Saturday, August 27, 2016

Oconee County Getting A Brand New 8-Foot-By-12-Foot, Two-Sided LED Sign–On Mars Hill Road

35 Feet Above Ground

A crew began work yesterday (Friday) on the large sign Oconee County permitted for just south of the intersection of Mars Hill Road and Daniells Bridge Road, and by the end of the day today (Saturday) the pole base was installed and sign materials were above the base suspended from a crane.

When completed, the top of the 8-foot-by-12-foot LED sign will be 35 feet about ground level.

The two-sided sign will sit on a single pole that will be just at the edge of a sediment pond on the triangular piece of undeveloped property across Daniells Bridge Road from QuikTrip.

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office issued the sign permit on March 4, and the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, after months of discussion, passed an overlay district for Mars Hill Road on April 4 prohibiting the type of sign being installed.

The permit issued on March 4 would have expired had construction not begun by Sept. 4.

SR 316 Flyover

On Wednesday the Technical Coordinating Committee of the regional, federally-mandated transportation planning body approved a modification to its Long Range Transportation Plan to include a multi-grade interchange just north of where the sign is being constructed.

Sign Goes Atop Black Pole In Center
Picture From QuikTrip

The Madison Athens Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) shifted the allocation of monies in the transportation plan to bring the SR 316 and Oconee Connector intersection forward for earlier funding.

To accomplish this, the group moved lower on the funding hierarchy widening of Simonton Bridge Road and improvements to Union Church Road.

The Technical Coordinating Committee recommendation goes to the MACORTS Policy Committee for final approval at the meeting scheduled for Sept. 7.

MACORTS held a meeting to take public comment on the proposed change in the transportation plans in July.

Mars Hill Road Update

Emil Beshara, Oconee County Public Works director and member of the MACORTS Technical Coordinating Committee, told the group at its meeting that work on the widening of Mars Hill Road is proceeding an schedule.

The scheduled completion date is the end of March of 2018.

Beshara said the next shift in traffic will be in the middle of September. At that time, the existing intersection of Hodges Mill Road with Mars Hill Road will be closed and traffic will be shifted to the new intersection opposite Riverhaven Lane.

Beshara said right of way acquisition for the second phase of the project, involving Experiment Station Road from Butler’s Crossing to the U.S. 441 bypass, also is on schedule, except that “we have had a significant issue come up.”

The University of Georgia is objecting to a rerouting of Government Station Road, he said. A meeting is scheduled on Monday to try to find a solution, he said.

Sign Permit Issuance

USA Outdoor, with an Athens post office box address, submitted the application for the LED sign on Mars Hill Road on Aug. 11 of last year.

Sign Goes In Center Of Picture
From Current Hodges Hill Road Intersection

The sign was to sit on a sliver of land that was part of Daniells Bridge Road before that road was re-designed to intersect at a right angle with Mars Hill Road. That interchange redesign took place when the Oconee Connector was built in 1999 and 2000.

The 1.8-acre parcel, for which the sliver forms a tail, is owned by Paul Keller, Susanne Chastain and JJMB LLC. Athens dentist James McDonald is agent for JJMB.

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office originally denied issuance of the permit because of the location and agreed to the sign on March 4 when it was moved closer to Daniells Bridge Road and further away from Barber Creek Drive.

The permit expired six months after issuance unless construction began in that period.

Mars Hill Overlay

The Board of Commissioners began discussion of an overlay district for Mars Hill Road in January of 2015.

Plans changed dramatically during the discussion that followed, and the version of the district ultimately approved was much less restrictive than earlier proposals.

When the Commission approved an amendment to the county’s Unified Development Code establishing an overlay district for Mars Hill Road in April, it did include much more stringent sign regulations than exist elsewhere in the county.

The overlay district regulations specify that only ground signs are allowed as principal freestanding signs and that “neon lighting of any kind and continuous strips of bulbs or LEDs are prohibited for all signs.”

The ordinance states that “Digital signs composed of LED diodes or similar technology are not allowed.”

Had the Commissioners acted a month earlier, the sign under construction on Mars Hill Road now would not have been allowed.


The meeting of the MACORTS Technical Coordinating Committee took place at the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department Auditorium, 120 W Dougherty Street, in downtown Athens.

I was not able to attend the meeting, but Sarah Bell did and video recorded it.

The complete meeting is below. Beshara’s comments about Mars Hill Road start just after 7 minutes into the video.

The meeting was chaired by Brad Griffin, ACC planning director, right, and Sherry McDuffie, ACC transportation planner, left, in the image below.

OCO: MACORTS Technical 8 24 16 from Lee Becker on Vimeo


Xardox said...

I am all in favor of well-regulated development along the 316 corridor being careful not to create eye-sores and trashy strip malls.
The Mars Hill corridor should have been protected to be a reasonably pleasant drive through the county shuttling the traffic between 316 and US 441.
When the Board allowed the rezone for an LED light, that small detail marked a huge precedent for signage horrifying the citizens of the rest of the county.
Now, all of a sudden, the huge lighted signs will be all up and down Mars Hill Road.
Forward-thinking doctors own much of the land around the Mars Hill intersection with 316. Their investment sure is going to pay off.

rightway1974 said...

Just wait and you are sure to see....$20 birth control and adult oriented stores in bright lights on Mars Hill Rd. Stay classy Oconee.