The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a list of changes, some small and some consequential, to the 2018 Comprehensive Plan before sending it on to the state for final review.
The new language approved by the Board clarifies that a land use objective of the county is to make sure that development is consistent with county pre-existing plans for provision of water and sewer services rather than allow development to dictate provision of those services.
The Board also eliminated entirely from the Comprehensive Plan references to the Country Crossroads Character Area, which indicated that commercial development could take place, even in the south of the county, at intersections of major roadways.
The action of the Board nearly brings to an end a process that began more than a year ago and involved the work of a 29-member Stakeholders Committee as well as the professional staff of the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission.
The Board authorized Board Chair John Daniell to sign the document and send it on the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which must give final approval of the document. Counties are required to have an approved Comprehensive Plan to be eligible for a number of state grants and programs.
Sewer And Water
County Administrator Justin Kirouac presented the Board on Tuesday night with a list of changes since the first hearing on the document at the Board of Commissioners meeting on April 24.
At that meeting, citizens and commissioners had suggested that the document before the Board should be revised, with particular focus on what the document said about future development.
The new document contains the statement that an objective of the county’s Land Use plan is to “Prevent development requiring water or sewer infrastructure outside areas designated for water and sewer service in the county’s Water and Wastewater Master Plan. “
The approved document also states that an objective of the county is to “Ensure future water and sewer lines depicted in the Oconee County Water and Wastewater Master Plan are located in conformance with the desired land use plan.”
Both at the Board of Commissioners meeting on April 24 and at the Planning Commission meeting on April 16, citizens objected to inclusion in the Comprehensive Plan of a Character Area called Country Crossroads.
The Country Crossroads were described in the draft version of the plan as “small commercial areas that offer limited local convenience goods and services to adjacent single-family and farming communities at historic crossroads in the rural and agricultural areas of the county.”
Accepted uses included “convenience retailers, local groceries, family-run restaurants, ‘feed and seed’ stores, hardware stores and gas stations.”
Citizens who spoke out said the character area could encourage development in the south of the county, which they opposed.
Kirouac told the Board of Tuesday night that the version of the Comprehensive Plan before them eliminated all references to the Country Crossroads Character Area.
Horton And Hilyard
At the meeting on April 24, Karen Hilyard, a member of the Planning Commission, criticized the county for not doing more to communicate to the public about the development of the Comprehensive Plan and public hearings on it.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Chuck Horton took strong exception to that criticism.
“There has been no attempt by this Commission not to have full disclosure about that Comp Plan,” Horton said.
The schedule for action on the plan had been widely publicized and announced, Horton said.
Daniell said he agreed with Horton’s response to Hilyard’s criticism.
At the beginning of the meeting, Amy Lanclos, 1670 Gober Road, in Oconee County, told the Commission that the Walton County Board of Commissioners earlier in the day had voted to oppose an intake facility on the Apalachee River in Morgan County for the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir.
Lanclos asked if Oconee County would agree to oppose the Morgan County intake site given that vote.
Oconee and Walton counties are partners in the reservoir, located in southeast Walton County.
The two counties are asking the United States Army Corps of Engineers to modify an existing permit to allow for the Morgan County intake location.
Daniell said the Commission would not give Lanclose an answer to her question at this time.
In other action at the Tuesday meeting, Maria Caudill told the Commission that Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation had given Oconee County the Excellence in Stewardship Award for its investment in and preservation of the Eagle Tavern Museum in downtown Watkinsville.
Caudill, a volunteer at the Museum and tireless advocate for it, had completed the application for the award.
Daniell acknowledged Caudill for her dedication to the Museum and for applying for the award.
The Board also voted to spend $28,777 for additional right of way for the road work at the entrance to the Dove Creek Elementary School, now under construction on Hog Mountain Road in the far west of the county.
In March, the Board voted to spend $2,573,673 for construction of the road modifications for the school’s entrance, but the additional right of way is needed to complete the project, Emil Beshara, county Public Works director, told the Board.
County Finance Director Wes Geddings also gave the Board a quarterly financial report, saying that revenue and expenditures are in line with the budget.
I could not attend the meeting because of a medical appointment.
Sarah Bell did attend and recorded the video below.
Caudill told the Commission about the Eagle Tavern Museum recognition at 1:10 in the video.
Lanclose made her comments to the Board at 3:11.
Discussion of the Comprehensive Plan begins at 6:10.
Discussion of the right of way acquisition is at 23:57 in the video.
Geddings began his financial report at 27:09.