BLUE RIDGE, Ga – Blue Ridge Mayor Donna Whitener releases a response concerning her recommendation to veto of ordinance amendment BR2021-06. The ordinance would lower building height requirements in the central business district to 35 feet.
Whitener’s letter stated that the zoning ordinance has been amended 10 times in 23 years. She added that during her eleven-plus years on the council that two different zoning administrators recommended lowering the building height in the central business district to 45 feet. It’s currently set at 60 feet. Whitener claimed that three different councils unanimously agreed each time to leave the ordinance height alone.
She commented that she’s not in favor of 60 feet or the proposed 35 feet, citing many buildings in Blue Ridge are over 35 feet.
Whitener recommended the council and planning commission attend in-depth zoning and planning training by reaching out to the Regional Commission, Carl Vinson Institute, or other organizations.
Some of those on Blue Ridge City Council have expressed their opinion concerning Whitener’s letter over social media.
Rhonda Thompson said, “you’re absolutely right Margaret. This is shameful. Furthermore, the council has never voted on height restrictions in the central business district. That is a grotesquely inaccurate statement.” She added that the ordinance changed 11 times since 1978 and they never voted to change height requirements.
Nathan Fitts commented, “Laughable!! Just an excuse but not a good one. The information the quotes isn’t even accurate.” He also explained that the council’s looking for a third vote to override the mayor’s veto.
The veto will be addressed during the July 13 city council meeting at 5 p.m. in City Hall.
Read the mayor’s response below:
BLUE RIDGE, Ga – All three Fannin County Commissioners affirmed that they haven’t committed to Blue Ridge City Council’s proposed aquatic center.
Chairman Jamie Hensley explained that the city made an initial presentation in a private meeting but hasn’t seen any follow-up plans or cost analysis.
“There’s so many unanswered questions. The questions haven’t been answered or haven’t been asked,” Hensley said.
Post Two Glenn Patterson added that the commissioners don’t know that much about the proposed pool and community center. Additionally, he hasn’t been formally approached.
Outgoing Post One Earl Johnson remarked, “When something gets said in another council session, it doesn’t mean it’s true in here.” He was commenting on the statements from members of Blue Ridge City Council who said the commissioners were in favor of building an aquatic center.
Johnson further stated if the council wants to propose a project to the county that they need to do so in a county meeting. Once council members present an idea within a county meeting, then it’s on record and everyone in the county will know exactly what happened. It would prevent rumors from starting.
“The biggest problems are these deals that are getting talked about outside this room,” Johnson stated.
Blue Ridge City Council meets at 5 p.m. on the second Tuesday and can overlap with one commission meeting which takes place at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday. However, Fannin County meets on the fourth Tuesday at 6 p.m. as well.
He brought up the previous annexation debacle which became a he-said, she-said on if the county was informed or not. Johnson asked if anyone saw a councilmember present anything about the annexation in a county meeting.
“We all should working in unison with the city of Blue Ridge, the city of McCaysville,” Johnson commented. “Until it starts being done the right way, the best advice I can give anybody is just don’t believe what you hear.”
Also, Johnson asked why the recreation board wasn’t consulted if Blue Ridge wants to build a new pool and if the recreation board even knew if residents wanted a new pool.
Money hasn’t been allotted by the county for a new pool and community center at this time.
Bottom line: Johnson’s parting thoughts were the county and the cities need to come together and communicate more effectively.
At the end of the meeting, Hensley thanked Johnson for his dedication to Fannin County and for staying on while elected Post One Johnny Scearce recovered from COVID-19 related illnesses. Scearce is scheduled to take his oath of office on Friday, March 26.
Additional County Business
EMA Director Robert Graham presented the Debris Management Plan and the commissioners approved it so now the document goes to the state. The document could result in an extra two percent in disaster match money from FEMA.
Liquid springs for the second new ambulance was approved for a total cost of $12,300. The springs were necessary because the chassis on the new ambulances sits higher than expected and makes it hard to load patients. It will take two to three weeks for the liquid springs to be applied and it will hopefully last as long as the truck is in service.
Director of Public Works Zack Ratcliff presented the LMIG Safety Project from GDOT which is a crash-related action plan. GDOT will provide $350,000 to fix roads with high traffic accident statistics. The county would have to match 30 percent, but the number could come down with more data. GDOT advised Salem Road receive improvements with the safety project money. Some of the safety improvements include striping, width, and right of way criteria.
Johnson advised making sure roads are wide enough before overlaying them because every time a road is overlaid it becomes narrower.