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Flowery Branch City Council candidates answer questions at forum
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1019TEENAUDMichael Waters

Listen to Michael Waters talk about being a teenager and going to driver's education class.

A Flowery Branch city council candidate forum brought about 60 people to the Sterling on the Lake clubhouse Thursday evening to hear four candidates speak on their qualifications for the council and the ideas they would like to impose if elected to one of the two open posts.

Craig Lutz is running against incumbent Jim Herold for Post 1. Chris Fetterman and Kellin Dobbs are vying for Post 2.

Former councilwoman Jan Smith, who occupies Post 2, is not seeking re-election.

Candidates were allotted time to present their qualifications for council to the community.

A brief rebuttal period was followed by a period where candidates fielded questions from constituents.

Flowery Branch citizens living at the Sterling on the Lake subdivision as well as other community members, asked questions regarding the recently voter-approved tax allocation district, community solidarity and the development of public infrastructure.

"This city council election is a turning point in Flowery Branch," said Vicki Ward, who resides in Tidewater Cove. "It’s much more important than people might realize."

Ward said that she would like to see city council meetings moved from the 9:30 a.m. time slot to later in the day when the average working citizen would be able to attend. She said that she would also like to see a council that was free of conflicts of interest.

"I don’t want people on the council to have a vested interest in the outcome of votes that affect developers and builders," she said.

Fetterman, who is running against Dobbs for council Post 2, said during the forum that his opponent has been involved in recent land purchases within the city limits and is a developer with a vested interest seeking election to the council.

"A councilman is responsible for distributing zoning ordinances, variances, permits and certifications," he said. "If he’s sitting on the council, how can he make decisions about his personal interest without affecting the citizens of Flowery Branch?"

After the forum, Dobbs said that he was shocked by his opponents’ comments.

"I’ve run this candidacy on honesty and integrity," he said. "Who better to run Flowery Branch than someone who has a vested interest with Flowery Branch itself?"

Dobbs also said that if elected to the council, according to state law, he would be unable to vote on an issue if he could possibly benefit from participating in the vote.

Another issue constituents raised concerned community solidarity, and not just within the new Sterling on the Lake subdivision.

"I think it’s time that Flowery Branch had a unified persona," said Bonnie Mason, who moved to Sterling on the Lake more than two years ago from Smyrna. "I think we need to come together as one community and support appropriate development," she said.

Lutz, who also lives in Sterling on the Lake, said, "It was nice seeing members of other communities that live in Flowery Branch." During the forum, Lutz said that communication and transportation within Flowery Branch are some of his primary concerns as the city grows.

Mayor Diane Hirling said that the city currently has about 4,500 residents, but the city’s population is projected to be about 10,000 by 2010.

As the city experiences fast-paced growth and burgeoning development, Herold said he’s glad to see that residents of Sterling on the Lake are seeking representation on the council.

"It’s high time that they’re taking an interest in the city," he said. "This is their first opportunity to seek council seats. Two years ago, I don’t think there were enough people here to support a campaign."

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