When Ben Hanley made his pitch last Monday before the Oconee County Planning Commission for an impound lot in Farmington, he had a nearly full room of citizens seated behind him.
Hanley said the county needs a second tow operator and impound lot, and he proposed expanding his Madison County business into Oconee County to meet that need.
None of the citizens agreed with his plan, and eight of them spoke up to say that putting an impound lot on 1.35 acres on U.S. 441 at the entrance to Farmington–literally across Salem Road from the old train Depot–was a really bad idea.
The Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department staff had concluded much the same thing, saying the proposed impound lot is “not consistent with the desired pattern of development for the general area.”
In the end, Hanley was alone in supporting his proposal, as the Planning Commission voted 7 to 0 to recommend that the Board of Commissioners deny the request.
The Planning Commission voted unanimously later that evening to support two other rezone requests–one for expansion of Piedmont’s Oconee Health Campus at Virgil Langford Road and Jennings Mill Road and the other for subdivision of a lot in Resurgence Park further down Virgil Langford Road.
It is unusual for an applicant to appear before the Planning Commission without the representation of an agent in the case of a rezone of the type that Hanley was requesting of the county.
|Hanley Before Planning Commission 5/20/2019|
Hanley is the owner of HPL Auto Services in Hull. He identified himself as a small businessman trying to expand his business.
The 1.35 acres that Hanley wants to develop as an impound storage facility is owned by Mike Thornton, 620 Agriculture Drive in Athens. According to tax records, Tommy Saxon of Athens is a co-owner.
At present, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office uses Wilson Auto Service, 1351Old Bishop Road, outside Bishop, for towing of impounded car.
Hanley said the county should have at least two towing services and impound lots.
“From my experience and what I’ve seen, I think it is a good idea to have more than one option,” Hanley said. “You never know. Something could happen to that company.”
Currently, the property is zoned B-2 (Highway Business District).
Hanley is asking for a special use permit so he can operate a motor vehicle impoundment lot on the property.
No buildings are being proposed by Hanley.
The lot is proposed to be graveled with a chain link fence and black fibermesh around all four sides of the lot.
Such a fence is not compliant with the county’s Unified Development Code, and Hanley also is seeking a variance to allow for the fence instead of a solid masonry wall or imitation-wood vinyl fence.
The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to decide on Hanley’s request for the special use permit and the variance at its meeting on June 4.
John Cleaveland, 2710 Old Farmington Road, said “Every single person I’ve talked to in Farmington feels like the staff recommendation is a good one.”
Cleaveland, an artist, has a studio near the property proposed for the impound lot.
“This is an inappropriate business and usage of the property,” Cleaveland said.
“One of the few historical buildings in the county is right across the street,” Cleaveland said, referring to the depot, which he said is one of the few remaining stations on the line between Macon and Athens.”
Linda McBeth, 2250 Freeman’s Creek Road, who followed Cleaveland, said she was a landscape architect who recently moved to the area.
“One seemingly tiny decision can set and wreck a town’s trajectory and future,” McBeth said. “So I totally and absolutely support the planning staff analysis and recommendation for this variance.”
Planning Commission member Brad Tucker, who formerly was president and CEO of Georgia Square Collision, said citizens were right in being concerned about the environmental impact of the impound lot.
|Commission Members Steven Strickland, Tucker 5/20/2019|
“I know that the operator will make every effort to address fluid leakage from vehicles and things like that,” Tucker said, “But the cars that will wind up in this place are, as often as not, wrecked, which means that they are not in operable condition and don’t have the integrity that the manufacturer intended.”
“Mr. Hanley, I agree,” Tucker said. “I think there should be more than one tow company in Oconee County, but I don’t think this is the location for it.”
Piedmont Oconee Health Campus
Oconee Medical Holdings LLC was asking the Planning Commission to modify a 2013 rezone of 14.23 acres on the northwest corner of Jennings Mill Road and Virgil Langford Road to allow for an increase in total allowed building square footage from 140,000 square feet to 164,165 square feet.
Rather than three additional buildings depicted on the original concept plan approved in 2013, Oconee Medical Holdings is proposing to construct one three-story, 45,000-square foot building.
Two buildings already are on the site, and a third is under construction.
The two buildings are the main part of the existing Piedmont Oconee Health Campus, and the building under construction is to be the Piedmont Orthopedic Building.
The proposed new three-story building will complement the two main buildings, which are two-story in height. The Orthopedic Building will be a single story.
The new building will complete the build-out of the property, according to the rezone narrative.
Nichols Land and Investment Company asked the Planning Commission for a modification of a rezone in order to allow for additional lots in an approved commercial subdivision on Virgil Langford Road east of the Oconee Connector.
In 2013, the Board of Commissioners has rezoned 77.83 acres to create Resurgence Park.
Following that rezone, the developers filed a plat creating a 3.97 acre parcel facing Virgil Langford Road.
Nichols Land and Investment Company now wants to divide that parcel into five smaller lots, ranging in size from less than .06 acres to a full acre. Nichols did not request an increase in total building square footage.
The planning staff had recommended approval of the change, as had been the case with the Oconee Medical Holdings request as well.
The video below is of the entire meeting of the Planning Commission on May 20.
Discussion of Hanley’s request for the special use permit for the impound lot begins at 0:57 in the video.
Discussion of the Resurgence rezone is at 22:25.
Discussion of Piedmont rezone is at 26:46 in the video.
The Planning Commission also considered several modifications to the Unified Development Code.