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Fort Oglethorpe approves zoning request for proposed car wash

The Fort Oglethorpe City Council has approved a zoning request for a new car wash to be developed next to the Walgreen's at Battlefield Parkway and Dietz Road.

On Monday night, Feb. 12, Attorney Chad Young spoke to the council on behalf of Community National Bank and East Haven Partners regarding a stretch of land along Battlefield Parkway.

Community National Bank requested a C-1 special exception to build a car wash on the property, which is a stipulation in the agreement for purchase.

"The tract goes along Walgreen's at Battlefield Parkway and Dietz Road," Young explained. "The tract is a approximately 4.5 acres in size and has been owned by CNB since 2009 when they foreclosed on the property. The land has sat undeveloped and vacant since that time. The bank has spent roughly $200,000 in carrying costs trying to sell that property to commercial developers. Unfortunately for them, the prior owner, when he sold to Walgreen's, agreed to a lot of use restrictions that really limited what could go in the property."

Young says the property has been under contract several times, but that each time, the developers have backed out because the restrictions just wouldn't allow them to use the property for what they've proposed.

East Haven Partners' proposal includes acquiring 2.88 acres of the tract, with a remaining option on the other 1.6 acres.

"What they are proposing to the council is to subdivide the 2.88 into two tracts;

one is an acre and a quarter, and one is 1.65 acres," Young explained. "On the 1.23 acre tract, they propose to build the car wash."

The group produced site plans that are similar to a car wash they already have approved for construction on Broad Street in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"The color scheme and brick color would coincide with the Walgreen's that's there on the property," Young said. "The capital investment proposed for just this phase of the development is $1 million for the land, $900,000 for the equipment, and another $950,000 for the building. That's just to get the car wash built and the land acquired."

The projected annual revenues based on the site study are $1.5 million, which is a big jump from the roughly $3,600 in property tax revenue the land currently brings in.

Young says the business would have between 8-12 full and part-time employees including management. "The plan for this developer is for the car wash to take advantage of the traffic that's already there, and draw traffic into the site the way an anchor tenant would a shopping center,"

Young said. "This particular car wash will be built with a 90-percent reclamation water system, so all of the products and the water will be recycled into tanks.

Young says the facility would use approximately 2,200 gallons of water per day, or 60 gallons per car.

"The site could have minimal impact on your sewer," Young said. "There will be 20,000 gallons of underground treatment and storage available, so if you have a heavy rain day when you're not washing a lot of cars, a lot of this water that is recycled will be stored on the site, so there may be some days that all the water provided comes from storage tanks and doesn't even impact the city's water or sewer."

Young added that the facility would always have attendants on duty during operating hours, and would not be an open-bay car wash were people can pull in and wash their own vehicles.

"The developer has done their due diligence and feels like this is a good place and a good market for this car wash," Young said. "They feel like it's environmentally friendly, will have a low impact on your (the city's) infrastructure, and it's really going to capture the traffic that's already there at that intersection. In fact, because it's on the fringe of the city limit, it's probably going to draw traffic in from the unincorporated areas of the county to this site to spend revenue in the city."


The request was met with opposition from Mike Burwell, who has owned and operated Pal's Car Wash down the street on Battlefield Parkway for over a decade.

"We've been in business for a little over 12 years," Burwell said. "It was drug invested, rat invested, the whole nine yards...we took the shell and increased it."

Burwell says his business is lucky to average 150 cars per day, with the exception of higher numbers on weekends. He says weather is also an issue, like the rain on Monday, which resulted in them doing only 65 cars.

"There's no way you can put another car wash within a three-mile radius of where we're at, and not impact us," Burwell said. "If you're going to move in another car wash, let's say two-miles down the road, it's definitely going to take pretty close to half of our express car washes.

Burwell insisted that building a car wash so close to his would be similar to gas wars that sometimes exist between gas stations.

"Remember the gas wars on opposite corners," Burwell asked. "Eventually, one of those gas stations goes out of business. Only one person's going to win. I can't see where putting another car was in Fort Oglethorpe is going to be a helpful thing for the community itself. It would be a little different if I didn't employ 40 people, plus an assistant manager and a general manager."

After the discussion, the request was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Jim Childs and Rhonda James voting no.

High school student arrested after threat on social media

A Ringgold High School student was arrested Thursday morning, Feb. 15, after allegedly posting a threat on social media aimed at one of the school's coaches.

According to the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department and Catoosa County Public Schools, the threat was ultimately deemed as not credible, but that necessary action was taken anyway.

"He was on the school bus and was apprehended when he arrived at school," said Marissa Brower, communications specialist for Catoosa County Public Schools. "All employees and students were safe."

Brower says the student's social media threat was aimed at the coach specifically and not the school. She also confirmed that the student had no weapons or anything dangerous on him when he arrived at school.

The timing of the incident wasn't ideal, as the nation was dealing with the aftermath of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., less than 24 hours earlier.

"We take everything seriously," Brower said.

Brower added that the school system has beefed up its precautionary measures over the past couple of years by installing security upgrades and 911 software that is tied to the county's Emergency Management Agency.

"It's a project that's involved a lot of money from ESPLOST, and it involves extra safety precautions with our security systems," Brower said. "It's designed where we have additional cameras and no one can get into the schools without being buzzed in."

The project began last year with Tiger Creek Elementary as the pilot school.

Brower says the plan is for all the schools to utilize the new measures completely by next fall.

"Tiger Creek has been through all the training," Brower explained. "It's installed in all the schools, but all of them haven't had their trainings yet. All the schools could be ready by the next school year. It's a good thing for our community to know and feel confident about."

Ringgold United Methodist addresses human trafficking

On a recent Sunday evening, 135 people gathered at Ringgold United Methodist Church (RUMC) to discuss a deeply disturbing problem – human trafficking. In particular, the group was concerned about child sex trafficking.

"It's a growing problem," says RUMC youth pastor Bobby Fleck. "We live at the hub of three exits off I-75, which is a major thoroughfare used by traffickers. Any exit where there are gas stations and motels can serve as a pit stop for traffickers."

The meeting at RUMC featured speakers Jenifer Duncan and Jon Lewis from an Atlanta-based ministry called Street Grace that specializes in fighting human trafficking. Also featured was a young

"Teach your kids what a predator does, not what he looks like. It can be anyone – male, female, even another child who has been exposed to pornography." — John Winstanley of Fort Safety

woman who was rescued from sex trafficking.

Fleck lived in Atlanta, which is known for its human trafficking problem, for eight years before moving to Ringgold. He says that he and his wife have always leaned toward helping the most vulnerable victims of trafficking. "My interest started in seminary when I wrote a paper on human trafficking for my masters of divinity. It does something to your soul to find out about what's going on."

Fleck says his wife took a trip to Thailand to visit House of Grace, which helps prevent children from becoming victims of sex trafficking. "Thailand's top two exports are said to be opium and little girls," he says. "I have triplet daughters, so this breaks my heart all the more." The Flecks help a young girl in Thailand through a sponsorship program.

After moving to Ringgold, Fleck's wife, Tiffini, and June Cathey, wife of RUMC's pastor, attended a Street Grace meeting in Cartersville. That led to the recent event at RUMC.

"We were really pleased with the community turnout," says Fleck. "Mayor Nick Millwood was there, and so were councilmen Randall Franks and Kelly Bomar. Seven churches were represented. Phil Ledbetter from the Catoosa Family Collaborative and Dr. Lamar Brown from Catoosa County Schools were there, school counselors and nurses came. We beat the ground pretty hard to let people know about this and they showed up."

Also speaking at the meeting were Capt. Chris Lyons of the Catoosa County Sheriff's Department and Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent James Harris.

"Special Agent Harris talked about a sting operation conducted in North Georgia recently," says Fleck. "He couldn't share too many details, but he said they put out an ad promising contact with young girls and got 25 calls within the first hour."

Harris explained to the group at RUMC that it's an immediate felony in the state of Georgia just to make a call in response to such an ad.

The connection between online pornography and victimizing children is strong, says the Street Grace website. In a study of 400 million web searches, the most popular category of sexual searches was "youth," according to a Barna Group Study. Men who have engaged in paid sex are 270% more likely to look at porn, according to a study by Michigan professors Stack, Wasserman and Kern.

"We need to keep kids away from porn, teach them how to recognize threats, and deal with the predators," says Fleck. "Exposing the "buyers" – those who pay to use children – will be a big step, but we must also get parents more involved in keeping their kids safe and help kids learn how to keep themselves safe."

RUMC is committed to keeping young people from ever reaching the point of victimhood and will be holding future events to teach teens how to protect themselves from predators, including an event coming up on March 25, when John Winstanley of Fort Safety will be conducting a workshop for teens and parents.

"Porn is fueling the demand for child sex images and the sex trafficking industry," says Winstanley. "Teach your kids what a predator does, not what he looks like. It can be anyone – male, female, even another child who has been exposed to pornography."

"This is a real problem," says Fleck. "We can't bury our heads in the sand and pretend it's not happening."

More info: Ringgold United Methodist Church will be holding Internet Safety 101 on March 25 at 6:30 p.m., taught by John Winstanley from Fort Safety. RUMC is located at 7484 Nashville St. in Ringgold. Website: Phone: 706-935-4777. See also: and