Sunday, June 15, 2014

Benson’s Bakery And Thomas’ Tower On Oconee County Planning Commission Agenda

The Oconee County Planning Commission is set to take up tomorrow night a request for an industrial rezone in the urban north of the county and a request for a new cell tower in the county’s rural south.

The Commission will be reviewing a rezone application from Benson’s Bakery in the city of Bogart.

Benson’s is seeking to convert a 2.5-acre-tract from R-1 Single-Family-Residential use to Industrial to build a sewage pretreatment facility for the bakery.

Benson's In Bogart

RETEL Brokerage Services, representing AT&T Wireless, is asking the Planning Commission for approval of a cell tower on 142 acres on SR 15 south of Watkinsville owned by Mark H. Thomas.

RETEL and Thomas want to build a 150 foot monopole that can provide service for four wireless carriers. The tower would be on the rear of the property and would be accessed via Cedar Road.

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

Bakery Request

The 2.5-acre parcel to be used for the sewage facility is located on the eastern side of Bogart at the end of Elder Street. It is part of 21 acres used by Benson’s for its bakery and can be accessed only via Benson property.

The treatment facility will take up only about 0.15 acres, and the remainder of the property will be undisturbed, according to the narrative submitted with the rezone application.

The pretreatment facility will biologically treat water from the bakery before it is released into the county’s sewage system. Bogart has no sewage treatment capability of its own.

The Planning Department staff concluded that the request is consistent with the city of Bogart’s zoning ordinance and recommended approval.

The staff recommendation and any recommendation from the Planning Commission go to the Bogart City Council for final action. The Council meets on July 7.

Tower Request

RETEL, AT&T and Thomas are asking for a special use allowance so they can construct the cell tower on land zoned A-1 Agricultural District.

Hot Thomas BBQ and the Thomas Cotton Gin sit in separate parcels at the front of the property on which the cell tower is to be located.

According to the narrative filed with the application, AT&T has leased 10,000 square feet for the proposed cell tower from Thomas, who lives at 1531 Aycock Road in the west of the county. Thomas is a member of the Oconee County Board of Education.

The tower is 351 feet from the nearest property boundary and 391 feel from the centerline of Cedar Road, according to the staff report.

The planning staff recommended approval. The Planning Commission recommendation will go to the Board of Commissioners for action at its July 8 meeting.

Benson On Development Authority

Benson’s Bakery is owned by Benson Inc., which also owns Benson’s Hospitality Group.

The Hospitality Group operates the Hilton Garden Inn, the Holiday Inn, and the Holiday Inn Express in Athens as well as SpringHill Suites by Marriott on Daniells Bridge Road in Oconee County.

Larry Benson, CEO of Benson’s Inc., is a member of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority.

Benson mentioned the rezone request for the pretreatment facility in Bogart at the May 12 meeting of the IDA when he gave his member’s report. That report detailed the status of the bakery and the four hotels.

Benson Report

Benson said the company had expanded the bakery operation and is planning to expand it further, if capital can be found. He said the IDA might be able to play a role in that expansion.

He also said that the hotel group, including the company’s SpringHill Suites by Marriott on Daniells Bridge Road, was recovering from the recession.

He said the Oconee County hotel was operating at between 70 and 72 percent occupancy, up from 35 percent when the hotel opened four years ago, and the average daily rate is around $93.

He said the company budgeted on opening about 70 percent occupancy with a $115 average daily rate.

Benson paused at the end of his presentation and then said, “For the camera, I would like to say we enjoy doing business in Oconee County. It is a pleasure to do business with the leadership of Oconee County.”

The video below runs just less than five minutes and contains Benson’s detailed report on his company’s operation. Sarah Bell recorded the IDA meeting and gave the recording to me.


Anonymous said...

How is Bensons currently treating sewage? Is the pre treatment facility to be located where Athena Carpet was where they have been grading already?

Lee Becker said...

According to Chris Thomas, director of the Utility Department, Benson's has been pretreating its waste to meet county standards, but the state has determined that Benson's needs an industrial pretreatment permit. To get that permit, it needs to upgrade its facilities. The rezone is to allow for that.

Thank you for asking.

Lee Becker said...

Sorry. I realized later I did not answer your question about the location. The pretreatment facility will go on an unoccupied lot at the rear of the property. In the video at the bottom of the posting, Benson said the expansion on the old carpet site is for new dry storage, increased freezer capacity, and possibly another production line.