Oconee County Commissioners tomorrow morning will consider awarding a bid for construction of Parkway Boulevard Extension, the roadway that will open up additional land for expansion of the Epps Bridge Centre shopping complex on the Oconee Connector.
The item was added yesterday afternoon to the agenda for what is being billed as a work session for the commissioners. Originally, the purpose of the session, to start at 10 a.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville, was solely to discuss the proposed overlay district for the Mars Hill Road corridor.
The commissioners have not openly discussed the Parkway Boulevard Extension since Jan. 22 of last year, and that was in a planning session held at the offices of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission in Athens-Clarke County.
Atlanta developer Frank Bishop joined the commissioners in a closed, executive session on April 29, though that fact has never been officially acknowledged and the nature of the discussion has not been revealed. Bishop build Epps Bridge Centre.
A rough estimate of the cost of the road project offered back in January was $4 million. How the county will pay for the road has not been discussed publicly.
Parkway Boulevard Extension will run from the current termination of Parkway Boulevard just west of Kohl’s department store to the Oconee Connector opposite an existing entrance to Epps Bridge Centre.
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The purpose of the road is to open up about 190 acres of wooded land for future develop.
Included is a 114-acre tract owned by the Evelyn and Frank Gordy Family.
Bishop has proposed to develop 48 of those acres into two additional phases of Epps Bridge Centre.
Costco is often mentioned as a possible tenant for the development.
On Sept. 30, 2014, the Board of Commissioners awarded a $96,925 design contract to ABE Consulting of 2410 Hog Mountain Road for Parkway Boulevard Extension.
Commissioners discussed the roadway along with a number of other road projects at the meeting on Jan. 22 of 2015 and met with Bishop in executive session on April 29.
On Oct. 29, the county issued a call for bids for the project and set a submission deadline of Dec. 3.
The Board of Commissioners met in executive session on Tuesday night, and Greathouse released the revised agenda for tomorrow’s meeting just after 1:30 p.m. yesterday.
I learned that the county had requested bids for construction of the project on Monday and found the bid documents on the county web site.
I subsequently reviewed the minutes of all BOC meetings since the first of last year, including of the many executive sessions, and found no record of any public vote by the Board to issue the bid request.
The last public vote by the Board that I could find was the one on Sept. 30 to award the design contract to ABE Consulting.
The president of ABE Consulting is Abe Abouhamdan, who is chairman of the county’s Citizen Advisory Committee for Land Use and Transportation Planning, but there is no record of that Committee discussing the project.
Bishop submitted plans earlier this year with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for his expansion of Epps Bridge Centre.
Bishop filed the paperwork with the Corps of Engineers because he plans to alter streams and wetlands on the property and needs permits from both the state of Georgia and from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers before he can begin construction.
Subsequently, Bishop filed similar documents with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, seeking a variance to encroach within the 25-foot state waters buffer.
The comment period for that request closed on Monday.
The Board of Commissioners called tomorrow’ meeting to discuss the proposed overlay district for the Mars Hill Road Corridor after failing to reach agreement on a number of issues related to the project at its Dec. 15 meeting.
|Ross at BOC Meeting 12/15/2015|
Consultant Bill Ross asked the Board to solve four specific issues he raised.
The first had to do with the classification of properties on Old Mars Hill Road, and the second had to with a request to change the classification of a cluster of properties on the west side of Mars Hill Road itself just north of Dooley Boulevard.
The third issue is associated with land owned by Dickens Farms Inc. on Mars Hill Road south of Dooley Boulevard.
The final question is whether all of Northwest Woods subdivision should be included in the overlay district, rather than just the part close to Mars Hill Road.
Rather than answer Ross’ questions about these four issues, the Board raised broader concerns about the overall purpose of the overlay district.
The commissioners began discussing the possibility of an overlay district for the roadway at that meeting at the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission back in January, and Ross had held a whole series of meetings on his proposals.
Ross has proposed that he next take his plans to the Planning Commission for review in February.
Following review by that Commission, according to Ross’ plans, he would bring his ordinance back to the BOC in March for a public hearing and eventual adoption.