Hiawassee’s strategic plan moves forward, sign ordinance discussion continues

News, Politics
Hiawassee economy

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Slightly more citizens than usual turned out at the council’s regular session at Hiawassee City Hall Tuesday, Feb. 5, to hear the five elected officials’ verdict on several issues, including the wastewater expansion bid, a pending sign ordinance, the city’s five-year strategic plan, and a proposal to expedite the adoption of future mandates.

Mayor Liz Ordiales opened the session by reminding the public that comments are not permitted during regular sessions, rather work meetings are the proper time to offer citizen input as they are “informal” gatherings. “That is the place for all kinds of public input,” the mayor said.

Concerning the sign ordinance, council dialogue revolved primarily around banner advertising. After lengthy discussion, the council resolved to amend the tenative ordinance, eliminating a $15.00 fee for businesses to hang banners, and removing the verbage pertaining to the amount of banners a business is permitted to display annually. A single banner, not to exceed 60 square feet in diminsion, is expected to remain in the decree. The council agreed that banners should be kept in presentable condition. An extended sign permit moratorium remains in place while the council reconstructs the ordinance.

Liz Ordiales

Mayor Liz Ordiales outlining the strategic plan before the Mountain Movers and Shakers Jan. 25

Later in the session, Hiawassee City Council unanimously adopted the city’s 2019-2024 revitalization plan. Upon motion from Councilwoman Anne Mitchell and a second from Patsy Owens, Councilman Kris Berrong initiated discussion, explaining that he, along with community members, harbor hestitation. “Concerns of a few that have the strategic plan, and me, personally, I think that we need to talk about it a little bit more. I’m for a lot of it, but we kind of went over it one time with (Georgia Municiple Association) and that was about it,” Berrong relayed.

“But you have a copy,” Councilwoman Anne Mitchell interjected. “I do,” Berrong replied, adding that he was not confident in exactly what might occur when Mitchell pressed. Council members Amy Barrett and Nancy Noblet offered that they had spoken with business owners who had voiced similar concerns.

“This would serve as a document for us to use as a guideline for what we want to do in the city,” Mayor Ordiales said, “This was not our input; this was not the University of Georgia’s input. These are the people in the city who came to our focus groups, who came to the one-on-one interviews, who came to the town hall meetings.”

When a local business owner’s concerns were specifically outlined by Council member Amy Barrett during the session, Mayor Ordiales stated that the owner in question was invited to participate in the focus groups and declined the offer. FYN contacted the business owner the following day and was surprised to learn that the owner had, in fact, attended a focus group, but did not recall receiving any type of follow-up initiated by the city of Hiawassee.

Prior to the council vote, Noblet asked Economic Developer Denise McKay what the initial stage of the comprehensive plan will involve. McKay responded that “basic landscaping and hopefully painting” the post office, beautifying the entrance to Ingles with foliage, and improving the town square are the city’s starting points, explaining that the projects are “fairly easy and inexpensive to do.”

During the council’s work session the week prior, McKay listed public art in the form of murals as the third project, rather than the town square, when FYN publicly inquired into the initial three-fold plan.

A resolution to award the wastewater expansion project to SOL Construction, the lowest bidder, was approved by the full council during the meeting. Mayor Ordiales projected completion by fall of this year.

The session concluded with 3-2 rejection of the mayor’s proposal to enact single-session ordinances. Additional information on the issue is available by clicking this link.

Hiawassee City Council assembles for their monthly work session Monday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Council votes 3-2, rejecting expedited ordinance adoptions

News, Politics

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In a 3-2 vote, Hiawassee City Council rejected a proposal by Mayor Liz Ordiales to consolidate readings in order to adopt future ordinances in a single session.

Had the agenda item passed, expedited adoptions would have essentially reduced the time in which the council could research and contemplate decisions, additionally limiting the length of time that the public had an opportunity to react, to a mere week rather than the month-long process currently in effect.

Hiawassee City Council

Hiawassee City Council during a previous session (L-R) Patsy Owens, Nancy Noblet, Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, Anne Mitchell, Mayor Liz Ordiales, and City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick

Council members Anne Mitchell and Patsy Owens favored the fast-tracked measure. Council members Amy Barret, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet voted in opposition, defeating the proposal.

Mayor Ordiales stated prior to the council vote that the purpose of the decree was to speed up unanimously agreed upon ordinances, using the citizen-supported “Brunch Bill” resolution which appeared on last November’s general ballot as an example. Likewise, Ordiales swayed that issues such as the council’s monthly compensation could have passed had the ordinance been in place prior. The window to increase compensation was lost due to the mayor’s inaction to introduce the item in a timely matter, as no adequate lapse was provided between the two, required readings. Ordiales explained that if the council was not in full agreement at a reading, a subsequent reading would have continued to be held.

FYN previously reported on the matter.

Hiawassee to expedite future ordinance adoptions, limiting time for citizen involvement

 

Information on the city’s strategic plan and sign ordinance is available by clicking this link.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee’s plans may encompass more than meets the eye

Business
Hiawassee tax

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – There is no denying that times are always changing, and the sleepy, little town of Hiawassee, Georgia, population 903, is on a fast track to follow suit. While transformation is inevitable and often welcomed with open arms, members from the community have begun voicing their views on what it could mean for the lower-income population, and ultimately, the indigenous culture that has inhabited Towns County for centuries.

The course of action that the city of Hiawassee plans to enact implores the question of whether gentrification is at play. While most people understand the process and effects of gentrification, many remain unaware that an actual term exists. Merriam-Webster defines gentrification as “the process of renewal and rebuilding, accompanying the influx of middle class or affluent people, into deteriorating areas that often results in the displacement of earlier, poorer residents.” In order for these areas to be revitalized, the areas must be essentially cleared out. This is achieved through the raising of taxes and service rates, often beyond the point of affordability.

During last year’s property tax increase hearings, Hiawassee Councilwoman Amy Barrett raised issue that senior residents on fixed-incomes are relocating due to heightened electricity costs, citing the city-imposed BRMEMC francise “fee” as the reason given by the displaced. While the full council favored the franchise, the mayor’s proposal to reject the property tax rollback was ultimately defeated in a 3-2 vote.. On Jan. 28, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales divulged that a water rate increase is in the works, explaining that it has been six years since a spike last occurred.

On a cultural front, community concerns began to surface during a June town hall meeting, held in conjunction with the University of Georgia (UGA) Carl Vinson Institute of Government, which focused on a strategic, comprehensive project to sculpt the future of Hiawassee. While program participants overwhelmingly favored noble plans such as boosting tourism, advancing city beautification, and creating structured, economic growth, other suggestions raised eyebrows, particularly from the conservative population.

Leslie McPeak – a vocal, local business owner who was later exhalted to the city’s Board of Ethics by Mayor Ordiales – suggested deviation from long-held traditions, including a reduction in the amount of gospel and country concerts hosted in the area, determination that shops open their doors on Sundays to boost economic reward, and an assertion that the city should steer clear from the “Bible-Belt stigma” that has prevailed in Towns County since its foundation.

Months later, when the strategic plan was completed and introduced at Hiawassee City Hall, McPeak publicly inquired whether eminent domain, a highly-controversial practice in which the government expropiates private property for public use, was an option to abolish what McPeak considered an unattractive local business. A representative from the Carl Vinson Institute responded that grants, rather, may be available to encourage compliance with the city’s aesthetic vision. Additionally, McPeak drew media attention during a previous council session by harshly critizing a Republican election rally held last July on Hiawassee Town Square.

In recent events, Mayor Ordiales, who has been repeatedly praised as “progressive-minded” by supporters – in collaboration with newly-hired Economic Developer Denise McKay – stated during the council’s January work session that the city holds ambition for private land to be purchased by developers to construct “affordable” apartment housing in order to retain the local youth once they enter the work force. The topic was broached when a citizen in attendance skeptically called into question the city’s goals for current residents and business owners. Ordiales replied that workers will be needed to fill certain positions, listing boat mechanics and hospitality workers as examples, due to a projected influx of a population which will require such services. Unprompted, Ordiales concluded that $800 a month in rent is considered reasonable, retracting the amount to $700 after the council and citizens failed to express a reaction to the mayor’s initial figure.

Upon query from FYN, Economic Developer McKay listed the inceptive phase of the project that Hiawassee intends to implement, and according to McKay that includes improving the appearance of the outdated post office and sprucing the entrance to Ingles while seeking a grant for artists to begin painting murals throughout the city.

It should be noted that the revitalization and preservation of historic structures is listed in the city’s five year plan, with Mayor Ordiales often referencing the Old Rock Jail museum as a point of reference, a site entrusted to the Towns County Historical Society by former Commissioner Bill Kendall. Ordiales stated to Mountain Movers and Shakers Jan. 25 that two developers have shown interest in the vacant row of buildings on Main Street, west of the town square, although the structure located next to where Delco once stood will be demolished when purchased. Ordiales recited significant achievements in lowering the city’s inherited debt, acquiring numerous grants, and engineering a plan to improve the infrastructure – all critical components in expanding Hiawassee’s development – during the Movers and Shakers’ forum.

While a range of participants took part in the creation of the strategic plan, the contributors represent a small fraction of the population. The Carl Vinson Institute of Goverment described the project as a stepping stone, however, rather than an endeavor set in stone.

In sum, while economic growth and positive innovation is widely supported, it is the opinion of the author that the effect of particular politics and policies, left unchecked, has the potential to deteriorate the backbone of conservative communities, both fiscally and culturally. This is especially true if the public whom it affects remains disengaged from local happenings, and apathetic to eventual outcomes.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene on Tuesday, Feb. 5, for their regular meeting to adopt the city’s strategic plan, as well as hold a first reading to expedite future ordinances by consolidating readings into a single session.

Public comment is prohibited during regular meetings.

The next work session, which will allow citizen input, is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m.

In-depth information on the above, highlighted texts can be found by clicking the links.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page.

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee to expedite future ordinance adoptions, limiting time for citizen involvement

News, Politics
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales proposed the dismissal of requiring the first and second readings of city ordinances to be spaced a month apart, listing the item as new business on the city council’s Jan. 28 work session agenda.

Mayor Ordiales explained that the change would “speed things up” by allowing both the first and second readings to take place at a single meeting – thus enabling an ordinance to become finalized during the solitary session – should the five council members vote unanimously.

While the process of ordinance adoption would indeed turn expedited, the change would drastically reduce the amount of time for citizen input to a mere week rather than the full month currently prescribed by the city charter.

Given the fact that citizens are prohibited from imparting comments, concerns, or complaints during regular council sessions, the new structure would prevent citizens from publicly speaking if they were absent from the work session when an ordinance was introduced and discussed.

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to vote on the consolidation of ordinance readings on Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 6 p.m.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching 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

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee to hold first reading of city’s sign mandate

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Council is scheduled to hold the first reading of the city’s sign ordinance amendment at their monthly work session, Monday, Jan. 28. The council is currently in the process of refining the mandate.

While numerous topics related to the ordinance are in discussion, of particular note is the definition of what constitutes a temporary sign, regulations regarding banners, and the amount of “yard sign” advertising a business will be permitted.

Although tentative, the terms applied to a temporary sign are listed as any sign or device not permanently attached to the ground or other permanent structure designed to be mobile or to remain in place for a limited time. This includes, but is not limited to, signs designed to be transported regularly from one location to another, signs designed with wheels, regardless of whether the wheels remain attached to the sign, or signs tethered to an existing structure.

Hiawassee City Hall

Hiawassee City Hall

Animated, digital, and billboard signage are expected to be prohibited. During a recent council meeting, the issue of whether the city’s current animated signs would be subject to the decree if a business was purchased by new owners. It was stated that the sign in question would be considered a part of the property and would not fall under the revised regulation.

The proposed permit fee is written at $5.00 per square foot.

Pertaining to applications, the current model reads that, “the City shall process all sign permit applications within 30 business days of the City’s actual receipt of a completed application and accompanying sign permit fee. The clerk shall give notice to the applicant of the decision of the City…If the City fails to act within the 30 business day period, the permit shall be deemed to have been granted.”

The sign ordinance draft concludes as follows.

“All signs shall be maintained in good condition as to present a neat and orderly appearance. The city may, after due notice, issue a citation to any permittee for any sign which shows gross neglect or becomes dilapidated. Such due notice shall be in writing, shall specify the sign and location, and shall state that the sign has not been properly maintained. The city shall give the permittee thirty (30) days to rectify the condition or remove the dilapidated sign before issuing a citation. The city may issue a citation for violation of this ordinance by any sign erected, altered, converted, or used in violation of this ordinance. Any person violating any provision of this ordinance shall be liable for a fine of one hundred fifty dollars ($150) for each violation. Each day a sign is posted in violation of this ordinance shall constitute a separate violation.”

The mandate is expected to reach its final reading and adoption at the council’s regular monthly meeting Feb. 5, 2019.

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee City Council sets 2019 election qualifications

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council held a special-called meeting on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 10, to discuss information pertaining to the 2019 election. Three of the five council seats will be listed on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Qualifying will take place at Hiawassee City Hall from Wednesday, Aug. 21 through Friday, Aug. 23, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. The qualifying fee is $45.00. Candidates must reside within Hiawassee city limits for a minimum of one-year prior to election day, and be over the age of 21.

Anne Mitchell

Councilwoman Anne Mitchell

Posts currently filled by Anne Mitchell, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet could potentially face challengers, should the three council members choose to run for re-election.

Kris Berrong

Councilman Kris Berrong

Noblet was elected to Post 5 in 2017, occupying the council seat left vacant by Mayor Liz Ordiales, a former council member.

Council members Anne Mitchell, Kris Berrong, Nancy Nobet, and Amy Barrett attended Thursday’s meeting, in addition to Mayor Ordiales. Councilwoman Patsy Owens was absent, said to be in Florida, vacationing.

Nancy Noblet

Councilwoman Nancy Noblet

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to convene for their monthly work session Monday, Jan. 28, at 6 p.m. at City Hall. Meetings are open to the public.

 

 

 

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet, attracting more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties, as well as Clay and Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week, reaching between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

City of Hiawassee approves copy machine purchases

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Council held a special-called meeting on the evening of Monday, Dec. 17, to approve the purchase of two needed copier machines for City Hall. Council members Anne Mitchell, Amy Barrett, Nancy Noblet, and Pasty Owens were in attendance. Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick explained that the copy machines that are currently in use are past their prime, with one unit manufactured in 1994. Kendrick relayed that the machines have suffered significant decline from years of heavy use. “We’ve known this was coming,” Kendrick said.

Hiawassee Council unanimously voted to allow for the purchase of two Cannon copier machines from Duplicating Products. The company employs a service technician in Young Harris, providing a quick turnover time should issues arise. The total cost of the two units amounts t0 $11,278. One of the machines will be put to use by Hiawassee Police Department.

In addition to the business matter, the council voted to meet for a Christmas dinner at a local restaurant on Wednesday evening.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Mayor proposes digital billboard on Main Street

News, Politics
Mayor Liz Ordiales

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Weeks after a 45-day sign permit moratorium was enacted in Hiawassee, Mayor Liz Ordiales proposed the notion of allowing a digital LED billboard to be erected within the city limits. The multi-message sign would flash advertising promotions at eight-second intervals, intended for installation near the intersection of Main Street and Bell Creek Road.

The early November decision to temporarily halt permits within the city followed an amended ordinance by Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, banning additional billboards from entering the area. On Oct. 29, Mayor Ordiales stated during the city’s work session, “It doesn’t make sense for the county to do one thing and (the city) to do another,” suggesting that Hiawassee would review the current sign mandate, inferring potential revision of the ordinance to coincide with county regulations.

The mayor’s proposal to permit a multi-message, digital billboard, however, is in direct contrast with the county’s mandate. Towns County strictly prohibits the signage in question, as does the City of Hiawassee ordinance, which is currently in effect.

Upon invitation by Ordiales, Terry Poteete – a Gwinnett County resident with Affordable Outdoor Advertising Solutions, and the owner of 85 billboards strewn throughout seven counties, including the 55-foot tall, four-faced billboard located across from McDonalds in Hiawassee – addressed the full council during Monday’s work session. Ordiales divulged that Poteete had broached replacement of the static billboard with a digital version in February, though due to the current ordinance restriction, the request was denied. Poteete purchased the existing billboards in 2012.

Hiawassee mayor Liz Ordiales

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

The overwhelming consenus from the numerous citizens in attendance at City Hall revealed blunt opposition to the concept. Residents expressed strong distaste by describing digital billboards with adjectives ranging from “annoying” to “hideous.”

The possibility of removing exisiting billboards to allow for the digital version was mentioned by Hiawassee City Attorney Thomas Mitchell. According to Mitchell,  the Department of Transportation (DOT) guidelines list that digital billboards must be spaced further than 5000-feet apart in distance. State law allows for a second digital sign to be installed on the opposite side of the street, however.

Hiawassee City Council expressed conflicting opinions on the matter, with Nancy Noblet clearly favoring the idea from the councilwoman’s subjective standpoint. Anne Mitchell and Amy Barrett voiced sturdy opposition, with Barrett stating that digital billboards “degrade the integrity of the mountains.” True to form, council members Kris Berrong and Patsy Owens remained relatively silent on the issue.

A Town Hall meeting was suggested by Hiawassee City Council, aimed to gain additional resident input prior to taking the matter to vote, with no known date scheduled at the time of publication.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-970-8491 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com

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