The Oconee County Board of Commissioners last (Tuesday) night voted unanimously to put two Sunday sales referenda on the November ballot.
One of those referenda, if approved by a majority of voters, will allow the sale of beer and wine in grocery, convenience and beverage stores in the county on Sundays.
In other action at the meeting, the commissioners unanimously approved a rezone for a small shopping center at the corner of Hog Mountain Road and U.S. 441, but only after adding a condition that prohibits left turns into and out of the property.
By the end of qualifying at noon today (Wednesday), three candidates registered to seek the open slot on the Board of Commissioners in the special election in November.
Marcus Wiedower qualified on Monday, and Ben Bridges and Chuck Horton qualified yesterday (Tuesday). All live in the area around Watkinsville.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis put discussion of Sunday sales on the July 19 Commission agenda without prior notice, claiming he was responding to requests from grocery stores in the area.
Davis gave the commissioners letters he had received from representatives of Kroger’s, Publix and Wal-Mart, all written within a few days of each other and all with similar content.
Davis also proposed that the county consider package sales of alcoholic beverages in what are commonly called liquor stores, though none of the letter writers asked for that.
Behind the scenes is an attempt by Atlanta developer Frank Bishop, with the support of the county, to lure Costco to an expanded Epps Bridge Centre on the Oconee Connector. Costo stores sell beer and wine and often include a liquor package store as well.
County attorney Daniell Haygood advised the commissioners that putting package sales of liquor on the ballot by November would be very difficult, since it requires signatures of 35 percent of the county’s registered voters.
If voters approve either or both of the referenda on Nov. 8, the Board of Commissioners would be allowed to modify the county’s alcoholic beverage ordinance.
Haygood, in preparation for the Tuesday night’s meeting, proposed that Sunday sales be allowed from 12:30 p.m. until midnight.
At the meeting on Tuesday night, five people spoke, three in opposition to immediate action and two in favor.
The two motions for the referenda were approved unanimously by Commissioners Jim Luke, Mark Saxon and William “Bubber” Wilkes.
The proposal for the small shopping center for the northwest corner of the intersection of Hog Mountain Road and U.S. 441 produced opposition from three speakers, who expressed concern about the traffic at the intersection, known locally as Ray’s Corner.
Toccoa 85, owned by King Howington, was requesting that a 1.7 acre triangular lot, which formerly was the home to a general store, be rezoned for highway business use for construction of a single-building shopping center.
Possible tenants include a pharmacy and restaurant, according to the application. Pictures submitted with the application suggest a drive-through operation is a possibility.
Access will be via U.S. 441 and Hog Mountain Road.
The entrance to the lot from U.S. 441 is right-in and right-out because of the median on the highway.
Entrance off Hog Mountain Road is via a stub of the old roadway that connects to the current Hog Mountain Road opposite the entrance to RaceTrac fuel station.
The commissioners added a condition to the rezone restricting access at that point to right-in and right-out as well.
The commissioners approved a special exception variance requested by Toccoa 85 to eliminate the required 50-foot landscape buffer between the rezoned property and the adjacent lot to the west.
The Commission did stipulate that an opaque screening buffer of no less than 15 feet wide and 6 feet high shall be planted along the common property line of the adjoining parcel.
Candidates Bridges, Horton and Wiedower all chose to be listed on the November ballot as a Republican.
Wiedower, 40, is president of BluePrint builders and has worked for what was then Beall, Goonsen and Company, a land planning and engineering firm. He lives at 1081 Princeton Lane just outside of Watkinsville.
Horton, 61, served on the Commission from 2004 to 2012, when he stepped down to challenge Davis for the chairmanship. Retired as police chief from the University of Georgia, Horton is working as parking director for Athens-Clarke County. He lives at 1061 Ramblewood Place in Hickory Hill subdivision.
Bridges, 50, is a project manager at Pilgrim’s, a chicken producer in Athens. He also has a sports radio program and is announcer for Oconee County High School football. He lives at 1450 Robinhood Road in Northwest Woods subdivision.
If none of the three candidates gets a majority on Nov. 8, a runoff between the two top candidates will be held on Dec. 6.
The winner will complete the term of Post II Commissioner John Daniell, who resigned to run for Commission Chairman, He will assume the Commission chairmanship on Jan. 1.
The Post II term will expire at the end of 2018.
Deadline for registration for the Nov. 8 election as well as for the runoff is Oct. 11.
I was not able to attend the meeting on Tuesday night. Sarah Bell did attend and video recorded the session for me.
Bell spoke in opposition to the Sunday sales referenda and to the rezone for the shopping center at Ray’s Corner.