Sunday, February 01, 2015

Oconee County Chairman Wants To Talk About Safety, But Other Proponents Of Daniells Bridge Road Projects Acknowledge Development Potential

More On Tuesday

Tom Kittle, who really is at the center of the Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover, made his case for this project and the related widening of the road in a straightforward fashion at the Oconee County Board of Commissioners meeting last Tuesday.

These two projects, in his view, will facilitate the flow of traffic from outside of Watkinsville to Epps Bridge Parkway, thereby relieving existing congestion at the Oconee Connector, and will open up additional land, including land he owns, for development.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, who is the only member of the Board so far to take a stand in favor of the two projects, has made his case more narrowly.

In the more than seven minutes Davis spoke about the projects on Tuesday night, he mentioned development not at all.

Rather, according to Davis, what is driving him to push the projects is a concern for public safety.

Decision On Tuesday

The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night will once again take up the legal agreements with the Georgia Department of Transportation that would move the widening of Daniells Bridge Road and the extension and flyover to a timetable calling for immediate design work and funding.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at the courthouse in Watkinsville.

Kittle, who lives at 2030 Daniells Bridge Road and whose property would be divided both by the extension of Daniells Bridge Road and the relocated Daniells Bridge Road itself, is likely to be there again to make his case.

If the Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover had been built as planned in 1994, he told the commissioners at the meeting last Tuesday, it already would be relieving traffic that now clogs the area. A brief clip from his comments is below, and the full recording of his comments is available HERE.

OCO: Kittle Comment 1 27 15 from Lee Becker on Vimeo

More commercial develop would benefit the county by bringing in more tax revenue, Kittle said.

Kittle said that he would benefit by being able to develop his land and that commercial realtor and area representative to the Georgia Transportation Board Jamie Boswell also would benefit.

Boswell’s company is listing a large number of properties along the route of the new road. Real estate companies gain when they sell the property they list.

The Transportation Board, on which Boswell sits, will allocate the funds for the Daniells Bridge Road projects if the county signs the project framework agreements.

30 Acres Available

Kittle owns just less than 20 acres at the corner of Daniells Bridge Road and Chestnut Hill Road, but he told the commissioners that about 30 acres on the south side of SR Loop 10 would be available for development if the flyover were built.

The flyover would go through Kittle’s property, and there isn’t any way to know how much of it would be left for development after it were built since there is no firm design for the flyover available.

Another tract of just larger than two acres lies west of Kittle’s property, and an eight-acre-tract is west of that, in the blind curve of Daniells Bridge Road at Will Usher Road and Lynn Drive.

The larger tract is unoccupied but already is zoned for office and light business use.

All of the other land between the blind curve and Hog Mountain Road on Daniells Bridge Road is zoned residential or owned by the University of Georgia as part of it research farms, with one exception. Seven acres at the corner of Hog Mountain Road and Daniells Bridge road are zoned for office and business use.

The corner lot at Daniells Bridge Road and Chestnut Hill Road is zoned residential but is being used commercially for a swim club under a conditional use permit as a result of a settlement of two lawsuits over promised amenities to residents of Welbrook Farms subdivision, of which it is a part.

Ross And Nursery

Bill Ross, who owns 62 acres that would be made much more accessible by the flyover and extension, also spoke in favor of the project on Tuesday night.

The land was formerly a nursery, but Ross moved his operation to Dials Mill Road with the plan to sell and develop the 62 acres, which are accessible at present only off Dowdy Road.

Ross also said the flyover and extension would improve safety on the road and lead to economic development. The clip below is a segment of Ross’ comments, and the full set of comments is available HERE.

OCO: Ross Clip 1 27 15 from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Ross, who lives across SR Loop 10 from the former nursery in Chestnut Glen, a subdivision he developed, said on Tuesday that he donated land to the county for the flyover and wants the flyover built as return on his investment.

Athens First

The only other person who spoke in favor of the Daniells Bridge Road projects on Tuesday night was Phil Bettendorf, senior vice president of Athens First Bank and Trust.

Bettendorf said the increased traffic once the flyover were built will be a benefit to the bank’s location at Old Epps Bridge Road and the Oconee Connector.

Bettendorf doesn’t live in the area of the flyover, but he said he thought it would be beneficial to the citizens of the county because it would aid in the flow of traffic.

Frank Bishop, developer of Epps Bridge Centre, which is located on the Oconee Connector, and Boswell, who lists the Ross property and others in the area that would be more marketable if the flyover were built, were present on Tuesday night but did not speak.

Davis’ View

Opponents of the two projects focused heavily on traffic flow on Daniells Bridge Road, with none of them saying she or he viewed the widening or flyover as a way of reducing the traffic.

After the citizens spoke, Board Chairman Davis spoke, and he told the citizens how much he shared their concerns about the safety of the roadway. His comments below reflect that emphasis.

OCO: Davis On Safety 1 27 15 from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Davis spoke at several points during the 80-minute-long discussion of the two projects, and at no point did he make any mention of development as one of the goals of the projects.

A full video of Davis’ comments is available HERE.

The county now relies on sales tax for 52 percent of its General Fund revenue, and Davis is a very outspoken proponent of further commercial development as a source of future county funds.

Long Range Planner

Wayne Provost, director of Strategic and Long Range Planning for the county, gave a more balanced presentation before the Citizen Advisory Committee for Land Use and Transportation Planning, which was asked by the BOC to review the project framework agreements.

Provost told the group back in October that the primary purpose of the projects was to relieve pressure on the SR 316 intersection of SR Loop 10.

But “there is potentially an economic development factor,” Provost told the group. The route would provide access to some properties that might not otherwise have good access, he said.

Provost never identified those properties to the Land Use Committee.

I called him on Friday and asked him if he knew which other property owners had asked for construction of the flyover.

He said he was not in a position to know the answer to that question.

Home Depot

Ross gave the commissioners on Tuesday night a letter that he said had been sent to Home Depot in 1995. Ross said the letter told executives of Home Depot that “it is contemplated that at some point in the future the proposed road may be extended” over SR Loop 10.

No one from Home Depot, Kroger or any of the other businesses already existing in the area other than Athens First has come forward so far to speak for the Daniells Bridge Road projects.

Tammy Gilland, a member of the Land Use Committee, told the other Committee members at its Oct. 14 meeting she had “talked to some of the busineses out there and they’re very supportive of this.”

Gilland, who is vice president of the Athens Regional (hospital) Foundation, never identified any of those businesses.

She joined the majority when the Land Use Committee voted 8-1 in November to advise the BOC to approve the project framework agreements.

Land For Development

The area of the county that would be made more accessible for development by construction of the Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover lies behind the existing strip malls on the southeast side of Epps Bridge Parkway.

Boswell is listing the Ross property, but he also is listing four other parcels (two of them combined into a single listing). One of these consists of 25 acres and is now a mobile home park. The other three adjoin those 25 acres, providing full access to Epps Bridge Parkway.

Those three parcels, excluding the mobile home park, sum to a little more than seven acres.

If all the properties listed by Boswell are put together, they sum to 94 acres, all of which would be made more valuable by completion of the Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover.


When SR Loop 10 was built, it cut off the area to the east of Epps Bridge Parkway from the rest of the county.

Dowdy Road now terminates at SR Loop 10.

A stretch of old Epps Bridge Road runs through the middle of the area, but it does not cross McNutt Creek.

The Boswell listings are only a small part of the land that would be opened up for possible future development if the flyover were built.

Much of the land is residential and is referred to by some as Smithville, since many of the parcels are owned by the extended Smith family.

Tanglebrook subdivision lies to the north of the area along McNutt Creek.

A map that Oconee County Planning Director B.R. White presented to the BOC last month showed a strip of area along SR Loop 10 from Ross’ property to McNutt Creek as appropriate for commercial development.

Design Unclear

While the project framework agreements provide a firm timeline for the projects, they do not provide firm cost estimates or details of design.

Several different designs have been presented over the years, and the final design is an unknown that would be determined only after the county signs the project framework agreements.

Emil Beshara, director of Public Works for the county, told the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee last year that using that right of way that Ross donated to the county would create two problems.

First, it would make the turn for the Daniells Bridge Road extension very sharp, requiring a reduction in speed to 35 miles per hour.

In addition, the new road would cut close to a cemetery surrounded by Kittle’s property that may have historical significance. It seems likely it was the cemetery for slaves from the Daniells Plantation.

Design In Files

Beshara said he has a design in his files that brings the extension closer to Chestnut Hill Road to make the curve wider and allow for traffic to move at 45 miles per hour.

That design likely would require additional right of way from Ross and from the owners of a small shopping center across from the Kroger’s fuel station and Home Depot.

It also would take up more of Kittle’s land.

This anchored aerial MAP of the area on Bing shows the stub of the Oconee Connector and Daniells Bridge Road.

It also is possible to move the map to get a better sense of the overall geography of the area.

Odd Partners

The Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover have been around since at least 1994 and were championed then by former BOC Chairman Wendell Dawson.

Only two of the many subdivisions along Daniells Bridge Road had been built at that time.

Dawson has sent out emails to people on a listserv he maintains criticizing the opponents of the flyover, calling them “mostly NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard).”

I was one of those who spoke against the projects on Tuesday night.

“The Commissioners need to think about County Vision and not County Votes,” Dawson wrote.

Dawson, who has been a very vocal critic of Davis over the years, in this case finds himself on the same side as the current chairman.

Full Video Of Discussion

Russ Page video recorded the Commission meeting on Tuesday night.

I have edited the video and created a recording of all of the nearly 80 minutes of discussion of the Daniells Bridge Road projects.

That video is below.

OCO: DB Road Projects 1 27 15 from Lee Becker on Vimeo


Anonymous said...

Melvin, Melvin, Melvin...You are out of control!!!

Only now that people are becoming aware of how your close confidants Jamie Boswell (with so many conflicts of interest) and Frank Bishop, Kittle along with a small number of others, benefit from the flyover bridge are you suddenly saying its for SAFETY??!!

Be honest, Mr. Davis. This is a pure development project. Oconee County taxpayers will be on the hook for millions upon millions of dollars, with guaranteed cost overruns.

There are many other intersections and roads in the county that have greater safety concerns...but they don't have adjacent properties represented by Jamie Boswell or owned by Frank Bishop.

We're going to look back on this in ten years, and the price tag will be astronomical, and we'll
all be asking ourselves how did we allow this to happen?

Anonymous said...

Are there any updates on this matter?

Lee Becker said...

The issue is not being discussed openly. Chairman Davis is pushing for a study of the SR 316/Epps Bridge Parkway corridor, but nothing has been decided at this point.