Monday, May 06, 2019

Oconee County Commission To Consider Two Rezones With Regional Impact

***Shopping And Financial Centers On Agenda***

Two business rezones with regional implications for the county will be before the Oconee County Board of Commissioners when it holds it regular meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) night.

The first and largest of the projects is a request by Butts County developer Bill Jones for a rezone of 32 acres at Mars Hill Road and U.S. 78 for a commercial development. The Board, at Jones’ request, postponed action on that rezone at its meeting on April 2.

The Board’s decision will greatly influence future development along SR 316.

The second is a request for a rezone of 1.4 acres on Epps Bridge Parkway at Pine Ridge Court from a two-family residential classification to a general business district.

The property owner is proposing to tear down three duplexes on the site and build a two-story financial center with commercial banking operations and associated office space.

The duplexes were built following a rezone in 1980 for the Pine Ridge Apartments subdivision.

Although the area across Epps Bridge Parkway is commercial, the property adjoining the 1.4 acres currently is zoned agriculture and residential, with the largest tract zoned for mobile homes.

The development, if approved, is likely to be a forerunner of commercial development on the eastern side of Epps Bridge Parkway near the county line.

U.S. 78 And Mars Hill Road

Butts County Developer Jones proposes to build a JP convenience store and gas station with 20 fueling positions and a Burger King at the intersection of Mars Hill Road and U.S. 78 where a BP station now stands.

He also submitted concept plans for a hotel and big box store–possibly a Publix grocery story–for the site.

Jones has said he wants to be able to put a car dealership, car wash and car lube store on the site as alternatives.

Jones currently owns Countryside Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Jackson and operates and leases convenience stores, fast food restaurants, supermarkets and retail space in Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas.

The Planning Commission voted 7 to 3 in March against the proposal.

Planning Commission members expressed concern that the shopping center was not compatible with the designated land use in the county’s Future Development Map. That map lists the property as part of a Technology Gateway area.

Epps Bridge Parkway

The Planning Commission on April 15 voted 8 to 0 to recommend approval of the rezone of the 1.4 acres on Epps Bridge Parkway at Pine Ridge Court.

Proposed Financial Center On Lots In Red
Looking North From Epps Bridge Parkway

Danny White of Athens, who owns the property, says in the project narrative that the project will consist of a single, two-story building, totaling no greater than 8,261 square feet in size.

Banking operations will be located on the first floor, according to the narrative. The second floor will contain general office, processing, and support staff for the banking operations.

The county’s Future Development map lists the property as part of a Regional Center, but that designation also includes lots now developed as part of Tanglebrook subdivision.

Citizen Comment

Attorney David Ellison, 1521 Welbrook Road, representing White at the Planning Commission meeting, said White’s goal was “to open up this last stretch of undeveloped land to commercial development.”

Zoning Map Showing Proposed Financial Center
Request To Change 3 Lots In Red To B-1 

Four citizens spoke, and all of them raised concerns about traffic.

Kathy Hurley, 1041 Laurel Place, president of theTanglebrook Home Owners Association, said she assumes that the remainder of Pine Ridge Court and the mobile home park will be developed commercially as well and that some traffic solution will need to be found.

“Don’t mess with our property while you do it,” she said.

Tammy Shelton, 1063 Pine Ridge Court, said the area already is very congested.

“We are a very quiet neighborhood,” Shelton said. “We’re all going to end up being affected in the end.”

People Who Must Move

Julie Hunter, 1023 Pine Ridge Court, said she is the property manager for the five lots that are on Pine Ridge Court and are not owned by White and for the mobile home park.

“I just ask that you all take into consideration what would happen to the residents who reside in the three duplexes that are going to be demolished,” she said.

“It does not affect us positively. It does not affect our kids positively,” she said. “It brings more traffic, more calls for crime. More calls for just all types of things that could potentially impact our children and ourselves negatively...We’ve made this place home.”

Elizabeth Gayle White Nyseth, 1010 Pine Ridge Court, lives in one of the buildings that will be demolished.

“We are working families. We don’t have a lot of resources,” she said. “And it will be a hardship on those six families that do need to move.”

Nyseth said that Pine Ridge Court is a residential street and the county should not allow piecemeal commercial development of the street.


The video below is of the Planning Commission meeting on April 15.

I arrived at the meeting late because I attended the Board of Education meeting that same evening.

Sarah Bell recorded the video.

Discussion of the White rezone begins at 1:02 in the video.

The remainder of the meeting dealt with changes to the county’s Unified Development Code.

Some of those changes will be on the agenda of the Board of Commissioners tomorrow night as well.

The Commission meets at 6 p.m. at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.


Dan Magee said...

A big fat "NO" to Mr. Bill Jones!

1) Our Planning Commission voted 7 to 3 in March against the proposal.

2) His other gas stations/fast food gluttony complexes are ugly with a capital "U". They offer nothing of value; county has plenty of both. How many Canadian-owned Burger King's does Oconee need?? Seriously, check out Jones' gas station fast food hybrids, like the gas station/DQ at 3465 Jefferson Rd, Athens. Jones wants "five retail/commercial fast food restaurants, each of 3,000 to 3,500 square feet" on the site!! Dude wants FIVE!

3) Oconee County Commissioners years ago agreed to designate this area of the county as part of the 316 Innovation Corridor; sorry Bill Jones, we'll take those high-tech, high-paying jobs instead of your minimum wage jobs:
The Authority, comprised of officials from Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Oconee and Gwinnett counties, is the first public body formed to drive and coordinate development in the GA 316 corridor to bring high-tech, high-paying jobs along the University Parkway, in a model based on North Carolina’s Research Triangle.
Rick Waller, who is a member of the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority, says the county has been working for years to promote business development along the Highway 316 corridor. Specific large tracks of land available for development include 108 combined acres of industrial-permitted property at Gateway Park East and West near Bogart and 600 acres of privately owned land at Highways 78 and 316. “I’m as optimistic as I’ve been in several years,” says Waller.

Side Note: Rick Waller, that's your quote from 2011; you're still on the Industrial Development Authority, which has had years to promote the 316 corridor and Gateway Park with middling results since your 2011 quote.

4) Look closely at what he wants:
What Jones is proposing is a two-phase development, with the first phase being demolition of the existing retail building and gas station and construction of a 7,200 square foot convenience store and gas station with 20 fueling positions and a 2,800 square foot Burger King with a drive through lane.
The second phase of the development would include two 12,000 square foot retail stores, one 5,000 square foot commercial office and institutional building, one 50,400 square foot hotel with 200 rooms, five retail/commercial fast food restaurants, each of 3,000 to 3,500 square feet, and one 68,000 square foot big box anchor store

5) Jones of Butts County is pushy:
Steven Rowland with Rowland Engineering of Macon, representing Jones, said initially that he wanted all of the 11 conditions recommended by the planning staff to be dropped, and Jones repeated that request.
Subsequently, Rowland said he could accept some of the conditions, but not the restriction on signage, a prohibition of an entrance off Mars Hill Road at U.S. 78, and prohibition of some of the uses listed by the staff.
Rowland said specifically that he wanted to be able to include a tire and lube store, a new car dealership and a car wash in allowed uses.

Dan Magee said...

Daniell, Horton, Saxon, Thomas and Bubber: Stick to what past county commissioners agreed to, and follow up on their plan of the Georgia Innovation Corridor, and take advantage of Oconee's priceless location between the University of Georgia and Atlanta. No Burger King's or oil change shops in the commissioner adopted County Comprehensive Plan. Horton & Bubber are long time county commissioners and should know the very thorough Oconee County Comp Plan better than anyone else alive.

pg. 61
Technology Gateway Character Area
The Technology Gateway Character Area extends along the western portion of SR 316. As a large employment center of regional and statewide importance, the Technology Gateway Character Area incorporates many aspects of commerce such as professional office buildings, corporate and regional offices, high-tech and research facilities, small office and business park complexes, and light industrial uses such
as warehousing and wholesale.

Primary Land Uses
-High tech, bio-medical, and research facilities
-Light industrial and light manufacturing that will not have an adverse impact on the environmental quality of the area
-Regional, headquarter, and professional offices
-Office complexes and campuses; Business parks and small office complexes such as “office condominiums”
-Mixed use projects with a vertical integration, such as ground floor retail with office or living units above

JRV said...

Oconee seems like it's trying to rid itself of poor people with requests like the Epps Bridge rezone and an attempt to put a moratorium on building slab houses. Is that the not-so-hidden agenda? Or is it an unintended consequence? Either way, it is a shame.

Anonymous said...

Since this article was released, the BOC voted for both. Jones got his truck stop and a bank has tossed out struggling folks to find a new place to live. Daniell and the gang will not listen to citizens or the committees. It is my understanding the truck stop wantedcto be able to have adult entertainment included. We just allowed a new type of crime in Oconee.

BOC will fill the place up with retail and high ticket homes. However, home-buying trends are changing along with goods-purchasing trend or how we purchase goods. People are buying more over the internet. We will be caught with a slew of empty strip centers and homes that will appeal to a generation long gone.

Say bye-bye to the Oconee rural atmosphere which exists alongside neighborhoods. The BOC has set out the For Sale Sign to all of the “here today gone tomorrow” developers. The BOC method for quick tax revenue money will backfire. Within a decade empty strip centers, unkempt commercial lots, and dropping housing values will prevail. The BOC has shown they do not understand long term government financial direction for the county. Tax and Spent is the only method they have.

With little identity, people who thought they would make Oconee home will see themselves as just another cog to a meandering government that will over-tax them. Eventually these hard working folks will move to a more secure, substantial area.

Another SNAFU is the county’s attempt to ID Oconee-The county has four new logos for consideration. They look like clip art from the ‘80’s in muted colors that are not long lasting or impactful. In fact they are copies of 1980’s lost logos. These types of logos trend negatively when tested in opinion markets. Did no one at the BOC consult trending methods to identify your city, county, state?

I guess what I am saying- “What a mess!”

Anonymous said...

Well they allowed that electrical supply house to be built on 316 technology parkway.

Anonymous said...

Tacky metal buildings on 316, unnecessary retail instead of a technology park which would bring employment opportunities.
The decision making process the BOC is disturbing.