The Oconee County Planning Commission voted 8 to 1 tonight (Monday) against a request by High Point Land Holdings LLC for special use of 35 acres on Colham Ferry Road for a residential day camp in an agricultural district.
Nine people from areas around the existing horse boarding and training facility spoke against the request, saying the addition of a residential day camp would create traffic and noise problems and is inconsistent with the Agricultural Preservation designation of the area on the county’s future development map.
Alex Thaxton and her father, Greg Thaxton, who operate the boarding and training facility under the name High Point Farm, were the only ones who spoke in favor of the special use request.
“I think that the beauty of camp is that kids can get away from their ordinary routines and out of their comfort zones as well as be challenged and enjoy nature in a structured environment,” Alex Thaxton said.
Both Thaxtons said the plans for the day camp were not firm and that they did not believe their request would be a problem for their neighbors.
Alex and Greg Thaxton said the building representations they gave to the Planning Department were not what they had in mind and that many of their plans were not fully developed.
|Alex Thaxton Before Board|
Those plans show a multi-use pavilion, to be partially used as a farm management residence, eight cabins, a bath house, and an announcer booth and tack house.
Greg Thaxton said it may take years to realize the plans, that funding was not currently in place for them, and that the goal ultimately is to run the day camp as a nonprofit.
Alex Thaxton said she didn’t see any component of the plan as fixed.
Neighbors Greg Hockaday, brother Carl Hockaday, and Carl’s wife, Lisa Hockaday, were among those who spoke in opposition. They said they bought their two tracts, totaling 38 acres, because of their rural nature.
Carl Hockaday said he and his wife consulted the county’s future development map when they purchased the land from Mark and Lisa Dawson in 2015 and made the purchase because the land was designated for agricultural preservation.
Carl Hockaday said they concluded that “we already know based on what our leaders are giving us that this is going to remain pretty rural.”
Dawson, who operates a small dairy and vegetable farm with his wife on 64 acres they own adjoining that of the Hockadays, said he had seen dramatic change in the area in recent years and asked the Board “to consider what the next chapter will be” if the proposed development is allowed.
Motion and Vote
Commissioner William Steen made the motion not to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that the special use be allowed, and Karl Berg seconded.
The sole negative vote was cast by Charles Hunt. David Camp abstained.
The issue is scheduled to be taken up by the Board of Commissioners on Aug. 2.
Hunt confirmed after the meeting that he leases 15 acres at the corner of Saxon Road and Colham Ferry Road to High Point Farm, and that High Point Farms’ offices are on that leased property.
Hunt said he had held a 5 percent share in the 35 acres that High Point Farms wants to use for the day camp, but he said he no longer has any interest in that property.
Hunt and his wife live on 17 acres that abut the land leased to High Point Farm and that has a physical address of 1080 Sam Cooper Road.
The Planning Commission also unanimously approved a request by David Ivey to downzone 2.1 acres in Bishop from business use to residential use.
The full video of the meeting is below.
OCO: Planning Commission 7 18 16 complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo
Get ready for the BOC to approve it. They will let you know right quick that the future land use map is just for decoration. It is not binding. Soon everyone in this county will know what its like to be surrounded by development.
Hunt should of abstained. I wonder why Camp did? Any info on him Lee?
Ummm...Charles Hunt...anyone with a smidgen of personal ethics would have abstained
I hope the BOC will stand by the county's land use plan; this proposed day camp is not in keeping with the agricultural zoning of that area. Commissioners: stand up and do right for the people who live around the land.They chose and bought their land based on its zoning and the Thaxtons want to change it!
For those that suggested I should have abstained - technically I did not need to but I was planning to for that "appearance" the commenters seem to have wanted. I made my vote (fruitless as it was) in support of a reasonable application that got more emotional backlash than code or zoning issues input. I would love to see the crowds more often, but remember we are a rule of laws (& ordinances).
I do not know why Camp abstained.
Seriously, a few kids going to a horsey day camp during the summer is going to create a noise and traffic problem? I can't believe people are objecting to this.
This is not just a "horsey day camp" as if you would please review the entire application - this camp includes the proposed use of paintball, archery, zip line, rock climbing wall, and overnight cabins - 8 cabins total that can hold up to 10 campers total. From last night, Alex Thaxton stated it would operate a couple of weeks in the beginning to all summer and dreams up to all year during weekends. The activities would be spread out throughout the day with different sized groups rotating through the activities. So far someone who lives RIGHT NEXT door, with no buffer, and these activities being in plain sight and hearing it, yes there will be noise - screams, the noise from paintball guns, cheers for someone to reach the top of the rock climbing wall. I have children and they can be loud but they are MY CHILDREN. I do not want to hear 40 plus kids screaming or the sounds of paintball guns over and over. I do not want the trash. I do not want the additional traffic and trash. IN ADDITION, if this is indeed a HORSEY DAY CAMP - where are the proposed horse pastures on the concept plan? I do not see pastures as the concept ideas on the drawings that are included in the application, the pastures are eliminated. So what is now a horse farm, will become buildings and structures that are not agricultural activities. I ask you to please research the application and narrative before commenting as it is not just a day camp. There is more to it and I ask you to please come visit the property so you can see for yourself how this affects people like my family.
Charles Hunt leases land to the business in question...and has the audacity to vote on business' request??!!
Dude does not have the person/professional ethics to abstain??!!
If Hunt doesn't have the sense to abstain, then it falls on the Planning Commission Chair to make sure he abstains.
This nonsense has to stop. Look at the many conflicts with members of the Industrial Development Authority having contracts with the county. Look at "Bubber" trying to spot zone his own property for personal gain. Look at State Transportation Board member Jamie Boswell benefitting from GDOT decisions as a real estate agent. Look at our Economic Development Director submitting a report directly from the business that would benefit from its approval.
Oconee is the ultimate good ole boys who you know network. It's no better than the Bill Campbell era in Atlanta. The Athens Banner Herald, Oconee Enterprise and Oconee Leader look the other way.
What is it going to take for Oconee residents to elect officials who act in an ethical manner???
-Hunt confirmed after the meeting that he leases 15 acres at the corner of Saxon Road and Colham Ferry Road to High Point Farm, and that High Point Farms’ offices are on that leased property.
-Hunt said he had held a 5 percent share in the 35 acres that High Point Farms wants to use for the day camp, but he said he no longer has any interest in that property.
-Hunt and his wife live on 17 acres that abut the land leased to High Point Farm and that has a physical address of 1080 Sam Cooper Road.
Yes, of course Hunt should have abstained. I think his comment suggests he might realize this now, but his ethics are certainly suspect. Abstaining might not have been technically required, but it should have been obvious. The Thaxton's already have a horse day camp on the property. The neighbors have not objected to that which is an allowed use (I am not a neighbor). The problem with this proposal is that it is incredibly vague. The picture of the "cabin" is not what they intend to build. The picture of the pavilion is not what they intend to build. These are just "pictures from the internet" as they said themselves. They had no reason for needing cabins for a day camp. They just put them in "in case someday they want a residential camp". Their business plan was limited but required $600,000 in building costs. Is it possible to recoup such costs from a day camp operated only in the summer? This does not seem likely. What would stop them from opening the paint ball and the zip line to the general public throughout the year. This seems like the only way to recoup this investment. So, yes, if I were a neighbor, I would be nervous, very nervous, that this would not be a camp for long. The Thaxton's admitted that the current horse camp is undersubscribed. At the least, this proposal should be rejected because it is so lacking in actual plans.
We life long residents of the farming community of south Oconee County stand with grace as we have watched changes in the land of our heritage. We grew up in an area of cattle farming, chicken houses and hogs. We may have complained about the smell but to our parents, it smelled like money. When folks milk cows at 3:00 am, neighbors never complained about truck lights shining in their windows as farmers pull up to the barn to milk or when feed trucks and milk trucks traffic through twice a day....no one complains. How exciting the projection of giving children the opportunity to participate in a horse camp! Perhaps living in the cul-de-sac in a subdivision or building in the slap dab middle of your property would help you avoid interaction with life. The appearance of very illogical thinking has morphed the vision of an idyllic horse camp into an outlandish spector of a casino with neon lights and a 24 hour non-stop traffic with a revolving door. On second thought, I think this would be a great location for a hog farm with farrowing houses. You don't get much more agriculturally rural than that!:)
Once again - this is not just a horse camp. Horse camp is what is there now which I have no problem with. But increased traffic, noise, trash, overnight guests - that all are unwelcome things when its not agricultural. How would you like 40-80 overnight campers that you have no clue who they are, where they came from, what they do? And again, how can you have a horse camp with no horse pastures? And we do live next to a dairy farm which I have no problem with. I think you are missing the point here. Its not the horse camp that is a problem. it is the proposed activities with additional buildings. And the way the properties are shaped, I am pretty much close to the middle of the property lines. Again, I invite those who are making these comments to come visit the property to see before making comments about where my house should sit.
I am also a life long resident, 6th generation as a matter of fact. This wasnt going to be a idyllic horse camp. Why would anyone submit a design and concept plan,only to then say thats not what there going to do? Why do you need cabins if its only a day camp? Anyone with common sense can figure this one out.
Lee, for those of us not familiar with the exact location is it possible to show a parcel map of the surrounding properties of High Point Farms to see how the other properties will be affected by the rezone request?
The parcel map is shown in this post:
I build links into stories to provide background on the stories, but those links are not visible on some computer. Readers might try running a cursor over the text or changing settings for the links.
Thanks for sharing this issue with me.
The sad notion about the whole situation is that everyone on this thread including Mrs. Hockaday has forgotten that property rights = freedom. Maybe Mrs. Hockaday & her neighbors should all pitch in and purchase the property from Greg Thaxton to keep this "undesirable" horse farm from bringing trash and congestion to the idyllic hamlet.
Instead... We will continue to ask the local government to control more and more of our lives. As soon as we all wake up and realize the BOC and our local government is not needed in most instances...the better off (and free) we will all be.
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