City Council Approves Derelict Property Ordinance, Short-Term Rental Ordinance, and Seeks to have Third Party Perform Building Inspections

City Council, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council voted to approve the Derelict Property Ordinance, Short-Term Rental Ordinance and made it known that they seek to have a third party perform city building inspections during their meeting in Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

The Derelict Property Ordinance, or ordinance BR2019-08, has been the topic of much debate since its first reading on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

The 36 page ordinance, now 35 pages, focuses on what the city considers to be “derelict and blighted property within the City”, and is intended as a means to allow the city to better deal with such properties.

Many believe that the ordinance may have unintended consequences however.

The only changes made to the original document were that the mayor is to designate the enforcement officer, the removal of the tax break for redeveloping, and the time to respond was changed from 14 to 15 days.

Council Member Nathan Fitts made the motion to approve the ordinance, seconded by Council Member Robbie Cornelius. Council Member Kenneth Gaddis and Council Member Harold Herndon voted in opposition. With Council Member Rhonda Haight absent, Mayor Donna Whitener broke the tie voting in favor of the ordinance.

The Short-Term Rental Ordinance, or Ordinance BR2019-07 was also approved by the council.

This ordinance deals with a residential dwelling unit that is provided for lodging for a period of time not to exceed 30 consecutive days and the sub-divisions they’re allowed in.

There is now a process for a special land-use permit that allows people to avoid re-zoning a property in the middle of a residential area and instead notify their neighbors and appear before the City Council to request special permission for the short-term rental.

Neighbors may then voice their opinion and the council may allow the rental for a period of 12 months, at which time the council may revoke the permissions granted.

Council Member Robbie Cornelius made the motion to approve the ordinance, seconded by Council Member Harold Herndon. Council Member Kenneth Gaddis and Council Member Nathan Fitts voted in opposition. With Council Member Rhonda Haight absent, Mayor Donna Whitener broke the tie voting in favor of the ordinance.

Richard Edinge, Vice President of CPL

The City Council also made it known that they are currently seeking to have a third party perform city building inspections, similar to how they currently have a third party perform city electrical inspections.

Because of House Bill 493, local government has a fixed amount of time to review a permit application for completeness. If the local government fails at this, then the developer may hire an architect or engineer to do these inspections through their own finances. This information is then shared with the local government, which then has only a few days to determine if the review was accurate.

Because of this, the City Council heard from Richard Edinge, Vice President of Clark Patterson Lee (CPL) to help determine whether or not they wish to use the CPL firm for inspections moving forward.

No decision has been made on this matter as of yet, however, so be sure to stay tuned for future updates on the matter!

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Additional parking for downtown Blue Ridge

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – At their regular monthly meeting held on Tuesday, Nov. 13 the Blue Ridge City Council voted to move forward with the possibility of adding more parking spaces in the downtown area.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Council Member, Donna Whitener, Harold Herondon, Kenneth Gaddis, Nathan Fitz, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Reid Dyer, Hayes James and Associates Inc., Kevin Whipple, CSC Design Inc., Blue Ridge Hotel LLC., Parking, Parking Deck, City Hall

Phase one of the concept design for parking at Blue Ridge City Hall.

The idea of adding parking to the existing location of Blue Ridge City Hall, located on West First Street, is not a new one, but Kevin Whipple, a principal architect with CSC Design, Inc., introduced a fresh look at Blue Ridge’s long standing parking issue.

Whipple along with Reid Dyer, Vice President of Hayes, James and Associates, Inc., proposed a multi-phase concept that when completed would bring the total number of parking spaces on the property from 48 to 246 including 17 on street parking sites.

“You currently have 48 parking spaces on the property right now, phase one will increase that for an additional 60, so you will have 108 parking spaces on the property,” Whipple said as he presented city council with diagrams of the proposal.

Phase one of the project would require the removal of the green space currently on the Depot Street side of the property. This area would then be turned into numerous parking spots. The phase also including adding a few spots to the back corner of the property closest to the location of the Senior Center.

The initial proposal of this phase included the addition of public restrooms to one side of the City Hall building. After discussing with council, however, the options of restrooms in this area was put on hold.

Due to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ramps would be required to access these restrooms. With the lay of the land in the area having a significant slope, adhering to ADA standards would be difficult to achieve.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Council Member, Donna Whitener, Harold Herondon, Kenneth Gaddis, Nathan Fitz, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Reid Dyer, Hayes James and Associates Inc., Kevin Whipple, CSC Design Inc., Blue Ridge Hotel LLC., Parking, Parking Deck, City Hall

Phase two of the Blue Ridge City parking concept showing lower level parking.

It was originally thought that a parking deck could eventually be built in this newly designed area. Dyer pointed out, however, that there were too many utilities located below ground (sewer, storm drainage, power) for this to be a viable option.

A parking deck was not ruled out as Whipple and Dyer presented phase two of the proposed parking concept.

“This phase would include us taking the road. The road between here and the senior center,” Whipple said presenting the second phase.
According to Whipple by taking the street, the City of Blue Ridge would be able to add numerous parking spaces on ground level and open up the option of adding a second story parking deck over this area.

Parking on ‘ground level’ would have a single entry point from West First Street and would allow access to all parking spaces around City Hall. Parking for the ‘second level’ would have a single entry and exit point located on West Second Street.

This single entry/exit point will have many benefits according to Whipple and Dyer. The lay of the land behind city hall, being a rising hill, is a natural elevation ideal for creating this second level. Whipple also pointed out that it could be used as a secure parking area for all visitors who are partaking in a trip on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, and suggested that riders of the train be given a parking pass and only those with passes would be able to access this second level.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Council Member, Donna Whitener, Harold Herondon, Kenneth Gaddis, Nathan Fitz, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Reid Dyer, Hayes James and Associates Inc., Kevin Whipple, CSC Design Inc., Blue Ridge Hotel LLC., Parking, Parking Deck, City Hall

Phase two of the Blue Ridge City parking concept showing upper level parking.

“One of the biggest issues for parking decks is internal circulation,” Whipple stated of the unconventional approach to the parking deck and the separate entries for the two levels. “The ramps, you’ll lose a lot of parking”

After the phase two completion, a total of 246 (including 17 spaces available on Depot Street) parking spaces would be created for public use.
Members of the Blue Ridge City Council had many questions concerning the project including how storm water runoff would be handled, but with the design being in its concept stage more research would need to be done to come up with solutions and costs.

“This isn’t what I had envisioned, but I love it,” Council-member Rhonda Haight was the first to speak up about the proposal.

Haight complimented how the design incorporated the use of the natural slant of the land. Mayor Donna Whitener agreed with Haight and pointed out that its structure would be less intrusive at the City Hall property.

Haight motioned to grant permission for more research to be completed on the project, and Council-member Nathan Fitz made a second. The council voted unanimously to move forward.

In the meantime the City of Blue Ridge has extended the arrangement with Blue Ridge Hotel, LLC. to continue to use property on West Main Street for paid public parking. The extension will last through Dec. 2018.

 

 

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Fannin County Water Authority rate increase

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Discussions on whether the Fannin County Water Authority (FCWA) would see a price hike has been a hot topic this year, and the Blue Ridge City Council solidified that this rate increase would take place at their Nov. 13 meeting.

Currently the FCWA purchases water for its customers from the City of Blue Ridge at a wholesale rate. This rate had been debated early this year as being under normal wholesale prices.

Rebecca Harkins, Utilities Director for the City of Blue Ridge and Alicia Stewart, the city’s Finance Director, presented to the Blue Ridge City Council a breakdown of why a wholesale rate increase is necessary.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Council Member, Donna Whitener, Harold Herondon, Kenneth Gaddis, Nathan Fitz, Rhonda Haight, Robbie Cornelius, Utilities Director, Finance Director, Rebecca Harkins, Alicia Stewart, Fannin County Water Authority, Rural Assistance Community Project, Phillip Reid, Water Rate, Increase, Wholesale

Rebecca Harkins and Alicia Stewart address city council on their findings regarding the wholesale water rate.

“Earlier in the year Alicia and I have gotten to together and calculated a wholesale water rate,” Harkins said of the internal work done by the city. “We based it on our expenditures from the water system versus what our normal everyday customer paid.”

Harkins pointed out that the expenditures and data collected was based on the previous year of 2017.

Currently FCWA purchases water at a wholesale rate of $3.25 per 1,000 gallons. This rate is approximately 25.65 percent of what a consumer directly supplied by the city pays. The goal of the City of Blue Ridge is to bring the wholesale rate up to 50 percent in yearly increments.

The proposed rate increase would put wholesale prices at $4.25 per 1,000 gallons and bring the percentage closer to 33 percent.

Harkins and Stewart also had a third party rate study conducted by Phillip Reid, Georgia State Manager for the Rural Assistance Community Project. This third party review was conducted at no cost to the city.

According to Harkins, Reid looks at the percentage of water used versus the percentage of revenue and through his findings had also recommended the rate be set at $4.25 per 1,000 gallons with an increase to $5.00 per 1,000 gallons the following year.

“The only difference I came up with is that in the second year of rate increase it would look more like $5.25 if you factor in inflation,” Harkins stated of her findings.

Council member Rhonda Haight questioned the current total amount of debt the City of Blue Ridge faces in regards to its water system. Stewart replied approximately $14 million.

This debt according to Haight must be taken into consideration when negotiating rates. Haight further commented that she felt the city should not be locked into a set price with the FCWA and should be able to evaluate rates if more debt is obtained.

Mayor Donna Whitener suggested the city holding a workshop where Reid could go over all findings and explain to the public the cost of running a water system.

While contracts are still being worked through between the City of Blue Ridge and the Fannin County Water Authority, the city council did vote to raise the wholesale water rate to $4.25 per 1,000 gallons effective Dec. 2018.

 

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Changes to City of Blue Ridge alcohol ordinance

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Alcohol sales could be allowed until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays in the City of Blue Ridge, and area establishments could begin to offer drink specials.

These are just a few of the changes seen to the Blue Ridge City Alcohol Ordinance, which had its first reading at the July 10 Blue Ridge City Council meeting.

After months of discussion and special committee findings and recommendations several changes have been introduced into the amended ordinance.
Beyond the later time for alcohol sales on Fridays and Saturdays, new holidays have been added to the list for late night transactions. Previously, New Years Eve was the only noted day for an exemption to the 11:30 p.m. rule, but if passed, patrons can also enjoy a later drink on Labor Day, Memorial Day, and July 4.

An updated conflict of interest section now allows for city officials to own establishments that participate in alcohol sales. These officials, however, will have to abstain from voting on any matter that directly affects their business holdings.

Also new to the amended ordinance will be the ability for establishments to offer “reasonable drink specials” with specific guidelines that must be adhered to in order to offer these specials.

The Blue Ridge City Council is expected to hold the second reading of the amended alcohol ordinance at their Aug. 14 regularly scheduled meeting.

Below is the amendments to the alcohol ordinance as read at the July 10 meeting:

 

AN ORDINANCE TO AMEND AND REPEAL CERTAIN PORTIONS OF THE CITY OF BLUE RIDGE, GEORGIA REGULATION OF ALCOHOL ORDINANCES RELATING TO CONFIRMATION OF RATIO COMPLIANCE; TO THE EXPIRATION DATE OF EMPLOYEE PERMITS; TO OWNERSHIP AND CONFLICT OF INTERESTS BY COUNCIL MEMBERS AND OTHER OFFICERS; TO CHANGE THE FEE CHARGED FOR SPECIAL TEMPORARY LICENSES; TO MAKE CERTAIN CHANGES TO HOURS OF OPERATION; TO UPDATE ARTICLE VII DEALING WITH BONA FIDE NON-PROFIT CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS SO AS TO ALLOW FOR IDENTICAL RESTRICTIONS ON SUNDAY SALES AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, has previously adopted ordinance number 4.12.11 (as amended) as an alcoholic beverage ordinance for the purposes of regulating of the sale of alcoholic beverages including, but not limited to, related fees and taxes (collectively “Alcohol Ordinance”); and

WHEREAS, City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, finds that the certain changes set forth herein will be not be detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Blue Ridge, Georgia and will actually be the economic benefit of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, and its citizens,; and

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, desires to continue to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages as provided in the Alcohol

Ordinance subject to the changes and/or additional regulations contained within this ordinance;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDERED, AND IT IS HEREBY ORDAINED by the Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, as authorized by the City Charter and general law, as follows:

SECTION 1.
The Alcohol Ordinance is hereby amended by modifying, deleting and adopting the following provisions.

SECTION 110.45-3
This Section is hereby amended by inserting an additional sentence and the end of the Paragraph which reads “In addition to any other requirements set forth in this Ordinance, the City of Blue Ridge may annually require any license holder subject to a ratio requirement to produce a statement prepared by a certified public account setting forth proof of compliance with the ratio and that consumable items are at least fifty percent (50%) of a licensee’s business volume.”

SECTION 110.45-34(f)
Section 110.45-34(f) entitled “Employee permits” is hereby amended by deleting the previous subsection (6) in its entirety and the new Section 110.45-34(f)(6) shall read as follows:

“An employee permit shall be valid for one year from the date of issue. The employee permit may be renewed upon the submission of a renewal application, the payment of the appropriate renewal fee, and upon a determination that such individual remains qualified for said permit under this Ordinance. The fee for renewal of an employee permit shall be no less than $30.00.” 110.45-34(f)(6).

SECTION 110.45-14
Section 110.45-14 entitled “Sale, Distribution and other dealing in alcoholic beverages within the City by officials and employees: exemptions”, subsection (a) is hereby amended by deleting the previous subsection (a) in its entirety and the new Section 110.45-14(a) shall read as follows:
No member of the City Council who holds any interest, directly or indirectly, in any establishment licensed by the City to sell, distribute or otherwise deal in alcoholic beverages shall vote on any matter involving or relating to said establishment. For purposes of this subsection, a member shall be deemed to have or hold a beneficial interest if the license is issued in the name of the person’s spouse, child, parent or sibling, or in a partnership or corporation or limited liability company in which such persons owns more than ten percent (10%) controlling interest.

SECTION 110.45-23 (Fees)
The fee schedule is hereby amended to state the charge for a temporary special event license permit shall be $150 per permit.

SECTION 110.45-35 (Days and Hours of Operation)
Subsection (a) and (b) is amended to change any reference to “after 11:30 p.m.” on Fridays and Saturdays to “after 12:00 a.m.”

Subsection (a) is amended to remove the parenthetical (but which must end at 9:00 p.m.).

Subsection (b) is amended by changing the sentence “except on New Year’s Eve (December 31), and sales shall be allowed until 11:59” to read “except on Labor Day, Memorial Day, July 4 and New Years’ Eve and sales shall be allowed until 12:00 a.m. the following day.”

A new Subsection (c) is added which reads “any person or entity holding a temporary special event license shall be allowed to furnish, sell or offer for sale alcoholic beverages until 12:00 a.m. on the day following the event.”

SECTION 110.45-50(b)(2)(H)
Subsection (H)’s introductory paragraph shall be amended to read as follows: As to any retail consumption dealer, reasonable drink specials may be allowed, provided, however, that no licensee, in connection with the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises shall:

Subsection (H)(4) shall be amended to read [No licensee shall] “sale, offer to sell, or deliver to any person or group of persons any alcoholic beverage at a price less than the less than the price regularly charged for such alcoholic beverage during the same calendar week, except reasonable drink specials which are clearly identified as to price and quantity and licensed catered functions pursuant to an issued City permit and not open to the public shall be allowed.”;

SECTION 110.45-52(c)
Subsection (c) is hereby updated and amended to make non-profit organizations subject to the same Sunday sales rules (Section 110.45-35) which apply to all other persons, entities and organizations by deleting the parenthetical “(which cannot include any Sunday of the year).”

SECTION 2:
REPEAL OF CONFLICTING ORDINANCES TO REMOVE CONFLICT

All parts of ordinances in conflict with the terms of this ordinance are hereby repealed to the extent of the conflict, but it is hereby provided that any ordinance or law which may be applicable hereto and aid in carrying out and making effective the intent, purpose and provisions hereof, is hereby adopted as a part hereof and shall be legally construed to be in favor of upholding this Ordinance on behalf of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia.

SECTION 3.
SEVERABILITY

If any paragraph, subparagraph, sentence, clause, phrase or any other portion of this Ordinance should be declared invalid or unconstitutional by any Court of competent jurisdiction or if the provisions of any part of this Ordinance as applied to any particular person, situation or set of circumstances is declared invalid or unconstitutional, such invalidity shall not be construed to affect the provisions of this Ordinance not so held to be invalid, or the application of this Ordinance to other circumstances not so held to be invalid. It is hereby declared to be the legislative intent of the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia to provide for separate and divisible parts and it does hereby adopt any and all parts hereof as may not be held invalid for any reason.

SECTION 4.
EFFECTIVE DATE

The effective date of this Ordinance shall be immediately upon its passage by the City Council and execution by the Mayor or upon fifteen (15) days expiring from the date of its passage without a veto of said Ordinance by the Mayor as set forth in the City Charter at Section 3.23(b).

 

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City of Blue Ridge spending comes into question

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A large bill for the Blue Ridge City Pool and a final amendment to the City of Blue Ridge 2017 budget left new council members questioning the accountability and practices of the city when it comes to spending.

At the June Blue Ridge City Council meeting funds and lack thereof was a topic that was revisited throughout the evening. Blue Ridge Business Association President Cesar Martinez urged the council to take steps to acquire the funding needed for city improvements.

“You were all aware of the important issues facing the city, as you voiced your convictions towards better infrastructure, better parking solutions, and better bathroom facilities for our city and its visitors,” Martinez addressed the council reading from a prepared statement.

“Six months down the road and where are we?” Martinez questioned. “This city needs solutions now. Inaction is unacceptable.”

Martinez acknowledged shortfalls in trying to seek funding for these projects stating that grants could take months even years to come through.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis, Rhonda Haight, Harold Herndon, Robbie Cornelius, Blue Ridge Business Association, President, Cesar Martinez, Recreonics Inc, Spending, Budget, SPLOST, pool, paint, Downtown Development Authority

Blue Ridge Business Association President Cesar Martinez addresses the council about forming a Downtown Development Authority to help seek funding for the city.

Mayor Donna Whitener added to this that grants often have to be matched by city money.

Offering a possible solution to the lack of funding Martinez urged the council to established a Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Through a DDA the possibility of more funding opens up, funding which the city itself is ineligible to apply for.

Martinez cited that there are already 470 registered DDAs in the state of Georgia, and that the city is missing out on opportunities by not establishing a DDA of their own.

Council member Kenneth Gaddis thanked Martinez for addressing the council and questioned the city’s lack of focus on infrastructure.

“We’ve actually done about $800,000 in infrastructure this year,” Whitener responded to Gaddis, “$500,000 in one area and another 300 and something thousand.”

“We’re always spending money on infrastructure. We can’t keep up,” Whitener added.

Council member Nathan Fitts stated about funding issues, “A lot of what we were told as far as funding didn’t come through.”

Later an amendment to the city’s 2017 budget revealed that the previous council had already spent a large portion of projected revenue for 2018.

The previous council had approved for many of the city streets to be repaved in 2017, but the funding was not budgeted. To acquire the funds necessary the council then approved borrowing from the general fund and the Hotel/Motel tax account.

The general fund has now been paid back through the use of 2018 SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) collections, and the money borrowed from the Hotel/Motel account, in the amount of approximately $135,000, will not be reimbursed.

Gaddis showed surprise at this revelation: “So the previous council voted to use-”

“General fund money into your year,” Whitener quickly responded, “Into your term.”

Whitener went on to explain, “When I say we don’t have a lot of SPLOST money it’s because we’ve been paying SPLOST back from last term.”

With this revelation and the lack of funding for city projects, such as infrastructure and parking, Council member Nathan Fitts expressed his detestation when asked to approve a check in the amount of $9,608.04 for paint for the city’s pool.

According to Whitener the specialized paint is very costly, some of it being up to $263.00 for five gallons.

This invoice from Recreonics Inc. coupled with approximately $5,000 already spent on parts to fix the pool, brings the total amount well over the original $5,000 approved by the council earlier this year.

“So now we’ve spent triple,” Fitts said about the new invoice, “Did we get estimates on what paint was going to be before we bought it?”

Gaddis backed Fitts and questioned how the department got approval to spend this amount.

Blue Ridge, Fannin County, Georgia, Blue Ridge City Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Nathan Fitts, Kenneth Gaddis, Rhonda Haight, Harold Herndon, Robbie Cornelius, Blue Ridge Business Association, President, Cesar Martinez, Recreonics Inc, Spending, Budget, SPLOST, pool, paint, Downtown Development Authority

Costly paint for the city pool led council to question if estimates were given before purchase.

Whitener simply answered, “They didn’t.”

“I think these department heads need to submit these estimates and bids ahead of time for approval,” Fitts went on.

Whitener, who agreed with this sentiment, stated of the department head, “I don’t think she realized how much paint it would take to paint the pool.”

“That’s why we get estimates,” Fitts replied explaining that there is no excuse. “That is unacceptable.”

Since the pool had already been painted the council had no choice but to approve to pay this debt.

“I don’t think we should have painted it period, but its been painted,” Whitener expressed her opinion.

Fitts added, “I think we should tell that department head, they better get out there and start marketing that pool to bring more revenue in.”

The Blue Ridge City Council will hold their next regular monthly meeting on Tue. July 10 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

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Blue Ridge Alcohol Committee continues ordinance discussion

Business, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The topics of possibility extending weekend drinking hours for restaurants and the future of employee permits headlined the discussion at the third Blue Ridge Alcohol Committee meeting Tuesday, May 29.

The meeting consisted of an informal round-table discussion that included the committee, which consists of city council members Robbie Cornelius and Harold Herndon, city residents David Gray (absent from the meeting) and Larry Versyn, and local business owners Stuart Arp and Ken Brenneman, as well as Mayor Donna Whitener, Police Chief Johnny Scearce, city supervisor of tax and licensing Sally Smith, and local business owners Brendan Doyle and Scott Peters.

The idea of extending hours during which establishments are allowed to serve alcohol was originally proposed by Arp, owner of Chester Brunnemeyer’s Bar and Grill, at the first Alcohol Committee meeting April 11. Arp suggested extending the cut off time for alcohol service from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Arp stressed to the committee and attendees that he felt businesses are losing tourist dollars from visitors who are unaware of the 11:30 p.m. cut off time and do not begin to arrive in the downtown area until 9:30 or 10 p.m.

“It would be a good thing to give us the option, whether (business owners) implement it or not,” said Doyle, owner of The Boro Inn, of the possibility of extending the cut off time on weekends.

In addition, Arp stated he would like to amend the beginning of alcohol service from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Brenneman, owner of Blue Jeans Pizza and Pasta, objected to the idea of modifying the morning start time for alcohol sales. “We have places of business that serve breakfast, and if they want to serve a mimosa, they ought to be able to serve a mimosa. Just like you ought to be able, or you guys are pushing, to serve liquor at 1 a.m. in the morning,” Brenneman stated to Arp.

To this, Arp clarified his proposal was for a 12:30 a.m. cut off with all patrons to be vacated from establishments by 1 a.m.

“There are events that drive people in here that are looking to go out late,” Arp stated. “Even some of the employees, there’s no place for them to go (after work) because (businesses are) already closed. I don’t think 12:30 a.m. is egregious by any means … and I’m only saying for two nights a week.”

Concerning the potential 12:30 a.m. cut off, Versyn stated he believed it was “not unreasonable.”

Mayor Whitener also mentioned she felt a later cut off could possibly attract local residents who work until 6 or 7 p.m. or even later to come out who normally would not.

Regarding employee serving permits, the committee revisited the proposed ordinance amendment from January, which would require employees to reapply for a new permit every year at a cost of $30 instead of once every three years.

When Cornelius asked the business owners present where they stood on the proposal, Arp, Doyle and Peters all felt the change would be too much of a hardship for employees. Brenneman, however, favored the change to one year.

Offering an explanation for the proposed change, Smith told the committee of a local bartender who had recently received two DUIs (driving under the influence) in the time following the issuance of his serving permit. “We never knew about it (and) he’s not supposed to have that,” Smith said, referring to the serving permit.

“I can understand both sides; I’d split the difference (and) go two years,” Chief Scearce said. “You’re right on some points and you’re right on your points, but what I’m saying is this … say someone got out there and got popped in Atlanta at a concert with a bag of dope in their pocket … We’d never know about it till we run (a check).”

The committee also discussed the legality of “sip and shop” events at downtown businesses.

At the May 2 meeting, Versyn stated he had heard of retail establishments serving alcohol to patrons after hours while they shopped, and he expressed a concern over this.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Chief Scearce explained business owners cannot serve or sell alcohol to customers either privately or after hours, but business owners themselves are allowed to consume alcohol in their place of business after hours.

“You’re saying it’s still okay to lock the doors and then drink all night long in their establishment as long as they’re not selling it?” Versyn asked Scearce.

Again, Scearce stressed to Versyn business owners are not allowed to serve customers, but “if these (owners) want to sit in their business after it’s closed and sit there all night long and get drunk off their hind end, I could care less. But when they come out on that road, they’re mine.”

Also, in the January ordinance amendments, which passed a first public hearing by the city council but was never adopted, a provision was proposed for the mayor and/or council members who hold a 10 percent or higher ownership in an establishment to recuse him or herself from voting on any matter that would involve said establishment.

The Alcohol Committee appeared in agreement that this amendment should be approved as originally presented.

Moving forward, City Attorney James Balli is expected to draft a new proposal for amendments to the alcohol ordinance based on the recommendations and discussions of the Alcohol Committee over the past two months and present them to the city council at a future meeting.

 

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Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

City boards restructuring draws criticism

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – An ordinance to restructure the city’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals was approved by the Blue Ridge City Council during its May 8 meeting Tuesday.

Last month, a first reading of the ordinance was presented during the council meeting. As explained then by City Attorney James Balli, the ordinance would condense both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the city Planning Commission from seven members to five members each. Balli further explained each city council member would appoint one member to serve on each board and appointees would be allowed to serve on both boards, if the council member so desired. According to Balli, the ordinance would amend an already established city ordinance to be compliant with the City Charter and state law.

After a second reading this month, the ordinance was approved unanimously. According to Balli, the council’s appointments are Gene Holcombe to serve as Councilwoman Robbie Cornelius’ appointment to both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, Cindy Trimble to serve as Councilwoman Rhonda Haight’s appointment on both boards, Mark Engledow and Angelina Powell to serve as Councilman Harold Herndon’s appointments to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, respectively, Rick Skelton to serve as Councilman Nathan Fitts’ appointment to both boards, and Thomas Kay and Michael Eaton to serve as Councilman Ken Gaddis’ appointments to the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals, respectively.

At the end of the meeting, Eaton, existing chairman of city Zoning Board of Appeals, spoke to the council concerning the changes to the two boards.

“What I have a problem with is we’ve basically eliminated three positions on the Zoning Board of Appeals tonight for three different people who have put in a lot of time and effort for their part and were not contacted or told any of this was going to happen,” Eaton stated.

“John Soave, Ralph Garner, Brendan Doyle – when are their terms up?” Eaton asked.

To this, Mayor Donna Whitener responded, “Their terms are up as of today.”

“I feel like we’ve all been left in the dark. This has been done very disrespectfully,” Eaton added, saying he was only contacted by Gaddis who notified Eaton he would be the councilman’s appointment. “I think it’s been done very poorly.”

A second reading for an Illumination Ordinance amendment was also presented and approved at this month’s meeting. The ordinance, according to its wording, makes it “unlawful for any person, organization of persons, or entity to willfully tamper with, illegally project light upon, mutilate or deface any City personal or real property, including, without limitation, trees, other plants, buildings, drive-in theaters screens, vehicles or other equipment for lighting, firefighting, police protection or water and sewer installation and maintenance.” First-time violators of the ordinance now face a civil fine of at least $500 and subsequent violations are punishable by a civil fine of at least $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

An amendment to change the rules of procedure at council meetings to allow for more public commentary on action items was approved unanimously by the council. As explained by Balli, the amendment will now allow five sections of public commentary at two minutes per person on a first come, first serve basis for any item requiring a vote from the council. Following the end of the public commentary, the council would then vote on the item. The amendment also allows for individuals to speak on any late additions to the agenda without having to request ahead of time to be on the agenda to speak themselves.

Jeff Stewart, city zoning supervisor, presented bids and estimates for repairs to the roof at City Hall. The council unanimously approved and awarded two bids: one from GoCo for $6,650 for the demolition and removal of the bank drive-through and another from Trademark Coatings for $35,427.50 for the repair of the main roof of the building. According to Trademark’s estimate and scope of work, the cost will include pressure washing and reuse of the existing shingles, which were deemed to still be in good condition, and application of a urethane foam base coat, which is designed to create a seamless roofing system.

The city received $20,165.00 in insurance claims for damage sustained to city hall during a storm in the spring of 2017.

The council unanimously approved an allotment of up to $10,000 for remodel of the city police department building on Church Street. In February, the council approved a previous amount up to $10,000 for needed repairs and renovation of the police department. Mayor Whitener explained after initial work to the building began, further problems and issues were also revealed, but she anticipated that the further work should cost under the additional $10,000.

Police Chief Johnny Scearce stated further repairs and upgrades to the building, built in 1936, will include repairs to a corner of the roof, replacement of gutters and fascia boards, and upgrades to the lights and electrical wiring system. “One thing led into another,” Chief Scearce said of the building renovation.

Replacement of the slide deck at the city pool was discussed after the city received a quote from Miracle Recreation Equipment Company in the amount of $6,009.86 to replace the slide. Councilwoman Rhonda Haight questioned the decision to replace the slide considering the uncertain future of the city pool and potential liability issues with the slide.

“Considering we don’t really know the future of the pool, do we just take it down for right now or spend $6,000?” Haight said. “I would suggest just take the slide out, (because) first of all, (it is) a liability, and second, because we don’t know (the pool’s) future.”

Whitener stated parts to repair the pool thus far for the upcoming season have amounted to under $5,000, which was considerably less than originally anticipated. The mayor seemly advocated for the replacement of the slide stating the slide is heavily used by children at the pool and removal of the slide would require additional concrete work.

“Well, I would have to agree with Rhonda,” Councilman Nathan Fitts said. “To keep spending money with the unknown future of the pool, to me, doesn’t make financial sense.”

After further discussion, the council approved for the slide to be taken down.

In public commentary, Gene Holcombe spoke on behalf of the Blue Ridge Business Association and inquired of the city’s progress with adding downtown public restrooms and parking space. Mayor Whitener told Holcombe Councilman Herndon had recently suggested the idea of building a small restroom unit near the large public parking lot off of Mountain Street as early as this summer using detainee labor and engineering assistance from Councilman Gaddis’ All Choice Plumbing company. As for the parking situation, Whitener told Holcombe the parking study, which was approved in the council’s April meeting, was still in the process of being completed.

After an executive session, Councilwoman Haight made a motion to “resolve a claim involving 0.03 acres with Campbell Camp Investments LLC and to give the mayor authority to sign a quick claim for that property.” After a second from Gaddis, the motion passed unanimously.

The council approved three invoices from the city’s water system engineering firm, Carter & Sloope:

  • In the amount of $13,092.50 for various engineering services, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) permitting for water line work on state Route 515 near BB&T bank and on state Route 60 in Mineral Bluff and plan reviews of the Fannin County Agriculture and Public Safety Complex buildings;
  • In the amount of $11,639.10 for continued monitoring of metals and temperature at the city’s wastewater treatment facility; and
  • In the amount of $11,363.75 for providing preliminary cost estimates to GDOT for proposed utility relocation along state Route 5 as part of the forthcoming highway expansion.

 

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Author

Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

News from Fannin County Chamber of Commerce

Business, Community
Fannin County Chamber of Commerce  eNewsletter
May 2018
News for Members
Fannin Co. Chamber Logo

Leading the way to economic vitality and quality of life in Blue Ridge, McCaysville, Morganton and all of beautiful Fannin County, Georgia.

Two Great Business After Hours In May!

_________________________________

Member News and Events

Don’t Forget to Vote!
Early Voting has started. The primary election is May 22.
 
 
Welcome to the Georgia Rural Development Council
The Georgia Rural Development Council will come to Blue Ridge to meet regarding Equitable Use & Compensation of Right of Way Usage for
Emerging Communications Technologies on May 15 & 16. The meetings will be at Bear Claw Vineyards from 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on May 15 and  8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on May 16.

Fannin Regional Hospital presents 
“Dinner with the Doctor” 

Dinner with the Doctor will feature Dr. Kevin Bunn, Orthopedic Surgeon. The dinner is this afternoon at Willow Creek Falls at 5:30. Learn more about the doctor and there will also be a question and answer opportunity. Reservations are required. Contact Susan Kiker at (706) 964-2730.
Fannin County Host to Georgia Outdoor Writers Association
We were pleased to have Fannin County chosen as the host community for the Georgia Outdoor Writers Association’s Annual Conference. We had approximately 30 writers in the area for 4 days.  Thank you to all of our wonderful partners who worked with us and made this a successful event. They had a great time, experienced many of the wonderful things that our community has to offer and they are looking forward to a return visit.

Thank You Golf Tournament Sponsors!
The Spring Golf Tournament is happening May 22 at Old Toccoa Farm. Good luck golfers and thank you to all those who sponsored this event!
Title Sponsor – ETC Communications
Lunch Sponsor – Mountain Valley Community Bank
Putting Contest Sponsor – Mountain Gateway Appraisal
Teams – Ace Hardware, Appalachian Insurance & Financial Services, Blue Ridge Pharmacy, Copper Basin Federal Credit Union, Georgia Mountain Cabin Rentals, Keel Properties, Kevin Panter Insurance, Lifeforce, Mountain Valley Motors, NGYOA, North Georgia Sports Zone, Summit Inspections, Temple Baptist Church, Trane Rental Services, UNG, United Community Bank

Welcome New Members!

Allstar Photo Service

McCaysville, GA, 30555
(706) 455-0912
Jerry Daves
Allstar Photo Services specializes in special events, team sports, custom portraits and posters.
Like us on Facebook
Daffodil Hill Romantic Carriage House Suite
(706) 851-4430
Barbara Noyes
Daffodil Hill Romantic Carriage House Suite is a custom built suite perfect for those wanting to spend their honeymoon in Blue Ridge, GA. Enjoy a heated Whirlpool Jacuzzi in bedroom with king size bed, a separate large bathroom/dressing room, marble heart sinks and a double shower in this 2,200 square foot custom designed suite for two. The large gourmet kitchen is equipped with all the essentials and guests will have a supply of farm fresh eggs, homemade bread, bacon and waffle mix. The bottom floor houses their beautiful horses and three replica 1800’s carriages available for rides or learning to drive while enjoying your stay. Please call owners for rental availability.
 
 
Delivery Dudes
(706) 760-6857
Louis Brian
Delivery Dudes is a full delivery company delivering food, groceries, etc. Whether you are in-town or out in a cabin Delivery Dudes will deliver to you! Riding the train? Delivery Dudes will have your picnic lunch waiting for you to enjoy when you arrive in McCaysville. Enjoy your lunch by the beautiful Toccoa River!
Like us on Facebook
Ed’s Supply Company
Rodney Hayes
Ed’s Supply Company offers HVAC/R wholesale.
Flying Trout Restaurant
Blairsville, GA, 30512
(706) 745-8000
Michelle Evans
Flying Trout Restaurant offers seasonal “soul satisfying” southern favorites featuring only the finest ingredients. Setting out to be the best food in the South, their culinary team rocks a menu of classics. Always fresh, always new, always comfort food with attitude made just for you. 
Like us on Facebook
Marketplace Ministries
Mineral Bluff, GA, 30559
(404)323-2074
Steve Brown
Marketplace Ministries is a non-profit faith based Georgia corporation formed to share Jesus with business leaders.
 
Southern Comfort Cabin Downtown Blue Ridge Rentals
240 West Main St.
Blue Ridge, GA, 30513
(706) 258-3737
CJ Stam

Southern Comfort Cabin Downtown Blue Ridge Rentals features vacation rentals and lodging options in downtown Blue Ridge, GA. Convenient to all the shopping, dining, galleries and the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
Like us on Facebook

The Martyn House

912 Flat Branch Rd.
Ellijay, GA, 30540
(706) 635-4759
https://themartynhouse.com/the-farm/

JoAnn Antonelli

The Martyn House Farm is a circa 1930’s Homestead located in Gilmer County on 18 beautiful acres and is home to Glamping.Their unique lodging consists of 3 Luxury Sleeping Tents, The Studio, The Cottage and The Millhouse. Guests can embrace the peace and quiet of nature, while still enjoying all the comforts of home. The Martyn House offers seasonal Farm to Table dinners, Second Saturday Workshops, Retreats and is an Artist Residency. 
Like us on Facebook

Ribbon Cuttings, Congratulations!
April 24 was the ribbon cutting for Viking Outdoor. Viking Outdoor proudly provides custom lighting, sound systems and water features for the mountain community. With over 20 years in the industry, the Viking can create the right system for you – call today! 404-952-3542
Like us on Facebook
________________________________________________
April 25 was the ribbon cutting for High Country Pest Control. High Country Pest Control offers structural pest control; termite, carpenter bees, etc.
(706) 455-8672
Like us on Facebook

Chamber Member Anniversaries!
 

El Rio Mexican Restaurant

 
Aska Lodge B&B, LLC
Huck’s General Store
Noontootla Creek Farms
Walhala Ridge Furnishings
 

Appalachian Beverage
Blue Ridge Fry Shop
Blue Ridge iClinic
Blue Ridge Medical Group – Dr. Clifford Thompson, F.A.C.S., Dr. Jonathan Bloch, F.A.C.S. and Dr. Nathan Kincaid General Surgery
Blue Ridge Medical Group – Dr. Emily Sue Burnham, Internal Medicine
Blue Ridge Mountain Trail Rides at Hells Hollow
Copper Basin Federal Credit Union
Eagles Rest
Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Goodspeed Architects, Inc.
Grumpy Old Men Brewing, LLC
King Heating & Air
MotoXAdventures
Papa’s Pizza To Go
Ray Gaines
Real Estate Around the Mountains
The Farnham Law Firm

May Community Events Calendar
 
April 27 – May 5 – The Art of Larry Smith, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association
May 4 – Veterans Fishing Rodeo, Chattahoochee Fish Hatchery
May 4 – Stand-Up Comedy with the Geico Caveman John Lehr, Grumpy Old Men Brewing
May 5 – Meet the cast of the TV show “Quick Draw”, Firefly Music Private Cabin
May 5-6 – Georgia Apple Blossom Festival, Ellijay
May 5 – Awake the Grapes, Serenberry Vineyards
May 5– Kentucky Derby Party, Blue Ridge Lake Front Address
May 5 – Fred Johnson Jazz Musician, Blue Ridge Community Theater
May 10 –   SAAG Spring Art Show, Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association
May 12 – Georgia Mountain Classic Car Show, Downtown Blue Ridge
May 12 – Master Gardeners Plant Sale, United Community Bank Pavilion
May 17 – June 3 – Murder Room – Comedy, Blue Ridge Community Theater
May 17 – Jane the Move, The Swan Drive-In
May 18 – Endangered Species Scavenger Hunt, Downtown Blue Ridge
May 19-20 – Discovery Days, Project Chimps
May 25 – Georgia Mountain Classics Cruise In, Dairy Queen
May 26-27 – 43rd Annual Spring Arts in the Park, Downtown Blue Ridge
May 26 – All Star Monster Trucks, Blue Ridge Motorsports Park
 
Recurring Events
Tuesday
* Trivia Tuesdays, Fightingtown Tavern
Wednesday
*Visitor Time, 10:00 a.m. – Noon, Tri-State Model Railroaders, Mineral Bluff Historic Depot
Thursday 

 
Bingo, Kiwanis Fairgrounds
* Trivia Night! Fannin Brewing Company
* Brewery Tours & Tastings:
Thursday through Saturday’s at  Fannin Brewing Company and Grumpy Old Men.
* Swan Drive-in –Now Playing
FOR THE FULL CALENDAR –Click Here

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In This Issue
Business After Hours
Candidate Forum
Member News & Events
Golf Tournament Sponsors
Welcome New Members!
Ribbon Cuttings
Chamber Member Anniversaries
Community Events Calendar

Chamber Calendar of Events
May 1 – Ribbon Cutting for Blue Ridge Bird Seed Co., 611 East Main St., Blue Ridge
11:00 a.m.
May 2 – Lunch N Leads, Blue Jeans Pizza and Pasta Factory
12:00 p.m.
May 3 – Candidate Forum, Blue Ridge Community Theater, 2591 East 1st St., Blue Ridge
5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
May 3 – Leadership Fannin, Economic Development, Fannin County Chamber
9:00 a.m.
May 4 – Ribbon Cutting for Blue Ridge Motorsports Park, 2252 Sugar Creek Rd., Blue Ridge
10:00 a.m.
May 4 – Ribbon Cutting for Blue Ridge Adventure Gear, 342 East Main St., Blue Ridge
4:00 p.m.
May 11 – Leadership Fannin, Tourism, Blue Ridge Mountain Arts Association
9:00 a.m.
May 15 – Business After Hours, Fannin Regional Hospital at Riverstone Medical Campus, 101 Riverstone Vista, Blue Ridge
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
May 16 – Ribbon Cutting for Vacasa, 21 High Park Dr., Ste. 7, Blue Ridge
11:30 a.m.
May 16 – Golf Committee Meeting at the Chamber
12:00 p.m.
May 17 – Leadership Fannin Graduation
May 18 – Ribbon Cutting for State Farm Insurance/Charles Edmondson, 154 Orvin Lance Connector, Blue Ridge
2:00 p.m.
May 22 – 2nd Annual Spring Golf Tournament at Old Toccoa Farm
9:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Tee Off
May 23 – Ribbon Cutting for Downtown Accommodations by Mountain Top Cabin Rentals, 224 West Main St., Blue Ridge
10:00 a.m.
May 23 – Board of Directors Meeting, Chamber Board Room, Executive Committee at 11:00 a.m, Board of Directors
12:00 p.m.
May 24 – Ambassador Lunch at Masseria, 67 Roberts Way, Blue Ridge
12:00 p.m.
May 29 – Business After Hours, Tri-State Model Railroad, 150 Railroad Ave., Mineral Bluff
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
____________________
Member Renewals
 
Allen Construction
Appalachian Beverage
Appalachian Insurance & Financial Services
Aska Lodge B&B, LLC
Assist Homecare Services
Automated Creations, Inc.
B.R. Fitness
Best Western Mountain View Inn
Blue Ridge Adventure Wear
Blue Ridge Bird Seed Company
Blue Ridge Fry Shop
Blue Ridge Heights, LLC
Blue Ridge Lodging Association
Blue Ridge Medical Group – Dr. Dillon Miller, Family Practice
Blue Ridge Medical Group – Dr. Emily Sue Burnham, Internal Medicine
Blue Ridge Mountain Canopy Adventure at Hells Hollow
Blue Ridge Mountain Trail Rides at Hells Hollow
Blue Ridge Olive Oil Company
Boat Dock Bar and Grill at Lake Blue Ridge Marina
Broken Bull
Brookstone Apartments
Chick-fil-A
Complete Home Services
Coosa Creek Marketing Products
Cucina Rustica
Duplicating Products, Inc.
Eagles Perch Lodge
Eagles Rest
Edwin C. Pound, III, MD, PC
El Rio Mexican Restaurant
Faith Presbyterian Church, USA
Fannin County Board of Education
Gene Rutkowski, Mountain Place Realty
Georgia Mountains Hospice
Grandaddy Mimm’s Distillery
Green Leaf Lawn & Ornamental, LLC
Grumpy Old Men Brewing
Harry Norman, REALTORS
Heartwood Health, Art and Yoga
Hometown Foods IGA
Huck’s General Store
Humane Society of Blue Ridge
Iron Bridge General Store & Cafe
Jan Kantor
Janken Daniels – BHGRE Metro Brokers
John M. Hicks
John Soave Custom Home Builders
King Heating & Air
Lisa Affordable Websites
Maureen Roeland
MotoXAdventures
Mountain Education Charter High School
Mountain Emergency Animal Center (MEAC)
Mountain Gateway Appraisal
Noontootla Creek Farms
North Georgia Cabins & Land, LLC
North Georgia Spas
Ocoee Adventure Center
Old Toccoa Farm
Papa’s Pizza To Go
Pedego Electric Bikes
Perfect Word Data Services
Persimmon Creek Campground,Trout Pond & Gem Mine
Roper’s Heating and Air Service
Satterwhite Log Homes
Scott Nichols, Coldwell Banker High Country Realty
Stonehenge Senior Living
TANK TOWN USA
Teatrees Boutique Spa
Terry L. Wilson, LLC
The Cleaning Booth
The Diamond Center
The Last Stop Grill
The Toccoa Lodge
TRC Hauling & Paving, Inc.
Van Zandt’s Riverwalk Grill & Grocery
Vista Scapes
Wilderness Creek Falls & Ridge Brook of Blue Ridge
Willow Creek Falls and Vineyard
_____________
Member Events
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