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COVID cases at NGHS top 310

Northeast Georgia Health System reached another COVID-19 peak this week.

NGHS is treating 312 positive COVID patients in its facilities, with 67 of those at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. Fifty-four patients are awaiting test results.

There are 700 occupied beds at NGHS with 39 available. At NGMC Braselton, 156 beds are occupied with 22 available (24 occupied in ICU with four available).

Meanwhile, NGHS continues to work to get its staff members vaccinated. The hospital system received approximately 5,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 1,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine with more shipments expected in early January. As of Dec. 28, NGHS has administered 2,168 vaccines to its employees.

ASK COMMUNITY TO BE CAREFUL DURING HOLIDAYS

NGHS sent out a plea ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, urging the community to use caution and warned that another post-holiday spike could force the system to ration care.

“We’re struggling to find staff and space to care for people, and our frontline workers are exhausted,” said Clifton Hastings, MD, Chief of Medical Staff for NGMC. “If COVID cases continue to increase, we may be forced to start making decisions about who we can treat effectively and who we have to send elsewhere or turn away. That’s a decision no physician should have to make, and a situation no one in our community should have to face.”

On November 24, two days before Thanksgiving, NGMC hospitals and long-term care locations were treating 133 COVID-positive patients. That total has more than doubled in the following month and the average percentage of tests NGHS administer that come back positive has risen sharply.

“Early in the pandemic, we learned that limiting some services and expanding others can create additional space to care for patients – which we’ve continued to do – but we’re still faced with the challenge of maintaining enough qualified physicians and nurses to provide high-quality care,” says John Delzell, MD, COVID-19 Incident Commander for NGHS. “We’re extremely thankful for the staffing support the state has supplied, and we will continue to request additional help, but hospitals across the state all need those same resources.”

BRASELTON AREA

Hall and Jackson counties continue to be some of the hardest hit counties in the state when looking at new cases over the past two weeks.

Hall County has had 2,301 new cases in the past two weeks (or 1,115 new cases per 100,000 residents), while Jackson County has had 894 new cases (1,197 per 100,000 residents). Both are far above the state average, which shows 628 new cases in the last two weeks per 100,000 residents.

Details for Braselton’s four-county area include:

•Barrow: 4,604 cases; 65 deaths; 760 new cases in the last two weeks (880 per 100,000 residents)

•Gwinnett: 49,389 cases; 554 confirmed deaths; 37 probable deaths; 6,648 new cases in the last two weeks (685 per 100,000 residents)

•Hall: 16,850 cases; 213 confirmed deaths; 10 probable deaths; 2,301 new cases in the last two weeks (1,115 per 100,000 residents)

•Jackson: 4,842 cases; 61 confirmed deaths; 10 probable deaths; 894 new cases in the last two weeks (1,197 per 100,000 residents)

•State: 546,859 cases; 9,719 confirmed deaths; 977 probable deaths; 67,997 new cases in the last two weeks (628 per 100,000 residents)


News
featured
2020
A look back at 2020

The year 2020 is nearing its end, but it won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Each year, The Braselton News reflects back on the headlines from the past 12 months.

2020 brought several major residential development projects in the Braselton and Hoschton areas.

The year also showed continued controversy in Hoschton as the town looked to fill its mayoral and vacant council seat, following the resignation of the town’s mayor and mayor pro tem late last year. Shannon Sell became the town’s mayor and two new council members, James Lawson and Tracy Carswell, were elected. In recent months, the council has initiated discussions on major items that will impact the community for years to come — including a police department and new city hall. The council also faced a lawsuit from its biggest developer, Kolter, over its Sept. 21 decision to impose impact fees on new residential construction.

But most of the headlines from 2020 surrounded the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit the Braselton area in mid-March. The area has reached an all-time peak in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. But there is hope — with the arrival of the first vaccines — that the pandemic may soon reach its end.

Read the headlines from 2020:

January

•First baby 2020 — Rashad Williams and Undria Clark, of Gainesville, welcomed a baby girl, Lyric Dashari Williams, into the world on New Year’s Day. Lyric was the first baby born at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in 2020.

•Construction set to begin on senior living community — Mansions Senior Living’s 130-unit senior independent living community planned in Braselton was set to begin construction in the first quarter of 2020 after receiving zoning approval in 2019.

•Hoschton mayor, council races contested — Hope Weeks and Shannon Sell qualified for the Hoschton mayor’s seat during qualifying following the resignation of Theresa Kenerly. Meanwhile, Raphael Mayberry and James Lawson qualified for the vacant Hoschton City Council seat following the resignation of Jim Cleveland.

•Hoschton council ‘on vacation’ — With only two sitting members left, the Hoschton City Council’s ability to hold votes and conduct business was put on ice.

•Three failed votes lead to deferral on residential project — After three unsuccessful votes, Braselton leaders voted Jan. 13 to defer a request for a large residential development near Chateau Elan. In a split vote, the Braselton Town Council voted to defer a decision on annexation, rezoning and a master plan change for the 141 acres off Duncan Creek Rd. Meritage Homes of Georgia planned to develop 321 detached single-family lots on the property.

•Chateau Elan completes $25 million renovation — Château Élan celebrated the completion of its $25 million-dollar comprehensive renovation with a Grand Unveiling Celebration and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Chateau Elan Inn on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

February

Town hosts comp plan meeting — The Town of Braselton hosted an open house presenting the 2020 Comprehensive Plan to the public.

•Gwinnett sheriff won’t seek re-election — Long-time Gwinnett County sheriff Butch Conway announced he would not seek re-election.

Hotel/motel tax increase clears first hurdle — Braselton took its first step towards raising the town’s hotel/motel tax, a move that would generate additional funds for tourism in the city.

Hoschton planning director resigns — Hoschton’s planning and zoning director Justin Kilgore resigned.

Elections board says Hoschton candidate is not a resident — The Jackson County Board of Elections voted 3-1 at a Feb. 12 hearing to uphold a challenge alleging that James Lawson, a funeral home director in Hoschton, does not live in the city and cannot run for office.

•County becomes 2nd Amendment Sanctuary — Jackson County leaders declared the county is now a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” but the move is more symbolic than enforceable.

•Carswell, Thompson qualify for Hoschton election — Tracy Carswell and Jared Thompson qualified to run in the election for the at-large Hoschton City Council seat during qualifying.

•Mayberry takes office in Hoschton — Raphael Mayberry was sworn-in as a new Hoschton City Council member. The move follows action by the Jackson County Board of Elections that disqualified James Lawson from the March 24 race. Lawson was set to face Mayberry in that election. But Mayberry’s swearing in may have been done prematurely. Lawson filed an appeal in the Superior Court of Jackson County, challenging the election board’s move to disqualify him from the race.

•New voting machines — Jackson County’s new state-mandated voting machines were being prepared for the upcoming March Presidential Primary balloting. The new state voting system is different than the old voting machines and requires voters to print out their ballot and scan it into the counting machine.

March

•Braselton approves large housing project — Braselton leaders gave the go-ahead for a large residential project near Chateau Elan. The Braselton Town Council voted March 9 to approve annexation, rezoning and a master plan change for 141 acres off Duncan Creek Rd. (Only 30.63 acres of that was annexed.) Meritage Homes of Georgia planned to construct a large residential development on the property. Developers initially planned 321 detached, single-family lots.

•Hoschton political forum cancelled — A political forum for Hoschton council candidates was cancelled. The Hoschton Women’s Civic Club forum was set for March 4. The cancellation came after Hope Weeks, Jared Thompson and Raphael Mayberry declined to participate.

•Braselton area plans for COVID — Although there were no known local cases of COVID-19, plans for dealing with a possible epidemic spreading here were starting to take shape in the Braselton area.

•Census info coming — Information was sent out to local residents about participating in the 2020 Census.

•COVID hits Braselton — Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton began treating two patients who tested positive for COVID-19. The announcement was made March 15.

•Voting suspended for March election — All voting was suspended for the March 24 election amid the Coronavirus crisis.

•Spread of virus impacts area — In an attempt to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many communities, including the Braselton area, shut down schools, sporting events and public gatherings. Starting on Thursday, March 12, a cascade of national and state events led to a number of quick decisions by officials to try and slow a potential virus epidemic.

•Weeks withdraws from Hoschton mayoral race — Hope Weeks withdrew from the Hoschton mayor race, leaving Shannon Sell as the sole candidate. Sell was sworn in as mayor on March 23.

BOE says Lawson meets residency standard — In a reversal of its decision from the previous month, the Jackson County Board of Elections and Registration voted 3-1 on March 16 to deny a challenge against James Lawson’s residency. The move allowed Lawson to continue running for the Hoschton City Council. The elections board meeting came after a ruling in the Superior Court of Jackson County. Judge Joe Booth vacated the board’s decision in February and remanded it back to the board to reconsider (which is what it did March 16).

•Mobile unit operational at NGMC Braselton — Mobile units were opened at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton to allow the hospital system to adapt to the changing needs during the COVID-19 crisis.

April

•NGHS leaders encourage community to stay home for 14 days — As the number of positive cases of COVID-19 and associated deaths in Georgia continued to climb, Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) physicians and board members – along with Hall County and City of Gainesville elected officials – collectively urged the community stay home for at least 14 days to slow the spread of the virus.

•Stay home — Local governments began tightening restrictions, with many issuing stay-at-home orders, amid the continued fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the Braselton area.

•Governor issues shelter-in-place order — Georgians and visitors to the state were supposed to shelter-in-place under an order from Gov. Brian Kemp. The order was set to go at least until April 13.

•Judge grants temporary relief to allow Hoschton council to function — A Jackson County judge again granted temporary relief to the City of Hoschton to allow its council to continue to function.

•Governor extends shelter-in-place — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp extended a shelter-in-place executive order as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise across the state. The order was originally set to expire April 13, but was extended through April 30 at 11:59 p.m. Additionally, Gov. Kemp extended the public health state of emergency through May 13.

•Election postponed — Georgia’s general primary/ presidential preference primary election was postponed to June 9.

•GOP squabble erupts over mail-in voting — A political squabble broke out within the Jackson County Republican Party over a resolution approved by the county’s board of elections calling on the state to have a mail-in only election in the spring due to the Coronavirus.

•Governor allows some businesses to reopen — Gov. Brian Kemp announced that some businesses would be allowed to reopen starting Friday, April 24. Gyms, bowling alleys, hair salons, nail salons and some other similar businesses were set to be allowed to operate, but with some social distancing rules to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Northeast Georgia Health System released information encouraging the community to continue following shelter-in-place and isolation orders.

•Unemployment claims reach record high — State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced that the number of initial unemployment claims reached an all-time high. March 2020 labor statistics also revealed that the over-the-month increase for the unemployment rate was the largest on record.

•Hoschton meets again, hires attorney — For the first time in months, the Hoschton City Council held a voting meeting. The council’s first action was to hire a new city attorney, Abbott Hayes of Hulsey, Oliver & Mahar in Gainesville.

•NGHS expects virus peak in June — Northeast Georgia Health System presented an update to the Greater Hall County Chamber of Commerce, and announced it estimated the system would reach its COVID peak in June.

•Four staff members test positive at senior living facility — Four staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at The Oaks at Braselton, a personal care home on Thompson Mill Rd.

•Some area businesses reopen — After weeks of shuttered doors and takeout-only restaurants, some area businesses began returning to normal. The new normal, at least.

May

•Governor lets shelter-in-place order expire for some — Georgia’s shelter-in-place order for those under age 65 and in good health expired at midnight April 30 as the state attempted to reopen business activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

•Absentee voting surges — Despite controversy from some GOP leaders, thousands of people in Jackson County began voting via absentee ballot for the June 9 primary.

•Health leaders urge precaution as businesses open — As more businesses began reopening doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, local health leaders encouraged increased precautions to ensure the safety of employers, employees and patrons.

•Norton: Virus will profoundly change how people work, live and play — The impact of the COVID virus is going to have a profound impact on how people live and how businesses operate in the coming years said Gainesville real estate leader Frank Norton.

•Hoschton hires interim city administrator — The City of Hoschton hired a new interim city administrator. Gary Fesperman took the oath of office for the interim position at the Hoschton City Council’s May 18 meeting.

•Planners recommend denial of townhomes project — Plans for a townhome development in an industrial area of Braselton were dealt a blow May 18 when the town’s planning board voted 3-1 to recommend denial of a rezoning for the proposed project. Developers wanted to build 161 town homes on 21.5 acres on Broadway Ave. (Hwy. 124) across from the intersection with Josh Pirkle Rd.

•More flexible housing one goal in comp plan — A major rewrite of the Town of Braselton’s development codes was set to be one of the major focuses of the community’s 2020 Comprehensive Plan Update.

•Unemployment reaches all-time high in April — State Labor Commissioner Mark Butler reported that the number of initial unemployment claims reached another all-time high, with the month’s total surpassing the number of claims reached in the past four years combined.

•Humphrey named president and general manager at Road Atlanta — Rick Humphrey was named president and general manager of Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Humphrey replaced Geoff Lee, who announced his retirement.

June

•Braselton protest calls for justice — A peaceful demonstration with around 100 people was held in Braselton Tuesday, June 2, to protest the the death of George Floyd and other African-Americans who have been killed in recent years at the hands of law enforcement officers.

•Roy named assistant county manager — Jackson County Public Development Director Gina Roy moved to the position of assistant county manager starting June 1. Jamie Dove replaced Roy as the county’s new development director.

•Cresswind sells 23 homes — Over 20 homes in the new Cresswind development in Hoschton were sold. Kolter Homes announced 23 homes in the new development were sold during the first week of VIP sales.

•NGHS announced position cuts, furloughs — Northeast Georgia Health System announced that it would eliminate positions and implement furloughs due to decreased revenues amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

•Hoschton issues building moratorium for 90 days — The Hoschton City Council issued a 90-day moratorium on most new building permits during its meeting on June 8.

•County public safety employee terminated over social media post — A Jackson County public safety employee was terminated from his position June 5 following an internal investigation into an inflammatory post he made on a Gainesville social media page. John Pethel, a training officer with the Jackson County Emergency Medical Service, posted a comment about recent Gainesville protest to The (Gainesville) Times newspaper Facebook page June 1. Pethel’s comment was in response to a post that said protesters were “again in Gainesville.” “Shoot them all,” Pethel said in his comment.

•Carswell, Lawson take Hoschton council seats — Tracy Carswell and James Lawson were elected to the Hoschton City Council.

•Homeowners win lawsuit against Chateau Elan — Homeowners in Chateau Elan won a major lawsuit to stop the redevelopment of the resort’s Par 3 golf course into residential homes.

•Planned residential project crosses hurdle — Developers of a planned residential project in West Jackson crossed another hurdle on Monday, June 15. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved a map amendment request from Galilee Springs, LLC, for the 79-acre property located at 1904 Hwy. 124 West, Jefferson. That move changes the character area from agricultural to suburban and the future land use from agricultural to residential.

•Hoschton begins process for stormwater fees — Hoschton announced it would soon implement a stormwater fee system in the city to help cover the costs of its runoff. The Hoschton City Council approved paying its engineering services firm, EMI, $14,000 to begin the process during its June 15 meeting.

•Locals buy Traditions golf course — Following years of corporate ownership, Traditions of Braselton Golf Club is now in the hands of a local ownership group intent on bringing improvements to the 15-year-old course.

•Braselton planner dies — Burgess Baird Jr. died on June 14. Baird was a member of the Braselton Planning Commission.

•Over 60 homes sold at Cresswind — More than 60 new homes were sold during the first two weeks of preliminary sales at Cresswind Georgia at Twin Lakes.

July

•Large mixed-use project planned — A large mixed-use development was proposed off Highway 211 in the Braselton-Hoschton area of Barrow County and was set to go before a state review process. The proposed project, “Stone Tract” would include 312 apartments, 158 townhomes and 37,500 square feet of commercial space at 103 Lec Stone Rd., just northwest of the Highway 211/ Freeman Johnson Road junction and a couple miles south of Interstate 85, according to a Developments of Regional Impact filing by the county June 9.

•Governor extends state of emergency — Governor Brian P. Kemp extended the public health state of emergency and existing COVID-19 safety measures. Kemp signed the executive orders on June 29.

•Hoschton to implement impact fees — Hoschton’s efforts to re-establish a city police department could get a boost from plans to implement building impact fees in the city, it was announced. Building a $2.27 million police facility was one of four major areas Hoschton plans to use funds from impact fees.

•Hoschton planners OK revised overlay — Plans for a revised overlay district along Hwy. 53 in Hoschton got a boost June 6 after the Hoschton Planning Commission voted to send the new plan to the city council.

•Townhouse project pulled — A controversial townhouse project proposed for an industrial area in Braselton was pulled from the town council’s July 13 agenda at the request of the applicant. The project is in an industrial area along Broadway Ave. where a rezoning from manufacturing to multi-family residential is required.

•Town defers vote on comp plan — The Braselton Town Council deferred a vote on an updated comp plan for the town on July 13. The council deferred the vote to give additional time to get some questions answered about the plan.

•Schools make plans to return — Area schools began making plans to return to school, with many delaying the start date.

•Hoschton postpones vote on overlay rewrite — Plans to update Hoschton’s Hwy. 53 overlay district rules were postponed until September.

•Large mixed use project planned — A large mixed-use development was proposed in Braselton. The project, which is planned on 40 acres on Jesse Cronic Rd., was set to go before a state review process. The property is located right off Jesse Cronic Rd. when turning off of Broadway Ave., next to the Free Chapel Braselton campus. Braselton 38, LLC, plans to develop the property with multi-family, senior living, daycare, medical offices, self-storage and business service space.

•NGHS surpasses COVID record — As of July 28, NGHS had 173 positive COVID-19 patients, 42 of whom were at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton. Those totals are higher than the previous peak day on April 29, when the hospital system had 159 positive patients (28 at NGMC Braselton).

•Noble Vines completed — Noble Vines, a new multi-family residential development in Braselton, was completed.

August

Braselton approves comp plan — Braselton formally adopted an updated comprehensive plan, but not before the town council spent over two hours picking it apart and at times, disagreeing with the consultants who drafted the massive document.

•Braselton area apartment complex gets nod — A request to develop an apartment project in the Braselton area crossed a hurdle. The Hall County Planning Commission voted Monday, Aug. 3, to recommend approval of a rezoning on 30.66 acres off Thompson Mill Rd. near Spout Springs Rd. from agricultural residential to planned residential development.

•Walton sells its holding in four Braselton area subdivisions — The Canadian real estate firm Walton sold its holdings in four large subdivisions near Braselton in Jackson County to other investors. The property sold represents a total of 766 building lots on 489 acres. The subdivisions being divested were: Liberty Crossing (326 lots); Baker’s Farm (179 lots); Liberty Park (139 lots); and Walnut Creek (122 lots).

•Hoschton to move forward on impact fees — The Hoschton City Council was set to move forward on imposing impact fees on new construction in the town, funds that would be used to build new facilities for recreation, fire protection and for a police department facility. The council held its first public hearing on the impact fees on Aug. 10.

•NGHS reaches new peak — As of Aug. 10, the Northeast Georgia Health System was treating 179 COVID patients, with 38 of those being treated at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton.

•Vote on townhomes deferred — A controversial townhouse project proposed for an industrial area in Braselton was again pulled from the town council’s agenda at the request of the applicant. Johnnie Hastings had requested a rezoning of the 21.5 acre property on Broadway Ave. from manufacturing to multi-family residential.

•Ground broken for second WJFD station — Officials gathered for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the second, full-service station for the West Jackson Fire Department. The station will be constructed at 1875 Ednaville Road, near the Thompson Mill Arboretum, by Sunbelt Builders at an estimated $1.9 million.

•Hall schools issue bonds for new facilities — The Hall County Board of Education held a called meeting to issue $157 million in bonds to build new school facilities in the county, including a new middle school in the Braselton area. Among the projects on the list is Cherokee Bluff Middle School on existing school property along Spout Springs Rd. with a price tag of $44 million.

•Hoschton hires building inspector — The Hoschton City Council hired a new building inspector on Aug. 17. Joseph Hayes was hired by the council following a closed session of the council to discuss personnel.

•Johnson wins BOE seat — Rob Johnson will represent West Jackson on the Jackson County Board of Education. Johnson defeated Ricky Sanders in the Aug. 11 runoff, securing 50.67% of the vote.

•Hoschton ponders need for police department — Hoschton leaders heard from several local public safety officials when considering the need for a police department for the town.

•Proposed large single-family subdivision in Braselton heads to BOC for vote — A proposed single-family subdivision of nearly 300 homes south of Interstate 85 in the Braselton-Hoschton area of Barrow County cleared a hurdle Thursday, Aug. 20. The county planning commission, during its monthly meeting, recommended approval of a change in conditions for the development of 92.23 acres just to the west of the intersection of highways 211 and 124.

•Planners give nod for large Braselton subdivision — Braselton planners gave a nod for a large subdivision project off of Davis St. The Braselton Planning Commission voted to recommend approving a zoning request for 85 acres off Davis St.

September

Hall denies Braselton area apartments — Hall County leaders rejected a request to allow an apartment development in the Braselton area. The Hall County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday, Aug. 27, to deny a rezoning request from Rochester and Associates, Inc., for 30.7 acres on Thompson Mill Rd.

Hoschton delays final vote on impact fees — The Hoschton City Council postponed taking action on proposed impact fees in the town. The unexpected delay came following a major pushback from Kolter, the real estate firm developing Cresswinds at Twin Lakes, a massive planned community in the town.

•Jackson planners give OK for 120-lot subdivision — A new 120-lot subdivision got the initial green light Aug. 27 following action by the Jackson County Planning Commission. The board approved the rezoning of 79.2 acres at 1904 Hwy. 124, Jefferson from A-2 to R-1 for the development.

•Denney resigns from elections board — Erma Denney resigned from the Jackson County Board of Elections. Jeff Hughes later took her place on the board.

•Commissioner injured in horse-riding accident — Jackson County Commissioner Ralph Richardson Jr. was injured after being thrown from a horse in Colorado.

Jackson County running out of building lots — Jackson County has been booming with new homes over the past couple years. But that could slow due to a lack of approved building lots, officials said. In a presentation to the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, assistant county manager Gina Roy and GIS director Joel Logan said the county had used up just about all its approved building lots.

•Large PUD request withdrawn — Developers of a proposed large planned unit development project withdrew their application in Braselton. FJH, LLC, had requested annexation and rezoning of 72 acres off Hwy. 53 at New Cut Rd. Plans for the site included 220 detached and attached rental residential units and 104,500 sq. ft. of retail/commercial/ office space.

Amid lawsuit, town holds second round of hearings on large development — Braselton leaders approved a town-initiated rezoning and annexation in an attempt to remedy an alleged procedural error during a previous round of hearings. The Braselton Town Council held a second round of public hearings at its work session Thursday, Sept. 10, for a planned unit development on 141 acres off Duncan Creek Rd. Meritage Homes of Georgia plans to construct 318 detached single-family homes on that property. The request was approved earlier in the year, but three residents filed a lawsuit against the town, citing both procedural and substantive errors in the town’s decision.

•Hoschton mayor says property taxes needed if town has police department — Hoschton Mayor Shannon Sell said that property taxes would likely be needed if the town creates a city police department.

•Planners delay vote on Kolter request — Hoschton planners delayed a vote on a preliminary plat for a section of the Twin Lakes development. The commission requested additional information on the pending city impact fees program before making a decision.

•Barrow tables vote on large subdivision — A proposed single-family subdivision of nearly 300 homes in the Braselton-Hoschton area of Barrow County still had some kinks to be ironed out. The Barrow County board of commissioners voted to table a requested change in conditions for the development of 92.23 acres just west of the intersection of highways 211 and 124 and south of Interstate 85 until its voting session scheduled for Oct. 13. The applicant, Manor Restorations, requested the item be tabled.

•Hoschton to face lawsuit over impact fees — The Hoschton City Council will likely soon face a lawsuit from its biggest developer over its Sept. 21 decision to impose impact fees on new residential construction, it was announced. Attorney Paul Mitchell, who represents Kolter Acquisitions, the developer of a huge 1,400-acre planned community in the town, said Sept. 22 that a lawsuit would be forthcoming.

•Barrow planners reject Hoschton mixed-use project — A proposed large mixed-use development in Hoschton was rejected Thursday, Sept. 17, by the Barrow County Planning Commission after strong public backlash against the project. The panel voted to recommend denial of Ridgeline Land Planning and Holt Persinger’s request to rezone 53.2 acres at 1308 Lec Stone Rd. in order to, according to a revised site plan, build 280 apartments units, 158 townhomes and roughly 8.5 acres set aside for commercial space (with about 37,500 square feet of that taken up by three buildings).

•Over 100 homes sold in Cresswind — Kolter Homes announced more than 100 new homes were sold during the first 90 days of sales at Cresswind Georgia at Twin Lakes.

•Hearing delayed on massive Braselton project — A public hearing was delayed on a massive mixed use project in the Town of Braselton. The Braselton Planning Commission was set to hear the rezoning request from Braselton 38, LLC, at its Sept. 28 meeting. The applicant requested a deferral just hours before the planning commission was set to meet. Developers are seeking a rezoning of 39 acres on Jesse Cronic Rd. from manufacturing- distribution to planned unit development. The request has been deferred in recent months as well.

•Four resident deaths reported at Oaks — Four residents died from COVID-19 at The Oaks at Braselton, a local personal care home.

•Planning board gives nod for new subdivision — A 94-lot master planned subdivision in West Jackson got the green light from the Jackson County Planning Commission. The board approved a rezoning and special use application for Ray Vaughn of 44.5 acres on Jackson Trail Rd. for the development.

•Hoschton delays move on overlay revamp — The Hoschton City Council decided to delay action related to its Hwy. 53 overlay district and go back to the drawing board on the matter.

October

•Kolter sues over impact fees — Kolter filed a lawsuit against the City of Hoschton and its officials in a bid to halt the town’s recent vote to implement impact fees.

•Hoschton planners recommend denial of Twin Lakes plat — The City of Hoschton ramped up its dispute with the town’s largest landowner and developer with a recommendation to deny a routine approval of preliminary plat. The Hoschton Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denying Phase 4 of the Twin Lakes.

•Two more resident deaths reported at The Oaks — Two more residents of The Oaks at Braselton, a Braselton-area personal care home, died from COVID-19.

•Braselton rejects townhomes — Braselton leaders rejected a request for a townhomes project in an industrial section of town. The Braselton Town Council voted Oct. 12 to deny a rezoning request for Johnnie Hastings for 21.5 acres off Broadway Ave. at the intersection of Josh Pirkle Rd. Hastings had requested a change from manufacturing-distribution to multi-family. Developers proposed a project consisting of 161 for-rent townhomes.

•Kolter tensions continue — The Hoschton City Council was mum Oct. 19 about its intentions on approving, or disapproving, a preliminary plat for Phase 4 at the Twin Lakes development in the city. The massive 2,600-home development is being done by The Kolter Group, but in recent months, the relationship between the city and Kolter has soured. When the issue of the plat approval came up at the council’s Oct. 19 meeting, the board heard a brief report from its planner Jerry Weitz and then went into executive session to discuss litigation.

•Barrow denies rezoning request for Hoschton project — A local developer’s plans to build a large mixed-use, high-density residential development in Hoschton were rejected by the Barrow County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, Oct. 13, following a contentious public hearing. Commissioners voted 5-2 to deny Ridgeline Land Planning and Holt Persinger’s request to rezone 53.2 acres at 1308 Lec Stone Rd. to R-3 in order to build 280 apartment units, 158 townhomes and commercial space on roughly 8.5 acres of the property.

West Jackson residential project gets green light — Plans to develop a residential project in West Jackson got the green light. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted Monday, Oct. 19, to approve a rezoning and special use request for Ray Vaughn for 44.5 acres off Jackson Trail Rd. near the intersection of Marshall Clark Rd. Approximately 94 lots are planned on the property.

Hoschton delays action on Kolter plat — The City of Hoschton delayed action Oct. 26 to give what is usually a routine approval for a preliminary plat for Phase 4 in the Twin Lakes development.

•Hoschton mayor: City growth will generate need for police department — The City of Hoschton is mulling the addition of a police department, but if population projections come to fruition one might be inevitable, it was announced.

November

•Most Braselton counties support Trump re-election — Most Braselton area counties — with the exception of Gwinnett County — supported the re-election of President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election.

•Jackson BOE looks to add new westside elementary school — Needing to ease crowding issues at Gum Springs, West Jackson and North Jackson elementary schools, the Jackson County Board of Education is looking at adding another elementary school on the westside of the county, it was announced.

•Trucking hub slated for Braselton — A new trucking hub was slated for development along Hwy. 53 in Braselton. The project is on 62 acres at 6275 Hwy. 53, which is at the intersection with Braselton Parkway.

•NGMC, Longstreet Clinic break ground on cancer center — Physicians and leaders with Longstreet Clinic, Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Northeast Georgia Physicians Group joined together to break ground on the expanded Cancer Center, located at Medical Plaza 1 in Braselton.

•Gwinnett firefighters free resident after tree crashes on house — Gwinnett County firefighters freed a resident from a Hoschton home after a tree fell on the house. The incident occurred as Tropical Storm Zeta moved its way through the area, leaving downed trees and power outages in its path.

•Hoschton may build new city hall — The City of Hoschton could get a new city hall building. Mayor Shannon Sell told the city council on Nov. 9 that he wants to start working on ideas for a new city hall building.

•Biden wins presidency — A divided nation has spoken and Democrat Joe Biden will become the 46th president of the United States. The race was called around noon on Saturday, Nov. 7, as the results in Pennsylvania became clear with Biden taking that battleground state.

•Hoschton OKs Twin Lakes plat — The City of Hoschton agreed Nov. 16 to approve the preliminary plat for Twin Lakes subdivision Phase 4 after several months of controversy and delay.

•No immediate property tax for Braselton — It’s likely that Braselton won’t have a town property tax any time soon, but city leaders didn’t rule out the possibility that someday, it may become necessary. During a day-long retreat meeting on Nov. 18, the Braselton Town Council discussed a number of items facing the town, including its financial standing.

•Townhome project near Publix gets denial — Efforts to revive a residential project near Publix in West Jackson received a blow Nov. 19 when the Jackson County Planning Commission vote 3-0 in favor of denial.

December

•Hwy. 211 multi-modal bridge could go to bid soon — A multi-modal bridge planned in Braselton is almost ready to go out to bid, it was announced. Town manager Jennifer Scott updated the Braselton Town Council on plans for the multi-modal bridge over Hwy. 211 during its planning session in November. Scott said the bridge would begin between where The Falls subdivision ends and the Mulberry Walk shopping center.

•Schools to call for SPLOST renewal — Jackson County’s three school systems plan to call for a March 16, 2021, referendum to extend their education special local option sales tax in the county, it was announced.

•Braselton’s historic grammar school receives renovation — Braselton’s historic grammar school building was renovated for the first time since it was built in 1933 when the school served the growing population as the Braselton Brothers Enterprise grew and more families called Braselton home.

•New Hoschton park being planned — Plans for a new historical-focused park in Hoschton were reported to be in the works, but hit a bump on Dec. 7 when the town’s planning board tabled a variance request related for the deal.

•Elections board tables action on school referendum plans — Plans for a March referendum to continue the ESPLOST in Jackson County’s three school districts got put on hold Dec. 2 when the county’s board of elections refused to call for the March voting. The Jackson County Board of Elections voted 4-1, with board member James White dissenting, to table action until January on calling for the referendum.

•Local health leaders urge caution during holidays — Local health leaders urged the community to use caution during the Christmas holidays as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the area.

•Braselton approves drive-thru for proposed smoothie chain project — Braselton leaders gave the nod for a request to allow a drive-thru in the Riverstone Braselton development.

•Hoschton council looking at hefty pay hike — Members of the Hoschton City Council could get a pretty big pay hike in 2022 if a proposal from Mayor Shannon Sell moves forward. Sell proposed that the council’s pay be increased to $500 per month for each council member and $1,000 per month for the mayor. In addition, he suggested that all council members be eligible for city group health insurance and retirement programs offered to other city employees.

•Jackson schools planning for phased-in return after holidays — The Jackson County School System is making plans to “phase-in” middle and high school students to in-person classes following the Christmas break, it was announced.

•Hall middle, high schools transition to blended learning — Hall County middle and high school students transitioned to blended learning on Wednesday, Dec. 16, through Friday, Dec. 18.

•First vaccines arrive — COVID-19 vaccines arrived in the Braselton area. Northeast Georgia Health System began vaccinating its first employees on Thursday, Dec. 17.

•Court rejects Kolter injunction against Hoschton — The Jackson County Superior Court rejected an effort by the developers of Twin Lakes to stop impact fees imposed by the City of Hoschton.

•Hoschton budget calls for police department — Hoschton plans to start up a police department in 2021 and also build a new multi-use facility and city hall. Those were some of the highlights in the proposed 2021 city budget.

•Hoschton approves townhomes plat — Work could soon begin on 300 new townhomes in Hoschton following action by the Hoschton City Council on Dec. 21. The council approved the preliminary plat for Cambridge at Towne Center, a move that should allow Rockhaven Homes to begin work on the project. Zoning and other approvals were given in 2019.


News
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Hoschton to vote on council pay hikes

The Hoschton City Council plans to vote on Jan. 11 to raise the council and mayor's pay starting in 2022.

The council vote calls for the mayor to be paid $1,000 per month and council members $500 per month. The mayor and council currently get $25 per meeting per month with a cap of $75 per month.

Mayor Shannon Sell said Dec. 21 that the reason for the pay hike is to encourage people to run for office and that serving on the council shouldn't be a financial burden to people.

"In the future when I'm no longer mayor, I want a qualified person on this council and mayor," he said. "I want somebody that's smart, that's willing to work and that's not up here wasting time. I want an educated person that's got the best interest of the city at heart and also that knows what they're doing."

Sell said he also wants to expand the council to six members from the current four.

He said the total cost to the city for a better-paid council would only be a total of $48,000 per year, an amount he said was worth it.


News
Two WJ residential projects cross hurdle

Two proposed residential projects in the West Jackson area cross the first hurdle this week.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners approved map amendments for two separate residential projects in West Jackson at its Dec. 21 meeting.

Both projects will still need to go through the rezoning process for final approval.

Maddox Road project

One of those projects, located on 95 acres at 1288 Maddox Rd., Hoschton, could include approximately 167 single-family residences.

Chafin Communities requested two map amendments for the property, seeking a character area change from ag to suburban and a future land use change from ag/forestry to residential.

Hwy. 124 project

The second project, located on 23 acres on Hwy. 124 West, Hoschton, is proposed as a fee-simple townhouse subdivision with 103 residences. The board approved a request from LTR Investments for a character area change from suburban to urban for the project.

That property, located directly across Old Wicke Tr. was previously approved for a senior living development, but developers say that market is fairly saturated in the area.

“The market for senior housing has become saturated with a number of senior communities in the southern part of the county,” according to the letter of intent. “Efforts to market the property as a senior development have not been successful because of this market saturation.”

BRASELTON COMMERCIAL PROJECT

Also at its Dec. 21 meeting, the board approved a rezoning request in the West Jackson area.

Braselton Circuit, LLC, requested a rezoning of 7.5 acres at 6275 Hwy. 53, Braselton, from general industrial to highway retail commercial district.

Developers plan two commercial lots on the section of the property that fronts Hwy. 53.

OTHER ZONING MATTERS

In other zoning business, the board:

•tabled a map amendment request from Genuine Mapping and Design for 113 acres on County Farm Rd. at Daves Farm Rd., Jefferson. Applicant Ben Drerup is requesting a character area change from ag to rural and a future land use change from ag/forestry to residential. Drerup plans a 79-lot subdivision on the property. The vote was tabled until Feb. 15 to allow more time to research a reported garbage dump site on the property.

•approved a rezoning request for Omar Ramirez for 5.6 acres at 625 Curk Roberts Rd., Braselton. Ramirez wants to divide the property, tear down one mobile home and build a stick-built home on the site.

•approved a map amendment for New Liberty Church for 6.4 acres at 17 Thompson Mill Rd., Braselton. The church wanted a land use change from public institutional and residential to commercial. The church wants to replace its current sign with an LED sign and may only do so under a commercial zoning.


Features
Tickets on sale for Braselton's Chocolate Walk

Tickets are on sale for Braselton's seventh annual Chocolate Walk.

This year's event will be held Saturday, Feb. 6, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Braselton.

"(The Chocolate Walk) is a fun way to discover all the wonderful shops located in Downtown Braselton," town leaders said. "At each stop along the Chocolate Walk, walkers collect a chocolate treat from that participating business. Chocolate will come in many forms so grab a group of friends or plan a date with your sweetheart and enjoy some sweet treats while you shop!"

Tickets are $15 per person. For more information or tickets, visit DowntownBraselton.com or the Braselton Chocolate Walk Facebook page.


News
Election Day is Jan. 5 for runoff

The hotly-contested runoff races for Georgia's two U.S. Senators will be final next week with balloting on Jan. 5.

There are three races on the ballot: Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff; incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock; and incumbent Republican PSC member Lauren "Bubba" McDonald faces Democrat Daniel Blackman.

See a sample ballot and find your polling location at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov.


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Hoschton Oks 2021 budget

 The Hoschton City Council approved its 2021 budget in a called meeting Dec. 28.

Overall, the budget calls for a 13% increase in spending over the budget approved for 2020. The city anticipates $1.8 million in General Fund revenue and $1.6 million in spending next year.

Hoschton also plans to start up a police department in the third quarter of 2021 and build a new multi-use facility/city hall.

BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS

Some highlights are:

• The city is budgeting  $89,250 for a police department, although the city council hasn't formally voted to create a police department. The idea has been discussed at several city council meetings, a public forum and at the council's retreat meeting. But creating a police department would likely lead to the town imposing a property tax to help pay for it. "I am always open to options, but if the citizens want it, they will have to pay for it and that usually comes from property taxes," Mayor Shannon Sell said in September. No property tax is included in the 2021 budget.

• City officials have budgeted $350,000 for a new building called an "infill city square development project." That is a multi-use facility and could contain a new city hall, an idea which was discussed briefly at a recent council meeting. 

• The city expects to generate $868,800 in impact fees in 2021, an amount that is in addition to its general fund. Those dollars are slated to be used for building facilities, specifically for recreation, fire and police. The impact fees would come from an assessment placed on new homes and businesses in the town, mostly from the massive Twin Lakes development. But developers of that project, Kolter, has sued the city over how impact fees were created and aimed at their project. The move would add $2,500 to $3,000 to the cost of a home in the development. 

• The city is outsourcing its planning and zoning to a consultant, a move that cut the city P&Z budget from $629,700 to $91,300. In addition, the city is setting up a separate buildings inspection department at a cost of $130,600.

• The city's largest single source of general fund revenue is projected to come from building permits at $716,000, followed by local option sales taxes at $352,800 and planning and development fees at $250,000.

• The city's largest financial area is its water and sewerage systems which together are expected to generate $5.6 million in revenues in 2021. Those areas also have a lot of expenses slated for 2021, including a number of capital projects, including two new water tanks and an expansion of its wastewater treatment facilities.


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