Banks County BOC Approves Marriott Hotel in Commerce

Business, Featured News, Police & Government
The front of the Banks County Courthouse Annex with a bright blue sky above and the moon visible.

BANKS COUNTY – The first application to be discussed in the 5/10/22 Board of Commissioners meeting is a Conditional Use Application by Hotel Developer Paul Patel for a new hotel to be located at Hampton Court in Commerce. The Banks County BOC approved the Marriot Hotel.

The Banks County Planning Commission recommended the hotel for approval.  T0 view our coverage of that meeting, check out the article here.

There was some tension in the crowd during the regular meeting portion and some confusion about the application.  One application, apparently drafted by someone other than Patel, said “Extended Stay”. The one being voted on at the meeting, however, was missing said phrase.

Patel explained the discrepancy on the applications regarding extended stay policies and what they would mean for Banks County.

“They’re going off what Marriott calls it, but its not…  The “extended stay” means somebody coming that can have the extra facilities of staying two or three days…  It doesn’t mean someone coming there for a month because I couldn’t make a living if I was letting people stay for a month and people couldn’t afford to stay with us if we’re charging by the day and stay for a month,” Patel said.

However, according to the ordinance, “Extended Stay Hotels or Motels” means any hotel or motel in which guest rooms have facilities for both the storage, refrigeration, and preparation of food, and/or which are advertised, designed, or utilized for weekly or monthly occupancy.”

Consequently, Larissa Campbell asked the Board what was in place to monitor or enforce the rules. She also argued that the approval would set a precedent that extended stay hotels are allowed in Banks County.

Patel’s representative said at the Planning Commission meeting there is not yet a written agreement from Marriott.

“What do we do if Marriott backs out and the Motel Six wants to come in and put in a weekly/monthly rental,” questioned Campbell.

So what is the reason the “extended stay” conversation is important to citizens?

  • There are concerns around extended hotels for a few reasons. Traffic is a big concern for Banks County and the Banks Crossing area specifically.  As more and more homes and hotels develop, more people will be on the roads.
  • According to the proposed FY 2022 Budget, on which the BOC will hold a Public hearing on June 22 and 6:30 p.m., the allocation for the sheriff and jail operations is $5,843,032 and the current one is just above $4 million.  This is low compared to neighboring Jackson County’s $15 million.  So citizens are concerned about stretching our police force too thin.
  • If extended stay is allowed, more hotels are built, and people begin using the hotels as home units, 911 services, police, and school bus services would need to be adjusted or grown to account for the new residential locations.
  • The resources of the Sheriff are concentrated in Banks Crossing.
  • Extended Stay hotels have a reputation of garnering crime.

Patel argued in his business model, they do not often have people staying “remotely close” to 29 days.  He also invited people to monitor the police calls to his current hotels and that the crime problems are more concentrated in older and degraded hotels.  Later, he argued there were misconceptions about “extended stay” hotels because while Marriott classifies some of their prototypes as extended stay, they are not similar to the types of downgraded hotels with which people usually associate the term.

Sporadic conversations throughout the meeting provided constructive input from multiple people, but there was still confusion over documents and semantics.

Patel said he has a written agreement but he has not paid the fees yet.

Additionally, Code Enforcement would be who monitors the records of how long people are staying.

The cookstove in the prototype was a point of concern, in regard to the code.  However, the board did not remove the appliance from the prototype, likely because the price point and business model was sufficient to deter people from moving in permanently.

The Board added stipulations including a required 15-20 year contract from Marriott, no “extended stay” on any of the applications or advertisements in Banks County and a minimum price point of $125.

The Board approved the application for the “daily motel” in a unanimous 5-0.

To view the whole meeting, visit the Banks County Government’s official Facebook page.

Banks County Board of Commissioners Meeting 4/12/22

Banks County Courthouse Annex

BANKS COUNTY, Ga. The Banks County Board of Commissioners held a regular meeting Tuesday. On the agenda were the chairman’s report, acknowledgement of Child Abuse Prevention Month, and a few other ordinances and resolutions.

According to the chairman’s report, in March, Banks County had 319 fire department calls. There were also 3007 sheriff’s office calls and 40 Covid-19 cases per 100,000. Budget hearings for the renewal of the Roads and Bridges tax and budget hearings will begin on April 25 at 1:30 p.m.

The BOC proclaimed April 2022 to be Child Abuse Prevention Month.  The proclamation asks citizens to recognize the month, “by dedicating themselves to the task of improving the quality of life for all children and families.”

Additionally, the Board tabled 2 agreements from the Piedmont Judicial Circuit until September 13.  Also, the Propane Gas Contract & Bid was awarded to Blossom Gas for use by the sheriff’s department and fire department.

Also, the BOC voted to approve the Energy Excise Levy Resolution & Intergovernmental Agreement. Every city in the county signed off and approved of the resolution, which will be a tax for manufacturing only.

Finally, the city of Gillsville is requesting to use the voting precinct as the city’s new town hall.  A motion to have the papers drawn up and deeded over to the city passed under one stipulation. If it were to revert back to a voting precinct, the county will still be able to use it as such.

The building is currently vacant and has been for around 3 years. The current voting precinct is in Banks County Fire Station 24.

To see the whole agenda, visit the website here.

To watch the entire meeting, visit the Banks County Government Facebook page.

Banks County – Homer, Ga. City Council Meeting 4/12/22

Homer City Hall

The Homer, Ga. City Council met in City Hall on Tuesday.  Items on the agenda included a districts change, a roundabout, and TSPLOST funds.  Additionally, Council Members continue to express concerns about the traffic pattern that have emerged from uncertainties about the roundabout project.

The GDOT brought the intersection of Historic Homer Hwy (SR 164), SR98, and Evans Street to the Council’s attention. Because it has been deemed dangerous, plans are moving forward to replace the 5-way stop with a roundabout.

The Council agreed to take on expenses for the roundabout when it is completed.  For example, this includes utility relocations and upkeep in the right of way.

However, they expressed concerns because the final design of the roundabout has not been decided upon. Because the DOT will only allow 4 connections into the roundabout, there is potential conflict regarding right of way and the private property of Dollar General.  There is no cut through behind the store.  Therefore, severing the connection from either Evans Street or Athens Street could be potentially harmful to the local businesses, school, and residents.

Severing Evans St. could funnel large amounts of school traffic onto lower capacity roads near the Homer Historic District like Mulberry St. and Athens St. Disconnecting Athens Street could be detrimental to the viability of Dollar General’s loading and customer access. It is unclear whether these businesses have been contacted about these concerns.

Also, the council members discussed potential re-paving projects using TSPLOST Roads and Bridges funds.

Yonah Homer Road and Sample Scales are both potential candidates for projects. The Council noted that both they and the County would prefer to only pave one part of the road if the rest of it can be completed around the same timeframe.

To see the agenda, visit the Town of Homer website.

Suspected Tornado Damages Banks County

Announcements, Feature News, Police & Government, Press Release, Weather
potential tornado damages
A suspected tornado damages Banks County.
Here is a summary of the incidents that occurred as a result of the suspected tornado:
Homes Damaged – 3 total
1. Hawkins Rd
2. Bennett Rd
3. Bennett Rd
Other Structures Damaged:
1. Barn on Payne Rd – barn destroyed, horses all ok
Roads Still Closed:
1. Yonah Homer Rd – will be closed for some time due to road washed away in the area of Silver Shoals Rd. PLEASE DO NOT CROSS ROAD CLOSED SIGNS
2. Wofford Creek Rd – closed due to road washed from flooding; PLEASE DO NOT CROSS ROAD CLOSED SIGNS
Thanks again to everyone for helping during this event, while we had some unfortunate damages we are very blessed that it was not worse. For those asking if we think it was a tornado, we will have the NWS in the County tomorrow to look at the damage path. In just preliminarily checking the area and damages along with the radar signatures seen, and based on eye witness reports, we do believe it was but we don’t know how big and we don’t believe it ever had a prolonged touch down which is a huge blessing. The NWS had advised us that they did indicate a debris field on the radar and they reached out directly and immediately when they saw it. Warnings were issued immediately. We are very thankful that we didn’t have anyone injured in the event. We will know more after the NWS finishes their investigation and provides their report.
Thanks again all and we are thankful everyone is safe!
Banks County EMA / E911

Murder Charges Filed in Shooting of Officer

Feature News, Police & Government, Press Release
murder charges filed
UPDATE August 9, 2021*** Murder Charges Filed***
On August 7, 2021 agents with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation secured warrants for 49-year-old, Larry Steven Grogan of Danielsville, GA for aggravated assault on a peace officer (x2) when he fired upon deputies following a brief vehicle pursuit.
Investigators with the Banks County Sheriff’s Office have additionally secured a murder warrant for Grogan’s role in the death of Asa Wood Jr. The investigation is ongoing and further charges could be forthcoming.
Banks County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Investigation.
On Saturday, August 7, 2021 at approximately 0938 AM, deputies with the Banks County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call regarding an intentional shooting. Upon deputies’ arrival, they located 59-year-old Asa (Junior) Wood of Commerce deceased from a gunshot wound. Wood, a rural postal worker, was working his morning route when he was fatally shot.
During the course of the investigation, leads were developed and a person of interest was established. Deputies were provided with a vehicle description for the person of interest. While patrolling the area of Hwy 51 North and Bennett Rd, the vehicle of interest was encountered by deputies. Deputies attempted to perform a traffic stop on the vehicle and the driver of the vehicle fled from deputies. During the pursuit, a Banks County Sheriff’s Office deputy performed a PIT maneuver, disabling the violator vehicle. Immediately the driver exited the vehicle armed and began firing upon deputies. Deputies returned fire, striking the offender. The offender sustained non-life threatening injuries and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation was requested to investigate the officer involved shooting as standard procedure. Deputies involved will be place on paid administrative leave pending the investigation.
The Banks County Sheriff’s Office is working in tandem with the US Postal Inspectors, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Banks County Coroner’s Office.
The subject’s name involved in the officer involved shooting is being withheld pending the GBI’s investigation. No further information will be released at this time.

Construction Begins on Renovations at Windmill Park

Announcements, Community, Featured Stories, Press Release
construction begins on renovation
Construction begins on renovations at Windmill Park.
We are so excited to announce that on June 7th, 2021, construction started on the T-ball/Soccer Complex portion of Windmill Park!
This new construction will turn the current Field 5 into four t-ball fields and dedicated space for soccer fields, with a plaza/pavilion area, renovated concession stand with restrooms, and a new parking area.
T-ball/5-6-year-old-coach pitch leagues, and soccer are some of our largest groups, numbers-wise. This will provide a dedicated space to those growing leagues!
construction begins on park renovation

photo from Banks County Parks and Recreation Facebook page

Update: Banks County Sheriff Seeks Missing Woman

Announcements, Police & Government, Press Release
missing woman in Banks County
We are sad to report that Amanda Hall was discovered deceased by deputies of the Banks County Sheriff’s Office. On April 28, deputies were conducting a grid search of a heavily wooded area in the proximity of Mrs. Hall’s last known whereabouts when she was located. BCSO Criminal Investigation Division and the Banks County Coroner’s Office are working a unified investigation to determine the cause and events surrounding her death. An autopsy is scheduled for later in the week. At this time, no further details will be released due to our active and ongoing investigation.

missing woman in Banks County

Mike Brown named Principal of Banks County High School

Board of Education, Community, Press Release
Mike Brown named Principal
Mike Brown has been named as the principal of Banks County High School. Brown, who is currently an assistant principal at BCHS, will begin the new role July 1st. Brown has served as an administrator in the system since 2015 when he was tapped as the transportation director. He began his teaching career in 1990 and became part of the Banks County School System in 2002. He has taught special education, health, physical education, and Georgia History. Brown has also coached a myriad of sports including football, basketball, and track.
Mr. Brown is a graduate of Western Carolina University and holds a leadership degree from Georgia Southern University. In 2011, he was named Banks County School System Teacher of the Year.
High School Principal named
Superintendent Ann Hopkins announced Brown as the new principal in an email to the staff. In her statements, Hopkins noted, “Mike Brown is one with great integrity and judgment skills. He is interwoven in this community and understands the students and their families and recognizes the challenges and uniqueness of our population. His heart and educational philosophy are deeply rooted in meeting the needs of all students.”
Brown and his family are long-time residents of Banks County. He is married to Cynthia Brown, the assistant principal at Banks County Primary School. They have 3 children and 3 grandchildren.
Brown is replacing Christine Bray, who is retiring after 31 years in education. The system will begin the search for an assistant principal for the high school immediately.

School Zone Speed Program Begins In Banks County

Announcements, Board of Education, Community, Police & Government, Press Release
missing woman in Banks County
The Banks County Sheriff’s Office in cooperation with the Banks County Board of Education, and Banks County Commissioners is adding camera equipped speed detection devices to the county school zones. The camera equipped speed detection system was recently approved for use by the Georgia Department of Transportation. This public safety program is being installed on Historic Homer Highway and on Georgia Highway 15 in the areas of Banks County High School and Banks County Middle School.
“Our school zone speed safety program for the middle and high schools started on Monday, January 25th which commenced our 30-day warning period,” stated Major Carissa McFaddin. “Even after adding a concentrated area of traffic enforcement in these zones, we continue to encounter people driving well above the speed limit. We continuously explore options to ensure motorists respect the law and the safety of our children. While there is the option of hiring additional deputies, this would be costly to the taxpayer and doesn’t necessarily mean that the deputy would be ever-present in our school zones. With that being said, we have found this speed camera solution fits in agreeably with our public safety strategies.”
“This project is strictly about ensuring the improvement of safety in our school zones,” stated Sheriff Carlton Speed. “I would rather see the lives of our citizens spared by drivers being more cautious and careful in our school zones than receive one dollar from enforcement fines.”
Phillip Bennett, Optotraffic – Georgia Representative stated, “We are honored to be chosen by Banks County to provide traffic safety enforcement services to keep their school children safe. The County has been a great partner and very progressive in the use of technology as a force multiplier for law enforcement. We look forward to working with Sheriff’s Office and County officials to ensure the safety benefits from this program are sustainable and meaningful.”
All fines collected will be used to improve school safety and security projects.

Drug Arrests in Banks County

Announcements, Community, Police & Government, Press Release
missing woman in Banks County

Commerce, GA (January 15, 2021) – On Wednesday, January 13th, 2021, Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office agents, along with Banks County Sheriff’s Office deputies executed a search warrant at the Howard Johnson Hotel Room 237 located in Commerce, Banks County, Georgia. Information developed by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office led to the search warrant that was executed at the Howard Johnson Hotel.  During the execution of the search warrant, agents and deputies seized 483.5 prescription pills, 3 kilograms of methamphetamine, 4 ounces of heroin, 9 ounces of marijuana, and $12,700 of US Currency.

The following individuals were arrested at the time of the execution of the search warrant:

William Turney, 39, of Homer, was charged with Trafficking Heroin, Trafficking Methamphetamine, Possession of Heroin, Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute and Possession of Schedule IV Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute.

Kristina Hubbard, 29, of Bethlehem, was charged with Trafficking Heroin, Trafficking Methamphetamine, Possession of Heroin, Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute and Possession of Schedule IV Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute.

Gary Henson, 38, of Toccoa, was charged with Trafficking Heroin, Trafficking Methamphetamine, Possession of Heroin, Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute and Possession of Schedule IV Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute, along with Felony Obstruction of a Police Officer.

Ashley Loudermilk, 34, of Hull, was charged with Trafficking Heroin, Trafficking Methamphetamine, Possession of Heroin, Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute and Possession of Schedule IV Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute.

This investigation is still currently active and ongoing.

For additional information about Appalachian RDEO or to provide tips on criminal activity look for ARDEO @appalachiandtf on twitter or follow on facebook @appalachianrdeo and/or Instagram.

The Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office is a multi-agency unit that consists of the following Sheriff’s Offices: White County, Lumpkin County, Towns County, Banks County, Jackson County, Habersham County, Stephens County, Rabun County, Franklin County, Gilmer County, Fannin County, the Cleveland Police Department, and the Lavonia Police Department, Toccoa Police Department, along with the Georgia National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, the Department of Public Safety, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

BCPRD Confirms Basketball Games To Be Played As Scheduled

Announcements, Community, Press Release, Sports
construction begins on renovation
BCPRD Basketball games are on as scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, January 9th!
basketball games on schedule to be played
Blue Gym
8G Thomas v Reems 9:00a
10G Gilstrap v Murray 10:00a
12B Beck v Boswell 11:00a
Red Gym
8B Baker v Whitlock 10:00a
8B LaHayne v Milford 9:00a
8B McCutcheon v Poole 11:00a
10B Heath v Reed 12:00p
12G Hunter A @ Franklin Co 12:00p – Gym B
12G Hunter B @ Franklin Co 1:00p – Gym B
14B Anderson @ Franklin Co 1:00p – Gym A
The first couple of nights this week have been great & we thank you all for your adherence to our Covid policies during this time!
Just a reminder to please only attend with members of your household, masks are required & social distancing efforts must be made. We ask that everyone please refrain from congregating in the gyms or lobby prior to or after your child’s games.

Banks County Update on Possible Wintry Weather

Announcements, Community, Press Release, Weather
potential tornado damages
Good afternoon everyone. Following is a little information from the NWS on the wintry precipitation that is possible across extreme north Georgia later Thursday and Friday.
We may see some according to the 7-day forecast but they are not mentioning any chance of accumulation for our area.
As always, we will continue to monitor and let you know if we hear of any changes, as we are able.
Our 7-Day (through Sunday) per the NWS Peachtree Site:
This Afternoon
Mostly sunny, with a high near 52. South wind around 5 mph.
Partly cloudy, with a low around 34. Calm wind becoming northeast around 5 mph.
A 30 percent chance of showers, mainly after 4pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 48. East wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.
Thursday Night
Rain showers before 5am, then rain and snow showers. Low around 35. East wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%.
Rain and snow showers likely before 9am, then a chance of rain showers between 9am and 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 46. Northeast wind 5 to 10 mph becoming light and variable in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Friday Night
Mostly cloudy, with a low around 32.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 50.
Saturday Night
Mostly clear, with a low around 28.
Sunny, with a high near 50.
From: Lauren Reaves – NOAA Federal
Sent: Wednesday, January 6, 2021 2:34 PM
Subject: [! Wednesday 230 PM Update !] Wintry Precipitation Possible Across North Georgia Late Thursday/Friday
Good Afternoon Partners,
What’s Changed: Overall, little has changed from the previous forecast. A brief period of freezing rain may be possible across the highest peaks late on Thursday before transitioning to snow. Accumulations around 1 to 2 inches are still possible across the higher elevations late Thursday into Friday.
• A low pressure system will bring rainfall to much of the area beginning on Thursday afternoon.
• Potential remains for rain to mix with snow before transitioning into snow across portions of northern Georgia late Thursday, lingering into the day on Friday. In addition, some of the highest peaks may see a brief transition to freezing rain before switching to snow late Thursday evening.
• The mountains across northern Georgia have the highest potential to see this rain/snow mix and the highest potential for accumulating snow (around 1 to 2 inches) late Thursday (after about 6 PM) through Friday morning (around 9 AM) as temperatures at and below freezing will be possible. Accumulating snow on roadways may cause slick or hazardous road conditions. NOTE: These areas (and amounts) are subject to change with future forecasts!
• Across the rest of northern Georgia (generally north and west of I-20/I-85), periods of a rain/snow mix will be possible overnight Thursday and into early Friday, but air temperatures are forecast to remain above freezing restricting any accumulations, limiting impacts across these areas.
• Precipitation looks to end by the early afternoon on Friday.
Please see the graphics below for more information.
NWS Peachtree City/Atlanta Decision Support Team

Scheduled Games to Be Played Tonight Per Banks County Parks and Recreation

Announcements, Community, Sports
construction begins on renovation
Banks County Parks and Recreation announce scheduled games will be played tonight.
Basketball games are on as scheduled tonight!
6:00 – 12G Hunter A v Rabun Co
7:00 – 12G Hunter B v Rabun Co
8:00 – 14B McKinzie v Anderson


6:00 – 6U Penny Hunter v Brittany Whitlock (Make-up)
6:30 – 8G Gordon v Reems
7:30 – 10B Rodgers v Duncan
*REMINDER masks are REQUIRED to enter the Rec Center for games this evening. Players & Coaches do not have to wear masks while participating in the game.

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