Thursday, April 15, 2010

Four Resources in Oconee County Get Regionally Important Designation

List Can Change

The Council of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission voted unanimously today to include Elder Mill, Elder Mill Bridge, the Athens Line and the Apalachee River on the list of 25 Regionally Important Resources for the 12-county region.

The four Oconee resources were granted special status that will require the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission to take them into consideration when it reviews development projects with regional impact that are within a mile of the resources.

Melvin Davis, chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners and a member of the NEGRC Council, had expressed reservations about the inclusion of the Athens Line–the rail line connecting Athens to Madison–on the RIR list, but he did not voice those reservations publicly at the meeting today.

Watkinsville Mayor Joe Walter, the municipal representative of Oconee County on the Council, had already voted for the Oconee County proposals as a member of the Planning Advisory Committee that screened nominations and presented the recommendation to the Council today.

The third Oconee County member of the Council–designated as a citizen representative–is Amrey Harden, president and CEO of Oconee State Bank.

Davis, Harden and Walter sat together at the luncheon meeting at the Holiday Inn in Athens. None of them spoke during the brief discussion of the 25 nominated resources prior to the vote.

At the Oconee County BOC meeting on March 30, Davis expressed reservations about designation of the Athens Line as a regionally important resource because, he said, such a designation might have an adverse effect on future development in the county.

Commissioner Jim Luke first raised the issue of the Athens Line at the March 30 meeting, and Davis spoke in support of him.

Commissioner Chuck Horton said he was concerned that landowners were not consulted in the designation process, and Commissioner Margaret Hale said she was concerned that she hadn’t been informed of the designation before the April 30 meeting.

Jerry Roseberry, a Newton County representative on the Planning Advisory Committee, presented the Committee’s recommendations to the full Council and reassured the group that nothing had changed about the basic nature of the NEGRC review process as a result of the RIR designation.

NEGRC reviews remain only advisory to counties, he said.

In addition, Roseberry told the group that resources could be added or removed from the list in the future.

Though Oconee County officials could have submitted resources for possible inclusion on the RIR list, none of them did so.

Tony Glenn, acting on his own, submitted the Athens Line proposal. The Friends of Elder Mill and Elder Mill Bridge submitted the Elder Mill and Elder Mill Bridge nomination.

Glenn and Russ Page, who spearheaded the Elder Mill and Elder Mill Bridge nominations, attended the meeting today, but neither of them spoke.

The Athens Line runs from downtown Athens to Madison in Morgan County so was listed as a resource for all three counties.

The Apalachee River was listed as a resource for Barrow, Greene, Morgan, Oconee and Walton counties.

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