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.
For Mobile Home Park Withdrawn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
"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be withdrawn," Willis said.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,"
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
The Commerce City Council will act on the panel's recommendations
at its Oct. 11 meeting.
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.
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.