-Double downtown demolition ‘imminent’
The hotly-contested demolition of both the Parks and Butler buildings could be mere days away.
“It could happen as soon as next week,” said city manager Bill Schmid during the city council’s regularly scheduled September meeting.
Local business woman Roberta Green-Garret agreed.
“They both should be down by the end of the week,” she told The Nugget on Monday. “It should take about two hours each to take them down.”
It’s been a couple months since the Dahlonega city council voted 4-2 to approve a controversial consent order which allowed Green-Garrett to move forward with a proposed hotel project to replace the Parks and Butler buildings off the city’s historic downtown square.
Though no demolition date has yet been set, Schmid and mayor Sam Norton, said the big event is “imminent.”
“The Parks and Butler buildings are planned to be demolished as soon as the proper documents are filed,” said Norton. “A limited clearing and grubbing permit could be approved as soon as mid-September. The paperwork is mostly complete and the buildings could be demolished by as soon as next week.”
Norton stressed that as much as he would like to give a specific date for the demolition, he and the council must wait for Green-Garrett in order to move forward.
“Although I’d like to give a specific timetable, there is a third party involved here,” Norton said. “That timetable is up to the owner. She could get all the permits she needs and then sit on it for a year if she wants.”
FINDING A FRANCHISE
It is unclear who Green-Garrett will use as a franchise partner for the proposed hotel project, but being a franchise hotel is one of the conditions of the consent order the council approved in July.
“I would not know what the relationship between Hampton Inn and the developer is or is not,” Norton said. “However, she [Green-Garrett] is legally required to have a franchise as the current consent order is written, We cannot specify who that agreement ultimately should be with.”
When contacted by The Nugget, Green-Garrett confirmed that a franchise partner had been selected, but wouldn’t specify who that partner would be.
“We’ve had so many people interested in being a franchise partner,” said Green-Garrett. “We have one that is a five-star franchise, but I am not telling who it is at this time.”
The controversial 4-2 vote to approve the consent order which put the final nail in the coffins of the Parks and Butler buildings was made at the council’s July 2 meeting.
A consent order is generally a voluntary agreement worked out between two or more parties to a dispute. Consent orders generally have the same effect as a court order and can be enforced by the court if anyone does not comply with the orders. The consent order was drafted as part of a self-mediation process undertaken by the council.
The terms of the city's consent order require that the hotel will be limited to a maximum of 75 rooms and include an exercise room, a lobby, a business office area and an outdoor swimming pool. It has also been ordered that the hotel should not exceed 36.2 feet in height as laid out by city ordinances, that the size of the meeting space in the hotel be a minimum of 1,000 square feet with unobstructed views and designed and constructed consistent with International Association of Conference Centers standards.
Since the approval of the consent order, Norton told The Nugget that the hotel design has hasn’t really changed from the consent order that was approved by the council.
“Since the vote to accept the consent order, the developer has moved forward with the process of producing engineered plans and is preparing to proceed with construction,” Norton said. “This is a complex project and requires a high level of planning, surveying, engineering and review by appropriate City agencies. Even though the developer has been very busy and is communicating with the Community Development Department regularly, most would not know the level of coordination required before a project of this magnitude can commence.”
The two dissenting votes against the consent order were cast by council members Roman Gaddis and Bruce Hoffman.
Hoffman agreed that a hotel is needed in the downtown area, but that the franchise hotel that Green-Garrett proposed was “not appropriate at the location.”
Gaddis felt that the hotel proposal violated guidelines set forth by the city and the Historic Preservation Commission.
“It specifically violates, I think, the commercial construction guidelines and the Historic Preservation guidelines,” said Gaddis. “We have guidelines in place, I think that we should follow them.”
Despite the arguments by Hoffman and Gaddis, the council voted to approve the consent order. One of the main reasons for approving the consent order revolved around the location being, as councilman Ron Larson described it, an “eyesore” which could be removed if the consent order was approved.
Since the approval of the consent order, the buildings have remained largely untouched.
However, recently the windows, doors and other hardware from the Parks Buildings were removed to be salvaged, indicating that the demolition could be coming soon.
Norton hopes that the salvaged items can be repurposed.
“Someone salvaged a bunch of windows, doors and hardware from the buildings,” he said. “I think that’s a good thing. I would like to see something from these buildings preserved.”
As for the official timetable for the demolition of the Parks and Butler buildings, the city is prepared for the demolition to begin as soon as the proper paperwork is completed and filed.