Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Oconee County Code Enforcement Removed Boswell Signs--Again--And County Signs As Well

Last Removal In December

Oconee County Code Enforcement once again has taken down signs owned by Boswell Properties that violated the county sign ordinance and were in the intersection of SR 316 and the Oconee Connector.

It also took down signs owned by the county’s Industrial Development Authority that also were in the state right of way and violated the county’s sign ordinance.

The Boswell signs were advertisements for property on the southwest corner of the busy SR 316 and Oconee Connector intersection. Boswell Properties is owned by Jamie Boswell, area representative to the state Transportation Board.

The county’s signs were promoting the Gateway Technology Business Park, located on SR 316 on the southwest edge of Bogart near the Oconee County and Barrow County line.

Repeat Offense

In early December of 2014 the county removed a two-sided Boswell sign on the corner of SR 316 and the Connector because it was not in the location specified on the county’s permit for the sign and was not set back from the property line, as required by the county’s sign ordinance.

In early summer, Boswell reinstalled the sign in much the same location.

SR 316 And Connector--Before

The county’s public works department removed the sign late in the week of Aug. 16.

The county removed the sign in the right of way for SR 316 listing the Gateway park around the same time.

Second Property

B.R. White, director of the county’s Planning Department and Code Enforcement Office, told me in July that the code enforcement staff was looking into the location of the Boswell sign and of another similar sign that he thought also was in the state right of way.

The Boswell sign clearly was not where it had been permitted, but White said he felt it was necessary to determine if the state had relinquished any of its right of way in the SR 316 and Oconee Connector intersection.

SR 316 and Connector--After

The Boswell sign could have been repermitted for that corner if the state had decided not to retain the large amounts of land it owns for future construction of a multi-grade intersection at that location.

White told me subsequently he had determined that the state had retained the right of way for the future road improvements.

Identity Of Second Sign

At the Aug. 10 meeting of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority, Chairman Rick Waller reported that he had received an email message from county Administrative Officer Jeff Benko telling him of a citizen complaint regarding the Gateway sign as well as regarding the Boswell sign.

Waller said Benko is “asking us to evaluate that sign and see if we would consider moving it.”

Waller said the sign was not producing lots of calls, and “I’m not opposed to moving the sign if it causes less heartache or heartburn for anybody.”

Two IDA members, Chuck Williams and Melvin Davis, did object.

Williams represents most of Oconee County in the state House of Representatives, and Davis is chairman of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners.

State Permission

Williams said he thought the IDA had a state permit. If the paperwork could not be found, the county should “look at repermitting” the sign through the state Department of Transportation because of the high amount of traffic on SR 316, Williams said.

Davis said he agreed with Williams and thought the Authority should go to GDOT for permission for the sign.

Gateway Sign SR 316

The group decided to ask J.R. Charles, economic development director for the county, to look into the issue and report back.

The item is on the agenda for discussion by the IDA at its Monday meeting, which starts at 4 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.

Not State Issue

Though no one at the IDA meeting mentioned it, the county ordinance is not dependent on any state decision regarding signage in its right of way.

The county ordinance states that the sign has to be within the property line, so a sign in the state right of way is in violation of that requirement.

If the county does not enforce its ordinance against itself, of course, it cannot easily enforce the ordinance against Boswell or any other party.

The county has told Boswell in its correspondence regarding placement of its sign that the issue is not the state right of way but the county’s sign ordinance.

Notes On Enforcement

Gaby Bryan in Code Enforcement indicated in her log on the Boswell signs that on Aug. 6 “Mr. Boswell confirmed that sign was in ROW and will move sign.”

In an undated entry, she said she spoke with Boswell who “wanted to know who removed his sign and where his sign was.”

Bryan wrote that she subsequently told Boswell that the sign was at the rear of the Government Annex building, on the south side of Watkinsville, where the Public Works Department is located. Public Works staff actually removed both the Boswell and IDA signs.

Boswell said he would call to find out where to place the sign, Bryan wrote, but he had not done so when I picked up the log on Friday (Sept. 4).


The video below is of the discussion at the IDA meeting on Aug. 10 of the Gateway sign.

I was not able to attend the meeting.

Russ Page did attend and made this recording.

OCO: IDA On Signs from Lee Becker on Vimeo


Anonymous said...

This isn't the first or second time Jamie Boswell has violated county ordinance. Who in the blank does this non-county resident think he is? His unmitigated gall is appalling. As are his blatant, consistent conflicts of interest as a local realtor and State Transportation Board member.

I guess FOM's (Friends of Melvin's) are allowed to get away with such stuff...sad, but typical of the Melvin Davis/Jeff Benko/Rick Waller leadership cabal.

Beanne said...

I agree, Anonymous. Boswell definitely has a huge conflict of interest, but few seem aware or care, except those in power, and they don't want to cross him.