The public will have the opportunity on July 27 to see the work of the Joint Stakeholders Committee that is deliberating on the update to the Oconee County Comprehensive Plan.
The county has rescheduled the public forum for 6 p.m. at the Community Center at Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road.
Justin Crighton, planner with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission who is helping the county draft the 2018 Comprehensive Plan, earlier had set the meeting for July 25, but that date conflicts with the agenda-setting meeting of the county Board of Commissioners.
The public forum is to provide an update on the work of the Stakeholders Committee so the public has a chance to voice its opinion before the Committee completes its report for final public and then Commission approval later this year.
The format for the meeting on July 27 will be drop-in, meaning there will be no formal presentation but the public will be able to react to documents created by Crighton based on the work of the citizen committee.
The Comprehensive Plan includes a revision to the county’s Land Use Map, which guides zoning decisions in the county.
It also includes recommendations on transportation, infrastructure, including water and sewers, and parks and recreation issues.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell last month, speaking at a meeting of the county’s Republican Party, urged citizens to get involved in the update to the plan, which will go into effect in 2018.
Meetings of the Stakeholders Committee have been publicized and open to the public, but few citizens other than those appointed to the Stakeholders Committee have attended the meetings.
The Stakeholders Commission was appointed by the Board of Commissioners, the county’s four cities, and the Board of Education.
The 29-member Stakeholders committee divided itself into subcommittees earlier this year to deal with (1) Land Use, (2) Transportation and Infrastructure, (3) Parks, Recreation and Greenspace, and (2) Public Information.
The Public Information subcommittee has not yet met, but each of the other three groups now has met two times.
Attendance has dropped at these meetings, with only one of the six members of the Parks, Recreation and Greenspace subcomittee showing up for the meeting on June 21.
Five of the 12 members of the Transportation subcommittee attended the meeting of that group on June 22.
And five of the 15 members of the Land Use Committee attended the meeting of that group on June 28.
Some of the citizens from the Stakeholders Committee joined more than one subcommittee, and some joined none of them.
Parks, Recreation and Greenspace
Even with only subcommittee member Pat Sebring present at the June 21 meeting, Crighten pressed ahead with discussion of the topics covered in the earlier subcommittee meeting and in the full Stakeholders Committee deliberations.
Crighton said the biggest recommendation so far is that the county develop a master plan for parks and recreation.
Sebring, who is an athletics program coordinator for Athens-Clarke County, repeated her recommendation that the county develop splash pads as part of its offerings.
Crighton noted that, in earlier discussions, the group has proposed that residential developers either donate land for public parks as part of their projects or make financial contributions to the county for that purpose.
The video of that meeting is below.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Daniell also attended. NEGRC staff member Eva Kennedy is to Crighton's left.
The Transportation subcommittee agreed to remove from its earlier list the recommendation that the county build an additional bridge somewhere on the Oconee River.
Currently, the only two bridges over that river in the county are at Simonton Bridge Road and Barnett Shoals Road, but the group said at the June 22 meeting that recommending another bridge at this point was overly ambitious.
The subcommittee members wanted to keep in the recommendation of a multi-use transportation lot or center to provide a stop in the county for commuter service along SR 316.
Crighton again suggested that the subcommittee might recommend that the county propose to voters a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, but there was little support for the idea by the subcommittee members present.
Subcommittee members in attendance were Dorann Mansberger, Charles Baugh, Chuck Hunt, David Wenner and David Jackson, left to right in the image below.
At the Land Use subcommittee meeting on June 28, the group talked about changes to the existing Land Use Map, changes to the definitions of the character areas that are shown on that map, and changes to the county’s Unified Development Code.
Much of the discussion of the Land Use Map focused on the U.S. 78 corridor and on Mars Hill Road and Butler’s Crossing.
The character area that got the most attention was Civic Center, which allows consumer-based commercial establishments.
The concern with the Unified Development Code was that it was not demanding enough of commercial developers.
Crighton said he would tinker with the map based on the discussion that took place.
Sarah Bell recorded the video of that meeting, which is below. In attendance were subcommittee members Maria Caudill, Chuck Hunt, Dave Jackson, Daniel Marks and Marcus Wiedower.
If the committee and subcommittee members won't show, and public attendance is low, the whole project is thrown into question.
America was built on the fundamental underpinnings as a Republic, where citizens (aka: taxpayers) put faith into our representatives.
It is crucial to show up for this upcoming meeting to lend authority to any decisions. Do the representatives have a clue? How will the County grow in the face of the intense financial pressure to build? Does the map have any authority or is it simply a suggestion, at the mercy of any future decision?
Oconee County is at the point of a crucial decision for the future of what it is we love about living here.
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