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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Author

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

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.

 

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

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.

Police department, city employees to see pay increases

News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After a one-hour and 26-minute executive session during their Tuesday, March 13, meeting, the Blue Ridge City Council reconvened to announce and approve pay increases for the city Police Department and other city employee positions.

Pay increases for the Police Department are as follows:

  • Interim Chief of Police Johnny Scearce will receive $28.95 an hour, up from $26.32;
  • Captain/Investigator Rob Stuart will receive $22.76 an hour, up from $20.14;
  • Sergeant Joe Patterson will receive $20.27 an hour, up from $17.48;
  • Corporal Justin Ware will receive $17.92 an hour, up from $15.45;
  • Officer Sam Rosiles will receive $17.40 an hour, up from $15.00;
  • Officer Ricky Henry will receive $15.00 an hour, up from $13.39;
  • Assistant Chief Mike Presswood will receive $23.89 an hour, up from $21.72;
  • Lieutenant Gary Huffman will receive $21.23 an hour, up from $18.78;
  • Corporal Michael Green will receive $18.22 an hour, up from  $15.71;
  • Officer James Chastain will receive $15.00 an hour, up from $14.63;
  • Officer TJ Alexander will receive $15.00 an hour, up from $13.91; and
  • Officer Gerald Webb will receive $15.00 an hour, up from $14.63.

Also, the starting pay for the city Police Department will now be $15.00 an hour, up from $14.00. Of the increases, Councilman Nathan Fitts explained an analysis of surrounding police departments in north Georgia was conducted recently and the Blue Ridge Police Department was found to be one of the lowest-paid departments in the area. The increases, Fitts said, are still within the Police Department’s budget and will give the department a more competitive pay. Councilman Ken Gaddis stated the department was “deserving of the raises.”

City pool employees will also see a bump in pay this summer. New-hire lifeguards will make $8.00 an hour, returning concession workers will receive $9.00 and head lifeguards will make $10.00 an hour.

In addition, City Clerk Kelsey Ledford will receive $17.74 an hour, up from $13.94 and will now work at City Hall five days a week. Council members explained research had proven the city clerk’s pay, like the Police Department, was below that of surrounding areas.

 

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

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.

Blue Ridge City Council Candidate Nathan Fitts speaks on the Importance of the City’s Website

Politics

If you haven’t seen the City of Blue Ridge website lately, you should take a look: City of Blue Ridge Website   They have updated the site; you now have the convenience of being able to pay your utility bills/taxes/traffic citations online.

If elected, I would like to continue updating the city’s site, adding even more enhancements so that it becomes an ever more valuable tool for our residents and business owners.

My first priority would be to make sure all the information on the site — including city ordinances and budgets — is correct and up-to-date, providing more information and transparency. Once that is completed, I would like to make enhancements that would turn the site into a virtual town square. We could expand the site to include an open city hall where residents could submit questions and concerns to the mayor and city council, raise awareness of community issues, give feedback and exchange ideas.  The City’s website can be one of the most essential tools for meeting the needs of our citizens, and so optimizing it around the citizen experience is crucial.

These are just a few ideas I have for the site. I would certainly welcome your input and suggestions. Feel free to call me at 706-455-9968.

I would like to ask for your vote so that, together, we can make our city’s website and our city a more inter-connected and vibrant place to live and conduct business.

Blue Ridge City Council ~ New Millage Rate and Sign Ordinance Change

News

In the special called council meeting yesterday, November 19, 2015, two different meetings were held.

The first focusing on the Amendment to the Millage Rate Ordinance (Second Reading and Adoption). That meeting was short and straight-forward to accept the 2nd reading of the millage annual tax rate.

The second meeting focused on the proposed amendments to the Sign Ordinance of the City of Blue Ridge.  A few of those changes are as follows:

On pole signage: Only those properties zoned CBD (Central Business District) with the main building located a minimum of 25′ from any street right of way shall be allowed to have a pole sign. The maximum allowable area for a pole sign located in the CBD is 50 sf. including the supporting framework. Dimensions shall not exceed 60″ in width and 10′ in height. Pole signs shall be limited to a single support pole not to exceed eight inches in diameter or a single 8″x 8″ support structure. Pole signs located within the CBD shall have a maximum height of 20′ and shall not extend over a public right of way. If the bottom edge of the sign area or framework is less than 10 feet above grade, the edge of the signage area closest to the right of way shall be located a minimum of 10 feet from the street right of way. The placement of any pole sign shall comply with all pertinent codes, i.e. proximity to a power source.

Temporary signage: To add as permitted uses for temporary signage: animated signs, pendants and streamers, and balloons. Remove bench sign as prohibited signs.

The motion was made to move forward with changing the Sign Ordinance. Changes will go to the Planning Commission.

To see the meeting and hear all other amendments to the Sign Ordinance, see video below:

The last item on the agenda was in regards to the Gingerbread House Contest exhibit that was to be at the City Hall beginning on 11/24/2015. All entries were to be delivered to the City Hall previously.  The location has now changed, according to Rodney Kendall,  “due to issues with records and things like that”. The new location for drop off will be at the Fannin Senior Center located at 440 W 1st St, Blue Ridge, GA 30513
on Tuesday, November 24th from 3:00-5:00 pm.

Good luck to all the entrants!

Author

Letter to Citizens of Blue Ridge – Gingerbread Village Relocated to Senior Center

Opinion

 

Dear Citizens of Blue Ridge:

 

It was brought to our attention day before yesterday (right before we start construction) that Council Member Angie Arp no longer wants the Gingerbread Village in City Hall.  We understand she thinks there is a security issue at City Hall and she has enlisted the time and cost of getting the city attorney involved to look into this.  Even though the council voted unanimously to allow Light Up Blue Ridge to have the Gingerbread Village at City Hall, and there were no concerns voiced during the council meeting we find this very unfortunate because it would have brought a festive, exciting and joyous element to City Hall.

 

This letter is to formally notify you, the Blue Ridge City Council and the Citizens of Blue Ridge that we will no longer need City Hall for our village.  Hopefully you can call off the services of the city attorney so not to waste any more precious funds.

 

Good news is that Santa Clause arrived early (aka:  Bill Simonds)  and is allowing us to use the Fannin Senior Center for the Village.  The staff there greeted us with open arms and are so thrilled to host the Village so our Senior Citizens can participate in the excitement and joy the village brings.  We have local school children, local restaurants, individual citizens and many businesses participating.  This is one event no one can deny is all about our city and our local citizens.

 

On behalf of the Light Up Blue Ridge committee, we invite all of you to attend the many wonderful holiday events at this year’s Light Up Blue Ridge and we wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.  Please visit our facebook page “Light Up Blue Ridge” and our website www.lightupblueridge.info for the latest updates on events, schedules and festivities.

 

Regards,

 

Cindy

 

Cindy Trimble, ASID, NCIDQ, RID

Owner, President

Trimble Kelly Studios, Inc.

Design ReFind

PO Box 1169

Blue Ridge, GA 30513

(706) 946-2030

The Fannin Senior Center is located at

 

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