Oconee County is acquiring land for a replacement for the existing Barber Creek Fire Station on the Oconee Connector via a complicated land swap being managed by the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG) will acquire 3 acres fronting on Virgil Langford Road south of SR 316 for $825,000 for the future site of what is officially Fire Station #8.
ACCG also will acquire from Oconee County the 2 acres on the Oconee Connector where the Barber Creek Fire Station now sits for $1.8 million.
ACCG then will swap the two properties, with Oconee County getting use of the 3 acres for a new fire station and Broad and Pope getting the 2 acres on the Oconee Connector.
Oconee County will then enter into a lease/purchase arrangement with ACCG so it can move forward with construction of the fire station before it has the sales tax revenue needed to build the facility.
Broad and Pope LLC, which purchased the 3 acres on Virgil Langford Road on Aug. 17, is a Benson Company, with Larry Benson, 134 Elder Street, Bogart, listed as the registered agent.
The Elder Street address is for Benson’s Bakery.
Another Benson company, Oconee Hospitality Group LLC, also with the 134 Elder Street, Bogart, address, owns the property at 3500 Daniells Bridge Road where SpringHill Suites is located.
That property is next door to the existing Barber Creek Fire Station.
On Nov. 7, Broad and Pope also purchased the 4.5-acre parcel on the southeast corner of the Oconee Connector and SR 316.
That parcel adjoins the SpringHill Suites property and the fire station property.
When the land swap with the county is complete, a Benson company will control just less than 13 acres with frontage on SR 316, the Oconee Connector and Daniells Bridge Road and with road access to the Connector and Daniells Bridge Road.
At present, only about a quarter of that land is developed.
The county is entering into the lease-purchase agreement with ACCG to begin construction of the fire station before the money is collected from the 2015 Special Purchase Local Option Sales Tax.
|County Attorney Daniel Haygood, |
County Administrator Justin Kirouac
The county has $1.3 million available for the fire station from 2009 SPLOST and $3 million set aside in SPLOST 2015 for fire and rescue expenditures.
The county is using its SPLOST 2015 reserves to build three multi-use sports fields at Oconee Veterans Park, according to Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell, leading to the lease/purchase agreement with ACCG.
Construction of the sports fields will cost $2.6 million.
County Gets Difference
As part of the agreement, ACCG will give the county the $975,000 difference in the value of the two properties involved in the land swap but will retain ownership of the 3 acres on Virgil Langford Road.
ACCG will construct the fire station to Oconee County standards.
ACCG will retain ownership of the Virgil Langford Road property and enter into a lease-purchase agreement with the county.
That agreement would cost the county $150,000 if the arrangement goes to full maturity of five years.
Commission Chair Daniell told me in a telephone conversation last week he expects the county only to spend $50,000 to $70,000 on the lease.
The county wants to add a ladder truck to Fire Station #8 in response to the needs of the nearby commercial area and to help the county maintain its 5/5X ISO (Insurance Service Office) rating.
That rating determines the cost of insurance policies sold to everyone living and doing business in the county.
The existing property for Barber Creek Fire Station on the Oconee Connector is too small to accommodate bays for a ladder truck.
Oconee County will use the $975,000 from the sale to purchase a ladder truck for the new fire station.
The cost of construction of the station is estimated at $2.1 million.
ISO is a for-profit organization that provides statistical information on risks that can be used by agencies in pricing policies.
Oconee County Fire Chief Bruce Thaxton said the 5/5X rating is good for a county with a volunteer fire department, which is the case in Oconee County.
The 5 means that the county has a fire station within 5 miles of most county properties. The 5X means that some properties in the county do not meet that standard.
Athens-Clarke County currently has an ISO rating of 2/2X.
The new Fire Station #8 on Virgil Langford Road will have 10 bedrooms for future use, Chief Thaxton said.
It also will have a bay for an emergency medical services operation, including an ambulance bay and living quarters, he said.
The goal is to have the new Fire Station #8 built and operational by the end of 2018, according to Thaxton.
The county will lease back from Broad and Pope the 2 acres on the Oconee Connector for 18 months at a cost of $10 to give the county time to construct the new fire station on the Virgil Langford Road site.
Hotel And Restaurant
On Oct. 3, the Oconee County Board of Commissioners approved a rezone request from 316 Holding Group for the 4.5 acres at the corner of the Oconee Connector and SR 316.
The rezone narrative said the property would be developed as a restaurant and hotel, though no mention was made of Benson.
County tax records show Broad and Pope purchased the property on Nov. 7 from 316 Holdings, represented by James J. McDonald Jr., of Athens, for $4.1 million.
County tax records list the transaction as a “questionable FMV (fair market value) sale.”
(The records also list the purchaser as Broad and Pop LLC, though Secretary of State records show the company as Broad and Pope LLC. The county and the state use the same Bogart address for the company.)
Condition On Hotel Height
On Aug. 1, the BOC rezoned the 2.1 acres on which the Barber Creek Fire Station now sits to allow for its sale.
That property at one time had been owned by A. Paul Keller Jr., James J. McDonald Jr., and Mary Beth McDonald.
The rezone of the acreage on which the fire station is located was unusual in that the applicant, the county itself, did not provide any plans for use of the property.
The Board of Commissioners did approve the conditions that a hotel of 55 feet and less in height can be approved by the county planning staff, but any taller hotel must be approved by the Board of Commissioners.
TT Of Athens
The new fire station will be on 3.0 acres at the southwestern corner of the nearly 30-acre tract rezoned by the Board of Commissioners on June 14, 2016, for the auto-dealership complex.
Elaine Duckett Crane and Lela Mae Moore Slaton sold the property to TT of Athens Inc. on July 21, 2016, for $1.9 million, according to county tax records.
Broad and Pope paid $825,000 for the 3-acre-tract, carved from one of the four lots shown in the approved plans for the dealership rezone.
The station will sit near where Virgil Langford Road intersects with Jimmy Daniell Road. Both Virgil Langford and Jimmy Daniell intersect with SR 316.
The state has plans to convert the SR 316 intersection with Jimmy Daniell Road to multigrade, but, according to county Public Works Director Emil Beshara, current plans do not include a multi-grade intersection at Virgil Langford Road.
The county issued a building permit on Nov. 6 of this year to TT of Athens, with a West Palm Beach, Fla., address, for a Mercedes Benz Dealership and Service Shop on the remaining property.
The permit does not indicate where on that property the 19,709-square-foot building and 20,932-square-foot-service area will sit.
The facility is valued at $10.1 million in the building permit documents. Construction is estimated to be completed by July 15 of 2018.
County tax records show that TT of Athens purchased an additional 2.5 acres on July 20, 2016, from Lela Mae Moore Slaton.
That property is located on Jimmy Daniell Road near the Virgil Langford Road intersection, and only part of it was included in the dealership rezone request.
Most of the 2.5 acres are zoned for agriculture at present.
On April 21, 2017, Oconee County told Mercedes-Benz of Athens at a county Development Review Committee (DRC) meeting that the county would not be able to provide sewer service for the planned new auto dealership for another 12 to 18 months.
On Oct. 20, 2017, the Oconee County Utility Department issued a Certificate of Capacity to Mercedes Benz of Athens for 1,800 gallons per day of sewer capacity, according to the building permit file.
The document indicates that the sewage will be sent to the Rocky Branch Land Application Site for treatment and is part of a larger expected allocation of 5,012 gallons per day of treatment capacity.
Sandy Weinel, assistant director of the Planning and Code Enforcement Department, told a representative of Mercedes-Benz at that April meeting that it would have to build a private septic system if it wanted to move forward before sewer capacity became available.
The site plans approved by the DRC placed the Mercedes Benz dealership on the larger tract west of the Virgil Langford Road intersection with SR 316, making it the first dealership someone coming to the Athens area from the west would see.
Details of the land swap for the new Fire Station #8 first were revealed at the Dec. 5 meeting of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners. The Commissioners approved a draft of the contract, subject to final details being negotiated.
The video of that meeting is below, with County Attorney Daniel Haygood outlining the plans at 32:02.
The Board also approved the rezone request for an expansion of the Westminster Christian Academy on New High Shoals Road just outside Watkinsville.
The hearing on that action begins at 4:25.
I was not able to attend the meeting, but Sarah Bell did and made the video below.
The Board of Commissioners has its final scheduled meeting of the year set for 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).
The agenda is a light one.