The Oconee County Planning Commission tabled two controversial rezone requests last night, one without deliberation and the other following discussion lasting more than two and a half hours.
As expected, the Commission accepted the request of the developer of a proposed complex of office warehouses on Jimmy Daniell Road that the item be removed from the agenda.
The project had received a negative review by the Oconee County Planning Department staff, and the representative of the developer said he needed time to respond to the feedback.
The Commission proceeded with the public hearing on the rezone request by Presbyterian Homes of Georgia, gettings comments from eight citizens in favor and eight opposed.
The Commission voted to table action on the rezone request after several Commission members said they needed more time to sort out the information that had been provided to them.
The Commission did approve the request by the Sudie Clark Hanger Missionary Care Ministry for a special use permit to expand a religious retreat on Snow Mills Road. The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to take final action on that rezone request on April 7.
PHG Case Presented
Following the formal presentation of the rezone request by planning staff and then by Jon Williams of Williams and Associates, representing PHG, Frank H. McElroy Jr., PHG president, made a personal case for the rezone, as the video below shows.
OCO: McElroy On PHG from Lee Becker on Vimeo
Several of the citizens who spoke in favor of the project came from Crystal Hills subdivision, and particularly from Tulipwood Lane, which will back up to the continuing care retirement community.
Their enthusiasm for the project was muted at best, but several said they appreciated that PHG had made modifications to its proposal, putting more space between subdivision homes and the PHG complex of homes, apartment building, and medical facilities.
Williams, in his presentation, stressed the efforts he had made to address the concern of residents of Crystal Hills as well of residents of Lake Wellbroke subdivision and Phinizy Meadows subdivision.
Williams’ efforts at negotiation produced less success with residents of those two subdivisions, who made up the majority of the opponents.
Danielle Wright, 1040 Phinizy Court, told the Commission she had been open to discussion with Presbyterian Homes and its representatives but had come away unsatisfied with the answers given.
She and most of those who spoke in opposition said that the location of the PHG facility is improper because of traffic it will put onto Welbrook Road and through Lake Wellbrook subdivision.
Wright summarized her arguments at the end of her talk, and the video clip below is of that summary.
OCO: Wright On Safety from Lee Becker on Vimeo
As proposed, the PHG facility would have an entrance on U.S. 441 opposite Lavista Road and another entrance on Welbrook Road.
PHG representative Williams, in his presentation, said PHG would be willing to pay for installation of a traffic light at Lavista Road, but he also said he doubted the state would allow installation of the light.
Because of the difficulty of making a left-turn out of the main entrance on U.S. 441, opponents of the project have argued that both residents and staff will use the Welbrook Road exit, often turning right and traveling through Lake Wellbrook Road to Daniells Bridge Road.
Williams last night offered a series of conditions that he said PHG would accept if the Planning Commission approved the rezone request.
One of those was for an upgrade to Welbrook Road itself, which intersects with Hog Mountain Road near the Hog Mountain Road intersection with U.S. 441.
Williams told the Planning Commission that the county already has plans to upgrade the intersection of Hog Mountain Road and U.S. 441.
Uncertainty Over Conditions
Planning Commission member Bill Yarbrough said he had not had enough time to review the conditions proposed by Williams. Other members voiced similar concerns.
The Commission voted 6-4 to table action on the rezone until the April 20 meeting
The Planning Commission only recommends action to the Board of Commissioners.
The tabling means that the BOC will not take up the PHG rezone until its May 5 meeting.
About 100 people attended the meeting last night in the Courthouse in Watkinsville.
Crystal Hills residence do NOT approve of this development with the exception of the one resident that will make a lot of money from it! The residence acknowledged the changes to the plan that exceeded the zoning requirements but that is not a vote for the development.
As a Crystal Hills resident, I am in support of the rezone. It is a vast improvement over what is currently planned and zoned. A commercial / retail stip center with an entrance on Wild Azalea, 441 and Wellbrook road would be far worse in terms of traffic and aesthetics. Let's be careful what we wish for.
This project would bring in needed property tax revenue and jobs. It's housing for seniors people!! It's not another awful strip mall or chain restaurant. We can't solely rely on property taxes. We need this in Oconee.
The proposal for senior housing is a good one. Maybe the Crystal Hills folks would rather have a strip mall with another nice nail salon and cars coming and going from retail businesses. Seniors do not drive much, are quiet and make good neighbors. Shame on you Crystal Hills. Where were you when all the crappy development was approved in other areas?
Benefits such as community diversity, and housing options to address the variety of Oconee citizens (& wannabe citizens) should be the measures and not a traffic issue that should have been addressed years ago. PHGa has made as many accommodations as are in their powers to provide (have to wonder if Cat was as accommodating). I hope the traffic issue is as strongly brought up at the next Board of Commissioners meeting (BTW fewer than a half dozen people show up regularly to input on this counties issues - maybe they are stuck in traffic?)!
It would be a much better development than what could be built her. This could become another strip mall or student housing as now zoned. Wake up people and go for the "oldies but goodies". The traffic issue can be fixed.
The Presbyterian Church Development proposal is simply a bad idea. Presbyterian Church tried to sneak it through before Crystal Hills residents could learn anything about it, and serious questions remain unanswered. Pathetic approach. The traffic issue needs to be fixed before any zoning change can be approved. If it can be fixed Beanne, then fix it. It is not that simple. To have "oldies" turning left onto 441 without a traffic light is immoral and WILL cause injury and death.
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