Tiny home subdivision moratorium extended until January 2022

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BLUE RIDGE, Ga – After continued discussion on the matter, Fannin County Commissioners opted to extend the tiny home subdivision moratorium until 2022.

Tiny homes can be on wheels or on a foundation and have risen in popularity recently. The “tiny life” movement is focused on living with less and creating a more efficient space. In addition to the minimalist lifestyle, some want tiny homes to house people who couldn’t afford a regular size house.

The board plans on learning more about tiny homes and holding another public hearing on the matter.

At the Tuesday commission meeting, the majority of those in attendance were against tiny home subdivisions entering Fannin County. They worried about a tiny home community spoiling the beauty of Fannin County and unexpected consequences associated with those subdivisions.

“People come up here to get away from everything. If you bring a lot of small homes, especially like a subdivision on 96 acres, on a third of an acre, build 350 houses, that dump at least 350 cars on side roads…that’s just one spot in the county,” resident Tim Stanton stated.

They’re also worried these subdivisions would be used as cabin rentals, not permanent residents who need affordable housing options. Rentals would bring new people in and out on a daily basis, which could stretch public safety even thin.

“That land is precious to us too because we grew up on that land,” Post One Johnny Scearce added. “We got to do some kind of controlled growth on that. Our water is very precious up here to us. We’re going to do everything we can within our power to see that we do as much protection of it and our citizens.”

One individual in attendance was in favor of tiny homes.

“I don’t understand the stigma of a tiny home being less than the $1 million home my brother lives in,” Tommy Williams said. “It could be run down, windows busted out, and a chicken house comes in and say I’m going to put chickens in this house, then that would bring the property value down…My point is why is there a stigma attached to it.”

The moratorium applies to any type of tiny home subdivision either on water, sewer, septic, DNR approved wells, or self-contained units.

Private citizens who want to build one tiny home on their property can do so, but they still must meet the land requirements for the structure. Subdivisions are considered three or more lots in size.

A moratorium on tiny home subdivisions has been in place for approximately two years. Previous boards have continued the measure to try and come to a consensus on the issue.

A tiny home is defined as 400 sq. ft. or less by the state of Georgia and ICC. This dictates building codes for the structure. A residential house requires 200 sq. ft. per person, so a tiny home can accommodate two people. It’s not meant to house more than two.

“Just because you’re doing a tiny home, we’re not going to change the lot size,” County Building inspector Keith Nicholson explained at the public hearing on August 17. “You still have to have so much land to put in a septic tank and an individual well on private property. Typically, depending on your soil samples, that’s anywhere from an acre and a quarter up to an acre and a half.”

Septic fill lines must be 100 feet away from the drinking water source.

Sometimes the price per square foot for a tiny home is more costly than a regular house.

Any unit on a piece of property would need its own septic tank. A well could be shared. Subdivisions with shared wells are considered EPD wells. DNR-approved wells are approved through the state.

Many are worried a tiny home community will become an eye-sore if specific guidelines aren’t put into place ahead of time.

Fannin’s currently in the middle of rewriting several ordinances, and the tiny home issue will hopefully be addressed.

All commissioners have expressed an interest in hearing both sides of the argument for and against tiny homes.

“I’m open to listening. I see a dilemma. There’s a lot of things to look at as far as economic structure and how it will affect Fannin County,” Post Two Glenn Patterson stated. “I’d just like to see more time to look at it…have a moratorium till we feel like we’ve got [an ordinance] that works.”

The moratorium will last until the first meeting in January 2022.

Gilmer approves moratorium on larger subdivisions

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Over two hours of citizens speaking for and against a moratorium on large subdivisions saw some division on the Board of Commissioners with a 2-1 vote approving the moratorium.

A “defining moment” is what citizen Tom Whatley called the August 23, 2021, meeting that was special called to discuss the moratorium. In it, Commission Chairman Charlie Paris said that he wanted to better manage some growth. With Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson holding the dissenting vote against the moratorium, it came down to Post Commissioner Hubert Parker to second the motion for the moratorium and then provide the second vote for it.

The moratorium, according to the Board of Commissioners, will allow the county to partner with the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission to implement studies across the county for growth, infrastructure, and traffic, among others. The board noted Ethan Calhoun would be there NWGRC contact during those studies. The debate between citizens saw fairly even discussion on those speaking for and against the moratorium. The same debate fell to the commissioners themselves with those for and those against.

Even Parker and Paris debated and adjusted the original motion before coming to a final vote. Paris started the meeting offering a preliminary idea to start the discussion, a 9 month moratorium on subdivisions exceeding 25 lots. However, the first citizen speaking during the night, Joene DePlancke, questioned aspects of the moratorium to clarify what the county was discussing. DePlancke countered Paris’ preliminary idea and said 50 lots would be better.

After 2 solid hours of discussion, Parker offered a second to the motion for 9 months and 50 lots as he said, he was seconding just so they could discuss it. That discussion saw Parker suggesting 6 months instead of 9 months. Parker said, “I know how you will push to get it done in six months.”

Paris acquiesced to the request for six months with the understanding that the board could extend another three months if really necessary.

Much debate centered originally on the growth in the county, and the common theme throughout the night included “affordable housing.” Many developers suggested that an abundance of homes and subdivisions could aid in that, while others argued against the concept saying that high priced subdivisions are not “affordable.”

Misty Dove spoke to the commissioners about that concern. Working in social services, she noted there is a two year backlog in Fannin, Gilmer, and Pickens for help finding affordable homes for people in local jobs.

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A packed assembly room saw several standing to listen and comment on the moratorium in Gilmer County during a special called meeting on August 23, 2021.

Yet, others still voiced concerns against any government answer to the housing. From overlay districts to impact fees and subsidized housing, many ideas and thoughts went back and forth through speakers. Keith Nunn, owner of Appalachian Supply, noted that many of the subdivisions being built by local builders were smaller comparative to some of those being reported that contain thousands of acres.

Many supported the idea to have these studies in the county alongside NWGRC, but the pushback came on a moratorium stopping building. Several speakers called it a halt to growth and a halt to building in the county.

Develle Frady noted a similar boom in 2006 and noted over 638 permits pulled in that year. This year, 2021, he noted 226 permits this year as of August when the meeting was held. He went on to voice concerns against the moratorium and spoke about many of the lots developed over the years are still empty. He also pointed to panic in the early 2000’s and estimates that Gilmer would be 44,000 people by 2010. He said that now, in 2021, there still isn’t 44,000 people.

Frady said that he’s been in the county for 57 years since he was born here. However, he said that he was 30 before he could make a decent living here.

Many citizens pointed to the Comprehensive Plan in the county and areas. Post Commissioner Karleen Ferguson noted that she put a lot of work into the plan and wants to see it used better.

Ferguson said that she believed the testing and the Regional Commission’s work could be done while continuing the growth and building in the county. She said, “I don’t think we need to stop growth, stop building, stop anything right now.”

She went on to add, “I think you’re going to be hurting us, by putting this moratorium on, on our chances for affordable housing because the prices will go up. And six months? Unfortunately, I know all too well now how quickly the government works, and it’s not fast… I don’t know how soon, now we have COVID coming back in, that will happen with this testing.”

Like many present, Ferguson agreed that the testing should be done. However, she said she was not for the moratorium.

With the 2-1 vote, Gilmer County is under this moratorium currently. Paris said the county has already engaged the NWGRC for testing and begun the process in recent days. Now, with the moratorium in place, the county is waiting for results and is likely to be looking at zoning and regulations on the larger subdivisions in the coming future.

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.

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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.

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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).

Commissioners adopt Moratorium on Greenspace subdivision roads

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Originally considered for Class D and Class E roads, Gilmer’s Board of Commissioners is placing a moratorium on green space subdivisions as they work on details before planning to release the moratorium with a modified ordinance in early 2021.

According to Planning and Zoning Director Karen Henson, Gilmer has a couple subdivision projects currently approved in R2 that are abiding by lot sizes. However, the concern is if these lots are sold and then divided and resold. Class E Roads are only allowed to have 10 lots on them. The county will be looking at options to prevent such a process that would ultimately result in an larger number or lots on roads that cannot support them.

Discussion of the agenda item saw more focus on the moniker of “inferior roads” and right of ways than specific Class E roads. However, Henson indicated in the meeting that all Class E designated roads would be considered a part of the moratorium and later clarified as such.

As approved in the meeting, Henson herself clarified in an email that the Moratorium will be for:

  1. The suspension of Class E roads.

  2. The suspension of subdivisions of land along inferior County roads, which are roads with less than 40 foot right of way and 20 foot surface width with 3 foot shoulders (except for the 2 annual splits).

  3. The suspension of greenspace developments.

During the meeting, with advice from Henson and County Attorney David Clark, the Board is setting the moratorium to take effect later, and will begin the process of the ordinance change that will take several months to complete through advertising, First Reading, a Public Hearing, and a Second Reading with Final Adoption.

As contractors move into the moratorium, it will not shut down developments in areas as it was stated that they can continue developments with upgraded road systems. It will not affect Class D roads in general unless they fall into the county termed “inferior roads.”

 

New updates coming to Meeks Park, multi-unit moratorium extended

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BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – Among the several contract and agreements signed during the June Union County Commission Meeting, two pertained to future improvements to Meeks Park.

In the first agreement, Al Garnto Fine Art Studio will design, construct, and erect a floral-themed, full-color, metal sculpture. The sculpture will be located at the new pavilion and cost a maximum of $3,500.

“We appreciate Al. He’s always worked with us on all the sculpture items in the park. We felt like this would be the add on to make our new pavilion,” stated Sole Commissioner Lamar Paris.

Garnto will also work the architect for a new design in front of the double gym once it’s completed.

The second agreement focused on developing a new restroom facility within the park. It’s between the county and Engineering Management, Inc. to design a wastewater pump state. The cost of the agreement is $16,200 and went into effect on June 8, 2020. TVA and Meeks Park will fund most of the new restroom facility project in part because it falls within the TVA floodplain.

“In our long-range plan, we hope into two to three years to put an amphitheater in Meeks Park. We’ve worked with the TVA for several years on trying to design and locate a restroom,” explained Paris. “They are funding the majority of the cost of this, but not including the wastewater pump, so we have to pump the effluent from the site into the sewer line.”

Union County had to apply for a permit from TVA to build the new restroom.

Multi-Development Moratorium Extended

The multi-family unit development moratorium was extended for another 190 days from April 2, 2020. The original resolution went into effect on Aug. 6, 2019. The county prolonged the moratorium to continue to work on new regulations.

“The county is still in the process of rewriting our guidelines for multi-family and multi-story housing units,” added Paris. “We did a moratorium to prevent additional units from being built until we had time to study and see what we could do to make sure our regulations could catch up.”

Socially distanced county commission meeting attendees.

Additional Business

Union County also entered into an agreement with CHA Consulting to provide a conceptual site plan and feasibility study for the Union County Jail. The cost was $2,500. Commissioner Paris doesn’t foresee this project being built until the “distant future,” but they are beginning to look into possible options.

“I hope it’s light-years away. Anyway, we’re also having to evaluate property along the way. We feel that we need to be looking at that property now, so if we find a parcel that the Sheriff and myself feel’s a future site, we must evaluate,” explained Paris.

U.S. Army Garrison Fort Benning and Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Hall, Lumpkin, Union, and White issued a memorandum of agreement to expedite local and regional mutual aid assistance, share information, and sustain emergency aid.

Union County contracted Freeman Gas for propane services in the amount of $0.89 per gallon for the next year.

Teague Nall and Perkins, Inc. (TNP) was contracted out to provide engineering consulting services on an as needed basis and will be billed monthly.

Everyone wore masks during the meeting.

-An addendum agreement between Union County and AT&T Georgia was signed for adding additional rate elements to the existing E911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) equipment and software. The cost was $1,500 and went into effect on Sept. 30, 2019.

ACCG Group Self-Insurance Workers’ Compensation Fund issued a $4,000 Employee Safety Grant. The money will go toward firefighting equipment, such as gloves, boots, and helmets.

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