Georgia Exceptional Main Street

GA-Main-Street---Full-Color-Logo-smallThe Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) announced on April 4 the Dahlonega Downtown Development Authority is designated as a Georgia Exceptional Main Street (GEMS) Program for economic development efforts throughout 2016.

"Georgia Exceptional Main Street communities are united by common attributes that help make them the strongest commercial historic districts in the state- a commitment to historic preservation and planning, stable leadership and active municipal support," said Jessica Reynolds, director of the Office of Downtown Development at the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), which houses the Georgia Main Street program.

Preceded by the National Main Street Center's Great American Main Street Award in May of 2016, the Georgia Exceptional Main Street designation further demonstrates downtown Dahlonega's excellence in economic vitality, design, promotion and organization.

Investments in downtown Dahlonega in 2016 included 16 public and private construction projects totaling more than $1 million; $12,000 reimbursed through the Dahlonega Downtown Development Authority's historic preservation grant programs; 99 events produced; 20 special economic development projects completed; and over 4,000 community volunteer hours documented.

Read the entire 2016 Activity Report HERE.

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Official Statement - City of Dahlonega - Updated March 1, 2017

Official Statement – City of Dahlonega

February 20, 2017

Updated – March 1, 2017

For Immediate Release Contact: City Manager Bill Schmid

The information below is posted in the public interest and to preserve valuable resources and staff time.

RE: Clarifications to recent news reports

Background:

The City of Dahlonega is a welcoming community for people of diverse backgrounds, interests, goals and ideals. Our award-winning small town of meaningful rich history is home to over 5,000 residents and warmly receives several hundred thousand visitors a year, including hundreds of domestic and international guests daily. Our reputation and brand have been built over decades by the hard work of thousands of individuals. At no time have we been home to an active group of known white supremacists.

We are also privileged to be one of the smallest cities in the country to host a public university offering advanced degrees and fostering a wide range of ideas. The five campus University of North Georgia founded in 1873 is based here and serves over 18,000 students system wide.

Choices of expression by one or two people are not representative of our community as a whole, and recent episodes are not indicative of a change in our character or philosophy. Whatever the motives, we do not understand or support statements or actions suggestive of prejudice or fabrications of alternate history.

While we will appropriately accommodate the expression of free speech within our ordinances we are hopeful that those who wish to tarnish our community's reputation will ultimately rethink their tactics.

Prior and Current Reviews by the City for Roberta Green-Garrett Hotel:

Payne-Parks Building - An application of August 4, 2015, for demolition of the Payne-Parks building was followed by a long public involvement period and holiday season. It was approved by the Dahlonega City Council with three conditions February 1, 2016, on appeal from a denial by the City's Historic Preservation Commission. Hotel plans for roughly 30 rooms and required parking were incomplete and no specific redevelopment plan was approved. The applicant committed to further HPC review and approval before actual demolition was to occur.

Butler Building - The City met with the Garretts in April 2016 to discuss their interest in a larger project to roughly double the size of the building to 75 rooms. The Garretts must next obtain approval of the replacement building and obtain authority to demolish the Butler building also. Despite much informal discussion, a complete application for a Certificate of Appropriateness (required for projects in the City's B-3 and CBD zoning districts) has not yet been received. Ms. Green-Garrett requested six variances from city ordinances to prepare the plans for the replacement buildings. Some of those were granted and some were denied. November 7, 2016, the City Council, acting in their capacity as the Board of Zoning Appeals, denied the Garretts' request to reduce required parking space sizes below City minimums and denied proposed intrusion of two floors leasable enclosed space over public right of way. Four other variances presented to the Planning Commission were withdrawn before the BZA review.

Staff met with the Garrett's attorney and architect in December 2016 and has confirmed meeting notes and required submittal documents for the way ahead. If plans are not changed, the building concept last seen (two levels of deck parking and lobby with two levels of guest rooms) would exceed height limits for the district and the applicant was advised a Conditional Use permit will be required.

February 16th an illegal sign was observed and removed from the building. Later that day the City was informally advised a filing of a complete application for both the approval of the replacement building and the demolition of the Butler building was soon to be made for the hotel. No complete application for demolition of the Butler building and replacement with a hotel has yet been made.

City Sign Permitting Process:

If a sign application does not meet City regulations, it will not be permitted and should not be erected. If a non-permitted sign is erected, it will be taken down. An application for the illegal sign banner taken down was filed but then withdrawn by Barbara Bridges on behalf of Mrs. Green-Garrett. Then an application for a painted wooden sign with appearance similar to the banner was received February 22, 2017, also filed by Barbara Bridges on behalf of Mrs. Green-Garrett. However, that sign permit application was withdrawn on Friday, February 25, 2017, by a UNG student acting on behalf of Mrs. Green-Garrett.

The City of Dahlonega appreciates the concerns that were expressed by students, residents and businesses regarding the sign hung on the Butler Building last week. We are heartened by the local support that has arisen which only serves to confirm that our City is welcoming and tolerant of people from various backgrounds and diverse cultures. Dahlonega's reputation and economic health are significant priorities for the Mayor and Council and we are hopeful that this and any future issue between local government and individual business owners can be worked out in a manner more befitting of our community.

The City continues to be committed to following its ordinances and treating each application filed with the City for signage and/or development of property with the same attention. The integrity of the development process requires that the City uniformly apply its ordinances as it will do in this and any other matter.

Mayor McCullough and the Council, as well as staff, are limited as to comments they can make regarding this process. Please be assured that we are concerned and actively engaged. Until this matter is completely settled, we will periodically update information here as circumstances warrant. Because of the dynamic nature of the matter, posts will always be after the fact and cannot be predictive of actions City staff or the Council might be considering or intend to take.

 
Announcement - Tree Replacement Work Downtown Dahlonega

Over the past year and a half, the City of Dahlonega regularly coordinated with experts to assess the healthiness of the Pecan tree at Main St & Park St in downtown. Pecan trees have surface roots, are structurally weak and tend to develop internal cavities. These common problems are intensified with age and in urban environments where trees often lack oxygen, water and nutrients. As the health of any City-owned tree declines, or private and/or public property is damaged, the City has a responsibility to look for replacement options and coordinates with the Georgia Forestry Commission's certified arborists for recommendations on how to proceed.

When considering how to proceed with the Pecan tree, the first option considered was re-laying and slightly elevating the sidewalk to eliminate the buckling caused by roots. Elevating was determined to be a temporary fix only because additional oxygen and water will only promote further root growth, which risks compromising the adjacent building. Additionally, as the roots continued to grow the buckling sidewalks would return, creating the same accessibility concerns that currently exist.

The second option of severing and removing the large roots which are causing the buckling would destabilize the tree, accelerate its decline and increase risk for spontaneously falling under high wind conditions. Additionally, this option would require duplicated work and expense.

The third option of removing and replacing the tree was presented to Council by staff as the preferred option and most permeant solution. The tree will be professionally removed on January 31, 2017. The sidewalks buckled by tree roots will be restored to a flat, safe walking surface, tree and root debris will be removed and the planter bed restored. Upon completion of this work, the replacement tree will be planted the week of February 20.

A male Gingko biloba "Golden Globe" has been selected as the replacement tree. This tree will serve as an eye catching focal point with its bright green leaves that turn to a vibrant golden yellow in the fall. Ginkgo trees have proven to grow successfully in urban environments despite pollution and other root obstacles. Benefits of this specific tree include it does not produce messy, foul smelling fruits and it requires a very small amount of maintenance to live a healthy life.

The "Golden Globe" Gingko along with others will be presented at this year's Arbor Day celebration on Thursday, February 23 at 11 AM. Please join us!

 
Drought Notice of September 16, 2016

Dahlonega Drought Notice September 16, 2016

 
City Streetscape Project Suspended

The Dahlonega City Council held a Special Called Meeting on May 9, 2016 to discuss the projected expenditures associated with the Dahlonega Streetscape Project and related sewer repairs. The Dahlonega Mayor and Council, City Manager Bill Schmid, City Attorney Doug Parks, Interim Finance Director Sabrina Cape, City Engineer Mark Buchanan, Downtown Development Authority Director Joel Cordle, and transportation consultant Charles Trammel were present.

The Special Called Meeting was held based on the increasing probability the City would be forced to deplete the financial reserves in order to complete the upcoming Phase 1, 2 and 3 streetscape construction and related sewer repairs. Over the last several years, the City has applied for and been awarded nearly $8 million in competitive state and federal grants. The grant funds have specific uses and none fully fund the entire streetscape project through completion. Based on the most recent projections, the City is expected to be faced with a $5 million financial gap after all phases of construction. This gap would therefore force the City to incur additional debt.

Staff's recommendation is to use the completed design work for Phases 1, 2, and 3 to serve as the base for smaller projects, scheduled over shorter periods of time and within the City's budget. Locally funded enhancement projects have more flexibility in the schedule, and result in less construction impacts to transportation routes and businesses.

After the key facts above were presented to Council, the Dahlonega City Council unanimously voted to temporarily suspend the Dahlonega Streetscape Program until further notice.

 
Tree Press Release - April 1, 2016

The City of Dahlonega is committed to growing a healthy and safe city center, while maintaining an extensive and diverse tree canopy for residents and visitors to enjoy. Efforts from City staff and many community volunteers have earned the City of Dahlonega the Tree City USA designation by the National Arbor Day Foundation since 2001. The City is one of only a few its size to have the services of a Certified Arborist on staff.

Tree selection and placement are the two most important decisions one makes when landscaping an area. Urban tree planting is more complicated than planting in a rural area. In an urban area, the trees and cities grow simultaneously, creating pressure on each other for the limited space. At the time of a planting, it is often unknown the amount of space a root system may need 75 years later in order to remain healthy.

Tree species that have surface roots, are structurally weak or tend to develop internal cavities should not be chosen for high pedestrian or vehicular traffic areas. These common problems are intensified with age as urban trees often lack oxygen, water and nutrients. The City of Dahlonega regularly coordinates with experts to assess the healthiness of community trees because an unhealthy tree creates a liability for public or private spaces. As the health of a City-owned tree declines, or private and/or public property is damaged, the City has a responsibility to look for replacement options and coordinates with the Georgia Forestry Commission's certified arborists for recommendations on how to proceed.

The first option considered was re-laying and slightly elevating the sidewalk to eliminate the buckling caused by roots. Elevating was determined to be a temporary fix only because additional oxygen and water will only promote further root growth, which risks compromising the adjacent building. Additionally, as the roots continued to grow the buckling sidewalks would return, creating the same accessibility concerns that currently exist. The City is working to better meet ADA standards and accessible design throughout the entire community. The sidewalk at the Fudge factory is a single part of a larger sidewalk repair and replacement plan.

The second option of severing and removing the large roots which are causing the buckling would destabilize the tree, accelerate its decline, and increase risk for spontaneously falling under high wind conditions. This option would require duplicated work and expense.

The third option considered was removing the tree. The City of Dahlonega makes efforts to strategically plant the right tree, in the right location at the right time. There is a precedence for successfully replacing trees, as demonstrated most recently by the planting of the oaks on the north side of the square. The end of a tree's lifespan can be viewed as a positive opportunity to plant a tree that is more appropriate for the space. An oak or elm tree are great options for an urban environment. Both species have beautiful color, large canopies and more appropriate size and root space needs.

After consideration of all three options, the third option of removing and replacing the tree was presented to Council by staff as the preferred option and most permeant solution.

Pecan Tree Facts:
• Health and age assessed by local GA State Forester and Senior State Forester.
• Approximately 75 years old, structurally weak and may contain cavities.
• Root system pushing up sidewalk searching for oxygen, water and nutrients.
• Expected continual decline of health over the next 12 – 18 months resulting in limb dropping.

Replacement Tree Facts:
• The existing tree will be professionally removed.
• Stump and roots will be ground and/or removed to allow proper reconstruction of the sidewalk and planter.
• The replacement tree will be a species suited to the location and will be planted at an appropriate time for the species. This may mean temporary planting of the planter with annuals through the summer.

 
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