Street preaching allowed. McCaysville City Council clarifies new ordinance.

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – McCaysville City Council made attempts to clarify the purpose and the parameters surrounding the newly adopted “Vendor Ordinance” at their regular July monthly meeting.

The ordinance, adopted in June, was set in place for public safety according to council. By requiring vendors to obtain a permit before hitting the streets of the city, it allows for city officials to monitor activity and put in place necessary precautions ahead of events.

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Richard Peacock’s post via Facebook regarding the new city ordinance.

The ordinance requires street vendors to apply at City Hall for a permit, and there is a $25.00 application fee. This application fee is waived for nonprofit organizations and these groups can receive a permit for free.

The McCaysville City Council was moved to pass this ordinance due to the growth of the city and its festivals. Controversy was met, however, when Richard Peacock an open air preacher, posted to Facebook that the ordinance had stopped a young missionary from spreading his testimony.

“This is Aiden, he was saved last year and this year God laid it on his heart to be a missionary. Last week he handed out nearly 200 gospel tracts,” Peacock’s June 30 Facebook post read and goes on to say, “He (Aiden) wanted to go again but I have to tell him McCaysville, will not allow it without a permit. They passed an ordinance last week stopping Christians from sharing the gospel on the public sidewalk.”

FetchYourNews reached out to Peacock asking who had informed him that Aiden could no longer preach on the streets of McCaysville, but we are still awaiting a reply.

Peacock’s post fueled outrage by citizens over the new ordinance, and the McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley even became involved when he publicly replied to the social media post stating: “I have advised Brother Peacock as the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the City of McCaysville I will not nor will my department enforce the ordinance and take away the right for some one [sic] to spread the word of God!”

After the backlash via social media, Councilmember Rodney Patterson addressed those present at the meeting: “Lets go ahead and clear it up. It was never meant for a preacher not to be able to preach on the street. I do want to say that. I would never take a fellar’s rights away who wants to preach. It’s freedom of speech.”

Patterson did clarify that while preaching on the streets did not require a permit, if a preacher were to hand out material such as pamphlets and gospel tracts a permit would be required, and that the permit is free for nonprofit organizations.

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McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley replies to Peacock’s social media post.

Jerry Rice, Reverend of Midway Baptist Church, was present at the meeting and inquired about if a permit would be necessary for his organization to hand out candy and gospel tracts in October, as they have done for many years.

Patterson replied to Rice’s inquiry, “That organization would have to have a permit.”

McCaysville City Attorney Cortney Stuart clarified, “You just need a permit. You also can’t pass out Satanic literature without a permit. It’s just meant for anybody, that’s going to do anything, to have a permit so that the city can monitor it and see what is going on.”

“It’s nothing against nobody,” Patterson added to Stuart’s comments and pointed out that in instances where a controversial group might be handing out literature or demonstrating, that the city would need to know to implement measures such as crowd control.

Stuart also clarified, “The city ordinance only concerns city property.” 

“So if you’re in the IGA parking lot and never touch a city street ain’t nothing we can do to you,” Patterson added, “That’s personal property.”

McCaysville Mayor Thomas Seabolt told the concerned citizens that the city would be holding a workshop to discuss the ordinance further: “I have talked to our lawyer, we’re going to have a workshop in a couple of months. We’ll work on something. I don’t know what will come of it, but we’ll have a workshop.”

With some clarification being given as to the rules of the new ordinance, FYN spoke with Police Chief Earley as to whether he would now enforce the ordinance in instances of preachers and missionaries handing out material without a permit, Earley replied, “I’ve not looked into that yet.”

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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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McCaysville Police respond to the growth of the city

Community, News

McCaysville, Ga. – The City of McCaysville continues to grow with renovation and innovation taking over the small town. This growth brings about economic opportunity and aesthetic upgrades, but with the good also comes the bad. Simply put, anytime you have more people, you will see a rise in crime.

The City of McCaysville Chief of Police Michael Earley spoke to city council members about the workload of his department and the role that law enforcement is playing in keeping the city safe.

Officer Bill Higdon receives officer of the month in March.

Currently the police department has 16 employees, some of which are full-time and others part-time.  Of these employees the city boasts three specialized certified instructors, an arson investigator, a criminal investigator, a hostage negotiator, an FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) certified sniper, and a full tactical team.

“Our town, as we know, is undergoing a continual growing cycle,” Earley stated explaining the need for the growth in his department and adding, “which deserve the most professional protection needed to best serve the citizens, business owners, and tourists.”

Last month, May 2019, the McCaysville Police Department responded to 41 dispatch calls, 228 phone calls, 23 walk-ins, and 92 vehicle stops. This resulted in 41 citations being given, 4 arrests being made, and 46 warnings being issued.

The Criminal Investigation Division currently has several open investigations including a case of statutory rape and a case of burglary with warrants expected to be issued soon.

Earley also made mention to a drug related case, “We are actively pursuing a drug investigation with acid / heroin.”

Appointed to Chief of Police on March 16, 2016, Earley gave the stats for the department since his time in that position: “Since my appointment, we have made 100 misdemeanor arrests, 40 felony arrests, and of that number 56 were drug arrests.”

The department, also since that Earley’s appointment, has issued 654 uniform citations and currently have 14 active investigations and 28 active pending warrants.

“Last year alone our department answered 1660 for services from the Fannin County 911 center,” Earley spoke highly of his staff’s work.

Earley compared these numbers to the statistics of previous years. In 2015 only 11 arrests were made for the entire year, and the previous year of 2014 only saw three arrests.

“I appreciate everything you all have done for me and helping me bring the police department where it needs to be. I feel very confident in what we have as a police department now,” Earley addressed the McCaysville City Council for their role in making the department “a professional law enforcement agency”.

Council member Sue Beaver replied to Earley, “Speaking on behalf of the council, thank you. You do a great job for us.”

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Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

City Council Backs Derelict Property Ordinance

City Council, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council backed their newly proposed Derelict Property Ordinance during their meeting on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, citing improvements to current ordinance.

One of the structures targeted by the Derelict Property Ordinance. Click to enlarge.

As one would expect, the ordinance was drafted in response to currently standing structures that are in need of repair. There were several specific locations the city has been struggling with, some definitely worse than others.

The ordinance was drafted by attorney James A. Balli in response to Jeff Stewart (Zoning, Land Development, Project Manager of Blue Ridge, Ga.) and the City Council’s requests for a solution to the properties in question.

Suzie Soave, a sales associate at local real estate company, had initially asked Stewart what could be done in response to comments such as “why some of these structures are allowed to be eyesores and possibly dangerous to the neighborhood and why ordinances are not being enforced.”

There is already a similar ordinance in place, though City Clerk Kelsey Ledford states that the current ordinance is “outdated, completely open to interpretation which encourages selective enforcement and would allow the mayor and council to without notice order an abatement of a nuisance property. If notice was provided the only hearing is in front of the mayor and council, no court or no warrant. If a citizen disobeyed the council order, they are subject to arrest.”

Another one of the structures targeted by the Derelict Property Ordinance. Click to enlarge.

She continues that this proposed ordinance “removes far-reaching power from the mayor and council in this area of law”, and “removes the ability for someone to be arrested for non-compliance, and adds procedural safeguards require by the state to protect citizens.”

Council member Rhonda Haight says that this ordinance will allow Police Chief Johnny Scearce to better do his job, with Mayor Donna Whitener stating that the new ordinance would be much more straightforward in regards to what Scearce’s responsibilities would be regarding enforcement of the ordinance.

Only one citizen signed up to speak against the ordinance; Michael Eaton, former Blue Ridge Zoning Board of Appeals, stating that he believes this ordinance will have unintended consequences, and thinks that Mayor Whitener may use it in her favor.

Many in attendance seemed to have concerns despite the council’s efforts to distinguish fact from fiction regarding the new ordinance, however.

Another view of the first building. Clearly not in as bad of shape as the second. It is located near the other building. Click to enlarge.

Only one council member, Kenneth Gaddis, spoke out stating that he believes that the council is rushing the ordinance, citing that tax payer money is on the line for something that he believes the council has had little discussion about, especially considering that the first reading was of a draft that still needed modification.

The ordinance is set to be voted on and potentially passed during the councils July meeting (currently scheduled for Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at 6 pm), and those who wish to speak before the vote should contact City Clerk Kelsey Ledford to sign up.

(Apologies for the quality of the second half of the video. A different recording device had to be used, but this shouldn’t be an issue in future recordings).

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Can the City of Blue Ridge now seize your property? Here’s what a new ordinance has to say…

City Council, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Blue Ridge City Council held a first reading of their Derelict Property Ordinance, or ordinance BR2019-08 during their meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

This 36 page ordinance focuses on what the city considers to be “derelict and blighted property within the City”, and as many citizens are rightfully concerned, gives the city power to do anything from raising taxes on such properties to seizing the property entirely.

Properties that are potentially in violation of the new ordinance are all of those the city deems “[…]is unfit for human habitation or commercial, industrial, or business use or occupancy due to inadequate provisions for ventilation, light, air, sanitation, or open spaces; poses an imminent harm to life or other property due to fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, storm or other natural catastrophe; is vacant and used in the commission of drug crimes; is occupied and used repeatedly for the commission of illegal activities, including facilitating organized crime or criminal enterprises after written notice to the owner of such activities conducted therein;  is abandoned; or otherwise constitutes an endangerment to the public health or safety as a result of unsanitary or unsafe conditions[…]” (lines 124 – 133).

The ordinance doesn’t state who exactly would be in charge of inspecting such properties, but that they are empowered to “Investigate and inspect the condition of dwellings, buildings, structures, and private property within the City to determine those structures and property uses in violation of this article. Entries onto private property shall be made in a manner so as to cause the least possible inconvenience; provided, however, the enforcement official shall not enter into any occupied dwelling or structure without first having obtained the consent of the owner or a person in possession. In those cases where consent to entry is denied after reasonable request, the enforcement official may apply to the municipal court for an administrative search warrant upon showing probable cause that a violation exists.” (lines 149 – 159).

If the property is found to be in violation of the new ordinance, the city ultimately will make the decision as to whether or not the property is worth having cleaned up and repaired or demolished completely.

“If the repair, alteration, or improvement of the said dwelling, building, or structure can be made at a reasonable cost in relation to the present value of the dwelling, building, or structure, requiring the owner, within the time specified in the order, to repair, alter, or improve such dwelling, building, or structure so as to bring it into full compliance with the applicable codes relevant to the cited violation; and, if applicable, to secure by closing the structure so that it cannot be used in connection with the commission of drug crimes; or If the repair, alteration, or improvement of the said dwelling, building, or structure in order to bring it into full compliance with applicable codes relevant to the cited violations cannot be made at a reasonable cost in relation to the present value of the dwelling, building, or structure, requiring the owner, within the time specified in the order, to demolish and remove such dwelling, building, or structure and all debris from the property. (lines 232 – 246).

The ordinance also states that those who are in possession of “[…]a common, ill-governed and disorderly house, to the encouragement of gaming, drinking, illicit drug activity, or other misbehavior, to the common disturbance of the neighborhood or orderly citizens, shall be guilty of an offense against the City[…]”.  (lines 405-408).

The enforcement penalties? Fines to having public water services removed from certain properties.

“Any person who willfully refuses to comply with the provisions of this article shall be cited to appear before the municipal court and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $500.00; each day of continued violation, after citation, shall constitute a separate offense. In addition to the foregoing fines, upon conviction, the director shall discontinue the public water supply service at any premises upon which there is found to be a cross-connection, auxiliary intake, by-pass, or inter435 connection, and service shall not be restored until such cross-connection, auxiliary, by-pass, or inter-connection has been discontinued. ” (lines 429 – 436).

If the property is found to be in violation of the new ordinance, it may also be subject to increased taxes.

“There is hereby levied on all real property within the City which has been officially identified as maintained in a blighted condition an increased ad valorem tax by applying a factor of seven (7.0) to the millage rate applied to the property, so that such property shall be taxed at a higher millage rate generally applied in the municipality, or otherwise provided by general law; provided, however, real property on which there is situated a dwelling house which is being occupied as the primary residence of one or more persons shall not be subject to official identification as maintained in a blighted condition and shall not be subject to increased taxation.” (lines 521 – 529).

There will be a meeting in the near future that will allow a public hearing regarding the ordinance prior to the official vote by the City Council.

We have attempted to reach out to the Blue Ridge City Council for further clarification on this proposed ordinance, but have not yet received any communication from them regarding it.

An open records request has been delivered to the council, so we will keep you updated on further developments!
 
 
 
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New direction in City of Blue Ridge design

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Change and growth have become inevitable in the City of Blue Ridge. Cindy Trimble, a board member of both the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, brought before the Blue Ridge City Council on Tuesday a small step in establishing direction, consistency, and beautification of our growing town.

Trimble along with help from council member Nathan Fitts rolled out conceptual drawings for new way-finding signs in Blue Ridge.

“It is critical that we have a plan for signage,” Trimble stated due to growth, extra pedestrians, and extra traffic in the area.

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Proposed design for City of Blue Ridge archways that will direct visitors to downtown.

The designs included newly structured street signs with stone bases, covered kiosks with maps of businesses downtown, and gateways to the city. Trimble noted that those traveling along Hwy. 515 often do not know where to turn to enter the downtown historic area.

The gateways would be strategically placed in five areas to direct visitors to downtown. Trimble proposed placing the gateways on East First Street and Hwy. 515 near Bill Holt Chevrolet, Cook Street and Hwy. 515 near Burger King, West First Street and Hwy. 515 near McDonald’s intersection, Windy Ridge Road and Hwy. 515, and lastly Orvin Lance Drive and Hwy. 515 near CVS.

“Because these are city owned signs we cannot put them on the DOT right of way,” Trimble said explaining that the signs would need to sit back on side streets away from Hwy. 515 itself.

The gateways, designed as archways with mountain scenery and stone pedestals, would be back lit as to be visible at night and are designed to hold seasonal posters to display festivals and happenings in town.

Suggestions came from council to perhaps look into painting the Windy Ridge Road overpass to go along with design and planning. This option would require grants and permits, as well as permission from the state, but Trimble noted that it has been done in other towns and would be worth looking into.

Discussion also arose about the business directory or “you are here” map kiosks. These freestanding structures will be double sided and not only display downtown businesses, but also parking areas and trolley stops.

“There is an opportunity for advertising on this and it is something that we haven’t developed further,” Trimble stated of the kiosks.

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Conceptual designs for most signage downtown including parking and business directory kiosks.

Trimble presented the idea of digital maps as an option: “That way as businesses change it would be easier to change it.” She also noted that it would give more opportunity for advertising and that the advertisements might be a way to supplement income to purchase the new signage.

“The next step is to take some of these, if the council is comfortable with the design direction,” Trimble explained the plan moving forward, “then what we will do is, we will have several of us get together and take a map of the city and we will go around and look at where we need some of these signs immediately.”

Mayor Donna Whitener questioned, “Is the goal to replace all the signage in town?”

Trimble replied that it would just be key locations for the time being. She noted that certain areas of town might experience more street scaping such as Roberts Way and the City Park, and would not move forward in those areas until work is completed.

Council chose to move forward with obtaining pricing for the new way-finding signs and this information will be presented in a later meeting.

 

 

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Vacation rentals in downtown Blue Ridge

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – The Blue Ridge Council held a special called meeting to discuss the creation of the Downtown Development Authority. During this meeting the discussion of nightly vacation rentals in the downtown area garnered much attention.

The city has proposed a “City of Blue Ridge Short Term Vacation Rental Ordinance”.

CJ Stam was present to address the council on behalf of the Blue Ridge Lodging Association. Concerning this ordinance Stam stated, “This is an important issue to us. We’re not opposed to this. We actually appreciate it. We don’t mind having rules set in place.”

The Blue Ridge Lodging Association represents approximately 10 rental companies with over 500 different types of rental properties in our area.
Stam said that concern falls in the application process that the city is requiring, stating that it “seems a little bit cumbersome”.

According to the proposed ordinance, an application for a short term vacation rental certificate shall be submitted along with a non-refundable application fee to the City of Blue Ridge.

Along with proof of homeowners insurance and having staff available 24 hours a day for contact, the applicant would have to submit a large amount of information pertaining to themselves as well as the guests.

APPLICATION MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS

1. The name, address, telephone and email address of the owner(s) of record of the dwelling unit for which a certificate is sought. If such owner is not a natural person, the application shall identify all partners, officers and/or directors of any such entity, including personal contact information;
2. The address of the unit to be used as a short term vacation rental;
3. The name, address, telephone number and email address of the short term vacation rental agent, which shall constitute his or her 24-hour contact information and who shall:
a. Be reasonably available to handle any problems arising from use of the short term vacation rental unit;
b. Appear on the premises within 24 hours following notification from the City Clerk, Police Chief or the City Attorney, or his/her designee, of issues related to the use or occupancy of the premises.
c. Receive and accept service of any notice of violation related to the use or occupancy of the premises; and
d. Monitor the short term vacation rental unit for compliance with this ordinance.
4.The owner’s sworn acknowledgment that he or she has received a copy of this section, has reviewed it and understands its requirements;
5.The owner shall state the maximum occupancy for the residence, which shall be the same number as advertised and marketed to potential renters by or on behalf of the owner;
6. The owner’s agreement to use his or her best efforts to assure that use of the premises by short term vacation rental occupants will not disrupt the neighborhood, and will not interfere with the rights of neighboring property owners to the quiet enjoyment of their properties;
7. A copy of an exemplar agreement between the owner and occupant(s) which obligate the occupant to abide by all of the requirements of the ordinance, and other City ordinances, state and federal law, and that such a violation of any of these rules may result in the immediate termination of the agreement and eviction from the premises, as well as potential liability for payment of fines levied;
8. Proof of the owner’s current ownership of the short term vacation rental unit; and
9. Proof of homeowner’s insurance.

B. Registration under this code section is not transferable and should ownership of a short term vacation rental change, a new application is required, including application fee. In the event of any other change in the information or facts provided in the application, the holder of the short term rental certificate shall amend the filed application without payment of any additional application fee.

Questions also arose about the proposed ordinance not outlining where these rental properties could be placed. Stam stated of the matter, “It sounds like this ordinance supersedes the zoning that is in place and allows anybody to rent in any zoning as long as they have gone through the application process.”

Council member Nathan Fitts agreed with Stam: “It’s been very vague where there can be rentals.”

According to the ordinance a short term rental is defined as: “an accommodation for transient guests where, in exchange for compensation, a residential dwelling unit is provided for lodging for a period of time not to exceed 30 consecutive days. Short term vacation rental shall not include any residential dwelling unit not regularly offered for rental, which shall be defined as any residence offered for rental less than fourteen (14) days in any given calendar year. For the purposes of this definition, a residential dwelling shall include all housing types and shall exclude group living or other lodging uses.”

The ordinance goes further to state that “vacation rentals may be offered to the public for rental following issuance of a short term vacation rental certificate, receipt of an occupation tax certificate, and payment of any and all applicable State and City taxes” but does not address zoning.

Mayor Donna Whitener pointed out that currently short term rentals are only allowed in commercially zoned properties and are prohibited in residential zones, but acknowledged that there are rental properties in residential areas already.

“I’ve had a lot of people in the community who say they don’t want it in the residential areas,” council member Rhonda Haight said of possibility of allowing these rentals to continue.

After brief discussion Whitener suggested “cleaning up” the language of the ordinance to clearly define areas in which these short term rentals can be offered.

Further discussion is expected at the next Blue Ridge City Council meeting to be held on tonight, Dec. 11 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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Natalie Kissel

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City of Blue Ridge creates Downtown Development Authority

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – A Downtown Development Authority (DDA) could be in the near future for the City of Blue Ridge.

Opposition from some to creating this organization became overshadowed by the need for the city to obtain more funding, and certain funding and grants can only be obtained by a DDA.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, City Council, Mayor, Downtown Development Authority, DDA, Attorney, Resolution, Sunset Provision, Donna Whitener, Kenneth Gaddis, Rhonda Haight, Nathan Fitts, Robbie Cornelius, Harold Herenden, James Balli, Ann Arnold, Board members, Jay Hamilton, Gene Holcombe, Michelle Moran, Nichole Potzauf, Cesar Martinez, Jeff DePaola

Proposed boundaries of the downtown district in which the DDA will focus and serve.

Beyond gathering extra funds for the City of Blue Ridge, a DDA will also be a policy-making body and a major decision-making entity that plans and manages the downtown area.

Ann Arnold, who has 31 years of experience with DDAs and their development, was asked by the Mayor and Blue Ridge City Council to step-in in assisting with the creation and structuring of Blue Ridge’s DDA.

Arnold not only created a draft of the outlines for the new DDA, but also examined Blue Ridge for appropriate boundaries of a designated “downtown area” and interviewed potential applicants to fill the 7 member board.

In a special called Blue Ridge City Council meeting Arnold laid out her recommendations on all areas including who she felt would be ideal members of this inaugural board.

“I really was impressed with these people,” Arnold explained of the applicants that she interviewed, “You absolutely cannot go wrong with this board.”
Arnold stated that many of the applicants had already researched the role of a DDA and was familiar with the laws in which they would be working. Some applicants even went as far as to reach out to other DDAs in researching the role they would potentially be filling.

In the interview process Arnold asked each applicant the same questions. She took into account the applicants backgrounds and strong points in hopes of creating a diversified board. Her recommendations are as follows:

  • John (Jay) Hamilton to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
  • Nichole Potzauf to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
  • Gene Holcombe to serve 6 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2024.
  • Michelle Moran to serve 4 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2022.
  • Cesar Martinez to serve 4 years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2022.
  • Jeff DePaola to serve 2 Years through Jan. 1, 2019 – Dec. 31, 2020.

Originally it was discussed that Mayor Donna Whitener would serve as the seventh member. However, as Arnold saw that the Mayor position was already full-time she offered a different recommendation: “One of the board members, one of the seven will be a council member.”

“It would be nice to have different councilmembers, maybe every two years rotate and have some different insight,” Arnold explained her thoughts on this recommendation, “but also an opportunity for each of the council members to really understand the day to day work of the Downtown Development Authority.”

After Arnold gave her recommendations for board members she moved on to discuss the boundaries of the designated downtown area.

“The resolution does require that you (the city) designate the downtown development area that the downtown development would be serving,” Arnold said explaining the need to have clear boundaries.

The recommendations show the boundaries being roughly East First Street to the East, West Second Street to the West, McKinney Street to the South, and River Street to the North.

Questions arose from council members concerning areas already containing businesses that were not included, to which Arnold replied, “You really want to protect that residential. You have got some beautiful homes all around a number of these areas, and what you have by having that residential is you’ve got a built in audience. Those people are going to use goods and services. They can walk downtown.”

Blue Ridge City Attorney James Balli addressed the council about previously discussed concerns after listening to Arnold’s recommendations: “Once you activate them (DDA approval), they’re out there, whatever is in the resolution.”

Balli recommended that the council go through the DDA resolution more thoroughly and input provisions limiting control of the DDA and the permanence of the directors: “I would heavily recommend that you leave in the provisions about being able to remove directors for cause.”

A 7 year sunset provision was also recommended. This would essentially give the council the ability to dissolve the DDA after 7 years. Balli said of this precaution it “is as close as you are going to get to be able to kill it.”

Arnold questioned the sunset provision and said to the council that DDA and the City Council should be viewed as a team.

Further discussion and possible enactment of the DDA is expected to take place at the upcoming Blue Ridge City Council meeting to be held Tuesday, Dec. 11 at City Hall.

 

 

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