Blue Ridge, Ga – Board of Commissioners approved to extend the moratorium on tiny home subdivisions for another year.
The existing moratorium will stand through July 2020 after an extensive discussion on the topic with the community.
“You can look all over North Georgia, and I think every county have looked at this a little differently,” stated Chairman Stan Helton, “My personal concern is basically the subdivision. There’s certainly nothing wrong if you’re on your own property, if you want to put a private tiny home on your property, that’s not my concern, but the subdivision is.”
Input came from those on both sides of the issue and local builders as to the benefits and detriments of tiny home subdivisions.
Keith Sumner represented builders in the county and presented the number of homes built in Fannin from February 2018 to 2019, only 15 homes were under 1,000 square feet with the majority being between 1,500 and 3,500 square feet. Currently, Fannin County has under a 100 foundation built tiny homes.
Collectively these projects brought an estimated $75M into the county.
Sumner also questioned the future value of a tiny homes subdivision, would it increase or decrease in value over time.
Other voices in the audience echoed the need for affordable housing in the community and that millennials and retirees don’t want a big house. Millennials want a place to rest their head and to make traveling easier, and retirees bring grandkids on the weekend.
Also, service workers and recent graduates need somewhere to live that they afford, and tiny homes could be the answer. These individuals can’t live in large homes being built.
The biggest concern surrounding tiny home subdivisions was the potential for central septic system problems for developers who don’t follow the building code.
Currently, Fannin recommends .55 acres for central septic, but the health department will go down to a third of an acre. With tiny homes being around 450 square feet, it’s possible someone could fit three homes onto one acre. This would stress a septic system.
“Three tiny homes on one acre lots on a 40-acre tract that’s going to be a headache from now own,” stated Post One Commissioner Earl Johnson, “If something’s not done to protect the county, they can come in here in about a month, month and a half, throw three tiny homes up on the same sewage system, the neighbors are going to have a problem. Now, I am a tiny homeowner, but it’s on 46-acres of land, and no one knows where it is. It’s not hurting anyone’s property values.”
The profit incentive for building multiple homes close together could lead to fly-by-night developments. With no zoning, it’s difficult to prevent this from happening and more thought must be given before lifting the tiny home subdivision moratorium.
Gilmer County’s tiny home subdivision has received mixed reviews with some residents loving the community and others begging to get out. Potential problems need to be clearly defined and gear an ordinance toward a tiny home subdivision that promotes the future of Fannin County.
Johnson added, “If we start allowing to get down to a third of an acre, it’s going to be just like an RV park.”
After hearing from those in attendance, the commissioners agreed that a resolution that works for the majority of the community needs to be reached. However, with one serious inquiry over the past year, extending the moratorium gives commissioners time to examine the housing market and develop a solution a year from now.
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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