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North Georgia voters weighed in on a number of important issues Tuesday, including allowing Sunday liquor sales in several communities and rejecting a Catoosa Redevelopment Powers referendum.

The redevelopment measure would have allowed Catoosa County to set aside funding from property taxes to improve and redevelop areas that are not reasonably anticipated to develop on their own.

The Catoosa referendum failed on Election Day, not just in Catoosa County but in the cities of Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe, as well.

Voter Brenda Farmer said she opposed the referendum because she feared it would cause her taxes to go up and could allow local governments to use eminent domain, or the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use. She said she did not want anyone telling her what could happen to her property.

"They're talking about fixing places up, but I don't want them to fix my place up," Farmer said. "I take care of that on my own."

Catoosa County spokesperson John Pless said he has heard similar comments from other residents.

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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / Catoosa County spokesperson John Pless said there was low voter turnout on the redevelopment powers referendum that failed on Tuesday.

"There was a tremendous amount of misinformation and disinformation circulation about this. To clarify, what was on the referendum was the question of whether the citizens wanted our local governments — in this case being Catoosa County, Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe — to leverage the redevelopment powers that are already on the Georgia law books," he said. "What this would have done is essentially leverage the power of government to redevelop blighted areas. This was not a tax increase, and it was absolutely not a land grab."

Pless said the county and cities will now have to use traditional methods of paying for any redevelopment done in blighted areas using county or city general funds or dollars raised through a sales tax approved by voters for a specific purpose.

The municipalities would also have to assume the risk of the projects, which he said would not have been the case if the referendum had passed.

"In both instances, that would employ the use of tax dollars," he said. "There's a possibility of grants, too, but what this would have done is give us another tool to encourage redevelopment of blighted or run-down areas that aren't getting as much interest from developers. Now if there is any interest going forward, we have limited tools to help make that happen."

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Asked whether efforts would be made to develop the Lafayette Road Corridor, which was suggested as a potential location where redevelopment might be a benefit for future growth at a meeting about the referendum last month, Pless said the county is aware the area needs help but currently has no plans to redevelop it.

In addition to casting votes on the referendum, voters in Ringgold and Fort Oglethorpe decided to allow liquor stores.

In Fort Oglethorpe, just over 65% of voters voted in favor of allowing the package sale of distilled spirits, while over 58% of voters in Ringgold supported the same.

Some, however, said they feared what allowing alcohol into the cities would do to the existing community.

"We're a small town," said Ringgold resident Kirsten Parker. "We're not a town people come to because they want to party, that's what Chattanooga is for. People come here to live and feel safe."

Parker said she thought liquor stores would attract violence and other problems more typical of bigger cities.

Pless said he understood Parker's concerns but noted that these stores would not be allowed to open without oversight or a requirement to follow the rules that govern other businesses in town.

"There are rules about where liquor stores can be built and what times they can be open, for example," he said. "Now that these alcohol sales are allowed, ordinances will be made for how to deal with them, if they're not already existing."

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The cities of Trion, Summerville and Menlo in Chattooga County also voted to allow the sale of packaged liquor. Trenton voters also supported allowing the package sale of liquor and voted to allow the city to regulate Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages by the drink.

Other races included a victory in Dalton, Georgia, for incumbent City Councilwoman Annalee Harlan, who made a name for herself this year by spearheading the effort to offer drive-through COVID-19 vaccines and Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatments at the Dalton Convention Center. Also in Dalton, former state Sen. Steve Farrow unseated City Councilman Gary Crews in a narrow race.

In Calhoun, Georgia, Ed Moyer defeated incumbent George R. Crowley to become mayor. Moyer received 472 votes to Crowley's 434.

Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.

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