School facilities on the west side of Jackson County dominated the Jackson County School System's agenda over the last week.
Sunday afternoon, the system had its ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Jackson County High School on Skelton Rd. The school is a relocation of Jackson County Comprehensive High School from Jefferson and marks the first time the west side of the county has had a high school since 1979. The school will open this fall for grades 8-12.
On Monday night, the Jackson County Board of Education approved hiring Carroll Daniel Construction to build a new elementary/middle school facility near the new high school on Skelton Rd. Current plans are for the facility to be designed as a middle school, but will probably open as an elementary school to relieve overcrowding.
The west side of Jackson County has exploded with new students. During the past school year, the west side gained 420 new students into its schools while the east side of the county declined by 66 students.
Over the last 15 years, there has been an imbalance in classroom space in the county due to previous over-construction on the east side and under-construction on the west side. The new high school and upcoming new elementary/middle school facilities are an attempt by the BOE to add more classrooms to the fast-growing west side.
Meanwhile, the existing JCCHS facility in Jefferson is being converted to the Empower College & Career Center for students from all over the county to use for vocational and college classes. That center will open with the upcoming school year as its renovations are being completed this summer.
Also Monday night, the BOE approved designating the former West Jackson Primary School property as surplus and putting it up for sale. The facility is too old to be renovated for use and school leaders have been debating its future for the past several years. It is the third former school the system has surplused over the last decade. The system previously consolidated Benton Elementary School and South Jackson Elementary into newer facilities on the east side of the county.
Hoschton’s Downtown Development Authority held its inaugural meeting June 11 to elect officers, set meeting dates and discuss its short-term goals for 2021.
The DDA elected Dr. Sri Kumar as chairman, Tracy Jordan as vice-chair and Anita Boyd as secretary and treasurer.
The authority will meet on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6 p.m. The DDA will hold its next meeting on June 28.
At the top of its priority list is identifying existing and potential funding sources. The group will begin by taking inventories of assets, buildings, businesses and ownerships within the city.
According to city administrator Gary Fesperman, “Once you learn what your assets are, this DDA can be an efficient operating machine.”
Also on its list of priorities, the group is focused on branding itself to the community through advocacy, marketing and community outreach efforts. The authority is planning several community events, including a farmer’s market, Food Truck Friday and a fall festival to help focus the public’s attention on the value of its downtown.
Also part of its branding efforts, the authority plans to purchase billboards and new street signage, including a welcome sign at the city line on Hwy. 53 coming from I-85.
The DDA also discussed plans to work with the Georgia Mainstreet Program (GMP), which focuses on revitalizing historic downtown districts. The GMP partners with a number of state organizations including the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia to provide training courses for city officials to enhance their knowledge and skills in municipal related matters.
“I think each person here has different talents and a different skillset and I think that’s why we're all here,” said Jordan. “You never know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”
Braselton planning commission member Tony Price has died after a battle with COVID-19.
Price’s wife, Missi, has provided regular updates on social media about her husband’s condition since early May and announced June 9 that T. Price had passed.
“Today at 5:28 p.m. my husband of 21 years took his last breath and earned his forever wings,” she wrote. “While he will be missed by us and so many countless others, his healing starts now.”
Price was an organ donor and his kidneys and heart valves have been donated to those in need.
“Tony is still serving and giving to other families and that would make him so happy,” said M. Price.
Community members have taken to social media with an outpouring of condolences over the loss.
Price served on the Braselton Planning Commission for several years, representing District 3, and worked for Lawson Funeral Home.
A memorial service will be held for Price on Saturday, June 19, at 2 p.m. at Lawson Funeral Home.
“I know this is Father's Day weekend but hoping the parking lot will be so full the streets will have to be lined,” said M. Price.
A GoFundMe has also been setup to help the family. Those wishing to donate may do so at https://www.gofundme.com/f/tubrm-support-for-the-price-family
Braselton leaders gave the go-ahead this week to allow slightly smaller houses to be developed in a planned subdivision.
The Braselton Town Council voted June 14 to approve rezoning 46.62 acres on Ednaville Rd. from R-2 to R-3.
Clint Copeland, who spoke for the applicant, said they requested the zoning change to allow 2,000 sq. ft. homes instead of 2,200 sq. ft. homes. Developers plan 80 lots on the property. A number of amenities are also proposed, including walking trails, gardening space and an outdoor oven/barbecue area.
The request was approved with a number of conditions, including one that says the community’s covenants will limit the number of rentals to 30% with a hardship provision. If developers later decide the property should be 100% rental, they will have to notify the town.
Council members also gave the go-ahead to allow a “bed and breakfast” in the downtown area.
Kacie de Leon requested a conditional use to allow a bed and breakfast on a little under ½ acre at 88 Lakeshore Dr.
The property won’t be a traditional B&B. Instead, de Leon will operate the property as a short-term rental on Airbnb. The town does not have zoning regulations on short-term rentals, making the B&B use the best match.
The house includes three bedrooms and two baths. It will be rented as a whole (not by individual rooms) and will be limited to six guests.
De Leon has rules in place to prevent disruption of neighbors, along with security measures.
In addition to the conditional use, council members also approved a variance request for de Leon removing a requirement that the operator of the B&B must live on the property.
Also at its June meetings, the council:
•got an update on its pending development code update. Woody Giles with TSW, the firm currently working on the development code, gave an update on its progress. Giles discussed several big picture considerations they’ve heard from the community during recent public meetings including: wanting to keep Braselton a “small town” without a lot of density and traffic; preserving green space; finding the right spectrum of housing types; developing design guidelines for residential and commercial development; and keeping the character of downtown as it continues to develop. Giles said they’ve also heard comments about some of the town’s regulations being out-of-date or contradictory; the overuse of the planned unit development zoning; and the need to make the zoning process more streamlined. Giles said they’ll work to get a draft of the code changes this summer and will present it to the public this fall. A final draft will ultimately come before the council for a vote.
•held a hearing on its proposed 2022 general fund, water/wastewater, stormwater and civic center budgets. The council will vote on those budgets at a special called meeting Friday, June 18, at 4 p.m. Budget voting meetings for other town agencies include: Downtown Development Authority, June 17 at 11 a.m.; Visitors Bureau Authority, June 16 at 4 p.m.; Urban Redevelopment Agency, June 17 at 4 p.m.
•heard some updates on the town’s civic center, which is actively under construction on Davis St. in downtown Braselton. The town will set rental fees in the coming weeks and recently took applications for the civic center director. Town manager Jennifer Scott said they haven’t had too many delays in getting construction materials.
•approved a GEFA loan modification to allow an extension through December for construction at The Falls lift station. The town has seen a delay in getting construction materials and discovered the need for odor control upgrades.
•approved calling for the 2021 municipal election.
•approved reappointing Tracy Brandenburg to the downtown development authority. The council also approved appointing Chip Dale to the DDA to succeed Rhonda Stites.
The number of COVID-19 patients at Northeast Georgia Health System remained low over the past couple of weeks.
As of June 14, there were 16 positive COVID patients across the system with four of those at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton.
The number of COVID patients has been trending downward for the past several months and has remained below 100 system-wide since March 2.
Braselton area counties continue to lag behind the state average in COVID-19 vaccination rates.
As of June 14, the state reports 41% of Georgia residents have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine while 35% are fully vaccinated.
In Braselton’s four-county area, there have been:
•Barrow: 28% with at least one dose; 25% fully vaccinated
•Gwinnett: 40% with at least one dose; 35% fully vaccinated
•Hall: 32% with at least one dose; 28% fully vaccinated
•Jackson: 31% with at least one dose; 27% fully vaccinated