At its first meeting last month, the members of the citizen committee working on the Oconee County comprehensive plan update asked for more opportunity to speak, and they were given a bit of a chance to do that last (Tuesday) night.
The discussion revealed significant differences within the group, with some arguing for development throughout the county, including in the largely rural south.
Justin Crighton from the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, hired by the county to lead the comprehensive plan update, used most of the 90-minute-long meeting to provide information to the citizen committee.
He promised once again to have a more open discussion when the group meets again on April 11.
Comments on Development
Committee member Bob Bishop told the group he was unhappy with the current restrictions on development.
|Bishop Favors Development Throughout County|
“I have land in the south of the county, and I can’t develop it,” he said. “But the people in the north end of the county can.
“In 25 years, when the north end of the county is full of people, you’re not going to let anybody into the south end of the county because it has been ‘preservation” for 50 years?”
Bishop, who also owns and has developed land just north of Watkinsville at Bishop Farms Parkway, said development should be allowed throughout the county, not just in the north.
Brian Brodrick, a Watkinsville city council member and the Watkinsville representative on the citizen committee, disagreed.
“I think it is really rare to see somebody handle it (development) throughout the entire county and not have the entire county look like an absolute disaster,” he said.
“I think there has to be some recognition and protection of some areas,” Brodrick said. The alternative is “the whole place is going to wind up looking like Duluth or Gwinnett. I don’t think that’s what any of us want.”
The Board of Commissioners appointed the 24-member Stakeholders Committee from the 33 people who applied.
Each of the county’s four cities also appointed a representative, as did the Board of Education.
Crighton is now calling the group the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, though the county is still using the term Stakeholders Committee.
The group includes individuals who have been outspoken in support of preservation of the rural nature of at least the southern part of the county as well as representatives of the development community.
Land Use Map
One of the most important assignments of the Steering Committee is development of a land use map, which will specify where the citizens, and ultimately where the county, want various kinds of development.
B.R. White, director of the Oconee County Planning Department, told the citizens that he and his staff use the map in dealing with zoning requests in the county.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell said the Steering Committee could consider putting even “more teeth” into the character areas shown on the map to further guide zoning in the future.
Commissioner Chuck Horton said he uses the land use map in evaluating zoning requests that he votes on as a commissioner.
At the meeting on Feb. 14, Crighton said that the beginning of the meeting last night would be used to tell the public about the procedures to be followed in updating the Comprehensive Plan and land use map.
No notices were made to the public, however, and Crighton proposed last night to update the public on the procedures at the next meeting on April 11.
Crighton said he was merely “checking off a box” in holding that session with the public, and that the public wouldn’t be given a chance to speak until later in the process.
With the agreement of Commission Chair Daniell, Crighton agreed to hold the session in which he informs the public of the procedures at the April 4 Board of Commissioners meeting.
Crighton also asked Steering Committee members to circulate a survey he created to solicit citizen input.
He acknowledged that citizens can complete the survey as often as they like.
Even without public notice, 11 citizens not on the appointed Steering Committee showed up last night’s meeting.
Twenty of the 29 members of the Steering Committee were in attendance.
Planning Director White was joined by Andrew Stern, a planner on White’s staff.
County Clerk Kathy Hayes is taking minutes of the meetings.
New Component, Subcommittees
At the suggesting of the Steering Committee, Crighton agreed to add a new module to the Comprehensive Plan dealing with Parks, Recreation and Green Space.
He also passed around a sheet asking those interested to join four different committees.
Those committees are to deal with Transportation, Land Use, Public Information, and Parks/Recreation/Green Space.
Crighton said that, at the next meeting on April 11, the subcommittees would meet and begin deliberations on the four selected topic areas.
The complete video of the meeting last night is below.
The Steering Committee was meeting in a circle, and the rear of the room was poorly illuminated. The meeting was at the Community Center in Veterans Park.
Sound was not amplified for any of the speakers.
I have created a Channel on Vimeo Called Comprehensive Plan 2018 that contains this and other relevant videos and will add to it as the process goes forward.