Mark Thomas, a businessman and member of the Oconee County Board of Education, got a slot on the county’s Industrial Development Authority tonight, but only after two rounds of balloting by the Board of Commissioners.
In the end, BOC Chairman Melvin Davis broke the deadlock, casting his support for long-time IDA member Larry Benson, owner of Benson Bakery in Bogart, at the expense of Robin Chasman, a realtor and Tanglebrook subdivision neighbor of Benson.
The Board reappointed Matt Elder, owner of Oconee Waste Transport, and Ed Perkins, a retired chemical engineer, to the 11-member Authority. Benson, Elder, Perkins and Thomas each received two-year terms.
In other action, the Board approved the rezone requests of the Bath family to convert six acres on Hog Mountain Road just west of Butler’s Crossing into a business and commercial complex and postponed action on a policy for use of Eagle Tavern for commercial purposes.
Two Motions On IDA Appointments
The lack of consensus by the Board on the appointment to the IDA is unusual.
Normally the Board decides in executive sessions after interviewing the applicants for various citizen committees and makes the appointments unanimously at the following meeting.
And incumbents who ask for reappointment usually get reappointed.
Tonight, Commissioner Margaret Hale made a motion to appoint Chasman, Thomas, Elder and Perkins to the Authority, leaving off Benson. Commissioner John Daniell seconded the motion, but Commissioners Jim Luke and Mark Saxon would not go along.
Davis broke the tie with a negative vote, as the video below shows. The appointment is technically for associate membership, since the IDA actually consists of two bodies that meet and act, in most cases, as one.
Next Luke made a motion to appoint Thomas, Benson, Elder and Perkins. Daniell and Hale voted no.
Davis broke the tie in favor of Benson, who had served as campaign chairman for Davis in 2004.
The current terms for Benson, Elder and Perkins do not expire until the end of the year.
John Morrison resigned from the Authority last month after moving out of the county earlier this year, meaning that Thomas could join the Authority immediately.
Neither motion tonight mentioned that possibility.
John Caudill, an engineer, also applied for appointment to the Authority.
Caudill is a citizen alternative member of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir Board, and he and former Oconee County Commissioner Chuck Horton were appointed to that body tonight. Horton also currently serves on the reservoir Board.
The Board approved unanimously the rezone of the Bath property to create a seven-building commercial and office complex after lengthy discussion about buffers and about the historic building on the site that now is occupied by The Yarn House.
That building, referred to as the Abe Jones House, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Bath family has said that it wants to use the Jones House for a restaurant, but, in the rezone narrative, it stated that it reserves the right to tear down the building or move it from the site.
All six acres that make up the development are for sale, and there is no promise that the building ever will be used as a restaurant.
The commissioners approved the project–actually consisting of two separate rezone requests–but only on the condition that the existing Abe Jones House shall remain on the site.
County Attorney Daniel Haygood said that action could be challenged but recommended the Board pass the condition as a way of forcing further discussion should any future owner want to tear down or move the building.
The commissioners reduced the size of the vegetative buffer at the rear of the property from the 50 feet recommended by the planning staff to 25 feet but extended the buffer around a corner of the property on Hillcrest Drive.
The Bath family had asked for the reduction in the size of the buffer.
The Board also voted to require the developers to either put a false front on the rear of one of the commercial buildings that will back up to Hillcrest Drive or plant a 10-foot-high buffer between the building and the street.
For the second week in a row, the Board discussed a proposed policy for use of Eagle Tavern, the historic building opposite the courthouse in downtown Watkinsville, by commercial tour operators.
Commissioners Luke and Hale both expressed reservations about aspects of the policy, drafted by county staff in consultation with the Citizens Advisory Committee on Cultural Affairs and Tourism.
Hale was concerned about the security of the facility and protection of items in the Tavern on loan to the county.
Luke questioned the fee structure and the arrangements for staffing the facility when it was used by the tour groups.
The BOC voted to send the policy back to staff and the cultural affairs committee for further discussion.