About 50 citizens turned out at a meeting in Veterans Park tonight to tell the Oconee County Board of Commissioners how they feel about a proposal to reopen the connection between Old Mars Hill Road and the new Mars Hill Road now under construction.
All but one of those present said they are opposed to the project.
The sole exception was Perry Aycock, who approached Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis with the idea to revise the state plans for the road so he could improve the prospects for development of the four lots he owns along Old Mars Hill Road.
Davis as well as commissioners John Daniell, Jim Luke and Mark Saxon were in the audience, and they heard complaints about the problems the design change would cause, about the inappropriateness of even considering the project when only one person had asked for it, and about the waste of money the proposed project represented.
Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara told the audience he expects the design change to be on the agenda when the Board of Commissioners next meet at 7 p.m. on Sept. 29 and that citizens should be there again to state their views on the project.
Second Setback In Two Nights
The meeting tonight was the second setback in two days for those seeking to develop property along Mars Hill Road as the construction project approaches the end of its first year of work. The road work will run another two plus years.
The Oconee County Planning Commission last night voted 6-0 against recommending to the BOC that Faye Kellar be allowed to rezone a piece of her property at 1991 Mars Hill Road so she can convert a small residence on the property to an office.
Land Planner Jon Williams, representing Kellar, argued that the county already was anticipating commercial development of the property along Mars Hill Road through discussion of an overlay district for the corridor.
The county has not yet taken any action on that plan, but Williams argued that the commercial development envisioned in the maps for the overlay district was almost inevitable.
Neighbors spoke in opposition and presented a petition arguing that the change being requested by Kellar represented spot zoning and would adversely affect the residential character of the neighborhood.
Opening Presesentation Tonight
Beshara opened the meeting at the Community Center in Veterans Park tonight with an overview of the proposed redesign of the roadway to create a full intersection of Old Mars Hill Road on the west, Barber Creek Drive on the east, and the new Mars Hill Road.
|Davis, Left, With Aycock, Center|
He said there would be no traffic light at the intersection and that cars would be able to turn into and out of Old Mars Hill Road and into and out of Barber Creek Drive as well as cross from one of those roads to the other.
Beshara said he was instructed to seek state approval of the design by County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko and has already spent about $10,000 on that design work.
Beshara said the completion of the project would require another $130,000 of county money.
Email messages indicate that Benko instructed Beshara to seek the design change at the request of BOC Chairman Davis, who said he wanted to accommodate Aycock.
The crowd had little patience with Beshara’s presentation, interrupting him almost from the start with critical questions about the reasons for the project.
The session lasted 45 minutes and included presentation of a petition against the road change signed by many residents of nearby Oak Ridge subdivision.
At one point, one member of the audience asked Beshara to allow a show of hands for those opposed to the project.
Everyone except Aycock raised a hand.
Aycock alone indicated he was in favor when Beshara asked for those with that preference to raise a hand.
Shoot Ready Aim
Following that vote, Beshara recognized another member of the audience, who said, to the amusement of many of those around him, that it was pretty clear a majority of those present were opposed to the project.
“It seems like it is shoot, ready, aim,” he said.
Sitting to the right of the speaker was Davis, wearing a bright green shirt.
This video captures Davis’ reactions as yet one more person in the audience made clear his opposition to the project.
The full video of the meeting is below.
Because the room was being lit by sunlight at the beginning, and the room lights were turned off, the initial part of the video is poorly illuminated and focused.
The quality improves when the room lights were turned on and the outdoor light dimmed.
I apologize for these technical limitations of the video.
Note: I misspelled Faye Kellar's last name in the earlier version of this report. I apologize for the error.