Monday, January 16, 2017

Proposal For A Christian Ministry Campus Off Barnett Shoals Road On Agenda Of Oconee County Planning Commission

Water And Sewer Needed

The Oconee County Planning Commission tomorrow (Tuesday) night will consider 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.

Green Hills Farms LLC, the current land owner, is seeking a special use to allow the Athens College of Ministry to develop a campus on just more than 100.2 acres on the agriculturally-zoned land.

Green Hills Farms LLC currently owns 189.2 acres in the small triangle of Oconee County on the east side of the Oconee River tucked between Athens-Clarke County and Oglethorpe County. The property has been vacant since 2009.

The special use is only for the western portion of that acreage.

Oconee County currently does not provide either water or sewer to the land to the east of the Oconee River, and the narrative for the development states the college will seek to obtain water from Athens-Clarke County and rely on septic in the short term.

Also tomorrow night the Planning Commission will consider a modification of the plans for a small subdivision on Daniells Bridge Road to reduce lot sizes and a request by Watkinsville First Baptist Church to expand its facilities on Simonton Bridge Road just outside the Watkinsville city limits.

Campus Plans

The Athens College of Ministry is an interdenominational Christian college “seeking to equip faithful men and women for ministry and Christian leadership,” according to the rezone narrative.

Triangle Tucked Into Athens-Clarke And Oglethorpe
(Click To Enlarge)

The College was founded in 2009 and began accepting students in 2012, the narrative states. The college currently is meeting at Watkinsville First United Methodist Church, 1331 New High Shoals Road, north of Watkinsville.

The proposal is for a $24.3 million project that will include 30 buildings upon completion.

The plan is for a phased construction from 2017 to 2025 and beyond, as the college grows. The total projected student body is 750 at buildout.

A 20,600-square-foot administration building will be the first structure, according to the narrative. The building will include two large classrooms, a library with student conference room, faculty offices, a prayer ministry room and office, small kitchen, and equipment storage area.

Location And Utilities

The property fronts on Barnett Shoals Road east of the river just before Barnett Shoals Road turns north into Athens-Clarke County.

Site Of Campus (Click To Enlarge)

The narrative states that the development will require domestic water, fire protection, and sanitary sewer services in addition to electricity, natural gas, television and Internet service.

The total estimated water demand for the full build-out of the campus is 56,550 gallons per day.

Currently, the closest Oconee County water main is approximately 1.25 miles west along Barnett Shoals Road, so the property owner is proposing that Oconee County and Athens-Clarke County enter into an intergovernmental agreement so the latter can provide water until Oconee County extends its water line.

Short term plan includes providing conventional septic systems for individual buildings proposed for the initial phases of construction, according to the narrative.

“Long term sanitary sewer service options to serve the campus are currently being explored,” the narrative states. “The options include gravity sewer and a lift station to an Oconee County sewer treatment facility, or a self-contained package plant located on-site.”

The staff is recommending approval of the special use request.

Downs Creek Farm

RWJ Inc, owned by Rodney Jones, is seeking to modify the approved plans for Downs Creek Farm subdivision, now under development on the west side of Daniells Bridge Road just south of the bridge over Barber Creek.

The county rezoned 52.8 acres for the subdivision in January of 2014, with 11 lots.

Subsequently, RWJ Inc. sold two of those lots to David Mulkey, who combined them with adjoining acreage he purchased.

Jones is now seeking to change the rezone so he can build 11 houses on the remaining 33.4 acres. Three houses already are under construction, according to the planning documents.

The staff has recommended approval of the request.

The staff also recommended approval of the expansion of Watkinsville First Baptist Church on the 17.7 acre-tract at Simonton Bridge Road and Norton Road.

The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Feasibility Study For Oconee County Animal Shelter Should Be Ready For Discussion Shortly, Commissioners Told

Before Advisory Board Feb. 8

Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko is expecting to distribute a consultant’s report on the feasibility of renovating the animal shelter to the Board of Commissioners this week.

Benko made that statement to the Board at its work session at the Community Center in Veterans Park on Tuesday.

Benko said he also would send copies of the report to the members of the Animal Control Advisory Board as soon as the consultant’s report is in his hands.

Also at the work session, new Commission Chair John Daniel said he recommends that the county hire an outside consultant to help it determine the true costs of its recreation programs at the county’s parks.

Daniell also said he thinks the county needs to move forward with a master plan for the county’s parks as soon as possible.

The Board also discussed beginning discussions with the Board of Education on ways in the future to share recreational facilities.

Shortened Meeting

The Board had scheduled seven hours for its meeting on Tuesday but wrapped up its work in an hour after getting through all of the nine items on the agenda.

Discussion of the county’s Animal Control Department was near the top of the agenda, and Daniell told the Board that “facility upgrades down there is going to be a topic for the next few months.”

The Animal Shelter is located at 1171 Branch Road off U.S. 441 in the far south of the county.

The Commission agreed on Sept. 6 of last year to hire Tevis Architects, with an office in Atlanta, to evaluate the existing Animal Control facility and offer recommendations on what can be done to improve and expand the facility.

Cost of the work was not to exceed $10,000.

Feb. 8 Meeting

Benko told the Board that the request for proposals for the facility review did not include “a hard date for the deliverable, the report.”

He said he was expecting the report by the end of the week.

Benko said Tevis was asked to look at the existing facility, focusing on electrical and structural issues, to see if it can be expanded.

Benko said the consultant is to address whether the facility should be located elsewhere, but it is not expected to evaluate a location.

Catlyn Vickers, director of the Animal Control Department, has been advocating for a new facility, arguing that the existing building and location are inadequate for the county’s needs.

Benko said he expected the Animal Control Board to take up the Tevis report at its first meeting of 2017, scheduled for Feb. 8.

Recreation Fees

Daniell began the conversation about the Parks and Recreation Department by noting that there are two different operations of the department, what he called the “park side” and what he called the “program side.”

Daniell said the difficulty has been getting a picture of the costs of the “true operation” of the parks and of the programs separately.

“What I’d like to see is a third party come in and do the dissection” of the costs, Daniell said.

The Parks and Recreation Department runs a wide range of programs, from after school programs to adult athletic programs and yoga classes.

Parks and Recreation Director John Gentry has said his staff is stretched and he needs guidance from the Board about the future of the programs.

Master Plan

Daniell said the county has put off doing a master plan for county recreational facilities in order to spend available money to bring additional recreational fields online.

Within 12 to 18 months, he said, there should be money available to do a master plan.

Commissioner Mark Thomas suggested this would be a time to look at the county’s agreement with the Board of Education on joint use of facilities.

Gentry said the joint use agreement runs for 10 years, and the current one should expire in 2018.

“It took about six years to come to an agreement,” Gentry said. “So we probably ought to start that conversation with the Board of Ed about the future beyond 2018.”


I was not able to attend the meeting on Tuesday, but Penny Mills did attend and recorded a video of the entire session.

The county did not provide microphones for the commissioners, and it is difficult to hear Daniell and some of the other commissioners at times in the video.

I did increase the volume slightly in the editing process, but I could not increase it more because of the background noise.

The discussion of Animal Control begins at 12:40 in the video, and the discussion of Parks and Recreation begins at 21:00.

OCO: BOC Work 1 10 17 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Oconee County Industrial Development Authority Now Focusing On Western Tract In Gateway Business Park

Lacks Sewers

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority, following its agreement last month to sell the undeveloped acreage in the eastern parcel of its Gateway Technology Business Park, is trying to determine the value of its western parcel in anticipation of interest in the acreage.

The group also wants to come up with firm figures for how much it will have to spend to extend sewer services to the western property.

The group agreed after two sessions closed to the public in December to sell about 38 acres in its Gateway Technology Business Park south of Bogart for roughly $760,000 to Alexion Pharma LLC of New Haven, Conn., the parent company of Synageva BioPharma Corp.

Synageva has a pharmaceutical production and research operation on 11 acres adjoining the undeveloped property.

Discussion of sale and potential sale of the Gateway properties dominated the regular meeting of the IDA, which took place Monday at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, 55 Nancy Drive in Watkinsville.

Waiting On Contract

IDA Chair Rick Waller told the group that, as of Monday, the county had not yet received the signed contract from Alexion but he remained optimistic that the deal will go through.

The contract the IDA sent to Alexion agreed to sell the property at 1041 Aiken Road south of Bogart for $20,000 an acre, with the exact acreage to be purchased based on the actual acreage shown in a new survey of the property minus areas determined by Alexion to be wetlands.

Waller said at the meeting on Monday that the original amount the IDA sought for the property was $25,000 per acre but the group moved to the lower price when Alexion agreed to purchase all of the property.

Details of the discussions took place in an executive session lasting 1 hour and 40 minutes on Dec. 12 and another lasting 46 minutes on Dec. 14.

Sewer Service

The western parcel is 52.8 acres and is bordered by Pete Dickens Road, Aiken Road and SR 316.

The western acreage is separated from the eastern parcel by land not owned by the IDA.

The rough estimate is that it will cost the IDA $800,000 to construct a sewer line to the property, Waller said.

The group agreed to get a firmer figure on actual costs.

Waller said one of his concerns is that the IDA would not have enough money to pay for the sewer line and also be able to buy back the property from Alexion, should the company decide it doesn’t want to use the land even after signing the contract.

The IDA decided to explore ways of getting a line of credit or access to funds to be able to make such a repurchase should it become necessary.

Value Of Land

The IDA has owned the land for the Gateway Park since 2000, and Waller acknowledged it has had trouble finding buyers.

He said there have been some recent indications of interest in the western tract and said the Authority should try to get some sense of its value.

The county Property Appraisal Department valued the land in 2016 at $980,525, or a little less than $20,000 per acre, down from $1,231,085 a year earlier.

New IDA member Linda Carol Porterfield, a real estate broker, presented the Authority with sales from six different properties in 2016 for comparison, with prices ranging from $10,538 per acre (Presbyterian Homes on U.S. 441) to $125,945 per acre (part of the Zasby’s corporate campus on Daniells Bridge Road).


The complete video of the IDA meeting is below.

OCO: Industrial Development Authority 1 9 17 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Citizens At Oconee County Town Hall Meeting Told Decision On Calls Creek Sewer Pipeline Coming Soon

Solar Power Also Discussed

Oconee County is likely to make a decision on expansion of its Calls Creek sewage treatment plant and on whether to run a pipeline down Calls Creek for treated effluent early next month.

The commissioners who opposed the solar energy farm proposed for Dials Mill Road in the northwest of the county were concerned about the project’s impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods and were not opposed to alternative energy sources.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Former Oconee County Chairman Had Impact On Discussion At Work Session Of New Board

Meeting On Friday

Melvin Davis wasn’t at the work session of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Friday, but he had impact on the discussion nonetheless.

The meeting began with a review of the ethics ordinance for commissioners, which has been used only once–in a complaint filed against Davis.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Healthcare And Education Will Dominate Discussions In General Assembly, Oconee Sen. Bill Cowsert Told Local Officials

Assembly Opens Monday

Bill Cowsert, who represents Oconee County in the Georgia Senate, told a group of local officials last month that he expects healthcare and education to dominate much of the work of the session of the General Assembly that starts on Monday.

Cowsert, who is Republican Majority leader, was speaking even before the U.S. Senate began its efforts this week to unravel the Affordable Care Act.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Oconee County Commissioners Turn Down Solar Energy Farm In Northwest Of County

3-1 Vote

Oconee County commissioners in a 3-1 vote tonight (Tuesday) turned down a request for a 30 megawatt solar energy farm at the intersection of McNutt Creek Road and Dials Mill Road in the northwestern part of the county.

Commissioner Chuck Horton made the notion to deny the request for a special use of the 205 acres zoned agricultural for the solar farm, proposed by Rural Green Power LLC of Athens.