Chuck and David Williams ended the year without a resolution to their efforts to move the proposed Wisteria Ridge Apartment Complex on North Main Street in Watkinsville from dormant to active.
Ken Beall, representing the Williams brothers, appeared before the Watkinsville City Council in November with the request that the city issue building permits for a sampling of the 103 residential units in the 15-building complex.
The Council tabled that request in November and tabled it a second time at the Council’s last meeting of the year on Dec. 19.
Beall told the Council in November that he wants to get on the county’s waiting list for residential sewer capacity now that the county has upgraded its Calls Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, located just downstream from the proposed apartment complex.
Council agreed to take up the request at some unspecified point in the future.
Beall’s Explanation Of Request
Beall, president of Beall and Company, 3651 Mars Hill Road in the west of the county, told the Council at its Nov. 27 meeting that the project was put on hold after the city approved it in 2007 and 2008.
“It wasn’t for lack of desire that the project didn’t move forward,” Beall said. “It became a victim of the downturned economy and then it became a victim of sewer–the lack of sewer capacity, which has been an ongoing problem in Oconee County for quite a number of years.”
The county opened its new wastewater treatment plant in August, and Beall said the Williams brothers want to get in line for residential sewer service.
Beall said the Williams are not seeking permits for all of the buildings in the project, but rather for one of each of the five types of buildings that ultimately will make up the complex.
The project will be phased in as sewer capacity becomes available, Beall said.
Chuck and David Williams transferred the 12.8 acres on which Wisteria Ridge is to be built to Will-o-War LLC in 2004, according to county tax records.
Will-o-War LLC is based at 2410 Old Watson Springs Road in the south of the county, the home of Chuck Williams, who formerly represented Oconee County in the Georgia General Assembly from the 119th House District. He currently is director of the Georgia Forestry Commission.
The property currently contains a 1,483 square foot house built in 1959, according to the county tax records.
In 2016, Will-o-War put the acreage in a 10-year-land covenant for conservation use.
The property is valued at $470,215 on the county tax records.
Active Or Inactive
Questions about the status of the project and even about ownership of the property came up at the meeting in November.
|Wisteria Ridge Entrance At North Main Street|
City Attorney Joe Reitman Jr. told Council at the beginning of the discussion at the meeting in November that “The key issue is number one they seek basically building permits for a 2007 approved plan. Obviously, our ordinances have changed over the ensuing 11 years.
“Without getting into all the details,” Reitman said, “they assert vested rights under the 2007 plan.”
Some of the documents from that earlier time contain the name of CW Wisteria Ridge LLC, Council members noted.
That corporation was formed in 2008 with Celia Watson, 1551 Jennings Mill Road in Oconee County, as the registered agent, according to the Secretary of State database.
The Secretary of State dissolved CW Wisteria Ridge LLC in 2015 for failing to file its annual registration, the state records show.
Land Under Contract?
Beall told the Council he thought Watson had the property under contract at one point, but attorney Jeffrey DeLoach, 2500 Daniells Bridge Road, representing the Williams brothers, said he did not believe that was the case.
“She was absolutely involved in the potential development of this, partially, as a friend, frankly, of the Williams with a great deal of experience in this,” DeLoach said. “And also with the interest of potentially becoming the owner.”
The Wisteria Ridge property is strategically located, abutting county property on which the jail sits as well as property owned by the Board of Education.
In 2009, Will-o-War sold 6.7 acres just south of the Wisteria Ridge acreage to the Board of Education for $900,000.
The Wisteria Ridge development was one of four in the county with unused sewer capacity that the county attempted to refund earlier this year.
These were the massive Parkside and Westland subdivisions and Willow Creek subdivision, all three of which have entrances on Hog Mountain Road between Butler’s Crossing and U.S. 78.
The owners of Parkside and Westland sued the county, which agreed to settle the suits.
According to County Administrator Justin Kirouac, the owners of Wisteria Ridge and Willow Creek did not contest the county action in court.
Wisteria Ridge Purchase
In an email to me on Dec. 4, Kirouac said that the owners of Wisteria Ridge had paid only 10 percent of the calculated fees as a deposit in July 2005, amounting to $14,935.00.
This covered approximately 10 units, Kirouac said, and “The project was stalled before the remaining fees were paid.”
That is where things stand at this point, he said.
Kirouac said no refund was given to Willow Creek.
Capacity fees for 105 units were paid in full in May 2007, Kirouac said, and by 2015 the subdivision already was established with four homes built.
“They agreed to settle instead of litigate and not build any more houses until the Calls Creek upgrade is complete in a staged plan,” Kirouac wrote.
I did not attend the Nov. 27 meeting of the Watkinsville City Council, but Sarah Bell did attend and recorded the video below.
Discussion of the request for building permits for Wisteria Ridge begins at 52:24 in the video.
That discussion lasted just less than 45 minutes.
No discussion took place at the Dec. 19 meeting, when the project was tabled a second time.
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