The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has extended its deadline for public comment on the request by Publix Supermarkets Inc. to dredge and fill a tributary of Barber Creek so it can build a shopping center on the Oconee Connector between SR 316 and Mars Hill Road.
The Corps made its decision to extend the deadline from today (Thursday) until Nov. 21 after Vicki Soutar, chair of Oconeewaters, contacted Project Manager Stacy Marshall and indicated that Marshall had been inaccessible during a move of the Corps’ Office.
In a reissuance of the Joint Public Notice regarding the project today, the Corps blamed “unforeseen circumstances with the relocation of the Piedmont office” from Murrow south of Atlanta to Atlanta for the problem.
Jody Woodall, Public Works director for Oconee County, has confirmed that the construction plans and final construction of the Oconee Connector from SR 316 to Mars Hill Road do not include a cut for the entrance to the shopping center shown on the grading map submitted to the Corps.
Publix would have to apply for a driveway permit before it could build that entrance, Woodall said, and that application would be reviewed by the Georgia Department or Transportation or by Oconee County, depending on which has authority over the roadway at the time of the application.
At present, the roadway is still designated as a state roadway and is under Georgia Department of Transportation control, though it is expected to be transferred to the county shortly, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell has said.
In unrelated news, the Oconee County Board of Elections and Registration today (Thursday) certified the results of the Watkinsville elections held on Tuesday. Incumbent Mayor Dave Shearon, who lost to Bob Smith by two votes, now has two business days to ask for a recount.
On Nov. 7 the Corps of Engineers issued a Joint Public Notice with the Georgia Environmental Protection Division calling for public comment on the proposal by Publix to build a shopping center that would include a Publix Super Market and additional retailers, hotels, restaurants and service providers.
|Small Pond (With Live Goose) On Proposed Site 11/7/2019|
The proposed shopping center, across from QuikTrip, is to be on 45 acres made up of three tax parcels that touch the Oconee Connector, Mars Hill Road, and Virgil Langford Road.
A tributary to Barber Creek, with wetlands and small ponds, is on the property, according to the maps submitted with the application.
The tributary flows under the intersection of Mars Hill Road/Daniells Bridge Road/Oconee Connector and to Barber Creek where Mars Hill Road crosses Barber Creek.
The proposed shopping center will result in impacts to 2,425 linear feet of intermittent channels, 235 linear feet of ephemeral channels, 0.5 acres of wetlands, and 0.42 acre of open water, according to the application.
Comment Period Extension
The reissuance of the Joint Public Notice today (Thursday) states that it will accept public comment on the proposal that is received by Nov. 21.
The notice states again the conditions that must be met in submitting those comments.
The comments should be directed to the Attention of Stacy Marshall, 4751 Best Road, Suite 140, Atlanta, Georgia 30037.
The comments should refer to the applicant's name, Publix Supermarket Inc., and the application number, SAS-2019-00667.
The Notice states that further questions should be directed to Stacy Marshall, project manager, at (678) 422-6571 and lists her email address as firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marshall confirmed in an email sent to Soutar early on 11/8/19 that comments can be sent to her via email. Soutar forwarded Marshall's email to me.
Change Of Address Announced
The original Joint Public Notice, dated Oct. 9, directed mail to a Morrow address and did not include Marshall’s email address.
The Corps issued a notice on Oct. 15 that the Savannah District, Regulatory Division, Piedmont Branch Office “will be moving” from Murrow to Atlanta on Oct. 21.
“Our telephone numbers will remain the same,” the notice said.
Soutar told me she was not able to reach Marshall by phone after the initial notice was released. Oconeewaters is a division of the Upper Oconee Watershed Network.
The grading plan submitted with the Joint Public Notice shows an entrance to the proposed shopping center off the Oconee Connector and five entrances off Mars Hill Road. Those plans have not been submitted to the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department.
|Oconee Connector Looking To SR 316 11/7/2019|
Small Pond And Proposed Shopping Center Entrance On Left
The current configuration of the Oconee Connector does not include any cuts for the property, and the initial plans for the roadway drawn up by Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc. did not show any access to the property from the Oconee Connector.
The property is owned by Deferred Tax LLC, according to county tax records. Deferred Tax LLC is an intermediary for Maxie Price LLC of Lawrenceville, according to court records.
The property currently contains sign boards for Boswell Properties, though it no longer appears on the company’s web site listing of available properties.
Jamie Boswell, 10th Congressional District representative on the Georgia Transportation Board, is owner of Boswell Properties, a commercial real estate brokerage firm based in Athens.
The Transportation Board oversees the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Price had sought modifications to the Moreland Altobelli plans and was the party to a condemnation suit by the county over right of way for construction of the road.
Woodall said he could not find in his records any plans for the Oconee Connector at the Deferred Tax property more recent than those drawn up by Moreland Altobelli Associates dated June 16, 2008.
I had received those plans from County Attorney Daniel Haygood in the early stages of construction of the road, and I forwarded a copy of the June 16, 2008, plan to Woodall for his review.
“It looks like the plans that Daniel sent earlier are the latest plans and match the construction in the field,” Woodall said to me in an email message on Monday.
“If a developer wanted to apply for a driveway permit, they would have to apply through Georgia DOT until Mars Hill Road is turned back over to the county,” Woodall continued.
“At that time, the county would review driveway permits,” he added.
A flyover of the Oconee Connector at SR 316 is in the design stage, Woodall said, and it likely would require a change in elevation of the Oconee Connector.
Certification Of Results
Three of the five members of the Board of Elections and Registration met this afternoon (Thursday) to certify the results of the Watkinsville mayor and council races on Tuesday as well as the results on the referendum on Sunday sales of alcohol in restaurants.
Fran Leathers, director of Elections and Registration for the county and chair of the Board, read the results, which were then double checked by members Ken Davis and Jay Hanley.
The results were identical to those reported on Tuesday night. The county had no provisional ballots, and all of the results from absentee ballots, early voting and election day voting were tallied that night.
Bob Smith received 402 votes, defeating incumbent mayor Dave Shearon, who had 400 votes.
Brian Brodrick ran unopposed for Council Post 1 on Tuesday, receiving 658 votes, or 98.1 percent of the vote. Thirteen voters wrote in a name rather than vote for Brodrick.
Incumbent Connie Massey received 400 votes, and challenger Jonathan Kirkpatrick received 354.
The referendum authorizing Council to pass an ordinance allowing alcohol sales at 11 a.m. on Sundays, rather than the current 12:30 p.m., passed with 567 Yes votes and 233 No votes.
Leathers said that Shearon has not requested a recount but has two business days after the certification meeting to request one.
I attended the Board of Elections and Registration meeting today and recorded the video below with a hand-held camera.
I missed Leathers calling the meeting to order but captured the remainder of the session.
Davis, appointed by the local Democratic Party, is on the left in the video, Jay Hanley, appointed by the Board of Commissioners, is in the center.
Leathers is on the right.