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Runoff election is Tuesday

A runoff election for a Braselton Town Council seat is coming up on Tuesday.

Incumbent Becky Richardson will face challenger Richard Mayberry in the Tuesday, Dec. 3, runoff election for the Braselton Town Council District 1 seat.

Voting will be open Dec. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Braselton Police and Municipal Court Building, 5040 Hwy. 53, Braselton. See results from the Dec. 3 election in next week's paper and online at BraseltonNewsTODAY.com.

Richardson, Mayberry and challenger Joy Basham faced off in the Nov. 5 election. No candidate earned 50-percent of the vote, forcing a runoff between the top two vote-getters, Richardson and Mayberry.

In the Nov. 5 election, Richardson got 86 votes (44.5 percent), followed by challengers Mayberry with 58 votes (30 percent) and Basham with 49 votes (25.4 percent.)

This isn't the first time Richardson and Mayberry have faced off in an election. In 2015, Richardson ousted Mayberry, who was the District 1 incumbent at that time.

Mixed use project in the works for Banks Crossing

Another large development may be coming to the Banks Crossing area.

A Development of Regional Impact form for a proposed mixed-use project of commercial, retail and multi-family homes on 100 acres has been filed with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The project, named as Commerce Point, would be in the City of Commerce inside Jackson County and is located off of Steven B. Tanger Blvd. directly behind the existing Tanger Outlet Mall.

The overall project is slated to be completed in 2025.

WA Engineering of Athens is working on the project.

One killed, another injured in Friday shooting

One man was injured and another was killed in a shooting in Apple Valley Friday afternoon.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called for a double shooting Friday, Nov. 22, around 2 p.m. at 4575 South Apple Valley Rd., Jefferson.

Two men — Joshua Alton Smith, 27, of Commerce, and Justin Taylor Lyle, 20, of Danielsville — were shot and taken to area hospitals. Smith died at the hospital as a result of his injuries, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The suspect, Christopher Thomas, 32, Jefferson, was taken into custody without incident. An arrest warrant for murder was taken.

According to the GBI, the investigation is ongoing.

‘Deal of the year’
County, city recognized for SK project

Jackson County was honored for the “deal of the year” in 2019 by the Georgia Economic Developers Association at its annual awards luncheon recently.

The county was recognized for the SK Battery America project, which was announced almost one year ago in November 2018.

Gretchen Corbin, president and CEO of the Georgia Lottery Corp., presented the award to John Scott, director of economic development, Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, the county Industrial Development Authority, project developers, and officials from county government, Commerce and SK Innovation.

SK Innovation announced it will spend $1.67 billion in capital investment and 2,000 new jobs in the facility to produce lithium-ion batteries for hybrid electric vehicles.

It is the largest economic development project in Georgia since the Kia Motors plant was announced in Georgia 10 years ago.

The project was recognized because of the size of the project, and because of the county’s response to SK Innovation’s consistent requests in three months.

It is the thirteenth year that GEDA has recognized projects from the previous year GEDA recognizes recipients in four categories – small, mid-size, large and regional.

200-lot subdivision could begin work on P.J. Roberts Rd.

A new subdivision with around 200 lots could soon begin construction following the recommendation of a technical change by the Jackson County Planning Commission on Nov. 21.

The 103-acre site at 541 P.J. Roberts Rd., Jefferson, was rezoned in 2007 for a 200-lot subdivision, but the recession put those plans on hold. Now, developers are gearing up to restart the development and asked the county to waive a requirement to add an additional 10 feet of right-of-way on P.J. Roberts Rd. Developers said the extra width isn't needed to upgrade the road to county specifications.

The planning board agreed and voted to recommend approval to waive that condition. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners is slated to make the final decision at its meeting on Dec. 16.

Several area residents spoke against the project, saying the additional traffic on P.J. Roberts Rd. at Old Pendergrass Rd. would create a "massive traffic jam."

Planning board member David Ayers, who was filling in as chairman at the meeting, told those in opposition several times that the project had already been approved in 2007 and that the only issue before the board was the question about requiring additional right-of-way.

That did not appear to satisfy several members of the audience who continued to complain about the overall project's impact in the area.


In other action, the planning board approved:

• two map amendments for a 1.1 acre lot and a 1.5 acre lot on Hwy. 330, Bogart, changing the designations to residential.

• a rezoning and a special use for 8.8 acres at 100 Crooked Creek Rd., Athens, to allow for an auto repair shop on the property.

• a map amendment for 3.4 acres at 7840 Hwy. 124 West, Hoschton, to change the designation to residential.

• a map amendment for 2.3 acres at 3696 Hwy. 60, Pendergrass, to change from rural to suburban.

• rezonings for two tracts of 3.4 and 2.0 acres on Hwy. 60, Hoschton, from A-2 to R-1.

Rezoning slated Dec. 2 on OPR/bypass site

A move to rezone and issue several variances for a major piece of commercial development property in Jefferson will be heard by the Jefferson-Talmo Planning Commission Dec. 2 at 6 p.m.

Developer Capstone Property Group of Gainesville and property owner Loggins Development Corp. of Jefferson are making the application to rezone around 20 acres at the intersection of Old Pendergrass Rd. and Hwy. 129 (Jefferson Bypass) for commercial development. The property was previously a proposed site for Walmart, a project that drew a huge backlash from area residents concerned about traffic along Old Pendergrass Rd.

The area is across the bypass from the Kroger and Aldi commercial developments and sits astride a main road feeding traffic into Jefferson city schools.

The current proposal calls for rezoning two tracts totaling about 21 acres on both sides of Old Pendergrass Rd. at the intersection of the bypass (the north side being about 18 acres and the south side 2.8 acres.) The proposed uses are for retail and restaurant development, according to the rezoning application.

The rezoning is just part of a much larger area of undeveloped property around that intersection.

In addition to the rezoning, Capstone and Loggins are also asking for seven variances for the property, which falls inside Jefferson's overlay district.

The variances requested are:

• for a right-in and right-out driveway/road access on Hwy. 129 and the north side of Old Pendergrass Rd.

• to allow two lots fronting Hwy. 129 on the north corner of Old Pendergrass Rd. to not have other road frontage.

• to reduce the road buffer along Hwy. 129 from 50 ft. to 25 ft. for both tracts on the north and south side of Old Pendergrass Rd.

• to waive the requirement to put in sidewalks along Hwy. 129 fronting the tracts on both corners of Old Pendergrass Rd.

• to waive requirements for a 50-foot wide buffer along wetlands for the tract on the north side of Old Pendergrass Rd.

• to waive the requirement for a 20-foot wide buffer along commercial property abutting agricultural zoned property.

• to waive the minimum 30-foot road frontage requirement for the tract along the north side of Old Pendergrass Rd.

Capstone has developed other property in North Georgia, including a current project to build apartments at Banks Crossing and major industrial projects in Hall County.

After the planning commission hears the proposal, it will make a recommendation to the City of Jefferson. The Jefferson City Council is slated to hear the proposal at its Dec. 6 meeting.

Jackson public safety communications lacking

Jackson County is considering ways to modernize its public safety communications system, but the price tag won't be cheap.

A communications consulting firm hired by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners that has studied the county's emergency radio needs estimates the cost of upgrading to a modern radio communications system will cost between $13-$21 million, depending on the exact configuration.

The county's radio communications network includes all public safety agencies and some other non-emergency agencies, such as public schools.

The consulting firm gave a brief presentation of its findings to the BOC at its Nov. 18 meeting. No action was taken by the board.

FINDINGS: The findings outlined in a 120-page needs assessment report from TUSA Consulting Services were largely critical of the county's existing public safety communications system.

"The DMR system used in Jackson County lacks many features that modern radio system have," the report said.

Among the specific problems found were:

• The county's current system is reaching the end of its life cycle and will soon need to be replaced. The current system is also outdated compared to other systems now available.

• The current system has inadequate radio coverage in some areas of the county, including some spots along I-85 and around the fast-growing Braselton area. That is especially true with the county's portable radios, the report said.

• The current system is unable to easily talk with surrounding counties or state emergency agencies because it isn't compatible with other area communities. TUSA said that although Braselton covers four counties, "Communicating with neighbors is nearly non-existent." Gwinnett, Hall, Barrow and Athens-Clarke counties all have modern 800 Mhz P25 systems while Banks and Madison use proprietary systems, all incompatible with Jackson County's existing system.

• The current county radios were designed for commercial markets, not public safety agencies which need more durable and robust units.

• Many of the county's nine communications link sites are lacking. Most have obsolete cooling and backup power systems and many are too small to expand to house a modern system. Some of the sites had not been well-maintained by the county. "Almost all of the existing buildings, and the compounds they reside in, cannot support the space needed for a modern public safety radio system without substantial cost...." the report said.

PROPOSALS: TUSA outlined two possible options for the county in upgrading its system to an 800 Mhz P25 system. One would be a stand alone system where the county upgrades all its radios and connecting systems on its own. The cost of doing that would be $16.3 to $21.3 million upfront with an estimated total cost over 15 years of $24 million.

The second proposal would have the county upgrading and working with Hall County for some joint operating, especially the ability to use existing Hall County towers that would negate the need for Jackson County to upgrade several of its existing nine tower sites. The cost of that plan would be $13-$17 million initially with a 15-year life cycle cost estimated at $19.3 million.

BACKGROUND: TUSA was initially brought in by the county to review a proposal from Motorola for upgrading the county's radio system. But TUSA said that Motorola's proposal fell short of what Jackson County needs.

"There are many items within this proposal that TUSA find concerning and would drastically increase the costs Jackson County would be responsible for, in addition to the price of the proposal," said TUSA's report.