In this installment of The Dahlonega Nugget’s Q&A with the candidates in preparation for the upcoming city elections in November, The Nugget asked the candidates their opinions on how local businesswoman Roberta Green-Garrett’s hotel project at 40 East Main Street will affect the historic downtown square of Dahlonega.
Question: How do you think the Roberta Green-Garrett hotel project will impact the historic downtown square and the city of Dahlonega?
Johnny Ariemma, running for Post 4
The second oldest building was torn down for this huge project. Street-level at the very least should have been retail, but no one on council pushed for this. A vast majority of people come to visit from Atlanta. They have nice pretty new chain restaurants and hotels and shopping where they live, but they want to step back in time and come to the serenity of our charming town. Large groups of local people came to City Hall to voice their negative opinion of this project. Not a very transparent mayor and council, as they voted to let it all be torn down against HPC recommendation. A poor precedent has been set and others are following. A negative impact. I tried to purchase the property; was turned down. I would have rebuilt it with retail and made it come back to the glory days of the 1800s.
Tony Owens, running for Post 4
This project has the potential to have a positive impact on our square through additional hotel rooms and the taxes they would generate. However, I have real concerns that the hotel will actually become student housing. I would not have agreed to allow the construction to move forward without a more transparent plan stating who her partner hotel chain was going to be and their design guidelines. The negative impact to our downtown is the precedent that was set by allowing Mrs. Green-Garrett to move forward against the recommendation of our Historic Preservation Commission and the concerns of the community. I believe that the aesthetic of our Main Street is what makes Dahlonega authentic and we need to make sure that any construction adds to that appeal. Case in point, The Smith House should be applauded for their efforts to expand while creating a cohesive design that fits our downtown.
Dewey Moye, running for Post 6
The hotel will be an asset due to the increase in foot traffic. I would rather see tourists staying in Dahlonega instead of going to nearby towns to spend their money. We need SPLOST dollars and additional traffic that will benefit our restaurants and merchants. Historic preservation aligned with carefully designed progression is an achievable balance. We want to keep our city intact while allowing room for growth. There are other cities across America with historic downtown areas who have achieved this balance from Galena to Columbus. Dahlonega is as rich in history as its name. Our goal should always be to protect the incredible heritage of our community while allowing room for growth that adds to and enhances our town.
Ron Larson, incumbent Post 6
The addition of a hotel to our community is long overdue. This hotel, with 75 rooms, will provide the needed overnight rooms for tourists who currently cannot find rooms in Dahlonega and often are staying in Dawsonville or other nearby communities. In addition, it is great to see the new 23 rooms being added by the Smith House. Both facilities will add new hotel/motel tax revenue enhancing what can be done to promote tourism. Add to this the economic impact with more people being able to stay downtown and the domino effect that will have for our restaurants and local businesses. These rooms are needed for the growing wedding business and tours of the wineries in the newly designated Dahlonega Plateau. Our community is working hard to nurture that special sense of place Dahlonega has which makes it a great place to visit, work and raise a family.
JoAnne Taylor, incumbent Post 5
The hotel will have a positive impact on many downtown and county businesses. It will bring foot traffic along East Main, encouraging new businesses. Hopefully, more business owners will take advantage of available DDA facade grants for their businesses to make our beautiful downtown even more appealing.
Many wedding venues are challenged to find enough lodging for wedding parties and their guests. Recently, a winery owner told me they had to return 15 deposits for weddings due to lack of adequate lodging. For an area focused on weddings and tourism, more hotels rooms will be a plus.
Another benefit will be generation of more hotel/motel taxes, enabling the creation of new amenities for our citizens and tourists alike. Existing lodging businesses will continue to have their unique appeal to tourists seeking lodging, and the addition of a three-star hotel to downtown will only add to the appeal of Dahlonega.