Sunday, November 29, 2015

Boswell Properties Finally Placed Its Sign At SR 316 And Oconee Connector In Location Specified By Its Permit From Oconee County

Twice Removed

It has taken more than two years, but Boswell Properties finally has gotten its sign for property it is listing at the corner of SR 316 and the Oconee Connector into compliance with Oconee County’s sign ordinance.

The sign now is located between SR 316 and Mars Hill Road on the Oconee Connector at the location specified in the permit the county issued to Boswell properties on Aug. 22, 2013, and the sign is the size specified in the permit.

The county has twice removed signs Boswell Properties installed in the right of way at the corner of SR 316 and the Connector because they violated the county’s sign ordinance, which requires that the signs be 5 feet back from the property line and, consequently, out of the right of way for the road.

Boswell Properties is owned by Jamie Boswell, a local commercial real estate broker who also is district representative to the Georgia Transportation Board, which is the governing body for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Code Enforcement Determination

I sent B.R. White, director of Code Enforcement for Oconee County, an email message at 10:56 a.m. on Nov. 3, when I first noticed the reinstalled Boswell sign.

Sign Up Close

I asked if the sign was of the permitted size and in the permitted location.

White forwarded my email message to Gaby Bryan, in the Code Enforcement Office, at 11:07 a.m., asking her to “look into this matter.”

On Nov. 13, White sent me an email message.

“It is complaint,” he wrote.

Boswell Listings

Boswell has listings for five parcels along the Oconee Connector just south of SR 316 as well as numerous other properties in the same area.

Two of those five parcels are south and on either side of the busy intersection of the Connector, Mars Hill Road and Daniells Bridge Road.

The other three parcels have frontage on SR 316, Virgil Langford Road, Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector.

At present, Boswell is listing these three as a single, 46-acre tract, which is owned by Maxie Price of Loganville through Deferred Tax LLC.

Permits Granted

Oconee County issued a permit for a two-sided sign on the largest of these tracts, consisting of 27 acres, on Aug. 22, 2013.

The county issued a permit for a second two-sided sign for the 6.9-acre tract on the northwest corner of Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector on Aug. 26.

From the beginning, the location of the sign for the 27-acre tract has been an issue with the county.

Maps show the sign permitted for its current location–along the Connector about half way between SR 316 and Mars Hill Road.

Boswell initially installed the sign in the right of way at the corner of SR 316 and the Oconee Connector and reinstalled it near the original location when the first sign was removed by the county.

Signs Removed

The county removed the sign out of compliance on Dec. 3 of 2014, after notifying Boswell of the violation.

Boswell reinstalled the sign sometime in early summer of 2015.

Code Enforcement removed the reinstalled sign on Aug. 16 of this year, again after making contact with Boswell about the discrepancy between the actual location of the sign and the location allowed on the permit.

The signs removed by the county were in the state right of way for SR 316.

Correspondence Regarding Sign

When the county removed the sign on Aug. 16 of this year, it also removed a sign on SR 316 for Gateway Technology Business Park, owned by the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority.

The action produced a flurry of email messages between White, head of Code Enforcement, County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko, Public Works Director Emil Beshara, and others.

Included are Boswell, Rick Waller, chair of the Industrial Development Authority, J.R. Charles, economic development director for the county, Chuck Williams, a member of the IDA and member of the Georgia House of Representatives for Oconee County, and Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis.

I obtained these email messages through an open records request.

Benko To Waller, Boswell

Sign From Distance
Across New Road Construction

Benko sent Waller of the Industrial Development Authority and Boswell an email message on July 10 of 2015 asking them to “take a look at your signs.”

Beshara informed Benko on July 14 that, “by my measurement,” the Boswell sign was approximately 415 feet into the GDOT right of way and the IDA sign was approximately 55 feet into the right of way.

Boswell wrote back to Benko on the 14th that “I did not know ROW was 415 wide.”

White responded to Benko that same day: “Interesting. Location and R/W clear on his application. Sign isn’t placed in the R/W on the application.”

The next day, Beshara wrote to Benko that Boswell “placed the sign about 500' north of where their application shows it.”

The location for the sign was very close to the location of the sign removed by the county in December of 2014, after telling Boswell it was not where it was permitted.

Charles To Beshara

Charles, who as economic development director works closely with the IDA, wrote to Beshara on Aug. 12 saying that the “Development Authority has a sign on GA Hwy 316 that they thought was permitted to stand in the right-of-way of the highway, but they can’t find the permit.”

Charles asked whom to contact at GDOT about such a permit.

Beshara responded that same day saying “I can pretty much guarantee that they don’t have a permit. GDOT does not allow real estate signs in their right of way. There is really no point in applying for a permit.”

Rep. Williams was not persuaded. “I’m not sure that we erected it sans permit. Let’s research,” he wrote to Waller on Aug. 17, the day after the sign was removed.

BOC Chairman was of a similar opinion. “We need to discuss,” he emailed Waller, Williams, Charles and Benko on Aug. 18.

No action has been taken by the IDA since the sign was removed.


Xardox said...

Two years? Slow learner.
But then he had to get over the shock of having to follow the rules.

Anonymous said...

Did the county issue a citation to Mr. Boswell for the ordinance violations?

Lee Becker said...

Boswell was not cited. The signs were removed.

Anonymous said...

What does it say about Jamie Boswell when he can't follow Georgia Department of Transportation rules and policies when he is a member of the board that oversees GDOT, the State Transportation Board??!!
Georgia DOT is governed by a 14-member State Transportation Board which exercises general control and supervision of the Department. The Board is entrusted with powers which include, but are not limited to: naming the Commissioner; designating which public roads are encompassed within the state highway system; approving long-range transportation plans; overseeing the administration of construction contracts; and authorizing lease agreements. Board Members are elected by a majority of a General Assembly caucus from each of Georgia’s fourteen congressional districts. Each board member serves a five-year term.

JRV said...

Lee, does Boswell have to reimburse the county for the cost incurred to remove the signs?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response Lee. I think for repeated violations a citation to court would be appropriate.

Lee Becker said...

I have heard no discussion of billing Boswell. The second time, the signs were taken down and moved to rear of the the Government Annex Building on SR 15 south of Watkinsville, according to County Administrative Officer Jeff Benko. Boswell had to go there to retrieve them.