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Langston Ross, a first-grader at Model Elementary School

Planning commission deadlocks on Riverside Parkway rezoning

A rezoning request for two tracts on Riverside Parkway is moving forward with no recommendation, following a deadlocked vote of the Rome-Floyd Planning Commission.

Howard Grey said he wants to add the parcels at the corner of Riverside Industrial Park Drive to adjacent parcels zoned for commercial development. The lots are currently zoned for Office-Institutional use.

Grey said the lots would be used for parking for a new retail development. However, planning staff said they don’t meet the size requirements for community commercial zoning.

Moreover, Grey said he and owner Larry Martin do not know what would be built on the combined parcel. Planning Commission members voted 3 to 3 on the request, so it goes to the Rome City Commission with no recommendation from the citizen-board.

A rezoning request that would clear the way for Summerville Park senior living duplexes was unanimously recommended for approval.

The 1.31-acre property is at 1701 Martha Berry Highway.

Eric McDowell, president of the Summerville Park Neighborhood Association, was present for the hearing and voiced his approval, saying the association was “excited for new neighbors.”

A request from Mark Kaufman to rezone 2 acres at 4756 Calhoun Road from community commercial to heavy commercial zoning also netted approval.

Kaufman said he and Daniel Stephen want to set up a classic car sale and restoration business. Kaufman said they have already begun cleaning up the property for use.

The Planning Commission also recommended approval of suburban-residential zoning for a parcel at 1606 Kingston Highway that is zoned for office-institutional use.

Joe Pegg said that the parcel is surrounded by homes and he wishes to build a single-family home on the property.

A hearing for the rezoning of the former Chapel Hill United Methodist Church property at 1818 Kingston Road was pushed to a later date. John Cowan is considering building a sports facility on the 13.2-acre lot.

Public hearings for the Riverside Parkway and Summerville Park lots will take place at the Rome City Commission’s Nov. 25 meeting at 6:30 p.m.

The Kingston Highway and Calhoun Road applications will have public hearings at the Floyd County Commission’s Nov. 26 meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Water and sewer rates likely to increase by at least 2.5% each year for next decade

Rome’s water and sewer customers likely will see a minimum 2.5% rate increase every year for the foreseeable future — starting with an average $1.51 per month hike on Jan. 1.

The water and sewer committee voted Thursday to send a recommendation to the Rome City Commission for the across-the-board rate increase for 2020. The purpose of that increase is to partially recoup expected system upgrade costs.

Right now the average customer is paying approximately $59 a month for water and sewer. After the increase, the average customer will be paying approximately $61.50 total per month.

This was the same increase approved by the Rome City Commission for 2019. The city expects that increases will continue each year into the future.

“It’s expensive to be in the water and sewer business. It just is,” City Manager Sammy Rich said during the meeting. “I think, as a community, if we’re not willing to keep slow and steady incremental increases, then we’ve got to be prepared for the big, big increase down the road.”

The ongoing increase was the general recommendation that Stantec rate planning consultant Bill Zieburtz gave to the committee.

“It’s a tough, tough assignment to get elected officials to face this kind of thing,” Zieburtz told the committee, which also consists of water and sewer department officials.

Although commissioner and committee chair Evie McNiece joked that that’s why they wait until after the election to raise rates, she said she had nagging concerns about initial recommendations by Zieburtz to set cumulative 2.5% hikes over a 10-year period — instead of setting the rates year by year.

McNiece said she worries that if residents are told there will be a 2.5% increase each year over 10 years, they will feel the city was not being honest with them if the increase ends up being more than that in successive years.

Commissioner Milton Slack, who also serves on the water and sewer committee, agreed.

“They will think we lied to them,” Slack said.

Zieburtz told the committee that if they really want to get ahead of their debt and have more in their Capital Improvement Project fund, they could consider an 8% increase. This would raise average rates to nearly $65 per month.

“That’s not going to fly,” McNiece interjected as her colleagues sided with her.

The city’s water and sewer operation is an enterprise fund. It’s supported solely by customers, instead of with property taxes drawn from a general fund.

There are currently 16,932 water customers and 20,100 sewer customers, according to Rich. The residential city water rate is $2.71 per month per 750 gallons, while the sewer rate is $4.09 per 750 gallons, Rich said.

The rate increase is expected to bring in about $120,000 more for the city in 2020, which will go toward a reverse osmosis water filtration system deemed necessary to protect residents from harmful chemicals produced by carpet manufacturers and others upstream and outside Floyd County.

The Rome City Commission passed a resolution at its Nov. 4 meeting giving City Attorney Andy Davis authority to take legal action against those polluters, if it’s deemed necessary to force cooperation.

Commissioner Bill Irmscher asked Finance Director Toni Rhinehart how much the city has in reserves — just in case they should run into issues paying the bills.

Rhinehart reported there is a cash balance of $18 million and that current loan debts will be falling off in 2020.

The City Commission likely will have the rate increase resolution on its agenda for its Nov. 25 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Rome City Hall.

Adairsville seeing boom in housing construction, business activity

The city of Adairsville is experiencing some growing pains, however City Manager Pam Madison is confident that the end result will be a much better community for residents, retailers and industry.

One of her biggest challenges is managing the growth and changes, she told Bartow County business leaders “while keeping our hometown, small town, Adairsville feel.”

The city has witnessed a 93% increase in new home construction permits inside the city limits compared to last year — with two months left on the calendar. The city’s utility services, gas, water and sewer also have a wide reach outside of the actual city limits and are experiencing growth as well.

The city has issued at least 40 more business licenses when compared to last year.

“We are definitely growing,” Madison said. “Because we are growing, we understand that we have to keep our infrastructure growing to meet our current and future needs.”

The city just completed a major upgrade at its Lewis Spring raw water intake plant and just broke ground on a project to double the size and capacity of its wastewater treatment plant. That plant is expected to fall under a consent order with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to get into compliance with all of its permits.

Looking to the future, Madison said a lot of people in the community have expressed an interest in additional commercial development.

“More restaurants or gathering places, things for kids to do, just making sure we have a good mix of commercial and industrial,” she said.

The city has engaged NextSite to assist with economic development leads and transportation studies associated with a couple of major industrial projects that are on the drawing board.

At this point, those studies are indicating a need for more traffic signals and perhaps the widening of U.S. 41 going north toward Calhoun.

On top of that, the city has a million square feet of industrial construction in the pipeline and they’ve used funds to significantly expand the network of sidewalks.

Adairsville is focused on amenities for residents, Madison said. For example, the city has opened Veterans Memorial Park with picnic pavilions, a walking trail, a splash pad and a playground.

The downtown area is also up for revitalization.

“It’s not always pretty but the end result is going to be fabulous,” Madison said.

The city has partnered with its Downtown Development Authority and the Bartow Arts Alliance to bring sculptures and a photo fence to the downtown area. An artist reception will be held Nov. 16, with the specific time and location to be announced later.

‘You’ll see me in a hair net’: Founder of the Chicken Salad Chick chain runs her own shop in Rome, and will continue to

A decade ago, Stacy Melton Brown never envisioned her Chicken Salad Chick business would become a huge franchise company.

Today, she’s ready to take it from 138 restaurants across 16 states to more than 500 — with the help of new private equity investors.

A native of Rome, Brown is a graduate of Darlington School and Auburn University. She detailed the origins and growth of Chicken Salad Chick for the Rome Rotary Club on Thursday afternoon.

“I have enjoyed every single job I’ve had as my role has changed over the years. I’ve scrubbed the floors and I’ve run the cash register. I’ve been at the drive-through and I’ve made sandwiches,” Brown said. “If you ever come to the Rome Chicken Salad Chick, you’ll see me in a hair net over the window and I’m making chicken salad.”

Recently, she was amazed at the reaction on social media to the sale this week of an undisclosed portion of her business from one equity partner, Eagle Merchant Partners, to another, Brentwood Associates.

“All these crazy things like, ‘So much for Chicken Salad Chick, they sold out to California.’ You’re still going to see me in there with a hair net on,” Brown said.

She said she couldn’t disclose what percentage of the business Brentwood actually acquired.

However, wire reports indicate that Eagle Merchant Partners acquired a majority interest in the company in 2015.

The deal with Brentwood was done to put Chicken Salad Chick into a better position for future growth, she said.

“And then it’s probably going to sell again. Or it might go public. Who knows?” Brown said.

Personal touches at her Rome location came from her husband King Braswell, who also owns a nursery called Blooming Colors and the Crepe Myrtle Cafe in Auburn, Alabama.

“He’s an artist with horticulture — if you can’t tell from the restaurant — so we partnered and each brought our expertise to build my dream restaurant in Rome,” Brown said. “It is truly a dream come true for us.”