Approximately 838 acres that straddle the Oconee County-Clarke County line, split roughly in half when the Georgia General Assembly created Oconee County from western Clarke County in 1875, were given a push last night toward reunification.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners gave tentative approval to an intergovernmental agreement that treats the Orkin tract, including the 263 acres that will become the home for the Caterpillar plant, as one, largely ignoring the county boundary running through it.
The two counties will work to jointly develop the tract and split evenly all revenues from the tract and all expenses for its development.
“The concept is actually pretty simple,” Oconee County Attorney Daniel Haygood said at the BOC meeting last night. “We share costs fifty-fifty. We share revenues fifty-fifty.”
The Board put the item on its consent agenda for its May 8 meeting. That means it will be approved without further discussion unless a commissioner asks that it be brought up again for discussion.
The Clarke County Mayor and Commission–the legislative body for the unified city-county government–also must approve the agreement. That body does not meet again until May 1 (though Haygood mistakenly said it was meeting last night as well).
None of the commissioners last night raised any questions about the agreement, which Haygood presented in glowing terms.
“Once we got the basic concept that we are fifty-fifty partners through everybody, this flowed through smoothly,” he said.
“I would say there has probably never been two counties that sat down, particularly given some of the history between the two counties, ...that sat down and worked out an agreement as easily and as cooperatively as this was,” Haygood said.
Need For Cooperative Plan
The agreement states that the two counties “recognize the need to develop a cooperative plan” for the provision of utility and transportation services, public safety services, and application of codes and regulations “for the Property as a whole.”
To that end, they agreed to provide those services jointly and to share equally the taxes and fees the property generates.
The property is located between SR 316 and the Atlanta Highway. U.S. 78 forms the eastern border of the property, which includes parts of the city of Bogart on the west.
As Haygood noted, cooperation between the two counties has not always been easy.
Two years ago, Oconee County refused to move forward on a joint development plan hammered out by a committee representing business leaders in the two counties.
And the two counties had a rocky relationship even at the beginning.
Oconee County became the state’s 137th county in 1875 when it was created from Clarke County by the General Assembly.
The General Assembly took this action to satisfy western Clarke County residents' demand for their own county after the county seat moved from Watkinsville to Athens in 1872, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.
If all goes to plan, at least the acres of the Orkin tract will be reunited.
The intergovernmental agreement doesn’t even specify how much of that land is in Oconee County and how much is in Clarke.
It says simply that a “significant portion” is located in Oconee County and a “significant portion” is located in Clarke County.
The tax records for the two counties suggest that the 838 acre figure is indeed approximate.
These records show two tracts that match the map used in the intergovernmental agreement.
One is for 351 acres and is in Clarke County. The other is for 384 acres and is in Oconee County.
That is a total of 734 acres.
The two counties purchased the land for the Caterpillar plant on March 6.
Haygood said one more intergovernmental agreement still needs to be worked out: between Oconee County and the city of Bogart, which also straddles the Oconee County-Clarke County line.