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.

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.

 

 

Towns County Billboard Amendment Finalized

News
Towns County Sign Ordinance

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held a special-called meeting on the morning of Monday, Oct.29, to finalize the adoption on the sign ordinance amendment. The billboard mandate has been in the process of revision since July, with a 90-day moratorium enacted on the issuance of sign permits, following a steep influx of requests from out-of-area advertisers.

Over the course of the past several months, Bradshaw consulted with the Towns County Planning Commission and Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker, seeking ample input from community business owners and county residents on the issue. Polls were distributed which revealed overwhelming public support to prohibit excess signage from occupying area lands.

The resolution allows for one on-premises sign per business lot, and one off-premises sign per private land parcel. On-premises signs are limited to 75 square feet in size, with off-premises signs not to exceed 32 square feet.

Th resolution states its objective and purpose is to “provide a reasonable balance between the right of an individual to identify a business, or express their thoughts, and the right of the public to be protected from visual discord resulting from the unrestricted proliferation of signs and advertising devices.”

Furthermore, the revised decree is scripted to “guard against an excess of large, aesthetically unappealing, intense signs which cause visual blight on the appearance of the community.”

telecommunications ordinance was additionally adopted at Monday’s meeting, limiting the size and placement of cellular towers within Towns County.

The mandates, in their entirety, are available at the Commissioner’s Office in the Towns County Courthouse.

 

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County sign ordinance in the process of refinement

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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.

Billboard ban in place until mandate revision finalized

News, Politics
Towns County SPLOST

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Discussion of the sign ordinance revision continued at the monthly county meeting, held on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, at the Towns County Courthouse. A 90-day moratorium was enacted in July, temporarily freezing permits to authorize off-premise billboards in Towns County. The decision was reached after an influx of requests reached the Towns County Commissioner’s Office, the result of a lax mandate. While eight billboards currently exist within the county lines, with several more were grandfathered in prior to the suspension.

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw assured that extensive contemplation and deliberation is being applied to the reconstruction of the signage decree.

“I’ve talked to business owners. I’ve talked to the public. I’ve been trying to get input from a lot of people, knowing in my heart we’re doing the right thing the whole time, and after doing the research that I have done, there’s no doubt in my mind, and after hearing from different folks in the county,” Bradshaw said, implying that allowing billboard companies to have “free reign” would be detremental to the county, “A lot of people have their opinions on that, but I’ve got facts.”

Steven Phillips

Steven Phillips, a local radio host, musician, and former commissioner candidate, raised concern over the proposed ordinance revisions

According to reports, Steven Phillips, a local property owner who wished to erect signs on private land, contested Bradshaw’s stance at a Towns County Planning Commission meeting, held on Sept. 11. FYN did not attend the forum due to conflicting coverage, meeting with the commissioner the following day to recap the session. Bradshaw noted opposition from a sole citizen, though claimed widespread public support on the matter.

FYN spoke with Phillips on Wednesday, Sept. 19, offering an opportunity to include a contrasting view on ordinance revision. While Phillips concurred that certain billboard restrictions should be placed on out-of-area advertisers, Phillips expressed concern for personal property rights and local business owners. “I can understand restrictions on industrial billboards, but there’s far more at stake than signs being an eyesore,” Phillips explained, “What about businesses that are off the beaten path, the ones that rely on signs to advertise? More local business owners, the ones that have a dog in the fight, need to get involved in the process. It hasn’t been thought out. It can hurt businesses.” A purported proposal to allow a single sign, affixed on either the face of the business or by the roadside, was troublesome to Phillips as well.

Commissioner Bradshaw tells FYN that he isn’t aware of dialogue regarding an either/or on-premise sign restriction  taking place, and agrees that Phillip has a valid point concerning small businesses. “The ordinance is something we are continuing to refine,” Bradshaw said, “Steven (Phillips) brought out a good point. The last thing we want to do is hurt small businesses by not allowing them to advertise. We don’t want to hurt them by allowing excessive billboards to weaken the economy either though”

At Tuesday’s county meeting, Commissioner Bradshaw cited a portion of the information he had studied, stating most – although stressing not all – billboards advertise out-of-state products and services, lacking a beneficial connection to the local economy. Bradshaw stated that tax revenue gained would be scarce in exchange, garnered through estate additions that would raise assesments, and in turn, taxes for the owner of the property on which the signage was placed. The commissioner listed studies conducted in larger cities that had toughened their sign ordinances, resulting in an increase in revenue to the local economies by millions of dollars in the years that followed. Bradshaw relayed that billboard control is imperative to a thriving tourism industry, reciting research conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America, which lists natural beauty as top criteria for visitors. According to the study, the more a community does to enhance its unique natural, scenic, and historic assets, the more tourists it attracts.

A firm proponent of capitalism personal property rights, Bradshaw is an avid advocate of preserving the pristine nature of the county while simultaneously growing the native economy “in the right ways.”

“We want businesses to advertise. Do not take me wrong, but we do not want to kill our businesses by over-advertising. We don’t want to kill our real estate market by over-advertising with signs everywhere, and I feel very strongly about that,” Bradshaw concluded, reiterating that he is working diligently with Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker to finalize the decree. Although the 90-day moratorium, which suspended billboard permits, expires in mid-October, the possiblity of an extension exists. “We want to get it right the first time,” Bradshaw avowed, limiting the possibility of future amendments.

FYN has previously reported on the billboard ordinance, and will continue to follow developments, updating the process as the moratorium deadline approaches

Commissioner Bradshaw on Towns County Unemployment, Sign Ordinance

News
Commissioner Bradshaw

Hiawassee, GA – Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held his monthly meeting at the Towns County Courthouse on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. The topics of discussion included the local unemployment rate and a resolution to amend the commercial sign ordinance.

According to research gathered from the Georgia Department of Labor Workforce Statistics, Towns County’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.9% in January of 2017 to 5.8% in August of 2017.

“The unemployment rate is definitely getting better,” Commissioner Bradshaw affirmed.

Statistics obtained from the Towns County Tax Assessors Office show real estate sales have steadily increased, a total of 1,607 residential properties sold between 2014-2016.

Towns County saw an 8.9% increase in tourism dollars between 2007 and 2016. $32.28 million was acquired in 2007, while $48.78 million benefited the economy in 2016. Commissioner Bradshaw expects to see continued growth in the years to come.

Towns County Courthouse

Towns County Courthouse

The tax relief per household from tourism dollars saved residents $862.23 in 2016, an increase from $735.71 the previous year.

Local sales tax revenue continues to increase. An estimated $1,424,225 is anticipated for 2017, up from $1,386,097 in 2016.

Commissioner Bradshaw also announced a resolution to amend the Towns County “Schedule of Fees.” A sign ordinance application review fee for area businesses will occur in the amount of $25.00, with an additional $25.00 cost for the final permit. $3.00 per square foot for each face of the signage will also be applied as well. Commissioner Bradshaw consulted surrounding counties for input on standard rates prior to reaching a decision.

The Commissioner welcomed questions from the citizens, ranging from building code concerns to whether political signs are permitted on Hiawassee Square.

Commissioner Bradshaw concluded the meeting by saying, “My door is always open and I thank you for trusting me. I work for all of you.”

The Commissioner’s meetings are held on the third Tuesday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Towns County Courthouse.

 

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.

Towns County holds First Reading of Sign and Cell Tower Ordinance

News, Politics
Commissioner Bradshaw

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County’s billboard permit moratorium has been in effect for three months, and Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw stated on Tuesday, Oct. 16, that the mandate revision had reached the first reading.

Bradshaw extended polls to area businesses, residents, and students during the course of the past month, seeking citizen input on the matter. The overwhelming majority of polled participants desired no additional billboards to be erected in Towns County.

Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker attended the monthly county meeting, and spoke on the ordinance amendments.

On-premises signs will be limited to a single sign per track of land, 75 square feet per face in dimension. Off-premises signs, an important aspect for businesses located off the beaten path, will be limited to one sign per single parcel of land, restricted to 32 square feet per side. There is no limit to the number of off-premises signs, although one sign per parcel will be enforced.

Attorney Robb Kiker

Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker

In addition to the billboard mandate, a cellular tower ordinance in the process of formation, regulating the areas where the structures can be located. There is currently not a decree in existence, which limitss the county government from influencing where cell towers are constructed. Bradshaw’s concern is that the placement of towers could potentially obstruct or dampen the view for area residents, dependent upon placement. Safety measures will be included in the mandate, prohibiting telecommunication towers near schools and daycares, in the event that the tower collapses.

The process of cellular tower installation consists of filing an application, along with a $1,500 fee for a study to be conducted by experts. Towns County Planning Commission would discuss the matter, allowing public comment, before moving to vote on the issue. As with the sign ordinance, the commissioner holds the final say on the decision.

The second reading of the billboard amendments, and the resolution to regulate cellular towers, are expected to be held in the near future, prior to November’s regularly scheduled county session.

FYN will announce the date and time of the meeting once it has been determined.

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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