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News
Early voting nears for Braselton runoff

Early voting is coming up for the Dec. 3 Braselton Town Council District 1 runoff election. Incumbent Becky Richardson faces challenger Richard Mayberry in that election.

Early voting will be held Nov. 25-27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On Election Day, Dec. 3, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Both early and Election Day voting will be held in the Braselton Police and Municipal Court building at 5040 Hwy. 53, Braselton.


News
Planners OK large residential development off Hwy. 124

A new development may soon bring new life to an old section of vineyards in Braselton.

The Braselton Planning Commission voted Nov. 18 to recommend approval of a master plan change for a planned unit development on 57 acres off Hwy. 124.

The Braselton Town Council will hold a hearing on the request Dec. 5 with a possible vote Dec. 9.

Fountainhead Residential Development, LLC, plans to construct 118 apartments, 24 townhouses and 114 detached single-family lots.

Apartments are planned within five buildings near Hwy. 124. Work/live townhomes are proposed at the center of the property, with the single-family homes proposed along the backside of the land. A number of amenities — from a dog park to fitness centers — are also proposed.

The request raised a few concerns among some area residents, who cited the impact on property values, school capacity and traffic.

“I have some concerns in that this has the potential to add to the Barrow County School System 282 students if every household has one student,” said area resident Gayl Kirkpatrick. “It also has a tremendous impact on the traffic flow on Hwy. 124.”

Planner Billy Edwards also cited concerns with traffic and the impact it would have on the already congested Hwy. 211. He recommended putting a cap on the number of certificates of occupancy that could be issued before Hwy. 211 is widened, but that motion failed for lack of a second.

The request was ultimately approved unanimously with a number of conditions, including limiting the number of apartments to 118 (developers initially planned 144).

In other business, the planning commission voted to table a request from Meritage Homes for 141 acres off Duncan Creek Rd. Developers want annexation and rezoning of 30 acres of that property, and a planned unit development change to the remainder. They plan to construct 326 detached single-family homes.

Planners held a lengthy conversation at the Nov. 18 meeting, with Edwards pushing to hold developers to a higher minimum lot standard. He asked for the commission to limit the development to approximately 235 houses, but the decision was ultimately tabled.

The request will still go to the Braselton Town Council in December, which can decided whether it wants to return the request to the planning commission.


News
460 new houses Ok'ed for West Jackson

Around 460 new homes could start going up in the West Jackson area after two rezonings got the green light from the Jackson County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 18.

The largest project is slated for 308 single-family houses on 130 acres on Gum Springs Church Rd. The project was rezoned from A-2 to R-2 and a special use for a master plan subdivision was also approved for the project.

Developer Barry Lord said the project would be done in phases over several years.

One person spoke in opposition to the rezoning, citing concerns about traffic and population increase. The development is across the road from the large Traditions community and not far from West Jackson Middle School and Gum Springs Elementary School.

The second major residential rezoning approved by the BOC on Nov. 18 was for 89 acres at 8308 Hwy. 53 Braselton for 151 single-family houses. The project is being done by McKinley Homes.

The BOC amended one condition for the project that would allow developers to have 70 percent contiguous greenspace rather than 75 percent. When McKinley filed for the rezoning, the county didn't have the 75 percent regulation in place.

OTHER REZONING ACTION

In other rezonings, the BOC approved:

• rezoning 2.3 acres at 5799 Maysville Rd. Commerce from A-2 to CRC (commercial) as requested by Nelson Merlos.

• rezoning .8 acres at 8188 Hwy. 53 Braselton from NRC to HRC (both commercial uses) for Stovall & Company, Inc.

• rezoning 3.66 acres at the corner of Thyatira-Brockton Rd. and Wilhite Rd. Jefferson from A-2 to M-H to subdivide the property into two lots as requested by Christina Blalock.

• changing the character area map for 1.0 acre on Hwy. 332 Hoschton from agricultural to suburban and the future land use map from residential to commercial. A related map change for 12.8 acres next door was approved from agricultural to commercial as well. Both were requested by Kenneth R. Whitworth.

•  updating the county's development code on separating distances for selling alcoholic beverages from certain churches, schools, etc. to conform with state standards. The vote was 5-1 with commissioner Marty Seagraves dissenting.

• deferring a vote until December on changing the character area map for 4 acres on Hwy. 53 at Bill Watkins Rd. from rural to suburban. The Jackson County Planning Commission had recommended denial and commissioner Ralph Richardson said he wants to talk with planning board members before taking a final vote. The project calls for up to four houses on the site requested by Flipping Out, LLC.


News
Kenerly appeal denied

The Supreme Court of Georgia has denied an appeal by Hoschton mayor Theresa Kenerly, challenging a decision made in a local court that allowed the recall effort against her to move forward.

Kenerly came under fire in May for reportedly not including a candidate for city administrator because he is black and she didn't think the city was "ready for that." In a news story, mayor pro tem Jim Cleveland defended Kenerly and expressed his views against interracial relationships.

The backlash against the two public officials was swift, with citizens filing numerous ethics complaints and calling for their resignations. When that didn't happen, a group of citizens began pursuing a recall.

Both Kenerly and Cleveland challenged the effort in the Superior Court of Jackson County, but visiting Judge David Sweat ruled they could both move forward. In response, Kenerly's attorney filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of Georgia in October, but the request was denied.

RECALL MOVING FORWARD

Meanwhile, the recall effort against Kenerly and Cleveland has crossed the next hurdle in the process. Organizers have reportedly collected the required signatures of 30-percent of registered voters in Hoschton.

Once those signatures are verified by the Jackson County Board of Elections, a special election will he held on whether to remove Kenerly and Cleveland from office.


News
Hoschton to discuss changing its charter

The City of Hoschton will hold a special called meeting on Nov. 25 at 5:30 p.m. at city hall to discuss changes it wants to make in its city charter.

Any changes to the charter have to be approved by the Georgia General Assembly, which begins meeting in January. Local legislators Rep. Tommy Benton and Sen. Frank Ginn have to sign off on the changes and introduce legislation to amend the charter.

Hoschton attorney Thomas Mitchell told the council on Nov. 12 that if changes are going to be made to the charter, the effort needs to begin soon. He said Rep. Benton would like to have the changes by the third week of January to get the legislation drafted and into the legislative process.

Mitchell specifically mentioned previous discussions to have the city move to a city manager form of government. That form generally empowers a hired city manager to run the day to day affairs of the city. Currently, Hoschton's mayor has those duties.

Two years ago, the town created a city administrators position as a first step toward professionalizing the city's governance.

Council member Hope Weeks suggested that two council members form a committee to do an early draft for the possible changes, but Mayor Theresa Kenerly indicated she wants the entire council working on charter changes.

ASTIN QUESTIONS BENTON'S INPUT

New council member Shantwon Astin wanted to know how much say Rep. Benton has in the city's charter changes.

"How much input does he have?" Astin asked. "He's not a resident of the city, he's just a representative, not a resident. So how much input does he have?"

When told that Benton had been handling charter amendments for years, Astin continued to question how much input Benton should have in the process.

"Regardless of how long he's been doing it and whatnot, he's not a member of the city," Astin said. "The only thing he has to do is take it to (the state) and review and revise it."

But Mitchell pointed out that Benton is the one who will decide whether or not to introduce legislation to change the charter.

"The legislature isn't going to adopt local legislation unless the local delegation is unanimous (in support), Mitchell said. "That's the general practice in the legislature."

Astin still wanted to know the limits of Benton's input.

"What does he have the power to change verses what we put forward... will it need to be to his satisfaction verses the general consensus of the people in the city?" Astin asked.

By way of example of Benton's possible input, Mitchell said that Benton had suggested in the past that the city have council members elected from individual wards and not at-large. But Mitchell said he believes the town is too small for council members to be elected by wards. He said that it would be possible for one large subdivision to dominate the city under a ward-based system.

Legally, Benton could insist on such a change before he agrees to introduce city charter legislation.

The called meeting on Nov. 25 to discuss the city charter is in addition to a called meeting on Nov. 21 at 5:30 at city hall to discuss the 2020 budget and to review proposals for solid waste collection.

OTHER ACTION

In other action on Nov. 12, the council:

• waived the depot rental fee for Angel Ride, a non-profit group that hosts an annual benefit bike ride.

• adopted a third-party inspection ordinance in response to new state regulations.

• adopted several administrative zoning changes including a city initiated rezoning of 21 parcels on West Jefferson St. and Bell Ave. from R2 to R3 to put the properties into “a more appropriate zoning classification;" created more standard lot width requirements for residential developments; changed the minimum lot size requirement for townhomes to 2,400 sq. ft.; and corrected a scrivener's error that got some zoning uses mixed up.

• accepted a bid for $4,200 to pay for upkeep projects at the Hoschton Train Depot.

• changed  the city's rules for addressing the council, eliminating a requirement to verbally state an address.

• renewed a contract with JAT Consulting, the city's financial consulting group.

• adopted a resolution on a language access plan for the CBDG grant, ensuring the town has a process in place to translate documents related to the grant for non-English speakers.