Monday, August 05, 2019

Rezone Request For Morningside Subdivision Withdrawn, But Agenda For Oconee County Board of Commissioners Remains Full

***Event Venue Request Before Board***

Scout Construction LLC has decided it no longer wants Oconee County to grant it permission to violate the 40-foot buffers imposed in 2001 on six lots in Morningside subdivision on Hodges Mill Road.

Scout’s request for a modification of the 2001 rezone requirements is one of five major zoning issues on the agenda for the Oconee County Board of Commissioners meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) night.

The Board will have to take official action to accept Scout’s request that its rezone modification application be withdrawn.

The Board also will consider a request for operation of an event venue with shops, a restaurant and boutique hotel on U.S. 78 near the Walton County line and for a new subdivision in the far south of the county at the Greene County line.

The Board also will consider requests to convert just under three acres on Mars Hill Road from agricultural use to commercial use and to convert a commercial lot adjoining the Belfair subdivision into a residential lot.

The Board meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. rather than the usual 6 p.m. so the Board can hold a hearing at 6 p.m. on its proposal to allow property taxes to increase as a result of inflation.

Morningside Subdivision Lots

Jessica Hood, from Carter Engineering Consultants Inc., which represents Scout Construction, sent an email message on July 18 asking the county to “Please accept this email as our formal request to withdraw the Zoning Change Application for the Change in Conditions of Approval for Case # 2039.”

Future Timarron Subdivision In Highlight
With Future Morningside To Right

The original 2001 rezone for Morningside subdivision was numbered 2039. Carter Engineering is at 3651 Mars Hill Road near Malcom Bridge Road.

Hood gave no explanation for the request for the withdrawal, which followed the decision of the Board of Commissioners at its July 2 meeting to postpone action on the Scout request until its August meeting.

Scout Construction, owned by Jud Shiver, 3371 Barnett Shoals Road in the eastern tip of Oconee County, was asking the county to allow him to enter and modify the 40-foot buffer on six lots, each of about one acre in size, to construct a drainage ditch.

Scout Construction had purchased the six one-acre lots on Morningside Drive in October of 2013, according to county tax records.

Timarron Subdivision

Residents of neighboring Timarron subdivision off Hodges Mill Road next door to Morningside subdivision spoke against the request by Scout Construction at the July 2 Board of Commissioners meeting as well as at the June 17 Planning Commission meeting.

They argued that the heavily wooded rear of the lots in Morningside subdivision was protected by the buffer requirements and that the trees added value to their property.

They also said that the drainage ditch would create water problems for their subdivision.

The Board of Commissioners also had imposed a 40 foot buffer on the lots in Timarron subdivision when it was rezoned in 2003.

A recent aerial view of the two subdivisions presented at both the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners meeting showed the lots in Morningside subdivision currently with vegetation, and the lots in Timarron as cleared.

I obtained the copy above of the 1999 aerial view of the 22 acres that became Timarron subdivision from the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department. The aerial photograph was part of the 2003 zoning packet.

It shows that most of what is now Timarron subdivision was pastureland cleared of vegetation before it was converted to a subdivision and the 40 foot buffer imposed, while the rear of the six lots in Morningside subdivision was forested, as is the case at present.

Event Venue

JDG Investments LLC, representing James D. Garner, 7 South Main Street in Watkinsville, is asking the county to grant a special use for 72.81 acres zoned agricultural at 4800 Monroe Highway (U.S. 78) near the Walton County line for an event venue.

Smith Before Planning Commission 7/15/2019

JDG Investments also is seeking to rezone 28.34 acres of highway frontage from its present agricultural classification to general business and highway business.

Included in the commercial sector, according to the submitted plans, are specialty shops, a “farm-to-table style restaurant,” and a two-story “boutique” hotel with 30 guest rooms.

The goal, according to the rezone narrative, is to preserve the character of the farm and Greek Revival style home surrounded by ponds, making “an adaptive re-use of the house and structures” for the event venue and supportive small-scale commercial activities.

Land Owner

Barbara Gasaway currently owns the properties. At present, the acreage is divided into two parcels and totals 188.36 acres.

The smaller parcel, 6.92 acres, includes the driveway and the land immediately around the house. The second parcel of 181.44 acres surrounds the house and driveway and includes a series of six ponds.

In the past, the property was the site of a fishing camp, and the land was farmed.

Gasaway is proposing to carve out 28.34 acres of frontage, including parts of the driveway and some of the ponds, to be rezoned from its present agricultural classification to general business and highway business.

She also wants to create a second parcel of 72.81 acres, including the house, that would be granted a special use for event venues.

The remaining 87.21 acres, which would have some frontage on U.S. 78, is not part of the rezone request and would be divided off from the other acreage.

Planning Commission Meeting

At the Planning Commission meeting on July 15, Kirk McClellan, 4700 Monroe Highway, was the only citizen who spoke regarding the JDG requests.

McClellan Before Planning Commission 7/15/2019

McClellan owns 20 acres that adjoin the Gasaway property, and he said he and his neighbors are concerned about noise from the event venue.

He said he wants to eliminate outside amplification and restrict the hours and days of week of operation.

Bob Smith of Smith Planning Group, 1022 12 Oaks Circle, east of Butler’s Crossing, representing JDG Investments, said he would meet with neighbors to discuss their concerns prior to the Board of Commissioners meeting.

The Planning Commission voted 8 to 0 to approve both of JDG Investments’ requests.

Hotel, Restaurant, Shops

McClellan said he and his neighbors were comfortable with the commercial development, though he wanted to make sure the rear of the buildings were finished out, as they had been promised.

Smith told the Planning Commission that the buildings would be finished in the rear.

Smith also said event venue should be operating by the end of 2020, but “The shops and restaurant will follow sometime later along with the hotel because they both require sewer.”

Smith pointed to the Westland subdivision across U.S. 78 as a future source of sewer service access.

That subdivision remains dormant, though, in a settlement with the county, it has been granted access to county sewerage treatment capacity.

The owners of Westland are responsible for building the sewer line to connect to the county’s current line on Hog Mountain Road near Oconee Veterans Park.

Sewer Lines, Variances

I met with Water Resource Department Director Tim Durham and Engineer Adam Layfield on July 16 to discuss options for sewer service for the hotel, shops and restaurant.

They said JDG Investments would have to bore under U.S. 78 to reach the future Westland line or build a line to a pump station at Dials Mill Road. In either case, JDG Investments would have to gain access to capacity controlled by existing owners.

JDG Investments is seeking a variance for each of the two rezone requests before the Board tomorrow night.

For the commercial rezone, it is asking the county to waive the buffer requirements between zoning districts, that is, between its commercial property and the event venue, and along the adjacent property line.

For the event venue request, it is asking the Board of Commissioners to waive requirement of paving and lighting for off-street parking.

Allison Creek Plantation

In another rezone before the Commission Tuesday, Elder Farm LP of Gainesville is asking the county to rezone 64.31 acres at 6191 Colham Ferry Road from its current agricultural classification to agricultural and residential use to allow for subdivision of the property into five single-family residential lots.

The subdivision will be the third phase of Allison Creek Plantation. According to the application narrative, the earlier phases, which are not contiguous with the third phase, have been sold out.

According to the county Planning and Code Enforcement Department staff report, the 64.31-acre parcel was created in 2013 as a result of the subdivision of the parcel from a larger tract.

The site is heavily wooded and undeveloped, according to the staff report. The narrative says its current use is as a tree farm, and the last thinning was in 2003.

Minimum lot size will be 11 acres, and the minimum house size proposed for the lots is 1,850 square feet.

One citizen spoke against the rezone at the Planning Commission meeting, saying he wanted the land to remain as it is currently zoned.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of the rezone.

Two Other Requests

D.T. Sanders of Athens is seeking to rezone 2.74 acres at 1021 Barber Creek Drive off Mars Hill Road from AR (Agricultural Residential) to B-1 (General Business) to construct two medical/professional office buildings.

The site contains a vacant single family residence that is in disrepair, and the remainder of the site is wooded, according to the staff report.

The Planning Commission vote in favor of the request was unanimous.

Terrick Holdings LLC of Athens is asking the Board of Commissioners to rezone 1.52 acres at 1040 Talus Street near Belfair subdivision northwest of U.S. 78 from OIP (Office Institutional Professional) to R-1 (Single Family Residential).

The property was part of rezone in 2002 to allow for the development of Dickens Corner, a commercial seven-lot subdivision intended for professional office use.

The plan is to use the lot for construction of a residence.

The Planning Commission voted 7 to 1 in favor of the request.

Tax Hearing

Oconee County residents will have the first of three oportunites at the 6 p.m. Tax Hearing Tuesday to respond to the Board’s tentative decision not to reduce property taxes to compensate for the effects of inflation on property values.

The hearings are required by state law because the Board of Commissioners has not rolled back the millage rates sufficient to compensation for the increase in property values due to inflation.

The hearing is unlikely to have any impact on the Board, which has adopted a budget that took effect on July 1 that is based on the proposed millage rate.

The Board of Commissioners will hold subsequent hearings at 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Courthouse.

The Board of Education has held two of three public hearings at the Superintendent’s Office, 34 School Street, Watkinsville, on its decision not to roll back its millage rate to accommodate inflation. Only one citizen has commented so far.

A third hearing is set for 5 p.m. on Aug. 12, also in the Board Meeting Room at the Superintendent’s Office.


The video below is from the Planning Commission meeting of July 15.

Discussion of the proposed event venue and commercial buildings on U.S. 78 begins at 0:48 in the video.

Discussion of the Terrick Holdings rezone request begins at 43:56 in the video.

Discussion of the Allison Creek Plantation rezone is at 52:55.

Discussion of the D.T. Sanders request is at 1:10:58 in the video.

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