Planner Justin Crighton, having completed meetings in the last two weeks with the three subcommittees working on the update to the Oconee County Comprehensive Plan, now has the task of assembling the citizen input into a draft report.
Crighton, with the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission, has promised to present the draft to the full Stakeholders Committee on Nov. 20, but he’ll have to resolve some differences in opinion among the Committee members before that time.
Land owner and developer Bob Bishop pushed for a statement in the 2018 Comprehensive Plan in favor of a U.S. 441 bypass on the eastern side of Bishop, but Crighton pushed back, saying he didn’t want to weigh in on that issue in the Plan.
Bishop and other pro-development voices on the citizen committee have been advocating for a disbursement of development around the county, and many slow-development voices have joined them out of frustration with the congestion and lack of greenspace on the Epps Bridge Road commercial corridor.
Were this recommendation on spreading water and sewer around the county to make it into the Comprehensive Plan, it would counter long-standing county policy of using water and sewer as a way of concentrating development and preserving the rural nature of the south of the county.
At the Land Use Subcommittee meeting on Oct. 17, Crighton proposed collapsing the character areas, key descriptors in the current Comprehensive Plan, to three large clusters: agriculture and conservation, residential, and commercial activity and industry.
|Bishop Called For Bishop Bypass, Barber Creek Sewer Line|
Five of the 15 members of the Land Use Subcommittee attended the meeting of that group on Oct. 17. The meeting, and others of the subcommittees, took place at the meeting room in the Government Annex on the south side of Watkinsville.
Maria Caudill, who is not listed as a member of the Land Use Subcommittee but is a member of the parent 29-person Stakeholders Committee for the Plan, attended as well.
Crighton proposed that the new Plan name Eastville and Farmington as country crossroads and places suitable for a type of future development.
Examples For Future
Both Farmington and Eastville were incorporated as cities at one time in the past, but neither is today.
Farmington is in the far south of the county on U.S. 441, while Eastville is at the intersection of Hodges Mill Road and Malcom Bridge Road just north of Hog Mountain Road.
Some activity already exists in these communities “that draws people in,” Crighton said, so they are a logical place for future development.
Subcommittee member Charles Hunt, who also is on the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, said the county could use these communities as examples and create other similar development centers around the county in the future.
Crighton also proposed that the Plan encourage multi-family housing in Watkinsville and Bogart but discourage it throughout most of the remainder of the county.
He also said that the area around Hog Mountain Road and U.S. 78 should be shown as an area of future commercial development.
Parks, Recreation And Greenspace
The meeting of the Parks, Recreation and Greenspace Subcommittee on Oct. 19 was short, with only one of the six subcommittee members, Laura Iyer, attending.
Crighton ran a list of proposals past Iyer, who supported their inclusion in the recommendations that go forward to the Steering Committee at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park.
Those recommendations are the key part of the draft document Crighton is shaping.
Included on the list is expansion of the tennis complex at Oconee Veterans Park, establishing a historic village at Heritage Park, and adding other facilities at Heritage Park, the county's least developed recreational facility.
The list also included a call for a master plan for county parks and development of a plan for multi-use trails to connect greenspaces, parks and other trail networks within the county and region.
Transportation And Infrastructure
Seven of the 12 members of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee attended the meeting on Thursday night, including Iyer.
Caudill from the full Stakeholders Committee also was in attendance.
Discussion of sewers dominated the meeting.
Dave Jackson, who is on both the Land Use Subcommittee and on the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, told Crighton that he would not support inclusion of any map for the county’s wastewater system that shows a pipeline down Calls Creek.
Jackson lives in the neighborhood along the creek and has been active in opposing that proposed pipeline.
Bishop On Barber Creek
Bob Bishop, who owns land around the county, has not been shy in presenting his views both on the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee, where he is a member, and at the full meetings of the Stakeholders Committee.
Bishop is retired from the Georgia Environment Protection Division, and he responded at length to Jackson’s comments about sewers.
During one 15 minute and 10 second period in the second half of the Subcommittee meeting on Oct. 26, he talked for 10 minutes and 21 second, with one stretch of 4 minutes and 40 second uninterrupted.
Bishop said the Board of Commissioners should adopt a policy prohibiting residential sewer service, but he also advocated for construction of the proposed gravity-fed sewer line down Barber Creek.
Barber Creek runs through the middle of the county, as Bishop noted, but the development along it is almost wholly residential, with the majority of those homes on septic. (My house is on Barber Creek.)
At present, the county is selling sewer capacity for residential development, but it has proposed a limited amount of residential sewer when the Calls Creek wasterwater plant is upgraded next year.
Subcommittee members and other members of the Stakeholders Committee have commented in past meetings on congestion caused by heavy truck traffic through the county and, in particular, through Watkinsville.
At the beginning of the meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Oct. 26, Crighton asked what route the subcommittee members thought should be used to move truck traffic from SR 15 to U.S. 441 before the traffic reaches Watkinsville.
Astondale Road was suggested by several committee members.
That recommendation seems likely to make it into Crighton’s report.
Astondale Road came up again when Bishop lobbied, without much apparent success, for inclusion of a bypass on the eastern side of Bishop in the report.
Video: Land Use
The video of the Oct. 17 Land Use Subcommittee is below.
Iyer begins the conversation about the character areas at 7:50 in the video.
The conversation goes in a number of different directions and continues until 26:30.
I was not able to attend the meeting because I was at another event, but Penny Mills did attend and recorded this video.
Video: Parks, Recreation And Greenspace
The short video of the Parks, Recreation and Greenspace Subcommittee is below.
Iyer, as noted, was the single member present.
B.R. White and Sandy Weinel from the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department also were present, as was Jordan Shoemaker from NEGRC.
Discussion of the draft of the section of the Comprehensive Plan dealing with parks, recreation and greenspace begins at 1:22 in the video.
Video: Transportation And Infrastructure
The video below is of the meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Oct. 26.
Crighton asked about the connector between SR 15 and US. 441 at 7:45 in the video.
The discussion of sewer gets underway at 36:05 and continues until 1:08:30.
Discussion of the Bishop Bypass is at 1:09:02.