Sunday, October 23, 2016

Three Candidates For Oconee Commission Want That Body To Play A Strong Role In U.S. 441 Widening

GDOT Meeting Scheduled

The three candidates for Post II on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners want the Board to play a strong role in representing citizen concerns to the Georgia Department of Transportation as it plans for the widening of U.S. 441 in the south of the county and a bypass of Bishop.

In separate interviews, each candidate called for the Commission to play a stronger role than it is playing a present.

Ben Bridges said the commissioners need to “stand up” to GDOT and even questioned the need for a bypass of Bishop.

Chuck Horton said the commissioners should not “take a back seat” and say that the project simply belongs to GDOT.

Marcus Wiedower said the commissioners have to be “advocates" for the people adversely affected by the roadway project.

GDOT is holding an Open House from 5 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Community Center in Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road to discuss the project.

The Oconee County Utility Department will hold a Town Hall Meeting on water and wastewater resources at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, also at Oconee Veterans Park Community Center.

Heavy Voting

A total of 742 voters cast ballots in early voting on Friday, bringing the total for the week to 3,038, according to Pat Hayes, director, Oconee County Board of Elections.

The 3,038 represents 10.9 percent of the 27,845 registered voters in the county.

Early voting continues until Nov. 4. Saturday voting will be on Oct. 29.

In the November 2012 election, 80.0 percent of the county’s registered voters cast a ballot, and 52.5 percent of them participated in early voting.

Candidate Interviews

Bridges, Horton and Wiedower gave their views on the role the Board of Commissioners should play regarding the proposed widening of U.S. 441 in the south of the county in response to a question I asked in individual one-on-one interviews.

I conducted those interviews Sept. 25, 25 and 27, with Bridges, Horton and Wiedower respectively.

Complete videos of those interviews are available on an Election Channel I created on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo site. The Election Channel also contains complete videos of the two forums held for the Nov. 8 election.

All three of the candidates are seeking to fill the unexpired term of Post II on the Board of Commissioners. All will be listed on the ballot as Republicans.

Individual Responses

Bridges said the first thing he would do is “Meet with the Georgia DOT officials” and “study the laws” to “find out what we can do to protect out citizens.”

Bridges said he isn’t convinced the proposed bypass of Bishop is even needed.

Horton said the Commission should play a “critical role.”

“The county government can certainly stand up with the people and express the concern that these folks have,” Horton said.

Wiedower’s answer to the question was short and to the point.

“We have to be advocates for those people,” he said of those whose property will be affected by the road project. “That’s our role.”

The current schedule calls for construction of the project to begin following bid letting in spring of 2021.

GDOT officials have said no final route for the roadway or for the Bishop bypass has been selected.


The video of the answers of the candidates to the question on the role of the Commission in the U.S. 441 widening is below, starting with the answer of Bridges. Horton’s comments come second and are followed by the comments of Wiedower.

OCO: Three Candidates On U.S. 441 Widening from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Oconee County Advised Owner Of Large Tract Now Zoned For Subdivision To Downzone Land To Agricultural Use

To Build Farm Lake

The Oconee County Planning Department has advised the owner of an 188-acre tract between Daniells Bridge Road and Cliff Dawson Road currently zoned for a large subdivision that he should downzone the property for agricultural use to accommodate his plans for the land.

David Mulkey, operating as Wildwood of Columbia LLC, purchased the 188 acres in June of this year, according to Oconee County tax records.

He since has put up a wooden fence along much of the property’s frontage on Cliff Dawson Road and cleared frontage on Daniells Bridge Road.

He also has purchased an additional 16 acres from the developer of Downs Creek Farm subdivision on Daniells Bridge Road in June and combined that with the 188 acres he purchased in June, creating a 204-acre parcel.

In addition, Mulkey owns six lots in the section of Old Farm subdivision accessible from Cliff Dawson Road and has filed site modification plans with the county to combine four of those lots.

The combined lots as well as the two additional lots in Old Farm owned by Mulkey back up to the 204-acre tract Mulkey has assembled through the June purchases.

Farm Pond

B.R. White, director of the Oconee County Planning Department, told me on Oct. 14 that he had advised Carter Engineering Consultants that the 188-acre tract needs to be downzoned from its current R1 classification to A1 to accommodate plans for a farm pond or lake on the property.

Fence On Cliff Dawson Road

Carter, 3651 Mars Hill Road, represents Mulkey, White said.

White told me yesterday (Friday) that he had not yet received any request for the downzoning.

The 16 acres from the Downs Creek Farm present an additional problem, White said, because they are part of a special tax district for street lighting in the Downs Creek Farm subdivision.

Mulkey submitted plans for the modification of the four lots in Old Farm on June 6, and construction is underway on the lots to eliminate a cul-de-sac and change the driveway entrance.

Those four lots total 5.4 acres, and the additional two lots adjoining them and running to Cliff Dawson Road are 2.1 and 2.3 acres.

Rezone History

The 188 acres Mulkey purchased in June is the last major undeveloped parcel on Daniells Bridge Road.

It is across from Lake Wellbrook subdivision on Daniells Bridge Road, which was developed in the late 1990s.

The 188-acres abut Meadow Springs subdivision on Cliff Dawson Road, a master plan development project that was partially dormant until 2013.

The 188-acre property had been zoned by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners for a 193-lot subdivision on March 4, 1997.

Purchase History

According to Oconee County tax records, Rebecca Barnette sold the property to Wright Land Company for $1.7 million in April of 1997.

Wright Land Company transferred the property to Ron & J.L. Wright Jr. in December of 2007.

The Wrights, major Oconee County land owners and developers, sold the property to DRM EAT LLC on June 6 of this year for $4.4 million.

The Oconee County Tax Assessor Office labeled the sale as of questionable fair market value.

DRM EAT LLC incorporated on March 2, 2016, with Athens attorney Mike Morris as the organizer.

DRM EAT LLC sold the property to Wildwood of Columbia LLC on June 16 for $4.5 million, which the Tax Assessor Office also labeled as of questionable fair market value.

Ownership History

Wildwood of Columbia has been incorporated as Timberline Crossing LLC since March of 1999.

Timberline’s name was changed to Wildwood in 2015.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State Corporate records, Wildwood of Columbia was changed to Brooklake Farm LLC on June 23, 2016, though the Oconee County tax records still use the Wildwood name.

Wildwood of Columbia LLC has a mailing address of 1550 Timothy Road in Athens, as does Brooklake Farm LLC.

Wildwood of Columbia LLC purchased the two lots from the 11-lot Downs Creek Farm subdivision.

Old Farm

Five of the six lots in Old Farm subdivision controlled by Mulkey are listed in Mulkey’s name, with a Darby Hill Lane address in Old Farm.

The sixth lot in Old Farm is owned by Berlin Street Properties LLC, also with the 1550 Timothy Road address in Athens.

Only one of those six lots in Old Farm owned by Mulkey has anything built on it.

The property at 1596 Derby Hill Lane has a home on it, with total property and improvement value of $827,573, according to the county’s tax records.

Tax records show Mulkey purchased those six properties individually from January of 2010 to January of this year.

Two Downs Creek Lots, Left, Old Farm Lots, Top Right
Click To Enlarge

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Oconee County Commission Candidates Call For More Transparency In Dealing With SPLOST

Horton Open To Citizen Oversight

All three of the candidates seeking to fill Post II on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners are proponents of more transparency regarding how the Commission spends revenue from its Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.

Only Chuck Horton, however, stated a willingness to have a citizen committee to provide oversight for decisions made by the Commission on the 1 percent sales tax. Other counties, including Athens-Clarke County, have such a citizen committee.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Oconee County Commission Chairman Ready To Make Decision On Calls Creek Sewer Line Before Retirement In January

Tells Citizen Group

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis said today (Tuesday) that he is open to bringing the decision on whether to build a sewer line down Calls Creek up for action before he leaves the Board in January.

In an email message to Jim McGarvey, president of Friends of Calls Creek, Davis said “I do not have any issues with the current Board of Commissioners acting” on sewer issues, even though Commissioner Jim Luke is retiring in January and will be replaced and one slot on the Board is vacant.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Oconee County School Officials Oppose Amendment 1 To State Constitution On the November Ballot

Want Local Control

Both Oconee County School Superintendent Jason Branch and Board of Education Chairman Tom Odom have spoken out publicly against Amendment 1 to Georgia Constitution that is on the November ballot.

The so-called Opportunity School District amendment asks voters to decide if they want “to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?"

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Oconee County Commission Candidate Wiedower Explains His Link As A Builder To Development

Candidate Financial Disclosures

Marcus Wiedower has said he recognized from the beginning that his occupation as a custom home builder would raise questions as he sought to make his case for a spot on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners.

“I knew that in a suspicious society people are going to read that (his occupation) and automatically assume that I’m going to do whatever I can to bolster the position of development,” Wiedower said. “It’s just simply not the case."

Citizen Group Makes Case For A Route For Bishop Bypass In Southern Oconee County

Open House Announced

About 90 people turned out on Wednesday night at the Thomas Cotton Gin on Greensboro Highway south of Watkinsville to eat a barbeque dinner and learn about the potential impact of possible routes for a bypass of U.S. 441 around Bishop.

The centerpiece of the evening's presentation was a map produced by the Georgia Department of Transportation showing two different routes for a bypass around the eastern side of Bishop.