Jonah Lane Rezoning under legal questioning

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The Jasper City Council went into closed session in February to discuss their action on Jonah Lane from December 2019.

Mayor John Weaver told citizens they were discussing a legal issue with Jonah Lane and recognized City Attorney Bill Pickett to give the City’s official stance on the rezoning.

Pickett said that the Council did vote to re-zone the property to R-3 with a condition of receiving a letter from the Appalachian Regional Commission that it did not violate a grant the city had received. With no motion from the council to rescind the rezoning and no request from the property owner to rescind it, the rezoning is moving forward.

This statement comes after January’s Council meeting when public comments surged against the issue and urged the council to reconsider the effects it would have on neighboring commercial developments. The rezoning in question was a C-2 lot as well. Now the rezoning sets it to residential amid other commercial developments. Citizens began protesting the issue in the meeting saying that police would undoubtedly be called as many of the neighboring commercial business owners gave examples of their businesses operating in unusual hours and causing noise that would be acceptable in commercial but considered excessive in residential zones.

More complaints came in February as citizens began questioning the legality of the issue. One business owner claims he was not properly notified of the rezoning. He also claims he has proof of the failure to notify. A claim disputed by Pickett as he says the city’s department says they did notify the adjoining properties of the request. The business owner also suggested he has had difficulties receiving requested documents. These allegations, as well as others from another neighbor to the property, suggested the city would be seeing legal ramifications if they move forward with the rezoning.

Mayor Weaver closed discussions of the issue saying, “The council’s action in December was specific… we are to follow what the council did that evening and we are aware of the issue.”

Mayor Weaver did voice opinions against the rezoning in December and to possible issues arising from it, but as the voting council members voted in favor of the rezoning, it is the council’s votes that direct the city’s efforts.

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Jonah Lane rezoning stalls in January Meeting

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JASPER, Ga. – The rezoning for apartments to be constructed on Jonah Lane in Jasper has stalled in this months meeting after discussion raised community pushback on the change.

Leftover from the December meeting when the rezoning was first brought up and conditionally approved by the council, they now have questions and discussions coming for the future of the C-2 lot. The pitch was to rezone to R-3 for apartments.

Both Brad Dilbeck and David Shouse, local developers, made note of lack of notifications for the initial rezoning requests, though Dilbeck said one of his tenants was notified. They also made comments that the Council speaks for the citizens but they don’t know or have had contact with council-members.

Shouse also said that he developed his land under the pretext that other commercial developments would come around him. He said, “There’s no way any other developer, in their right mind, is going to build anything else commercial beside this project.”

The main argument against the apartments comes from being so close to industrial lots. Those owners said they know they will get complaints and have to deal with the police for noise complaints and complaints about late and early hours of work.

With expectations of freedom to operate how they see fit, business owners said they chose their locations for its general distance from residential areas.

Other complaints revolved around traffic and wear on the road in competition between the current commercial traffic and a potentially a hundred extra cars.

Ultimately tabled for next month, the stall in the issue doesn’t mean the rezoning will be denied. It is still under investigation by the council who could be making a final decision next month.

 

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High tension continues into 2019 at Jasper City Council

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JASPER, Ga. – The City Council is continuing to see dissension among the ranks as a disagreement has now arisen about organizational meeting appointments.

As the January meeting reached item “VI. Organizational Meeting,” Council member Dr. Sonny Proctor stated he wanted more information on these appointments saying, “I think the council should have prior knowledge of who the appointments are, what the duties are. We need to make sure that we educate them  to do their jobs properly.”

The point of debate came from the council members wanting more information and control on the decisions before coming to open meeting. Mayor John Weaver contended against the point saying that he, as mayor, makes the decisions to put before the council during meetings.

Weaver consulted city attorney Will Pickett, Jr. who stated, “The mayor has the right of appointment and the council can decide whether or not to approve your appointment.”

Proctor disagreed with Pickett saying, “I don’t think that’s what the code says.”

Moving along on the item, Weaver presented three appointments for the council’s approval, Luke Copeland to the Planning and Zoning Commission, Karen Proctor to the Planning and Zoning Board of Appeals, Don Boggus to the Housing Authority. All of these were re

All three appointments saw a motion from Tony Fountain, but no second. Each failed for that lack of a second.

Weaver stated during the failed motions, “This is the chaos that prevails.”

Pickett noted that without new appointments those serving would continue to serve until an appointment is approved.

Proctor stated after the motions failed that he was trying to prevent the chaos. He said, “The council deserves input on who serves on these committees. And we’re not saying we don’t disagree with your appointments, but we deserve input on it.”

With Proctor asserting he only wanted input on what goes on, Weaver responded saying, “Sir, you’ve got more input than you can imagine, so congratulations.”

There were committee appointments for council members that were approved. Finance committee includes Tony Fountain and John Foust. Water Committee is Tony Fountain. Public Safety Committee is Dr. Sonny Proctor. Street Department in Anne Sneve. Parks is John Foust. The JYSA Liaison is John Foust. Roper-Perrow Property is Jim Looney and Sonny Proctor. These were approved unanimously by the council.

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Jasper still waiting for new City Manager

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JASPER, Ga. – Despite a special called meeting of the Jasper City Council with a “City Manager Appointment” item on the agenda, no new public information is available.

At this time, Mayor John Weaver said that the council is recomending the current City Manager, Jim Looney, to move forward with the process. This means that Looney will enter into negotiations with the candidates and move forward in the hiring process. There is no new information about the issue at this time, but with Monday’s December 10 day of interviews, it does meant he city is moving closer to an announcement of their new manager.

 

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Council progresses on City Manager at December meeting

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JASPER, Ga. – With a review of city manager applications in November, the City Council was further updated at December’s meeting about accepted and Scheduled interviews for December 10 for candidates for the position.

With four interviews set for Monday, the candidate pool is shrinking towards a final decision to hire a full time City Manager. This position is currently being filled by former council member Jim Looney.

As the Council continues in executive sessions, they are to be advertised as meetings for the council to legally be in the same room for these interviews. However, the Council will immediately go into a closed executive session to perform the interviews.

After the interviews, it should not be long before the council makes their decisions and formalizes the personnel hiring at an official meeting.

Additionally at their December Meeting, the council officially adopted Sanitation Rate increases for six months of review. Council member Kirk Raffield noted in the meeting that during the six month period, he wanted a conversation and decision on the growth of the program and equipment. The new rates are as follows:

Residential – $20
Residential (Senior) – $18
Housing Authority – $14
Commercial (One Day) – $25
Commercial (Two Day) – $50
Commercial (Four Day) – $100
Commercial (Five Day) – $125
Restaurant – $150

City employees also saw a major change in Vacation Days and a Christmas Bonus for their careers in December’s meeting. Vacation policy changes were approved as proposed in the meeting by City Manager Jim Looney who stated, “Personnel Committee recommends that accrued vacation be changed from 40 hours per week to the scheduled hours that employees work. That would be a change for Firefighters to 56 hours, Police for 42, and Water and Sewer employees for 42 hours per accrued week.”

The bonus came later in the meeting. Looney also presented this proposal after a work session discussion. A motion was made to offer a Christmas Bonus and one-time Service Award for employees.

Less than one year of service – $150
One year to ten years of service – $250
Eleven to nineteen years of service – $500
Twenty or more years of Service – $750

Each of these amounts already have included within them a $100 Christmas bonus and the remainder is the one-time Service Award “to recognize the dedication of each employee.”

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City Council Advertises Millage Rate

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Jasper, Ga – The City Council approved advertising for their millage rate alongside other items this week. Moving the meeting due to the holiday, the Council met on Wednesday, September 5.

The Council made no changes to the rate, leaving it at 4.655 mills. Thought Lisa Hoyle said in the meeting that the inflationary rate actually went down, it did not force a rollback rate. With growth in the county and new construction, the city could still see a rise in revenue, but they decided not to raise or lower the rate to affect any other changes to the budget.

With the advertisement, the council can move the next two meetings in October and November, this could also include a Special Called Meeting if needed. Citizens are invited to speak on the Millage Rate at any meeting set to discuss the subject.

The City also motioned to move forward with negotiations in the interest of connecting a water line to a new Pickens County Water Treatment Plant. With finer details still in need of finalizing and concessions between the two entities to be met, the City will be sending Mayor John Weaver, City Manager Jim Looney, and David Hall back into the negotiations to protect the city’s interests.

The approval simply notes the city’s willingness to participate in the new treatment plant by constructing the pipeline and covering the costs. It could mean the ability to trade water between the city and county treatment plants as well as adding a potential 300,000 gallons of water per day to the supply for the area.

The city is set to continue updates for the council in coming meetings as details and agreements are finalized. The city is also looking to maintain its water supply and flow through potential drought conditions.

A third major topic the council discussed involved restricting turn options at Mark Whitfield Street and Highway 53 and a four-way stop at Old Philadelphia Road and Confederate Avenue.

Making the turn left off of Mark Whitfield Street next to the drug store was approved in efforts to fight against the danger of what Looney referred to as a “Blind Turn.” Making the action illegal will cut down on the issue while encouraging drivers to begin using alternate routes such as moving over to North Main Street or on the opposite side to Richard Street. Officially approved as “Right-Turn only,” the approval will actually have citizens avoid going straight across either.

A four-way stop on Old Philadelphia Road is set to help avoid traffic back-up from another dangerous intersection. With heavy traffic involving the many businesses located on Confederate Avenue and Philadelphia Lane, as well as traffic coming from the nearby Wal-Mart using Old Philadelphia Road as a shortcut towards North Main Street.

Requested by a business owner in the area, the council decided they wished to further investigate as the item was placed on the agenda last minute. Officially tabled until October’s meeting, the council will be looking at the intersection until then.

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City Council Talks Festivals in August

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JASPER, Ga. – The Jasper City Council’s August meeting saw a change in the traffic direction for this year’s Marble Festival in October as well as for the popular JeepFest event starting at the end of August.

Haley Bouchie, President of the Jasper Merchants Association, presented a request to close a portion of Main Street during the festival. The road is already to be closed for the Road Race and the Parade that are scheduled for the weekend’s festivities. The new request would see the road staying closed from 6 a.m. on Saturday to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.

Bouchie stated the joint venture between the Jasper Merchant’s Association and the Pickens County Chamber would have security for the vendors on the street overnight. The request was made last year as well but denied. After several close calls with the traffic and pedestrians, according to Bouchie, they have returned with the request for this year’s festival.

Bouchie also told the council that they would be working alongside the merchants on the street to improve and increase their foot traffic despite the loss of the parking spaces on the street.

Expanding the Marble Festival up to Main Street cause a large discussion on how to get traffic around the closed street including Dixie, Mary, or even Whitfield streets. Sitting down with police and businesses to discuss traffic by foot and vehicle were assured to be forthcoming in preparation of the event.

Ultimately approved by unanimous decision, the event will see the road closed to traffic from 6 a.m. on Saturday, October 6, to 6 p.m. on Sunday evening, October 7.

The same request came for September’s JeepFest event asking to close Main Street for a “Show & Shine” of Jeeps lined up on the street. City Manager Jim Looney presented a letter from Kris Stancil of the Picken’s County Sheriff’s Office requesting the closure of the street on Friday, August 31, starting at 5 p.m. and ending at 10 p.m. after a concert.

This is not the first time this request has been presented, having been done for years now. The request was approved for the event. Mayor John Weaver commented saying that the Jeeps take over all of Main Street with hundreds of Jeeps lined up down the road for the Show & Shine.

An additional request came from Wingsology for the JeepFest event. Requesting an outside beer and wine license, Wingsology is also a request from previous years.

The council approved the request unanimously as well.

With these events coming up quickly, citizens should be aware of the closures of Main Street during these events as to avoid congestion as they seek to travel through town or attempt to find parking. Shuttles are also being made available for the Marble Festival specifically. Citizens can find the shuttle areas by visiting the Marble Festival Website.

 

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Brewery Ordinance Changes prep Jasper for new business

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JASPER, Ga. – Final approval came this month in the City of Jasper’s ordinance changes for breweries in the area.

While details were discussed last month on setting the costs for the license at $1,500, it was the July 2 meeting that that approved the final adoption as well as the effective date of the ordinance change to the alcoholic beverage ordinance allowing the business as well as the zoning ordinance change to include Brewery in the accepted uses under General Commercial (C-2) and General Industry (M-1).

The amendment allows brewers to manufacture malt beverages and beer in the city limits of Jasper and provides for the creation of the authorized license for that end. Additionally, City Attorney Bill Pickett confirmed the breweries were allowed to have consumption on premises and were exempt from city restrictions for consumption.

This means the allowance of tastings and similar events on premises of the brewery.

With the new ordinance, last month’s meeting indicated that other popular options at breweries would be available such as growlers and crowlers. For those still curious, a growler is a container or vessel that is used for the transport of beer. It can also be described as an air-tight jug, typically made out of glass, ceramic, or stainless steel that allows you to take draft beer from one place to another without a degradation of quality. A crowler is similar but in can form.

Citizen interest has already been shown as well as the business interest of at least one brewery to come. The only question citizens have raised so far is how the facilities will handle parking. A subject the council indicated would be handled with the zoning into only industry and C-2 commercial zonings.

 

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