Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 6/7 – 6/14

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Panter and Fitts give their opinion on recent affordable housing vote

City Council, Community, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Planning Commission, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Councilmembers Mike Panter and Nathan Fitts are sharing their reasoning behind a recent controversial vote on a proposed housing project presented by the Beverly J. Searles Foundation.

The following are direct statements from Panter and Fitts regarding their votes and opinions on the matter.

From Councilmember Mike Panter

Why I Voted No

To the Citizens of Blue Ridge, I have been asked multiple times sine May 11th, why I didn’t support the rezoning request and the affordable housing development with the Searles Foundation.Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Planning Commission, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

Let me begin by saying I do and have always supported the need for affordable housing in the City of Blue Ridge and Fannin County. However, just because you support something doesn’t mean you should automatically vote for something that is going to affect the citizens for the next 50 years. You must be able to support why you believe that this project is best for the city residents. Especially when over 100 citizens who live within a mile of the proposed project have signed a petition against the project.

When you stop and think about an additional 171 rental units being built and 200 additional automobiles daily, between two schools, on a heavily traveled road that has no traffic lights, turn lanes, street lights, sidewalks, roundabouts, any type of traffic study, or a 5-to-10-year strategic growth plan, it doesn’t make sense. You say to yourself there has to be a better location.

This project was started by the Haights on January 28, 2021. The variance application was not applied for until February 26, 2021. It was briefly introduced to the Council April 13, 2021 without any detailed information. It was presented to the zoning and planning board May 2, 2021 and to the council for final vote May 11, 2021. A lot of people didn’t understand that this was a land swap instead of a traditional purchase and sell. In my opinion both boards should have at least 30 days to research and verify their information before voting.

I was the only council member present at the one-hour meeting. Unlike other members of the audience, I was not allowed to speak or ask any questions because I am an elected official. Therefore, the majority of questions I would have asked were not addressed. One member of the Planning Commission was 30 minutes late to the meeting but still felt that they had enough information to make a motion to approve this 20 – 30-million-dollar project.

Is the Searles Foundation the right partner/developer for our city residents if we can only choose one?

  • Who are the partners that will be involved in the Searles Project?
  • Could the project ever be transferred or sold to another entity? What type of entity?
  • Who manages the project? Fairway Management Company? Haight House, LLC? Other?

Even though our current water and sewer is in good shape, the sewer plant was built 23 years ago and is currently in the design phase for a 5-million-dollar rehab. Can it handle another 171 apartments within the Mineral Springs area over the next 3 years?

What effect does President Biden’s 213-billion-dollar proposal for infrastructure and housing have on this project? Will the developer only allow current Fannin County citizens or will they be required to open up the development to qualified candidates within the state, southeast or country?

The following is a list of questions I have for the Foundation and Zoning Board.

  1. If we are going to have only one development within a 2-3 mile radius of the City, is this the best location?
  2. Will the current residents be forced to move?
  3. What is included in the rent? Water, power, cable?
  4. It has been stated that the Searles Foundation minimum rent is $600/month. The majority of residents are currently paying less than $300/month. Does their rent continue to stay the same?
  5. What out of pocket expense will the city residents and tax payers be responsible for?
  6. How do individuals with low to no income currently living in the woods behind businesses, cars, etc. afford the Searles Foundation project?
  7. What is the time period for construction?
  8. Will all of the trees be removed on the 15 acres?
  9. Will a center turn lane be added? If so when will the road be widened?
  10. Will sidewalks, traffic lights, streetlights or roundabouts be added?
  11. Who will be our new city residents? And can we have the answer to this question in a contract?
  12. Offering $40 thousand for road modifications at the end of Mineral Springs will by no means cover the expense. A traffic light and a roundabout would cost in excess of $100,000. Who pays the extra expense? City or County?
  13. Why is the Housing Authority pushing a 50-year contract when the current residents will be moved to the Searles project? There would be no need for this contract.
  14. Would the existing housing units be owned by the Haights and turned into personal rental income or torn down and developed into a trailer park?
  15. Can the Searles Foundation give us a plan or contract of what the current housing authority units will look like in 10 years?

These questions summarize why I requested an additional 2 – 3 days time before I was required to vote. How could I just vote Yes? I believe all of these questions need to be answered before a vote can take place which will affect our community for the next 50 years.

From Councilmember Nathan Fitts

I am extremely disappointed in some of our city elected officials and with the denial of the zoning for the affordable housing at the council meeting last week. To answer some of the outstanding questions I’ve heard and saw I wanted to outline the factual information as a council member. I know there have been some questions on why we didn’t table the vote for the rezoning.Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Planning Commission, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

First of all, I don’t know why we would have tabled the vote as that was one of the main objectives of the council meeting that was on the agenda. I am the council member who made the motion to APPROVE the zoning contingent upon all of the conditions that had been recommended to us by the Planning Commission and Zoning Board previously who had already heard the request. At a recent previous zoning hearing, the mayor actually violated the city’s meeting policy by allowing it to be tabled and when the question was raised at the meeting about the legalities of being able to table it, I was not willing to participate in anything other than what I knew to be the law and policy in place. Additionally, I had legal counsel who had advised me that we had to vote. Unfortunately, our city attorney was not present and was not available to provide legal advice at the time, so I made the motion and proceeded by the policy that was set for such which is that we were to vote immediately following the hearing. That rule is outlined on page 4 as Item 5 in the Meeting Rules of Procedures. Additionally, all council members had all of the information to review ahead of time. As a matter of fact, all of them had talked with the developer personally, got questions answered, and had from the zoning hearing time frame to the council meeting date to research and investigate any matters regarding this zoning request so a decision could be made the night of the hearing as required. There have been rumors that this hearing was “rushed” or “pushed” through in a matter of a couple of weeks, and I can attest to the fact that such statements are untrue. The amount of time for it was longer than what was required by law and this has been being discussed for many weeks. If there are any proven facts to the contrary, I have not been privy to it and have no knowledge of such.

What is most disappointing, and heartbreaking is that one of the biggest opportunities in the history of this county, in my opinion, for the local community was lost. The need for affordable housing is real and needed in a bad kind of way. The chance for us as the city council and as the community as a whole to help the “locals” was there and stripped away due to political and personal reasons in my opinion. I might also add from knowing all of the facts and information surrounding this project as a whole, I feel that was the reason and reason alone that the mayor voted no for the project is out of spite as one of the parties involved which is ashamed in my opinion. This was not about her and anything political this was about doing what is needed in the area and doing the right thing for the people, something the mayor has lost sight of over the last few years it seems. The reason the mayor publicly gave as she voted no was because she wished she just had some more information and had some numbers for the sewer. I know my jaw probably dropped open when that was the reason given because the mayor is or should be very aware of the city’s infrastructure information as it was her herself who just a couple of weeks ago quoted the exact information at a city council meeting and also as the previous zoning hearing for another developer that she was now acting like she didn’t know anything about and had questions regarding. Well for the record, the question regarding the sewer, was information that she knows and all of us know and have known. As I made the statement at the meeting, the sewer upgrades the city has to do regardless and already have planned to do. Below is a snapshot of our master infrastructure needs for both water and sewer which you will see both of the items in question on that the mayor didn’t know anything about or have recollection of. Perhaps she forgot this spreadsheet even existed because the Mineral Springs sewer and Aska pump station have been on a list for repair/replacement for quite some time and even talked about publicly in March when this information was provided to the public. The mayor herself even spoke about it at the infrastructure meeting we had in April but now a month later for this situation she knows nothing about it. Very interesting. I would highly suggest going back and watching the meeting or reading the minutes of the meeting on infrastructure and you’ll see her concerns stated for the denial were already addressed and she’s fully aware of that. Please listen to the meeting of the April 21, 2021 meeting and compare it to Tuesday night’s council meeting. One would think it was two different Mayors speaking at each meeting. One sounds highly educated about our sewer/water and the other she sounds like she has not clue as to what is going on with it and is confused with questions. So, what was the real reason??? Is she really just totally out of the loop and neglecting her job duties as CEO of the city or did she just use that as an excuse and play dumb so she could vote against it? Now that everything is being researched and dissected and she’s been caught in lie after lie, I would think she would have learned some valuable lessons, however, it doesn’t seem she has. Each of you can do your own research, watch and listen and you can make your own conclusion.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Planning Commission, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

The water and sewer departments are both departments in which I am over so I can speak with firsthand knowledge of these items. These have been planned to be done and are slated to be completed by 2022 regardless of if this project had gotten approved or denied. The Aska pump station already has a task release number and will be applied for through grant at the beginning of next year. The cost is around $1,000,000. The Mineral Springs storm water problem is estimated at $500,000. It too is slated to be completed and corrected by 2021, but we will know more actually next week. Matt Smith, the city’s engineer from Carter and Slope, said that next week we will run another camera and he thinks the lines will have to be replaced as they are too small. He feels the high end of the project is $500,000. As stated, this is all in the works to be completed according to the plan by 2021 and is and has already been planned. The grant for the Aska Pump station would actually benefit from showing that we could have been adding more customers to this area. It shows we will have more ability to pay for these upgrades. Regardless of the project going forward or not, these two things HAVE TO BE DONE! There is no way around it.

In my opinion whether it be that used for the excuse or something else, there was going to be an excuse to vote no because of the underlying motif behind the denial. I had calls from people prior to the meeting trying to get what the true facts were about this project and the developers behind it as people were stating that they were called from the mayor personally giving information and her opinion on the project that were not even factual and were discrediting parties involved and doing what she’s been known to do best which is creating “chaos” to push her agenda. In addition to a personal vendetta towards some of the parties involved she also has been at odds with and has a strong dislike for the director of the housing authority for years. As a matter of fact, the housing authority as of this very minute still doesn’t have a signed coop agreement from the city that has expired, and they’ve been working diligently on getting done for months and months if not well over a year as I’ve been involved the last few months. Every time we get everything done and ready to vote and sign off on it, there’s another hurdle thrown up or excuse to delay it even further. Again, all power plays and personal dislikes which are putting the citizens and public’s best interest in the crossfire which is shameful and disgusting. For those people who are living in the tents around town, in campers and in tractor trailers, the homeless, and those living with family members because they can’t find housing and affordable housing at that in this area, they are the ones that this effected the most. This could have made an impact on their lives and it was an opportunity lost and only for the reasons for the mayor to flex her muscles for political and personal vendettas. I want to thank all of those people who have put so much time and effort in trying to get affordable housing in this area. It is needed way beyond what most people who live locally even realize. I hope that we can all do our part to help those in need and that there will be a new solution for affordable housing at some point in the near future for the residents of this area.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 5/31 – 6/7

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 5/24 – 5/31

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 5/24 – 5/27

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Management of City Parking will not go out to bid

City Council, Development Authority, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Parking, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Executive Parking Systems, Shelli WoJohn, Bid, Process, Contract

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Tempers flared again as Blue Ridge City Council voted on whether it would be in the City’s best interest to put the management of municipal parking out to bid.

In a second Special Called Meeting held on Friday, May 21, 2021, Council Member Nathan Fitts proposed that the City release Executive Parking Systems (EPS) from their current contract managing the City’s parking and put the duties of parking management out to bid.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Parking, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Executive Parking Systems, Shelli WoJohn, Bid, Process, Contract

Payment kiosk installed by EPS for 24/7 collections.

Fitts stated his reasoning for his proposal was that by not placing the service out to bid there was a look of impropriety in allowing the contract to continue without any competition and that EPS was in violation of the terms that had been agreed upon.

“The fact that this agreement only applied to special events is further confirmed by the audio of the City Council meeting in October 2019 when the council voted on this issue,” Fitts said, explaining the breach of contract.

According to Fitts the agreement with EPS was for the company to handle Special Events parking only, not day to day collections that the company is currently providing.

Council Member Rhonda Haight played audio clips from a previous meeting between City Council and the Downtown Development Authority where Fitts does clarify that EPS would be used for Special Events only.

Fitts said that EPS continuing to collect money for parking that was not from Special Events was in fact illegal.

Fitts stated, “The council has a duty to the citizens to immediately stop these unauthorized funds that are being collected by Executive Parking.”

During discussion, fellow Council Member Mike Panter referred to an email sent by City Attorney James Balli that stated “In this instance, the parking contract is not required to be submitted to the sealed bid process”.

The current contract between the City of Blue Ridge and EPS states of parking that EPS will furnish duties “as needed or requested by the City” and that EPS would collect “20% of the Net Operating income from each event, which is the total income made per event minus EPS employee expenses”.

EPS had presented the City with an updated contract changing the wording of these two statements to duties furnished would be “24 hours a day/7 days a week/ 365 days a year” and collecting “25% of the Net Operating Income each month from all City Properties, which is the total income made per month per location”.

The updated contract, however, was never approved by council.

“I know what the contract says,” Mayor Donna Whitener expressed when questioned if she understood the contract,  “It says as needed and you all needed it.”

Fitts responded to Whitener saying that her opinion is invalid, “You have a conflict of interest because you sold them a piece of property. You’re in violation of the Charter.”

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Parking, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Executive Parking Systems, Shelli WoJohn, Bid, Process, Contract

EPS signage located in municipal parking off of Mountain Street.

Shelli Wojohn, General Counsel at Valet Vault & Executive Parking Systems, also spoke up saying, “An event is every time we operate as per stated in the contract.”

“So every day is an event in Blue Ridge?” Haight questioned WoJohn.

As the meeting began to unravel, Whitener tried to adjourn but Haight said adjournment would not take place since a motion had already been made and the Council was in the middle of a vote.

Cesar Martinez, Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, was asked his opinion since he had been present throughout much of the discussions related to the City’s parking.

“In my opinion, and I am not a lawyer,” Martinez responded, “When we let them put the parking meter up in the city municipal lot that was under the request of the City. They were doing it as needed and requested by the City.”

Panter and Council Member Harold Herndon voted against putting the service out to bid.

“They’ve done a good job. There was a need. Income has been good,” Herndon explained his position, “I don’t think the City at this time of the year can afford a delay or holding up services for any length of time.” 

During fiscal year 2020 the City made $65,116.87 in revenues collected by EPS.

With two opposing votes (Panter and Herndon) and two in favor (Haight and Fitts), a tie breaking vote was cast by Mayor Whitener against bidding out parking management. Council Member Robbie Cornelius was not present for the meeting.

Haight went on record that she felt the Whitener’s vote was a direct conflict of interest due to a real estate transaction between the Mayor and EPS. 

Haight also stated of EPS continuing to collect revenues everyday and not just for Special Events, “Right now in my opinion they (EPS) are taking money that doesn’t belong to them and that’s theft.”

Council rejects rezoning request on affordable housing development

City Council, Community, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Planning Commission, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The proposed affordable housing project to be located on Mineral Springs Drive has come to a halt after a tie breaking vote denied the rezoning request put forward by the Beverly J. Searles Foundation.

Emotions were high in a full room as City Council listened to sides both in support and in opposition of the new project.

The crowd gathered at City Hall on May 11 showed overwhelming support of the proposed affordable housing project, where at the Planning Commission meeting held on May 4, citizens present then were mainly in opposition of.

Despite the opposition, the Planning Commission chose to move forward, recommending rezoning of the area from R2 residential to R3 high density residential, contingent upon suggestions made through the staff analysis.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Planning Commission, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

Proposed plans of affordable housing development in City of Blue Ridge.

Among the supporters present at the City Council meeting were many who work directly with various charitable organizations in Fannin County.

“Without a stable place to call home, it is very difficult for working families to show up for work consistently,” Sherry Morris, Executive Director of Fannin County Family Connection, said of situations that she encounters daily, “I know it seems unbelievable but national statistics show that impoverished citizens work an average of 1.4 jobs. That’s right, it takes a great deal of working hours at service wages just to be poor. Let’s be a caring community and give a hand-up to our citizens.”

Philip Searles, President of the Beverly J. Searles Foundation, was also in attendance to give Council and the public a brief overview of the intended affordable housing units. 

Searles took the time to address several of the concerns that had been brought to his attention during the Planning Commission meeting.

Of these concerns, Searles addressed specifically the danger of the intersection at Mineral Springs Drive and Aska Road stating that his foundation was willing to work with the county and offer $40,000 towards a solution to the area, such as a traffic signal.

Searles also addressed nearby residents’ concerns of increased crime once the units were occupied. According to Searles, the units would not be available for occupancy to anyone with a previous felony that is on record. Searles also stated that he had spoken with local law enforcement on the matter.

His foundation proposed that they would install a vehicle tag reader at the entrance of the complex. This reader would have a direct feed to law enforcement and police would be able to monitor whether any vehicle entering the premises is connected to an active warrant.

“I’m not expecting this to buy you all or make you all want me here, I get that, but I want to let you all know that I hear you all and I’m trying to do what I can,” Searles turned and spoke to a group of would be neighboring residents who had expressed concerns during the Planning Commission meeting.

Residents from neighboring properties still spoke in opposition and expressed concerns over the City’s infrastructure as well as decreasing property values.

Council Members discussed their concerns over the project, with Council Member Nathan Fitts stating that his main concern would be with the added traffic to the area.

Council Member Mike Panter questioned Searles over recently passed Federal legislation allowing for Federal Housing to be filled with persons outside of the general area. Searles assured Panter that this would not happen due to the need for the housing in Fannin County.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Attorney, James Balli, Planning Commission, Family Connection, Sherry Morris

Crowd storms out of City Hall after rezoning request is denied.

Traver Aiken, Manager of the Blue Ridge Housing Authority, explained that the demand in Fannin County is great for this type of housing. All of the Housing Authority units are currently occupied and according to Aiken there is a waiting list of approximately 70 applicants.

“I’ll be honest with you. I’m not ready to make a decision,” Panter stopped Council Member Nathan Fitts before a motion was made to vote, “We just got the report from the Planning Commission today.”

Discussion began of the legalities of tabling the rezoning request.  Tabling would allow Council Members more time to research the topic. 

With no clear guidance on whether delaying the vote was within the legal powers of the City Charter, Fitts motioned to accept the rezoning request with prior contingencies in place.

Council Member Rhonda Haight recused herself from the vote as she is the current owner of the property located on Mineral Springs in which the affordable housing complex would be built.

Council Members Nathan Fitts and Herald Herndon voted in favor of the rezoning request and Council Members Mike Panter and Robbie Cornelius voted against.

Mayor Donna Whitener cast the tie breaking vote in opposition of the rezoning request: “I don’t think anybody here is opposed to affordable housing but I just think that if we had had some more information, it would have been a little better. I would have liked to have known what this number is for sewer, so I vote no.”

 

Featured Image : Crowd gathers at City Hall for Council meeting regarding rezoning request for affordable housing development

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 5/17 – 5/24

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 5/10 – 5/17

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 5/3 – 5/10

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Affordable housing project one step closer to coming to Blue Ridge

City Council, Community, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Beverly J. Searles Affordable Housing project is one step closer to coming to Blue Ridge. This comes after the Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend moving forward with rezoning of certain acreage to R3 high density residential.

The Beverly J. Searles Foundation, a Georgia based nonprofit that develops affordable housing, has a variety of requests pertaining to properties located along Mineral Springs Drive.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County

Philip Searles explains to the Planning Commission the plans for the affordable housing project.

Among these requests is for 1.2 acres of the property to be annexed into the City of Blue Ridge. Variances will also be considered for Phase 2 of this project, which will include units for age restrictive (senior) living. These variances are to reduce the number of required parking spaces from two per unit to one per unit and to increase the density from 10 units per acre to 12.

The Planning Commission was present to give recommendation to Blue Ridge City Council on whether the current zoning of the land should be moved from R2 to R3, allowing for a higher density population. 

Philip Searles, President of the Beverly J. Searles Foundation, was in attendance to explain more about the project.

According to Searles, the project would be in competition with 90 to 100 other proposed housing developments across the state of Georgia. Ultimately the Georgia Department of Community Affairs would have final say on which of these projects would receive funding to move forward with construction.

“We believe what we have in Blue Ridge would be competitive,” Searles said of the proposed development off of Mineral Springs Drive.

The project consists of two phases with Phase 1 being family units and Phase 2 being restrictive age units (55 years of age and older).

Together 171 new units would be developed, 87 for family units and 84 for restrictive age.

Rent is based on median income of the area and is currently being proposed starting at:

  • $603 for one bedroom/one bath
  • $655 for two bedroom/one bath
  • $722 for two bedroom/two bath
  • $822 for three bedroom/two bath
  • $900 for four bedroom/two bath

The buildings in the family units section would be three-four story split units, while all buildings in the restrictive age units would be single story.

“We know that affordable housing is a major issue in Blue Ridge. This is why we’re here,” Searles stated of the need for these units in the area.

Traver Aiken, who currently manages the Blue Ridge Housing Authority, will take over management of the affordable housing built by the Beverly J. Searles Foundation and all current residents of the Housing Authority will be relocated into the new units: “All of my units under multi family housing under HUD (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development) will be moving to that facility.”

There are currently 48 residents to be relocated.

Planning Commission Board Member Angie Arp commented on the current cleanliness of the Housing Authority units and questioned if the same care will be taken with the new project.

“Same policies would be in place,” Aiken responded to Arp, and welcomed anyone with concerns to look into his history with Blue Ridge Housing Authority, “I think I run a pretty tight ship.”

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County

Planning Commission Board Members discuss concerns with those present in opposition of the project.

Applicants to the new facility would have to undergo a criminal background check. Aiken stated that applicant’s previous landlords would also be contacted and that there are provisions in the policies for Aiken to even do a current property inspection of an applicant’s living conditions before making the decision on if the applicant would be a good fit for one of the units.

Biannual HUD inspections would also take place of the units as well as inspections for the State of Georgia.

Residents of the area were present in opposition, stating many concerns over the placement of the project on Mineral Springs Drive. A petition with over 100 signatures was also presented in opposition of the new development.

“It’s going to put a burden on the fire department. It’s going to put a burden on the police department. It’s going to put a burden on the roads. It’s going to put a burden against the whole neighborhood,” one resident stated.

Those present in opposition explained that there are concerns of criminal behavior in the area. They also expressed concerns over infrastructure (sewer and water), drainage and traffic along Mineral Springs Drive, stating that the added development would only amplify these already existing issues.

Of major concern is the added traffic to Mineral Springs Drive. The road already sees a number of motorists due to the existing Mineral Springs Apartments (not affiliated with the new project) and many teen drivers from Fannin County High School.

Residents of the area feel that a development of this size would be better suited along Hwy. 515 where the added traffic could be handled.

Both those for and against the proposed development agreed that the intersection of Mineral Springs Drive and Aska Road would be of major concern as its current setup has been the cause of many near miss collisions. The County, however, would have to address this intersection as both roads in that particular area are County roads.

Searles addressed those present in opposition, “As much as it hurts me to say, Nimbyism (NIMBY – acronym for Not In My Backyard) is a true thing. I deal with this everywhere I go, cause everybody says we want affordable housing, we just want it out there.” 

Planning, Zoning and Project Manager Jeff Stewart gave the staff analysis of the area, recommending that before any Land Disturbance Permit is issued he would like to have an engineer evaluate the sewer and water. If any updates to these systems must take place the developer would have to cover costs.

Stewart also recommended getting letters of approval for the proposed development from the Fannin County Fire Department and the Fannin County School District.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend rezoning of the area, with completion of the recommendations of the staff analysis.

If approved on a local and state level, The Beverly J. Searles Foundation affordable housing project could begin next year, with Phase 1 (family units) starting in June 2022 and Phase 2 (restrictive age units) starting in June 2023.

City Council is expected to vote on the rezoning at their monthly meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 11, 2020.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Affordable Housing, Beverly J. Searles Foundation, Philip Searles, Housing Authority, Traver Aiken, HUD, Family, Senior, Age Restrictive, Mineral Springs Drive, Fannin County

Flyer given out by the Beverly J. Searles Foundation offering explanation of the proposed project.

The Blue Coyote faces alleged ordinance violations

City Council, Downtown Blue Ridge, News
Blue Ridge, Georgia, City, Blue Coyote, Alcohol, Licenses, Closed, Hearing, Court, Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Municipal Judge, Robert Sneed, Petition

Blue Ridge, Ga. – City Council met Friday, April 30, 2020 in a special called meeting to appoint a Hearing Officer that will oversee a case involving the possible “suspension and revocation of an occupational tax certificate allowing for the sale of alcoholic beverages”.

Blue Ridge Municipal Court Judge Robert Sneed will be put in place as the hearing officer.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, City, Blue Coyote, Alcohol, Licenses, Closed, Hearing, Court, Council, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Municipal Judge, Robert Sneed, Petition

City Council meets to instate Hearing Officer.

Council members were unable to speak on the specifics of the case, with Mayor Donna Whitener telling press, “All questions on the matter will have to be directed to the hearing officer.”

The case is presumably involving the City of Blue Ridge vs. The Blue Coyote, a restaurant in the Commercial Business District of Blue Ridge.

Recent events at the Blue Coyote have caused complaints from citizens, along with allegations of the establishment being in violation of numerous sections of the City’s Alcohol Ordinance.

One issue that has been discussed on previous occasions, not only of the Blue Coyote but of neighboring businesses, is violation of the noise ordinance due to live amplified music. The Blue Coyote, however, has not received a citation from the City on the matter.

The most recent issue that could be cause for the hearing involves an altercation that took place between patrons of The Blue Coyote. That altercation which took place in April continued outside of the establishment onto City property according to sources.

Currently several businesses in Fannin County are supporting a petition that is circulating to save The Blue Coyote from possible penalties of the hearing. 

The hearing is set to take place in May but could see delays if requested by either legal party.

Sneed will ultimately decide the fate of the establishment. If found to be in violation of the City’s Alcohol Ordinance, several possibilities of penalties are on the table for The Blue Coyote. These penalties range from a fine, to a probation period where no other violations may occur, to the possible revocation of the occupational tax certificate allowing for the sale of alcoholic beverages.

 

Featured Image courtesy of Fannin County Chamber of Commerce website.

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 4/22 – 5/3

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Throw a Dog a Bone – Help fund the HSBR Dog Park

News
Greetings!
When was the last time you visited our Campus and our Off-Leash Dog Park at 171 Mineral Springs Rd?
It is a beautiful space, but it is in need of a little attention.  With the wet and snowy winter we had, we have a lot of mud down at the dog park, on both the Large and Small dog sides.  With renewed attention to this – we tried to put some grass seeds down to promote the grass growth, but again, with all the rain, the grass seeds have all washed away and we are back to the MUD!!!
We have done some research, and have found some PET TURF that will work perfectly for us at the dog park.  We are aiming to raise funds to get one side done (the small dog side), and then move on to the big dog side. 
The PET TURF is expensive – it will cost about $25,000 to get the Small dog side done.  We have created a  special campaign with hopes of a beautiful green turf-coated Dog Park!  
In tandem with the Turf Upgrade,
we have resurrected the Throw A Dog A Bone program.
This will help with regular maintenance and smaller improvements to the dog park – like a water feature or two!  Depending on how many bones we sell, this too can contribute to the PET TURF!

Fannin County Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report 4/19 – 4/22

Arrest Reports, Police & Government

Arrest report with photos provided by the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office.  The Georgia Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. 35-01-18) allows for FetchYourNews.com to obtain and post the arrest records of any and all individuals arrested in Fannin County. Those arrests are posted on FetchYourNews.com for viewing pleasure. Please remember that all individuals listed have been arrested and charged, however, they are presumed innocent until guilt has been proven in a court of law.

Blue Ridge playground reopens to the public

City Council, Community, Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – After much wait and debate, the playground at Blue Ridge City’s downtown park is officially reopen for public use.

Several council members, Mayor and members of the city’s Street Department  met at the park on Thursday, April 22 to commemorate the reopening.

Blue Ridge, Georgia, Fannin County, Censure, Conduct, City Council, Post 1, Harold Herdon, Post 2, Rhonda Haight, Post 3, Mike Panter, Post 4, Robbie Cornelius, Post 5, Nathan Fitts, Mayor, Donna Whitener, Park, Playground, Open, Angie Arp

City’s playground with newly installed padding and turf.

The park had been closed for several months after Council Member Mike Panter discovered that certain aspects were not in safety compliance and needed to be addressed.

“I did not want the liability. I did not want the city to have the liability, and I felt like it was my responsibility to close the park,” Panter said in a past meeting, defending his stance to close the park, “I know I did the right thing.”

The park was initially in compliance upon original renovations, headed by former council member Angie Arp, but issue arose over lack of upkeep following these renovations. 

In particular the park’s mulch had become compacted over the years and no longer met safety standards to provide ample padding.

“We haven’t had any additional mulch added in three and a half years. We have not had an inspection in three and half years since it was put in,” Panter had previously explained.

City Council voted for the long lasting synthetic turf and padding option, presented by Panter, to cover the park’s grounds and the City of Blue Ridge Street Department worked diligently to correct any drainage issues in the area. 

“It’s going to be done correctly. It’s going to be done right,” Panter had stated of moving forward with the padding and turf option.

The city has also received approximately $19,000 from a private donor for shades to be installed at the park. These shades will be installed on the playground’s existing equipment.

“The shades have been ordered,” Panter said, “And as soon as they arrive they will be installed.”

Arp also stopped by the park to see the latest in renovations and commented, “It is really nice. I’m glad that it will be opened back up in time for the children to really use when school lets out for the year.”

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