Official Statement – City of Dahlonega – Updated February 22, 12:42 PM

February 20, 2017

Updated – February 22, 2017, 12:42 PM

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.

Local Support:

The City of Dahlonega appreciates the concerns being expressed by students, residents and businesses regarding the sign hung on the Butler Building last week. The sentiments expressed are clearly not consistent with our City’s values or our traditions, nor are they accurate with regard to our history or the known history of the building. Dahlonega’s reputation and economic health are our highest priorities 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.

Prior and Current Reviews by the City for 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.

As of the posting of this article, no complete application request for a sign, banner, business license or redevelopment project have been received by the City for either the Payne-Parks Building or the Butler Building. When complete applications are received by the City they are reviewed according to City ordinance procedures.

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.