90-day sign permit moratorium takes effect

Towns County Courthouse

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – At a regularly scheduled July meeting, Towns County Planning Committee unanimously recommended review of the current sign ordinance. According to county officials, applications and the issuance of permits for off-site advertising signage and billboards has increased multi-fold in the past several months.

The Planning Commission presented the recommendation to Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, who in turn imposed a 90-day moratorium on the acceptance of applications for off-site signage and billboard advertising. The resolution reads that Georgia law provides that a moratorium is justified when the interest of the public requires such interference, and the time and manner of the restiction is not unduly oppressive. Further, the moratorium is required to maintain the status quo for a period necessary to review and potentially implement remedial measures to serve the public interest.

The resolution states that the unchecked proliferation of signs and billboards have the potential to permanently alter the natural beauty, landscape, and economic viability of Towns County.

Commissioner Bradshaw says the existing sign ordinance will be reviewed and “strengthened” during the 90-day period. During the moratorium, the commissioner plans to consult with the county attorney and planning commission staff to consider and enact a coherent policy to allow outdoor advertising in a manner consistent with the interest of the county and its citizens.

The moratorium went into effect on July 17, 2018, and will remain active until October 16, 2018. It does not affect permits issued prior to July 17.

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.

County sign ordinance in the process of refinement

Towns County Courthouse

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Planning Committee convened on the evening of Tuesday, Sept. 11, to further discuss plans to strengthen the existing billboard ordinance, setting forth guidelines that may be enacted.

FYN met with Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw the following day to gain clarity on the complex endeavor.

While Bradshaw stated that the specifics of the revisement are in the early stages of development, the commissioner firmly committed to the project. “I’m all for businesses, and we want them to be able to advertise and prosper in the county, but we are trying to maintain what we have. Allowing billboards to run wild will bring about a change in the county that we won’t want to see,” Bradshaw told FYN, “It would definitely hurt the economy in the long run.”

As previously reported, Bradshaw reiterated the recent surge in signage permit requests, stating that his office has received a notable spike due to a Department of Transportation website which “blasted” the lax county ordinance that is currently in place. With county growth projected to soar in the future, Bradshaw seeks to contain the matter before it gets out of hand. A 90-day moratorium was placed on sign permits on July 17, 2018, in order to temporarily quell the sizeable increase.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Bradshaw stressed that ordinance revision applies solely to off-premise advertisement.

Bradshaw assured that he is working closely with the Planning Committee, and Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker, to form proper regulations. Although tenative, a proposal of spacing signage 2500 feet apart on major roadways, no larger than 300 square feet, and no higher than 30 feet from the ground, erected by a single pole, has been discussed. A maximum of 75 square feet was proposed on secondary roads within the county. Dialogue of whether one- or dual-sided signs will be permitted has been broached, with digital signs prohibited. Bradshaw shared concern for residents who dwell at elevated heights, and the effect the blinking lights would have on the ambiance of their view. Additionally, landscaping of the area surrounding signs, as well as a requirement of general upkeep, may be adopted.

“I believe in personal property rights, but I believe in protecting the future of the county,” Bradshaw confirmed.

Further discussion to solidify the billboard ordinance is expected to take place between the commissioner, planning committee, and county attorney in the near future.

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 Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, 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 advertise@FetchYourNews.com

Commissioner Bradshaw extends Billboard Ban, offers Public Poll

News, Politics
Billboard ban

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held a called meeting on the morning of Friday, Sept. 28, to extend the current 90-day moratorium for an additional 30-days. The initial moratorium was scheduled to expire on Oct. 15, with the extension running until Nov. 15, 2018.

The decision to lengthen the freeze on signage permits is due to a need for further time to consult with Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker, Towns County Planning Commission, and the public to seek input on the mandate revision.

Commissioner Bradshaw distributed polls throughout the business community, attached to printed information on the adverse effects of billboards to local economies, asking citizens whether billboards should be permanately banned, distanced 2500 feet, one mile, or two miles apart on Highway 76 in Towns County.

Although the poll is in the early stage of circulation, the overwhelming majority of participants stated they do not want additional billboards to exist in the county whatsoever.

While Bradshaw adamantly claims to be a staunch supporter of businesses, the commissioner believes a surplus of signage would hinder rather than help.

“We work for the public and when the public speaks, that’s what we do,” Bradshaw said, maintaining that too much “sign clutter” would dampen tourism and the general local economy.

Bradshaw plans to offer additional polls to attendees at the upcoming Towns County Historical Society.

Residents and business owners are invited to request a copy of the public poll at the Towns County Courthouse.

City of Hiawassee follows county’s lead, approves 45-day sign moratorium

News, Politics
City of Hiawassee

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council met for their regular session on Tuesday, Nov. 6, reaching a decision to instill a 45-day sign permit moratorium. The unopposed council vote was reached eight days after Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw finalized the county’s “billboard ban” which imposes regulations on advertising signage within the county’s border.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales announced that the moratorium would appear on the city’s agenda during the council’s work session held the week prior. Ordiales explained that the city should consider similar measures in order to potentially follow the county revision. The moratorium will allow time for the council to review and discuss the county mandate.

The 45-day moratorium temporarily freezes the issuance of sign permits within Hiawassee.

The final reading of the Municode Digital Listing ordinance was unanimously adopted by HIawassee City Council. Municode Digital Listing is a process which will transfer the city’s mandates from printed documents to an online venue. The ordinances were housed in a series of binders prior.

The annual Halloween in Hiawassee event was discussed and deemed a success by the elected officials.

Hiawassee extends sign moratorium; 3-2 split on ethics board designation

News, Politics
Hiawassee City Hall

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council conducted their monthly regular session on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 4, approving several items discussed during the workshop meeting held the previous week. Several motions were unequivocally favored by the five council members with the exception of an ethics board committee member assignment.

Council members Anne Mitchell and Patsy Owens preferred retainment of Susan Phillips, with Amy Barrett, Kris Berrong, and Nancy Noblet overriding the decision with a 3-2 vote in favor of Sue Scott. The joint ethics appointee, upon agreement of both city council and mayor, was granted to LaJean Turner.

Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales solely selected Leslie McPeak to remain on the ethics board committee. The three members were subsequently sworn-in at City Hall.

Hiawassee Patsy Owens

(L-R) Hiawassee Council Patsy Owens and Mayor Liz Ordiales at a Town Hall meeting in June

Furthermore, the council agreed to extend the city’s sign permit moratorium for an additional 60-days, affording the elected officials ample time to review changes, if any, that should be made to the existing ordinance.

Mayor Liz Ordiales listed a proposal on last week’s work agenda, petitioning council members to consider allowing a Main Street billboard owner to transform a dual-directional, double-tiered, static billboard into a digital, multi-message variant. Terry Poteete, the owner of the billboard in question, addressed the council upon referral of the mayor Nov. 26. Ordiales previously stated that her office was forced to deny the renovation request in February due to the current ordinance restrictions. Discussion on the particular billboard did not resume at Tuesday’s meeting, and it is unknown at the time of publication whether the seemingly council-contested topic will reoccur.

The city unanimously approved several additional matters, including an updated version of the city’s employee insurance plan with Blue Cross-Blue Shield, a contract related to the Watershed Protection Plan, eleven alcohol license renewals, and the second reading of the alcohol ordinance which accommodates the newly-passed “brunch bill”

In addition, Mayor Ordiales relayed that the City of Hiawassee ordinance listings are now available online through the city’s website.. “Every single ordinance we have is there,” Ordiales said. According to the mayor, the process of transferring the extensive data took approximately two years to complete.

Follow FYN for upcoming information regarding the University of Georgia-Carl Vinson Institute’s five-year plan for Hiawassee’s future, revealed in a town hall meeting following the adjournment of last night’s council session.


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 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


Planning Commission works toward sign ordinance revision

News, Politics
Towns County Planning Commission

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Planning Commission met on Tuesday, July 31, to discuss revisions to the existing sign ordinance. A 90-day moratorium, which temporarily suspended the permit process, took effect on July 17, due to a recent upsurge of applications for off-site advertising signs and billboards.

“Our worry is that we don’t want to pollute the county with signs,” Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw explained , “At the same time, we wants businesses to be able to advertise. We naturally want businesses to be successful and prosperous, but at the same time, we want to protect the beauty of the county. The key things we’re discussing are the sizes of signs verses the road sizes. For example, on Highway 76, you might do a 300 foot sign, but then on a smaller road such as Highway 288, it might be a 75 foot sign. The sizes are not in stone, and haven’t been approved yet. One of the things we’re debating is spreading the signs out, how much distance should there be between signs. I think that Union County signs are set at a mile apart. Towns County is a lot smaller than theirs, and we talked about a mile apart in the meeting, but we think that may be a little much, and at the next meeting we will figure it all out.”

“We also talked about the construction of signs, ” Bradshaw  continued, “When you head into Clay County on Highway 17/69, you see a lot of doubles. We’re not excited about doing doubles. We also don’t like to see telephone poles holding them up. We’re looking at maybe doing a uni-pole on the larger roads, and maybe metal poles on the smaller roads. All of this is talk right now, but at an upcoming meeting, we will vote and get it all done.”

The planning committee is expected to meet again in August to continue revamping the regulations.

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