Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Oconee BOC Delays Hearing on Epps Bridge Centre

Come Again?

In a surprise move, the developer of the proposed Epps Bridge Centre asked the Oconee County Board of Commissioners tonight to postpone action on its rezone request until Oct. 7 so he can "work out some design details with the planning staff."

The Board voted unanimously to cancel the scheduled public hearing and table action on the rezone for the $76 million strip mall proposed for vacant land between Lowe’s and Loop 10 on Epps Bridge Parkway, behind the current McDonald’s and Starbucks.

The rezone request had been approved by the Planning Commission on Aug. 18, and the public hearing scheduled for tonight had been advertised. In fact, the BOC had officially put the item on tonight’s agenda at its agenda setting meeting of Aug. 26.

Developer Frank Bishop appeared before the Board tonight to confirm his interest in delaying discussion of the project.

The half dozen or so persons who planned to ask questions during the public hearing were not given advance notice of the requested postponement. Commission Chuck Horton informed me via email earlier today he had been told the developer had planned to ask for the delay in action.

B.R. White, Oconee County Planning director, told Charles Baugh from Citizens for Oconee's Future near the end of the BOC meeting that the developer wanted to know in advance "what will be expected" when he submits his detailed plans.

White said it will be necessary now to readvertise for the Oct. 7 public hearing so citizens have another chance to comment on the large commercial project.

Epps Bridge Centre as proposed includes a 16-screen movie theater, space for anchor stores, small retail shops and seven restaurants.

At build-out in 2013, the project is expected to produce just less than $752,000 annually in property taxes for the county, according to the estimates provided to the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center by the developer, which officially is Oconee 316 Associates of Atlanta.

Oconee 316 Associates estimated that the annual sales tax revenue is expected to be $11 million and that it will cost only $55,500 annually to provide community services for the project.

Oconee County would receive three-sevenths of the sales tax revenue, or $4.7 million.

How these estimates of tax revenues and costs were arrived was not explained at the Planning Commission meeting. I had hoped to raise that question at the meeting tonight.

The Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center reviewed the project and concluded that "the development is not in the best interest of the Region and therefore the State."

Among the many problems cited by the NEGRD is the increased traffic on Epps Bridge Parkway.

The developer proposed to have an entrance and exit to Epps Bridge Centre across from the existing entrance to Kroger and the Waffle House near the exit ramp from SR Loop 10 on Epps Bridge Parkway.

According to the plans submitted to the NEGRD, that entrance and exit would allow traffic to turn in both directions from the mall onto Epps Bridge Parkway at this already congested section of roadway.