Thursday, September 21, 2017

Citizens Shaping Oconee County Comprehensive Plan Update Told Their Work Is 60 Percent Complete

Public Meeting In December

Work on the 2018 update for the Oconee County Comprehensive Plan is about 60 percent complete, Justin Crighton, a planner with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, told members of the citizen committee involved in the update at its meeting on Tuesday night.

Crighton, who is leading the work on the update, said he has been drafting two key parts of the final document, one dealing with community needs and opportunities and the other with visions, goals and policies.

These two documents “are in a pretty final draft stage and almost ready for review,” Crighton said, and he said he plans to send those out to the citizen Stakeholders Committee before it meets again in the week of Oct. 9.

The sections on land use and on parks, recreation and greenspace are “still to be finalized,” Crighton said, and the subcommittees working on those sections need to meet again and review drafts he has created.

Crighton said he would need to talk to leaders of the county and of the county’s four cities before drafting the community work program element of the report.

The public will get a chance to review the documents at meetings in December and January, according to the schedule Crighton presented, and the local governments will approve the document in March or April of next year.

12 In Attendance

Only 12 of the 29 members of the Stakeholders Committee were at the Tuesday night meeting when it started at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park.

Another Committee member came in about 10 minutes before the group disbanded just before 7:30, and another arrived after the meeting ended.

The Board of Commissioners appointed 24 of the members of the Stakeholders Committee, and each of the county’s four cities appointed a member. The Oconee County School system also has a representative.

John Daniell, chair of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, was in attendance Tuesday night, as were two of Crighton’s staff and B.R. White, director of the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department.

County Clerk Kathy Hayes took minutes of the meeting.

Survey Results

Crighton spent the bulk of the meeting reviewing the results of an opt-in survey he and his staff conducted. It was the second attempt at getting community input through this type of non-scientific survey.

The survey had 414 respondents, most of whom provided their answers online, Crighton said.

It was possible for someone to respond more than once, and Crighton acknowledged that 25 of the respondents (6.0 percent) didn’t live in Oconee County.

The Stakeholder Committee members were able to respond to the survey, and several acknowledged they had done so.

The only demographic descriptors Crighton reported were the gender of the respondents and their ages.

Crighton reported that 71percent of the respondents were female and 9.7 percent were 65 or older. (All persons in the survey reported being 18 years old or older.)

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Oconee County is 50.9 percent female, and 19.8 percent of its population of persons 18 and older is in the 65 and older category.

Interpreting Responses

Crighton turned to the members of the Stakeholders Committee throughout the discussion, asking if they felt the results were representative of people in the community.

At points, Crighton questioned the results himself, saying he didn’t think the respondents understood the question he had posed.

Only 27 percent of the respondents said they agreed that Oconee County “needs an increased tax base.”

The survey reported that 53 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that “Residential growth is the greatest issue facing Oconee County,” and that 46 percent agreed that “Commercial growth is the greatest issue facing Oconee County.”

The responses were not mutually exclusive, and someone could have agreed with both of the items.

Repeat Theme

One theme that has recurred at meetings of the Stakeholders Committee and its subcommittees has been frustration with the concentration of commercial development along Epps Bridge Parkway and with Epps Bridge Centre specifically.

“I don’t necessarily disagree that businesses should be recruited to come here,” Stakeholder Committee member David Jackson said. “I disagree that we give it away so easily.”

Both commercial and industrial development are predicted to recede, Jackson said.

“Is the brief flash in the pan of immediate and rapid commercial and industrial worth sacrificing our principles and what this county wants?” David Jackson asked.

The criticism of Epps Bridge Centre has focused on the lack of greenspace within the development and its car-dependent versus pedestrian-friendly design.

Video

The video below is of the entire meeting of the Stakeholders Committee.

Crighton’s summary of the status of the work on the Comprehensive Plan begins at 45:05 in the video.

Jackson’s comments on commercial and industrial development begin at 11:22.

Earlier videos of meetings of the Stakeholders Committee are on the Comprehensive Plan Channel of the Oconee County Observations Vimeo Site.

OCO: Comprehensive Plan 9 19 17 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

4 comments:

Bill Mayberry said...

1. "Only 12 of the 29 members of the Stakeholders Committee were at the Tuesday night meeting when it started at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park." It was nice to see two show up at quitting time.
Mssrs. John Daniell and B.R. White were there. Where was What's-Is-Name, the so-called "county manager?" You know, the temp rented who had no interest in moving to the county he was to, um, "manage."
2. Several problems were identified with the on-line survey. It is looking to be as accurate as the constant polling prior to modern elections. Still, it is better than nothing. I guess.
3. "One theme that has recurred at meetings of the Stakeholders Committee and its subcommittees has been frustration with the concentration of commercial development along Epps Bridge Parkway and with Epps Bridge Centre specifically. Both commercial and industrial development are predicted to recede." Those two statements seem paradoxical. If development is expected to "recede," why the "frustration?" The intent of the GA 316 corridor is to be the center of development. The statement "The criticism of Epps Bridge Centre has focused on the lack of greenspace within the development and its car-dependent versus pedestrian-friendly design" is just kind of weird in such a sprawling commercial effort. Do people go there to shop or stroll in a park?
4. As I asked at the first candidate forum, the over-arching issue creating a crucial and fundamental decision point for Oconee County is the looming growth. The pressure to monetize this county of high income, great schools, outstanding community involvement, and attractive atmosphere is tremendous. Which way will county leadership go? Will the almighty "tax base" increase be the object of every decision, or will quality of life win out?

Zippity said...

I agree, quality of life is an important concern. Disappointing that most members of this committee don't consider their role important enough to participate. Why did they apply? A shopping area should be primarily for shopping/eating, but Epps Bridge Center is an unattractive complex of separate entities with hot pavement everywhere. With online shopping growing, I suspect this center will become an eyesore eventually and we will regret losing all those trees.

Mike Streetman said...

12 of 29 Stakeholders Committee members present. Roughly 41%. A disgrace for such an important group that is charting the course our County over the next 20 or so years.
My opinion don't volunteer or accept an appointment to a committee if you are not going to participate. In years past while I was physically able I served on several volunteer committees and I can only recall missing 2 meetings over those 35 or so years.
Bill Mayberry asked in which direction will our County Leadership go? I personally hope they choose the Quality of Life direction over the almighty tax base dollar in making decisions for the direction we go.
When we moved here 40 + years ago we did so because of the quality of life in the county. I have striven to use quality of life in my decisions of the things that I did while serving on committees and in the way I have voted over the years.
I realize that each of us is entitled our own definition of what Quality of Life means, and yours may be different than mine.












Anonymous said...

The Commissioners are in a Catch 22, everyone screams quality of life. This means more dollars being spent on parks and recreation, etc. but no one wants their taxes increased every year so their only altenative is more commercial development. Folks we can't have it both ways!