County’s River Park moving closer to upgrades

Community, News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Parks and Recreation Department is coming close to the final stage of erecting its new playground.

District 7 Representative and Speaker of the House David Ralston tours the new facilities during a day at the park celebrating the baseball season.

District 7 Representative and Speaker of the House David Ralston tours the new facilities during a day at the park celebrating the baseball season.

Though seeing a few delays with the rain and weather the county has seen lately, the park’s new equipment should be completed within the next two weeks according to Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White. Originally, discussion of the park in the commissioners meetings planned for completion by this weekend. Less than a month delay from weather will still have the new playground open before the height of summer.

The new equipment will be lit by LED lights and could see cameras used for security in the area. The cameras and lighting are being considered throughout the park, but no set date or action has been made on that expansion yet.

Furthering the progress, White tells FetchYourNews that this is not the end or even midway into the renovations he is hoping to see for the River Park. The department has already begun renovations on the large pavilion between the other newer playground and the current tennis courts. Setting a retaining wall and resolving the drainage issue was the major part, but the department is also fixing the columns inside the pavilion and replacing doors, stalls, and handrails in the bathrooms.

The Gilmer Board of Commissioners approved a bid this month for Johnson Paving, located in Blue Ridge, to repave the walking trail in the park for $31,932. White says the walking trail will not be affected by the playground and the project is free to move forward without delay. As soon as the paperwork goes through, citizens could see the trail improved by end of May.

This repaving will replace the current 3/4 mile track and add another quarter mile to create a full mile-long track. The trail has also already received new lighting from a Georgia Power project as well.

Additionally, White is waiting for an approval for the county’s application for an USGA grant. If the grant is approved, the county will move forward with not just replacing the current tennis courts, but building a new pair next to the civic center. With grant approval, this will replace the smallest ball field to the left of the civic center (from the road) next to Old Highway 5.

Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White shows the new upgrades to Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston.

Parks and Recreation Director Kevan White shows the new upgrades to Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston.

The new tennis courts will hold an additional use as well. White echoed a comment from Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris saying that he is hopeful for the grant and having a little left over. If the county has any money left over after these projects, then they will have one court host both a junior court and a use as a pickle ball court.

The old tennis courts would be removed and used for parking. White mentioned that he hoped for an option to add something more to the area at a later date. He mentioned an open-air stage as something he would hope for, but said it was too far off to give any real thought or ideas.

White went on to say that once the new playground is completed, they will look to remove the older equipment across the parking lot with the pavilion connected and could move to replacing the pavilion at the very end of the park near the spring. The intentions to replace these pavilions indicate the department’s movement away from the wood structures of the area for a more concrete foundation in hopes to better resist flooding and weather damage in the future.

Concrete options not only help fight flood damage but are designed for easier cleaning and maintenance as well.

These projects and options are all designed, White said, to be independent of each other, making the progress move as quickly as possible. He even noted that they are already looking to the other end of the park near Veteran’s Memorial Bridge but have no set plans yet.

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County issues moratorium on tiny homes

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Specifically stated for tiny homes on wheels, the Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have issued a moratorium on tiny homes on wheels, tree houses for habitation, or containers for habitation in Gilmer County.

With the commissioners referencing certifications and codes for buildings, it was said that tiny homes built on site were considered the same as any house as they would be built to code and inspected properly. However, Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said in their meeting that tiny homes on wheels can be built elsewhere and brought into the county similar to an RV, motor home, or mobile home.

The difference, however, is that those all have processes and associations to inspect and certify them as safe. The commissioners said the pre-fabricated tiny homes they have dealt with have no regulations for inspections or anything of that sort.

Due to the lack of certification, the commissioners are issuing this moratorium officially stating they want to take time to look at the issue and see how to properly handle the situation.

While this issue has been mentioned in their work session for the past three months, the commissioners had recently said they would allow tiny homes on wheels as long as they had been certified and inspected but no specific change or resolution was made. Now, Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch indicated the impact and importance of dealing with the item stating, “It’s an up and coming movement with young people trying to get started in life. It’s economical. I understand the appeal. I do recognize the need to define it and adjust the ordinance.”

Part of the discussion for the moratorium came with Crouch specifying he was only okay with the moratorium if the long-term goal was to accommodate the tiny homes on wheels in the future.

Paris echoed the sentiment saying he wanted to accommodate them similar to mobile homes.

Part of their process is to define how the county views these tiny homes on wheels, be that as mobile homes, RVs, or something similar as well as specifying requirements for the buildings for safety and habitation.

The moratorium is set to last 180 days with the option to extend if necessary. Stay with FetchYourNews and continue attending the monthly commissioner meetings as they continue the process for an ordinance change to deal with the issue.

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Rezoning dominates commissioners meetings

News

ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners spent the majority of their January meetings discussing rezoning requests from citizens.

Though three requests were on the agenda, the two that took the most attention involved a change from R-1 residential low density to A-1 agricultural for Russell Moss Jr. and Vicki Moss (Tax Map 3050K, Parcel 013) as well as an A-1 agricultural to A-1 agricultural with conditional use for Neil Gary (Tax Map 3083, Parcel 034C).

The Moss request involved planning for three structures on the property as Vicki Moss originally stated she wanted to plan on having ultimately one house as well as two tree houses for rent but was not trying to build a trailer park or similar setup. Though she bought the property as R-1 and stating she initially had no thought to change it, Moss stated she had later learned the restrictions of structure numbers for R-1 zone when she thought about building the additional structures.

Moss stated she only wanted to rezone to agricultural to put three structures on the one lot without paying an engineer to subdivide the lot and make room for the structures individually. A sentiment that Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris had earlier, in the commissioners work session, opposed due to making an agricultural lot on a road among numerous other residential lots. Though she stated her intended use, Paris commented he did not want to “open up” the lot to potential uses approved under agricultural with a later owner or something of the sort.

Citizens from the area spoke in opposition to the request as well. Property owner Bill Stucker echoed the chairman’s comments asking for the board to protect them as neighbors and the feel of their neighborhood as it is.

Jason Hoffsteader, owner of 35 acres on Stillwell Road, noted the road’s current condition and narrowness. Noting Moss’ idea of renting properties, he said he was concerned with extra drivers who did not know the road coming through the neighborhood. The extra congestion of continuous “new-to-the-road” drivers could cause added stress of accidents due to the road’s condition. Hoffsteader also noted he chose his location when he bought the property due to large tracts with single houses in the neighborhood.

A very unusual occurrence came as Stillwell resident Albert Goode came to the commissioner’s podium to speak. He asked Moss if he could question her in the meeting. As she agreed, Chairman Paris allowed the questioning in the meeting. However, after roughly five minutes of questioning, Paris stepped in to end the questioning. Though he noted he originally allowed the questioning because he wanted to hear the citizens speak, he directed public comments to return to being addressed to the commissioners.

During the questioning, Goode questioned Moss’ intended uses for the properties she owned in the area. With three properties in total, the issue Goode questioned was having mobile tiny homes on the lots. Goode’s opposition was based on quality of life in the area with the extra buildings in use. Moss informed those present that while the one zone in question was requested for three rental properties, she would be ultimately building her retirement home on one of the other properties. The rental property she wanted to build would also access the creek for floating for anyone renting the property.

Before finalizing their vote 3-0 to deny the request, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller commented saying, “The preponderance of the number of parcels is residential. So, I look at that as a rural part of our county, as a residential, single family, R-1 zoned area … Our job as commissioners, I think, is to preserve, as much as possible, the residential and rural areas of our county.”

Despite the denial, Moss can still return to her property and, having enough space in the lot, subdivide it into three lots to continue forward with her plans for rental property with tiny homes after the commissioners finish their moratorium on tiny homes on wheels.

The second item of note, also denied, came from the rezone request for Neil Gary to add a conditional use on his agricultural zone property. The conditional use was to allow a gun range to be put on the property. The Planning Commission recommended denial of the request.

Paris commented on the item saying, “I support people’s ability to shoot their guns on their property if they can do it safely and without disrupting the lives of their neighbors. I don’t see this particular request as one that would be conducive to a quality of life for the neighbors nearby, and I also don’t see that the standard of safety in an area that congested could be maintained properly.”

Gilmer County Post Commissioner Travis Crouch echoed the sentiments saying, “It is the setting of this particular parcel that brings doubt in my mind … It’s not an opposition to the concept of this business, it’s just the location that I object to.”

In Gary’s application, he noted his “extensive and verifiable backgrounds in special operations, law enforcement and armed security.” Wanting to offer training and services to both law enforcement and civilian clients, Gary stated he wished to offer training in several areas in addition to “how to shoot” including how to carry safely, when not to take one’s gun out, and when not to shoot.

Though denied for the rezone for conditional use, the commissioners noted this application for rezone was for a commercial setup and does not weigh on a person’s personal right to firearms practice and similar activities.

There was also an approved request for Dogwood Financials, LTD, (Tax Map 3082, Parcel 072) to downgrade the plot from R-3 residential multi-family to R-2 high density.

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Gilmer Budget Sessions for 2018

News, Police & Government

ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners held the budget review sessions in preparation for the 2018 Budget.

The videos below document the departments with which the Commissioners spoke. Citizens can attend the Budget Finalization Meeting on Monday, Nov. 6, at 10 a.m. or stay with Fetch Your News for updates after the meeting.

 

Voter Registrar

 

Health Department

 

Probate Court, Elections

 

Magistrate Court

 

District Attorney

 

Library

 

Code & Regulatory Compliance

 

Whitepath Golf Course

 

Tax Assessor, Board of Assessors

 

Public Defender

 

Road Department, Solid Waste, Maintenance Shop, Airport

 

Planning & Zoning

 

Clerk of Superior Court, Board of Equalization

 

Park & Recreation

 

Hotel/Motel

 

Sheriff, Detention Cener, E-911

 

Fire & EMS, EMA

 

Courthouse & Facilities

 

Animal Control

 

Tax Commissioner

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New Executive Director Officially Takes Office Today

Business, News

EAST ELLIJAY, GA – The Greater Gilmer Joint Development Authority (JDA) has gone months through its process of looking to replace its executive director after its previous director resigned.

Today marks the end of that search. While we have known for a while now that Kent Sanford, formerly of Park Sterling Bank, would be taking the position, it is today that the transition has been completed and he officially takes office.

With the job ahead, Sanford told FYN, “As I watched the sun come up from my new office this morning, I was reminded of the bright future Gilmer County has before us.  We have a great deal of work to do, but I am excited to get started and humbled to be part of the process and working with an excellent team of professionals.”

As he begins moving around town, introducing himself to the businesses and beginning to attract more growth to the county, the JDA will hold their fourth quarter meeting this Monday, November 6, at 8 a.m. Also, stay with FYN as we continue updates and sit down with Sanford later this month.

Also, be sure to check out more with our previous article, “JDA Announces New Executive Director.”

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Commissioners Start Discussing Whitestone Road

News

ELLIJAY, GA – Citizens have been talking for years about the intersection of Whitestone Road and Highway 515.

A new chapter is underway as citizen, Gary Ferguson, asked for it to be put on the agenda for the Commissioners October 2017 Meeting. While Ferguson originally spoke about prohibiting trucks on Whitestone Road, the Commissioners quickly included the effects the prohibition could have on the Whitestone / 515 intersection.

Ferguson’s main complaint is that the trucks are coming across the county line from Pickens for the access to the Highway. In doing so, they are allegedly speeding along the road through a small community causing dangers. Ferguson reported to the Commissioners that the trucks could be taking a road in Pickens to access Highway 515 that is a shorter distance, but they take his road due to a smaller hill providing less of an incline to climb.

With the trucks loaded, they avoid the higher climb due to the added weight, according to Ferguson.

One of the County’s major issues is sight distance on 515. Many will recall numerous accidents with fatalities at the intersection including a Deadly Tour Bus Accident in October of 2016.

Post Commissioner Dallas Miller mentioned he wanted to talk with DOT about possibly placing a no left turn restriction on the intersection to help avoid traffic issues with all vehicles at the location.

Post Commissioner Travis Crouch stated he would be meeting with a member of the Georgia DOT (Department of Transportation) and would discuss the issue. Coming back in the regular meeting, he noted the DOT representative stated Whitestone is a county road and the DOT would have no input on whether they prohibited certain traffic.

DOT still could bring an engineer to the county to investigate the 515 intersection and safety issues involved with it. However, the Board of Commissioners indicated they were set to do more homework on their own and revisit the idea themselves in November.

They officially tabled the motion in the October Meeting as they all wished to look further into different options.

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BOC Changes Fuel Bid Ordinance and More at October Meeting

News

ELLIJAY, GA – October became very unusual for the Board of Commissioners. A shorter order of business saw few things on the agenda for the Board as they move into the final quarter of the year.

However, fewer items presented no less importance as the commissioners discussed a serious change to their ordinance that is exempting fuel purchaes from the bid process for the year. Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FYN that environmental issues preventing the use of previous underground tanks to stock fuel for the year has actually caused the Commissioners an inability to open and receive bids for gas.

Currently, the Commissioners approved the ordinance change as it was the second reading and no citizens spoke at the public hearing. However, Paris also indicated in the meeting a desire to return to bidding fuel once the county is able to construct new above ground storage tanks. Though he stated a desire to move towards construction with the 2019 budget, he did not see a possibility of it fitting into the 2018 budget.

With approval of the change, the county is now compliant with its ordinances again having not bid for fuel.

Budget discussion continued as the Commissioners turned their attention to the continuing story of the Tabor and Watkins houses. Recent inspections have revealed termites in both buildings. However, the damage has not reached an extreme yet according to reports. As the Board nears the later part of October, they will begin detailed discussions of the 2018 budget. At this time, the Board has officially tabled any action on treatment for the termites as they are attempting to fit it into the 2018 budget instead of the current 2017.

This could mean that treatment may begin as early as January for the infestation, but citizens will not know the definitive time tables until October 26 after the budget work sessions.

As for the Watkins house, the County has begun moving Planning and Zoning Offices into their new building. While discussion has gone on for two months now as to three different requests for space at the Watkins house, Paris stated in the County’s Work Session that one option could include simply leasing the property to the Gilmer Chamber and allowing them to sub-lease space to the other two as they see fit.

Those other two requests include a request to hold and display some of the museum pieces from the Tabor House and a request to display art and other things from Gilmer ARTS.

Additionally, the October Meetings saw the Board approve Mark Troxell to the Airport Advisory Board, and approval for an Alcoholic Beverage License to Park’s Place Convinient Store & More LLC.

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Commissioners Officially Adopt Millage Rate

News

ELLIJAY, GA – The Gilmer County Board of Commissioners have officially adopted the 6.983 Millage Rate.

The final vote came 2-1 with Chairman Charlie Paris being the dissenting vote. Later he told FYN there was very little difference between the Rollback Rate and current Millage Rate. “If we stick with the current rate instead of the rollback rate you have to advertise it as a tax increase. I disagree with that. I feel its not. So, my feeling is I did not want the people of Gilmer County to see that we are raising their taxes. I don’t like a tax increase… I wanted to set the Rollback Rate and move on.”

The official motion to adopt came from Post Commissioner Travis Crouch who stated, “I listened to the Special Called Meeting and both arguments and perspectives… At the end of the day, I find, at the end of the day, that the points that Dallas made are compelling in our situation. So, I feel like keeping the Millage Rate where it has been for the past two years is appropriate for our situation.”

This will make the third year in a row that the millage rate has been at 6.983. Previously, it sat at 7.224 before that.

After the motion was seconded, Post Commissioner Dallas Miller opted to comment on the action before votes were cast. “I hope that something as serious as this, as what we decide on property taxes, should not be, [sic] and I’m just going to ask the public to not make this a political issue. This is a financial decision we need to make. We need to do, to the best of our knowledge, what we think is best for our county.”

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