The Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee working on the Oconee County Comprehensive Plan update will have a chance tomorrow (Tuesday) night to summarize its conclusions from a two-hour meeting it held late last month.
At the end of that wide-ranging discussion, Justin Crighton said the citizens had agreed that the county “needs to find a way to move truck traffic through the county without sending it downtown.”
The Subcommittee also agreed that the county needs “to be able to strike a balance between the economic development benefits of moving goods through the county and protecting the character of cities and protecting citizens’ lives,” Crighton said.
Crighton, a planner with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, is facilitating the Comprehensive Plan update, and he offered few other hints about the report he’ll prepare on behalf of the Subcommittee for the full Joint Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders Committee
That larger group is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) night at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park to hear Crighton’s summary of the May 25 Subcommittee meeting and continue its deliberations on the 2018 Comprehensive Plan.
Eleven members of the 29-member Joint Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders Committee attended the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee meeting on May 25, held in the conference room of the Government Annex on SR 15 on the south side of Watkinsville.
The bulk of the discussion about truck traffic focused on U.S. 441 and SR 15, which carry vehicles north and south in the county.
The “cities” of primary concern were Watkinsville and tiny Bishop.
The group found no consensus on whether it was a good idea for a widened U.S. 441 to bypass Bishop or go through it, as the Georgia Department of Transportation currently is proposing.
Some wanted to add turn lanes to SR 15, and others wanted a link between SR 15 and U.S. 441, probably along Astondale Road, to relieve truck traffic through Watkinsville.
Crighton raised the possibility that the Subcommittee might recommend the county explore adding an additional sales tax to support transportation.
The county could propose a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax on its own or partner with other counties.
Reaction to the suggestion by Crighton was modest at best.
Members of the Subcommittee expressed little support for public transportation, though there was interest in rail service to Atlanta.
Subcommittee members were enthusiastic about converting the rail line running through the county east of U.S. 441 to a trail, but the rail line is not abandoned, making that idea difficult to realize.
At Crighton’s suggestion, the group discussed water and sewer needs in the county.
The Subcommittee members demonstrated little evidence that they had followed recent discussions of the topics closely or knew much about county planning for water and sewer.
Bob Bishop said the county needs an 8 to 10 million gallon per day sewer plant on the Middle Oconee River, near U.S. 441.
At present, the county has only about 1 million gallons per day of capacity, though it is planning expansion to bring treatment to just less than 2 million gallons per day.
Crighton also asked for discussion of Internet availability in the county. Everyone recognized the importance of the service, but no one said the county should get involved in providing it.
Much of the meeting took place, literally, in the dark, as Crighton turned off the lights early in the meeting to project a series of maps on the wall in the conference room. He did not turn the lights back on.
Crighton was joined by Eva Kennedy from NEGRC.
B.R. White, director of the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department, also attended the meeting.
The full video of the session is below.