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 FRONT PAGE - NOVEMBER 24, 1999 - COMMERCE, GA

NOTICE
Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, MainStreet Newspapers' printed editions will be printed on Tuesday, Nov. 23 instead of the regular Wednesday publication date. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Search / Class A Playoff Schedule / Jackson Co. Sex Offender Registry

Spartans Next

The Commerce Tigers had little trouble disposing of Armuchee last Friday, in spite of a closer-than-it-looked score, and, led by Monté Williams, above, are looking forward to hosting Athens Academy Friday night in the second round of the Class A state playoffs.

See Sports for more on the Tigers
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Playoff schedule


GROWTH

Sales Tax Dividend
Commissioners Say SPLOST Passage Enabled Them To Keep County Tax Rate At '97 Level
By ANGELA GARY
JEFFERSON -- The Jackson County Board of Commissioners credits approval of a one-cent special purpose local option sales tax as the reason it was able to leave the millage rate the same again for the third year in a row.
In a called meeting Thursday morning, the board of commissioners set the millage rate for the unincorporated areas of the county at 7.58, which is the same as it has been since 1996. The rate for the incorporated areas of the county will be 9.0, which is up only slightly over 8.98 last year.
The board took $400,000 out of the road budget and will use SPLOST revenue to replace it.
The additional money from the road department was put into other county departments to balance their budgets. The board had agreed to cut each department by one percent if the SPLOST didn't pass. Money remaining from the road department money went into the contingency fund, which is where the board of commissioners gets money to cover unbudgeted expenses that occur during the year.
"We need to thank the people for passing the special purpose local option sales tax," commissioner Henry Robinson said. "This is a good example of what it does. It (millage rate) would have to have been raised if it hadn't passed."
Chairman Jerry Waddell added: "It makes our job easier."
Jackson County School superintendent Andy Byers, who attended the board meeting to present the board of education millage rates, said the bond rate for the schools has been lowered substantially due to the SPLOST for education, which voters approved in 1994. The bond rate is now one percent, while it was 4.53 percent before the education SPLOST passed. The county school tax millage rate will remain at 18.38 mills, which is the same as it has been since 1996.
"The thing that is so good about SPLOST is that in addition to paying off the current taxes, we are not burdening our children and grandchildren with debt for the next 20 years," Byers said. "We built those 10 classrooms at South Jackson, 10 in North Jackson, bought land in Braselton and we are building that school in Braselton, and we have the money in the bank to do it. We won't owe a thing on it when it is completed. In the past, we have had to go to the voters and ask for bonds."
Waddell said: "If we didn't have SPLOST for education, people would be looking at much higher education ad valorem taxes. The same is for us. The millage rate for the board of commissioners has not changed since 1996, and it is because of SPLOST."
On a related matter, Byers thanked Waddell and the commission for their insight in helping settle the annexation dispute between Commerce and Jackson County. He said this led to the $1.2 million a year the county receives in sales tax revenue from outlet stores at Banks Crossing.
"The sales tax from that is really, really paying off," he said. "We struggled there for a long time. If it hadn't been for your assistance, we would never have pulled that off. We probably would have lost that mall, because Banks County was fighting for it."


125-Acre Industrial Park Proposed For Commerce
A Gainesville developer got a do-approve recommendation from the Commerce Planning Commission Monday night for the development of a 125-acre industrial park located between the U.S. 441 bypass of Commerce and Old U.S., 441.
Broughton Cochran had asked that the land, previously proposed for development as a massive mobile home park, be rezoned from AR (agricultural residential) to M-2 (manufacturing).
"We think we'll do a first class job," Cochran told the planning commission.
The city council will act on the recommendation and all other recommendations from Monday's planning commission meeting at its Dec. 13 meeting.
Cochran has a contract to buy the land from Larry Bramlett, who had proposed a mobile home park for 121 of the 125 acres, a development adamantly opposed by the city because it would have contained 500 to 900 mobile homes. Bramlett withdrew the request after the planning commission voted to recommend denial of the request.
Cochran met the owner at planning commission meetings as he was pursuing the development of Kensington Park subdivision on Mt. Olive Road at Ridgeway Road.
"I couldn't see using this property for mobile homes," Cochran stated, declaring that industrial use was the "highest and best use" of the land.
The city council is likely to approve the recommendation; city officials have been searching for land inside the city limits for an industrial park.
Cochran said he envisioned developing sites from five to 20 acres, with covenants requiring brick veneers on any metal buildings.
"We will primarily develop tracts of property and market them through the Georgia Department of Industry and Trade," Cochran stated.
At the same meeting, the city council accepted the preliminary plat for Kensington Park, although there is some likelihood that the name will be changed. The subdivision would contain approximately 140 site-built homes.
If the city council accepts another recommendation of the planning commission, a compromise between the city and the developer of a 201-unit mobile home park will result in the dropping of a suit filed against the city.
After more than two hours of discussion Monday night, the planning commission voted to approve a preliminary site plan presented by L & L Developers for Southern Oaks, located on Mount Olive Road and Old Harden Orchard Road.
The compromise would result in the dropping of a suit filed by Southern Oaks over the city's interpretation of how an order handed down by the Superior Court of Jackson County in favor of the previous owner affects the development of the 57.6-acre tract by the new owners.
The compromise involves the developer surrendering four lots for use in green space at the Mt. Olive Road main entrance, the construction of an "upgraded entrance," fencing, a buffer of leyland cypress trees, the completion of roads and recreational amenities by the time 30 lots are occupied, restrictive covenants to be approved later by the planning commission, a provision preventing any of the lots from being sold to individuals, the change of one road name, and a variance, if needed, to one lot whose shape will be affected by the entrance upgrade. The front setback from the right of way will be 15 feet.
The subdivision will rent lots for $200 per month to owners of mobile homes five years old or newer that pass the property manager's inspection, said Debbie Lunsford Love, one of the owners.
In other business, the planning commission voted to recommend to the city council a change in the zoning ordinance that will allow its chairman to vote on each motion. Currently, the chair may vote only in the event of a tie.
The change was recommended by member Greg Perry, who pointed out that with chairman Billy Vandiver unable to vote, his Ward 3 constituents were without representation on issues coming before the panel.


Next Stop Court?
Christian School Trying To Work Around Order To Move Portable Classroom; Suit Possible
Leaders of a local Christian school continue to research their legal options following the Nov. 8 vote by the Commerce City Council to deny a request to keep a mobile classroom on the school campus for another year.
The city sent two weeks ago by certified mail a letter to Providence Academy demanding that the mobile classroom be moved immediately. But the classroom remains.
"I have talked with some folks in the city government to find out if there is an appeals process," says Ray Morris, director. "I've been told there is no appeals process for a ruling of the mayor and council. The information from City Hall indicates the next step in the process is Superior Court."
The issue, as the school officials see it, is that the city council lets the Commerce City School System have mobile classrooms, both temporary and permanent, but denies the private school the same privilege. And since the private school is virtually in the middle of the public schools' complex, there are no differences in the request from a standpoint of affecting surrounding property values.
The process under the city's zoning ordinance is that such facilities are permitted with a "conditional use permit" that must be renewed annually. Providence Academy had a permit; the denial came on its renewal request.
The public schools have four permanent portable classrooms, one at the high school, one at the middle school and two at the elementary school, plus a number of temporary portable classrooms at the high school for use while the school is renovated.
Morris is seeking help from the American Center for Law and Justice, a legal organization that provides help to Christian schools.

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