Timberlake Pleads Case to City Council

News, Police & Government

Blairsville, Ga – Timberlake Custom Homes pleaded with the council to grant the variance permit after it was denied last month.

The variance was denied in May’s meeting due to being 28 square foot oversized.  The city’s sign ordinance stated that all freestanding signs must be 60 square-foot and 20 feet high.

Managing Partner Chip Shively addressed the city council about the sign and apologized for not understanding the process.

Managing Partner of Timberlake Custom Homes Chip Shively spoke to city council about his sign.

“Thank you for hearing us again, “said Shively.

He explained the reasoning behind renovating the existing steel sign, citing age and marketing.

“We took that existing sign and were just trying to dress it up a bit. It never occurred to me that it would need a permit for that, and it’s my fault. I apologize.”

Timberlake Custom Homes covered the existing sign in wood to make it more attractive to passersby. The freestanding sign also included other businesses in that shopping center. The old sign featured fluorescent lights. Shively replaced the fluorescents with LED bulbs to save on costs.

The wood addition will weather over time, which is why Timberlake Custom Homes added the roof to the top of the sign. An electronic piece sits inside the sign too in order to combat the weathering. The business spent $200,000 during the renovations to the signage.

Shively admitted the sign is three feet too high with the roof and requested a variance for that.

Timberlake Custom Homes operated out of Hiawassee for 20 years and recently moved to Blairsville due to all the work that they have done in the community.

“We’re excited about being in Blairsville,” stated Shively, “We want to be a strong member of this community who can contribute and be here for a long time.”

Mayor Jim Conley stated that he didn’t know LED bulbs were used in the businesses’ signs.

“It paints a different picture. They’ll still be 28 square-foot out of compliance, so what we’ll be issuing is a variance on 3 foot in height and 28 square-foot in overall size,” explained Conley.

Remax Town and County Agent Paige Thorton spoke on behalf of Timberlake Custom Homes. The businesses share the lot, and she’s their real estate agent.

“It really gives 515, as his neighbor and real-estate agent, a really nice look. We, at State Farm and Remax, have no problem with it,” said Thorton, “I can attest that Chip has been in business for 24 years in Murphy and Towns County, and he did see the value of Union County.”

“What makes it too high is just the little roof?” asked Councilwoman Rhonda Mahan. The mayor confirmed that yes, the roof added the extra three feet. The extra 3×8 design for the design center puts it over as well. Shively offered to “blackout” that part.

Councilman Tony Dyer offered “Has anything been grandfathered-in?”

Mayor Conley stated that signs had been grandfathered-in before the sign ordinance was put in place. He also added that he wanted to give Timberlake Custom Homes the variance.

Dyer agreed, “I know they got a lot of money in it, and I want to work with them.”

Business Held Accountable For Violating Sign Ordinance


Blairsville, Ga – City Council uploads sign ordinance for the city of Blairsville by denying a permit variance.

Timberlake Custom Homes, located on the four-lane between Ingles and The Home Depot, remodeled the State Farm building and the accompanying sign. The business requested a permit variance due to the remodeled sign no longer accommodating the city’s sign ordinance.

“Their sign is 23 foot tall and 80 square foot free standing. It’s 20 square foot too much, as far as the ordinance and three foot too high,” Mayor Jim Conley told the room.

The current ordinance states that signs can only be up 60 square foot in size.

The extra three feet in height comes from the arch added to the top of the sign. The top could be removed, and the sign would meet the height requirement, but still be 20 square foot over as a free standing sign.

City Council denied a permit variance for the new Timberlake Custom Homes business along the four-lane.

Due to the location of the sign, Councilman Buddy Moore remarked that “It’s a bad place to start getting bigger and bigger.”

Timberlake didn’t provide the sign’s height for two months after being asked to provide information to the city government. Also, the business didn’t ask about the freestanding sign ordinance before building it.

“All of our freestanding signs are within the ordinance,” said Mayor Conley.

The council will review the occupational tax certificate and sign permit for Timberlake Custom Homes once the sign meets the ordinance requirements.

Paw Park Project Seeks Advice from City Council

Community, Outdoors

Blairsville, Ga – Paw Park Project approached the Blairsville City Council about creating a suitable dog park for the city and Union County.

Gracian Sabo represented the Paw Park Project and the local Boy Scout Troop, who have pledged to support the project if it moves forward. The Boy Scouts aren’t sponsoring the project, but they have promised to help raise funds once the land becomes available.

“Many dogs have been injured due to the exposed roots and fallen branches [in the existing park], and the 4,608 square foot fenced in space is inadequate for any dog to run, play catch, or socialize with other dogs,” said Sabo of the current dog park.

He compared it to the dog park in Blue Ridge which covers 21,000 square feet and draws many Union County residents.

Paw Park Logo

The Paw Park Project is currently taking signatures for its petition.

The American Kennel Club recommended one acre of land for a park with a four- to six-foot chain-link fence and double gate entry.

“Our off-leash area falls way below any minimum standards, and we are bringing these substandard conditions to your attention, in hope, that you’ll support the Paw Park Project and help us find a piece of land to build a new and improved off-leash area,” proposed Sabo.

Sabo and the Paw Park Project launched a petition on Monday, May 6 and has received more 50 signatures and positive online comments by the time of the meeting on Tuesday, May 7.

Mayor Jim Conley responded to Sabo, “We all understand your plea here, wanting an area that is much greater than what I am assuming is Meeks Park dog section…the city has no area or property of our own that would be anything suitable for something like this.”

Mayor Conley also asked if the Paw Park Project had any land of their own that could serve their purpose within the county. The representatives stated that HOAs wouldn’t allow the development of a dog park and that’s why they’re coming to the city and the county to find a public space.

Mayor Conley suggested talking to the county to find a piece of properly zoned property and reaching out to the tax commissioner’s office to assist with the search.

New Sidewalks Coming to the Downtown Area

Announcements, News

Blairsville, Ga – Blairsville City Council approved new sidewalks for the downtown area in the May 7, 2019 meeting.

Rustic Mountain owner June McEldowney and other small-business owners attended the city council meeting to have their questions about the sidewalks answered and stay updated.

The project to improve downtown’s sidewalks and fix drainage issues received funding approval from the city council.

For the drainage problem, a pipe will run underneath Merchants Walk driveway and flow into a drain that empties into the stream behind city hall.

Merchants Walk

Frocks and Furniture and other businesses along Merchants Walk and downtown will benefit from the new sidewalks

The placement of the pipe will catch all the water that goes around the curve to keep it out of the parking lot as well.

“The sidewalk will extend right past the Copeland’s restaurant, where you see all the markings where people aren’t supposed to park. That’s where the sidewalk will end at this time,” said Mayor Jim Conley, “but once I figure out exactly where the right of way is that goes in front of the bike shop and the front of Mr. Duckworth’s property that sidewalk will be extended up to the present sidewalk.”

The new sidewalks won’t affect current parking along Blue Ridge Street.

McEldowney asked about adding a crosswalk to the area. Mayor Conley indicated that there are plans for a crosswalk, but the exact location hasn’t been decided. “We definitely need a crosswalk,” confirmed Mayor Conley. The eventual crosswalk will include all necessary warnings to slow down motorists like flashing lights and slow down signs.

Colwell Construction Company estimated $14,987 for the project, and it’s scheduled to begin as soon as possible. SPLOST funds will pay for the sidewalks.

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Municipal Clerks Week

Featured Stories

Blairsville, Ga – May 5-11 marks the 50th anniversary of Municipal Clerks Week, and the Blairsville City Council recognized all the hard work that goes into the job during the monthly meeting.

“The office of the municipal clerk is the oldest among public servants, whereas the office of the municipal clerk provides a professional link between the citizens of local governing bodies and agencies of government at all other levels,” Mayor Jim Conley read from the proclamation.

These individuals have “pledged to be even-minded, ever mindful of their neutrality and impartiality” when serving everyone in the community. They are the center of information for all and continually strive to improve the office through constant training.

50th-anniversary logo for Municipal Clerks Week,

Mayor Conley and the entire council expressed their appreciation for Municipal Clerk Kaye McCann. She told the council, “Thank you, I love what I do.”

The council also signed proclamations for Safe Digging Month in April and National Infrastructure Week for May 13-21 through the GMA.

Safe Digging Month teaches the importance of knowing an area before you start a project. By researching the property before digging, people can protect underground utilities and themselves.

National Infrastructure Week focuses on educating the public about the importance of infrastructure to the nation’s economy, workers, and communities. During the week, businesses and citizens across the country host events and show policymakers their support for long-term, sustainable infrastructure.

Verizon Wants to Enhance Network Coverage in Blairsville

Business, Featured Stories
Verizon logo

Blairsville, GA – Spokeswoman from Verizon Wireless presented a plan to bring small cell towers into the city to improve the area’s network coverage.

Traffic engineers from Verizon noticed the need for increased network capacity within the community. “The exponential growth or hockey stick growth is putting a lot of demand on the [current] cell towers and [Verizon] would like to pull another tool from their tool kit with small cell towers,” said Eleanor Callaghan, a Verizon engineer.

Callaghan proposed partnering with the city to add small cell towers to existing structures, such as light poles and traffic signs. By installing these towers, Blairsville will have faster wireless service on the 4G network. Also, Verizon will install the towers at no cost and won’t build new large towers unless absolutely necessary.

Small Cell Towers from Verizon Wireless

Example of Verizon’s Small Cell Towers

The minimum height requirement for a pole needs to be 26 feet with a maximum height of 50 feet. The set height requirements serve to keep wireless emissions lower than the general population of the area. The radios are about the size of an answering machine, and the antenna transmits at a low frequency. Verizon operates below the FCC emissions standards.

The small cell towers do not affect other services in the area and would take at least a year to be fully installed.

“Small cells in existing infrastructure would give [Blairsville] faster upload and download speeds, and give you the extra capacity for all connected devices for merchants running transactions and online ordering,” stated Callaghan.

55 percent of homes are wireless only, and the enhanced connectivity allows for faster triangulation of people’s location. The closer signals can improve response times for first responders and create an efficient method for gathering information.

The small cell towers also cut down on search times when people look for entertainment or restaurants on their phones. Also, the towers could bring services like Uber and Lyft to the area since it’s easier to locate people who want to use the service.

Mayor Jim Conley asked, “Do you have a model ordinance that other cities use?”

Callaghan stated that ordinances are not necessary due to the comprehensive nature of the FCC Small Cell Law, but provided the Sandy Springs ordinance and permit process for the city council to review. “We may have to do an ordinance because of our charter,” said Mayor Conley.

Councilman Buddy Moore asked for more information about the need of the towers to review before making a decision.

“I see how this can help us, but I don’t feel like we can give you answer tonight without reviewing the ordinance to see what other folks have put into it because this is all new to us. Mrs. Callaghan if you want to send that ordinance to us again, and we can arrange to have you come back once we review this ordinance,” said Mayor Conley.

Downtown Square to be bustling with activity in 2019


BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – Blairsville Downtown Development Authority spokesperson Darren E. Harper introduced an exciting schedule of upcoming events for the town’s square.

Harpers enthusiasm as he read through the list held the attention of board members and other attendees.

The current schedule is as follows:

May 18: The Blairsville Cruisers.

May 25 and 26: The Spring Arts, Crafts and Music Festival.

May 25: The Tom Floyd Band.

June 6: Shop Late Thursday.

June 8: Steven Phillips and the Midnight Express.

June 15: The Blairsville Cruisers.

July 4: Shop Late Thursday.

July 20: The Blairsville Cruisers.

July 27 and 28: The Green Bean Festival.

July 27: Betty and Friends Band.

August 1: Shop Late Thursday.

August 17: The Blairsville Cruisers.

August 24: A Taste of the Mountains in Blairsville.

August 24: Modern Vinyl Band.

August 31: The Mountain Heritage Festival.

August 31: Music on the Square (Band to be announced.)

September 5: Shop Late Thursday.

September 21: The Blairsville Cruisers.

October 3: Shop Late Thursday.

October 19: The Blairsville Cruisers.

October 31: Hometown Halloween on the Square.

November 7: Shop Late Thursday.

December 5: Shop Late Thursday.

December 7: Christmas on the Square.

Darren E Harper, D.D.A. spokesperson

The DDA will continue to “add events throughout the season.” They will be posted on the website https://www.visitdowntownblairsville.com/.

The monthly meeting of the Blairsville City Council was held on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

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Audit for 2017 presented to Blairsville City Council


BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – At their Tuesday, June 5, meeting, the Blairsville City Council heard from Clay Pilgrim, of the accounting firm Rushton & Company, who presented the city’s financial audit for fiscal year 2017.

Pilgrim explained this was the first year that Rushton & Company conducted an audit for the city of Blairsville.

“Things did go well during the auditing process, especially for a first-year audit,” Pilgrim stated. “Sometimes the first year of an audit does not go as smooth as the second, third, fourth and fifth … (I am) very pleased with all your department heads, all your finance staff.”

According to Pilgrim, the audit produced an “unmodified opinion” for fiscal year 2017. Essentially, this means the financial statements of the city “ended in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the (U.S.)”

Pilgrim went on to state the city’s total net position for 2017 was $23,429,812.

“That’s going to be your capital assets – buildings, equipment, land – less the depreciation on those assets, less any debt that’s outstanding that was used to acquire those assets,” Pilgrim explained.

Concerning the city’s general fund, Pilgrim stated revenues decreased in 2017 by 8.8 percent for a total of $152,615.

“A couple of causes there – fines and forfeitures decreased about $29,000 and intergovernmental revenues decreased $139,685 largely due to LMIG (Local Maintenance and Improvement Grant) and timing there on when those are spent,” Pilgrim said.

Expenditures, however, also decreased $214,354.00, approximately 14.7 percent than that of 2016, and the ending unassigned fund balance, or reserves, for the city stood at $2,489,042 as of Dec. 31, 2017, according to Pilgrim.

Regarding the reserves balance, Pilgrim described this as “extremely healthy.”

Highlighting the statement on economic condition and growth for the city, the audit stated, “The city will continue to face challenges as a result of past slow economic growth, but (Rushton & Company is) encouraged at the very positive direction of the current economy along with strong fiscal city policies … (the) average unemployment rate is the lowest in many years and continues to be among the lowest in our region … (Rushton & Company remains) cautiously optimistic that the growth in revenues and businesses in the city of Blairsville will continue.”

Following Pilgrim’s presentation, Councilwoman Mary Ruth Cook commended City Clerk Kaye McCann and Acccounting Clerk Joan Manheim for their assistance to the auditors. To this, Manheim also thanked all of the city department heads for their participation in the audit.

“I’m very appreciative of the trust you put in us, our firm, to do your audit,” Pilgrim stated.

“Well, we appreciate you and your team, Clay,” Mayor Jim Conley told Pilgrim.

The council also approved a reimbursement amount to Union County for an accounting error going back to 2009. Since that time, Manheim explained, a utility bill from Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation (BRMEMC) for a sewer lift station at the airport has continued to be sent to the county. Manheim explained the error was discovered after BRMEMC refused to provide the city information about the meter at the lift station, since the meter number was not registered to the city.

Upon investigation, BRMEMC determined the meter was erroneously registered to the county’s Recreation Department.

Manheim further explained the city has made a request to BRMEMC to update all of the city’s meter numbers.

In addition, Mayor Conley said the total amount the county has paid to BRMEMC since the error originated has amounted to $10,784.20.

“Lamar (Paris, sole commissioner of Union County), when I met with him, he said, ‘If you all pay us half of it, we’ll be satisfied,’” Mayor Conley explained.

The council unanimously agreed to pay $5,392.10 to Union County as reimbursement.

In department head reports, Darren Harper, of the Downtown Development Authority, reminded the council that this Thursday, June 7, is Shop Late Thursday for the month, during which downtown businesses will stay open later in the evening to allow potential patrons who cannot come downtown during the day a chance to visit and shop at downtown businesses. Harper also gave a report on a forthcoming property off of Pat Haralson Drive. Harper said the three-story building would consist of two floors, at 4,000 square feet each, of retail space and a third 4,000 square-foot for residential space.

Blairsville Airport Manager John Hamler reported that despite the rainy weather seen across the region in the past few weeks, business has continued to rise at the airport. Hamler also stated over 50 people or entities are currently on the waiting list for hangar space at the airport. “I think with the new fuel system, the new Jet A tank, additional people coming in, I think we are going to see those sales come up,” Hamler stated. “I can envision us hitting $1 million a year there in sales in the next two to three years.”

Police Chief Johnny Carroll reminded the council and those present the new hands-free driving law for the state of Georgia will go into effect on July 1. This law prohibits drivers from holding their cell phones in their hands while driving. Drivers will now be required to use a hands-free device or system to access their phones.

In other business, the council approved the purchase of a Kubota zero-turn mower from Nelson Tractor in the amount of $12,157.28 for the Blairsville Airport. Funds from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) will be used to finance the purchase.

The council approved a new work detail agreement for fiscal year 2018-19 with the Georgia Department of Corrections in the amount of $39,500 for the year.

Councilwoman Cook mentioned the need for a crosswalk and/or pedestrian crossing signage on Pat Haralson Drive near the Downtown Develoment Authority property and Millie’s Corner Plaza. The council agreed that signage would be the best and most expedient option, and Mayor Conley told Cook pedestrian crossing signs could be installed as early next week.


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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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