Growth is a hot topic on the southern end of Hall County, and both candidates looking to represent the area on the Hall County Board of Commissioners are paying attention.
Incumbent Republican Kathy Cooper and Democrat Mike Parker both said high-density developments can overwhelm local infrastructure. And both candidates said the area has been growing so quickly that some traffic problems have come up — an issue they both hope to address.
The two face each other Nov. 6, for the District 1 post, which covers South Hall.
Parker said people are being “priced out” of Hall County, particularly its southern end, as rent prices rise and new developments don’t line up with the county’s median income.
Cooper said streamlining the permitting process can help drive the local economy by encouraging people to start up a new business.
Residence: Flowery Branch
Experience: Cooper was elected to her first term on the Hall County Board of Commissioners in 2014. She has run a cattle, egg and Christmas tree farm in South Hall with her husband John for more than 30 years.
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Cooper said the county needs to follow its comprehensive plan, which establishes goals for growth and development and is used to guide zoning decisions.
South Hall is seeing more growth than other areas, so making that growth sustainable has become a challenge, she said.
“We’ve already transitioned into high-density growth in our developments, so the precedent for that has been set,” she said.
High-density residential developments with a lot of families in a small space can pose a challenge to schools, she said.
Cooper said sewer lines need to be established on Friendship Road, which she said is a good corridor for commercial growth.
The Spout Springs Road widening project will also alleviate some traffic problems in the area when it is done, she said.
Cooper said she would like to keep taxes low but would evaluate the situation when a vote comes up.
“It’s always your intention not to (raise taxes),” she said. “I’m a taxpayer too, so I would love to see them stay as low as they can.”
Cooper said county morale has improved recently, with the county’s approximately 1,700 employees receiving 5 percent pay increases with the passing of the new budget. Hall’s new fire chief, Chris Armstrong, who is set to begin Oct. 29, has been well-received, she said.
Residence: Flowery Branch
Experience: Parker retired about four years ago after working as a mortgage originator and in a bank. He has lived in Flowery Branch since 1995.
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Parker said development should keep residents’ concerns in mind because many people moved to Hall because it is quieter than surrounding communities.
“We need to give priority to the people who are already here, and a priority to maintaining what the county was like, what pulled people into Hall County and into South Hall,” he said.
Residential developments should also be affordable enough to be realistic options for people who are already living in Hall, he said.
Parker hopes to address traffic building up in South Hall, particularly along Lanier Parkway and at Hwy. 211 and Friendship Road. Traffic studies should evaluate possible solutions, he said.
Parker said pledges not to raise taxes are often just a way to attract voters, but he does want to ease the burden on residents by working to increase the homestead exemption from $2,000 to $4,000.
To increase the homestead exemption, legislation would need to go to the General Assembly and be endorsed by three out of four legislators in Hall’s delegation. The legislature would then have to pass the bill, leading to a ballot question in the next even-year election.
Parker said county employees need to be paid competitively in comparison to similar counties.
He also is concerned by the class action lawsuit against the county, which claims that former employees’ pension benefits were frozen.
“When we make promises to our people, our employees, we keep those promises,” he said.