The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tonight let die without comment the proposal to reconnect Old Mars Hill Road with Mars Hill Road proper.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis, who initiated the redesign of the roadway to allow for the connection, brought the proposal before the other commissioners, but none of them wanted to go forward with it.
Approximately 20 people were in the audience to speak on the issue, but Davis maneuvered the agenda so that they did not get a chance. The commissioners went along with the tactic.
Davis took the same action on another controversial issue discussed at the meeting–an overlay district for Mars Hill Road that would define areas for development once the road is completed in another two plus years.
Again, the commissioners allowed Davis to prohibit discussion of the topic.
Oconee County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko, at Davis’ urging, asked county Public Works Director Emil Beshara in February to go forward with plans to create an intersection of Old Mars Hill Road with the new Mars Hill Road opposite Barber Creek Drive.
Davis told Benko that Perry Aycock, who owns four pieces of land on Old Mars Hill Road, had requested the change in the road plans.
In fact, another property owner, Paul Keller and James McDonald, also would benefit from the change in the roadway, but Davis did not identify them.
The four voting commissioners bulked at the proposal when asked to approve it on Aug. 25 and instead called for a public hearing on the project.
At that meeting on Sept. 22, all but one of the 50 people present indicated opposition to the opening of the Old Mars Hill Road connection. The sole supporter was Aycock.
A number of those at the meeting on Sept. 22 were in attendance at the meeting tonight. The county had indicated that the Old Mars Hill Road proposal was on the agenda as open for discussion.
At the beginning of the meeting, Davis said anyone from the public who wanted to speak could come forward to talk about items “not on the agenda.” That meant that no one could speak about the Old Mars Hill Road proposal at that time.
When it came time to discuss Old Mars Hill Road, Davis asked commissioners John Daniell, Jim Luke and Mark Saxon if they wanted to go forward with the proposal. Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes was absent due to illness.
Daniell, Luke and Saxon had attended the meeting on Sept. 22.
When none of the three spoke up to support the proposal, Davis simply went quickly to the next item on the agenda, never giving the audience a chance to speak, as the video below shows.
At lease one of those present told me after the meeting he had planned to ask the Commission who was going to reimburse the county for the redesign work as well as the staff time invested in the project.
The next item on the agenda was a report by consultant Bill Ross about the proposed overlay district for Mars Hill Road.
Ross said he was making changes to the language of the ordinance he presented to a gathering of citizens on Sept. 17 to reflect concerns voiced by some of those who attended.
Ross didn’t have details of those changes, but he said he would present them to the Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning on Nov. 10, to the county Planning Commission on Dec. 14, and to the Board of Commissioners on Jan. 5
Once again, Davis moved forward with the agenda without allowing citizen comment, and the three commissioners did not object.
Citizens were given a chance to speak on other items discussed by the commissioners at the meeting, as is the norm.