Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis has the proposed Daniells Bridge Road flyover of SR Loop 10 back on the Commission agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting.
A year and a half after the Board of Commissioners turned down his efforts to get approval of the flyover and widening of Daniells Bridge Road to Hog Mountain Road, he is asking for funding of a traffic study of SR 316 and Epps Bridge Parkway.
Davis has been pushing the transportation study before the Commission and the regional transportation coordinating body MACORTS since June of 2015 as a way to justify the flyover by documenting heavy traffic flow on the SR 316 corridor.
On Tuesday, the Commission will get a report from county Public Works Director Emil Beshara on three bids received for a study of both SR 316 and Epps Bridge Parkway within Oconee County.
The agenda makes no specific reference to the Daniells Bridge Road flyover.
The Commission also will hold a hearings on two rezone matters and consider awarding a bid for $3,395,298 for construction of the McNutt Creek Sewer line between Jimmy Daniell Road and Jennings Mill Road.
The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the Courthouse in Watkinsville.
The county issued a request for bids on Sept. 15 for a study of SR 316 and Epps Bridge Parkway in the county with the goal of identifying “needed improvements, with an emphasis on updating and expanding upon the 2001 GDOT corridor study.”
According to the bid documents, “The project will focus on addressing safety issues, congestion, economic development and other transportation improvements.”
The successful bidder is to hold at least two community meetings, identify costs, and prepare a final study document with recommendations.
The county has received bids, as yet not released to the public, from Moreland Altobelli Associates of Duluth, Pond and Company of Peach Tree Corners, and Design Workshop of Ashville, N.C.
The county has a close relationship with Moreland Altobelli, which has done the design work for the Mars Hill Road and Experiment Station Road widening.
The proposed flyover, which has been opposed by many in the residential areas along Daniells Bridge Road (including in Welbrook Farms subdivision, where I live), has become an issue in the election for the Post II opening on the Board of Commissioners.
Candidate Ben Bridges has not taken a stand on the flyover, but Chuck Horton has said he is opposed to the flyover and Marcus Wiedower has said he is favor, though he has said he wants a design that will minimize the impact on the residential areas.
Wiedower cited traffic congestion on Epps Bridge Parkway as the reason for his support.
The issue came up in the Candidate Forum held by the two Oconee County Rotary Clubs on Oct. 13 as well as in one-on-one interviews I did with Bridges, Horton and Wiedower late last month.
Chairman Davis had written in his Aug. 18 column in The Oconee Enterprise that “We will need to review the concept to complete the ‘fly-over’ at the Home Depot area with entrance/exit ramps east toward US 441 in order to alleviate some of the congestion in that area.”
The column is on the county’s web site.
The Rotary Clubs have not held candidate forums in the past.
Davis is an active member of the Oconee County Rotary, which joined the North Oconee Rotary is hosting the event.
The second question that moderator Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor and Rotarian, asked was about the Daniells Bridge Road flyover.
Bullock told me that the questions came from the Rotary clubs and the University of North Georgia Student Government Association.
The event was held at the Watkinsville campus of the University of North Georgia, and Bill Ross, who owns land across from Home Depot and has been a strong proponent of the flyover, was prominent in the audience.
The answers of the three candidates to the question Bullock asked are in the video clip below
I asked each of the three candidates for his stand on the flyover in the one-on-one interviews I did, based on my knowledge that Chairman Davis was continuing to push the project.
Wiedower’s answer was tentative until I pointed out to him that Tom Kittle, who lives on Daniells Bridge Road at the intersection of Chestnut Hill Road, had a large sign of Wiedower’s in his front yard.
Kittle, whose property would be dissected by the roadway, has said he wants to sell his property for development and has been very vocal in support of the flyover.
The only commercial property in the area at present is Summer Hill Recreation Club, which is zoned residential but operates with a conditional use permit.
Wiedower has a sign in front of that property as well.
The responses of the three candidates to my question on the flyover is in the video clip below.
On April 7, 2015, after months of pushing by Davis and delays in making a decision, the Commission voted 3-1 to turn down two project framework agreements from the Georgia Department of Transportation to move forward with the flyover and to widen Daniells Bridge Road.
A crucial issue was how the four or five lanes of traffic from the flyover would meet with Daniells Bridge Road.
The image below is for 2016 and comes from the county’s GIS office. I provided the labels.
The map shows the stub of the Oconee Connector at Home Depot and the existing Daniells Bridge Road.
|County GIS Map 2016 With Labels (Click To Enlarge)|
No concrete plans were ever provided, either for the route of the flyover or for the intersection with the existing roadways south of the flyover itself.
Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes was in favor of moving forward, and Davis needed only one other vote for him to be able to break the tie and move forward with the projects.
In June of 2015, Davis suggested that the county should initiate a study of the SR 316 and Epps Bridge Parkway corridor, and that met with some acceptance, particularly from then Commissioner John Daniell, who was the key swing vote against the projects in that April 7 vote.
Daniell is unopposed on the Nov. 8 ballot for BOC Chair, to replace Davis when he retires at the end of the year.
Since June of 2015, Public Works Director Beshara, on Davis’ behalf, has sought funding for the study from the Madison Athens Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS), the regional transportation planning body, but without success.
Over Davis’ objections but with the support of the county’s Citizen Advisory Committee for Land Use and Transportation Planning, Beshara did get MACORTS to rank the funding priority for a flyover of SR Loop 10 at the Oconee Connector ahead of the Daniells Bridge Road flyover.
“Even with the completion of an interchange at 316 and Oconee Connector,” Davis wrote in his column in the Enterprise, “it is my belief that we will continue to have traffic congestion at loop 10/Epps Bridge interchange area.”
The flyover and widening of Daniells Bridge Road were paired in the GDOT documents before the Commission in 2015, with the argument that the increased flow of traffic across the flyover would necessitate the improvements to carry the traffic to Hog Mountain Road and beyond.
Wayne Provost, now retired but then director of Strategic and Long-Range Planning for the county, argued that increased residential development along Daniells Bridge Road also would make the widening necessary.
In the meantime, David Mulkey, who owns property in the part of Old Farm subdivision on Cliff Dawson Road, has bought 188 acres lying between Daniells Bridge Road and Cliff Dawson Road.
At present, the land is zoned for an 193-lot subdivision, but the county has advised Mulkey that he should downzone the property to agricultural to accommodate his plans for the property.
Right Of Way Clearance
As of yesterday (Friday), Mulkey had not submitted any paperwork for the downzoning of his property.
Mulkey did clear trees along the frontage of the property on Daniells Bridge Road this week, however, as he did earlier this year on the property along Cliff Dawson Road. He has since built a rustic wood fence separating his property from the Cliff Dawson Road.
Public Works Director Beshara told me on Thursday that the county “noticed Mulkey's clearing and decided it would be a good time to reclaim our right of way to try and get some sun on the road and maybe get some grass growing on the shoulders.”
The grass will help with erosion control, Beshara said.
Consideration of the three bids for the SR 316 corridor study is near the end of the agenda on Tuesday night.
Before that, the Commission will consider a request by Saphire Properties to rezone 2.2 acres on the west side of Jimmy Daniell Road north of SR 316 from agricultural to Office-Institutiona-Professional to allow for development of two office buildings totaling 7,000 square feet in space.
The staff report notes that the property has both residential property nearby and an undeveloped commercially zoned property adjacent to it.
The staff recommended approval of the rezone, and the Planning Commission recommended approval at its meeting on Oct. 17.
The video of that meeting is available on the Planning Commission Channel of the Oconee County Observations Vimeo Site. Penny Mills recorded the video.
The county will also hear a rezone request from Christopher Cagle who is seeking to divide his 10.2 acres on Dove Creek Road in the west of the county into two parcels. Staff has recommended approval.
McNutt Creek Line
Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie will ask the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night to approve a contract with Site Engineering of Atlanta for construction of two miles of 18-inch gravity sewer line along McNutt Creek.
Site Engineering’s bid of $3,395,298 was low among three bidders for the project.
The cost will go up about $800,000 if the county decides it will be better to create a tunnel for the line under SR Loop 10 rather than bore through the earth beneath the roadway, Haynie told the Commission at its meeting on Oct. 25.
Most of the line will run through Jennings Mill Country Club.
The county had expected the project to cost between $2 million and $2.5 million, Haynie told the Commission, but the cost went up because of changes made in the design to minimize damage to the golf course.
The video of that Oct. 25 meeting is available on the Board of Commissioners Channel of the Oconee County Observations Vimeo Site. Sarah Bell recorded the video.