Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Oconee County Commissioners Pass Issue of Prezoning To County Industrial Development Authority

Page Pushes TDR Again

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners last night passed to the county’s Industrial Development Authority the issue of prezoning, requesting that the Authority review the proposed changes in county zoning procedures and report back to the Board.

Commissioners Jim Luke and John Daniell took the lead again last night in pushing for consideration of prezoning as an option for the county.

Luke, however, softened his stand from previous meetings, saying the Board had gotten further into the discussion than he had intended for it to go.

Daniell pushed harder, saying he wanted to the IDA to come back and say “what’s the best way to prezone property.” Daniell said he wanted to hear back from the IDA in six months.

Both Luke and Daniell said that they felt prezoning was a topic the IDA, rather than the BOC, should take on at this point.

No formal vote was taken, but BOC Chairman Melvin Davis, a member of the IDA, said he would talk to IDA Chairman Rick Waller to find out what Waller felt was the best next step.

Attorney And Planning Staff Recommendations

The action last night followed by a week the recommendation by County Attorney Daniel Haygood and the planning staff that the county address a number of issues before it moves forward with rezoning property even if the land owner has not asked for or even wants the change.

Haygood told the Board that he and the planning staff had made a list of 22 issues to be addressed, including how to identify the consequences of abandoning the current zoning approach in which the county responds to individual zoning requests.

He said the county needs to develop a process for selecting properties for prezoning that would eliminate or reduce the “appearance of political favor or conflict.”

Haygood and the planners also said the county should determine whether the current approach has caused any businesses to locate elsewhere and look at other issues besides zoning that may inhibit commercial and industrial development in the county.

Fifth Time Issue Discussed

The meeting last night was the fifth time this year commissioners have discussed at a public meeting the possibility of prezoning property in the county.

Commissioners Daniell and Luke have said they want to seize the example of the county’s success in landing the Caterpillar plant on land on the eastern side of Bogart that had been zoned for industrial use before Caterpillar expressed an interest in moving its plant to the state.

That land, referred to as the Orkin tract, straddles the Oconee County and Clarke County line.

Citizen Raised TDR Issue Again

The Commissioners have had little appetite for discussion of another possible change in county zoning law, but Russ Page, a local farmland protection advocate, told the BOC last night he had taken action to make it hard for them to avoid the topic.

Page said in the citizen comment section at the beginning of the meeting that he had organized a meeting for representatives from the city of Milton in north Fulton County and the commissioners for 7 p.m. on April 30 at the Civic Center.

The officials from Milton will explain why they adopted a Transfer of Development Rights program last June, Page said.

Page was a member of a citizen committee appointed by the BOC more than four years ago to review TDR programs and make a recommendation to the BOC. That committee recommended on Jan. 27, 2009, that the county explore such a program.

Basics of TDR Programs

A TDR program begins with the idea that the owner of every piece of land has the right to develop it.

Because the county or city government prefers development in some areas and wishes to discourage it in others, the government designates certain areas as receiving areas and others as sending areas.

Someone in the receiving areas could purchase the development rights from a landowner in the sending area.

A developer in the receiving area, by buying the development rights, would be able to develop more densely or achieve some other development advantage defined by the government.

The land owner in the sending area who sells the development rights would agree to place deed restrictions on the land that would limit future development.

Two Opportunities For Citizen Comment

Page told the BOC members that he had set up the meeting for them to talk with the Milton officials about TDR programs, but he said he also hoped there would be time for citizens to ask questions.

The April 30 meeting will be the second this month in which citizens will have a chance to meet outside formal Commission meetings with commissioners.

The BOC has scheduled a Town Hall style meeting for 7 p.m. on April 9 at the Bogart Community Center, 141 E. Thompson Street in Bogart.

County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko is scheduled to moderate that session.

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