Blue Ridge, Ga – Land Development cleaned up 15 neglected property lots since 2017, but changes to state law and new citation form threaten to slow progress.
Marie Woody, Head of Land Development Office, reported the county enforced the clearing of four properties as of July for 2019. However, as of July 1, the state of Georgia issued new condemnation forms/citations and so far, no one across the state knows the new protocol.
“Right now, there’s a hullabaloo about citations and what citations we can write a local ordinance on. So until that gets situated, we can’t even write a citation today. It’s a judicial thing’ it’s not us. They’re saying everyone has to write a citation on a certain form that form does not comply with our local ordinances.”
The form stated that a post officer or member of law enforcement must fill it out to assure enforcement by the magistrate court.
“The law says citations will be issued on this form, but you have to be a post officer, said County Attorney Lynn Doss,
“They have to have arrest powers. They made no provision in the law for any county code enforcement officer for any city for anywhere in the state.”
Magistrate Judges were told anyone could issue citations as long as they use this form. Magistrate Chief Deputy Clerks have instructions to only allow the new form and no other. Meanwhile, the State Patrol refused to purchase new forms until the old ones run out.
Right now, Woody could issue a citation, but it could be contested because she isn’t a post officer.
The state has promised to work out the issue as soon as possible.
“It’s one of the biggest concerns I get from people is why can’t the county make people clean that up,” stated Post One Earl Johnson, “It’s a sticky situation telling people how to treat their property. Their neighbors have rights as well, not to fight off rats or snakes. There’s just a lot of places that are very, very trashy. There has to be something in place…when everyone figures out their not going to enforce it, it’s not going to get better.”
South Ada Street property will soon receive an EPB violation letter, and after EPB acts, the county can proceed.
Owners who receive a condemnation letter have 30 days to comply.
“People have property rights, and I have a high respect for that, but at some point in time, after we’ve exhausted every reasonable effort, we just have to move forward,” said Chairman Stan Helton.
Johnson asked, “In what situation can we stop things from getting worse?”
Woody explained, “We’ll first send you a letter and give you 30 days to get it cleaned up. If you don’t, we can write a citation and take you to magistrate court for [them] to deal with it. If you don’t clean it up, then you can be fined.”
BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – “This is something that is becoming a little more prevalent in our surrounding areas,” Fannin County Chairman Stan Helton explained of the need to discuss tiny homes, “and I’ve talked to other commissioners about this and it’s a big difference whether you have zoning in the county or don’t, which we don’t.”
At the April 10 Board of Commissioners (BOC) meeting, the commissioners looked into setting up guidelines in Fannin County for the growing trend of tiny homes.
The typical small or tiny house is between 100 and 400 square feet. The building of these structures could pose problems for the county.
“It could affect people’s property values, adjacent property values, and that’s something that would concern me quite a bit,” Helton said, describing one of the issues that he foresees as a possibility in the future.
This discussion came about after a proposed subdivision plat for tiny homes was recently submitted to the county. Chief Land Development Officer Marie Woody presented the board with a sample ordinance to review pertaining to these structures.
“I personally think this is something that we are really going to have to pay close attention to,” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson agreed with the concern.
Johnson suggested that the county come up with a pre-approval process for those seeking to build tiny home developments.
Discussion was made over whether there should be a minimum square footage requirement or a limit to the amount of structures on a property.
Helton also pointed out that other counties were having issues with developers using these tiny homes as rental properties.
Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee added about the matters faced, “Gilmer and Pickens counties are really addressing this pretty strong.”
Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss suggested that the board move to place a short-term moratorium, lasting 6 months to a year, on tiny home developments, stating that this would give the county time to thoroughly research and address the issue with a proper ordinance.
Doss and the board agreed that if a moratorium were placed that it would not affect the current submitted tiny house development proposal.
The BOC agreed to table this agenda item for two weeks.
“In the meantime, perhaps you would do some more research on surrounding counties to find out a little more about the issues,” Helton addressed Woody and then addressed fellow board members, “and then at that time if you gentlemen felt like we needed to put a moratorium out there for some future date, we can decide that in a couple of weeks.”
Johnson added that he would like to see the research focused on counties similar to ours with no zoning.
Woody also presented the board with a property in the county that she felt met the requirements for condemnation. This property, located on Ada Street, was the site of a house fire earlier this year.
“No effort has been made to fix or repair it,” Woody stated of the burned structure.
There are a total of 11 acres that would need to be cleared from this location. On these 11 acres are three homes, seven mobile homes, one garage, one carport, and three additional structures that are full of items. The land surrounding these buildings is also filled with various items.
Woody reported that the county had received six complaints just in the past two weeks regarding this property and that this has been an ongoing issue, with talks between the county and the property owners, for five years.
“I get calls basically pleading with us to do something about this,” Helton said, confirming Woody’s account of complaints.
If the county were to pay to have the property cleared, a lien would then be placed on the land, which the owners would have to repay.
“We’re not taking someone’s property,” Johnson clarified the process.
Sosebee agreed that after five years “time’s run out.”
The board unanimously decided to declare the property dilapidated, a public safety nuisance, and for it to be condemned.
Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented the BOC with a finalized plan for payment of the new fire station and E-911 center located on Windy Ridge Road.
The board agreed to advance monies from the county’s general fund, as well as cash in two county CDs (certificate of deposit).
These advanced funds will be paid back over a 27-month period using funds from both SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) and the newly allocated 10 percent from Hotel/Motel Taxes.
Gazaway also spoke with the board about switching the county over from a single credit card to purchase cards.
Currently, the county has one credit card, which department heads must come to the courthouse and check out to use.
Gazaway stated that a couple of issues have risen from using the one-card method. Using the one card, the limit for that card is often met before the next billing cycle causing the card to become inactive.
Gazaway also stated that some department heads will forget to turn in receipts, causing confusion when the bill arrives, and a need to track down missing receipts.
“Several of the counties have a purchase card instead of a credit card,” Gazaway explained.
Gazaway presented the board with two options for purchase cards, one from J.P. Morgan and the other from East West Bank, and stated that no local banks offer this option.
If the board chose to switch to purchase cards, the county could decide which department heads would be issued a card and the limit for each card.
Department heads would have to report all spending to the bank and turn in all physical receipts to the county. Gazaway pointed out that with each department head having individual reporting, missing receipts would be easier to track.
Both Sosebee and Johnson expressed concern over extra cards being issued.
“I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it, but whatever department head can’t even turn in their receipts, they’re not responsible to begin with,” Johnson expressed of the concern over the issuing of extra cards. “I surely don’t want them to have a credit card.”
The BOC agreed to table this item for two weeks and to discuss it at the next monthly meeting to be held April 24 at 5:15 p.m. on the third floor of the courthouse.
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BLUE RIDGE, GA – Fannin County Board of Commissioners held their final meeting for this month on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Among the items on the agenda, County Commissioners addressed the issue of the County Roads Moratorium. There was public commentary that addressed both sides of the issue the county faces when deciding to adopt or remove roadways from its care.
Citizens were there to ask Fannin County to consider adopting Phase 1 of the My Mountain Community into its county road system for maintenance and upkeep, citing that this phase of the community has been in existence for almost 20 years. On the opposite side of the discussion, citizens expressed concern on current county roads that they feel have been neglected. Post Commissioner Earl Johnson urged the Board to use caution when adopting new roads into the system, wanting first for the county to obtain proper inspections and right of ways before making any decision. Fannin County Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee and Commission Chairman Stan Helton agreed with this assessment. While voting to continue the county road moratorium, there was also a unanimous decision to work on current roads in the system before accepting new roads.
Ken Petty, Fannin County Maintenance Department Head, addressed the Board seeking approval for three issues needing financial payment from the county. He presented cases for $5,340.00 to replace a compressor on the commercial Trane air conditioning unit at the jail, $19,160.00 for improvements to the Animal Control Facility located on Fannin Industrial Park, and roof repair at the county maintenance building.
Petty was only able to present one bid on the broken compressor at the jail. When questioned by Post Commissioner Earl Johnson on failure to receive further bids, Petty stated that no one he contacted in Fannin County was willing to work on the unit. Johnson further questioned Petty as to why he was not providing the county or the bidder with a proper scope of work, and both agreed in the future that this documentation will be provided. Ultimately the board agreed to address and fix the issue of the air conditioning since it is essential to the jail’s day to day operations, but opted to table the other two issues until further documentation and bids could be obtained.
Commissioners expanded the Board of Assessors through resolution and praised the three current appointees for bringing the county up to compliance with the State of Georgia. The expansion will bring the current board of three members up to a state allotted five member board. The board unanimously voted to appoint former Superintendent Mark Henson to a four year term on the Board of Assessors, and Troy Junnier to serve a three year term. Chairman Helton felt that the addition of these two individuals based on their experience and knowledge of the county would keep operations within the Board running smoothly for years to come.
Marie Woody with Land Development informed the board that all requirements were met to move forward with condemnation of property located at 188 Riverside Lane. The cost of removing the structure would be approximately $7,500.00 and approval was granted to advance this project. This property will be the fifth this year to be condemned and removed. Discussion was also held about the Scrap Tire Management Grant that was obtained from the State of Georgia. Post Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee wants to focus on where the man power will come from to complete this project and does not want to tax an already short handed Road Department of the county.
Finance Director Robin Gazaway presented the public with year to date financial information showing that the county is currently $1,675,006 under budget for the fiscal year 2017. Out of the county’s $27,131,207 yearly budget expenditures, actual amounts show that $12,975,846 has been spent.
Most county departments reported staying within or under their current budget amount as of July 18th. Administration was the only department reporting an overage with their current rate of spending at 72.9%. For departments to fall under budget their current rate should be below 54%. When questioned as to why this number was so high, Gazaway explained that new county policy requires all insurance claims be filed under a single department, and that they were working on an amendment that would create a new line item to reflect changes in this policy.