Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rezone For Garden Center On Mars Hill Road Before Oconee County Planning Commission

At Oconee Preschool Academy

A request by Flo Wilkes to rezone property she owns on Mars Hill Road so she can build a nursery and garden center will be before the Oconee County Planning Commission tomorrow night for a first public hearing.

Wilkes, in partnership with Chad Forehand, is asking to change the zoning of the nearly eight acre tract from agriculture and residential to business so they can build the garden center and nursery.

Rezone Across Road, Right

The property is at the intersection of Dooley Boulevard and Mars Hill Road. Dooley Boulevard, now blocked, runs through the mothballed Parkside subdivision and will be a shortcut from Mars Hill Road to Hog Mountain Road just east of Veterans Memorial Park.

The Oconee County Planning staff has recommended approval of the rezone request, despite noting that it could adversely affect neighboring properties.

Center And Greenhouses

Wilkes is proposing to construct a garden center, initially between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet in size, and three 1,750-square-foot greenhouses on what is now a primarily wooded lot at 1890 Mars Hill Road.

The lot adjoins Oconee Preschool Academy, which Wilkes founded and owns.

The garden center will have an outside sales area with 25 product bins and enough space for four tractor-trailers.

The garden center will connect to the county water system but will use a septic tank and drain fields for waste water.

A branch of Barber Creek is located on the southeastern portion of the site, according to the staff report of the Planning Department. The lot has frontage on Tarpley Lane as well as Mars Hill Road.

Could Adversely Affect Neighbors

According to the staff report, adjoining properties include the day care center and single-family residences, and a majority of the properties neighboring the site are zoned AR-1 (Agricultural-Residential One Acre).

“Determining effects on adjoining property values is difficult considering the type of land use for the proposed development,” according to the staff report. “If the project is developed as illustrated on the rezone concept plan, adjoining properties with residential uses could be negatively affected with non-residential valuations.”

The current land use map designates the area as Suburban Living, and the staff report notes that “This request does conflict with the development goals and strategies of the Suburban Living character area.”

Click To Enlarge

Existing non-residential land uses are located adjacent to the property and nearby along Mars Hill Road, the report notes.

If the rezone is approved, the report says, “this segment of Mars Hill Road could experience a shift from land uses appropriate for the Suburban Living character area to non-residential land uses.”

Mars Hill Road Widening

The widening of Mars Hill Road also could contribute to changes in the area, according to the staff report.

The county is expecting the state to let a contract in June for the first phase of the Mars Hill Road widening project, which will run past this property from SR 316 to Butler’s Crossing, a distance of about three miles.

The narrative for the project submitted to the Planning Department states that construction of the graden center will begin as soon as the project is approved, and that infrastructure and building structure will require six to 12 months to complete.

The Graden Center should be able to open sometime in 2015, according to the narrative.

Planning Commission Recommends

The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the courthouse in Watkinsville.

The Planning Commission makes recommendations to the Board of Commissioners, which is to take up the rezone request with a second public hearing on March 4.

Wilkes lives at 1401 Twin Oaks Trail, outside Watkinsville.

Total value of the project is estimated at $2 million.

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