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EJCHS, JCHS transition to virtual learning

East Jackson Comprehensive and Jackson County high schools transitioned to virtual learning this week due to the impact of COVID. The two county high schools will have virtual learning for two weeks (virtual learning began Monday, Aug. 30).

Additionally, students at several schools in the county are now required to wear face coverings due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Students at Maysville Elementary, North Jackson Elementary, East Jackson Middle and West Jackson Middle schools have been required to wear face coverings since Monday, Aug. 23.

"These schools were identified as higher risk because of the number of positive cases, clusters and spread rate. The face covering requirement is for one month and we will continue to monitor all of our schools' data," said Jackson County School System public relations officer, Andrea Briscoe.

Across the Jackson County School System, there were 234 new cases reported last week among students and staff.

Since the beginning of the school year, the district has had 628 cases.

•••

As of Friday, Aug. 27, the Jefferson City School System reported 42 active cases among students and staff. That's 0.9% of the student/staff population, up slightly from the week prior (0.8%).

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In the Commerce City School System, there were 44 active COVID cases on Friday, Aug. 27. That's up from the week prior when there were 19 active cases among students and staff.

The district announced some adjustments to the daily schedule at Commerce High School to help minimize opportunities for large gatherings. Beginning Monday, Aug. 30, students began reporting directly to their first block class instead of meeting in the lunchroom. CHS also eliminated ROAR time from the schedule, resulting in a later start time (8:20 a.m.). The school still opens at 7:20 a.m. and bus routes remain the same.

A dance at Commerce Middle School was also cancelled this week to "err on the side of caution."

COVID SPREAD CONTINUES ACROSS COUNTY

According to the Department of Public Health, there have been 1,040 new COVID-19 cases reported in Jackson County over the past two weeks.

The 7-day moving average in the county is 82 cases per day.

There was a spike on Aug. 28, with 124 new cases reported in the county on that day, the highest daily total since January. The highest peak was on Jan. 5 with 140 new cases reported on that day.

Since the start of the pandemic, the county has had 10,620 COVID cases, the 7th highest county in the state per capita following Chattahoochee, Stewart, Whitfield, Miller, Toombs and Bacon counties. Jackson County was previously ranked 8th in the state, but surpassed Hall County this week.

Two more deaths were reported in the county this week, bringing the total to 147 since the start of the pandemic. There have also been 13 probable COVID deaths.


News
Remembering Rev. Julius Mack
Remembering Rev. Julius Mack-JH

Mainstreet Newspapers lost its brightest light last week with the death of Rev. Julius Mack.

Rev. Mack served as printing shop foreman where he oversaw printing operations of the newspapers and commercial printing operations for The Jackson Herald, later Mainstreet Newspapers. He recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of working at the firm.

Rev. Mack was a well-known member of the community who interacted with the public through both his job and his ministry at Bush River Baptist Church in Banks County.

Rev. Mack, 63, of Jefferson, died of complications of COVID-19 on the morning of Aug. 25 after being hospitalized for 10 days.

Services were held Monday, Aug. 30, in Jefferson. See Rev. Mack's full obituary on the obituary pages this week.

Employees and friends of Mainstreet Newspapers remembered Rev. Mack this week:

Helen Buffington: 

I have many fond memories of Julius but my favorite is of a chubby little guy whose round face was laced with smiles. His father, Mr. Jesse, worked at the newspaper and one day we found we needed someone to sweep and do similar chores. So I asked Mr. Jesse if he had any boys at his house who might be interested in working after school. He promised to get back to me. A few days later, Mr. Jesse walked in with this beaming little fellow. “This is my boy Julius,” he said. The cute lad was all of 13. Julius went to work at the newspaper as a floor sweeper. But over the years, he earned his way up the ladder to become our diligent and beloved shop foreman. RIP, Julius.

Sharon Hogan:

How do you come up with just one memory of someone you’ve worked with over 36½ years. For the first 35+ years I probably spent as much time with my work family as I did with my real family.

Julius and I were close to the same age, he has a son about my daughter’s age, he has grandchildren around the same age as my grandchildren. We had a lot in common to talk about over the years. We have watched our kids and grandkids grow up over the years we have worked together.

I have been through some rough times during my time working at MainStreet Newspapers and no matter the situation or how down I might be when I came in to work I could always count on Julius to greet me with a smile on his face and some encouraging words.

Julius was a man devoted to his family, his church family and MainStreet Newspapers. He truly was a shining light at work.

He was a friend you could count on and he was always willing to help. Many years ago as I was coming to work my vehicle broke down and I wasn’t able to get in touch with my husband who was also at work. After a while of being stranded on the side of Hwy. 11 I called the office and talked with Julius who was quick to offer to come and check to see if he could help me out. He was able to get my vehicle going and I made it to the office.

Julius was always willing to help those of us out who worked at the newspaper’s offices in other counties. I have worked at all the offices in the other counties and I have held many positions at the newspaper during my tenure and anytime I needed help or had a question all I had to do was call Julius and he would help me out.

Along with myself, my husband, daughter and mother have all worked for MainStreet Newspapers at some time throughout the years and one word we all used when talking about the recent passing of Julius Mack was dependability.

Ginger Mitchell:

After 15 years of working with Julius I would have to say his smile and love for God truly shined daily. Memories that will alway stood out to me is his candy box on his desk. I mean Julius had you set if you needed a candy bar. I am pretty sure no one could make meatballs like him either. But my favorite would be the crazy times we stood there shaking our heads when the printer stopped working again. However the way he said my name always brought the biggest smile to my face. Julius will truly be missed and the press room will never be the same.

Jimmy Usher:

Julius was such a nice person. I’ve known him all my life and we got along real fine. Working together at the office, anytime he asked me to do something, I always did it. He’d get on to me if I didn’t. He always made me laugh and we had fun together every morning. I’m going to miss him. I’ve been praying for his family, they’re all really nice people and Julius was a really nice person.

It feels like it isn’t real. I’m really going to miss him.

Scott Buffington:

Julius was something of a pioneer here at MainStreet. When he began working here in 1971, we were still printing in “hot type” the same way printing had been done for over 400 years since Gutenberg invented movable type.

Over the last five decades, Julius was part of the move from hot type to offset and then later, to digital printing. We take for granted today that you can buy a color printer and with a computer, print out a nice, shiny brochure, but in 1971, that was only a pipe dream for a small newspaper printing shop. Julius was part of that technological revolution and was one of a very few who knew all three processes.

He will not only be missed because of his unique skills here at the paper, but also because of his humble, kind nature. Whether he was working with his co-workers, the public or his family, he was always the same understanding person. He never let any crisis overwhelm him and was a stable influence when things went wrong. His smile and easy way was infectious. We’re all heartbroken because we lost a true brother and friend.

Zach Mitcham:

I think of the sound the press makes when it’s running full speed, and that’s the inhuman sound of what is happening. But for me, the human sound is the laughter. I’ve heard so much laughter out in that pressroom through the years. And “Big Mack” was usually the first face I saw, always greeting me with a smile, always looking to share a laugh. And beyond the laughter, he knew things, too. If you talked with him in any deep way, you could quickly see that this was a man of substance, who could talk to you about the hard things in life and do it in a helpful way. I will always remember our talks and how he was indeed a true friend to me — and to so many others who were blessed to know him. I will miss him, but I will always hear that laugh and smile.

Garnett Smith

I worked with Julius for over 35 years. We spent some long h ours on Wednesdays setting the papers out. We always filled in for each other when one of us wanted to take some time off from work. He had my back and I had his. We were truly friends and I truly enjoyed working with  him. He was a dear and loved friend and I will always think of him as part of my family. He will be truly missed, gone but not forgotten.

Marti Mejias

When I remember Julius, I see his beautiful, kind and genuine smile that brought light into the room. Week after week, month after month, you knew that whatever the situation, Julius was going to be calm, practical and encouraging. He was an anchor even during the storms. And now, without a doubt, he is rejoicing in Heaven.

Detra Watson:

I lost my pastor my friend and my boss man. He will be dearly missed.

Angela Gary:

Earlier this year, I went to the funeral visitation for the mother of my friend and co-worker, Julius Mack. As I left, I hugged Julius and told him I loved him. I have worked with Julius for 37 years. I love Julius like family. I've seen him much more over the years than I've seen some of my family. He loves the Lord, he loves his wife, Laverne, and his children and grandchildren. He loves the church he pastors, Bush River Baptist Church. He loves The Jackson Herald, where he has worked since he was a young boy, and he loves the Jefferson Dragons. I'm still in shock that Julius is no longer with us. His death is heartbreaking to so many people in this community. He always had a smile on his face. I never saw him without that smile and I will miss it. When not in his work uniform, he was a sharp-dressed man. I loved seeing him in those colorful suits and telling him how good he looked. I put together the church items for the newspaper and he would bring me his church news including announcements for his monthly “What’s On Your Mind” program for young men. We would talk about how important it is to work with young men and prepare them for the challenges they will face. I am thankful I had the chance to tell Julius that I love him. It's something we don't do enough. We don't tell the people in our lives that we love them. You never know when they will be gone from your life. I know without a doubt that Julius is with the Lord now. I am sad for all of us who will miss him.

Brittany Truelove

I don’t have one favorite memory… but ever since I can remember stepping back into the press room, thick with the smell of fresh ink, Big Mack always had the biggest, happiest smile on his face! I don’t think I know what he looks like without a smile!

Debbie Castellaw:

He was just always constant. He was never moody, you did not have to worry when you needed to ask him for something that he would be grumpy. No, he always had that smile on his face. If he did not like something or disagreed, he would just look down and shake his head. He knew everything about MSN. He knew the building and who to call to fix something. He knew the vans, the route carriers, the reporters, all of the office staff. I jokingly referred to him as Mr. Jefferson. Everyone knew and loved him. He was bigger than life and without him at MSN there will be a huge hole that cannot be filled.  

Alex Buffington:

Rev. Julius Mack was always the first to arrive at the The Jackson Herald office. If you drove by the parking lot before sunrise on any given work day, you’d see Mr. Mack’s big red truck was already there, parked directly to the left of the back entrance of the building. Seeing that truck was always a signal that someone was there, the door was open, the lights were on, and it was going to be a good week. Rev. Mack was dependable in that way. Not just in being the first person at the office each morning, but in being that calm, steady light that always shined.

My favorite memory of Mr. Mack will always be the day Mike and I were married. The decision on who we wanted to officiate was a no-brainer. We picked a date, then went immediately to Rev. Mack to ask him to marry us. He agreed to do so before asking when the wedding date was. When we told him, he hesitated briefly and said he hoped the party would be short since that was his wife, Mrs. Laverne’s, birthday. Rev. Mack may have set a record for southern preachers that wedding day. The ceremony itself lasted five minutes at most.

But the most long-lasting memories of Mr. Mack will always be that bright red truck backed into his parking spot every work day; his calmness when someone would come in on a Wednesday morning and say they needed to redo a front page because a major incident had happened Tuesday night; and his smile, that was ever-present, no matter the circumstances. Rev. Mack was a steady light that shined behind-the-scenes at Mainstreet Newspapers. His heart was as big and bright as his red truck. He will be missed always.

Roy  Tarpkins

Rev. Mack and I go way back. I remember when he first pastored his first church, he invited me to come to his first church. They’d called him in so he asked me to take over on that day to offer the message because he’d made a prior appointment to another church, his own membership church, so I spoke in his place that day. I used him quite a bit at a church I’m a member at (Rogers Chapel Baptist Church off of Hwy. 98) and vice versa. We used one another. He preached at our church and I spoke at his church.

When I first moved to Jefferson, he was a little guy then. I didn't get to know him too well until right before he started pastoring.

We go back a long way. Whenever he’d go to Atlanta to preach and he’d ask me to go with him, we’d go out to eat together. We've had some good times together at revivals and programs with the church. He’s been a true friend.

He’s the most humble person I’ve ever met. He had a sweet spirit, the biggest smile. You could talk to him about anything and it wouldn’t go anywhere. I’m going to miss him. I pray for his family.

He’s going to be missed by his family, his church family and his work family. But he would want us to go on. I know he would have said it, “don’t worry about me.” He would have said those words. I feel like he got his life together.

He has no more pain. He’s going to receive this new body that Christ talked about, a bright, shiny, strong body; he doesn’t have to worry about disease anymore, that's all over for him.

I believe what the Bible says, that we’re going to see one another again. We’re going to see him again, we’re going to be together again. That’s what will keep his family and friends motivated, knowing that we will be together again. I’m looking forward for that day. I want to see the one who made it all possible, Jesus himself. I want to see the scars on his hands. Julius has already seen them. I miss my brother, but I know I’m going to see him again.

Susan Treadwell:

When I started to work for Mainstreet Newspapers my first impression of Mr. Julius was how friendly he was to me. The more interaction I had with him I learned that his positive attitude was very sincere. He had a way of making you feel reassured about any printing problem that you brought to him.

I looked forward to him bringing the Barrow Journal papers to the Winder office each week and starting my day with his cheerful personality. Both of our mothers were having health issues at the same time and we had many conversations about the importance of having family support and having faith that God was our biggest comforter in dealing with stressful times.

To me, Mr. Julius was the perfect example of a true Southern gentleman and how one person can make a difference in our workplace and in our lives. The more enriched we are by a person, the harder it is to let them go — This is going to be really hard. RIP Mr. Julius.

Scott Thompson:

If our papers are considered institutions within our communities, Julius was without a doubt the institution within the institution — the true backbone behind our effort to get the newspaper into readers’ hands every week.

I did not get the chance to know Julius for as long as most here, but I was grateful to have known him and had him steering the ship for the printing press. In this business, you meet a lot of great people, and Julius ranks near the top for me. His personality always filled up the room. And he never missed a chance to greet you sitting in the parking lot in his truck at the end of a work day and ask how you were doing.

Two memories that stand out to me would probably be the last two times I was around him. One, in June when we honored him for 50 years of service. I’m not nearly old enough to fathom working somewhere for 50 years. His level of dedication and love for his co-workers was admirable, and I was honored to be there to see him recognized. The second memory would be my last face-to-face interaction with him a few weeks ago in our parking lot. I was getting ready to head to Winder to cover a meeting and he was griping about a supply delivery driver who had shown up late and not done something right. But he did it all with a smile and had me cracking up.

Just a genuinely wonderful man, gone too soon and irreplaceable.

Susan Mobley:

I was fortunate to have known Rev. Julius Mack, one of the nicest people I have ever met. Julius always had a kind word and a smile for everyone. If you needed anything, he was there for you.

When my mother was sick, he asked about her often and he prayed for her recovery. He had words of comfort for me when she passed away. I will never forget his kindness.

Julius was a blessing to many and will always be remembered.

Ben Munro:

I met Julius when I was 19 and worked with him for over two decades.

Early on in my time at MainStreet Newspapers — when I was 19 or 20 — I spent a summer in Julius’ press room doing odd jobs to help get the papers printed. I was having a particularly tough go at it one afternoon while feeding inserts into the insert machine. The inserts continued to get jammed and my frustration was mounting. Finally, after the fourth or fifth jam and being the hot head that I am, I smacked a stack of inserts in exasperation.

Julius in friendly but make-no-mistake firm way told me, “Don’t get mad at it now.”

That was all he ever needed to say to me about it.

But mainly Julius and I talked a lot of local sports over years since that was my job for so long.

He’d often sit out in his truck for lunch and he’d catch me as I returned to the office from some assignment. He loved Jefferson and would often ask about an upcoming opponent, what a team’s chances were in the playoff bracket or just how good a certain player was he’d heard about.

Julius and I had plenty of those truck-side chats during the fall of 2020 as his Dragons made run to the state title game.

When you’re immersed in covering something for so long — like I was with sports — you sometimes tend not to want to talk about it all the time. But it was never that way with Julius. Not once. I always looked forward to those conversations.

I’m going to miss those talks, as I will the man who was so beloved by co-workers.

Vickie West

I have been thinking about what to say about Julius but there have been so many special times I’ve had with him, it’s hard to come up with just one.

If I ever needed prayer I could count on him to have prayer with me and keep my concerns to himself. He never shared what we talked about.

It’s been like losing a member of my own family.

I am going to miss him every day especially when I walk in the doors here to the office.


News
Jefferson city council continues budget, milage rate discussion

The Jefferson City Council moved a step closer to deciding its new millage rate at its recent voting session. Despite the council's desire for a full rollback to 5.036 mills, it voted to advertise a 5.3 millage rate that is proposed in the FY 2022 budget. 

The council's most vocal opponent of the proposed rate was Mark Mobley who said he wanted to make more cuts to the budget to reduce the millage rate further. Mobley proposed cutting the city's fire department, but that was met with strong opposition.

Fire chief Mark Duke requested a budget increase to hire three full-time fire captains, saying the fire department needed to grow with the city. Mobley suggested only hiring two captains. Duke said not having a captain for every shift would hurt the continuity of the fire department.

Mayor Jon Howell defended the fire department's budget request saying fire and the police department were two areas he didn't believe deserved cuts.

Council  member Cody Cain said he saw the need for the higher rate of 5.3 mills.

"I guess I'm the new guy and I'm for cutting taxes," he said. "I never thought I would be favor of a higher number, that's just not me. But I've been here since November serving and honestly, our city needs to spend money. I think we need to spend money to make money, to draw people here. Y'all know I want a pool, it's not even in our budget. I want it in the budget, that's more money. We want an amphitheater, we want this, we want that.

"We don't do that on Skittles and bubble gum, we've got to spend money. If it means that our rate is 5.3 or 5.5, I don't want that, but I think that's what we should do because all of the citizens call us and say 'we don't have this, we don't have that.' We have to start offering things that are going to draw people here and that's going to cost money. When we do it, we're going to keep people here. Then when we get people here, we're going to get our money back. As much as I never thought I would say it, I don't mind paying the 5.3 even though my property taxes are going to go up."

Cain's speech drew an applause from the audience and it prompted other members of the council to defend the 5.3 rate. 

"We have a certain level of service the citizens of the community have come to expect," councilman Malcolm Gramley said. "If we're going to cut back taxes, we're going to lose a lot of that. Cody is right on the money. If we have to, we have to. No one ever said this job was going to be easy. If we can cut taxes, great, but not at the services to the community."

The council approved in a 4-1 vote advertising the budget with the 5.3 millage rate with Mobley opposed. 

After the budget discussion, police chief Joseph Wirthman requested a budget increase for the police department so employees can receive raises. 

"I have two openings this year, I haven't been able to fill them," he said. "We have to start being competitive again. I know Priscilla gave us a raise a couple of years ago to try to get us competitive... I'm just trying to be an advocate for my officers."

Braselton PD and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office both start out new employees at higher wages than the Jefferson PD according to Wirthman.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the council:

•approved letting city attorney Ronald Hopkins discuss specifics of intergovernmental agreement for the Parks Creek Reservoir with Jackson County. The city is in agreement with the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority to create the Parks Creek Reservoir. The authority has 25-percent interest in the reservoir. The agreement will last for 50 years. Once both attorney's are satisfied with the deal, Howell is authorized to sign it.

•approved transferring $80,000 of the $200,000 dedicated of swimming pool improvements for civil and engineer drawings for a new swimming pool.

•learned of the ribbon cutting at the new playground on Monday, August 30 at 10 am. 

•approved the rezoning of 14.343 acres at the intersection of Academy Church Rd. and Old Pendergrass Rd. to heavy industrial. The property will be the new of Elite Blasting  Services, an explosive storage service for the nearby businesses operating at the rock quarry.

•approved the resolution accepting the sanitary sewer pump station from Clayton Properties Group.

•approved the Exit 137 beatification and DOT agreements. The city will seek a third party to maintain the areas between the Hwy. 129/Concord Rd. intersection and the nearest red light at I-85. The city will utilize revenue from the hotel/motel tax so the project will not show up on the budget. The city will not exceed the revenue from the tax on an annual basis.

•approved budget adjustments for three departments. The adjustments reflect the $2.2 million received from the federal government which is going towards the I-85 wastewater treatment plant; the fire department vehicle purchase which went slightly over budget by $229; use of $12,100 from insurance proceeds; and $24,000 from speed camera money to purchase a new police vehicle


News
Underwood, Justice qualify for two new Pendergrass council seats

Qualifying closed last week for two new seats on the Pendergrass City Council.

Tara Underwood and Tawnia Justice qualified for the additional seats.

All four Pendergrass city council seats up for election are unopposed. In addition to Underwood and Justice, Nick Geiman and incumbent Nathan Pruitt qualified unopposed for the two other council seats up for election.


News
Planners give split recommendations on Pendergrass tracts

The Jackson County Planning Commission gave split recommendations for two proposed industrial rezoning at Pettijohn Rd. and Wayne Poultry Rd. in Pendergrass.

A proposal to rezone 116.6 acres fronting Pettijohn Road and Wayne Poultry Road in Pendergrass from agricultural to light industrial received conditional approval by the Jackson County Planning Commission Aug. 26, marking the first time the land has been approved for rezoning since the inception of zoning in 1974.

Map changes to 116 acres of property owned by Joan Williamson were approved by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners in March, which changed the character area map from rural to urban and the future land use map from residential to industrial. The JCPC approved the rezoning with one condition: There be one ingress and egress entrance off of Wayne Poultry Rd.

In a separate proposal involving an adjacent tract on Pettijohn Road, a request to change the future land use map to for industrial for over 150 acres was unanimously recommended for denial by the commission.

“The subject property has been vacant for many years and cannot economically support the present value of the land as presently zoned,” wrote attorney Stanton Porter, adding that industrial zoning is “the only feasible economic use of the property.”

The commission’s denial is largely due to Pettijohn Road being privately owned.

“You’re going to have three property owners that's going to have serious issues with square footage because on the western side of the road is a severe drop off,” said commissioner Les Knoblock. “You’re going to end up having to take the right of way from the property owners to get the minimum 60 feet.” 

Another apparent problem with the proposal is the presence of floodplains and wetlands on the property.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business, the JCPC:

• recommended approval for a rezone request of 2.04 acres from industrial to retail to allow for an outdoor sporting goods store with an indoor archery range off Hwy. 441 in Commerce. The move would allow Feathers and Antlers Outdoors and Feathers and Antlers Indoor Archery Range to expand. The two businesses are currently located about six doors down from one another at Tanger Outlets. The request to rezone will allow them to combine both the retail store and indoor archery range into one location while increasing floor space to accommodate the addition of firearms and ammunition to their product line.

All three items will go before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for a final decision on Sept. 20.


News
Milestones results show varied results

The disruptions from Covid during the last school year had an impact on student learning state leaders said last week with the release of the annual Milestone test results.

Overall, scores dropped for students across the state compared to previous years, in large part due to the impact of Covid on classroom instruction. 

“Georgia Milestones was designed to measure instruction during a typical school year, and 2020-2021 was anything but," State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Given the impacts of the pandemic on all students, we expected some decreases this year."

Federal funds were made available to local school systems to help remediate the loss of learning during the last school year.

The results of Milestones in Jackson County schools varied widely from school to school.

One snapshot of those results is the percentage of students who were not reading on grade level. That varied from a low of just 10.6% for 5th Graders at Jefferson Academy to a high of 51.6% for Jackson County Comprehensive High School students taking American Literature.

State education officials said that the year's results should not be compared to prior years due to the Covid impact.

The following is a snapshot of scores for local schools:

Below Grade-Level Reading

3rd Graders

WJES  26%

EJES  30.7%

GSES  45.5%

MES  48.1%

NJES  43.8%

SJES  48.2%

CES  24.6%

JES  12.5%

5th Graders

WJES  28.8%

EJES  27.1%

GSES  29.9%

MES  48.9%

NJES  39.8%

SJES  42.9%

CMS  20.3%

JA  10.6%

8th Graders

EJCHS  47.8%

WJMS  27.2%

CMS  19.4%

JMS  8.8%

High Schools, American Lit.

Reading Below Grade Level

EJCHS  41.9%

JCCHS  51.6%

CHS  18.5%

JHS  13.8%

Math

5th Grade 

Beginning-Learner %

WJES  30.9%

EJES  11.8%

GSES  17.9%

MES 21.3%

NJES  32.5%

SJES  35.7%

CMS  27.5%

JA  3.3%

8th Grade

Beginning-Learner %

EJCHS  31.9%

WJMS  37.8%

CMS  23.4%

JMS 6.0%

High School Algebra 1

Beginning-Learner %

EJCCHS  24.5%

JCCHS  48.4%

WJMS  4.7%

High School Coordinate Algebra

Beginning-Learner %

CHS  18.9%

JHS  7.8%


News
Commerce planners reject townhomes project

Commerce planners rejected a proposal last week for a townhomes project off Waterworks Rd.

The Commerce Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-1 to recommend denial of a rezoning request from Presidential Oaks Properties for 8.6 acres at 155 Waterworks Rd.

The property is zoned R-5 and was previously used as a mobile home park. The site, located across Waterworks Rd. from Willoughby Homes and the city shop, has been abandoned for years.

Developers initially requested to put 64 townhomes on the site, but that number was reduced to 28 total units before the planning commission meeting Aug. 23. Each is proposed to total at least 1,750 square feet and have three bedrooms, 2.5 baths and a front-entry two-car garage.

A handful of area residents noted a number of concerns regarding the development, from infrastructure issues to increased pressure on the Commerce City School System.

“We have no more rooms in our building for more families to come in,” said Commerce teacher April Ruff. “We are struggling with what we’ve got right now.”

Existing traffic problems on Waterworks Rd. and on secondary streets in that area was top on some residents’ lists of concerns.

“People fly down Clayton (St.) over that hill,” one resident said. “They’re going to hit us. It’s a matter of time.”

Commerce resident Maddison Dean echoed the concerns about Clayton St., noting the narrow road isn’t properly striped.

“It’s not safe already as it is and it’s certainly not going to get any safer if we add 50+ more cars going down that street every day with this development,” she said.

Others cited concerns with how rapidly the city is growing. Resident Kelli Baugh said part of the draw to Commerce is the small-town feel where neighbors know one another and teachers know the students by name. But Baugh noted concerns that the small community could change with such an increase in development in the area.

“Development is coming. Nothing stays in its nice little bubble forever. The rate at which we allow that development is key to preserving what makes this place so great,” said Baugh.

Alicia Vargas, a Commerce resident and business owner, echoed that, saying the city needs “smart, educated growth.”

Chairman Joe Leffew and planner Melinda Cochran-Davis both said they were torn about the project, noting the property is a good location for the development since it’s near two existing higher-density developments, Willoughby Homes and Heritage Hills. But Leffew and Cochran-Davis voiced major concerns with traffic and safety in that area.

Ultimately, Leffew and planners Dwayne Wilson and Jimbo Stephenson voted to deny the request. Cochran-Davis voted against the motion.

The Commerce City Council is slated to vote on the request Sept. 20.

OTHER BUSINESS

Also at its Aug. 23 meeting, the planning and zoning commission:

•voted to recommend denial of rezoning and variance requests from Michael Scott for approximately 20 acres at 935 Homer Rd., the Ashworth mobile home community. The property has been utilized as a mobile home park for decades. Scott requested a change from R-1 to R-5 to match the existing use of the property, along with variances for setbacks. Commission members cited problems with infrastructure in the neighborhood, specifically the roads, and a lack of reinvestment in the neighborhood on the owner’s part.

•approved a subdivision plat for Seth Cape for 1.68 acres on Hospital Rd., dividing the property into three lots for residential use.

•tabled an annexation and zoning request from Nicolas Marley for .57 acres at 593 Lathan Dr.


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