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Big Canoe POA Board Chairman Phil Anderson talks with Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond at the May Squires & Stags breakfast.

Highway 400 corridor continues to grow in Dawson County

Commission Chairman Thurmond gives ‘state of the county’ update

By Wayne Tidwell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Life Hope, a mixed-use senior living development on Highway 400 right at the Dawson/Forsyth County line was approved by the Dawson County Board of Commissioners in April, according to Dawson County Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond who delivered a “state of the county” update at Big Canoe’s May 4 Squires & Stags breakfast.

The development will include 31,000 square feet of specialty retail, 130,000 square feet of medical office space, a 128-room hotel, a 130-room assisted living facility and 180 units of independent senior adult attached housing and duplexes.

“It’s kind of like its own little city,” Thurmond said. “You can go to the doctor, and as you get sicker you can move from one to the next, to the next.”

“It’s a very good looking complex based on what they showed the board,” Thurmond said,” with lots of green space and trails.”

Thurmond also briefly described 18 public works projects scheduled for completion between 2018 and 2021 including resurfacing of several roads, replacement of bridges on highways 183, 136, and 95, a double round-a-bout at Dawson Forest and State Highway 9, and round-a-bouts on State Road 183 at highways 52 and 53.

The dangerous cross-400 access from the Outlet Mall to the east side of 400 is going to be blocked, requiring a right turn out of the Outlets, because of the danger of crossing the busy highway, according to Thurmond.

Housing starts are showing a slight increase in 2018 according to Thurmond.

“People are starting to build again,” he said. “Business licenses are up 13 percent.”

The two biggest residential projects include one on Red Rider Road where 283 detached single-family houses are being built, according to Thurmond, and a similar project on Evans Circle off of Dawson Forest Road. The City of Dawsonville has a 300-home project underway on Highway 9 south.

The 2018 budgeted property tax for Dawson County is $10,692,212. The 2010 digest brought in $12, 050,000, according to Thurmond.

“So, you can see that property tax has not come back up to where it used to be eight years ago,” he said, referring to a chart. “But you can see that it is going up and people are feeling more and more comfortable about spending their money.”

In 2017, LOST (local option sales tax) and SPLOST (special purpose local option sales tax) for the first time in six years exceeded what was projected, according to Thurmond. He said the county has a “healthy” fund balance of $6 million.

New revenue sources include reassessment of property values and re-institution of impact fees, a T-SPLOST, and pursuit of grants, according to Thurmond.

Future SPLOST funds could be used for, in addition to transportation, a new fire station, a public works facility, updated emergency communications systems, park land, and upgrading the 911 system.

Thurmond said controlling growth is one of the county’s issues, citing the county’s “very good” land use plan and limited zoning for high-density projects. He also said that county ordinances are being reviewed to make sure they are up-to-date.

“A lot of these ordinances were created a long time ago,” Thurmond said. “There have been a lot of variances granted over the years and we want to get away from that as much as possible.”

He said that Dawson County and Dawsonville were working together on a joint service delivery strategy.

He said labor, “or lack thereof” is an issue in Dawson County.

“All of our businesses on the 400 corridor have help wanted signs,” Thurmond said.

Dawson County is classified by the state as fully employed at an unemployment rate of 3.6 percent.

“There were 381 people eligible to work but were not working,” Thurmond said, based on a recent report. “The need for labor is high and anyone who wants to work can work.”

The biggest impediment to expanding high-speed Internet in Dawson County is the return-on-investment of such projects by providers.

Thurmond encouraged volunteering for service on the many county boards and committees.

Squires & Stags meets in the Mountains Grille at the Clubhouse at Lake Sconti. Coffee is ready at 7:45 a.m. followed by a buffet breakfast served at 8:00 a.m. Big Canoe residents and guests are invited to attend the meeting. The price of breakfast is $13 payable on your POA account or by cash at the door.

Reservations are required and must be received by Noon on Thursday before the Friday morning meeting. You may also call Kim Cooper at her new number (706) 268-3346 to make reservations.

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