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O’Leary, Ward win mayoral seats

Braselton and Hoschton will see some changes following the Nov. 2 general municipal elections.

Kurt Ward handily secured the mayoral seat in Braselton, while challenger Lauren O’Leary defeated the incumbent mayor in Hoschton.

In the Hoschton mayoral race, O’Leary defeated incumbent mayor Shannon Sell, with 323 votes to Sell’s 221.

Meanwhile, four people qualified for four Hoschton City Council seats (including two new council seats). While each of the four are assured a seat on the council, the top three vote-getters will have a four-year term, while the bottom vote-getter will have a two year-term due to staggered term limits. Those top three vote-getters were Scott Mims (411 votes), Fredria Sterling (395 votes) and incumbent James Lawson (383 votes). The three will serve four-year terms. Incumbent Tracy Carswell was the lowest vote-getter with 351 votes and will serve the two-year term.

In Braselton, Kurt Ward easily defeated Braselton Town Council member Hardy Johnson in the town’s mayoral race. Ward garnered 1,215 votes to Johnson’s 348.

Also in Braselton, challenger Richard Harper defeated incumbent Peggy Slappey in the Braselton Town Council District 2 race. Harper collected 253 votes, while Slappey had 124.

James Murphy defeated Jeff Gardner in the Braselton Town Council District 4 race, with 374 votes to Gardner’s 154.

Meanwhile in Barrow County, voters approved the special purpose local option sales tax with 1,772 “yes” votes and 1,164 “no” votes.

(Top picture) Cheryl Kellogg (front left), Mike Kellogg (front right), Danny Vento (back left) and Regina Vento (back right) pause for a photo after winning “Best Cart” honors during Braselton’s first-ever Halloween PathParade held on Braselton’s LifePath on Saturday (Oct. 30). An estimated 60 golf carts took part in the event. The Kelloggs and Ventos are residents of Del Webb at Chateau Elan and play pickle ball together. Their cart decor included a pair of skeletons holding pickle ball rackets (bottom left picture). Danny Vento (bottom right picture) won best costume honors.

Braselton getting 3 warehouses instead of trucking facility

A truck hub project that had been slated for Hwy. 53 in Braselton has apparently been scuttled in favor of developing three distribution buildings on the property.

The trucking facility by R&L Carriers was originally slated for 62 acres at 6275 Hwy. 53 at the intersection with Braselton Pkwy. 

But in a recent filing for a stream buffer variance on the property, attorneys for the developer said three warehouses are "better suited" for the property than the truck hub plans.

The three warehouse would be between 223,000 sq. ft and 258,000 sq. ft. each, according to the site plans.

Among tenants for the warehouses are furniture distribution for Atlanta Furniture Galleries, Amerisource Bergan pharmaceutical distribution, Thermal, tire distribution for Mavis, commence firm ThredUP and airline bags and healthcare products for Ricoh Electronics.

A previous stream buffer variance was allowed for the trucking project, but was limited to just that project. Because those plans have changed, the developers are having to refile for a buffer variance with the Jackson County Board of Adjustment, which is slated to hear the issue at its Nov. 4 meeting.

COVID numbers could spike again in the winter

New COVID case numbers across the area continue to drop and hospitalizations are down, but the winter could look different according to one local health official.

Dr. John Delzell, Northeast Georgia Health System’s incident commander, said another COVID spike could be looming in the next few months, pointing to low vaccination rates in some areas.

“I think that it is likely that we could have another spike in a few months in the winter,” Delzell said last week in an email interview. “There are still large portions of rural Georgia that have very low vaccination rates. That could lead to another surge.”

New COVID cases have dropped sharply since peaking around early September. The seven-day moving average of new cases across in Gwinnett, Hall, Jackson and Barrow counties stood at a combined 693.4 back on Sept. 9. That number had dwindled to just 120.0 for the four counties on Monday (Nov. 1).

As for hospitalizations, the Northeast Georgia Health System was treating 73 COVID patients across all its facilities on Monday (Nov. 1) — a 78% decrease since Sept. 9 when the system was flooded with 333 cases.

But COVID cases followed a similar trajectory last year.

After a 2020 summer spike, cases fell off considerably in the fall. But they skyrocketed again in December and January, marking the third wave of the pandemic. Northeast Georgia Health System reported a record 355 COVID hospitalizations on Jan. 8.

As the pandemic moves into this winter, there’s the threat of additional COVID variants emerging. According to Delzell, variants will continue to evolve as coronavirus continues to multiply. The Delta variant is still the major variant circulating in the Georgia, but Delzell said new variants “are likely to appear.”

There’s also the issue of people remaining indoors more during the cold winter months, paired with large holiday gatherings.

“Indoor activities may be more risky, especially in unvaccinated populations,” Delzell said. “It will still be a good idea to wear a mask in those gatherings particularly when vaccine status is unknown.”

Delzell said he is not certain if a spike this winter would outpace last year’s winter-time case numbers or this year’s September spike.

“(We’re) hoping that as more get vaccinated, there will be less,” he said.

Unlike last winter, vaccinations are readily available, with an additional booster shot approved for Pfizer, Moderna and J&J.

Delzell sends a clear message to the public for the winter months ahead.

“Please get vaccinated,” Delzell said. “If there are not enough people in the community who are vaccinated, the virus will surge again.”

JCPC recommends approval for Hoschton area store project

A map amendment change got the green-light from the Jackson County Planning Commission for a small parcel in Hoschton for a convenience store and mini-storage project.

The JCPC approved a map amendment change for .6 acres at 182 Julia Lane, Hoschton,  from residential to commercial. That tract will join another tract for the project.

The map amendment  change will now go before the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for action, then back to the JCPC for a rezoning change.


In other action, the JCPC:

• recommended denial for a map amendment to pave the way for a small industrial park at 9615 Hwy. 53, Braselton. Developers had wanted to change the 16-acre site's future land use map from residential to industrial.

• approved a map amendment from conservation to rural for 6 acres at 10447 Hwy. 334, Nicholson, to divide the property into two parcels.

• approved a map amendment change from residential to agricultural/forestry for 35.5 acres at 2160 Athens Hwy., Jefferson, to divide the property.