Downtown ‘blight’ raises question of eminent domain

News
Downtown Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Plans for two Hiawassee buildings are steadily progressing, with Hiawassee City Council scheduled to vote Tuesday on a Blight Resolution proposed by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales earlier this week. The City of Hiawassee recently purchased the historic structures, located just west of town square, for the purpose of downtown redevelopment.

Click to read Hiawassee solicits business ideas for purchased buildings

“We did Environmental Phase One and Two studies and there was nothing wrong with the buildings. They even did soil surveys and found that there was acetone in there,” Ordiales said during the monthly Mayor’s Report at city hall. “They said, ‘But yeah, you don’t even have to worry about it. It’s very minimal amounts, you can do what you want with the buildings.'” Upon inquiry from Councilmember Amy Barrett, Ordiales confirmed that asbestos testing was additionally conducted and that none was found.

Later in the Jan. 27 work session, listed as new business, the Blight Resolution appeared on the council’s agenda.

“In order for us to apply for big money for the remodel of those old buildings, we have to declare them blight and like, falling apart,” Ordiales said. “And once we get that we can apply for (what) they call Community Development Block Grants…and if it’s a blight building and we’ve deemed it to be a blight building, they give you more money. Well, certainly that’s a blight building. There’s nothing to discuss.”

Mayor Liz Ordiales

Mayor Liz Ordiales at the council’s Jan. 27 work session.

The Community Development Block Grant program is federally funded and “focuses on benefiting low- to moderate-income people by providing resources for livable neighborhoods, economic empowerment, and decent housing,” the Georgia Department of Community Affairs website explains.

Although the exact requirements of a blighted location widely vary, the City of Hiawassee has not released specific criteria. The following list, however, are common examples of blight:

•    Deteriorating and/or abandoned structures
•    Population loss or significantly changed population demographics
•    Defective street layout
•    Unsafe or unsanitary conditions
•    Lack of utilities or public works improvements
•    Environmental contamination of nearby structures or land

Hiawassee blight

An interior look at one of the Main Street buildings purchased by the City of Hiawassee.

FYN was contacted by a downtown business owner who questioned the city’s future intentions, concerned with the possibility of the resolution opening “Pandora’s Box” toward eminent domain. Research into the topic of blight, in fact, revealed a consistent connection to eminent domain land grabs.

In late-2018 when the five-year strategic plan was introduced at Hiawassee City Hall, an appointed ethics board member publicly inquired whether eminent domain – a highly-controversial practice in which the government expropriates private property for public use – was an option to abolish what the member 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.

Click to read Editorial: Hiawassee’s plans may encompass more than meets the eye

Following an announcement in August 2019 by Economic Developer Director Denise McKay that 209 properties had been identified by the city government as redevelopment sites, FYN filed an open records request to research the matter.

Click to read Residences on Hiawassee’s wish list for commercial development

The properties on the City of Hiawassee’s radar for redevelopment include numerous occupied buildings and several residential homes in the area. A full copy of the identified properties is available here: Rural Zone

“Though redeveloping blighted areas may seem like a positive step to many, it can cause major harm to landowners in these areas,” the law firm of Sever Storey, attorneys specializing in property rights, explained. “Additionally, the definition of ‘blight’ is often so vague that the government may try to seize property under the guise of blight when, in reality, the neighborhood is functioning and vibrant. One abandoned building should not mean that an entire block of homes should be seized from their owners and torn down, though studies have shown that the government often abuses its powers to condemn blighted areas.”

case study was released by the Institute of Justice after the organization became involved in an Elberton, Georgia, couple’s fight against the city to save their small business from an attempt to deem their town square building blighted. “Because eminent domain—especially quick take proceedings—can deprive people of their property, courts strictly construe eminent domain statutes to ensure property and due process rights. Strictly construing the power to take property for ‘public road and other transportation projects’ is also necessary to prevent Georgia governments from improperly invoking that power to avoid the important provisions of the Landowner’s Bill of Rights and Private Property Protection Act,” the Institute of Justice said.

While the issue of blight progressing into an eminent domain situation is unfounded, history has shown a concrete correlation between blight findings and eminent domain in the hands of Georgia municipalities.

Georgia’s constitution authorizes its counties and municipalities to establish a community redevelopment tax incentive program (Ga. Const. art. IX, § 2, para. VII). Those that choose to do so must adopt an ordinance that includes certain provisions.

Hiawassee City Council is set to vote on the Blight Resolution, Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. While the meeting is open to the public, citizen input is prohibited during the council’s regular sessions.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

City of Hiawassee solicits business ideas for purchased buildings

News
Downtown Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The City of Hiawassee asked for the public’s “positive, serious” thoughts on the types of business they would like to see set up shop on Main Street, west of Hiawassee Town Square. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced the tentative purchase of Hiawassee’s two oldest buildings in late November, with Hiawassee City Council approving the purchase the following week.

The buildings’ appraisal was set at $135,000, Mayor Ordiales said on Nov. 25, although $36,000 was “donated to the city” by Dan Paris, reducing the city’s cost to $99,000. Ordiales expressed gratitude toward Paris, a local businessman who is assisting in the restoration of downtown Hiawassee.

Hiawassee business

One of two vacant buildings recently purchased by the City of Hiawassee.

Ideas ranged from a book shop to a pool hall and everything in between.

After many months of detailed research, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government revealed a five-year strategic plan for Hiawassee’s potential future on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, during a Town Hall meeting. The procedure of envisioned development was the result of numerous studies conducted between the institute and local leaders, business owners, and residents.

During the course of the study, community stakeholders listed what they felt was working well in Hiawassee, and what they believed could benefit from improvement. Positive aspects included the strong sense of community with a “small-town feel,” the city’s town square, and the location itself, brimming with natural amenities. Feedback on areas that could prosper from improvement consisted of advanced beautification efforts, occupation of vacant buildings and lots, improved traffic and transportation, and the promotion of business options.

What do you think would be a nice addition to Downtown Hiawassee? Let us know in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

 

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Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Hiawassee to purchase city’s oldest buildings

News
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales recently shared what she enthusiastically deemed “the biggest news ever” with members of the city council and citizens.

“The City has just completed a close to purchase the two buildings between Anderson’s (Financial Service) and Victoria’s Attic. The two oldest buildings in the city. (City of Hiawassee attorney) Mr. Mitchell was here today and we finished all of the closing documents. Of course, that will be up for a vote on Tuesday,” Mayor Ordiales announced as a tentative deal at Hiawassee City Hall, Nov. 25.

The historic, vacant buildings are located on Main Street, east of Hiawassee Town Square, A component of Hiawassee’s five-year strategy includes revitalization of Hiawassee’s downtown district, and Mayor Ordiales promised that the dual structures will transition up to par.

Hiawassee Mayor - 2019

Mayor Liz Ordiales at the November work session.

The buildings’ appraisal was set at $135,000, the mayor stated, although $36,000 was “donated to the city” by Dan Paris, reducing the city’s cost to $99,000. Ordiales expressed gratitude toward Paris, a local businessman who is assisting in the restoration of downtown Hiawassee. “So that’s the price we will be approving on Tuesday,” the mayor told the council.

Mayor Ordiales additionally announced that Hiawassee’s strategic plan was selected for national recognition in March of 2020 at the Downtown Development Authority’s national convention in Washington D.C.

After many months of detailed research, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government revealed the five-year strategic plan for Hiawassee’s potential future on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, during a Town Hall meeting. The procedure of envisioned development was the result of numerous studies conducted between the institute and local leaders, business owners, and residents.

During the course of the study, community stakeholders listed what they felt was working well in Hiawassee, and what they believed could benefit from improvement. Positive aspects included the strong sense of community with a “small-town feel,” the city’s town square, and the location itself, brimming with natural amenities. Feedback into areas that could prosper from improvement consisted of advanced beautification efforts, occupation of vacant buildings and lots, improved traffic and transportation, and the promotion of business options.

The City of Hiawassee worked with the Carl Vinson Institute, a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach at the University of Georgia, which assists state and local governments in achieving their goals. Hiawassee received a $21,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant in 2017 to assist in the funding of the study. Steering committees were formed for the endeavor, and interviews and focus groups were held to sculpt the formation of the project.

Click to view the City of Hiawassee’s strategic plan

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Downtown Development Authority brainstorms plan for Hiawassee’s future

News
Hiawassee DDA

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) met Monday, Oct. 15, at Hiawassee City Hall to plan the revitalization stages of the city’s economic structure. Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay, along with DDA Chairman Herb Bruce, Tamela Cooper, Maggie Oliver, and Lindie Wright were in attendance.

A beautification goal for murals to grace the sides of local businesses is progressing with two locations tentatively identified. The cost to the city of Hiawassee will amount to approximately $3,000, McKay said. Minor changes were adjusted in the DDA bylaws, and the fiscal year was adapted to coincide with the city of Hiawassee’s audit period of July 1 through June 30. DDA directors who do not attend four consecutive meetings will forfeit their position on the board. A quorum, defined as the minimum number of members of an assembly that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of the session valid, was determined to amount to the majority of DDA directors.

Objectives for use as marketing material were discussed in the form of a brainstorming session. DDA directors seemingly agreed that a “visually appealing city” would draw additional business to the area, aiding in the creation of a “cute, little downtown.” The board members noted a need for after-hour businesses, such as restaurants and a tempered, nightlife atmosphere. City “walkability” was a factor in the forum. Activities for youth were mentioned, and target audiences from two separate age groups- 16 to 40-year-olds and 40 to 80-year-olds – were formed.

The city’s DDA was created to operate in conjunction with Hiawassee’s strategic plan. The future meeting schedule and ideas for activities and fundraisers were listed under new business. In addition to the members present at Monday’s session, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Teresa Andretta, and Judith Weible form the city’s DDA. Mayor Ordiales was out-of-town, and could not attend Monday’s meeting.

 

Feature Image: Hiawassee DDA Chairman Herb Bruce at the Oct. 15 meeting.

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

City of Hiawassee plans public DDA meet and greet

News
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Seven directors were recently selected to serve on Hiawassee’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA), and the city has planned a public meet and greet with the appointed board members tomorrow evening, prior to the council’s 6 p.m. work session.

“On Monday, Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m. there will be a special meeting (meet and greet) with the members of the newly formed Downtown Development Authority and the City Council of Hiawassee in the Council Chambers at City Hall,” City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick said. “Refreshments will be served.  At 6 p.m. the DDA will be presented with their information packages and date of first official regular meeting, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019 at 6 p.m. at Hiawassee City Hall.”

The DDA board of directors are:

Herb Bruce

Judith Wieble

Tamela Cooper

Lindie Wright

Theresa Andrett

Maggie Oliver

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

According to the Georgia Municiple Association, DDAs and their appointed boards are created to revitalize and redevelop the central business districts of cities in Georgia. DDA training provides local leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to ensure a healthy, vibrant downtown.

DDAs have a range of powers which include: developing and promoting downtowns; making long-range plans or proposals for downtowns; financing (by loan, grant, lease, borrow or otherwise) projects for the public good; executing contracts and agreements;  purchasing, leasing or selling property; and issuing revenue bonds and notes.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Hiawassee’s Downtown Development Authority activation postponed

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Council - 2019

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council met for their monthly regular session Tuesday, June 4, passing a “Broadband Ready” ordinance, while delaying the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Activation Resolution listed on the agenda. FetchYourNews previously reported on the scheduled activation.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained the broadband ready ordinance. “It’s just a matter of getting us ready for when they start funneling out money for broadband for rural areas; we are set on go, we are ready to go,” Ordiales said.

DDA activation was postponed due to an absence of individuals who will serve as board members. “The object is to see if we can find folks that live in the city that also have businesses in the city. That’s ideal,” the mayor said. “That’s going to be tough to find, but that’s the key, what we are trying to do.” Mayor Ordiales noted that Councilwoman Amy Barrett was the sole official who has submitted potential candidates to fill positions.

According to the Georgia Municipal Association, “a DDA consists of a board of seven directors who are appointed by the municipal governing authority to serve staggered four-year terms. Directors are appointed by the governing body and must be taxpayers who live in the city or they must own or operate a business located within the downtown development area. They must also be taxpayers who live in the county in which the city is located. One of the directors can be a member of the municipal governing authority. Board members do not receive any compensation for serving on the DDA, except for reimbursement for actual expenses incurred in performing their duties With the exception of a member who also serves on the city council, all DDA board members must take at least eight hours of training on downtown development and redevelopment programs within the first 12 months of their appointment to the DDA.”

The DDA resolution, as presented to Hiawassee City Council, follows:

A RESOLUTION TO DECLARE THE, NEED FOR THE  CREATION OF A DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY TO FUNCTION IN THE CITY OF HIAWASSEE, GEORGIA, PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF  THE DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITIES LAW O.C.G.A. Section 36-42-4, et seq. OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA; TO ACTIVATE SUCH DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY AND APPOINT A  BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR SAID DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY; TO AUTHORIZE SAID DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY TO EXERCISE THE POWERS CONTAINED IN  SAID DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY LAW; TO PROVIDE FOR NOTICE TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA AND THE GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AFFAIRS OF THE ADOPTION OF THIS RESOLUTION; TO REPEALS CONFLICTING RESOLUTIONS; TO PROVIDE FOR AN EFFECTIVE DATE AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES;

WHEREAS, the Mayor and Council have determined that it would benefit the city of activate the Downtown Development Authority for the City of Hiawassee, and

WHEREAS, the Mayor and Council, after thorough investigation, have determined that it is desirable and necessary that the Downtown Development Authority of the City be activated immediately, pursuant to the Downtown Development Authorities law;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Mayor and Council of the City of Hiawassee, and it is hereby resolved by the same, that there is hereby determined and declared to be present and future need for a Downtown Development Authority (as more fully described and defined in the Downtown Development Authorities Law) to function in the City of Hiawassee.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that there is hereby activated in the City the public body corporate and polite known as the “Downtown development Authority of the City of Hiawassee the following named persons;

 

Name:                                                                                  Term:

Two Years

Two Years

Four Years

Four Years

Six Years

Six Years

Six Years

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED That the Board of Directors hereinbefore appointed shall organize itself, carry out its duties and responsibilities and exercise its powers and prerogatives in accordance with the terms and provisions of the Downtown  Development Authorities Law as it now exists and as it might hereafter be amended or modified;

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the “Downtown Development Area” shall align with the proper city limits as it now exists and as it might hereafter be amended or modified;

 

BEIT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Hiawassee shall promptly furnish to the Secretary of State of the State of Georgia a certified copy of this resolution in compliance with the provisions of the Downtown Development Authority Lay;

 

Be IT FURTHER RESOLVED that any and all resolutions in conflict with this resolution be and the same are hereby release;

BE IT FURTHER Resolved that this resolution shall be effective immediately upon its adoption by the Mayor and Council of the City of Hiawassee and from and after such adoption the Downtown Development Authority of the City of Hiawassee shall be deemed to be created and activated.

 

Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to meet for their monthly work session Monday, June, 24 at 6 p.m. Work sessions are held in the upstairs training room at Hiawassee City Hall. Meetings are open to the public.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Hiawassee scheduled to activate Downtown Development Authority

News
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council, in cooperation with Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales and Economic Developer Denise McKay, are scheduled to activate the city’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) during their regular session, Tuesday, June 4, at Hiawassee City Hall.

According to FYN’s research into DDA board member training, the governing body of the city “activates” the DDA via an “activating resolution.” The General Assembly has already created a DDA for each Georgia municipality, although the DDA cannot transact any business, nor exercise any powers, until the city activates it. In the activating resolution, the city must designate the city’s downtown development area – which consists of the geographical jurisdiction of the DDA –  and appoint initial directors.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to have every, single storefront filled? That’s my target,” stated Mayor Ordiales last week at the “Eggs & Issues” breakfast meeting.

Downtown Development Authorities (DDA) and their appointed boards are created to revitalize and redevelop the central business districts of cities in Georgia. DDA training provides local leaders with the skills and knowledge they need to ensure a healthy, vibrant downtown. According to the University of Georgia, DDAs have a range of powers which include: developing and promoting downtowns; making long-range plans or proposals for downtowns; financing (by loan, grant, lease, borrow or otherwise) projects for the public good; executing contracts and agreements;  purchasing, leasing or selling property; and issuing revenue bonds and notes.

Furthermore, a “Broadband Ready” ordinance is scheduled to go before the council Tuesday evening.

Hiawassee City Council convenes on the last Monday of each month for work sessions, followed by regular sessions the following Tuesday, at 6 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

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