Pictured above, from left to right, the Planning and Zoning staff includes Matt Green, James Holloway, Yvette Feliberty, Karen Henson, Loy Jarrett, and Andrew Mathis. Not pictured is Suzanne Mullinax.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Settling in after losing a director in December and going through the interim as well as a move to a new building, Gilmer County’s Planning and Zoning office hosted an open house today, May 23, to showcase its current staff and building.
Welcoming citizens with refreshments and raffles, the entire staff was on hand to answer questions, introduce themselves and host the day between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Director Karen Henson, who was confirmed as the new director from her interim position in April, told FetchYourNews she is grateful for the new location as it is better oriented to operate as an office for the department’s needs.
The new office is also continuing the Planning and Zoning department’s increase in construction as the economy continues its growth. The month of May alone has already seen 18 new houses permitted with a week still to go in the month.
While the day celebrates the staff and their hard work, it also serves to remind citizens of the new location on the roundabout across the street from the courthouse, located at 9 Southside Square.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – Sophomores of Gilmer High School (GHS) were treated to the annual Reality Day that is put on every March.
Set 10 years into the students’ future, the day sets up budgetary needs for a student offering randomized “life-situations” like number of children, marital status, and job description and pay. They take this monthly income and travel to different stations in order to budget their life and what they want including cell phones, Internet, clothing, transportation, home, charity, insurance, and even unexpected events based upon random card draw.
Volunteers from across the county help the day progress through four groups throughout the day. Gilmer Family Connection Director Merle Naylor, who organizes the event, told FetchYourNews it’s the volunteers she relies on to make the day happen. Allowing students a glimpse of the general is what she points to as the real meaning of the day, but she also enjoys the time for citizens to volunteer showing that the students matter and are worth the time taken for the day.
This year saw a few hiccups, as far fewer students showed up for the day than were expected. Several issues were noted as contributing factors from students not getting permission slips to others being absent. Naylor commented on the reduced number saying, “I think it went well, maybe not as well as last year because of the number of student were probably a third of what we’ve had in past years. But the students certainly learned, and I’ve heard some comments from volunteers that they actually learned more because they could spend more time with the students … I look at in the positive that if a few of the students gained the knowledge, then it was well worth it all.”
Naylor went on to note that she takes a lot personally from the day to know that people are willing to volunteer for the project. The interaction with the students goes a long way, but more, the interaction with each other builds the community support of the students and of each other.
Be sure to check out FYN’s Facebook page for more photos from Reality Day 2018.
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.
ELLIJAY, Ga. – The Gilmer County Planning and Zoning Department is seeing major change this week as Director Shannon Bassett announced his resignation last week.
Working through this week, Bassett is preparing the transition and providing extra training to employees. With this Friday, Jan. 12, as his final day, the office is already utilizing Karen Henson as interim director. Gilmer County Commission Chairman Charlie Paris told FetchYourNews (FYN) he had high hopes for Henson but is utilizing her in the interim position so he and the other commissioners may see how she does in the position before a final decision on properly filling the position can be made.
Henson has 10 years of experience in Gilmer’s Planning and Zoning Office. She tells FYN she wants to make the full transition to director. As administrative assistant for her 10 years, Henson tells FYN she has had an abundance of experience for the position.
As she transitions, Henson tells FYN it has been nice to have Bassett present this week as she prepares for the commissioners meeting and daily work at the office for questions and last-minute information.
Paris tells FYN Bassett received an offer from a development company that the county cannot compete with. While the county has endured several losses in its ranks as employees move for better offers, Paris says this loss will affect the county differently as it comes from a department head.
The announcement comes too late to be added to this month’s agenda, but Paris stated he would not want it on this month’s agenda anyway. Wanting the time for the board to contemplate its decision and look closer at Henson, citizens could see this item addressed in February or March’s meeting.
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