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County looking to add green space

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a move March 15 that could lead to a new green space park in West Jackson.

Following a closed meeting, the BOC authorized county manager Kevin Poe to negotiate for a piece of property for green space.

The county has long discussed the need to acquire more park and recreation property in the county to serve the growing population and to preserve some environmentally sensitive areas.

In other West Jackson action on March 15, the board approved three large residential rezonings. Two of the projects are on Maddox Rd., Hoschton.

The first is for a master planned open space subdivision of 66 houses on 25 acres. JTG Holdings is developing that project .

The other Maddox Rd. project is for 175 homes on 87 acres for a master planned development. Those homes will be in the $300,000 price range, developers said. Chafin Communities is developing that subdivision.

On Hwy. 124 at Olde Wick Trail, Hoschton, L.T.R. Investments got approval for 103 townhomes on 23 acres near the Publix shopping center. The property had earlier been zoned for a senior community, but developers said the local market is saturated with housing for older citizens.

In other zoning action, the BOC approved:

• a rezoning for New Liberty United Methodist Church to allow for a LED sign.

• a package of map amendments for industrial development (warehouse) at Pettijohn Rd. and Wayne Poultry Rd. in Pendergrass.

• rezonings for a 57-acre subdivision on Waterworks Rd. in Nicholson near East Jackson Comprehensive High School.

• a rezoning for Nays Way in Jefferson of seven acres from R-1 to A-R to allow for a homestead so that the owner can have farm animals on the property.


In other business, the board approved:

• a ground lease with Peace Place, Inc. to build a 32-bed shelter on 4.8 acres of county property. The group’s current facility is in Barrow County, but the organization services all of the Piedmont Judicial Circuit, which includes Jackson and Banks counties as well. The new location would be more centrally-located and would double the size of the existing facility.

• an agreement with CSRA Probation services for the Jackson County State Court solicitor’s office.

• a contract with Roll Off Systems for wood grinding at the county transfer station.

• moving the county’s current retirement plans to a retirement plan run by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

• a year end budget amendment for final a

One Year of COVID

It’s been one year since COVID-19 hit the Braselton area.

This time last year, concerns over the spreading coronavirus led to a frenzy of cancellations and closures from area businesses, governments and schools. Toilet paper flew off the shelves of every supermarket — at least, every supermarket that could get it in stock.

This came just a couple of weeks after the state reported its first COVID cases.

Shortly after, on March 15, Northeast Georgia Health System announced two of its patients at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton had tested positive for COVID-19.

The following several weeks brought a flurry of cancellations, temporary closures of businesses and shelter-in-place orders for residents.

Local governments issued states of emergency around March 23-27, announcing stay-at-home orders and ordering some businesses to close temporarily. A statewide shelter-in-place order followed in early April and area residents hunkered down and began navigating doing work and school from home.

Later in April, Governor Brian Kemp announced that some businesses could reopen and ultimately let the shelter-in-place order expire on April 30 for people under 65 and in good health.

Meanwhile, the staff at NGHS still had a rocky road ahead. While the number of COVID patients at the hospital system’s facilities fluctuated throughout the year, there were some clear spikes. NGHS reached a peak in its total number of COVID patients on April 29, then topped that in late July-mid August and again in early December.

The hospital system reached its highest peak Jan. 8, 2021, with 355 positive COVID patients (94 at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton). That peak came after a busy holiday season during which hospital leaders repeatedly stressed the need for the community to take precautions.

Local health leaders were crunched for space, utilizing non-traditional spaces to treat patients (including hallways and a gym). The hospital system also requested a temporary morgue from the state, which it has since been able to return.

But something else came out of that holiday season, too: The vaccine.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 11, then authorized the Moderna vaccine for emergency use on Dec. 18.

NGHS administered its first vaccine dose (Pfizer) to employees on Dec. 17.

Since that time, the state has expanded the eligibility requirements for the vaccine, most recently adding residents 55 and older, people with disabilities and residents 16 and older with other medical conditions. In addition to those listed, the state’s current eligibility includes healthcare workers, residents/staff of long-term care facilities, first responders, teachers and school staff, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers, and parents of children with complex medical conditions who are high risk for COVID complications.

A third vaccine — the single-dose Johnson & Johnson — was also recently approved for emergency use in late February.

So far, there have been 2.72 million vaccines administered across the state of Georgia including 10,532 in Barrow; 124,075 in Gwinnett; 64,445 in Hall and 8,122 in Jackson counties. NGHS has administered 11,347 vaccinations to its employees and 14,422 to eligible members of the community.

The number of COVID patients at NGHS has continued a sharp decline in recent weeks. As of March 14, the hospital system has 42 COVID patients with 12 at NGMC Braselton. That’s the lowest total systemwide since the NGHS began reporting its numbers in late April.


Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 835,484 confirmed cases statewide with 15,871 confirmed deaths and 2,344 probable deaths.

In Braselton’s four-county area, there have been:

•Barrow: 8,206 confirmed cases; 117 confirmed deaths and one probable death

•Gwinnett: 81,964 confirmed cases; 947 confirmed deaths and 64 probable deaths

•Hall: 24,117 confirmed cases; 392 confirmed deaths and 22 probable deaths

•Jackson: 8,153 confirmed cases; 127 confirmed deaths and 11 probable deaths

Federal COVID Relief to help fund Hwy. 211 widening

Governor Brian P. Kemp recently announced the availability of $277 million in Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act 2021 funds to the Georgia Department of Transportation to fill in projected revenue gaps caused by the impacts of COVID-19.

One of the funded projects includes the Hwy. 211 widening project in Braselton, which will expand the busy road from two lanes to four lanes and include the installation of roundabouts. It will provide traffic congestion relief for over 22,000 vehicles per day in a growing suburban area of Braselton.

The Town of Braselton is funding design of the project. The estimated construction cost is $12 million with a total investment of $14 million. The investments accelerate the project from an anticipated construction start date in late 2023 to mid 2022.

“As the city of Braselton continues to grow, the expansion of State Route 211 is crucial to our economic development,” said Representative Terry England. “I commend Governor Kemp and the Georgia DOT for recognizing our need and allocating the resources for these improvements.”


The CRRSAA was passed by Congress in December 2020.

These additional funds allow Georgia DOT flexibility to advance several strategic transportation improvements in predominantly rural areas in Jefferson, Jasper, Putnam, Upson and Barrow counties. Most of these investments will be on the state’s freight network, which are corridors that play a vital role in moving agriculture commodities, manufacturing inputs, and consumer goods between production, distribution, and retail locations in all areas of Georgia. These projects were previously in Georgia DOT’s outer-year delivery plans but will begin construction a cumulative total of 13 years early, advancing the safety and freight reliability benefits they will provide.

“I am thankful for these one-time federal resources that will help keep Georgians working while also keeping our economy on the road to recovery,” said Governor Kemp. “Georgia DOT will be able to further enhance the state roadway network to increase safety for motorists and trucks by advancing critical projects throughout the state. These important roadway improvements will help Georgia continue to be the top state for business thanks to a world-class logistics infrastructure. Both the freight and logistics industry and Georgia residents benefit from this much-needed funding, particularly in light of the challenges of COVID-19.”

Hoschton approves zoning changes for new city hall project

The City of Hoschton’s application to reduce minimum building setbacks for the property currently occupied by city hall was approved during its council meeting March 15.

The zoning changes were requested by the city as it plans to begin in additional development on the city square. The city also intended to make buildings on site legal that are not compliant with its zoning rules.

This variance approval will reduce building setbacks from 15 feet on the front, 12 feet on the side and 15 feet in the rear to zero for property on the square fronting the east side of White Street and the south side of Bell Avenue.

The city plans to build a new city hall and multi-use facility on the city square next to the existing city hall.

The multi-use facility will consist of three distinct and separate storefronts with 10-foot ceilings designed to blend with Hoschton’s signature 1880’s appearance.

Mayor Shannon Sell’s wish list for the new city hall includes a conference room, commercial kitchen, breakroom area, a front desk and lobby, public works storage area and separate rooms for records, finances and permits.

In other business, the council

• approved ordinance repealing Chapter 43 “Signs” of the Code of Ordinances and adopting new Chapter 43 “Signs and Advertising Devices” to repeal conflicting ordinances. This change was initiated with intentions of reducing traffic and pedestrian hazards and protecting property values by minimizing the possible adverse and visual blight caused by signs.

• discussed acquiring new accounting software to improve its water billing process and allow for hassle-free online payments.

• approved the city’s health insurance renewal, providing improved health insurance for city employees.

• approved a 2020 budget amendment.

• tabled a vote on rezoning property fronting north of E. Broad Street and east of Hwy. 53 for townhomes.

• denied a final plat for phase two of the Cresswind development due to an incomplete street top coat.

Braselton's farmers market is Friday, March 19

Braselton’s spring farmers market continues Friday, March 19, with extended hours from 4-7 p.m.

This market features local farmers, bakers and makers presenting just-picked produce, farm-raised meats, fresh eggs, assorted baked goods, pasta meal kits, empanadas, gluten-free items, beef jerky, summer sausage, granola, jams, dry mixes, coffee, caramel corn, live plants and natural dog treats.

Free parking is available at the town’s parking deck.

The market is staged at 9924 Davis Street.

Masks are encouraged for all.