Blue Ridge City Council Approves Short-Term Rental Ordinance

Business, News

BLUE RIDGE, Ga. – After hearing many words of support and opposition regarding the previously discussed short-term rental ordinance, the city council voted to adopt this ordinance during the council meeting on Tuesday, April 9, 2019.

(Pictured left to right: council members Harold Herndon, Ken Gaddis, Nathan Fitts, Mayor Donna Whitener, City Attorney James Balli, council members Rhonda Haight and Robbie Cornelius, and City Clerk Kelsey Ledford).

Council member Nathan Fitts (30:47) states that several changes have been made to the proposed ordinance since it was initially read. The two major changes being that on lines 118-122, a provision has been included to require the holder of the rental certificate to identify the identification number (provided by the platform being used by the holder of the certificate) on their monthly hotel tax returns so that it stays current with the city.

Fitts goes on to state that in section 10, lines 193-207 (31:50), it’s made clear that this only allows short-term rentals in commercial zones, and not in residential, with the exception that someone holding a current short-term rental files an application seeking a variance or re-zoning 30 days from the effective date of the ordinance (which has been set for Monday, June 3, 2019) may be grandfathered in for a 12-month period, or until there is a change in ownership.

In short, Fitts states that there is an ability of someone living in a residential zone to submit an application to change this, at which time neighbors will be notified and then opinions may be made to the council, and proposed changes to the variance or re-zone may be made.

The council voted in favor of this short-term rental ordinance via roll-call vote, with only Fitts opposed.

Because of the dangers imposed to the fire fighters that leave the department on Windy Ridge, the council also voted to put stop signs on each side of the department, thus implementing a three-way stop (36:30). Mayor Donna Whitener says this will hopefully slow traffic down in an area that people are often confused by the road layout.

The final vote was on a Minor Land Use Map Amendment proposed by Russ Stevenson of 65 Depot Street (30:00). The purpose of this amendment is to rezone a tract of land from R1 (low-density residential) to R3 (high-density residential). The property map and parcel number of the subject property is BR02 258 and contains +- 0.38 acres. The council voted in favor of this amendment with none opposed.

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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.


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.



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Natalie Kissel

Zoning Board of Appeals Meeting Concerning Hampton Inn Canceled

Downtown Blue Ridge, News

The Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, scheduled for Sep. 4, to discuss the Hampton Inn floor limitations was canceled. Blue Ridge City officials decided to cancel the meeting after a recommendation letter was sent out by Blue Ridge City attorney, James A. W. Balli, stating that, in his legal opinion, the zoning meeting was no longer necessary due to the current city ordinances.

The Hampton Inn requested a variance from the City of Blue Ridge for a fifth floor. The original plans for the building site on West Main Street was to only include four stories.

This begs the question as to why there was a variance request in the first place? Surely no corporate company would purchase land without doing their due diligence to ensure that their goals of building onto the property would come to fruition. Would Hampton Inn buy land without having their attorneys review city ordinances beforehand?

Balli investigated the city’s zoning rules and concluded that the law allows for the building of up to 60 ft, so the question of floors is void, but rather, the height of the Hampton Inn is what matters most.

In an open letter Balli states, “Therefore, it is my legal opinion that, in its current form, the Zoning Ordinance limits the height of any structure within the CBD to 4 stories or 60’ feet. Accordingly, the Applicant need not request the height variance if the hotel does not exceed 60’ feet. It would be my advice that the hearing scheduled for September 4, 2018 be cancelled as unnecessary and that a zoning certification be issued to the Applicant which is complies with the legal opinion in this letter.”

There could be some potential issues with the construction of the Hampton Inn.

Note that in the open letter, Balli added Article 3 General Provisions, which states, “G15.2-3 Delay in Construction. In the event that construction is not begun within two years from the date of approval by the Council or is begun but is halted for a period of more than one year, said approval shall be void. Re-approval must follow the procedure set forth in Section 15 .1 and 15 .2 of this Article.”

Several issues have come into question by citizens of Fannin County that could delay construction. Among these issues are power lines over the now vacant lot, the city’s current infrastructure capabilities, and whether Fannin County’s fire department is equipped to handle a five-story building.

There has yet to be a sit-down between Fannin County and Blue Ridge City officials regarding these matters. Fire Chief Larry Thomas spoke on the matter of fire protection, “We (Fire/EMS) are aware of the request of a five-story building in the downtown area, and we are being proactive. We want to make sure that we have the right equipment to handle the new growth.”

With possible infrastructural changes and accommodations needing to take place, could there be a new five-story hotel on the horizon? Or will the lack of city preparedness be the downfall of the new Hampton Inn?

Open Letter

Changes to City of Blue Ridge alcohol ordinance

Community, News

Blue Ridge, Ga. – Alcohol sales could be allowed until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays in the City of Blue Ridge, and area establishments could begin to offer drink specials.

These are just a few of the changes seen to the Blue Ridge City Alcohol Ordinance, which had its first reading at the July 10 Blue Ridge City Council meeting.

After months of discussion and special committee findings and recommendations several changes have been introduced into the amended ordinance.
Beyond the later time for alcohol sales on Fridays and Saturdays, new holidays have been added to the list for late night transactions. Previously, New Years Eve was the only noted day for an exemption to the 11:30 p.m. rule, but if passed, patrons can also enjoy a later drink on Labor Day, Memorial Day, and July 4.

An updated conflict of interest section now allows for city officials to own establishments that participate in alcohol sales. These officials, however, will have to abstain from voting on any matter that directly affects their business holdings.

Also new to the amended ordinance will be the ability for establishments to offer “reasonable drink specials” with specific guidelines that must be adhered to in order to offer these specials.

The Blue Ridge City Council is expected to hold the second reading of the amended alcohol ordinance at their Aug. 14 regularly scheduled meeting.

Below is the amendments to the alcohol ordinance as read at the July 10 meeting:



WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, has previously adopted ordinance number 4.12.11 (as amended) as an alcoholic beverage ordinance for the purposes of regulating of the sale of alcoholic beverages including, but not limited to, related fees and taxes (collectively “Alcohol Ordinance”); and

WHEREAS, City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, finds that the certain changes set forth herein will be not be detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Blue Ridge, Georgia and will actually be the economic benefit of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, and its citizens,; and

WHEREAS, the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, desires to continue to regulate the sale of alcoholic beverages as provided in the Alcohol

Ordinance subject to the changes and/or additional regulations contained within this ordinance;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDERED, AND IT IS HEREBY ORDAINED by the Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia, as authorized by the City Charter and general law, as follows:

The Alcohol Ordinance is hereby amended by modifying, deleting and adopting the following provisions.

SECTION 110.45-3
This Section is hereby amended by inserting an additional sentence and the end of the Paragraph which reads “In addition to any other requirements set forth in this Ordinance, the City of Blue Ridge may annually require any license holder subject to a ratio requirement to produce a statement prepared by a certified public account setting forth proof of compliance with the ratio and that consumable items are at least fifty percent (50%) of a licensee’s business volume.”

SECTION 110.45-34(f)
Section 110.45-34(f) entitled “Employee permits” is hereby amended by deleting the previous subsection (6) in its entirety and the new Section 110.45-34(f)(6) shall read as follows:

“An employee permit shall be valid for one year from the date of issue. The employee permit may be renewed upon the submission of a renewal application, the payment of the appropriate renewal fee, and upon a determination that such individual remains qualified for said permit under this Ordinance. The fee for renewal of an employee permit shall be no less than $30.00.” 110.45-34(f)(6).

SECTION 110.45-14
Section 110.45-14 entitled “Sale, Distribution and other dealing in alcoholic beverages within the City by officials and employees: exemptions”, subsection (a) is hereby amended by deleting the previous subsection (a) in its entirety and the new Section 110.45-14(a) shall read as follows:
No member of the City Council who holds any interest, directly or indirectly, in any establishment licensed by the City to sell, distribute or otherwise deal in alcoholic beverages shall vote on any matter involving or relating to said establishment. For purposes of this subsection, a member shall be deemed to have or hold a beneficial interest if the license is issued in the name of the person’s spouse, child, parent or sibling, or in a partnership or corporation or limited liability company in which such persons owns more than ten percent (10%) controlling interest.

SECTION 110.45-23 (Fees)
The fee schedule is hereby amended to state the charge for a temporary special event license permit shall be $150 per permit.

SECTION 110.45-35 (Days and Hours of Operation)
Subsection (a) and (b) is amended to change any reference to “after 11:30 p.m.” on Fridays and Saturdays to “after 12:00 a.m.”

Subsection (a) is amended to remove the parenthetical (but which must end at 9:00 p.m.).

Subsection (b) is amended by changing the sentence “except on New Year’s Eve (December 31), and sales shall be allowed until 11:59” to read “except on Labor Day, Memorial Day, July 4 and New Years’ Eve and sales shall be allowed until 12:00 a.m. the following day.”

A new Subsection (c) is added which reads “any person or entity holding a temporary special event license shall be allowed to furnish, sell or offer for sale alcoholic beverages until 12:00 a.m. on the day following the event.”

SECTION 110.45-50(b)(2)(H)
Subsection (H)’s introductory paragraph shall be amended to read as follows: As to any retail consumption dealer, reasonable drink specials may be allowed, provided, however, that no licensee, in connection with the sale or service of alcoholic beverages for consumption on the premises shall:

Subsection (H)(4) shall be amended to read [No licensee shall] “sale, offer to sell, or deliver to any person or group of persons any alcoholic beverage at a price less than the less than the price regularly charged for such alcoholic beverage during the same calendar week, except reasonable drink specials which are clearly identified as to price and quantity and licensed catered functions pursuant to an issued City permit and not open to the public shall be allowed.”;

SECTION 110.45-52(c)
Subsection (c) is hereby updated and amended to make non-profit organizations subject to the same Sunday sales rules (Section 110.45-35) which apply to all other persons, entities and organizations by deleting the parenthetical “(which cannot include any Sunday of the year).”


All parts of ordinances in conflict with the terms of this ordinance are hereby repealed to the extent of the conflict, but it is hereby provided that any ordinance or law which may be applicable hereto and aid in carrying out and making effective the intent, purpose and provisions hereof, is hereby adopted as a part hereof and shall be legally construed to be in favor of upholding this Ordinance on behalf of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia.


If any paragraph, subparagraph, sentence, clause, phrase or any other portion of this Ordinance should be declared invalid or unconstitutional by any Court of competent jurisdiction or if the provisions of any part of this Ordinance as applied to any particular person, situation or set of circumstances is declared invalid or unconstitutional, such invalidity shall not be construed to affect the provisions of this Ordinance not so held to be invalid, or the application of this Ordinance to other circumstances not so held to be invalid. It is hereby declared to be the legislative intent of the City Council of the City of Blue Ridge, Georgia to provide for separate and divisible parts and it does hereby adopt any and all parts hereof as may not be held invalid for any reason.


The effective date of this Ordinance shall be immediately upon its passage by the City Council and execution by the Mayor or upon fifteen (15) days expiring from the date of its passage without a veto of said Ordinance by the Mayor as set forth in the City Charter at Section 3.23(b).


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Natalie Kissel

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


Natalie Kissel

GMFTO 10/27/15 Fannin


BKP talks about Fannin county and the millions of dollars held up by the Blue Ridge City Council’s Ordinances.

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