City of Hiawassee to discuss contract with Georgia Mural Trail

Georgia Mural Trail

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to discuss a potential contract with Georgia Mural Trail at the monthly work session, Monday, Nov. 25, at city hall. “The Georgia Mural Trail was created by John W. Christian from the Go Georgia Arts,” Georgia Mural Trail explains. “Our studio is located in Hapeville, Ga. The Georgia Mural trail started as a five years commitment to paint fifty murals in fifty cities in five years. We focus is on smaller cities under 10,000 people. We also have a program for larger cities under 50,000 people. Our goal is to get other artists, organizations, and sponsors on board to help with the painting, funding, and marketing of the trail.”

Georgia Mountain Trail states its mission is “to create great art and help others create great art, one person or city at a time.” The goal is to link public artwork via a “trail” near welcome centers throughout Georgia, hugging the state’s border. The company says that while the design process involves months of planning, murals are typically completed within two weeks to a month of application.

Hiawassee strategic plan.

A portion of Hiawassee’s strategic plan includes adding public artwork in the city.

“The Georgia Mural Trail first mural city was the city of Cave Spring. Even though there are hundreds of murals in the state. Our focus are smaller cities. We have painted murals in many other cities this one was the first under the mural trail concept. The mural trail concept is fluid and always changing and growing. We are always adding ideas to the trail. One thing you will notice is that the murals are getting much larger and more complex.”

Hiawassee’s Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay hinted at October’s Downtown Development Authority meeting that two location sites for murals had been tentatively identified, one being that of the building of the former “$2 store.”

Hiawassee City Council assembles for work sessions at 6 p.m. on the last Monday of each month.

Meetings are open to the public.

Feature Image: Georgia Mural Trail’s debut mural in Cave Spring, GA, created by a team of artists.

Hiawassee’s DDA schedules inaugural session


HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Directors of Hiawassee’s newly-formed Downtown Development Authority (DDA) gathered for a meet and greet with Hiawassee City Council Monday, Aug. 26. The DDA received information packets from Economic Developer Denise McKay, prior to the inaugural committee session scheduled for Monday, Sept. 16 at 6 pm at Hiawassee City Hall.

The selected 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.”


A proposed concept for a vacant building on Main Street in Hiawassee’s strategic plan.

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.

The inaugural meeting will consist of the election of a DDA chairperson, co-chairperson, and a secretary-treasurer. New business will include a review, discussion, and tentative modification of the authority’s bylaws, enactment of the DDA contract, and the establishment of the committee’s future meeting dates and order of business. In addition, a directors’ update will take place with discussion of Hiawassee’s strategic plan and upcoming DDA member training.


DDA directors (pictured left) met with Hiawassee City Council and Economic Developer Denise McKay (pictured far right)

According to the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the agency that assisted in formulating the city’s strategic plan, DDA training involves discussion of the responsibilities of development authority boards and the role that authorities serve within the local economic development process.

Basic training topics are listed as:

  • legal issues
  • ethics
  • conflicts of interest
  • open records and open meetings requirements
  • the basics of financing development authority operations
  • incentives
  • bonds
  • strategic planning in community development
  • project development and management
  • emerging issues that affect development authorities

Building upon fundemental knowledge provided by basic training, an advanced course allows board members to refine their skills while executing the comprehensive plan of action for the community.

Hiawassee DDA meetings, as well as Hiawassee council sessions, are open to the public.

Feature Image: A portion of Hiawassee’s Strategic Plan is to revitalize commercial real estate.

Credit: City of Hiawassee/Carl Vinson Institute of Government




Hiawassee’s Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors Selected

Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Board members for the recently created Hiawassee Downtown Development Authority (DDA) were named per open records request sent last week to the city of Hiawassee by FetchYourNews (FYN), following activation of the DDA by Hiawassee City Council Tuesday, Aug. 6. A list of the individuals selected to serve on the authority was delivered to FYN by Hiawassee City Clerk Bonnie Kendrick via Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay.

The appointed DDA board of directors are as follows:

Herb Bruce

Judith Wieble

Tamela Cooper

Lindie Wright

Theresa Andrett

Maggie Oliver

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

According to Georgia Municiple Association (GMA), 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. 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.

Denise McKay

Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay serves Hiawassee, Young Harris, and Towns County

The DDA consists of a board of seven directors appointed by the municipal governing authority to serve four-year terms. Directors are appointed by the governing body, and must be taxpayers who live in the city and/or owners or operators of businesses located within the downtown development area and who are taxpayers residing in the county in which the municipal corporation is located, except that one director may reside outside the county if he/she owns a business within the downtown development area and is a resident of the State of Georgia. One director may be a member of the governing body of the municipal corporation. No less than four of the directors must be persons who either have or represent a party who has an economic interest in the redevelopment and revitalization of the downtown development area. Directors receive no compensation other than reimbursement for actual expenses incurred in performing their duties (O.C.G.A. § 36-42-7). All members of the board of directors, except for the director who is also a member of the city’s governing body, must complete at least eight hours of DDA training within the first 12 months of appointment to the DDA.

Advantages of creating an authority include:

  • the ability of the municipal government to delegate responsibility
  • to have a body that will assist in developing and operating a single purpose facility (such as water and sewer, parking facility, etc.)
  • carrying out a focused public purpose, such as economic development
  • financing a project through revenue bonds
  • creates a way to have ongoing oversight of operations after initial development is completed
  • their activities may be less influenced by politics
  • there is some distance between the city and the authority, which is helpful if controversies arise.

Disadvantages to creating authorities include:

  • authorities can become overly independent
  • authority boards are often appointed to terms longer than those of the elected officials who appointed them
  • they can become financially self-sufficient from the city from operations of the facilities they develop
  • they are likely to be less responsive to public opinion and to local governments.

Despite the level of independence of authorities, municipal governing bodies do have oversight powers and controls, GMA explains. For example, the boards of all municipal authorities are comprised of members appointed by the city’s governing authority. For many authorities, a certain number of city officials are either required to serve or may be appointed to serve on the board. The activities of authorities must be consistent with those described in the local Service Delivery Strategy. The enabling legislation for some authorities specifically states that board members serve at the pleasure of the governing authority. Authorities typically have bylaws that govern their activities and describe their organization. Additionally, authorities are subject to open meetings and open records laws set forth by the state of Georgia.

FYN will continue to follow developments related to the newly-formed DDA. A meet-and-greet to provide an introduction between council members and the selected board was suggested by Mayor Ordiales at the Aug. 6 regular session, prompting FYN to request information on the assembly.

“A meet and greet has not been scheduled as this request and the meeting date, location and times have not been determined as of this request,” Economic Developer McKay responded via email. “When the DDA meets for the first time all this will be considered and on the published agenda.  Proper notification will be given to the legal organization for publishing the meeting and agendas will be posted as required.”

Archives on Downtown Development Authority

Archives on Rural Zone Designation




Residential areas on Hiawassee’s wish list for commercial development

City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As the City of Hiawassee continues its pursuit to activate and institute a Downtown Development Authority (DDA), establishing a geographical Rural Zone Designation for economic development is a key factor in the process. FetchYourNews filed an open records request with the City of Hiawassee following a public announcement by Economic Developer Director Denise McKay stating that 209 properties had been identified by the city government as potential redevelopment sites.

The properties on the City of Hiawassee’s list of proposed locations include numerous occupied buildings and several residential homes in the area. A full copy of the properties is available: Rural Zone  (Click to view document)

The DDA is primarily a policy-making and major decision-making entity that plans and manages the downtown area. The DDA is a corporate body recognized by state law, and it is eligible to receive certain grant funding, whereas, a local business or merchants association may not qualify. From an Internal Revenue perspective the DDA is considered to be governmental tax-exempt. The DDA can utilize a variety of financing tools outlined in the Official Code of Georgia. Funding created from the implementation of the measures can be used in a number of ways to bring about revitalization and economic development of the central business district.

Hiawassee City Hall

Hiawassee City Hall

The DDA can work with volunteers from the local business association, citizens, the city and county to
bring about the revitalization of the downtown area, or depending upon a set of criteria for qualification, a
DDA may choose to initiate a Main Steet Affiliate, as the City of Hiawassee has opted, or a Better Home Town Redevelopment Program.

The DDA must be activated by the city government prior to functioning. This is accomplished by first designating the downtown area boundaries with the city; appointing the initial directors of the authority; creating a resolution which also declares that there is a need for such an authority; pass the resolution, and file copies of the resolution with the Secretary of State and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

The DDA law states that the authority shall consist of a board of seven directors. The directors must be taxpayers residing in the county in which the authority is located. At least four of the directors must also be owners or operators of downtown businesses. Directors of authorities created under the DDA law are appointed by the governing body of the municipality. Directors will be required to attend and complete at least eight hours of training on downtown development and redevelopment programs.

Hiawassee City Council members are currently in the process of selecting and submitting their choice of board appointees to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales. Once the body is formed, the authority can undertake commercial, business, office, industrial, parking, or public projects if it claims to benefit the downtown district.

The following are powers that are specifically provided to the DDA created under the Downtown Development Authorities Law of 1981:

1. To sue and be sued.
2. To adopt and to change, as necessary, a corporate seal.
3. To make and execute contracts and other agreements, such as contracts for construction, lease or
sale of projects or agreements to finance projects.
4. To purchase and own property, real or personal, and to sell or otherwise dispose of property, lease or rent property. The authority’s property is tax-exempt.
5. To finance projects by loan, grant, lease or otherwise.
6. To finance projects using revenue bonds or other obligations of authority.

The establishment of Hiawassee’s Rural Zone Designation is expected in October. Hiawassee City Council is scheduled to adopt the Downtown Development Activation Resolution Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 6 pm at city hall.

Rural Zone  

Feature Photo Credit: City of Hiawassee/Strategic Plan


Hiawassee identifies 209 properties as potential commercial development sites

City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay announced before Hiawassee City Council Monday, July 29, that the City of Hiawassee, in cooperation with Towns County 911 Mapping, has identified 209 properties within the city limits to potentially develop as commercial enterprises. Defining a geographical area is a key component in advancing the city’s ‘Rural Zone Designation’ project. McKay described the border as located near Hiawassee Brew, situated east of city hall on State Route 76, and extending west to State Route 75 North, to additionally include “side roads.” Should the plan proceed, state approval of Rural Zone Designation is anticipated in October.

FetchYourNews (FYN) spoke with Towns County 911 Mapping Director Marty Roberts the following day, with Roberts informing that his department was requested to pinpoint the properties proposed by the City of Hiawassee, later referring McKay to the regional commission for further direction.

At the time of publication, FYN is awaiting open records from the City of Hiawassee to identify the precise locations of the parcels in question. FYN will provide additional information as it becomes available.

Mayor Ordiales added that the project will allow the city to “chase big entites” while providing “tax break” incentives to investment developers. “It opens a door to a lot of things,” the mayor said.

“Recognizing that many small, rural downtown areas have experienced varying levels of economic distress, DCA worked with the Georgia General Assembly to secure passage of a bill calling for the development of ‘Rural Zones,'” Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) website explains. “The establishment of up to 10 zones per year will enable businesses and investors to obtain tax credits for qualified activities occurring within designated Rural Zones. DCA, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, will receive applications and designate zones each year to provide an incentive for job creation and private investment in the designated locations.

“The program includes three tax credit incentives: a Job Tax Credit, Investment Credit, and Rehabilitation Credit. The basic criteria required for communities seeking the designation include: having a population less than 15,000, having a core downtown area with structures older than fifty years, demonstrating blight or disinvestment in the downtown area, having implemented a strategic plan for the downtown area, and completing market analysis indicating gaps within the local business makeup.”

Economic Developer Denise McKay was selected by Mayor Ordiales, and jointly hired by the City of Hiawassee, the City of Young Harris, and Towns County as a whole in December, 2018.

Click here for related archives

Feature Photo: Economic Developer Denise McKay (Seated: Hiawassee Councilwoman Anne Mitchell)

Hiawassee receives Georgia Main Street affiliate designation


HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Joint Economic Developer Denise McKay announced last week at City Hall that Hiawassee has been approved for Georgia Main Street affiliate designation.

According to the Georgia Main Street website, the program began in 1980 as one of the original pilot state coordinating programs of the National Main Street Initiative launched by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The program launched with five local communities and has grown to serve 100+ communities statewide.

Georgia Main Streets says it represents some of the strongest central business districts in the state and in the Southeast. Since it started, the designated community programs have been instrumental in leading the state in historic preservation, small business development, expansion of the state’s employment base, leveraging private investment, increasing tourism and providing a positive road map for public-private partnerships.

Housed in the Office of Downtown Development at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), Main Street is a signature program for community development and revitalization in Georgia’s historic downtowns.

Additionally, McKay announced that Rural Zone designation approval for Hiawassee is expected in mid-August.

Commissioner, mayors, economic developer meet to discuss joint plan

Towns County economy

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FetchYourNews (FYN) met with Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, and Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby, along with newly-hired Economic Development Director Denise McKay, on the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 8, for an inquiry session pertaining to goals, and information on how sharing a single developer will work.

Towns County, the city of Hiawassee, and the city of Young Harris entered into a joint contract to share the expense and the fruits of McKay’s labor in expectation of bolstering area commerce. Funding will be divided equally between the county and dual municipalities, estimated at $20,000 per governmental entity, for a total amount of approximately $60,000.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales explained that implementing the UGA-Carl Vinson Institute of Government strategic plan is Hiawassee’s top priority.

“We’ve been talking about this for several years, and we feel that since we’re so small, all three of us, the county is not that big, the city of Hiawassee and Young Harris are about the same size, and it’s all small so there’s no need to have three different efforts going on at the same time,” Mayor Ordiales said, “So if we combine our efforts, and you know, go toward the same goal, and I think we all have the same goal. My plan to to take the strategic plan that you’ve all seen and go, execute. Check, check, check. (Young Harris) of course has different needs, the county has different needs, and I realize that this is a big strategic plan, that we’re not going to be able to do it all in a year. I get it. But the ones that we can do, we’ll do, and whatever (McKay) can do for my partners (Towns County, Young Harris) here, that’s the way we’ll rock on with that.”

FYN questioned whether the endeavor is associated with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Due to stipulations set forth by the state, Ordiales confirmed that a current affiliation does not exist.

“We’re going to try to pursue Main Street designation, and you know, do the easy stuff first,” Ordiales explained, “If we grow into a DDA, great. If we never get to a DDA, okay.

Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby offered input from her mutual standpoint.

“I don’t see (McKay) as the economic development person just for the county, (or) just for us” Mayor Gibby imparted, “So I see her as one person that we are all funding, right? For different needs. It was tossed around at one point, like, (Mayor Ordiales) and I tried, we wanted to have a joint development authority. Because of the way the rules are written in the state – and you all can get all of the rules – we couldn’t do that. Because we wanted to share, we wanted it to be informal sharing, but we can’t do that. So then in asking a lot more questions of people in the state, we just decided along with some advice, that because we are small, because none of us can’t afford one person per city-county, right? Then we can share the cost of one person who can help us achieve goals, right? So while we all have similar things that we need done, we can share.”

Gibby went on to explain that while McKay’s efforts will be divided, there will be times when concentration is focused specifically on the development of Hiawassee or Young Harris, relaying that due to updated infrastructure, the time is right for her city to set plans into action. “We’re at the place where we’re ready to bring people back together, bring the town back together, and we’re going to do that in the next couple of months, and kind of dust this off, update it, and get some priorities in place, and (McKay) is going to kind of help us with that piece, and what are our priorities, and what do we need to do.”

Economic Developer McKay voiced optimism in taking on the work necessary to serve the lofty mission.

In turn, Commissioner Bradshaw shared approval in the stated goals of the project.

“What is so neat about this, as (Mayor Gibby and Mayor Ordiales) said, is that it is a joint effort. It’s a partnership, and I’m so glad that we have the relationships that we can do that,” Commissioner Bradshaw added, “So if (McKay) lands a business to come into the city of Young Harris, I’m as excited as if it were coming outside of the city limits of Hiawassee and Young Harris. It doesn’t matter to me. It all benefits Towns County.” Bradshaw explained that he is looking at the big picture, leading to the decision to partner with the cities.


Feature Photo: (L-R) Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Economic Development Director Denise McKay, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby


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. 

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.

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