Monday, February 11, 2013

Oconee County Commissioners Scheduled To Decide Future of Pebble Creek Subdivision

Now Sitting Empty

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tomorrow night is scheduled to take up a rezone request by the new owner of Pebble Creek Subdivision, who wants to build smaller homes on slabs in the currently unoccupied 143-acre tract on SR 15 south of Watkinsville.

The Planning Commission has recommended that the BOC allow CAAT Holdings LLC to build the homes on slabs rather than with basements or crawl space, provided the slab construction meets current code standards.

But there was confusion at the Planning Commission meeting on Jan. 22 about what code allows, and one of the two representatives of CAAT at the meeting said his client only wanted to build on raised slabs, and the other said his client wanted to be able to build on both at-grade and raised slabs.

Entrance on SR 15, 1/27/2013

The Planning Commission motion would allow for both, since code allows both, but it wasn’t clear from the discussion that Planning Commission members understood exactly what code allows.

The Planning Commission recommended against the request by CAAT Holdings, 1351 Jennings Mill Road, to be allowed to build 1,800-square-foot homes in the subdivision rather than the minimum 2,700-square-foot homes required when the property initially was rezoned in 2004.

The rezone resolution in 2004 also required that the homes be built on crawl space or basement foundations. Slabs were not allowed.

At Grade Slabs Allowed By Code

B.R. White, director of the Oconee County Planning Department, told me in an email message on Jan. 29 that the existing code does allow for "at grade monolithic slab foundation construction."

That possibility is stated in the Uniform Development Code, which says that, for single family or two-family dwellings, “The area beneath the ground floor of the structure shall either be a slab foundation” or an actual foundation or give the appearance of a foundation.

That code was amended recently, and White said the change was to stipulate that when raised slabs are required by conditions of zoning, the slab must be an average of 2 feet above grade. The modification stipulates how that height is calculated when the grade is not level.

The finished raised slab, in that case, must give the appearance of a crawl space foundation, White said.

Market For Cheaper Homes Debated

Land Planner Ken Beall and attorney Jim Warnes, both representing CAAT Holdings, told the Planning Commission that they wanted to reduce the size of homes to meet market demand. They said the developer needed more flexibility to build cheaper homes because of the softening of the high-end market.

Only Mailbox in Subdivision

Several Planning Commission members challenged Beall and Warnes on that assertion.

By requiring larger homes in the 2004 rezone, the county was increasing the chance that the property taxes from the home would cover the costs of providing services once the house was built.

Jeffrey Dorfman, a professor of agricultural and applied economics and director of the Land Use Studies Initiative at the University of Georgia, said he estimates that a $180,000 home in Oconee County would pay enough in school taxes to cover the cost of 0.3 students to attend school in the county.

It would take approximately a $595,000 home to pay the full cost for one student, he said.

So for each home valued at approximately $300,000 in the county with one child, the county would need another home of the same value without any children to break even on school costs.

In a paper he wrote in 2006, Dorfman estimated that a residential property in Oconee county pays only about 90 percent of the cost in non-school services provided by the county.

Commercial/industrial and farm/forest land produces more revenue than they demands in terms of services, Dorfman found.

Other Zoning On Agenda

The BOC tomorrow night also will hear a request for a rezone from Business and Office-Institutional-Professional use to simply Office-Institutional-Professional for a 14.5-acre tract on north side of Virgil Langford Road between the Oconee Connector and SR 316.

The Planning Commission recommended approval of that project.

Oconee Medical Properties LLC has a purchase contract on the property, according to the application, and wants to construct nine buildings totally 102,060 square feet on the land.

The project is valued at $20 million.

The BOC meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Courthouse.


Xardox said...

Lowering standards to allow for less roomy building may lead to some sort of increased market, and thus windfall for developers, sales reps, lawyers and that good old "tax base," but at the cost of cheapening the quality of what is here for the current established residents, parents, and payers.
Keeping the standards high is the best way to control the growth and its quality.
Snooty? So what?
Good analysis of the cost-benefit of various sized homes in relation to quality-reward parallel.
I am still somewhat in the dark as the brouhaha concerning the slab deal. Are they somehow less than a crawlspace or what?

Lee Becker said...

The argument is that an at-grade slab is less appealing than the alternatives.