Oconee County consultant Bill Ross offered a sympathetic but decidedly negative view of the future for home owners fronting on Mars Hill Road once the widening project is complete in March of 2018.
The increased traffic is going to make it unattractive for people to stay in their houses, Ross told the Citizens Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning on Nov. 10.
But there is limited demand for this type of small commercial property, Ross acknowledged.
Ross said the residents along the roadway will be better off if the overlay district he is proposing and which is up for review at a meeting from 3 to 7 p.m. tomorrow is adopted by the Board of Commissioners next year than if the overlay district is not put into place.
Tomorrow’s meeting will be held at the Community Center in Veterans Park and will employ a drop-in format allowing citizens to review the proposed overlay ordinance and comment on it.
At the meeting last week, Ross passed out a 37-page, large format document that includes background on the study that led to the overlay district proposal, maps of the roadway and the neighborhoods along it, and the proposed overlay ordinance itself.
It was the second meeting at which the Land Use Committee discussed the ordinance, but, in the end, the Committee took no action on the proposal.
The Committee decided not to meet in December, so the ordinance will go before the Planning Commission on Dec. 14 and the Board of Commissioners on Jan. 5 without official comment from the Land Use Committee.
Maria Caudill, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Committee Chairman Abe Abouhamdan, said she was not instructed to get any formal vote from the Land Use Committee, and no one at the meeting gave any indication of wanting to take a formal position on the document.
Ross said the overlay district was designed to protect what he called “stable neighborhoods” and “allow commercial and office development where it’s appropriate.”
Ross spent much of the nearly hour-long meeting with the Land Use Committee talking about a third land use called the residential conservation areas.
These are areas currently zoned to allow single-family residential use but within which, under the ordinance, temporary use of these houses for offices would be allowed.
In the video below Ross gives a grim picture of the future of those houses.
Though Ross said that the houses could be converted to offices, he later conceded that there was currently little demand for the kind of office space they would provide.
Purpose Of Overlay
The proposed ordinance begins with a concern about the impact of the roadway.
“The purpose of the M-H Mars Hill Overlay District is to minimize the potentially negative land use impacts on properties adjacent to and near the Oconee Connector, Mars Hill Road and Experiment Station Road due to the widening of this major thoroughfare” between SR 316 and U.S. 441 bypass, the ordinance states.
The protection will result from adding a layer of regulations to the county’s existing Unified Development Code.
Included are restrictions on signage, requirements for parking lot screening and landscaping, and inter-parcel access stipulations.
The proposed ordinance includes maps of land use along the corridor, called Policy Maps, and makes those maps restrictive regarding future development.
Before a land owner could change zoning of a property that would make the property’s use inconsistent with the maps, the owner would have to change the maps.
The ordinance states that the “Policy Map amendment must be approved before the rezoning can be acted upon.
“In the case that the Policy Map is not amended as requested,” the ordinance states, “the rezoning request shall be deemed null and void, and automatically denied without further action by the Board of Commissioners.”