The Oconee County Board of Commissioners tonight (Tuesday) approved a settlement agreement with the owners of Parkside and Westland subdivisions that will allow the massive residential master plan developments in the center and west of the county to move forward.
The developers did agree to concessions, including the reduction of the number of lots in both developments, elimination of proposed attached homes from Westland, inclusion of lots reserved for persons 55 years old and older in Parkside, and that no more than 75 building permits would be issued per year.
The developers are to bring the agreed-upon plans before the county Planning Commission at its Dec. 10 meeting and before the Board of Commissioners in January, but neither body could modify the plans without upsetting the agreement approved by the Commission tonight.
County Attorney Daniell Haygood also said consent orders will need to be entered in Oconee County Superior Court finalizing the settlement, which puts to an end the county’s efforts to refund sewer capacity fees to the developers.
The Board took the action after a 45-minute executive session that followed its agenda-setting meeting. Board Chair John Daniell announced the settlement, which was unanimously approved by the commissioners.
Settlement Details For Parkside
As part of the settlement, Parkside agreed to reduce the total number of lots from 810 to 776, with 507 of those single-family lots and 269 of those “active adult” lots. Previously, all 810 lots were for single family homes.
|Daniell Explaining Settlement|
The Parkside development wraps around Northwest Woods, with entrances on Mars Hill Road and Hog Mountain Road. The Hog Mountain Road part of the project abuts Oconee Veterans Park.
The 469-acre master plan development also included commercial components.
Parkside also agreed in the settlement to increase the minimum lot size from 5,000 square feet to 18,000 square feet.
The owners also agreed to construct a road connecting Oconee Veterans Park to Hog Mountain Road and Mars Hill Road, giving the park another entrance and exit.
The developer also will fund construction of a gravity-line to the Daniells Bridge Road Pump station that feed to the Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant outside Watkinsville.
Settlement Details Westland
The Westland owners agreed to designate 399 lots in the subdivision for single family homes. Previously, the development was to have 346 single family homes and 84 attached residential homes.
The 443-acre residential and commercial master plan development on U.S. 78 near the Apalachee River was to have a total 430 residential lots as well as acreage for commercial development and a condominium office park.
Westland’s developers also will make improvements to Goat Farm Road and set aside 125 acres as a conservation easement.
The owners of Westland and Parkside will pay all costs associated with connecting to the county’s sewer system, including infrastructure and land acquisition, and each will pay $150,000 to maintenance of the county’s water and sewer infrastructure.
Both agreed that it will not receive more than 75 building permits in any given year for the project.
As part of the settlement, the county will retain the sewer capacity fees it sought to return to the owners of Parkside and Westland.
The developers will pay their own legal fees.
The owners of the long-dormant Westland and Parkside subdivisions filed suit in March of 2017 against Oconee County, seeking to block the Jan. 31, 2017, decision by the Board of Commissioners to refund sewer capacity fees for the master plan developments.
In three separate lawsuits filed in Oconee County Superior Court, the owners contended, among other things, that the Board of Commissioners violated state zoning laws when it voted to refund sewer capacity fees paid by the developers of Westland and Parkside.
The effect of that Jan. 31 decision was to render the master plan development zoning held by Westland and Parkside meaningless, since the projects depend on sewer capacity, and the county took its action without proper hearings on what amounted to a zoning decision, the suits contended.
One of the suits was on behalf of REO Funding Solutions III LLC and the other was on behalf of Westland-TLG LLC.
According to the suits, REO Funding Solutions owns 47 single family lots in the subdivision, while Westland-TLG owns the remaining 429 acres.
Parkside Development Properties LLC, current owner of Parkside, filed the third lawsuit.
On Jan. 31, 2017, the Board voted unanimously to refund unclaimed sewer capacity for four undeveloped residential projects in the county to reduce the demand for sewer services.
As part of the vote, the Board agreed to refund $2.7 million in capacity fees to the developers of those four projects to free up 280,800 gallons of sewer capacity.
In addition to Parkside and Westland, the Board voted to refund capacity to Willow Creek, also a master plan development located on Hog Mountain Road.
Willow Creek paid for sewer for 124 lots, according to county records, and had connected four lots. It also had transferred its right to 20 lots. So the county proposed to refund payment for the remaining 100 lots.
The Board voted to refund payment for 10 lots in Wisteria Ridge, an apartment project inside the city of Watkinsville, off North Main Street near Calls Creek.
Wisteria Ridge paid for only 10 lots, according to Daniell. Watkinsville officials said the proposal for Wisteria Ridge is inactive and has been withdrawn.
Willow Creek and Wisteria Ridge did not file suit and were not part of the settlement announced tonight.
The county approved the Westland master plant development in 2003 and the Parkside master plan development in 2004. Access to both properties is restricted by by chain-link fences.
The video below is of the entire meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
During the agenda-setting meeting, the Board took tentative action on a number of items that will appear on the consent agenda for the meeting on Nov. 6.
The Board also heard a lengthy presentation from Public Works Director Emil Beshara about procedures the county follows in making decisions on paving roads.
Beshara’s report is at 30:30 in the video.
No action was taken following that report.
I edited out the gap between the ending of the regular meeting the resumption of the meeting following the executive session.
The report of the Board of the settlement is at 1:01:31 in the video.