Thursday, April 01, 2010

Decision on Regionally Important Resource Selections for Oconee County Set for April 15

Noon Meeting in Athens

The Council of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission is scheduled to decide at its April 15 meeting whether it will accept the recommendation of its Planning Advisory Committee that Elder Mill Bridge, Elder Mill and the Athens-to-Madison rail line be designated as Regionally Important Resources.

The Council is made up of representatives of all 12 counties that are part of the NEGRC. Oconee County is represented by Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, Watkinsville Mayor Joe Walter and Oconee State Bank President Amry Harden.

Davis represents the county and Walter the cities. Harden is designated as the citizen representative, according to Lee Carmon, planning director and general counsel for NEGRC.

Only Walter served on the Planning Advisory Committee that selected the three Oconee nominations for the Regionally Important Resources designation at its March 1 meeting.

Elder Mill Bridge and Elder Mill were nominated by Russ Page, John English, Robert Jahn and Melissa Steele, representing Friends of Elder Mill and Elder Mill Bridge. The bridge and mill were nominated as a single resource, but the Advisory Committee counted them as two.

Tony Glenn of Farmington, an avid biker, acted on his own to nominate the rail line. The line from Athens to Bishop currently is used, while the remainder of the line is not.

Glenn nominated the line because of its historical value to the county and its potential recreational use.

At the BOC meeting on Tuesday night, when Carmon reported the Advisory Committee recommendations, Chairman Davis raised question about the designation of the rail line as a Regionally Important Resource, saying such a designation potentially could limit development opportunities in the county.

Commissioners Jim Luke, Chuck Horton and Margaret Hale also questioned the designation. Hale was particularly critical of the process of selection of the RIRs for the county, saying she had not been informed of the decisions until the BOC meeting.

Mayor Walter told me in a telephone conversation tonight that he did not inform anyone from the county of the outcome of the March 1 meeting. It was his first meeting, he said, and he knew little of the process.

Page and his group have been quite open in their efforts to find a way to protect Elder Mill Bridge and Elder Mill.

Glenn sent me a copy of an email message he received that indicated that Chairman Davis was informed on March 17 by NEGRC that the rail line–called the Athens Line–had been recommended for inclusion on the list.

The meeting on April 15 will start at noon at the Holiday Inn in Athens and is open to the public.


Carmon's presentation to the BOC is on my Vimeo site.