November 12, 2013

Businesses hope to open on old Carpets of Dalton property

Misty Watson

— When the former Carpets of Dalton complex was built off Connector 3 in southern Whitfield County, it actually extended into state-owned property.

The state owned 100 feet west of I-75 and has since the interstate was built, but no one seemed to realize that until the property was foreclosed on and was being purchased for new businesses. For more than a year the property owners have been trying to get the state to let go of the property along North Dug Gap Road so they can go ahead with plans to open businesses there, said Tom Minor, an attorney representing Specialty Property Investments and Griffin Family Enterprises, during a Whitfield County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night.

The Georgia Department of Transportation recently deeded the land to Whitfield County with the condition that the state can reclaim the property without having to pay for it, county officials said.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to abandon the property, but because of some unanswered questions — such as whether the $42,000 being offered to Whitfield County for the property is a fair price — commissioners Lynn Laughter and Robby Staten voted against conveying the property to Griffin Family Enterprises and Specialty Property Investments until a later date. That vote was 2-2 with Gordon Morehouse and Harold Brooker voting in favor of transferring the deed to the two companies for the offered price. Chairman Mike Babb only votes in case of a tie, and he chose to table the proposed sale so they can determine if the appraised value is fair.

“It doesn’t have to do with a travel road, but a portion of the right of way,” county attorney Robert Smalley said. “There is some issue with respect to a parking lot.”

The property extends through existing parking lots and touches portions of the former Carpets of Dalton buildings, according to a map provided by Minor.

“We need to take one more look to make sure all the ‘i’s’ are dotted and the ‘t’s’ are crossed,” Babb said. “The county does not need this property. We did not have this property. We’re the go-between because the GDOT (Georgia Department of Transportation) has handed it off to us. We have to justify the price and everything else that goes into this property.”

Minor said he had hoped the property would be exchanged from the GDOT directly to the property owners.

Laughter requested the property have another appraisal, one not paid for by the companies involved, and wants to explore the possibility of the county adding a provision that the county can also take the property back if it is needed at a later date.

“I think this is a housekeeping thing we need to do,” Brooker said. “Close it and convey it.”

“What about the other questions we still don’t have answered?” Laughter responded.

Babb said a special called meeting will likely be held after county officials have had time to further review the property’s appraisal.

Also at the meeting, Dianne Caldwell, a resident of Alyssa Court off Foster Road, asked commissioners to look into a dangerous curve on Foster Road. Caldwell claimed several cars have wrecked on the curve and others have nearly hit children because drivers lose control.

“It’s not just happened one time, two times, three times,” Caldwell said. “We have to have the law down there too much. We pay our taxes just like everyone else does. ... Everybody don’t follow the rules.”

DeWayne Hunt, public works director, said he agrees the curve is dangerous, but there’s no easy fix.

“If we begin a guardrail there are numerous driveways. There would be a lot of breaks,” he said. “Some sections would be 8 feet long and some 30 feet long. ... We profiled this curve for 500 feet.”

The road is an old wagon road, and newer roads are designed with more geometrical curves, but this one curves, then straightens out and curves again, Hunt said. Officials are looking at ways to widen the road to smooth the curve, he said.

“We’ve taken this very seriously,” he said.

Babb and Laughter thanked Caldwell for bringing the matter to the commissioners’ attention and said they will look into what can be done to make the curve safer.

In other business, Hunt told commissioners he needs to start enforcing the ordinance requiring large private trash containers to be off the county’s right of way. He said roads are being damaged and, in many cases, the boxes are placed so close to the road it is causing a safety hazard because drivers cannot see around them.

The ordinance calls for violators to be fined up to $1,000 per day for every day the container is not moved, Hunt said. He asked commissioners about a time frame to begin enforcing the ordinance.

Vendors will be notified they have until April 1, 2014, to move the containers off the right of ways and then law enforcement officials will begin citing violators, Babb said.

Also during the meeting, commissioners voted 4-0 to:

• Deny requests to rezone property from residential to commercial on South Dixie Highway and on Antioch Road. In both cases, the surrounding land is residential and planning commission members also recommended denying the requests.

• Approve a special use permit on Hopewell Road in Cohutta to allow an event venue with conditions that the driveway be widened to allow two cars to pass and every event ends by midnight. Most of the surrounding land is agriculture and the event venue is a barn. Plans are to have a venue for events such as weddings and reunions.

• To accept property donated from the trustees of the Dawnville recreation center. The property was operated by the Ruritan Club which no longer exists. With the loss of several ball fields when Eastbrook Middle School was built, the county needs the additional space, said Mark Gibson, county administrator.