Saturday November 28th, 2015 11:41AM

Habersham votes 4-1 to support Soque Scenic Byway

By Rob Moore Reporter
CLARKESVILLE - A proposal to create the Soque Scenic Byway on state highways and county roads resulted in a 4-1 vote by the Habersham County Commission Monday night.

The route would include Georgia Highways 197, 255, and 356, as well as Raper Mountain Road, Oakey Mountain Road, New Liberty Road and The Orchard Road, as well as Historic U.S. Highway 441.

The resolution states the route contains "significant scenic, natural, historic, cultural, archeological, and recreational qualities."

"Whereas, designation of this route fits the goals of the Habersham County Comprehensive Plan in that it will promote the development of tourism and the preservation of the Soque River Corridor, State Route 197 and other roads in the county; and whereas the Georgia Scenic Byways Program is a tool to encourage tourism and responsible development, bringing positive economic benefits and opportunities to this community," the resolution states.

The item was on the meeting's consent agenda, where items typically are not discussed by commissioners prior to a vote.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, held prior to the vote on the consent agenda, resident Dennis Magley raised questions about the designation.

"My question then is how are they going to get that property to pull off on?" Magley asked. "I mean, is it going to eminent domain or what?"

Resident Peter Davitto also spoke out about the proposed Soque Scenic Byway, asking for a delay until property owners along the route were notified.

Suspending the rules, Habersham County Commission Chairman Chad Henderson allowed Clarkesville Main Street Director Mary Beth Horton - who had not signed up - to speak on the issue.

"Mary Beth had come in anticipation of discussion of the Soque River Scenic Byway," Henderson said.

"The reason that we are seeking this designation is purely to market this area of northeast Georgia," Horton said. "That's our intention. All we want to do is be able to share with the state and perhaps other states in the country what we know and believe to be the most beautiful part of northeast Georgia.

"This is a tourism thing - this is to promote economic development," Horton said. "It's a positive thing. It's a marketing program."

Horton said there currently are only 14 Byways in Georgia.

Advantages would be signage, website presence, notation on state maps and more, Horton said.

Commissioner Sonny James said his understanding is that there is no eminent domain involved in the designation, and that the right of way along the route is sufficient without additional property.

"You're correct," Horton said.

With Henderson's permission, Horton called on Walton Smith of the county's comprehensive plan implementation advisory committee.

"We are at step 4 or 5 of a 24-step process," Smith said. "We had intended to come to the county commission down around step 15, after there had been public hearings."

That procedure changed when, in August, the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation notified the committee that a resolution of support from the Habersham County Commission would be required because the route traverses county roads, Smith said.

"The concern is about private property rights," Smith said. "The purpose of the program is, as Mary Beth said, promotion of tourism - one of the primary industries of this county. This a DOT program, this is a promotional program. Nothing in the program increases the rights of the county or the government to take property."

While he said it would be nice for people to be able to pull off and look at the river at less than 50 mph, "we don't have any right to take anybody's property. Adopting this resolution doesn't change that. If we get a parking place, we negotiate with those owners and we come to a deal or we don't."

When the commission voted on the consent agenda, James voted against.

James confirmed after the meeting that he voted against the consent agenda because of concerns he had about the proposed Soque Scenic Byway, but said he didn't want to make additional comments.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Missing Ga. bank director arrested in Brunswick
A bank director accused of losing millions of investors' dollars before vanishing last year was arrested Tuesday during a traffic stop in a city in south Georgia.
7:00PM ( 1 year ago )
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Victim critical following apartment fire
A 41-year-old woman was in critical but stable condition Tuesday after being rescued from an apartment fire in Forsyth County late Monday afternoon.
3:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Medicaid growth creates gap of 5M without coverage; 409K in Ga.
About 5 million people will be without health care next year that they would have gotten simply if they lived somewhere else in America.
7:30AM ( 1 year ago )
Vandals spray graffiti against Kerry in West Bank
Suspected Jewish vandals set fire to three vehicles in a West Bank village early on Tuesday and sprayed threatening graffiti referring to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of his expected visit to the region, police said.
7:28AM ( 1 year ago )
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Gunman opens fire at Planned Parenthood clinic, killing 3 before surrendering to police
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — A gunman burst into a Planned Parenthood clinic and opened fire, launching several gunbattles and an hourslong standoff with police as patients and staff took cover unde...
10:50AM ( 51 minutes ago )
Molly the Firehouse Dog brings smiles to first responders, hospital patients
Molly is a well-known face around the Hall County Fire Department and Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where she serves to comfort others during times of stress.
10:26AM ( 1 hour ago )
Gainesville runoff election is Tuesday
A runoff election for a seat on the Gainesville City Council will be held Tuesday.
9:15AM ( 2 hours ago )
Deadline to sponsor Wreaths Across America at Alta Vista is Monday
Each holiday season, veteran grave sites at Alta Vista cemetery in Gainesville are adorned with wreaths as part of Wreaths Across America.
3:42PM ( 19 hours ago )
VIDEO/PHOTO GALLERY: Holiday shoppers hit Gainesville stores early
Black Friday may still have status as the kickoff to the holiday shopping season, but Thanksgiving Thursday is gaining ground as more stores opt to open early.
By AccessWDUN staff
10:01AM ( 1 day ago )