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Land use will be front and center during this week’s Dawson County Board of Commissioners meetings
Dawson County courthouse

With the end of the month fast approaching, so too are multiple land use-related deadlines for the Dawson County government. 

Both the ongoing residential moratorium and impact fees are expected topics during the Board of Commissioners’ work and voting sessions this Thursday, Oct. 20. 

The BOC’s work session will start at 4 p.m., and the voting session will immediately follow. 

Meetings are held in the second-floor assembly room at the Dawson County Government Center. People can also watch the meetings’ live streams on the “Dawson County Government” Facebook page. 

This story continues below.

Moratorium

The county’s pause on acceptance of new residential rezoning applications is currently set to expire on Nov. 2, but the planning department is requesting a procedural two-day extension through Nov. 4, according to the Oct. 20 work session agenda. 

This extension would encompass the BOC’s next meeting, which falls on Nov. 3, “at which time the BOC can extend the moratorium again for a longer period of time,” Planning and Development Director Sharon Farrell stated in an email to DCN.

This agenda item follows the BOC’s July 7 vote to implement an initial month-long emergency moratorium on new residential rezoning applications and a subsequent Aug. 4 decision to extend the measure for three more months, until Nov. 2. 

The moratorium was extended in part to allow for a majority of work to be completed for Dawson County’s updated impact fee study.

The county’s impact fees were last updated in 2018. In August, the board voted to retain a consultant to conduct the study, with Farrell predicting November would be about when “the true bulk of the work” would be delivered. 

During the Oct. 20 work session, Farrell is also expected to give the BOC an annual update on the county’s impact fee program. 


Sunset clause

The planning director is likewise scheduled to present the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC)’s request to add a sunset clause stipulation to future approved zoning applications.

A sunset clause states that no land disturbance plans be proposed or approved after a set period of time, according to the BOC’s work session agenda packet. After the lapse of approval and appropriate notice to the developer, hearings and a BOC vote, all of a project’s approved documents would be revoked, and land would be returned to its previous zoning classification.

In Dawson County’s case, the LRPC has recommended that the set period of time be 18 months, calling it “ample time for a project to go from rezoning approval to the land disturbance phase” in their May 25 meeting minutes, as included in the BOC agenda packet. 

LRPC chair Terri Tragresser explained during an Oct. 18 phone call that rezonings are intended so that nobody, particularly surrounding property owners, is surprised by a new residential, commercial or industrial project, and there’s transparency with the project’s appearance and parties involved.  

This would help address situations where the person or company buying property might sit on the land before getting it rezoned or turn it over to someone else who’s doing the development, Tragresser said. 

“With the current system, we’ve had a lot of situations where the developer comes in and has no idea what they’re going to do, so they create this project on paper to get the rezoning,” Tragresser said, “and it may or may not end up the way it looks, and [the county] has no idea of when it’s going to happen. So if you’re trying to plan service delivery–roads, water and sewer–you have to have some kind of timeline, so you don’t have projects on the shelf with no idea of when they’re going to happen.”

She added that the LRPC’s recommendation included language for if, say, a developer is only a few months away from finalizing land disturbance plans. In such cases, a developer would have the chance to go back to the Planning Commission to ask for more time. 


Other agenda items 

The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office is asking for a continuation of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s H.E.A.T. grant for the 2023 fiscal year, according to the BOC’s Oct. 20 work session agenda. 

The grant was initially approved by the board in October 2020 to cover the salaries and other expenses for two patrol officers.

If approved, the grant award of $120,726 would continue from October 2022 to September 2023. The state portion would be $96,583.49, with the requested local portion being $24,145.87. 

Because of grant deadlines, DCSO is requesting the BOC move the H.E.A.T. extension to Thursday’s voting session for a vote. 

The first and second FY2023 budget hearings will be held during the BOC’s work and voting sessions on Oct. 20.

Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne is expected to update the board on federal parks bordering Lake Lanier in Dawson County. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has presented the county with a few options to potentially add parks into the Parks and Rec system, similar to the leasing agreement for War Hill Park that the Corps currently has with the county. 

This parks discussion follows public concern over the full or partial seasonal closures of multiple federal lakeside parks in Dawson County. 

Also on the BOC’s Oct. 20 work session agenda a proposed property maintenance ordinance and amendments to related trash control and nuisance property ordinances 

“The current county ordinances do not provide an enforcement vehicle when residents file complaints regarding outdoor storage, junk vehicles/vessels and property nuisances,” the agenda proposal stated. 


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