The Oconee County Board of Commissioners last night placed a condition on the rezone it approved for Presbyterian Homes of Georgia in order to control the movement of traffic from the site onto U.S. 441 until a traffic light is installed.
Before the vote, Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara advised the Board that much of what will be done at the continuing care retirement community’s main entrance and exit on U.S. 441 is not under the control of the county.
Beshara restated that position today, saying that even with the condition the Board of Commissioners placed on the rezone, the Georgia Department of Transportation will decide if and how traffic is regulated at the intersection.
Beshara said today he questioned whether the state would go along with the county’s condition that traffic existing the campus must turn right, calling the right-turn only exist “a very unusual design criteria.”
Beshara told the Board before its vote last night that all the county had to go on at this point is a concept plan for the entrances and exits for the proposed Presbyterian Homes facility.
Before the project can be built, he said, Presbyterian Homes would have to come back with a detailed plan, which would be reviewed by his Public Works Department and then by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The video below contains the details of the steps Beshara said would be followed.
Beshara said it was not possible for his department to determine the safety of the design at this time “because there is no design.”
Beshara also reminded the Board that the Georgia Department of Transportation will not issue a traffic signal permit based on projected traffic volumes. It will require actual counts, he said.
Request By Wilkes
At the end of the public hearing on the rezone request last night, Oconee County Commissioner Bubber Wilkes asked Jon Williams of Williams and Associates, representing Presbyterian Homes in the rezone, if he and his client would accept right turn only entrances and exits.
Williams, in his response, said he and his client would accept the condition that only a right-turn exit would be allowed.
Wilkes can be heard in the video below repeating that he wanted to restrict entrances only to right turns as well, but the condition approved by the BOC only dealt with the exit.
In the video, B.R. White, director of the Oconee County Planning Department, can be heard reading the condition voted on by the Board.
White told me in an email message today the condition he read was “rewritten” based on a discussion between Beshara and County Attorney Daniel Haygood.
Beshara repeated in an email message he sent me this morning in response to questions I posed that the county will “have input into the approval” of the Presbyterian Homes entrance and exit on U.S. 441 “but GDOT has ultimate decision making authority.”
The Georgia Department of Transportation would determine what signs can be put into the right of way for U.S. 441, including whether it would allow a sign prohibiting traffic from making a left-hand turn.
“Signage within their right of way is solely a GDOT decision,” he said.
Beshara said “what I heard last night contemplated allowing northbound left turns into the PHG development” from U.S. 441.
“My opinion is that it is unlikely that GDOT would prohibit left turns into PHG for northbound traffic at this median break,” Beshara said.
The county has control over what is done to the entrance and exit Presbyterian Homes proposes on Wellbrook Road, since that is not a state road.
The BOC, at the request of Commissioner Jim Luke, added a condition to the rezone approved last night that “the Wellbrook Road exit shall be designed to prohibit right turns.”
Beshara had requested that simple language to give him more flexibility in accomplishing the stated goal of making it difficult for traffic to leave the Presbyterian Homes facility and travel through Lake Wellbrook subdivision.
The Board also approved a condition that, during the first phase of the project, the construction entrance and exit shall be on U.S. 441, rather than on Wellbrook Road.
But that condition also stipulated that the Georgia Department of Transportation would have the final authority on whether this restriction actually is imposed.
The video of the entire meeting, from which the clips above were taken, is below.