The Oconee County Planning Commission took quick action on Monday on three rezone requests dictated by the county’s settlement of lawsuits involving the massive Parkside and Westland projects that together will bring 1,175 new residential lots to the county.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners actually brought the rezone requests to the Planning Commission, as called for in the settlement of the lawsuits, and the Planning Commission dutifully recommended to the Board of Commissioners that it approve them.
The rezones follow the unanimous vote by the Board of Commissioners at the end of its Oct. 30 meeting to settle the three lawsuits filed by owners of the Parkside and Westland projects.
As part of that settlement, the county agreed to rezone the properties, modifying the rezones approved in 2003 and 2004 and decreasing the number and nature of residential lots in both cases.
Build-out of the projects, both currently mothballed, will be staggered over time to decrease the impact on the county’s school system.
A new road in the Parkside project will provide a second entrance to Oconee Veterans Park, and approximately 125 acres in Westland along the Apalachee River and its tributaries will be put in a Conservation Easement.
Guy Herring, director of Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement, presented the rezone to the Planning Commission on Monday night.
He stated that he was representing the county in the request, as specified in the settlement.
The first of the rezones was for Parkside, which stretches from Mars Hill Road to Hog Mountain Road and, under the new provisions, will have 776 residential lots, down from 810 in the original proposal.
The next two rezones involved Westland, which is now held by two separate companies. That project is on U.S. 78 at the Apalachee River and will have 399 residential lots, down from 410.
No one other than Herring spoke for or against the rezones.
The Planning Commission spent little time discussing the three cases before voting to approve them with all of the conditions spelled out by the settlement.
The presentations and deliberations took less than 17 minutes.
The owners of the long-dormant Westland and Parkside subdivisions filed suit in March of 2017 against Oconee County, seeking to block a 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, the two owners of the Westland property. REO Funding Solutions III owns 47 lots in the subdivision that already have been platted.
Parkside Development Properties LLC, current owner of Parkside, filed the third lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, the county will not refund the sewer capacity fees, and sewer services will be provided to both Westland and Parkside.
Parkside Changes In Settlement
Herring on Monday presented charts, prepared by the developers, to summarize the changes in the settlement, beginning with Parkside.
He also presented maps of the developments and lists of conditions.
Major changes for Parkside, in addition to the reduction of the lots and the entrance to Oconee Veterans Park, include designation of 269 lots for persons 55 years old and older.
Herring told me in an email message today (Wednesday) that these lots will be deed restricted through the final plat process by the county.
I have presented below the key maps, tables and lists of conditions for the development. Click on any of the documents to enlarge it.
The commercial component of the development on Hog Mountain Road was not covered by the rezone before the Planning Commission on Monday and will be dealt with in the future, Herring said.
Westland Changes In Settlement
The Westland rezone not only included a reduction in the number of lots to 399 but also specified that no townhomes will be included.
Previously, the development was to have 346 single family homes and 84 attached residential homes.
Westland also will have to improve and extend Goat Farm Road to connect the subdivision to Hog Mountain Road.
The roughly 125 acres set aside as undeveloped will have to be placed under a conservation easement with an entity similar to the Athens Land Trust.
The key maps, tables and lists of conditions for the development are below. Click on any of the documents to enlarge it.
The 47 lots owned by REO Funding Solutions are the platted ones shown at the top, right, in the Future Development Map immediately below.
The video below is of the Dec. 10 meeting of the Planning Commission.
The discussion of the three rezone requests begins at 1:36 in the video.