The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority voted Monday to spend up to $8,000 for consulting services as it moves forward with its study of prezoning properties the county thinks should be designated for development.
The Authority accepted the recommendation of its Product Development Committee that it enter into an agreement with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government (CVIOG) at the University of Georgia for the consulting services.
The agreement calls for CVIOG to review the existing land use plans and conduct interviews with developers, real estate brokers, land owners, and members of the county’s Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee.
Authority Chair Rick Waller circulated the CVIOG proposal to the members of the Authority at its meeting in the courthouse Monday afternoon, and that became the basis for discussion prior to the vote to engage the services of CVIOG.
Waller refused to release the CVIOG proposal to the public on Monday, but the IDA open records officer made it available the next day in response to an open records request.
Ed Perkins, a member of the Product Development Committee, led the discussion of the CVIOG “proposal for services” and made the motion that it be approved by the full IDA.
Perkins suggested two changes in the plan, and the Authority accepted both of them.
First, he wanted the chair of the Product Development Committee to be designated as the contact person for CVIOG.
Second, he wanted to increase the funding from $6,000 to $8,000 if there is a need for additional interviews.
Scope Of Work
The original proposal called for “up to 12 interviews” with developers, commercial real estate brokers, landowners, land use committee members and “others.”
The proposal said CVIOG would rely on the IDA to identify the people to be interviewed, in order “to ensure a broad perspective of intersets are taken into account in the assessment.”
The study would begin with analysis of the 2008 Oconee County Comprehensive Plan to “develop a series of interview questions to assess the impressions of the development and commercial real estate community about the areas designated for future development.”
The analysis also would focus on “specific opportunities and barriers for development.”
Perkins said this was only the first phase of the project.
The Oconee County Board of County Board of Commissioners, led particularly by commissioners John Daniell and Jim Luke, has asked the IDA to develop plans for what they call prezoning, i.e., zoning land that the county wants to see developed even if the landowner does not request the change.
The Board of Commissioners has authorized the IDA to spend an unspecified amount of money on the project.
Open Records Request
At the end of the regular meeting on Monday afternoon, as the IDA was pausing to go into executive session, I asked Waller for a copy of the CVIOG proposal.
Authority Open Records Officer Angela Helwig, who takes notes at the IDA meetings, started to hand me a copy, but Waller said I could not have it unless I filed a formal open records request.
Waller said he was only following policy, though County Attorney Daniel Haygood told me in an email message the next day that this was not county policy.
I filed the request on Monday evening and received the copy on Tuesday morning.
Page And Missing CD
Also at the meeting on Monday, held in the courthouse, Waller returned to farmland protection advocate Russ Page a copy of a CD that Page had lent to Waller more than six months ago.
Page had complained to the BOC at its meeting on July 26 that he had asked Waller to consider adding a discussion of the transfer of development rights to its discussion of prezoning, but, rather than respond, Waller had lost the CD that contained background on the zoning option.
Waller told Page Monday he “did locate” the CD and had watched it but didn’t feel it was relevant to the IDA’s discussion.
Page said that conclusion was wrong, but Waller repeated his assertion and told Page he would have to “explain to me kinda sorta what your thoughts are” in order for Waller to reconsider his rejection of the topic.
Through a TDR program, a government designates certain areas as appropriate for future growth and certain areas that would be better left undeveloped and then creates incentives for preservation and development in those areas.
IDA member Perkins was a member of a county committee that studied TDR programs and recommended that the BOC hire a consultant to further study program options, but he did not speak up on Monday for IDA consideration of the topic.
Thomas To Committee
Waller welcomed Mark Thomas, a member of the Oconee County Board of Education and local businessman, as a new member of the IDA on Monday and appointed him to join Perkins, Matt Elder and Chuck Williams on the Product Development Committee.
Thomas had been appointed to the IDA by the Board of Commissioners at its meeting on Oct. 7, but the term specified in the motion by Commissioner Luke and approved by three of the five Commission members was for a two-year term expiring Dec. 31, 2016.
Waller said that Thomas’ term begins immediately, which would make it longer than two years if it expires on Dec. 31, 2016.
Chairman Melvin Davis did send Thomas a letter dated Oct. 8 stating that his “appointment will begin immediately.” The letter does not explain how that decision was made, given the vote of the BOC.
I obtained a copy of that letter through an open records request I filed last night.
The vacancy that Thomas filled was created in September when John Morrison resigned from the Authority after selling his property in the county in February and moving to Athens-Clarke County.
Morrison had been chairman of the Product Development Committee, and Perkins said on Monday that the Committee would elect a new chairman now that Thomas had been added to the roster.
Davis last week also sent letters to Elder, Perkins and Larry Benson reappointing them to the Authority. Those letters reflected the language of the motion adopted by the BOC.
Benson did not attend the meeting on Monday.
At the end of the regular meeting on Monday, the Authority voted to go into closed executive session to discuss the sale of land in its Gateway Park on SR 316 on the southern edge of Bogart.
At a meeting in July of last year, the IDA agreed to sell 18 acres south of SR 316 to Andrew Clyde, who owns Clyde Armory, 4800 Atlanta Highway near Bogart. The sale price was $203,472.00.
That sale has not yet been completed.
Clyde was at the IDA meeting on Monday and went into the executive session with the IDA. Also in attendance was Brad Callender from the Oconee County Planning Department.
Mary Lenihan filed an open records request with the county on Aug. 12 asking for additional information on the property, including details of underground and above ground storage tanks and permits for wastewater discharge.
Lenihan did not list her address or affiliation on the open records request.
The IDA has called a meeting for 10 a.m. tomorrow in the courthouse to consider an “Amendment to Contract for Purchase and Sale” at Gateway.
Perkins On Assignment
Following the discussion of the agreement with CVIOG, Perkins explained to Thomas the assignment he believes the IDA has been given by the BOC.
Below is the video of that discussion and of the CVIOG contract presentation. The video runs about 9 minutes.