Thursday, February 11, 2016

Oconee County Commissioners Reduce Protective District Around Historic Elder Mill Bridge After Lengthy Deliberations

Owner Wanted More

It took 72 minutes last week for the Oconee County Board of Commissioners to reduce the size of the Scenic Preservation Overlay District at Elder Mill Bridge by .88 acres from what the county’s professional planning staff had recommended.

The BOC didn’t actually know how much acreage was involved in the switch. The professional planning staff made that calculation days later.

BOC members simply were drawing lines–or suggesting that lines be drawn--on a map projected on the screen in the Commission Chamber.

Property owner James Flanagan and his representative, realtor Norm Grayson, were not happy. They wanted to reduce the overlay district considerably more.

The BOC brushed that request aside, drew the new lines–or at least said where it wanted them to be drawn–and put an end at least for now to a months-long attempt by Flanagan to change dramatically the protective district the county drew around Elder Mill Bridge in 1968.

Rezone Request

The county has been dealing with Flanagan’s request since August of last year. It came in the form a rezone application for what was then called 23.05 acres on Elder Mill Road south of the iconic covered bridge.

The request was to eliminate entirely the scenic preservation overlay on Flanagan’s property.

The rezone went before the Planning Commission initially on Oct. 19, and the body voted to deny Flanagan’s request.

When the request went before the Board of Commissioners on Nov. 3, Commissioner Mark Saxon asked that the item be removed from the agenda. The Board agreed, postponing consideration of Flanagan’s request until Dec. 1.

Neither Flanagan nor Grayson showed up at the Dec. 1 meeting. Rather than deny the request because no one appeared, the commissioners sent the matter back to the Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission turned down Flanagan’s request when it went before it on Jan. 19 and recommended that the Board of Commissioners accept a modified map drawn by the planning staff.

Staff Proposal

Along the way, Flanagan had his property surveyed, and it turned out he only had 19.62 acres, not the 23.05 acres shown on the tax records.

Brad Callender, Oconee County planner, calculated that the 1968 overlay district the county imposed on the area around the bridge included 12.14 of the 19.62 acres owned by Flanagan.

The modified map the staff drew at the request of the BOC after the Nov. 3 meeting would have removed 6.13 of those acres from the scenic preservation overlay district. A total 6.01 acres of Flanagan’s property would have remained in the district.

The new lines that the BOC drew on Feb. 2–or suggested be drawn–removed 7.01 acres. A total of 5.13 acres remained

That’s a difference of .88 acres.

Flanagan and Grayson proposed that a different line be drawn back from the bank of the creek, but they didn’t calculate the acreage and actually were not firm on how far from the creek they wanted the line to be. The figure they used most often was 75 feet.

Technique Used

The commissioners spent a lot of time simply staring at maps of the property on the screen, as the sampled clips below show.

OCO: Staring At The Map from Lee Becker on Vimeo

In the end, they told the staff to draw lines based on the contour lines from the creek. Here’s what it sounded like as a motion.

OCO: Motion On Flanagan from Lee Becker on Vimeo

They then passed that resolution unanimously.

Haygood Not Sympathetic

Grayson argued that the county had taken Flanagan’s property without compensation, even though the overlay district was in place when Flanagan and his mother bought the property in 1971.

Flanagan said he didn’t know the overlay district was present.

County Attorney Daniel Haygood was unsympathetic, saying “it is the responsibility of the homeowner or person purchasing property to know where the zoning is.”

Flanagan also said the county had issued a building permit for a house built next to the bridge in 1972, setting a precedence for elimination of the district.

Haygood brushed that aside as well, saying the district was still in place despite the house and that “things have changed a lot” in the county since 1972 in terms of how building permits are issued.


The full video of the discussion leading up to the vote on the Flanagan rezone request is below.

The clips of the commissioners staring at the screen were taken from this full video.

They did a lot more staring at the screen than the clips above suggest.

OCO: Flanagan Rezone from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Monday, February 08, 2016

Oconee County Animal Control Advisory Board Agenda Does Not Include Discussion Of Changes To Ordinance

Davis Confirms

The Oconee County Animal Control Advisory Board will discuss a number of issues when it meets on Wednesday evening, but updates to the county’s animal control ordinance isn’t likely to be one of them.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, when asked by a citizen last week about the status of a new ordinance, acknowledged that Commissioner Jim Luke had called for discussion of possible changes in the county’s existing law.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Renovation of Hog Mountain Road Strip Mall Expected To Be Completed In May

Tribe Moving

Work is scheduled to be completed in early May on a half-million-dollar remodeling of a building on Hog Mountain Road just east of Butler’s Crossing known as Oconee Plantation strip mall.

The building, with a 10,500 square feet of space, formerly was home to a Subway sandwich shop, a Chinese restaurant and a barbeque shop. It has gotten a complete facelift and now has a brick exterior.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Developer Of Epps Bridge Centre Submitted Rezone Plans for $55 Million Expansion

Subway Got Permit

The developer of Epps Bridge Centre filed paperwork last month with the Oconee County Planning Department to rezone 54 acres of land from agricultural use to business use for a $55 million expansion of the existing shopping mall.

The land is currently owned by the Evelyn and Frank Gordy Family and lies across the Oconee Connector from Epps Bridge Centre.

Oconee County Industrial Development Authority To Get Bond Sales Documents For Epps Bridge Centre Phase II Entrance Road

$500,000 Per Year

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority on Monday afternoon is likely to take up again the issuance of $4 million in bonds to pay for construction of Parkway Boulevard Extension to accommodate expansion of Epps Bridge Centre.

The item isn’t on the agenda for the IDA, but County Attorney Daniel Haygood told the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that he planned to bring the item to the Authority for consideration at its meeting on Monday.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Oconee County Commission Votes To Use Biological Treatment Rather Than Membranes At New Sewage Plant

Too Costly

Oconee County on Tuesday night turned the page on its 12-year experiment with the use of membrane filtration at its Calls Creek Water Reclamation Facility.

The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to award a $440,000 design-to-build contract with Crowder Construction Inc. of Conyers for a new, replacement plant at Calls Creek estimated to cost between $6.7 and $7 million.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Davis Retiring As Chair Of Oconee County Board Of Commissioners; Daniell Is Running For The Spot

Announcements Today

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis sent out an email message just before 2 p.m. today saying that he plans to retire when his current term ends on Dec. 31 rather than seek reelection for what would be a fifth term.

Commissioner John Daniell told me in a telephone conversation just after 3 p.m. that he will seek the chairmanship position.