Publix Supermarkets Inc. is seeking a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge and fill a tributary of Barber Creek so it can build a shopping center on roughly 45 acres at the intersection of Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector.
The shopping center, across from the QuikTrip convenience store and gas station, is to include a Publix Super Market and additional retailers, hotels, restaurants and service providers, according to the permit application.
The grading plan submitted with the document shows an entrance 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.
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.
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 Corps of Engineers will accept comment on the permit request through Nov. 8.
An unnamed tributary of Barber Creek begins on the property planned for the shopping center and runs under the intersection of Mars Hill Road, the Oconee Connector and Daniells Bridge Road.
U.S. 78 Is Also SR 316
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That tributary, already piped from the Deferred Tax property under the roadways and nearly to Barber Creek Drive, flows into Barber Creek just downstream from the Mars Hill Road bridge over the creek.
A small pond is on the Deferred Tax property where Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector intersect.
According to the 404 permit application with the Corps of Engineers, 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.
The permit application states that the proposed activity involves the “discharge of dredged or fill material into the waters of the United States,” necessitating the 404 permit.
State Approval Needed
Publix, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., also will need approval from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division for the project.
According to the Corps Joint Public Notice, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division will certify the project in terms of its impact on water quality.
The Corps will make an assessment of the impact of the proposal on Cultural Resources, Endangered Species, and Public Interest.
The Corps is seeking public comment as part of that review.
Three Parcels In Tract
The roughly 45-acre tract where the proposed shopping center is to be located consists of three properties, two of which are zoned for business and one of which is zoned for residential development.
Based on the county’s tax maps, the combined tract is 46.8 acres in size.
The smallest parcel, 6.84 acres in size, at the corner of Mars Hill Road and the Connector, is zoned B-2 for highway business.
A 26.8 acre parcel that surrounds that corner lot connects to Mars Hill Road and the Connector and has a narrow leg running all the way to Virgil Langford Road. That parcel is zoned B-1 for general business use.
The final parcel of 13.2 acres fronts only on Mars Hill Road and is zoned R-1, for single family residential use. That parcel abuts land zoned agricultural and containing a baseball field owned by the Mars Hill Baptist Church.
The Church itself is across Mars Hill Road from the proposed development.
Guy Herring, director of Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement, told me on Wednesday that his department has received no submissions from Publix or Deferred Tax for the property.
The owners would have to obtain a rezone for the proposal.
Details Of Proposal
The Corps Joint Public Notice provides limited details of the proposal.
“This development will provide a mixture of services and retail opportunities enhancing the existing regional mix of large national retailers,” the document states.
|Stream And Wetland Delineation Map|
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Epps Bridge Centre is located approximately three-quarters mile northeast of the proposed Publix shopping center off the Oconee Connector. The core of that shopping center is roughly the same size as the Tax Deferred property.
Butler’s Crossing, which contains an existing Publix, is located about three miles south of the proposed Publix shopping center. That shopping center is about 12 acres in size.
The grading plan for the proposed Publix shopping center shows what appear to be 17 separate buildings surrounded by parking lots.
The largest building, with the largest parking lot, is close to Mars Hill Road.
The grading plan, carrying the label of Haines Gipson & Associates Inc., an engineering consultant firm based in Lawrenceville, also shows a retention pond where the current small pond is located at the intersection of the Connector and Mars Hill Road.
The Joint Public Notice also includes an aerial map of the streams and wetlands on the property produced by Nelson Environmental Inc. of Flowery Branch in Hall County.
It also includes another aerial map produced by Bentz Environmental Consulting LLC of Peachtree City in Fayette County showing the location of the project.
That map has SR 316 labeled as U.S. 78 (which it is) rather than the more commonly used SR 316 designation.
The Tax Deferred properties have been at the center of controversy in Oconee County as the Mars Hill Road project has progressed.
In November of 2013, the county filed a condemnation suit against Price in Oconee County Superior Court to obtain right of way on two of the three parcels owned by Price.
Price had rejected the county’s offer of $32,700, which the county paid to the Court when it filed the suit.
A year later, Oconee County officials–at the request of then Board of Commissioners Chairman Melvin Davis–met with Boswell and Price to discuss changes in the roadway design to provide access to the Deferred Tax property.
The state Transportation Board, on which Boswell sits, is the governing body for the Georgia Department of Transportation. Boswell also was listing Price's property in his capacity as a real estate broker.
County Attorney Daniel Haygood said at the time that the county had told Price and his attorneys that the authority to settle the condemnation case lies with the Georgia Department of Transportation, not the County, “particularly in the area of design changes.”
In 2015, the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department, after several attempts, finally got Boswell to place its signs for the Deferred Tax property on the property itself, as was specified in the permits, rather than in the state right of way.
On Oct. 10, 2017, Superior Court Judge David Sweat issued a consent judgment in the condemnation case against Deferred Tax and Price and ordered the Court to disburse the $32,700 to Price’s attorneys.
The Joint Public Notice from the Corp of Engineers says that anyone wishing to comment on the Publix application for a Department of the Army Permit should submit comments in writing to the Commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District.
The comments should be directed to the Attention of Stacy Marshall, 1590 Adamson Parkway, Suite 200, Morrow, Georgia 30260,
The comments be submitted no later than 30 days from the date of the notice, which was Oct. 9, 2019.
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.
With the tax-deferment issues and Army Corps involved,
Publix will doubtlessly have a good team of attorneys at the ready.
One wonders if the Butlers' Crossing store will remain as is.
A good guess is that it will.
More traffic, more congestion, more loss of tree cover, more pavement, more global warming, all for a supermarket very close to many other similar stores. Makes no sense to me.
We all love PUBLIX, I'm sure, but what or why is another needed just a few blocks aways from the other? Like Zippity said...
I'm not mad. It's sticking with the long term development plan of keeping all the retail in the Epps Bridge area. It's not like they're building it downtown Bishop.
There is no doubt that putting a gigantic shopping development in on Mars Hill Rd will significantly negatively impact the current residents. Already, traffic along Mars Hill to Oconee Connector stagnates every morning with almost 10 minutes and 3 or more light changes to needed to get from Mars Hill to the OC/316 interchange. Right now exiting any of the neighborhoods along Mars Hill in the morning is a challenge but especially those neighborhoods nearer the Oconee Connector. This congestion will exponentially expand when a 45 ACRE COMMERCIAL SHOPPING CENTER and RESIDENTIAL/HOTEL development is constructed with most of the access apparently from Mars Hill.
There needs to be some serious discussion, public forums, and debate on the impact this will have on the residents of Mars Hill area. As a local resident I have serious reservations about this project and it's impact on the people who have enjoyed much of their life here.
John Daniell and the Board of Commissioners have manipulated our government where citizens have no input or purview. We do not know where tax dollars are spent or future spending is proposed. The Town Halls are meaningless and are set up for John Daniell to deliver a few prepared statements he haltingly reads from a piece of paper.
Each questionable development moves Oconee closer to an economic wasteland that could harm our county’s future. We cannot fix politicians bad decisions in a few month. Consider: We will wake up years from now and not have the financial means to correct it - and be stuck with empty commercial buildings and unsold high end homes.
Agreed, Publix is a wonderful grocery line. The problem is not the company, it is the implementation and the long term ramifications.
Anonymous 10:02 AM
Let me urge you and others to sign your name to your posts. They have more impact if readers know who you are.
I have yet to see a Publix parking lot provide safe WALKWAYS for their customers trying to protect themselves from other customers in cars. Do pedestrian right of way laws apply to parking lots? It would be nice if Oconee had, and empowered, an architectural committee to prevent another dangerous Publix parking lot. Publix is my third choice in this city of many choices, because of their parking lot.
Examples of safer (and more inviting) parking lots are in front of Beechwood's Fresh Market; Kroger, at Alps. But the absolute best one I know of is QFC's University Village in Seattle. Hands down a place you look forward to navigating even if you only need some eggs.
--Roberta Schacher, Oconee County since 1998
As a resident of one of the subdivisions on Mars Hill, I do not support this plan. Traffic is already so congested there and the addition of more businesses and retail shops will make that area almost impossible to drive in. This will make me want to relocate.
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