Thursday, October 31, 2013

Student Housing Complex Under Construction On Macon Highway Just Inside Oconee County

Was Puritan Place

Athens student housing is spilling over into Oconee County with the construction of the high-density Athens Ridge residential complex just inside the county line on old Macon Highway at White Oak Road.

Zoned for multi-family residential development, Athens Ridge is labeled a townhome and residential condominium development on county site development plans. Those plans show 190 dwelling units on just more than 35 acres of land on McNutt Creek just before it reaches the Middle Oconee River.

Athens Ridge 10/27/2013

The development is being marketed on Facebook as “luxury student living,” with bedrooms renting from $420 to $499 per month, a shuttle to the University of Georgia, tanning spa, fitness center, game room, club house, hot tubs, and a large outdoor pool and pool deck.

Whitworth Land Corporation, which has released plans for a retail development across Macon Highway from Athens Ridge, says the residential development will have 784 beds for what it calls a “student townhome development.”

Athens Ridge Plans

Construction on Athens Ridge is well underway, and, according to the advertisements on Facebook, it will be available for occupancy when students return in August for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Site plans filed on Aug. 1 with the Oconee County Planning Department by Beall and Company, a land planning company, show the project using a little more than 24 of the 35-plus acres on the site. Part of the land lies in the 100-year flood plane.

The 23 residential buildings take up 393,120 square feet of space and are located in rows running from Macon Highway. Each unit will have a minimum of 2,080 square feet of space on two floors, according to the plans.

The buildings are surrounded by 570 parking spaces.

The pool and accompanying deck and lazy river water ride are at the rear of the property just inside the flood line.

Falls Of Oconee

Whitworth Land Company is calling its planned development across Macon Highway from Athens Ridge The Falls of Oconee. It is labeling the project a specialty retail center.

Planning staff say no plans have been filed with the county for the project, to be located on three lots totaling just less than five acres. A closed Pure gasoline station and convenience store sit on the site at present, and all three lots already are zoned for business use.

The project is to include retail and office space and a restaurant, according to documents Whitworth has placed on its web site. The company, located at 126 S. Milledge Ave., Athens, advertises itself as a full-service commercial real estate firm.

Construction crews moved dirt and rock from the Athens Ridge side of Macon Highway to behind the gasoline station and convenience store earlier this month and placed metal plates on Macon Highway to protect it from damage during the process.

Restaurant And Boardwalk

The restaurant is to include a deck and boardwalk along McNutt Creek, near an old mill pond, according to the Whitworth plans.

A sign on the property says the project is to open next summer.

Site Of Proposed Falls of Oconee

Whitworth claims the center will attract clientele from the University of Georgia, the University of North Georgia, Athens Academy and surrounding residential areas in Oconee County and Athens-Clarke County.

Beall and Company, 3651 Mars Hill Road, also is doing land planning work for that project.

Planning Department Not Surprised

Oconee County Planner Krista Gridley said “We knew from the beginning” that there would be at least some students living in the residential development.

She said the county had anticipated that some parents would buy units for their children, but she said it did not know that the whole residential development would be marketed as a student residential facility.

“They are town homes–legally,” she said. “That is the way they are built, and that is the way they are set up.”

The county has no regulations on who can and cannot rent out the property they own, she said.

Rezoning History

The Oconee County Planning Commission rezoned the property for what is now Athens Ridge in September of 2006. At the time, P&A Ventures Inc. proposed a multi-family residential condominium development to be called Puritan Place.

The land had been a mobile home park, and the county required as a condition for the rezone that the developer eliminate an exiting oxidation pond treatment facility on the site.

In return the county agreed to provide sewerage treatment for the development, even though the county was not accepting new residential sewer users at that time. That prohibition remains in effect today.

Oconee County Utility Department Director Chris Thomas told me that the county not only got rid of a primitive sewage treatment facility that the state wanted to be closed, but it also received permission from the state to use the permitted allowance of discharge from that facility into the Middle Oconee River at some point in the future.

As a result, the county is now sitting on a permit to allow 0.5 million gallons per day of treated wastewater into the river for future use.

Additional Land Rezoned

Two years after the county rezoned the 35 acres for Puritan Place from M-H (Mobile Home Park District) to R-3 (Multiple Family Residential District), it also rezoned an adjoining 9 acres of land fronting on Macon Highway to B-2 (Highway Business District). That tract combined a small triangle of land at the creek that now contains a billboard with some right of way abandoned by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

P&A Ventures proposed to build a shopping center on that land. Gridley told me last week that the county has not received plans for that part of the project.

According to county tax records, both pieces of property have changed hands several times since 2007 and the 35-acre parcel was sold in a tax sale in 2011.

The 9-acre tract was sold by P&A Ventures in August of 2008 to Asif Aman and Mohammad Shafiq. Aman sold the land to Shafiq in June of 2011, and Shafig remains the owner today, according to county tax records. Shafiq lists a Hull post office box as his address.

Aman had owned the three parcels across Macon Highway that are being advertised by Whitworth Land Corporation as The Falls of Oconee.

P&A Ventures, according to the Georgia Secretary of State corporate database, was dissolved in May of 2002.

Jerry Peck was the CEO of P&A Ventures, and Dan Arnold was the secretary. Arnold is chair of the Oconee County Planning Commission.

Complex Ownership Record

Athens Ridge Land Co. LLC bought the 35-acre property in 2012 and sold it to Athens Ridge LLC on Aug. 29 of this year, according to county tax records.

Athens Ridge LLC registered with the Secretary of State in February of this year, with a Madison, Ga., address and then filed termination papers on Aug. 16, 2013.

The documents filed with the Oconee County Planning Department on Aug. 1 list Athens Ridge Land Co. LLC of Atlanta as the current owner of the property. In the Secretary of State Office, that company is listed as from Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Athens Ridge Commercial Property LLC, also of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is listed in county tax records as the owner of the three properties that are part of the planned Falls of Oconee retail project. That entity registered with the Georgia Secretary of State in February of this year.

River Club Nearby

Athens Ridge Student Townhome Development will join River Club, just east at 1005 Macon Highway, in the off-campus student housing marketplace. River Club, according to Athens-Clarke County tax records, was built in 1996 and is owned by a Chicago company.

River Club, according to its web site, offers two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments and also offers a clubhouse, tanning salon, fitness center, swimming pool, and sports facilities.

River Club is just across McNutt Creek from the Athens Ridge project and lies between McNutt Creek and the Middle Oconee River.

Just across the Middle Oconee River from River Club is the Athens-Clarke County Middle Oconee Water Reclamation Facility (sewage treatment plant) off Will Hunter Road.

Oconee County is planning to build another sewage treatment plant on its side of the Middle Oconee River at some point in the future.

NOTE: I updated this posting on the morning of Nov. 1 based on additional information in the tax records for the property owned by Mohammad Shafiq. Allen Skinner, chief appraiser for the county, helped me locate records of that property.


Anonymous said...

Lee, very informative article.
C Baugh

Anonymous said...

Developments like this with Family Residential status should be required to be majority families (at least 75% occupancy or more IMO) but what family could afford $400/bedroom. Don't vote for incumbents is my new motto.