Five Ways to Navigate Zoning Regulations
By Kim Thomas of The Dewitt Tilton Group
If you’ve ever seen one of those yellow signs posted on a building or empty lot announcing a zoning change petition, you probably know the property owner or potential owner wants to build something new or alter the current building’s purpose and must first seek permission from the governing municipality to rezone the lot.
While zoning issues are unlikely to affect most people in their lifetimes, they can be a complicated and lengthy process for a zoning petitioner.
Zoning is defined as a power granted to municipalities by the state to promote public health, safety and general welfare and to protect and preserve areas of historical, cultural or architectural significance. The land is divided into separate districts within which uses are permitted, prohibited or permitted with conditions.
Zoning ordinances are put in place by the local municipality to help protect residents and guide commercial growth of the community in positive ways. Therefore, business owners who are thinking about buying, developing or altering a property need to become familiar with the basics of zoning and how those rules could impact their plans, budgets and timelines.
Here are five ways to better navigate the zoning process:
1. Before starting the search for a property, ask your real estate adviser to help identify how areas of the community are zoned and what parcels are best suited for your business location. If possible, look for a property already zoned for your type of business. Your real estate adviser can play a huge role in helping to find zoning that meets your requirements.
2. If you find a property you’d like to consider but is zoned differently from your needs, consult with your real estate advisor, land attorney, civil engineer or contractor of record to determine whether the local municipality might consider a petition for rezoning.
For example, if you’re looking at a piece of land for an industrial business and the parcel is outside an industrial park but touches it, the local planning commission is more likely to consider rezoning the parcel than if it is adjacent to non-industrial areas.
3. If the property you wish to purchase must be rezoned for your commercial needs, start the process by visiting the local government where the parcel is located. Invite your land attorney, civil engineer or contractor of record to join you or represent you. Navigating zoning procedures can be overwhelming for those who are not industry professionals.
4. Be aware of special circumstances. For example, if the property is in Savannah’s Historic District, your first stop should be at the Historic District Board of Review because they must approve your preliminary concept before you can take any other step in the zoning process. Again, your industry professional can help you determine whether your property is in an area where special circumstances need to be considered.
5. Try to become familiar with zoning terms such as your desired property’s zoning designation and parcel identification number (PIN) as well as how the zoning process works in your community.
For example, the Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission maintains authoritative zoning ordinances for Chatham County and working zoning ordinances for the city of Savannah. Over the past few years, both governments have been working to update and unify their ordinances, a process known as NewZO (New Zoning Ordinances).
Once your zoning is in place, the next step in the development process is to get permitting underway. This involves submitting your plans to the local planning commission, which will direct them through the appropriate departments for review and approval. As you might expect, the permitting process has its own procedures.
You can view the city of Savannah’s zoning information at http://www.savannahga.gov/index.aspx?NID=1123 and the Savannah Area Geographic Information System (SAGIS) zoning map at http://www.sagis.org/ Zoning ordinances for the city and county are available at http://www.thempc.org/
The Dark Side of Tanning
by Dr. Corinne Howington
There’s nothing healthy about a tan. Simply put, a tan equals your skin cells in trauma trying to protect themselves from cancer. Just one sun-damaged cell can initiate the onset of melanoma, which can get into the bloodstream and spread. Even if melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is cut out, cancer may reappear months or years later, often in the lung, liver or brain.
Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocyte cells in the epidermis of the skin. These are the cells that make the melanin that results in skin color. It is also the most serious and dangerous type of skin cancer because it can spread easily to other organs in the body. But since the sun’s UV rays cause 95 percent of all melanomas, the good news is that melanoma is largely preventable by avoiding over exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
While this is an important message for adults to heed for themselves, it is even more critical for their children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just a few serious sunburns or trips to the tanning bed can increase a young person’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Parents should know, too, that it can take as little as 15 minutes for unprotected skin to be damaged by the sun’s UV rays and that it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure.
Here are five easy ways to avoid the dark side of tanning:
1. Seek shade. The strength of UV radiation is highest in the four-hour period around noon. That would be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or, during daylight savings time, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The best thing you can do for your skin is to plan your day to get out of the sun or seek shade when the sun is high in the sky.
2. Protective clothing. Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, especially your shoulders, arms and legs. Choose loose fitting, closely woven fabrics that cast a dense shadow when held up to the light.
3. Broad-brimmed hat. A hat with a wide brim is a great way to protect the top of your head and also your neck, ears and face. These are parts of the body where skin cancer often occurs.
4. Sunglasses. The most effective way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses that are labeled “UV400” or “100% UV Protection” and wrap around the sides of the face. Darker lenses do not provide better eye protection. In fact, lens color does not matter at all.
5. Sunscreen. Used properly, sunscreens are effective in preventing sunburn. This means generously applying SPF30 broad spectrum sunscreen to your skin 20 minutes before you head outdoors and re-applying every two hours. Studies have shown that SPF30 sunscreen decreases your chances of developing melanoma by 80 percent.
Sunscreen should never be used to extend the amount of time you spend in the sun and should not be used to help get a tan. You should also be aware that some drugs and medical conditions can make you more vulnerable to UV damage. These include Retin-A skin cream, antibiotics and cataracts.
Too much UV exposure may also result in structural damage to the skin – burning or scarring in the short term and premature aging or skin cancer in the long-term.
People with fair skin and light-colored eyes are usually more vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays, but melanomas can occur in anyone. A July 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed it is more deadly in people with darker skin. African American patients were most likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages than any other group in the study, and they also had the worst prognosis and the lowest overall survival rate.
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, including places that do not receive frequent sun exposure, and is likely to have a similar appearance to a mole. Unlike a mole, however, a melanoma will usually grow larger and become more irregular in shape and color. If you’re concerned about a mole or lesion on your body, talk to your doctor and learn the ABCDE rule, which is a useful guide for detecting potentially dangerous moles on your skin. Look for moles that are asymmetrical (not the same on both sides), have irregular borders, have changed color, are 0.5 centimeters or larger in diameter or have changed in size, shape, color or height. If you are worried about a mole or see any of the signs described above, see your doctor right away.
How to Make Your Website Successful
By Lauren Dingus
Whenever I talk to someone about his or her business website, the conversation inevitably goes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Business owners receive countless emails from individuals claiming they cannot find their websites. What follows is usually a list of services, including a guarantee for first page Google rankings. This sets up an unrealistic expectation of how internet search and SEO works.
Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry solution to getting on the first page of Google, let alone achieving the coveted number one spot. Google determines what websites to serve first in a search based on algorithms that take into account a number of factors, including relevance, domain authority, and content quality. In order to make your website successful, you need to create and maintain a presence that your customers find valuable.
Quality Content above All Else
Do not phone it in when it comes to your website. Treating it as an afterthought or looking for the cheapest option available is going to cost you customers. Having a minimal web presence with your name and contact information, and a few keywords sprinkled into a brief list of services is not going to encourage anyone to do business with you. In order for Google to consider your website relevant, and in turn your customers, your website needs to serve as a source of information.
• Write Informative Articles
Customers nowadays are well informed and they are going to do their research before they invest in any product or service. Instead of coming to your business, or calling you, customers are putting their questions into their web browser. You know your customers best. Think of the most common questions your customers ask, or the services they are primarily looking for. Use those questions as topics for articles, or post step-by-step tutorials on how to use your different products or services. According to HubSpot, businesses that update their blog with new content 16 or more times per month get almost 3.5x more traffic than those who post 0–4 times per month. Build up a database of valuable information, and you will see an increase in quality traffic on your website.
• Outline the Benefits
Customers want to know one thing: what is in it for them. If your customers are not able to see themselves using your products or services on the first page, they are not going to click through the rest of your website. Too often business owners want to talk about their company history, experience, or awards they have won. Save that information for an interior page, and let your customers find it when they are ready. Engage your customers by marketing how your product or service can enhance their lives, as well as what they can expect when they choose to do business with you.
Optimize for Local Search
Your business would need to have significant brand awareness (think Target or Best Buy) to rank above every website on the internet for general search terms. Search engines take into account your physical location when they serve you search results, so it is common for a search phrase to include “near me.” Google has stated that 28% of searches for something nearby have resulted in a purchase. Make sure your city is in the page title, you have a local number prominently displayed, and that your address is in the footer of every page so Google knows where your business is located. Claiming and filling out your Google My Business listing will help as well.
Encourage Customers to Review You Online
Online reviews are the modern day word of mouth. Your customers will be reading those reviews, and using other people’s experiences, and your responses, to decide if they are going to do business with you. The only problem is people are more apt to leave a review if they had a negative experience with your business than if they had a positive one. If someone compliments your service, ask that person to consider posting his or her review on Google or Facebook. Just stay away from offering rewards for reviews. You want the feedback to be authentic.
Make Your Website Responsive
Mobile search has outpaced desktop search, so having a mobile-friendly website is necessary. Google also gives priority to mobile-friendly websites in mobile search. With the variety of devices, and subsequent screen sizes that are available, having a responsive website will ensure that your website adjusts to any screen without the need of a separate mobile website. This gives customers the best viewing experience, and prevents them from getting frustrated and leaving your website.
The important thing to keep in mind is that SEO is all about the long game. If you set out with the goal of ranking well, you are selling yourself and your customers short. Your website requires regular attention in order to be successful. Focus on creating a website that offers value to your customers, and you will set yourself up for success.
Lauren Dingus is the web and graphics designer at Speros, responsible for the website development division, including graphic design and branding, content writing, and consulting on digital marketing strategies. For information, contact Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912.354.8900
Six Common Financial Mistakes to Avoid Before a Divorce
By Sam Hubbard of Coastal Divorce Advisors
You’ll face many pivotal decisions throughout your divorce. Unfortunately, missteps often turn into larger mistakes that could jeopardize your financial security and well-being for years to come. So whether you think your spouse may be considering divorce, or you may be contemplating it yourself, it’s important to be proactive about your finances well in advance of divorce becoming reality.
This article, which focuses on mistakes made before a divorce, is the first in a series of three highlighting frequent financial mistakes made before, during and after a divorce and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: Not being financially prepared. Some spouses see a divorce a mile away, but others are completely blindsided. Since the divorce process can be very expensive, it’s important to be financially ready so you have sufficient funds to get through the divorce, including the ability to hire a qualified divorce team. If you don’t have a checking account in your name only, set one up as soon as possible and add funds to it regularly. Also consider opening a credit card in your name since it may be harder to get one after your divorce. Additionally, try to establish or boost your credit score by making occasional purchases and paying your bills on time. Following your divorce, you’ll need a strong credit rating if you want to rent a house or a condo, refinance your mortgage, or finance a new car.
Mistake 2: Not having all your financial documents in order. Lawyers and financial experts need to review all your financial documents to negotiate the best terms of your settlement. The list of necessary documents is lengthy, but make sure to have these important ones handy before the divorce begins: three years of tax returns; at least one year of checking and savings account statements, brokerage statements and credit card statements; vehicle titles; and insurance policy declarations.
Mistake 3: Not monitoring and protecting your credit rating. As soon as divorce is unavoidable, immediately request a copy of your credit report (most are free). It will show all debts you share with your spouse and those belonging only to you. Ask your attorney whether it makes sense to close your joint accounts and credit cards you use infrequently with zero balance. Also review your report closely to see if there are accounts you are not aware of. If you are concerned your spouse may borrow money in your name, you may want to sign up for a credit monitoring service (many cost less than $20 per month).
Mistake 4: Failing to proactively monitor the mail. Make sure to be vigilant about the bank statements, credit card bills and investment account statements coming to your house. The more educated you are about the financials and what assets are held where, the more you’ll help your team gain better results on your behalf and lower your divorce-related costs.
Mistake 5: Taking on new debt to pay off other debt. If you’re having marital problems, do not refinance the mortgage on your house or get a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) with the thought of paying off the miscellaneous debt, like credit cards, family loans and business debt. Your spouse may suggest taking this route, but ultimately you are removing the equity you have accumulated in the house to pay off debt your spouse may very well be liable for. Generally speaking, avoid taking on any new debt with your spouse.
Mistake 6: Failure to hire a qualified divorce team. While it’s critical to hire a lawyer who specializes in divorce, it is also important to build a team of professionals to help you secure the most favorable results for you both financially and emotionally. By tapping specialists in different fields, you’ll ultimately get the best and most cost-effective advice. A lawyer is the best resource for legal advice and understanding Georgia divorce laws. A divorce financial planner will provide advice on the many financial aspects of your case. And a therapist will help you and your children through the transition and tough times. Additionally, if you have a privately held business, you may need to hire an accountant with a CVA or BCA designation to value it.
By anticipating and preparing before you enter a divorce, you can avoid the high cost of mistakes.
Sam Hubbard, MBA, CFA, CDFA is the principal of Coastal Divorce Advisors, LLC, (CDA), a firm specializing in helping clients understand their financial situation and options throughout the divorce process. CDA is an affiliate of Coastal Capital Management, LLC. For additional information, e-mail Sam@CoastalDivorceAdvisors.com, call 912-234-3657 or visit www.CoastalDivorceAdvisors.com. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney. If you require legal advice, please seek appropriate legal representation.
Hinesville’s First Presbyterian Christian Academy Launches New Website Created by Speros
(SAVANNAH, GA) First Presbyterian Christian Academy in Hinesville, Ga., is pleased to announce the launch of its new website, http://fpcahinesville.com/. Designed by Speros, a full-service technology company headquartered in Savannah, the site features up-to-date technology and easy functionality that allow school administrators to make their own routine updates.
“First Presbyterian Christian Academy’s previous website had not been updated in a few years,” said Lauren Dingus, Speros web and graphics designer. “School officials had lost touch with the person who built it originally, so they had no idea how to update the information themselves.”
“Speros was responsive to those needs and also helped us better organize our web content since we had a good deal of information that families of prospective students would be looking for online,” Hickey said.
First Presbyterian Christian Academy, a fully accredited non-denominational Christian school located in Hinesville, Ga., just outside the gates of Fort Stewart. Founded in 1975, the Academy strives to provide students in the Liberty County area with a high-quality education in a nurturing Christian environment promoting academic excellence, spiritual development and family involvement in a well-rounded educational environment.
MORE INFORMATION ON SPEROS
Established in 1984, Speros provides technology solutions for businesses, offering telephone systems, IT services, surveillance systems, web design and branding solutions, and cloud computing. Speros team members continually stay updated on leading-edge, certified technologies to maximize solutions and ensure businesses succeed in this fast-paced, technology-driven world. For more information, visit speros.com, call 912-354-8900 or email email@example.com.
Healthy Savannah Announces New Board President
(SAVANNAH, GA) Healthy Savannah announces Tamala R. Fulton as board president. Fulton is currently the Employee Wellness Coordinator with Chatham County Government where she is a strong advocate for programs that encourage preventive care and healthy living.
Fulton is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, with a B.S. in Exercise Science and Armstrong Atlantic State University with a Master’s of Public Health degree. She also holds certifications with the Society for Human Resources Management and the National Institute of Wellness. Fulton is a graduate of Leadership Savannah.
In response to the question “Why is Healthy Savannah important?” Healthy Savannah is important because the members of this collaborative organization sincerely care about the community. As a result, Healthy Savannah members have supported and successfully advocated for the establishment of policies that both protect and enhance the health of members of this community.
MORE INFORMATION ON HEALTHY SAVANNAH
Launched in 2007 by (former) Mayor Otis Johnson, Healthy Savannah’s mission is to achieve a healthier community by creating and advocating for a variety of policies and programs to increase opportunities for citizens to engage in physical activity and consume a nutritious, balanced diet. Healthy Savannah supports programs for families, schools, businesses, and faith-based organizations. The leadership team is composed of people from all sectors of the community. Business owners, nonprofit managers, government and public service staff, community organizers, and faith-based leaders all play a role in helping the vision of a healthy Savannah come to life. http://healthysavannah.org/
WannaCry Malware Protection
by Jason Ryals, Chief Technology Officer at Speros
Recently making global headlines, a new variant of ransomware referred to as WannaCry has been put part of a large-scale cyber attack that has infected over 200,000 computer systems and over a 150 countries. Ransomware acts by infecting a computer through opening a malicious email or website which then encrypts your data to the user, in exchange for a payment to unlock (Decrypt) these files usually in the form of digital currency called Bitcoins. Infection can also spread to other network connected resources and perform the same operation locking an entire business from accessing their own data.
At Speros we have multiple layers of defense from NOT being apart of this exploit.
1. SonicWALL firewalls are installed and up to date with latest Security definitions and at the Speros Data Center , scans all traffic incoming and outgoing blocking anything suspicious. This also performs website filtering that will help restrict access to sites known to host malware.
2. Barracuda Networks, our anti-spam email filtering solution, inspects all email messages, unusual content,infected attachments, malicious links etc. and quarantines those messages.
3. Speros Managed Services applies Windows Updates which are tested, approved and applied to each managed workstation and Managed servers.
4. Trend Micro Antivirus is installed on each workstation and server. In the event that a rogue piece of software does happen to come through the above layers of security, the antivirus software will quarantine the suspected files and alert Speros HelpDesk.
In addition to the above security measures , Speros recommends backing up your data, your servers end or workstations , to ensure critical files are safe. While backups are not a level of prevention they are a layer of protection against loss whether from accidental or malicious intent.
Jason Ryals is the Chief Technology Officer at Speros. Ryals’ certifications include VMware Data Center, ADTRAN Technical Support Professional, SonicWALL CSSA&CSSP, Microsoft Certified Enterprise Administrator, Linux & A-plus, Cisco, and IBM AIX Unix based server systems. He has in-depth knowledge on troubleshooting Local Area Networks and Wide Area Networks, routing, VMware and complex software designed data centers, and SD-WAN solutions. For more information, visit speros.com, call 912-354-8900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.