The Oconee County Board of Commissioners last week reversed course and unanimously approved a rezone for Tracie and Thomas Hedges allowing them to subdivide their five-acre parcel on Moores Ford Road near the Apalachee River into three lots of 1.67 acres each.
Guy Herring, director of Planning and Code Enforcement for the county, told the Commissioners that the staff had changed its view of the request and was recommending approval in part because the Hedges made their rezone request during a “transition period” in the county codes.
At its Sept. 3 meeting, the Board had tabled a decision on the request by the Hedges, asking them to try to find a way to increase their parcel to six acres so that none of the lots would be less than 2 acres in size.
The Board took that action because a majority could not agree on how to handle the rezone request.
The Board of Commissioners meeting was a brief one, and even the decision on the Hedges rezone request did not involve any discussion.
In its report dated Aug. 8, the planning staff had recommended against the request by Tracie and Thomas Hedges, saying that the proposed subdivision of the property into three lots “is not consistent with the minimum lot size and rural character that is considered desirable in the Country Estates character area.
|Herring Before Commission|
“Staff holds that the present request does not conform to the Future Development Map or the goals and objectives of the Oconee County Comprehensive Plan,” the report continued.
If the county “were to approve the rezone, the staff recommended that no lot be smaller than 2 acres in size.”
The county has changed lot size requirements in recent months as part of an update of its Unified Development Code, and the Planning Commission, at its Aug. 19 meeting, noted that the cases before it that evening, including the request by the Hedges, were caught up in that transition.
The Planning Commission voted 8 to 1 that evening to recommend to the Board of Commissioners approve the Hedges’ request with the condition that lots not be smaller than 1.67 acres.
Board Action In September
Those same rezone cases were before the Board of Commissioners at its Sept. 3 meeting.
After hearing the recommendation of Herring and discussing the request with Hedges, Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes and Mark Thomas voted in favor of the rezone with the condition that the lots not be less that 1.67 acres in size.
Commissioners Chuck Horton and Mark Saxon voted against the rezone, and Commission Chair John Daniell broke the tie by voting against the motion.
Daniell said he could not support anything less than 2 acres.
The Board then voted unanimously to table the request until Oct. 1 to allow the Hedges to see if they could acquire an additional acre from the larger parcel.
New Recommendation And Action
The Hedges did not come back with a plan to increase the acreage.
“After discussions with the applicant and staff, and in light of the application being submitted during a transition period for UDC amendments addressing lot standards,” Herring told the Commission, “staff believes the intent of the Oconee County Comprehensive Plan...in conjunction with the version of the UDC in place at the time of application would support approval of the application as submitted.”
No discussion followed the new recommendation by Herring.
Commissioner Wilkes made the motion to approve. Commissioner Saxon seconded the motion.
Horton and Thomas joined Wilkes and Saxon in approving the rezone.
Email From Hedges
In an 11-page email message sent to the commissioners following that Sept. 3 decision, Tracie Hedges laid out the history of the rezone request.
The five-acre parcel was carved in March from a larger tract of 336 acres owned by Tracie Hedges’ family, she wrote, and she settled on five acres on the advice of the planning staff, she wrote.
“During this process,” the email states, “we communicated extensively with the planning department staff and were told everything we proposed was within the allowed guidelines that would apply.
“The staff specifically stated that we would need to submit the application in by the June 24, 2019, deadline. We were told anything submitted after that deadline would be subject to new codes and requirements.
“We submitted a complete application to the county prior to the deadline,” the email stated.
The original message from Tracie Hedges to the commissioners isn’t dated in the documents released by the county, but those documents show that Daniell forwarded the email to Herring late on Sept. 30.
The discussion of the Hedges’ rezone is at 12:06 in the video below.
The Board also approved some additional changed in the Unified Development Code and approved the consent agenda from the Sept. 24 meeting.