Sunday, April 22, 2018

Oconee County Planning Commission Rejects Restrictions On Slab Construction But Approves Revisions To Comprehensive Plan

***Recommendations To Board Of Commissioners***

The Oconee County Planning Commission, in an 8 to 2 vote last week, rebuffed a proposal from the county administration to modify the county development code to restrict the use of slab foundations in residential construction.

County Administrator Justin Kirouac told Planning Commission members that the proposed changes merely codify what the Board of Commissioners has been doing in rezone cases, but that didn’t influence the majority of the Planning Commission members, who recommended that the Board of Commissioners reject the code changes.

About 80 people turned out for the Planning Commission meeting, but only four of them spoke about the proposed changes, all voicing opposition largely mirroring those who spoke at March 19 meeting, when the Planning Commission tabled action on the proposed change in the development code.

In other action on Monday night, the Planning Commission, in a 9 to 1 vote, sent forward with its approval the draft of the county’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan.

The Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night will take up both of these recommendations from the Planning Commission, but it isn’t expected to take final action on either of item.

Proposed Changes

County Administrator Kirouac proposed a revision to Article 3 of the county’s Unified Development Code that would limit the use of slab foundations—as opposed to basement and crawl-space foundations—in subdivisions platted after Jan. 1, 2018.

Carole Ludwig Commenting On Comprehensive Plan

Exemptions would be made for “Minor Subdivisions,” lots platted prior to Jan. 1, 2018, unless a condition of rezoning prohibited slab foundations, age-restricted Active Adult Communities, Continual Care Retirement Communities, and single-family homes certified A Livable Lifestyle.

A Minor Subdivision is defined in the Unified Development Code as a subdivision in which no infrastructure changes are made and includes a two-lot split, a five-lot split, and a large acre subdivision with a minimum lot size of 25 acres.

The key provision of the proposed change stipulates that “All new single-family detached homes in Major Subdivisions (as defined in this UDC) or phases of a Major Subdivision that have a Final Plat approved after Jan. 1, 2018, shall be constructed with either crawlspace or basement foundations.”

Objections Raised

About 80 people turned out at the meeting on Monday, fewer than at the meeting on March 19, when closer to 100 were in attendance.

The county moved the Planning Commission meeting on Monday from the Commission Chamber to Courtroom 1 to accommodate the expected turnout.

Jarod York, past president of the Athens Area Home Builders Association, repeated his objections from the March meeting, saying that crawl space foundations create problems with water and often result in mold in the house.

York also said that modern, tighter construction exacerbates these problems because it draws more moisture from the crawl spaces into the house itself.

Opponents of the proposed changes in the county ordinance have said whether a home is on slab foundation or on crawl space has no impact on market price, but it is cheaper for the builder to use slab construction.

In response to questions from the Planning Commission about the reason for the county’s preference for crawl space or foundation construction, County Administrator said such construction was the “Oconee standard.”

Comprehensive Plan

About 25 people stayed for the discussion of the proposed 2018 Comprehensive Plan, and four people spoke in opposition.

Carole Ludwig, 1510 Old Farmington Road, outside Bishop, said she was representing Positively Oconee, a group of citizens who have spoken out against development in the south of the county.

Ludwig objected to the inclusion in the Comprehensive Plan of a Character Area called Country Crossroads.

The character area would allow for commercial development at intersections in the county, and Ludwig said the change “is, supposedly, to make life a little easier for these people who live in the rural area. They wouldn’t have to drive so far to get a loaf of bread.”

Ludwig said these people don’t want the city brought to them, have chosen to live in a rural area, and are not interested in “a shorter drive to buy a loaf of bread.”

Next Steps

The modification of the Unified Development Code is on the agenda for the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday night, but only for the purpose of setting the dates for another public hearing and for a final decision.

County Administrator Kirouac is proposing that the public hearing be on May 22 and final action be taken by the Board of Commissioners on June 5.

The agenda for the Board of Commissioners meeting on Tuesday also includes a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan.

Final action by the Board on the Comprehensive Plan is expected at the May 1 meeting.


The video below is of the entire Planning Commission meeting.

The revision of the Unified Development Code to restrict slab foundations was the first item on the agenda, and discussion begins at 0:50 in the video.

Discussion of the Comprehensive Plan begins at 37:38 in the video.

OCO: PC 4 16 18 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.


Zippity said...

I agree with Carol Ludwig. I live on a farm in the southern part of the county and am concerned about the vagueness of the "county crossroad" in the draft comp plan. To allow 8000 ft commercial buildings at "historic crossroads" will lead to the loss of the rural character of the southern part of the county. Some on the comp plan clearly have this as their intention (Bishop) and have stated so openly. The commissioners use this plan to guide their actions so if this stays in the plan, it will have a huge impact on the county.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Atlanta (ITP- Inside the Perimeter) my entire life, before I married and we moved to Oconee County. While in ATL I had access to 5 malls in 20 minutes time and could walk to the grocery store. That was city living. After we consulted the Oconee Comprehensive Plan that was in place at the time (2002), I agreed to move to southern Oconee county because it was "country" and I LOVED the peace and quiet, the lack of commercial buildings, people and traffic. We have no problem driving 10 minutes to get a loaf of bread! We cannot even get a pizza delivered out here - and we are OK with that too! The proposed comp plan designates the area south of Astondale Rd. to remain Agricultural, so why is there even discussion about a Crossroads complex at the corner of Elder Mill Rd. and Hwy. 15? No one out here wants it!! Please DO NOT let the almighty dollar sway a decision to approve this complex. We MUST work hard to keep Oconee county the way it is now, and not sell out!!! We all fear the possibility of turning into the next Gwinnett County and it is up to everyone to make sure that does NOT happen!

Mike Horsman said...

We, in the southern part of the county, do NOT want our bread brought to us. If we can't get to town, we will bake it ourselves. Tell those greedy people wanting to exploit Oconee County and it's people in the name of profit to back off, way off. We will NOT be the next Gwinnett County, no sir.

Anonymous said...

I apologize if this is a duplication, it seemed as though the original post would not send. If the original was received, please discard this .

The comment concerning stores at intersections in the southern part of the county, for years there were country stores at almost every intersection and it did not seem to harm the county.
As far as the slab construction, I guess the county residents have been living in unsafe homes for years since in the past very few homes with slab foundations have been built. The development and construction industries want slab construction because it is less expensive to build but they do not lower the prices, just more profit for them. The real estate industry wants more commissions. Also, why are so many slab constructions currently being built, what happened to the original condition when the land was rezoned. A lot of these developers bought this land for a song after the downturn and now want to make mega dollars on each house built, I guess when the plats were reviewed again they were allowed to ignore that condition. We as citizens have already paid the price for the development, building, real estate and financial industries for their folly ten years ago . I hope the commissioners will not allow themselves to be bullied by a few people and will move forward with codifying no slabs except in special circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Laughable at how many want to shut the door behind them when they move to the county. One simple question... What makes the “south end” more sacred than the north end? Who determined that? I’ll hang up and listen, thanks.

Anonymous said...

The citizens of Oconee County. And they have consistently done so since 1967. You can still cash out because the south end living is desirable and people will pay a premium for it.

Mike Horsman said...

Anonymous said "Laughable at how many want to shut the door behind them when they move to the county."
- It's not so much we want to "shut the door" as much as we want to be careful who we let in, much like being careful who one lets into their own home, the least welcome being big government.
"What makes the “south end” more sacred than the north end? Who determined that?"
-Make no mistake, for Oconee Countians there is no "south end" or "north end", we are all Oconee County. It was determined long ago that the southern part of the county would be preserved to help retain the rural nature of our county as a whole, while the northern part of the county, due to it's proximity to more urban areas would be developed in a way that ensures controlled growth. It's about balance and moderation.
For many, Oconee County is a last refuge for raising their kids in a "small town" environment. You really can't blame people for vehemently defending their ideals and traditions.
Comparison- Think of Oconee County as a life boat, the only one left floating after the Titanic sank. Out of compassion, you want to get as many on board as possible, but there comes a point when the lifeboat capsizes and all is lost. Because of that, hard decisions must be made.