Chamber says Taste of Ellijay will happen

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Taste of Ellijay

ELLIJAY, Ga. – An official permit has been submitted to the City of Ellijay, according to Jennifer Grimmer, President and CEO of the Gilmer Chamber, who said today that the Taste of Ellijay is happening this year.

New Chamber President and CEO, Taste of Ellijay

Jennifer Grimmer is the new Gilmer Chamber of Commerce President and CEO

The Chamber has been plagued by cancellations of their major events over the past year since the first cases and the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic early last year, 2020. They cancelled the Apple Blossom Festival, Taste of Ellijay, and the Apple Festival in 2020 as well as cancelling the Apple Blossom Festival again this year, 2021. Usually held in early May, the decision  had already been made over the festival, the Taste of Ellijay event, typically in late May, has now been confirmed as happening.

Grimmer has only been under the CEO mantle for two months, dealing with getting up to speed in the position while also planning and preparing the early stages of this event, she has dealt with updating the Chamber’s website, branding, signage, and even storm damage from late March on the Chamber’s roof in East Ellijay.

As reports continue of dwindling cases and issues with COVID, the news comes as a positive to many citizens who say they are happy to return to these long held annual events. Grimmer has indicated that the Chamber will be moving forward with plans to return the annual Apple Festival in October this year, as well.

In addition to the news of the Taste of Ellijay event, Grimmer announced a new challenge with the street festival. In honor of the county and its 50th Anniversary of the Apple Festival, the Chamber will be hosting a challenge amongst the restaurants participating for the “most original apple dish.” Grimmer said there was a surprise for the winner, but did not comment on what it is.

The Taste of Ellijay event is scheduled for May 27, 2021. The first return to annual events will also be the first one under the leadership of Grimmer as the new President.

Superintendent Downs Resigns at Gilmer Board of Education

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Downs

East Ellijay, Ga. – A special called meeting of the Gilmer Board of Education was silenced as the personnel section, the only item on the meeting’s agenda, saw Gilmer’s Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Shanna Downs recommend a motion to “accept the Superintendent’s resignation.”

Downs

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs

The meeting room was silent as no board member made a motion or even a statement for a few moments. But only a few seconds before the official motion came from Michael Bramlett with a second from Michael Parks. The resignation is effect May 28, 2021.

This means that Dr. Downs will remain with Gilmer Schools through the next two months before officially moving on to her new position. In a statement after the meeting, Downs confirmed that she would be accepting the position of Executive Director of West Goergia RESA (Regional Education Service Agency).

She said it felt like the right time as “It’s a good opportunity, one that I didn’t think would present itself again.” Downs explained that positions like the one she will be taking are not often available.

In her resignation letter, she thanked the school board for the opportunity to serve the community saying, “After 6 years of continued improvement and multiple accomplishments for our students to academic achievement, updated facilities, new buildings, significantly lower millage rates, and strong financial reserves, my time has come to pursue a new endeavor.”

With the resignation set to take effect in May, the board ended their Special Called Meeting in Executive Session with no action anticipated. It was stated that they would be discussing a Superintendent search. The board could have two months to find the new Superintendent and complete the interview and hiring process.

She stated, “Given the recent change to the dynamics of the Board of Education, I believe the timing of my resignation will allow the Board to prepare for the FY22 school year with a candidate selected by the board.”

Downs promised to complete her last two months in Gilmer supporting the board’s mission and vision for the school system.

Gilmer issues school delay for two hours in face of severe storms

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – With warning continuing to come in from the National Weather Service and public safety officials, Gilmer Schools has issued a statement to plan on a two-hour delay for school on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

According to the statement released, “The National Weather Service has warned that our county is expected to experience severe weather overnight and into the early morning hours just before and during our normal morning bus routes. The strongest storm bands show potential to generate damaging winds, hail, and tornados. In the interest of safety, please plan for a two-hour delayed start of school Thursday morning March 18, 2021.”

The school system clarified that bus routes and parent drop-off are also affected, so parents should not drop students off at normal times to wait for class to begin. However, they are planning to dismiss at the normal time in the afternoon.

While the National Weather Service has not issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area at this time, they did issue a statement just before noon saying, “Scattered to numerous strong to severe storms are expected late today through tonight with an approaching strong disturbance and frontal system. While there is some potential for severe storms as early as this afternoon, the primary risk will likely be with an area of storms pushing eastward late tonight into Thursday morning. The main threats will be tornadoes (some of which could be significant or longer tracked), damaging winds over 60 mph, large hail, and flash flooding.”

The decision to delay class is in place for now, but the school system did state that this response could increase if need be, saying, “We will plan to confer with Emergency Management officials in the early morning hours on Thursday and if conditions require a cancellation, this information will be updated.”

Fire Department called to Gilmer High Gym

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South State, fire

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Parents are receiving messages from Gilmer High School today informing them that the Fire Department had to be called to the school.

Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs

According to those messages, due to smoke coming from the mechanical room in the gym, school officials called the Fire Department to investigate. Immediately removing all students from the facility, they were taken to the Band Practice Field for safety.

According to a statement from Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, no students were harmed and the fire was quite small.

She added that as of 10:30 a.m, the Fire Department has extinguished the fire and cleared the area for students to return.

While authorities are still looking into the situation, preliminary information from the Fire Department said that the fire could have been electrical in nature. However, this was speculative as they were still looking into it. Reports indicate that only minor damage has been caused to the mechanical room of the gym.

Lower Cartecay Bridge to start construction before a temporary closure to 52 East

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – During the county’s monthly work session today, information received over a zoom call was revealed as Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, along with Public Works Director Jim Smith spoke on it’s involvement with another Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) bridge project.

According to Smith, the state is discussing replacement of two bridges on Highway 52 East. The project would require a detour along state roads as they plan to go about the project. Smith went on to add that this could mean closure of as section of the highway for up to a year.

Through traffic would take alternative state roads. However, Smith noted that much of the local traffic would end up relying on Lower Cartecay Bridge for certain traffic and access routes. The project has been under discussion since it was condemned in April, 2017. It was later adopted into a state replacement program, and it was later given a priority over another local bridge.

Now, the bridge could see the beginning of construction to replace it over five years later. According to Chairman Paris, the date given by the state would be August, 2022.

In addition to this, Smith said that the state hopes to start its 52 East Bridges project in 2025.

Public Works Director Jim Smith

Paris added later that Smith presented a strong argument that the DOT needs to move the start date on Lower Cartecay to a earlier date so that the bridge will definitely be completed and available for traffic as necessary for local traffic.

While the state made no official promises, Smith said representatives “didn’t disagree” with a need for an earlier start to Lower Cartecay.

This project has gone through several plans for replacement in the county as former Post Commissioner Travis Crouch debated for setting aside money in the annual budget to replace the bridge before the board found the state replacement program.

A massive reduction in local costs, the county applied and was accepted into the program, but has, until today, never heard of official start dates for the physical construction as the state has been acquiring right of ways and engineering plans for the project.

Paris said both he and Smith stressed the importance of having he bridge completed sooner rather than later, especially with another major bridge project nearby so close behind it on the timeline.

County returns to river ordinance in preparation of new season

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – As summer draws closer and some of the state’s COVID restrictions are loosening, Gilmer County is preparing for the coming summer with final notes and changes to the River Ordinance after their committee has completed its work.

The committee, consisting of Outfitters, property owners, Law Enforcement Officers, and county representatives, has presented changes to the ordinance and plans to improve the season while enforcing some of the ordinance laws that are already in place, such as no alcohol.

However, after the committee returned its proposals, the county has done more work on the ordinance as well. With plans to post signage and mark an area of no foot traffic to support buses entering and exiting and efforts in the Sheriff’s Office to post a deputy at take-out on Saturdays and Sundays, there is more changes coming as the county will be looking to use stamps instead of wristbands for people floating the river to show those utilizing an outfitter as well as help those floating match which buses they are to load on.

Board members have revisited the site location during their process and vowed to better clean the area of trash and debris in order to support some of the changes like having patrons stay behind a certain line, as previously stated in support of buses.

Additionally, the county is adding sequential number requirements to waivers to count the numbers of people on the river. Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson has made several references and statements showcasing a desire to better understand the impact these businesses are having on the rivers. Though in opposition to swapping out wristbands for stamps, she agreed to move forward with the board’s plans with hopes that a revisit could come should the county deem the stamps to be insufficient. One of very few dissentions among the board, much of the changes came to unanimous agreement from the commissioners.

Now, the county is moving to its next step with a Public Comments meeting set for March 11, 2021, at 5:30 p.m., half an hour before their regular March Meeting at 6 p.m. That Regular Meeting will also host the First Reading of the ordinance after these new changes, a requirement before the county can return in April for the Final Reading and a possible motion to approve the changes.

With months of work set into the ordinance from its early conceptions amid committee to seeing its process through the BOC now, the final adoption will be coming just in time for River Outfitters to really pick up with the heavy part of their season. More details are still being discussed on implementation as outfitters are raising questions on some people wanting to float the river very soon and some involving more online reservations with digital signatures on waivers. However, full implementation cannot be undertaken until final approval comes for the ordinances changes, meaning that outfitters are still currently operating under the old ordinance until that can happen.

Million dollar donation has county looking at Animal Shelter

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – An announcement today from Gilmer Chairman Charlie Paris informed the public of an additional large donation to the Gilmer County Animal Shelter.

The announcement came amid a special called meeting, but it is the first mention of the donation in public as Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said it happened yesterday, February 23, 2021. Paris said that the county is receiving $1 million in a donation to expand and improve the county’s Animal Shelter.

The county has received other donations recently. Two separate donations of $200,000 each set the county to expect to add in $100,000 in county funds to improve the Animal Shelter. Paris noted then and reiterated today that the county is looking at an increased need in the department.

Gilmer Animal Shelter Director Daniel Laukka works with all kinds of organizations like Be-Paws We Care to find homes for animals in local counties or in other states.
(Photo by Pickens’ Be-Paws We Care, Inc.)

These previous donations, when made, pushed the county to look at the shelter and the use for that money in improving and addressing the needs that were coming.

Paris suggested that the coming need to increase staff at the location is likely inevitable as he said that Gilmer’s Shelter is gaining a statewide reputation for its operations. The Director of the Animal Shelter is Daniel Laukka. Laukka has been praised numerous times through the community and through the county’s government during specific meetings addressing the department such as budget meetings.

The shelter has made allies both in and outside the county, working with other shelters to find homes for pets. Some of their efforts outside of the county include transporting animals north for support outside of the state of Georgia. These animals that have not found homes here in Gilmer are given more opportunities elsewhere. Just this week, the Animal Shelter posted information about transporting pets to Illinois.

However, these programs are made possible by community support and aid. One of the most well known partnerships comes from working with the public through the community driven support program, “Friends of Gilmer Animal Shelter” (FOGAS).

According to their page, FOGAS is a Georgia, non-profit, tax exempt, 501(C)3, all volunteer organization that raises funds to save homeless pets at Gilmer County Animal Shelter.

The now $1.5 million project to expand the shelter is facing two separate issues that the county is discussing. The first being that such an expansion will undoubtedly increase expenses for the Animal Shelter, a department that is one of the county’s smaller budgets according to the board. Post Commissioner Hubert Parker urged the board as a whole to consider the increase that this project will bring, not only though increasing required staff for operations but also for the increase in utilities and supplies. Paris said at one point that he expects a need for one or two additional personal even before looking at plans to expand the facility.

The second issue comes not from the shelter itself, but rather from today’s economy. With the effects of the COVID-19 virus still being felt, Paris noted that building supplies and costs are still increasing. Though the county had an architect look at plans and consider the project last year, Paris said in today’s meeting, “What I was anticipating that we could get for that half million dollars, turns out, in today’s environment, to be just about what we can for that million-and-a-half dollars.”

Paris said that a lot of the increase seems to be coming from the COVID virus through materials and shortages.

The Board of Commissioners is taking extra time on the project. Considering the new donation, changes are coming to increase the plans and to address the new donation. One idea to address came in today’s discussion as Parker asked if the board might consider asking the donor if part of the funds might be set aside for operations. Parker explained that the concept might include setting aside $200,000 or $300,000 and to use the earnings off of that to help support the animal shelter operations. However, he offered the thoughts as an example that the county could discuss with those who gave the donation.

Paris did note that any project or plan for the facility still has a lot of unanswered questions. Having just received the donation, the county is looking at possibilities and their impacts on the county and the Shelter going forward.

Returning to the river regulations debate in Gilmer

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River

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Addressing suggestions from outfitters, law enforcement, and citizens on the county’s River Committee, Gilmer is looking to move forward with changes to the river ordinance for regulations.

Much of the conversation amongst members of the Board of Commissioners involved marking areas of the take-out for loading and changing from required wristbands for people on the river to requiring a stamp on people’s hands.

The county is looking to further cleaning efforts in the take out location in order to open more space as they are hoping to mark a line that people should not cross, allowing the vehicles unblocked access to pull in and out. Additionally, the outfitters would use sequentially numbered forms with signatures to match to the stamps. The county tracks those numbers to keep track of the number of people on the river in order to keep track of the dollar per person used in funding projects for the river.

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson disagreed with changing the wristbands saying that she felt they worked well. However, the board decided to try the stamps out for this year saying that they could return and change back or change to something else if need be.

The county is also reserving the right to be on premises at the take out location to observe operations on the county property. Along with this, the BOC said that current understanding was that a sheriff’s deputy would be on location on the weekends of the season to monitor and help with situations like alcohol consumption and trespassers.

Though discussions continued over details of the ordinance change, the board is ultimately waiting for a Special Called Meeting later in February to approve the changes for advertisement as they await County Attorney David Clark to add in more changes addressed during the county’s work session meeting.

Some additional details are also going into the final copy that the commissioners are expected to adopt later this month as they all indicated to be supportive of the most of the changes. FYN will be adding new information when the final version is adopted for advertisement and when this meeting is scheduled.

Chamber cancels Apple Blossom but looks to later festivals with hope

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President, Blossom

EAST ELLIJAY, Ga. – With new President/CEO Jennifer Grimmer guiding the Gilmer Chamber, an official announce came today regarding three major Chamber events in 2021, including the upcoming Apple Blossom Festival.

Through email and social media, the Chamber has officially announced the cancellation of the 2021 Apple Blossom Festival. The festival was cancelled last year in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. This year also looks to be the cause as a statement from the Chamber said, “Out of an abundance of caution and desire to keep our public safe, the decision has been made to cancel the 2021 Georgia Apple Blossom Festival.”

BlossomThe cancellation is already drawing comments from the community in droves with many saying they understand or it is the right decision. Others question the reasoning and compared the event with other businesses and their decisions. According to Grimmer, citizens have been asking about the events this year and their status. Grimmer released a statement today in the Chamber’s email saying, “I am happy to confirm that we are on track for the Apple Festival and Taste of Ellijay! While we are disappointed that the Apple Blossom Festival will not happen in 2021, we are very excited for 2022 and already planning some new features that we believe everyone will enjoy.”

The Apple Blossom Festival’s social media is echoing the sentiment with updates on their efforts on the 2022 Georgia Apple Blossom Festival and saying the have “full intent to make next year’s Apple Blossom Festival the best one yet!”

With encouragement and hope settling in for Taste of Ellijay and the Apple Festival this year, citizens can only wait and watch for updates as the county continues navigating county, state, and federal responses to the virus. As the Chamber and events coordinators speak with vendors and make plans, FYN will update the events’ status as details become available.

County approves advertising for bids on new pool

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exposures, agent, meeting, pool

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Engineering reports are completed and in the hands of the Commissioners for their pool project.

The project saw a delay early this month when COVID hit the engineering firm causing a major quarantine. However, with the specs and the firm working alongside Project Leader Loy Jarrett and County Attorney David Clark, reports indicate that Gilmer could be bidding out the project as early as mid-March.

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said that the advertisement will have to be open for four weeks as it is a public works project, which means bidding would last into May. Citizens could see the county awarding the bid in their May Regular Meeting.

One change to previous designs came with modifications to move the diving well to the right side, from the center. That is moved to the right hand side when viewed from the civic center.

One point of note that Post Commissioner Hubert Parker put forth was to inform citizens that the progress is underway and while the designs are in, the finalization of the bid package is being undertaken as a part of the same project with the firm.

With that, citizens could be seeing physical progress on construction in May or June after that bid process is completed, awarded, and the contracted company begins the project.

The county was looking to a special called meeting towards the end of February to look at final approval for advertising the project for bids and a few other items. However, with optimistic news coming on the day of the Regular Meeting, the Commissioners did move forward with approving advertisement of the bid package upon completion.

With that approval, the next step is to wait for the advertisement period and bid openings before citizens will know which company will be actually building the new pool.

County backs off from creating Board of Elections

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Gilmer County BOC, Intergovernmental Agreement, session, Meeting, Board

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Once again returning to conversations of an election board in Gilmer County, the Board of Commissioners is putting the agenda item to create a board on hold.

According to Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, the BOC will not host the agenda item on every meeting as previously planned. The decision came among the board’s agreement after Paris reported that he thought it best to seek an alternative path due to his investigations and considerations of the board’s make-up.

Paris said, “When I got to looking around some at Elections Boards, what I found is that yeah almost all counties have them, but a lot of counties are having a lot of problems with them.”

Paris noted Fulton County specifically whose election board is denying legal requests for documents. He also noted reported problems in Fannin County where board members won’t speak to each other.

Paris said, “I don’t believe the two parties can hold civil conversation between themselves nowadays.” Though he noted that he previously believed Gilmer might be one of the few places it could occur, he no longer felt that way.

Acknowledging that elections have grown, Paris said he understood that elections are so minutely watched and that the work is substantially larger than it used to be.

The discussion continued with Post Commissioner Hubert Parker saying he agreed with not moving forward on an election board until the alternative has been studied.

Scott Chastain, Elections,

Gilmer County Probate Judge Scott Chastain

That alternative that the Board of Commissioners agreed to pursue and the Probate Judge Scott Chastain is currently looking into, involves reconfiguring the Probate Office to possibly include some extra staff to “offload” some of that work.

What the Probate Office would use this staff for in off years without elections is yet to be discussed. However, the concept is in very early stages as both entities continue to look for a path forward.

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson said, “I think that’s fantastic because that group has done a fantastic job with our elections.”

Paris echoed the sentiment saying Gilmer is among the few counties, in his opinion, that had a flawless election.

With a solid path forward for the commissioners, Paris made a final note that he told Judge Chastain that if there was a push in state legislation to force a Board of Elections, Gilmer would “fight it tooth and nail.”

However, Paris was also quick to note that while he shared this with Judge Chastain, it was not as a threat. Rather he wanted him to know the county’s stance. Paris said the conversation was “not contentious.” He went on to add that Chastain has been very civil in all conversations considering the county’s path forward for elections.

Commissioners revamp Land Use changes again

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Land Use

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners took another meeting this week to revisit changes to the Land Use Ordinance considering density, Residential, and Agricultural Zonings.

This time, the board met alongside the Planning Commission to inquire and discuss changes with them as well. While much of the focus recently has been on R-1 and R-2 zones and the lot size for those zones, the commissioners ultimately focused on Agricultural for most of its changes as proposed by the end of the meeting.

After the nearly two-and-a-half-hour meeting, these changes included backing off of lot-size changes in R-1 and R-2 as Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said he spoke with “a representative from the regional commission and the Department of Community Affairs last week.”

Paris said his discussion with the regional commissioner representative suggested that the high-density growth would follow the sewer lines through the county. Paris did say he wants to keep an eye on the topic so as to address it if this is not the issue.

Paris said of his discussion, “Without sewer lines, septic systems themselves will be something of a restriction because the health department will not approve so many of them that it endangers our groundwater supply.”

Along that idea, Paris said he contacted the Water-Sewer Authority to inquire of plans to expand the sewer system. He reported that he was told there were no plans.

Paris noted that the county also hosts a comprehensive plan to indicate regions to support agriculture in the county while designating areas for residential and density housing.

Land Use

Post 2 Commissioner Karleen Ferguson

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson agreed with the concept as well referencing a need for “affordable housing” in the county. A topic discussed over recent years in the Chamber, County Plans, and other agencies looking to increase workforce housing.

Ferguson did say that her concerns come from R-2 developments in isolated parts of the county. These become islands of high-density housing in the county.

Ultimately, however, changes to Residential Zone in the Land Use Ordinance changes were left behind in support of the theory that these projects will follow sewer lines and the idea that the board may revisit the idea when sewer lines expand or density does become a larger issue. One change that looks like it will remain for residential is the hobby livestock coverage. Instead of supporting large animals, the new change will likely only allow chickens and possibly small animals like goats in residential. Most of the meeting considered only allowing chickens until a comment brought up the idea of goats specifically. With the board’s efforts focused on larger animals including cows and horses, the main focus is likely to allow for a limited number of smaller animals for personal use.

The board instead is going forward with increasing lot size minimums from 3 acres to 5 acres for Agricultural zones. Also, they will move forward with separating campgrounds into their own Agricultural Recreation (AR) Zone, though the name is probably going to change before approval. This zone will require 25 acres and a 300-foot buffer for the campgrounds and RV grounds to be built in the county.

Elections, Density, Land Use

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris

Lessening the restrictions among lot sizes in the county comes after a packed meeting and many developers loudly opposing the restrictions saying the county is hurting their businesses.

However, the county also saw a meeting last month considering the changes with many supporting the changes to keep Gilmer a rural county.

Additionally, Paris himself opened this meeting saying he has received numerous emails both for and against the Land Use changes.

The third major discussion of the meeting focused on roads in the county and maintaining the quality of those roads throughout the county. As one of the driving forces, not much changed in the roads changes, however, consideration was given to shoulder widths in the county as thoughts were given to burying utility cables and the possibility of fiber optics stretching through the county.

The changes discussed were handed off to County Attorney David Clark who will be scribing the changes into the resolution to amend the Land Use Ordinance. The county is looking at these changes and could be seeing further discussion Thursday night at their Regular Meeting. However, the Board is also considering another Special Called Meeting towards the end of the month to discuss it then along with other topics.

February will decide the moratorium, ordinance, and future of Gilmer’s large developments

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – As Gilmer’s Commissioners continue working on limiting and controlling growing sizes and numbers of developments in the county through its ordinance, they received the other side of the moratorium’s effects when a Special Called Meeting saw a large group of developers seeking information about the future of their work.

With lot size minimums looking to increase, current lots smaller than the minimum would be grandfathered in. Some comments in the meeting revolved around these increases with one speaker, Develle Frady, asking about a parent looking to split their land and give a piece to their child to build on. He said this would hurt some of those people working hard all their life to cut some land and leave it to kids.

Frady said the changes wouldn’t stop growth, but rather create more class division.

Crystal Chastain spoke in the meeting as well asking to support some more of the developments. While she said she the county needs to control growth and it does need to grow, she wanted the county to put off the vote for the ordinance changes advertisement to look deeper into the topic. She said the county needs “affordable workforce housing.” Something that could be accomplished through developments.

ordinance

Crystal Chastain speaks to the BOC about her opinions and requests for the county’s Land Use Ordinance in a meeting on January 29, 2021.

Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson agreed saying she has been thinking about the affordable housing. She said she and the board is trying to balance the issue and she was thinking on a half acre increase and what it would do to affordability. It is something she has worked on in previous positions as well. She promised Crystal that the board is considering the issues saying, “We’re working on it.”

Much of the discussion centered on lot size changes and the effect the changes will have on citizens and the county. Other commenters repeated asking the commissioners to delay and look closer at what consequences and effects the changes may cause.

The meeting also saw minor confusion on the exact changes as the county continues to work on the issue. It has yet to formally approve anything on the Land Use Ordinance, and, in fact, it remains in unfinished business on their agendas as the county once again pushed back approving advertisement of the changes in favor of continuing talks with the community. Some of the confusion in the community has come from exactly this reason, the county has had two separate meetings with numerous speakers both for and against the changes being discussed. As new changes and adjustments are made at every meeting, the county is constantly changing the proposed ordinances to keep pace with citizens comments.

ordinance

Keith Sumner, a local builder in Gilmer, debates the Land Use Ordinance and its effects on citizens.

Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said during the meeting that if they were to have voted on something that day, it would only have been to advertise changes.

To make these changes, the county must go first approve an official advertisement of the changes, hold an official public comments meeting, then approve the changes once during a monthly meeting, then approve changes a second time during the following meeting for final adoption of those changes. After all of January with its work session, regular meeting, and a special called meeting, the county has yet to take its first official step in making these changes to the ordinance.

Instead, with some commenters in the meeting asking the county to look again and one asking to wait and see if the market changes soon, they are once again tabling the discussion to possibly adjust the changes once more and consider advertising again in February. Pushing the item back is creating an issue with the county’s moratorium in place and set to expire in a few months. The County Attorney David Clark suggested the board consider this alongside their motion to table the discussion. He asked that if the commissioner continue pushing the vote back, they discuss lifting the moratorium. He said it could be unfair to developers to continue the moratorium indefinitely if the ordinance change discussions continued too much longer.

Clark said, “I’d encourage you not to extend the moratorium.”

ordinanceClark also warned that he felt like much of the current discussion focused on lot sizes, but there could be more “nuts and bolts” in the changes that could come to light after the lot sizes.

Other issues the county is considering includes road quality and zoning labels among others.

Ferguson requested a joint meeting between the Board of Commissioners and the Planning Commission to further discuss the Land Ordinance. Paris agreed saying that he also wanted some representation from the Builders Association and a few other associations at the meeting to include their input as well.

That joint meeting has officially been published for Monday, February 8, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. in the Jury Assembly Room of the Gilmer County Courthouse. It will prove to be a busy week for the county as this meeting comes only two days before their February Work Session on February 10, 2021, at 9 a.m. and the Regular Meeting on February 11, 2021, at 6 p.m., both at the same location.

The county is also going to obtain information from other neighboring counties on the topic from the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission (NWGRC).

Mountain Athletic Conference Youth Basketball Tourney’s Begin

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Local Recreation Departments have concluded their regular seasons and have started preparations for post season play.

The Mountain Athletic Conference consist of Copper Basin, Chestatee, Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Hayesville, Lumpkin, Pickens, Union, White and Rabun.

The Following Locations and Dates have been selected for the Boys and Girls Mountain Athletic Conference Basketball Tourney’s.

8U 

Boys– Pickens County Recreation Department Feb 1st-Feb 4th

Girls White County Recreation Department Feb 8th and Feb 9th

 

10U  ( Select Games Live on fyntv.com)

Boys Fannin County Recreation Department Feb 8th 9th ,11th

Girls Fannin County Recreation Department Feb 8th, 9th,11th

 

12U 

Boys- Gilmer County Recreation Department Feb 12th-Feb 13th

Girls- Lumpkin County Recreation Department Feb 12th-Feb13th

 

Team FYN Sports will be broadcasting select games from the 10U Boys and 10U Girls tournament at Fannin County including both championship games

 

 

8U Boys Results 

On Monday Feb 1st, in the 8U Boys Tournament, Gilmer defeated White 15-11 and Fannin defeated Pickens 22-12 to advance. Gilmer will play Towns on Tuesday at 6:30 at Pickens Rec Department. The winner will play Fannin in the Championship on Thursday at 6:30pm.

 

 

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Details on GHS lockdown released from Superintendent

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Break-In closings, rally, lockdown

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Gilmer County High School went under lockdown this morning after a student reported to the principal about possibly sighting a firearm.

According to a statement released by Gilmer Schools Superintendent Dr. Shanna Downs, “At approximately 0754 this morning, a student reported to an assistant principal that they saw a gun and ammo in a another student’s book bag.”

Downs went on to say that the Assistant Principal immediately used the Centegix Crisis Alert to place the school on lockdown. Reports began coming in about the lockdown and statements that the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) set up a command center and began searching the facility. According to Gilmer Sheriff Stacy Nicholson, the “best case scenario is that it’s a fluid operation and command is being set up while operations is dealing with the issue.”

Downs said, “GCSO and school officials began investigating, questioning witnesses, and viewing both classroom and hallway cameras.”

Thorough searches of involved students, their belongings, and facilities yielded no weapon. According to Dr. Downs, GCSO cleared the building at 8:51.

Sherriff Nicholson also commented to FYN this morning saying, “This morning, a student reported to faculty of GHS that another student possibly had a gun. The school immediately went on lockdown and law enforcement responded. It was quickly determined by Sheriff’s Office personnel and school officials that the student in question did not have a gun.”

As of now, sources say the lockdown has been lifted, including parents who say they have received a call from the school stating the same.

With less than an hour under lockdown, Gilmer administrators and the Gilmer County Sheriff reported, responded, and cleared the suspected. It is not the first time Gilmer has dealt with a lockdown situation this year as another lockdown in December came after a loud noise “like a gunshot” was reported at the Larry Walker Education Center in December, 2020, and Clear Creek Middle School went on Lockdown after an incident at the bus garage occurred in February, 2020.

Chairman assures citizens that changes are to limit density

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Elections, Density

ELLIJAY, Ga. – After last week’s meeting and discussions addressing Gilmer’s growth and density concerns. The Chairman of the Board of Commissioners as responded to clarify the county’s current actions on the Land Use Ordinance.

Gilmer County Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlie Paris said to FYN, “I think many, many people have taken your article the wrong way. They believe that we are trying to increase the density for the sake of growth. In fact, we are trying to hold the density down by making changes to the land use ordinance that will provide less density, rather than more.”

In truth, three major comments were voiced in the Commissioners’ January Work Session offering concerns over the Land Ordinance as it stands now. The county is looking at its future becoming far more densely populated through if major projects are allowed to continue to grow. However, Paris assured citizens in his response that part of what they are looking at is ways to decrease the county’s density growth. One note of discussion from January’s meeting came over lot sizes. In his response, Chairman Paris stated, “We are trying to ensure that Gilmer County stays a rural, agricultural community and not the opposite. We do this primarily by increasing the minimum lot sizes for building. I know that this will make it more expensive for people to build – although they will have the advantage of more land – but it is the only workable way to reduce density as Gilmer grows.”

Indeed, growth has continued coming to the county, even despite the national pandemic of COVID-19. Just looking at SPLOST Numbers from June and July of 2020, as reported in an August 2020 Article on FYN, saw major economic increases despite widespread closures and shelter-in-place orders at that time. Yet, economic growth also includes the County’s Tourism, which is a major impact. However, the county also noted nine multi-lot developments in July of 2020. A number that showed major changes to parts of Gilmer County’s mostly rural make-up.

With the major increases and continuing uptick in developments like this, concerns have been raised like those noted from County Attorney David Clark. Paris states, “David was warning about what would happen if we did not make the changes – he wasn’t warning us about what will happen if we do make the changes.”

Density

Planning and Zoning Director Karen Henson speaks to the Board of Commissioners about the Land Use Ordinance changes and recommendations.

As previously reported, County Attorney David Clark stated in the meeting, “Gilmer is known and is an agricultural community. The density that is allowed, the size of the lots that are allowed at this current time, is going to change that.”

It is a statement echoed by Paris in his response today as he stated, “Right now, the land use ordinance in Gilmer will allow for a very high density future. The proposed changes will actually reduce the prospects for such a high density future and protect our rural, agricultural status as Gilmer grows.”

The board as whole and the commissioners individually are continuing to look at the density growth and at citizen comments urging them to stop the increasing density in the county as they are currently considering changes to the Land Use Ordinance. According to Paris, these changes are now and have been looking to plug up loopholes and protect certain rural aspects of the county that both the citizens and he want to keep.

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