Board of Commissioners discuss tiny house ordinance

Community, News

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.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Funding, SPLOST, special-purpose local-option sales tax, Hotel Motel Tax, Chief Land Development Officer, Marie Woody, Condemnation, Ada Street, Purchase Cards, Tiny Homes, Ordinance, Moratorium

An example of a finished tiny home.

“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.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Funding, SPLOST, special-purpose local-option sales tax, Hotel Motel Tax, Chief Land Development Officer, Marie Woody, Condemnation, Ada Street, Purchase Cards, Tiny Homes, Ordinance, Moratorium

Fire fighters battling the blaze that took place at the Ada Street property in January.

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.

 

 

 

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

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin County fire station gets approved financing

Community, Fannin County EMA/EMS, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After several discussions the Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) approved a plan for the county to finish funding the new fire station and E-911 center located on Windy Ridge Road.

The BOC, under former county Chairman Bill Simmonds, had agreed to a budget of $2.5 million to complete this project, but bids came in higher than projected.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Funding, SPLOST, special-purpose local-option sales tax, Hotel Motel Tax

Construction continues at the site of the county’s new fire station and E-911 center

Helton explained at the Feb. 27 BOC meeting the need for financing the remaining balance of the project, “We really didn’t know until we got the bids last year, there were two of them, and we didn’t open those bids, I believe, until the last meeting in May, and the low bid with all the factors in there was 3 million dollars. Almost exactly that number.”

“It’s not that we spent more money. We just did a contract that was a little bit more money than they had originally estimated it was going to cost,” Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway further clarified.

Discussions at the Feb. meeting brought up the possibility of borrowing the needed funds through a bond company, to which Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson firmly stated that he was against this option.

Looking into other avenues to pursue for the funding, Gazaway presented the BOC with the possibility of borrowing funds from the county’s general fund and using county CDs (Certificate of Deposit).

This option would allow the county to essentially have an interest free advance. By going this route, Gazaway explained that it would save the county roughly $100,000 in interest and an additional $30,000 in fees.

At the April 10 BOC meeting the board approved this option for financing with a plan on how and when the county would reimburse the general fund.

To finance the remaining balance of the project the county will cash in two CDs, one for $445,000 and another for $75,000, and also borrow approximately $650,000 from the General Fund.

“We’re looking at over one million,” Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee clarified the total amount needed for the project’s completion.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman, Post 1 Commissioner, Post 2 Commissioner, Stan Helton, Earl Johnson, Larry Joe Sosebee, Finance Director, Robin Gazaway, Fire Station, E-911, Funding, SPLOST, special-purpose local-option sales tax, Hotel Motel Tax

Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee discusses funding options.

Gazaway explained cashing in the county’s CDs, “We’re not paying those back, we’re just going to use those, and then the rest of the money ($650,000) is to be advanced.”

To pay back the $650,000 borrowed from the general fund the BOC decided to make the monthly payments by taking half of the payment amount from SPLOST (special-purpose local-option sales tax) and the other half from an extra 10 percent portion of the county’s Hotel/Motel Tax allocated directly to the county this year.

Approximated repayment of the advance would take the county 27 months.

Johnson thought this would be this best plan of action on paying the advance back, stating of pulling from two funds, “I don’t think we need to exhaust either one of these funds in my opinion.”

“This is one of the things I talked about with the Hotel/Motel Tax,” Johnson, a long time proponent of transparency in regards to the spending of these funds, stated, “it’s something that each and every person can go and touch that building and know where it went.”

“I think this is good example of something to use it on,” Johnson added.

Helton agreed with his fellow commissioner: “I think this is about the most appropriate use that we could use for these additional funds.”

Helton motioned to accept an advance from the county for this project, with the stipulations that it would be repaid in 27 months using funds from SPLOST and the Hotel/Motel Tax. Johnson seconded the motions and the board approved this move unanimously.

 

 

 

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

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Board of Commissioners keep Fannin County finances as top priority

Community, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – The Fannin County Board of Commissioners (BOC) are moving forward in 2018 with the county budget still being a top priority. The BOC began their first meeting of the year by passing a resolution acknowledging that they upheld and will continue to uphold progress made in the passing of the 2018 Budget at their Dec. 12 meeting.

This resolution stated that the commissioners complied with Georgia state laws when adopting this year’s budget and acknowledged that commissioners kept promises made throughout the year in regard to the budget, including an all day public workshop on the topic.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, 2018 Budget, 2017 Audit, Rushton and Company, Hotel / Motel Tax, Finance Director Robin Gazaway, Ed Hawkins, Ken Petty, Public Works, Fannin County Water Authority, Building Maintance, General Election 2018, Board of Education, Qualifying Fees

BOC holds first meeting of 2018.

Commissioners also voted unanimously to hire Rushton and Company to conduct the audit on the county’s 2017 fiscal year. Rushton and Company, accounting and business advisors, were responsible for the 2016 audit.

“I think they did a pretty thorough job,” Post 1 Commissioner Earl Johnson discussed of the hire, “and I don’t see any reason not to use them again.”

Rushton and Company proposed a contract with the county to continue services for this year at the same rate as the previous year and to not exceed a total of $54,900. A report on the county’s finances will be made available by June 30, 2018.

Johnson, a long-time proponent of a more transparent approach to the use of the Hotel/Motel Tax, discussed with the board setting up a public workshop to address this issue.

In 2018, the county will receive an extra 10 percent proportion of this tax. Post 2 Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee recommended allowing some of these funds to accumulate before addressing their use.

Commission Chairman Stan Helton stated that the extra 10 percent, based on the previous year’s revenue, would come to approximately $150,000.

Fannin County Finance Director Robin Gazaway stated that a separate account could be set up specifically for the 10 percent increase. The board agreed to separate this revenue and schedule a workshop to discuss where these funds will be allocated.

Fannin County, Blue Ridge, Georgia, Board of Commissioners, Chairman Stan Helton, Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, Post Two Commissioner Larry Joe Sosebee, 2018 Budget, 2017 Audit, Rushton and Company, Hotel / Motel Tax, Finance Director Robin Gazaway, Ed Hawkins, Ken Petty, Public Works, Fannin County Water Authority, Building Maintance, General Election 2018, Board of Education, Qualifying Fees

Fannin County Library Branch Manager Andrew Vickers accepts paperwork confirming appointment of Steven Miracle to the Board of Trustees.

Steven Miracle is the latest appointment to the Board of Trustees in Fannin County. Andrew Vickers, Fannin County Library Branch Manager, was present at the meeting as the board discussed the newest appointee.

Helton addressed Vickers, “Andrew, I understand this fills your board up with what the county appoints are allowed?”

To which Vickers acknowledged that this would fill the final position on the Board of Trustees.

“Mr. Miracle does a lot of good things for this county, and I certainly have no questions,” Helton stated before asking post commissioners their thoughts. All commissioners agreed that this would be a good addition for the board and voted unanimously in favor of Miracle.

Former Building Maintenance Supervisor Ken Petty recently transferred to the Public Works department, leaving his position with Building Maintenance open.

“I would like to recommend that we appoint Mr. Ed Hawkins as the new department head over at maintenance,” Helton suggested to the board.

Sosebee replied to this recommendation, “Good choice.”

Johnson clarified that the appointment of Hawkins to this position would not change the number of employees in the maintenance department. Hawkins, formerly with the Fannin County Water Authority, was approved for this position.

The board also approved the qualification fees for the 2018 general election. The Post 2 Commissioner seat along with two seats on the Board of Education will be on the ballot this year.

The qualifying fees for these positions are $349 for Post 2 Commissioner and $144 each for a seat with the Board of Education. Qualifying begins March 5 at 9 a.m. and will close on March 9 at noon.

The general election will take place on Nov. 11, 2018.

 

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

Natalie Kissel

Natalie@FetchYourNews.com

Fannin Commissioners plan to cut Fannin Chamber Budget – Will they kill the golden goose?

Opinion

Fannin county Board of Commissioners made a decision to reduce the percentage of hotel/motel tax which was allocated for the Fannin County Chamber.  The reduction which will begin in 2018 will change the percentage the Chamber receives to 60% from 70%.  The plan now is for another reduction which will be made again in 2019 making it a 50% / 50% split.  During discussion Fannin County Post Commissioner Earl Johnson said he would like the money to be used for specific earmarked projects.

The Fannin Chamber has been extremely effective in tourism marketing and local merchants and taxpayers have enjoyed the benefits.  In this ever changing climate of small towns and communities vying for the tourists’ dollars we couldn’t help but wonder how will this change impact our area.  Currently Blue Ridge/Fannin County has numerous and varied methods of drawing the crowds including digital marketing, billboards, magazines, and more.

Listening to some people voice opinions on this matter in the past several months, the echoing sentiment seems to be how successful our town of Blue Ridge/Fannin has been in attracting visitors.  Our Fannin Chamber has been very instrumental and successful with putting Blue Ridge/Fannin on the map and maybe some do not realize how this happened.  Our fear and the fear of many, is the reduction in resources to our Chamber will have an impact which may not be easy to reverse.

It may seem to the current Board of Commissioners a good idea to make this reduction, thus giving them what may be considered “newfound funds” but what will be the results of this change in the long run.  It’s not too hard to realize 40% of 1 million is $50,000 less than 30% of 1.5 million, of course these are estimates but the timing seems likely for the drop in tourism to coincide with the marketing decrease which will be a forced change on our local chamber.  Not only does Fannin/Blue Ridge compete with other small towns but add the newly opened Casino and the marketing package it has put in place, along with other areas who aspire to draw similar crowds, could really put our tourism numbers at risk.

The sad news for everyone however may be the effects which could be felt for years to come.  Hopefully the Fannin County Board of Commissioners may review and research the possible outcome and perhaps even reconsider.   FYN did our own research and spoke to some people who have decades of research on tourism.  One of our contacts agreed to let us share his findings on the effects of advertising to small towns.

FYN decided to reach out to Andrew Levine, contributor to Forbes Magazine,  who wrote this article & agreed FYN could have permission to share :

Why Tourism Advertising Is More Powerful Than You Think

Is there a halo effect generated by tourism advertising?

Yes, we can survey consumers and directly see how a state or city’s advertising campaign works in influencing perceptions of a destination’s tourism product and ultimately in motivating travel.  But are there other benefits in boosting the community’s overall image with the same audience?

North Dakota is a case in point.  For the past decade, the state’s “Legendary” campaign has been a successful branding statement connecting the state to potential travelers in an emotional and authentic manner.  The most recent ROI research shows that North Dakota’s U.S. campaign generated over $100 in visitor spending for every dollar spent on advertising.

ND New

North Dakota’s “Legendary” advertising campaign kicked-off in 2005.

But here’s where it gets even more interesting.  Are the same viewers more positive to North Dakota as:

  • A place to live? Yes, up 41%.
  • A place to start a career? Yes, up 100%.
  • A place to start a business? Yes, up 75%.
  • A place to attend college? Yes, up 87%.
  • A place to purchase a second home? Yes, up 113%
  • A place to retire? Yes, up 75%.

Graph

Tourism advertising helped boost the state’s image in unexpected ways.

Longwoods asked the same six questions in assessing the impact of advertising campaigns for a number of other states, including North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The findings couldn’t have been more consistent.  In each and every case, effective tourism advertising had the same impact, improving consumer perceptions of each state in accidental yet positive ways.  And while tourism marketing has been shown to generate significant economic impact by driving visitation, these results demonstrate the potential long-term benefits for broader economic development.

Edward Thorndike, an early educational psychologist, first coined the term “the halo effect” in a 1920 article titled “A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings.”  Thorndike asked two commanding officers to evaluate their soldiers in terms of physical qualities (neatness, voice, physique, bearing, and energy) and personal qualities (including dependability, loyalty, responsibility, selflessness, and cooperation). He found that if an officer liked one aspect of the soldier, he tended to have a positive predisposition toward everything about him.

Nearly one hundred years later, the same can now be said of tourism advertising.  We’ve known for a long time that effective tourism advertising campaigns build positive feelings toward a travel experience and inspire travel.  But thanks to Bill Siegel and the Longwoods team, we now know that the same campaigns have other benefits that elevate impressions of a destination in an unintended yet positive manner.  Bill Siegel and his firm Longwoods International have been tracking the performance of the advertising campaigns of countries, states and cities for over 25 years.

Mr. Andrew Levine’s bio:  He’s passionate about places and how communities work to attract investment, tourists and talent. For 20+ years, he’s served as President/Chief Creative Officer of Development Counsellors International (or DCI for short). DCI is the leader in marketing places having served over 450 cities, states, regions and countries. It is his belief that place marketing is fundamentally different from consumer marketing (but both practices can learn from each other). A goal in his writing and teaching is to simplify concepts and avoid buzzwords. If you have a high school education, you won’t need a dictionary for anything he’s written.

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