properties, considered to be one of the Atlanta area’s premier developers. Officials of that company took planning commission members on a bus tour of a similar project in Cherokee County, and the local members were reportedly favorably impressed.
Also on the agenda Monday night are:
•request to rezone for annexation 43.2 acres between Wheeler Lane, Bana Road and Edwin Reynolds Road from A2 to M2. Terri and Sharon Kennedy are the property owners.
•a request to rezone for annexation a lot on Oconee Lane owned by James and Michelle Johnson. They seek R1-E rezoning for what is now A2 in the county.


Emil Beshara blasts editors
Jackson County District 3 commissioner Emil Beshara blasted the editors of the county’s two newspapers in a 10-minute statement during a board of commissioners meeting Monday night.
Beshara read his statement as a response to recent columns by Mike Buffington, editor of The Jackson Herald in Jefferson and Mark Beardsley, editor of The Commerce News.
Both Buffington and Beardlsey were critical in recent newspaper columns of comments made by Beshara related to the county water authority and its former chairman, Warren Walker.
In response, Beshara Monday night referred to Beardsley as “the little girl that writes the Commerce paper” and said that Buffington “inherited his position as a birth right.”
“I will humbly start to obey the dictate of ‘Mikey the Great’ tonight,” said an openly sarcastically Beshara.
Beshara’s comments came during the opening of the meeting with about 100 people in attendance for various rezoning hearings.
Beardsley covers the board meetings of the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority for both newspapers. The BOC, often led by Beshara, has tried repeatedly over the last three years to take over the water authority and put its functions under the BOC.
The BOC recently acted to give some key areas of the water authority to Arcade and other towns in the county, a move widely seen as another attempt to cripple the water authority (see other story.)
Buffington has been critical in a number of columns and editorials of BOC efforts to undermine the independent water authority. He has also been critical over the last three years of other decisions made by Beshara and the current BOC and has been a frequent target of BOC verbal attacks.
“When you can’t argue with the facts, you attack the messengers,” said Buffington in response to Beshara’s comments. “His whining during a public meeting proves that our comments about his actions hit home. Mr. Beardsley and myself wrote the truth and Mr. Beshara didn’t like it. He’s welcome to act childish and call us names in response, but that doesn’t change the facts. It only makes the elected leadership of our county look like a bunch of kindergartners.”



 

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