Two Bike Meetings on Tuesday
The Northeast Georgia Regional Commission is scheduled to hold three meetings this coming week that will determine the kind of protection Elder Mill, Elder Mill Bridge, the Athens Line and the Apalachee River will receive as four of 25 resources identified by the Commission as regionally important.
At issue is a Resource Management Plan drafted by the staff of the planning division of the Commission that asks counties to take a series of steps to preserve the resources. Oconee is one of 12 counties served by NEGRC.
These steps include steering development away from these four resources, coordinating new development patterns with those of existing neighborhoods by use of compatible scale and design and preserving historic and cultural resources located on or adjacent to the sites.
The draft plan will be taken up by the Planning Advisory Committee of NEGRC at its 10 a.m. to noon meeting on Monday. That meeting will be held at the E.H. Culpepper Conference Room of the NEGRC offices, 305 Research drive in Athens.
A public hearing on the plan will be held at that same location from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
The plan will be submitted to the Council for consideration at its meeting on Thursday. That meeting will begin at noon at the Holiday Inn in downtown Athens. Following the decision at that meeting, the plan will go to the Georgia Department of Communication Affairs for review and comment.
The Council is the governing body for NEGRC.
The mill, the bridge, the rail line, which stretches from Athens to Madison and runs through Oconee County, and the river were designated unanimously as regionally important and in need of protection by the Council at its meeting on April 15.
Melvin Davis, chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners and a member of the NEGRC Council, expressed reservations about the inclusion of the Athens Line on the RIR list prior to the meeting, but he did not voice those reservations publicly at the meeting itself.
Davis and other members of the BOC said they were worried that designation of the rail line might hamper development in Oconee County.
Watkinsville Mayor Joe Walter, the municipal representative of Oconee County on the Council, voted for the Oconee County proposals as a member of the Planning Advisory Committee that screened nominations and presented the recommendation to the Council.
The third Oconee County member of the Council–-designated as a citizen representative–-is Amrey Harden, president and CEO of Oconee State Bank.
Though Oconee County officials could have submitted resources for possible inclusion on the RIR list, none of them did so.
Tony Glenn, an avid bicyclist, submitted the Athens Line proposal, suggesting that it would be appropriate in the future for a bike trail.
The Friends of Elder Mill and Elder Mill Bridge submitted the Elder Mill and Elder Mill Bridge nominations.
The Athens Line was listed as a resource for all three counties.
The Apalachee River, as a water resource, was included automatically and was listed as a resource for Barrow, Greene, Morgan, Oconee and Walton counties.
The draft plan lists 18 different activities that counties should take to preserve the Regionally Important Resources.
In addition to steering development away from the resources, coordinating new development and preserving resources located nearby, the plan asks counties to encourage the redevelopment or adaptive reuse of existing buildings, to develop site plans for nearby development that are sensitive to the natural features of the site and to use low impact development practices.
Every development within a mile of the Regionally Important Resource will be affected by the proposed plan.
The Tuesday evening public hearing conflicts with another meeting of interest to local bicyclists.
The Citizen Advisory Committee for Land Use and Transportation Planning is scheduled to discuss on Tuesday a request from the Oconee County Cycling Organization that the county install Share The Road signs on roads used by cyclists throughout the county.
That meeting is to begin at 7 p.m. at the Community Center in Veterans Park.
"Protection" is an astute, operative word, as opposed to "investiment" or "funding." Citizens are likely not to be in the mood for opening their wallets for niche funding at this time, although very amenable to keeping what is desirable exactly that.
Amrey Harden is an honest, respectable, admirable man; one could argue, however, that CEO and president of the senior bank in the area is hardly the "citizen rep" meant to be neutral in areas of pristine versus developed.
"Bicycle signage" is simple: "Ride Bicycles At Own Risk." No gasoline or ad velorem taxes to donate to the cause of liability or upkeep.
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