Friday, January 13, 2017

Oconee County Industrial Development Authority Now Focusing On Western Tract In Gateway Business Park

Lacks Sewers

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority, following its agreement last month to sell the undeveloped acreage in the eastern parcel of its Gateway Technology Business Park, is trying to determine the value of its western parcel in anticipation of interest in the acreage.

The group also wants to come up with firm figures for how much it will have to spend to extend sewer services to the western property.

The group agreed after two sessions closed to the public in December to sell about 38 acres in its Gateway Technology Business Park south of Bogart for roughly $760,000 to Alexion Pharma LLC of New Haven, Conn., the parent company of Synageva BioPharma Corp.

Synageva has a pharmaceutical production and research operation on 11 acres adjoining the undeveloped property.

Discussion of sale and potential sale of the Gateway properties dominated the regular meeting of the IDA, which took place Monday at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce, 55 Nancy Drive in Watkinsville.

Waiting On Contract

IDA Chair Rick Waller told the group that, as of Monday, the county had not yet received the signed contract from Alexion but he remained optimistic that the deal will go through.

The contract the IDA sent to Alexion agreed to sell the property at 1041 Aiken Road south of Bogart for $20,000 an acre, with the exact acreage to be purchased based on the actual acreage shown in a new survey of the property minus areas determined by Alexion to be wetlands.

Waller said at the meeting on Monday that the original amount the IDA sought for the property was $25,000 per acre but the group moved to the lower price when Alexion agreed to purchase all of the property.

Details of the discussions took place in an executive session lasting 1 hour and 40 minutes on Dec. 12 and another lasting 46 minutes on Dec. 14.

Sewer Service

The western parcel is 52.8 acres and is bordered by Pete Dickens Road, Aiken Road and SR 316.

The western acreage is separated from the eastern parcel by land not owned by the IDA.

The rough estimate is that it will cost the IDA $800,000 to construct a sewer line to the property, Waller said.

The group agreed to get a firmer figure on actual costs.

Waller said one of his concerns is that the IDA would not have enough money to pay for the sewer line and also be able to buy back the property from Alexion, should the company decide it doesn’t want to use the land even after signing the contract.

The IDA decided to explore ways of getting a line of credit or access to funds to be able to make such a repurchase should it become necessary.

Value Of Land

The IDA has owned the land for the Gateway Park since 2000, and Waller acknowledged it has had trouble finding buyers.

He said there have been some recent indications of interest in the western tract and said the Authority should try to get some sense of its value.

The county Property Appraisal Department valued the land in 2016 at $980,525, or a little less than $20,000 per acre, down from $1,231,085 a year earlier.

New IDA member Linda Carol Porterfield, a real estate broker, presented the Authority with sales from six different properties in 2016 for comparison, with prices ranging from $10,538 per acre (Presbyterian Homes on U.S. 441) to $125,945 per acre (part of the Zasby’s corporate campus on Daniells Bridge Road).


The complete video of the IDA meeting is below.

OCO: Industrial Development Authority 1 9 17 Complete from Lee Becker on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

1) They don't video there meetings (Lee and his crew give it their time to do so)

2) They don't post the meeting minutes and agenda online,, which is completely unacceptable

3) IDA Chair Rick Waller has done business with the county, a clear conflict of interest and also unacceptable

This is a very, very important authority which has kept its business far away from public view. Hoping John Daniell changes that quickly.

Anonymous said...

According to the IDA's own website, Rick Waller's and Chuck Williams' trms have expired:


Rick Waller, Chairman
Term Expires December 2017

Wayne Bagley
Term Expires December 2018

Matt Elder
Term Expires December 2018

Ed Perkins
Term Expires December 2018

Don Phillips
Term Expires December 2018

Linda Carol Porterfield
Term Expires December 2018

Chuck Williams
Term Expires December 2017

Lee Becker said...

Anonymous 9:35

The county web site does contain the minutes of IDA meetings. It is a little hard to find them.

Go here:

Scroll down to IDA. Click 2016 (there are no minutes for 2017), and Minutes will appear.

Rich Waller through his insurance agency does provide insurance services to the county.


Lee Becker said...

Anonymous 9:38

You are quite correct. The web site lists the terms of Williams and Waller as expired.

The site is wrong. Waller and Williams were reappointed.

The most recent appointments were made in October of this year and are reflected on the web site.


Anonymous said...

This is the only committee not to meet in the evenings when most people can attend. WHY?
This is the only Committee that is authorized with allocating large amounts of money with little or no oversight. WHY?
Is the BOC okay with this method of operation?

Lee Becker said...

Anonymous 11:25
Voters approved in the 2015 SPLOST $850,000 for the IDA to spend on capital projects of its choosing. In addition, the BOC decided the IDA can spend the $9,460 in rent it receives from the Post Office Building in Watkinsville each month for whatever it wants. And the bond the IDA issued, backed up by the county, for the Parkway Boulevard Extension across from Epps Bridge Centre contains $200,000 extra that the IDA plans to spend on roadway beautification. Former BOC Chairman Melvin Davis asked the Keep Oconee County Clean and Beautiful Commission to come up with a plan for how to spend that money, but the money "belongs" to the IDA.

Xardox said...

"Waller said at the meeting on Monday that the original amount the IDA sought for the property was $25,000 per acre but the group moved to the lower price when Alexion agreed to purchase all of the property."
Is one to assume Alexion negotiated the price downwards?
Then minus acreage determined later to be wetlands.
Plus the cost of running sewage lines.
One wonders what other incentives the county has offered to bring them here.

Lee Becker said...

The eastern tract has sewer, so the sewer expenditure is for the western tract.

Anonymous said...

Quick thoughts:

Not sure if the County Clerk or someone else is in charge of the website, but it needs to be updated.

If IDA members were re-appointed, it needs to be updated on the website.

The IDA agendas and minutes need to be on the IDA web page, not in some hard to find separate location. Some goes for the other boards such as Planning, Animal Control, Parks. List the current members, agendas and minutes on that specific board's website.

For the Industrial Development Authority, it's an either/or: either Rick Waller serves as IDA Chair, and stops doing business with the county. Or he continues to do business with the county and stops serving as IDA chair.

Same with Land Use & Planing Chair Abe Aboudhamdem. There are almost 40,000 residents of Oconee. Not hard to find people to serve on the various committees who don't have direct business contact with the county. Waller and Abe may be great people, but the possible conflicts of interest are unnecessary. Melvin's gone. The Jamie Boswell conflicts of interest don't pass the smell test.

Time for John Daniell to step up and end any appearances of conflicts of interests. Transparency has been missing in Oconee for the past 16 years.

Lee Becker said...

Anonymous 9:38

On closer examination, I see that the web site says the terms expire in Dec. of 2017. So the web site is correct.

Anonymous said...

This thread of comments perfectly captures the knee-jerk nature of commentators on this blog:

The expiration of terms for Waller and Williams are 2017... you didn't take the time to actually think about what you were reading and/or typing. Either that or you just wanted to cause a stink for the sole purpose of of raising said stink. I'll let you decide which one is worse on your character.

Rick Waller has a conflict for brokering health insurance to the county... no he doesn't. What does his profession have to do with the IDA? The IDA is not does not sell insurance and it does not make the decision whether the county accepts insurance bids. There is no conflict with Rick serving on the IDA; find another Straw Man argument.

Agendas are hard to find... no, they are incredibly easy to find. There a button/link on the front page of the Oconee County website that says in big letters "Agendas," and there is a section that says Oconee Industrial Development Authority. If you can't find it, you need to make an appointment with an optometrist.

Also Lee, don't pander to your audience, both regarding the appointment dates and the ease of finding agendas. A little research (or even simply reading the first post and realizing the dates for appointments were correct) would have saved confusion on this board. Your readers count on you to be accurate, even if the content is a Comment. Do better.

Lee Becker said...

Anonymous 11:33

I apologize for not picking up the error on 2017 immediately. Someone called me on it, and I fixed the mistake.

People will have to go to the web site and look for the minutes themselves to see if they think it hard or easy. It is easy to find the Agenda page, as you say. The "trick" is clicking on the year. Since there are no minutes for 2017 for the IDA, a click on that button produces nothing. In my view, it takes a little hunting and pecking.

Thanks for your feedback regarding the comments and my role. I try to strike a balance in terms of my responses and will continue to reflect on that.


Anonymous said...

Did the western plot sell or are they still trying to sell it?

Lee Becker said...

Anonymous 12:40
The IDA does not have any buyer for the western tract. The goal is to find a buyer. Investing in sewer is one part of the strategy to accomplish that.

Anonymous said...

Ah got you. I wonder if they are just going to run it down the edge or actually connect the homes down along there to sewer as well.