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 FRONT PAGE - SEPTEMBER 29, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

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Fighting Fire On The Farm

Commerce Fireman Sammy Ingram stands atop a roll of hay as he tries to douse a hay fire last Wednesday at a farm on the W.L. Williams Road. A number of rolls were ignited, apparently from a trash fire nearby. The firemen were called back to the scene Thursday, when some of the bales began smoking again.

ZONING

Zoning Request For Mobile Home Park Withdrawn
A man who wanted his land rezoned so he could locate a huge mobile home park in Commerce has apparently changed his mind.
Larry Bramlett officially withdrew his request to rezone 121 acres on old U.S. 441 from AR (agricultural) to R-5 (mobile homes) prior to a called meeting of the Commerce Planning Commission last Tuesday night (Sept. 21), according to city clerk Shirley Willis.
"John Lindsay (Bramlett's attorney) requested that the request be withdrawn," Willis said. "They plan to come back with another zone request. It will not be mobile homes; it will be either commercial or light industrial."
The called meeting was held because at its regular meeting Aug. 23 no action was taken on Bramlett's request. Under the city's zoning ordinance, Willis said, if no action is taken on a zoning request, the request is essentially granted.
"If they had come Tuesday night, it would have been denied and they'd have had to wait six months before coming back," Willis stated.
Lindsay had previously mentioned the possibility of taking Commerce to court if the zoning request for mobile homes failed. He indicated to both the planning commission and the mayor and council that he believed he could successfully challenge the 1995 rezoning of Bramlett's land, which was then zoned R-4 and suitable for mobile homes, and which took place when the city passed a new zoning ordinance. Winning that challenge, he said, would have given Bramlett the right to develop the land under the old zoning ordinance, opening the possibility that he could put up to 910 mobile homes on the land.
The city was prepared to fight. Officials said Commerce could not possibly handle 500 new housing units, let alone 900, due to the effect such a development would have on its school system, utility systems and police and fire protection.
Also at the called meeting, another controversy was settled.
The planning commission granted a request from Broughton Cochran of Hall County to rezone from AR to R-2 73.9 acres at the corner of Mount Olive Road and Ridgeway Drive. If the Commerce City Council accepts the planning panel's recommendation, Cochran will be allowed to build 146 houses on the property.
Cochran's original concept was for a planned unit development (PUD) on the site, plus another 7.39 acres across Ridgeway, upon which he planned to develop townhouses. Neighbors objected, citing traffic problems and a six-acre commercial center that was part of the project.
The 7.39-acre site will remain R-1.
Also on Sept. 21, the planning commission voted to recommend denial of a proposal by Bobby and Frank Caudell to rezone 51 acres on Georgia 98 at Wilbanks Way from R-1 to M-1 for an industrial park.
The Commerce City Council will act on the panel's recommendations at its Oct. 11 meeting.


It's Festival Time In Maysville
MAYSVILLE -- The 32nd annual Maysville Autumn Leaf festival will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
It all begins Friday with the arts and crafts booths opening at noon. The stage entertainment begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. when the booths close for the evening. A Friday night street dance begins at 7:30 p.m.
Booths open again at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, with the parade beginning at 10 a.m.
Awards and trophies will be given in the parade for the following categories: grand marshal's pick, best parade entry, best equine entry, best interpretation of theme (fads and events of the 1960s), most creative, best in show rod or custom, best in show antique post-1948, best in show pre-1949 antique, best engine, best paint and best interior. There is no entry fee. For more information, call Candace Gunn at 706-652-2967.
An antique auto show will take place Saturday after the parade. The cars will be on display in the park, and some vehicles will be offered for sale. Trophies will be awarded in several categories.
The food booths will offer barbecue sandwiches, fried apple pies, homemade sausage and biscuits, funnel cakes, roasted peanuts and barbecue plates.
Entertainment will be non-stop. The street dance, held from 8:30 p.m. till 11 p.m., will feature The Winnebagos playing 1960s and 1970s rock and roll hits. Appearing before the dance band will be Nashville's Eddie Rivers.
Other events include a cake walk, talent show, pony rides and a petting zoo.
A silent auction will be held throughout the day Saturday inside the Community Building on Main Street next to the stage. Festival T-shirts and caps will be available at the Welcome Booth.
For general information, call Deb Greenway at (706) 652-2044 or Catherine Daniels at (706) 652-2565. Booth spaces for the arts and crafts are still available. For booth information, call Cyndi Taylor at 652-2334 or Nancy at 652-2413.


Few Locals Attend EPD Pollution Hearing
A public hearing last Friday on the state's plan to establish maximum levels of pollution for Beaverdam Creek in Commerce attracted 25 people, but only two of them were from Commerce.
Mayor Charles L. Hardy Jr. and waste treatment plant operator Brian Harbin were the only two local residents in a meeting dominated by Athens area environmental groups who were more concerned about the process the EPD is establishing statewide than the status of the creek into which Commerce dumps its treated sewage.
Conducted by the Environmental Protection Division of the Department of Natural Resources, Wednesday morning's one-hour question-answer session and hour of taking public comments constituted the second such hearing the EPD has held as it seeks to establish "total maximum daily loads" (TMDLs) for each of the waterways declared "impaired" or "having the potential to be impaired." In the Savannah River Basin alone, which includes Beaverdam Creek, some 809 miles of waterways plus 16 unnamed creeks, 129,560 square miles of lakes and 181 square miles of estuaries have all been named to that list.
By some administrative stroke, Bear Creek in Lavonia and Beaverdam Creek in Commerce were chosen to be the first two streams to have TMDL standards set. A hearing was held in Lavonia Tuesday.
Both hearings became rallying points for environmental groups hoping to influence the EPD's process. With the exception of Hardy, everyone who issued a public comment at Thursday's hearing was a representative of one or more environmental organizations.
The TMDL process will provide maximum levels for Beaverdam Creek of dissolved oxygen and for oxygen-dissolving elements, according to Alan Hollum, of the EPD's Groundwater Protection Division. After the levels are set, Commerce will have to install monitoring devices and keep the levels in the creek below the TMDLs.
The entire north side of Commerce drains into Beaverdam Creek, so in times of rain, storm water runs into the creek. There are also agricultural activities above the water plant, but EPD's main focus will be the city waste water plant.
That issue was a point of concern for Barry Sulkin, a former Tennessee environmental official who is now a consultant on behalf of the Community Watershed Group, an Athens-based environmental organization. Sulkin said a visit to Beaverdam Creek showed clear water coming from the Commerce plant, mixing with muddy creek water. He also found evidence of erosion from logging.
"So there are problems upstream and problems downstream (of the waste plant) that are being zeroed out," he complained.
Hardy, who called himself "an avid outdoorsman and trout fisherman" who "loves a clear stream," defended the city plant's record.
"We have always maintained our plant in accordance with state standards," he noted, pointing out that improvements forced by the state are difficult for a community of 4,500 to afford. He also criticized the fact that out of the entire state, two small towns were chosen to be first in the new process.
"When you get the rest of the state to go along, we'll go along," he stated. "Don't make us the scapegoat ... You've made us look bad, like we're violating the laws of the state, and that's not true."
Other people also questioned why Beaverdam Creek was among the first for which the EPD decided to set standards. It was pointed out more than once that the state has no data from the waterway indicating that it is impaired. Rather, a computer model suggests that it has the potential to be impaired.
The spokespeople for the environmental groups criticized the EPD on a number of fronts. Several people asserted, after a show of hands proved that no one at the meeting got notice of the meeting from reading the legal advertisement in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that the hearings should be advertised in local newspapers. Others suggested that the EPD should have started the process on one of the streams on which it has actual data showing pollution. There were also arguments about the technical side of measuring the stream, including criticism of measuring compliance through monthly averages of TMDLs.
"The fish might die on one bad day, but the rest of the month may be fine," Sulkin observed.
In response to a question, Hollum said he expects the EPD to set the TMDLs for Beaverdam Creek in the near future. Since Commerce plans to expand the plant, should the plans be approved, meeting the TMDLs would likely be part of the permit's requirements.


Jackson Jobless Rate Up Slightly
According to estimates released last week by the Georgia Department of Labor, Jackson County's unemployment rate edged up three-tenths of a percent between July and August.
The department estimated the August jobless rate at four percent, compared to 3.7 percent for July. The county's unemployment rate was 4.0 percent for August 1998.
The Department of Labor bases the jobless rate on estimates of a labor force of 24,126, of which 955 are unemployed.
The August unemployment rate for Georgia was estimated at 3.9 percent, down from 4.1 in July, while the U.S. jobless rate was down three-tenths of a percent to 4.2.
Other area counties and their jobless rates include Banks, 3.9, down from 4.1; Barrow, unchanged at 3.0; Clarke, unchanged at 3.0; Franklin, 2.8 percent, down from 3.3; Gwinnett, 2.4 percent, down from 2.6; Hall, 2.3 percent, down from 2.7; and Madison, 2.9, down from 3.4.



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