Sunday, January 12, 2020

Oconee County Voters Can See New Voting Equipment At Tuesday’s Town Hall Meeting

Announcement Made At Commission Meeting

Oconee County voters will get a chance on Tuesday to see a demonstration of the new voting machines that the county will use for the presidential primary on March 24.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell announced at the Commission meeting last Tuesday that the county will hold its January Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. on this Tuesday at Oconee Veterans Park.

Daniell also said that Fran Leathers, director of Elections and Registration for the county, will demonstrate the new equipment at that meeting.

Leathers gave a brief demonstration of the newly arrived equipment before the meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration on Tuesday.

The Board of Commissioners, at its meeting, approved qualifying fees for 2020, when the county will have elections for the Board of Commissioners, Board of Education, county constitutional officers, including the sheriff, and coroner.

The primary for those races is in May.

In other action, the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a modification to a 2014 rezone of six acres on Hog Mountain Road for an office and commercial development.

The modification includes the relocation on the property of the historic Abe Jones House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Voting Machines

Georgia will have new voting equipment starting with the March elections.

Leathers With Printed Ballot And Vote Card 1/7/2020

Included is a touch-screen voting device, similar to what has been used in the state since 2002.

The old machines did not print out a ballot, however, and the new ones do. The ballots are then scanned by a separate device, producing a paper backup of the electronic record.

Leathers demonstrated the system to the four other members of the Board of Elections and Registration and six citizens who showed up for the meeting of the Board on Tuesday.

The machine was programmed with a series of questions about the state of Georgia, and Leathers said she will do her first public demonstration of the equipment at the Town Hall meeting. She also is seeking other opportunities to show the equipment, she said.

Leathers said she actually has little time to get people familiar with the devices, since early voting for the presidential primary starts on March 2.

Polling Locations

The Board of Elections and Registration meeting started at 5:30 p.m. and was followed by the Board of Commissioners meeting at 6 p.m.

Leathers appeared at the Commission meeting to report that the voting location for what had been the Malcom Bridge precinct has been moved to the Marswood Hall at St. Philothea Greek Orthodox Church, 3761 Mars Hill Road, for security reasons.

The new site has plenty of parking and easily accommodates the needs of the Elections and Registration Office, Leathers said.

Affected voters already have been notified of the change, Leathers said.

At the Board of Elections and Registration meeting, Leathers said that her office also is seeking a new voting location for the Colham Ferry precinct, which now uses Colham Ferry Elementary School.

Only limited space is available at the school, Leathers told her Board. She also cited security concerns for the school and for voting as an issue.

No change will be made until after the March presidential primary, she said.

At present, Leathers reported to the Board of Elections and Registration, the county has 30,056 registered voters.

Qualifying Fees

County Attorney Daniel Haygood told the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that it was required by law to approve candidate qualifying fees, which are set based on salary for the elected position.

Candidates must pay the fee when they qualify in early March for the May 19 primary.

The fee for candidates for the Board of Commissioners chair is $2,672.57, and the fee for the members of the Commission is $638.58.

The qualifying fee for the Board of Education posts is $54.

The qualifying fee for the sheriff, clerk of courts, tax commission and probate court judge is $2,106.83, and the fee for the coroner is $148.58, Haygood said.

The terms for Daniell and Commissioners Mark Saxon and Mark Thomas expire this year, as do the terms for Board of Education Chair Tom Odom and Board Members Wayne Bagley and Tim Burgess.

The county’s constitutional officers and the coroner also are up for election.

Bath Rezone

Nicholas and Jane Bath, 2430 Snows Mill Road, in the west of the county, asked the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to modify a 2014 rezone for six acres on Hog Mountain Road west of Hillcrest Drive.

The Baths initially proposed a commercial shopping center consisting of a family restaurant with retail and service-oriented uses at the front of the property and commercial office buildings at the rear.

Abe Abouhamdan, representing the Baths, told the commissioners that efforts to develop the property since the 2014 rezone have been unsuccessful, necessitating the request for a change in the plans. Abouhamdan is owner of ABE Consulting, 2410 Hog Mountain Road.

The original plans called for use of the Jones House, which now sits facing Hog Mountain Road, as a restaurant.

In January of 2017, Abouhamdan told the county’s Development Review Committee that plans for the restaurant in the Jones House were going forward.

Problems With Plans

In the zoning narrative submitted in November of last year, Abouhamdan wrote that “After trying on numerous occasions to place a tenant or utilize the existing white house as required by previous rezone conditions, it was evident that converting the existing structure to a family restaurant or other retail use was very difficult.”

Abouhamdan At Planning Commission 12/9/2019

“This one has been a tough one for all,” Abouhamdan told the Planning Commission at its public hearing for the rezone in December. “The owners, community, the neighbors.”

“The owners have changed three to four different real estate agents trying to get this property to move forward, to get something to happen. It hasn’t. One main reason is the historic white house in the front...Clearly a restaurant moving into that historic home is a very tough undertaking to do.”

The new plans calls for movement of the Jones House, estimated to have been built in 1905, to the rear of the property, where it will be marketed as office space.

In the original plans, the existing building and three others would have fronted on Hog Mountain Road. In the new plans, only three buildings front on Hog Mountain Road, and building square footage of the project decreases from 56,835 square feet to 44,025 square feet.

Abouhamdan told the Commission that there already is interest on the part of a local restauranteur in locating in one of the buildings that will face Hog Mountain Road.

Three people spoke in opposition to the rezone, raising concerns about traffic on Hillcrest Drive.

Both the planning staff and the Planning Commission, at its meeting in December, had recommended approval.

Second Rezone

In other action, the Board also approved the rezone of just less than an acre of land, near the Bath property at 2473 Hog Mountain Road, from agricultural use (AG) to office, institutional and professional use (OIP) so the property can be used for commercial purposes.

Abouhamdan, in this case representing property owner Nina Maxey, noted that the house already is surrounded by commercial, restaurant and mixed-use development.

The property has a Hog Mountain Road address and access but is behind the Colony Square Plaza, where Rachel’s Southern Style restaurant is located.

The plan is to convert the existing 1,802-square-foot building into commercial office use and, at a later point, expand or rebuild the existing home into a 4,252-square-foot office.

The Planning Commission had recommended approval, as had the planning staff.


The complete video of the Jan. 7 Board of Commissioners meeting is below. I attended the meeting, but Sarah Bell also attended and recorded the video.

Discussion of the two rezone requests begins at 4:04 in the video.

The second video below is Leathers’ demonstration, before the Jan. 7 Board of Elections and Registration meeting, of new voting equipment. I arrived as Leathers was beginning the demonstration, and the video picks up just after she began her comments.

The third video below is of the actual meeting of the Board of Elections and Registration on Jan. 7. I attended the first part of the meeting and then left to attend the Board of Commissioners meeting.

Penny Mills attended the entire Board of Elections and Registration meeting and produced the video.

The final video is of the meeting of the Planning Commission on Dec. 9. I was not able to attend that meeting. Sarah Bell recorded the video.

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