Hall County is poised for continued growth despite the problems it will face over the next year, Board of Commissioners chairman Tom Oliver said Saturday.
"This county is positive. It’s prepared to move to the next level," Oliver said during his State of the County address to the Hall County Republican Forum.
Oliver focused on the direction he envisions the county going in the future instead of discussing the immediate challenges it faces.
"I’m not going to be negative about Hall County," Oliver said.
Oliver said he predicts Lake Lanier will continue to be one of Hall County’s most important assets.
"I think we’re going to become more aware of protecting our lake," Oliver said. "How we develop our county depends on water."
Development also will be a key to Hall County’s future, according to Oliver.
"As the economy changes, I think we’re going to see urbanization," Oliver said. "This county is located in a position where we don’t have to give anything away," he said referring to shopping, dining and job opportunities that could be outsourced to other counties.
He said communities where you can live, work and play will be key. Developments like the multipurpose master-planned Hagan Creek and Cane Creek communities that were recently approved in North Hall will be the way to help the county grow responsibly.
Oliver said a good way to lay the groundwork for the county’s growth is through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which will be up to voters on the March 17 ballot.
"It’s our road map to the future," Oliver said of the upcoming SPLOST.
Oliver acknowledged that the county has issues to work out during the next year regarding sewer fees in South Hall, which could double at the end of 2009.
"There’s a challenge in our rate structure," Oliver said. "We understand that quality of life depends on your infrastructure."
Several elected officials were in attendance, including state Reps. James Mills and Carl Rogers, Flowery Branch Councilman Chris Fetterman, Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell and Sheriff Steve Cronic.
One of the main concerns of many who attended the forum was property taxes. They asked Oliver and the other politicians present what to expect with regard to their property values.
"I think our taxes are reasonable. If you have a $300,000 house ... that’s $2 to $3 a day. That’s not too bad when you pick up that phone and you want Steve (Cronic) and his team there in five minutes; you want the best EMTs you can find," Oliver said. "The community has to decide: How much do you want from your county government?"
Rogers said he hears a lot of feedback from his constituents regarding property taxes.
"I hear property tax issues in good times and bad times," Rogers said. "With property values going downward, we are taking a look at it."
Rogers said the General Assembly is considering legislation that would put a cap on property taxes. The legislature begins its 2009 session this week.
Others were curious about what projects are going on at the lake. Though Oliver said there are no specific lake projects on the upcoming SPLOST, Powell talked about boat ramp extensions that are currently taking place on Lake Lanier that will make them more accessible when the lake is down.