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Street Performers Downtown Raise Concerns Among Business Owners

By Bree Collar, Sentinel Staff Writer

Concerns of activity on sidewalks and conditions of a city
street came from Blue Ridge residents Nov. 12 at the monthly
Blue Ridge City Council meeting.
“I just wanted to ask the council to please consider putting
an ordinance in place in regards to restricting street performers
and anyone that may want to hold a rally on our city
sidewalks,” Business owner and resident Drew Dillard said.
According to Dillard, for the past year a street performer
is frequenting the sidewalk area directly in front of his
store, Juliana’s, in downtown. He said the presence has been
recorded more than two dozen times, and each time there’s
a donation bucket, microphone stand, umbrella, umbrella
stand guitar case and a large piece of luggage to roll around
the equipment. Due to the street performers actions, people
in downtown are having to walk onto the street; it is a noise
disturbance, benches are being blocked as well as post office
boxes.
“I would imagine it to be a liability to the city,” he said.
Mayor Donna Whitener responded, “I believe Mr. (James)
Balli (city attorney), we’re working on something about that?”
“Yes, just so you know we’ve already started that process,”
Balli replied.
Dillard’s main concern is the noise pollution that takes
place at his business, disturbing shoppers as well as employees.
“As a business owner, I don’t mind contributing to the
city in the form of a business license, a sidewalk sign permit,
paying property taxes, collecting sales tax…so now seeing so
many street performers who have no permit and they don’t
have to pay a fee to perform or no income or sales tax…then
disrupting some of the credible businesses (is concerning),”
Dillard said.
He suggested the council consider designating areas of
town where they can perform but still require they pay some
sort of permit fee.
Balli told Dillard steps are being taken, “You just have to
make sure you do it correctly because you’re dealing with the
First Amendment. There may be some other things that can
be done if someone’s blocking the sidewalk in front of your
store.”
City Council member Nathan Fitts said, “I’ve had several
complaints and phone calls too.”
In other matters, city resident Ann Benson suggested the
City take some concern in fixing and repaving Carter Street
in Blue Ridge. Benson’s home is located along Carter Street
and she is constantly seeing pot holes and signs of possible
water leaks.
“I think one of the problems on that street is they did some
waterline repairs,” Whitener said.
“Well there’s still leaks,” Benson said. She submitted a
series of pictures to the council for a visual look at the conditions
she was referring to along the street.
Benson said a lot of activity is going on and she has seen
people trip walking in the area.
Whitener assured her, “We’ll get somebody down there tomorrow
to look at it.”
A shift in an agreement that was once between the State
of Georgia and counties is now partnering with cities to help
in statewide disaster situations.
Balli told the Council Nov. 12 the Georgia Emergency
Management Act (GEMA) in conjunction with the Georgia
Emergency Management Homeland Security Agency had
agreements in place with certain counties when there is a
statewide disaster. Now they are asking cities to adopt the
same but separate agreements.
“So essentially every state and every city has responsibilities
for its own municipalities,” Fitts added.
The formal agreement states what limitations are and
what can be done to help with liability and needs.
“I guess because of areas where things happened with
bigger cities or a city does not want to comply; so there’s an
argument (that ensues) so they’ve asked for separate ones.
So now as opposed to going to Fannin then Fannin to Blue
Ridge, GEMA can come straight to the city of Blue Ridge and
say, ‘Here’s what you guys need; or What do you need?’” Balli
explained.
Whitener said the agreement also opens a type of grant
money that helps with disaster assistance.
City Police Chief Johnny Scearce added, “They stepped in

when we had the gas leaks years ago.”
The council unanimously approved moving forward with
the agreement.
During discussion Balli told Downtown Development Authority
(DDA) members that the city currently has an ordinance
in place dealing with historical preservation. The ordinance
requires the mayor and council appoint individuals to
a committee dealing with the issue. “In order to change that,
we’ve got to go through two readings,” Balli said.
DDA President Cesar Martinez said, “My suggestion, because
that’s what the DDA is for, is to amend the ordinance
for the DDA to oversee it.”
The Council can now look further into the issue: changing
the ordinance so the DDA design committee includes historical
preservation, or they may ask for a list of nominees to a
city committee.
In other matters the Council:
• Approved issuing purchasing cards to Barbie Gerald,
Becky Harkins, Scearce and Jeff Stuart to help tie purchases
directly to their areas for ease in bookkeeping; and
• Approved an $8,337.23 TDS invoice for repairs of a buried
cut cable and submit to insurance;
• Approved a $ 6,512 Dwight Oliver Electrical Contractor
invoice for emergency service on Mountain Top subdivision.
Blue Ridge City Council meets the second Tuesday each
month at City Hall.

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