Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Supporters And Opponents Of Convenience Store On Eastern Edge Of Oconee County Turn Out For Planning Commission Meeting

General Store Proposed

The smallest project in terms of acreage on the agenda of the Oconee County Planning Commission on Monday night produced the largest citizen response.

Nine citizens came to the podium to speak against a proposal by Pat and Marsha Halloran to build a country store–in the language of the development code, a convenience store--at the intersection of Bob Godfrey Road and Belmont Road on the very eastern edge of Oconee County.

Nine people also came forward to oppose the proposal, though two of them hedged, saying that they were primarily concerned about traffic and less about the country store itself.

In the end, the Planning Commission voted 6 to 3 to recommend to the Oconee County Board of Commissioners that it approve the country store designed, according to the Hallorans, to provide needed services to the Wolfskin Community at the intersection of Clarke, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties.

In other action Monday night, the Planning Commission approved in a 6-2 vote a plan for a ministry college not far from the proposed convenience/country story on the former Green Hills Golf Course and Country Club.

The Commission approved a modification of the zoning for Downs Creek subdivision off Daniells Bridge Road and approved a rezone request for expansion of Watkinsville First Baptist Church on Simonton Bridge Road just outside Watkinsville.

The Commission postponed action on a rezone request for a residential subdivision east of Butler's Crossing at the request of developer Stonebridge Partners LLC.

Full Chamber

The Commission Chamber in the Courthouse in Watkinsville was filled beyond capacity as the Planning Commission began its meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, and much of the crowd stayed until the final item, which was the request for special use of agricultural land to allow for the convenience store without fuel pumps.

No citizens came forward to speak on the rezone requests by Watkinsville First Baptist Church, by Downs Creek, or by the owners of 10 acres on Clotfelter Road seeking permission to build three houses.

Many in the crowd were there to support the request by the Athens College of Ministry to obtain a special use permit to build the college campus on just more than 100 acres on Barnett Shoals Road before that route takes a strong left turn into Athens-Clarke County.

Leadoff speaker for the Athens College of Ministry was President Marcia Wilbur, who said the college “is not a seminary exactly.”

The College would also serve undergraduate and nondegree students, Wilbur said, in an interdenominational, Christian program.

Wilbur was followed by eight other speakers, who praised the Athens College of Ministry, now operating out of Watkinsville First United Methodist Church, for its programs and said they are interested in the expanded offerings that will be available on the new campus.

Issues For Campus

Three people spoke against the proposal for the Athens College of Ministry, one on the grounds it was an improper uses of the agricultural zoning and the others because of increased traffic it would bring to Barnett Shoals Road.

Bob Smith, representing Green Hills Farm LLC, which owns the land, and the College of Ministry, said only 22 students are enrolled in the College at present and that the campus would be built out over phases as demand grows.

Oconee County does not provide water service to the triangle of the county east of the Oconee River where the campus will be located, and Smith said the College of Ministry will have to explore the possibility of obtaining water from Athens-Clarke County or digging a well.

No sewer service is provided by Oconee County, Athens-Clarke County, or Oglethorpe County in that area, and Smith said the College initially will rely on septic.

Halloran Proposal

Pat Halloran told the Planning Commission members that he wants to build an old-style country store on the triangular 8-acre tract created by the intersection of Belmont Road and Bob Godfrey Road just as the latter moves into Oglethorpe County and becomes Wolfskin Road.

Halloran said he would not serve beer or wine, sell tobacco products, or sell lottery tickets.

Those who spoke in favor of the request for a special use to allow for the commercial operation on the agricultural land praised the Hallorans and said there was a need for the country store.

Opponents questioned what would happen if the Hallorans sold the store in the future and said the intersection at present is dangerous because of heavy traffic.

The Planning Commission added as a condition of the rezone a prohibition against selling alcohol and tobacco products and offering gambling on the site.


The Board of Commissioners will take up the recommendations of the Planning Commission from the meeting on Monday night at its March 7 meeting.

The complete video of the meeting of the Planning Commission is below.

The Green Hills Farm rezone request for the Athens College of Ministry begins at 9:05 in the video.

The Halloran request for a special use for the convenience story begins at 1:25:20 in the video.

OCO: Planning Commission 2 20 2017 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Field Trip In Oconee County Provided Opportunity For Sampling Of Greenbriar Creek And Examination Of Stream Characteristics

Three Farms Visited

The Citizen Committee for Water Resources and its guests on Saturday got a chance to see Greenbriar Creek and one of its tributaries up close in a field trip to three farms just east of Bishop.

The creek, and the three farms, could be impacted by construction of a U.S. 441 bypass of Bishop if the Georgia Department of Transportation opts for a route east of the small city.

Oconee County Planning Commission To Try Again To Review Ministry College Proposal

Will Need Quorum

The Oconee County Planning Commission tomorrow (Monday) night is to pick up its agenda from last month, when it did not have a quorum, and give consideration to a request to convert a portion of the former Green Hills Golf Course and Country Club in the far east of the county to a ministry college.

The Commission also will review a request from Stonebridge Partners LLC for a rezone of land for a residential subdivision on undeveloped land across from the existing Daniells Plantation subdivision, just east of Butler’s Crossing.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

First Meeting of Stakeholders Committee for Oconee County Joint Comprehensive Plan Set For Tuesday

First of 4-5 Meetings

The Stakeholders Committee for the Oconee County Joint Comprehensive Plan is scheduled to hold its first meeting from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.

According to Justin Crighton from the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, this is one of four of five meetings the Stakeholders Committee will hold over the next 10 to 12 months as it works to create a new Joint Comprehensive Plan for the county and its four cities.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Oconee County Administrative Officer Benko Announces Retirement Effective July 1

Informed Board Tuesday

Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko announced at the end of his meeting with department directors this (Wednesday) morning that he plans to retire effective July 1.

Benko, 62, said he informed the members of the Board of Commissioners of his decision on Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Feasibility Study For New Oconee County Animal Shelter Questioned By Animal Control Advisory Board

Key Meeting Feb. 28

Tevis Architects’ recommendation that Oconee County replace its Animal Shelter with a new facility costing an estimated $2.9 million met with some resistance from members of the Animal Control Advisory Board at its meeting last week.

Board member Claire Hamilton said the price tag “is way too high...It is a pretty big price tag for the taxpayers.”

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Owner Of Land For Proposed Oconee County Solar Farm Also Owned Land That Became Neighboring Wildflower Meadows Subdivision

Developer Says Project Still Alive

When the developers of Wildflower Meadows, a 263.1- acre subdivision in northwest Oconee County, wanted to launch the project in 2006, they assembled 10 different pieces of property to accommodate the proposed 170 lots.

The largest of the 10 assembled tracts was a 113.5-acre parcel owned by the Hammond family of Gainesville.