Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Oconee County Planner Says Daniells Bridge Road Projects Are For Traffic Management, But Discussion Focused On Development

Davis Weighs In

Oconee County long-range planner Wayne Provost went out of his way last week to argue that the proposed widening of Daniells Bridge Road and construction of an extension of that road with a flyover of SR Loop 10 is to manage traffic, not to promote development.

Much of the discussion that followed, however, focused on development of a section of the county that currently is landlocked and that would be made more accessible if the flyover were built.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis even weighed in on that development, referencing several key pieces of property listed by the Boswell Group, owned by Georgia Transportation Board member Jamie Boswell.

If the flyover were built, those properties and others the Boswell Group is listing would become more accessible for development.

Isolated Area

The area of the county in question is isolated, and many–perhaps most–residents of the county are unlikely to even be aware of its existence.

Located behind The Markets of Epps Bridge shopping center, where Trader Joe’s and Peach Mac are based, the area is larger than the existing commercial complex on the northeast side of Epps Bridge Parkway.

And most of this land is undeveloped because it is inaccessible at present.

McNutt Creek forms its northern border. No bridges in the area other than at Epps Bridge Parkway cross the stream, which forms the border between Clarke and Oconee counties. (Zoom out on the map to see details.)

SR Loop 10, which also has no bridges over it, forms the southern border of the property.

Flyover Provide Link

The extension of Daniells Bridge Road with a flyover to the stub of the Oconee Connector at Home Depot would solve the problem of the area’s isolation–and open it up for development.

Provost, in his comments at a work session of the Board of Commissioners on Feb. 23, denied that development played a role in the decision of the Georgia Department of Transportation to ask the county to move the two Daniells Bridge Road projects forward for immediate design work.

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to take up that request by the state at its meeting on April 7.

“The other thing we’ve heard a lot about again is whether that project is beneficial from the transportation standpoint or whether it is more of a development type project,” Provost said.

In the video below, Provost said the Daniells Bridge Road projects, and particularly the flyover, are transportation projects.

GDOT’s interest in “all of the projects in Oconee County was from a transportation standpoint,” Provost said in the video below. Provost is seated with his back to the camera.

OCO: Provost On Flyover from Lee Becker on Vimeo

Provost said there was one exception. GDOT contributed to the Caterpillar project, Provost said, and GDOT’s interest in that case was “clearly economic development in nature.”

Caterpillar Reference

According to Emil Beshara, public works director of the county, GDOT put in about $1 million for stabilization work for the roadways serving Caterpillar.

Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County did the bulk of the work on that project, each spending about $10 million for the transportation and other infrastructure improvements on the Caterpillar site.

Provost is not in charge of road projects in the county. Beshara is, and he has been critical of the Daniells Bridge Road projects, saying they are to facilitate development, not solve traffic problems.

Beshara was not invited to the stable to speak at the Feb. 23 meeting.


Provost did mention another project that was an exception to his assertion about GDOT and development, though he didn’t acknowledge it as an exception.

He told the BOC about a proposed Epps Bridge Parkways-U.S. 441 connector, though at first he had trouble remembering the details of the project and had to ask Beshara for assistance.

When reminded, he said this was proposed because of “the potential for development in Oconee County.”

“There is a lot of property left on Old Epps Bridge Parkway in the Smithville area,” he said in the video below.

OCO: Provost On Another Connector from Lee Becker on Vimeo

That project would link U.S. 441 with Epps Bridge Parkway via a flyover in the area of Puritan Road (labeled Old Farmington Road on the Google Map embedded above).

If the project gets built, it probably will not “be in our life times,” Provost said.

Smithville is an informal name for a community on Old Epps Bridge Parkway in the now-isolated area populated by a family by the name of Smith.

Davis Reference

Following Provost’s comments, much of the discussion among the commissioners was of development and the resulting traffic problems already existing on Epps Bridge Parkway.

In that context, Chairman Davis raised the question how the area between the existing Ryan’s restaurant on Epps Bridge Parkway and McNutt Creek is going to develop.

Davis said, in the video below, that no one knows how that is going to impact traffic on that “southern side” of Epps Bridge Parkway.

OCO: Davis on Ryan's from Lee Becker on Vimeo

As it happens, much of that property is owned by Maxie Price of Loganville and listed by the Boswell Group.

The Price property, if combined with the former Evergreen Nursery property owned by Bill Ross, also listed by Boswell Group, would run from the flyover and SR Loop 10 through to Epps Bridge Parkway and provide 94 acres of prime property for development.

Those properties are labeled in the Google Map embedded above.

Newspaper Coverage

Davis has been a consistent proponent of the two Daniells Bridge Road projects, which have generated a considerable amount of attention in the last two editions of the local weekly, The Oconee Enterprise.

In his column in the Enterprise on Feb. 12 (page A7), Davis said that on ramps and off ramps from SR Loop 10 on the Daniells Bridge Road flyover “would give relief to the traffic congestion” in the area. (That column is on the county web site as well.)

That same edition of the paper contained a very critical account of the Daniells Bridge Road projects, on the lower, right-hand side of the front page, based on the comments of Beshara.

The paper followed last week (Feb. 26) with a story at the top of the front page under the headline “Flyover benefits cited by strategic planner.”

The top of the story contained little to support the headline, but the comments of Provost at the Feb. 23 meeting arguing that the projects were to alleviate traffic, not foster development, appear on page A9 in the story’s jump section.

Video and Flyover Map

The full video of the Feb. 23 meeting is available on the Oconee County Observations Vimeo Site.

A labeled map of one version of the Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover is included in this post from Aug. 27, 2014.


Beanne said...

Beshara is the only honest guy in the room which is why he is not allowed at the table but asked to provide facts as needed. Clearly it is a development project to benefit Mr. Boswell and his friends.

Xardox said...

Agreed clearly a development project pursuant to the long-range Land Use Plan in effect for years.
Mr. Boswell is well-positioned for huge profits, which is not an accident or a roll of the dice.
The northern quarter of Oconee is simply going commercial. Want to hug trees and see Bambi? Move south of the county seat.