An Athens dentist is asking the state Environmental Protection Division to allow him to encroach on the 25-foot buffer of a tributary of Barber Creek so he can build a commercial building at the corner of Daniells Bridge Road and Mars Hill Road across from QuikTrip.
Dr. James J. McDonald Jr., whose office is on Price Avenue, is asking for permission to pipe the tributary of the stream so he can put fill on to the 1.6 acre triangular lot and build a 3,500 square foot commercial building and associated parking lot.
According to documents submitted in support of the application for the state variance, the building will be used as a bank and will have entrances on both Daniells Bridge Road and Mars Hill Road.
The property already is zoned commercial and is being developed under the name Daniels Bridge Promenade.
Preliminary site plans will have to be submitted to the Development Review Committee of Oconee County before construction can begin, according to Oconee County Planner Krista Gridley.
She told me in an email message today that no such plans have been submitted.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is now accepting comment on the application for the encroachment of the creek buffer. The deadline for comment is April 12.
McDonald already has a required permit from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to disturb the stream, according to Jean S. Brown, environmental specialist in the EPD Watershed Protection Branch. I spoke with her on March 23.
The lot on which the commercial building will be constructed is an odd one, and the stream already has been disturbed.
In fact, the stream enters the lot from a box culvert under Daniells Bridge Road and then travels south toward Barber Creek. Before the stream exits the lot, it flows through another culvert under the old roadbed of what was once Epps Bridge Road.
When Epps Bridge Road, which formerly intersected with Mars Hill Road, was cut by SR Loop 10 and SR 316, a part of Epps Bridge Road was attached to and became part of Daniells Bridge Road.
When the Oconee Connector was built and the current intersection of Daniells Bridge Road, the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road was constructed, that old roadway that had been Epps Bridge Road was abandoned and subsequently made a part of the 1.6-acre lot on which the bank is to be built.
According to Oconee County tax records, the property is owned by Paul Keller Jr. and JJMB, LLC. McDonald is the agent for JJMB, according to the Georgia Secretary of State corporate records.
Keller and JJMB also own 3.6 acres just across Mars Hill Road from the proposed bank property, according to county tax records.
The variance request is to disturb 241 linear feet of the stream, which will be put in a 3 foot by 5 foot cement box culvert.
Stormwater from the developed site will be stored in an underground storage facility, according to the application documents. The developer proposes to build a unit downstream from that storage facility to filter the water before releasing it to the tributary.
The unnamed tributary follows Mars Hill Road and meets with Barber Creek near the Mars Hill Road bridge over Barber Creek.
As noted in the EPD variance application narrative, Barber Creek is on the list of waters not supporting its designated use because of excessive fecal coliform contamination.
According to the narrative, the disturbance of the state buffer “is necessary due to the fact that the property cannot be reasonably developed” if the stream is left in its present location.
In order to obtain the permit from the Corps of Engineers, JJMB agreed to mitigate the damage to the unnamed tributary by purchasing mitigation credits from a commercial mitigation bank.
According to the documents submitted to the EPD, JJMB proposes to purchase 1,229 stream credits from the Middle Oconee Mitigation Bank, which is located in Jackson County.
Mitigation is one of the options when a commercial developer or other entity disturbs water protected by the federal Clean Water Act.
Anyone wishing to comment to the EPD should write to Program Manager, NonPoint Source Program, Erosion and Sedimentation Control, 4220 International Parkway, Suite 101, Atlanta, GA 30354.
The letter should reference Control No. BV-108-12-01 and Daniels Bridge Promenade in Oconee County.
We are very concerned about this proposed rerouting of tributary waters to Barber Creek. Purchasing "mitigation credits" in no way protects the creek or its waters, which are already damaged with excessive fecal coliform contamination, likely the result of excessive septic drainage too close to the creek. Generations from now, people will wonder why we ever believed that septic systems could or would protect our clean water supply. The state buffer of 25 ft is already inadequate, which is why the 100 ft buffer was established by the County. We intend to write to the Project Manager and protest this violation of the state buffer, a necessary and minimal protection to our water supply which should not be able to be "bought" away.
There is already a development nearby that is not nearly at full capacity. Why not buy one of those completed buildings instead of building more.
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