Friday May 24th, 2024 8:38AM

Election Preview: Higgins faces challenges from Lutz, Gibbs for Hall Commission chair

By Lawson Smith Anchor/Reporter

The May 21 primary election is just weeks away and  Hall County Commission Chairman Richard Higgins faces two Republican challengers as he seeks re-election. 

Higgins has served in the role for eight years, after being elected as chair in 2016. Prior to his time on the Hall County Board of Commissioners, he served on the Hall County Board of Education. 

While speaking on WDUN’s the Martha Zoller Show, Higgins highlighted that if re-elected, he will continue to focus on managing the growth seen within the county in the last four years, noting commissioners are currently working on a Unified Development Code, which will replace the outdated Comprehensive Land Use Plan. 

“It's much more in–detail,” Higgins said. “And it gives everybody an understanding of what you can do with certain land… but I think it'd be a really good thing for us .” 

Higgins also noted that in his time as chair, the commission has also worked to address traffic increases throughout the area, including the completion of the first phase of a project to widen Spout Springs Road near Flowery Branch.  

“We finished (Phase One of the Spout Springs Road widening project), which is about four miles and it cost 40-something million dollars,” Higgins said. “We’re still trying to get complete funding for Spout Springs Phase Two. I went to Russell McMurray, who’s with the DOT, a couple of years ago, and he said if we start buying the right-of-way, it’s easier for them to shift money to us, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Among those challenging Higgins is former Hall County Commissioner and Board of Elections Member Craig Lutz.

Lutz served one term on the Hall County Commission after being elected in 2010.

Lutz said he felt a need to run for the position again to address several issues in the county, including a lack of “fiscal conservatism” within the county. 

“When I left office, the budget was $87 million, it's well north of $190 [million]  today," Lutz explained on the Martha Zoller Show. “I'm looking at our roads, and I'm saying ‘we don't have twice as nice roads, we don't have twice as good (of)  services.’ I have seen the uncontrolled growth in our county, the unplanned for growth in our county, and the fact that we haven't done the things that we needed to do to prepare for it.” 

Lutz highlighted some of the strategies in his plans to address these concerts include doubling the homestead exemption for residents, but also increase impact fees on infrastructure such as apartments and townhomes. 

“The key difference is I want to spend that money where it should be spent: on our roads,” Lutz said. “Currently, we don't spend a dime of impact fees on roads. And the reason we don't is because it's hard. It's hard to do it because you can't use that money to repave roads. But you certainly can use that money to add lanes to roads to put in acceleration and deceleration lanes on roads.”

David Gibbs has also campaigned for the seat as Hall County Commissioner Chair. 

Gibbs, who also ran for Hall County District 3 Commissioner in 2022, shared he also plans to address fiscal concerns within the county should he be elected. 

“We need some good fiscal sound responsibility in this county,” Gibbs said. “The commission should only approve a budget and a millage rate and ask the taxpayers of their hard earned money on what makes this county the best that it can be. That is it. No overspending.”

Gibbs also noted he plans to address housing concerns, specifically regarding protecting the one -acre minimum within the county. 

“They're approving houses on a quarter acre lot or sixth of an acre I've seen down off leach road and solidus that's basically 50 foot wide by 120 foot deep and there is no room for septic there's no sewer down there,” he said. “ …So they have put a community septic system, all the houses drain into a huge septic system well, there's nothing good that comes out of that 10 or 20 years down the road on sixth of an acre. It's over straining every resource we have, the schools, the roads, the water system is overstretched and everything we have.”

The Hall County Commission chair is voted county-wide. 

Early voting officially began April 29th with the primary election day taking place on May 21. 

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News, Election 2024
  • Associated Tags: Elections, hall county, Election 2024, Hall County Board of Commissioners
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