Lookout Mountain, Ga., Weighing Whether To Cut Taxes After Higher Assessments Bring $77,000 Windfall

Friday, August 19, 2016 - by Gail Perry

Walker County has sent new property assessments and a lot of people have seen increases. Mayor David Bennett said it is important for residents to know how they can be impacted and that they should challenge the assessments. The city must determine whether to keep the millage rate the same as last year or to decrease it. Either way, the city will see more revenue because it will come from the assessment increase, he said..

If the rate is left as is, the city will receive an additional $77,000 compared to the year before. If the rate is decreased by five percent, the city will still get $35,000 more. The danger is if the tax rate is lowered and also challenges from home owners yield lower assessments, then the city could lose money. Councilwoman Beth Soloff said the decision is so important because if taxes increase too much, it will hurt house sales.

The city must estimate the amount of money needed to operate next year to determine what the rate needs to be.

The bed and breakfast ordinance was passed on first reading Thursday night. It will allow two of the three houses owned by Chanticleer Lodge, which are adjacent to the current inn, to be used as part of the B&B. Structures over 2,500 square feet must be used as a single family residence and this impacts the third house Chanticleer owns. Other requirements in the ordinance include a minimum of two acres for a B&B, a maximum of 20 rooms and restrictions on signage and parking.

Other issues discussed by the planning committee at the last meeting, said Councilman Arch Willingham, concerned lighting, mostly pertaining to Rock City, and if a temporary road should be allowed on the Howell property.

The city is not yet ready to buy one, but has been looking at used fire trucks. A 750-1,000-gallon residual tank is needed, as well as one with  low mileage and for the pumps to have limited hours of use. It has been determined that a truck with those conditions will cost from $75,000-$95,000. Councilwoman Taylor Watson said she just hopes the old number two truck keeps working for now.

Some habitual speeders on Lula Lake Road have received warnings from the police, but the problem persists, said Ms. Watson, so she proposed a three-way stop at the intersection of Lula Lake and Wood Nymph Trail. The council agreed and voted to have the public works department to put up the signs.

Property the city bought from the Methodist Church at the corner of Lula Lake and Red Riding Hood Trail, needs a name and the council would like suggestions from the community. Dedication of the park is planned for Saturday, Nov. 12.

Councilwoman Caroline Williams gave an update regarding Fairyland Elementary. She said the school year is off to a great start with enrollment increasing by 26, for a total of 257 students. There are three first grade classes this year. Spanish will be taught for the first time. The big fundraiser Music on the Mountain is Saturday night. The goal is to raise $50,000 and the auction is now online.

The sewer board has sent letters to 19 residents, who together are delinquent $10,000. Those letters will start the collection process, Wes Hasden told the council members. They have been given 15 days notice and will be sent a second letter before action is taken. Those who want to make a resolution should contact City Manager Brad Haven.

Brow Wood and Thrive have requested a change to the agreement made with the city for sewer service. They now want the city to have the responsibility for the sewer system leaving Brow Wood, as well as the lines and pumps that are inside the development. The proposal would give additional money for the services. A meeting is planned for next week and then the matter will come back to the council for a decision.

The sewer board has increased the number of members whose terms vary so they will rotate off the board at different times. It was also reported that a new chemical will be tried for controlling the odor problems caused by the sewers, to see if it works and if it is cost efficient.

The city manager said culverts and ditches that hold water that is leaving the city’s system and will join state water must be inspected at a rate of 20 percent per year. He said that people performing upcoming construction projects need to be aware of the city and state requirements.

Surveys have now been ordered for the Town Center site and the mayor has met with architects.

Mayor Bennett gave special thanks to the Love Lookout group for hosting the community movie night that 450 people attended. Additional thanks went to the group that also paid for and assembled a bridge at Fairyland School leading to Carter’s Field.


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