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Dawsonville Council approves solar panel grant application, holds public hearing for rezoning request
City hall

At the March 1 meeting of the Dawsonville City Council, members allowed city staff to move forward with a solar power grant application and held a public hearing for a rezoning request. 

Council members heard a presentation from Finance Administrator Robin Gazaway and City Manager Bob Bolz on the city’s efforts to apply for a solar power grant from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA). 

According to Gazaway, city staff have a plan to put solar panels on the roof of City Hall, as well as at the city’s wastewater treatment facility, using funds from a GEFA grant worth up to $200,000. 

Gazaway said that, in talking with maintenance personnel and GEFA, the estimated cost to put solar panels on City Hall would be about $300,000, of which the city would be responsible for paying about $100,000. But according to Gazaway, maintenance personnel have recommended replacing the roof on City Hall before installing the panels. 

“I found out after talking to maintenance that there may be an issue with the roof; that it’s 22 years old and it may need to be replaced,” Gazaway said. “They said that a new roof may cost up to $450,000 depending on the building material costs now.” 

If the solar power grant is accepted, any project must be done by September 30. Because of this, both Bolz and Gazaway recommended that the city should focus on obtaining the grant and add solar power to the wastewater treatment facility first. 

“If SPLOST VII passes maybe we could get the roof done, but if you wanna move forward and try to seek this grant we would recommend going after this grant and trying to do something at the wastewater treatment plant,” Bolz said. “Ideally the roof would be fixed and we could look at getting it here, but especially when they’ve got a September 30 deadline, we didn’t think it was feasible to get a grant, get the roof fixed and get the solar system installed so that’s why we recommended getting the grant at the wastewater treatment plant.” 

According to Bolz, the demand for a solar power backup is slightly higher at the wastewater treatment plant because of the pumps and systems at the plant. At the time of the meeting, the city had not yet received an estimate for what it would cost to install the ground-mounted solar power system at the plant.

Bolz added that there may be more opportunities to apply for and make use of more solar grants in the future, especially if the first grant is received and the project goes well. 

“We anticipate solar grants being around for a while, so we may possibly look at another solar grant as we start to build the new wastewater treatment plant and maybe we’ll make it a solar facility,” Bolz said. 

Council members unanimously approved staff to move ahead with the grant application.

Public hearing on rezoning held

Council members also held a public hearing for a request to rezone 1.71 acres of land off Perimeter Road, from Restricted Single Family Residential District (R1) to Highway Business District (HB), to construct outdoor storage and mini storage units. 

Corey Guthrie, who represents the applicant, presented the rezoning request to the board. According to Guthrie, they are looking to add the 1.71 acres to another 3 acres of land already zoned for the storage facility. 

“We would like to approach the board to add to the 3 acres an additional 1.7 acres to extend the mini-storage development,” Guthrie said. “This parcel is adjacent to both residential and light industrial zoning, so we’re in that area in the city where it’s a transitional area and we don’t look at adding this as any detriment to the community, so we respectfully request this rezoning.” 

Two citizens spoke against the rezoning application, both of whom have residences adjacent to the parcel. 

Amy Mulberry, whose home abuts the parcel in question, voiced concerns about the environment, traffic and property values. 

“We’re concerned about our property values going down; I think when they first were talking about this, they were talking about it just being a closed storage and now it’s changed to some closed and some open,” Mulberry said. “And with our home sitting up higher, when we look out our window we can see everything so we would hope that they’d be able to plant some vegetation.” 

Jesus Fernandez, who lives next door to the Mulberry residence, raised his concerns about the elevation between the lots and traffic congestion.

“Perimeter is getting more congested every day with the schools and without the schools; people just zoom by there a hundred miles an hour and run the stop sign,” Fernandez said. “They would have to include in their property some kind of easement where a vehicle could drive into that like a stall and then have access to their property in order to get people off the road and still have moving traffic moving back and forth.” 

Guthrie said they would be willing to discuss planting rows of evergreen trees or building a fence in between the properties. 

“There is a proposed undisturbed strip along that property line, but we could certainly discuss some kind of better visual barrier,” Guthrie said. 

The city will vote on the rezoning amendment at its next meeting on Monday, March 15.