Ryan Anglin, founder of the Oconee County Gun Coalition, appeared before the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night and asked that body to adopt a resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
Anglin spoke during the citizen comment section of the Board of Commissioners meeting and followed five speakers, including Marisue Hilliard, a volunteer with the Georgia Chapter of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, who anticipated Anglin’s request and spoke against it.
The Commissioners listened to those who spoke but gave no response, following normal procedures when citizens make comments before the Commission.
In other action on Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a special use request by the Life Church of Athens to construct a neighborhood-scale church on a nearly nine-acre parcel at Summit Oaks Drive and Summit Grove Drive just northeast of Watkinsville.
The Board also decided not to impose a $20 fee for participants in the county’s tackle football program, which starts in April, but rather to absorb at least initially any costs resulting from the proposed imposition of fees on the county by Oconee County Schools for use of its sports facilities.
The Oconee County Gun Coalition is scheduled to meet at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow at the Oconee County Library to hear a speaker and discuss the resolution Anglin presented to the Board.
Citizen Comment Invitation
Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell invites public comment at the beginning of each of its meetings, and Hilliard came forward in response to that invitation at the Tuesday meeting to say she represented more than 100 citizens in Oconee County who are members of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America.
|Hilliard And Commission 3/3/2020|
Those citizens, Hilliard said, “support commonsense gun laws.”
“I’m here today to oppose any resolution that declares Oconee County a Second Amendment Sanctuary County,” she added.
“Instead of passing a meaningless resolution that undermines the rule of law,” she said, “we should be working on measures to protect our residents from gun violence.”
“All of the gun safety laws currently in place in Georgia have been ruled constitutional and should be enforced to ensure our safety,” Hilliard continued.
Anglin from the Oconee County Gun Coalition had appeared before the Feb. 24 meeting of the Oconee County Republican Party, at the invitation of County Party Chair Steven Strickland, to discuss the Gun Coalition resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
Hilliard, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in 2018 to represent the 46th Senate District in the Georgia General Assembly, had made gun violence a part of her campaign. The 46th Senate District includes all of Oconee County as well as parts of Clarke and Walton counties.
Other Comments In Opposition
“Although it hasn’t been requested of the Board yet,” Melissa Hopkinson, co-chair of the Oconee County Democratic Committee, told the commissioners, “we just wanted to let you know that there is public concern for this.
“I’m here to express that concern for myself,” she said, “as well as for those on the Committee-- the Democratic Committee.”
“As we know, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of citizens to bear arms,” Hopkinson said.
“The Supreme Court protects the right to bear arms,” Hopkinson said, “but it is not an unlimited right.”
“I also fear that residents and businesses would be nervous to move to a county that blatantly disregards enforcing existing law,” Hopkinson said. “So, in conclusion, I don’t think there is a need for this resolution, at least as I’ve seen it, and it’s only effect would be to encourage fear and distrust in our community.”
Three others speakers who followed Hilliard also asked that the Commission not pass any resolution declaring the county a Second Amendment Sanctuary.
Proponents Come Forward
After the five persons spoke in opposition to a resolution–which had, at that point, had not been presented to the Board--Bill Mayberry, who had attended the Oconee County Republican Party meeting on Feb. 24, came forward to speak.
“I arise in favor of the resolution,” Mayberry said. “Perhaps the major benefit of the resolution is to open the discussion.”
“If this is such a worthless and unnecessary resolution,” he said, “why the strong opposition? What I am hearing is fear mongering in itself.”
“What stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” Mayberry said. “That’s been shown over and over and over again. It is a reality.”
“Limitations and severe limitations, and unconstitutional Fourth and Fifth Amendment intrusions into our privacy to own a gun and what to do with it are coming down the pike,” Mayberry said. “It may not be today. But it is coming.”
Anglin On Resolution
Anglin followed Mayberry to the microphone and identified himself as founder and president of the Oconee County Gun Coalition, which he called a “grassroots, pro-Second Amendment, gun rights group.”
|Anglin And Commission 3/3/2020|
“Our organization has drafted a second amendment sanctuary resolution that we hope would be considered to be placed on the agenda and voted by the Board,” Anglin said. “This resolution would put Oconee County on the map with at least 18 other counties as of today. And it would declare ourselves to be a Second Amendment Sanctuary County.”
Anglin said 22 other counties are considering the resolution and that he has more than 130 signatures on a petition “from individuals who would also like to see this resolution come through.”
Anglin said legislation is being proposed in other states “that violates the Second Amendment and our right to keep and bear arms.” He mentioned Virginia as one example.
“This resolution is going to make a historical statement for Oconee County,” Anglin said. “It will send a strong political message to our state, to our governor and his offices, to our state representatives, Congressmen and Senators, that we will not stand with unconstitutional gun legislation.
“Listen, the country was founded on freedom and liberty,” Anglin said, “the people being able to protect themselves against all enemies, both foreign and domestic, all forms of tyranny.”
“If you’d like to see this, I’ll make sure you get a copy,” Anglin told the commissioners, referring to his resolution, at the end of his comments.
Julie Mauck, one of the two speakers who followed Anglin, said she was speaking “On behalf of the female concealed carry permit holders in the county” and said “I would appreciate your action in making Oconee County a safe haven for those of us who feel like our rights are being encroached upon.”
Life Church Of Athens
Most of the discussion during the public hearing on the special use request of Life Church of Athens dealt with traffic.
|Wood And Commission 3/3/2020|
At the Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 17, speakers emphasized that residents who live along Summit Oaks Drive, Summit Drive and Summit Circle have only one way to exit their properties–via Summit Grove Drive and then SR 15, which becomes North Main Street.
Jeff Carter of Carter Engineering, who is representing the church as well as landowner Dwight R. Moss, of Hayesville, N.C., argued that Summit Grove Drive had been part of U.S. 441 before the U.S. 441 bypass of Watkinsville was built and could handle the traffic from the Church.
Life Church of Athens Pastor Nolan Wood, one of the two others who spoke in favor of the rezone, also said the “the roads are sufficient to handle the traffic” but also said the church will “add value” to the Summit Grove and Summit Oaks neighborhoods. Wood lives at 3120 Ryland Hills Drive, east of Watkinsville.
The nearly nine acres owned by Moss already is zoned for Office Institutional Professional (OIP) use but the church needs a special use approval to build its planned 30,000 square-foot sanctuary and chapel because it will front on what is now a local road–Summit Grove Drive.
Opponents Of Church Proposal
Four people spoke in opposition to the request, with attorney David Ellison taking up most of the allotted time.
Ellison said he represented the Home Owners Association of Summit Oaks subdivision and property owner Kyle Martin, 1041 Summit Oak Drive, whose land is adjacent to the proposed church.
“We’re here today,” Ellison told the Board, “because my clients object to this proposed use due to, primarily, traffic that is going to be generated by this desired use.”
Ellison said that a local road has a capacity of 250 average daily trips, and the church, in its rezone application, has listed its average daily trips of 214, leaving inadequate capacity for the residents who use Summit Grove Drive to leave there homes.
Jonathan Eggenschwiler, 1140 Summit Circle, followed Ellison and said he expected average daily trips actually will be higher than the 214, based on a more recent manual for estimating traffic.
Eggenschwiler said he was concerned with safetly, and particularly fire safety, in the neighborhood because access is limited to what is provided by Summit Grove Drive.
Much of the discussion of the Board before it voted 4 to 0 to approve the request centered on the current zoning of the property.
Guy Herring, director of Planning and Code Enforcement for the county, told the commissioners that someone proposing to build an office building complex on the property that would generate 800 average daily trips would not need Commission approval to be able to do so.
Youth Football Fee
At the Board of Commissioners’ agenda setting meeting on Feb. 25, Oconee County Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Davol asked the commissioners to approve a $20 fee increase for participants in the county’s tackle football program to cover new fees being proposed by Oconee County Schools for use of its recreational facilities.
Commission Chair Daniell said at the meeting on Tuesday that the Board of Education had not finalized it plans for the fees and had, at its meeting on Monday, discussed phasing in any future costs to the county.
Daniell reminded the Board that, at present, neither the county nor the school system charges each other fees, though both do charge fees to others who use these same facilities.
Based on the 2018-2019 school year, Daniells said, the school system used about 900 hours of county sports facilities or offices space at county parks, which would generate $27,000 in fees if a group other than one from the school system used the facilities.
Davol has estimated that the new fees will require the county to pay $60,000 to the school system, but the Dallas LeDuff, director of student services for Oconee County Schools, showed a much higher figure–$137,440–at the meeting on Monday.
Commissioner Mark Saxon proposed that the county “absorb that money for the tackle football currently” and then come back to the topic when there is more certainty on the fees that will be charged by the school system.
The Board asked Davol to come back to it with a fee schedule for Fiscal Year 2021 after the Board of Education takes final action.
The item is scheduled to be on the agenda for the Board of Education meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday at the school offices on School Street in Watkinsville.
Commission Chair Daniell announced that the next Town Hall Meeting be held starting at 6 p.m. on April 14 at Oconee Veterans Park.
The topic of that session is to be the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum scheduled for the November ballot.
During the citizen comment session, I asked the Board to considering expanding the opportunity for citizen comment on the SPLOST initiative. (I thought those wishing to speak about Anglin’s resolution had finished talking but ended up speaking before the last two proponents came forward.)
The Board also approved a special exception variance for 2.5 acres zoned R-1 (Single Family Residential) north of Campbellton Place for a second vehicular access to the property and another special exception variance for a little more than three acres zoned AR (Agricultural Residential) north of Two Oak Drive to reduce the rear setback from 40 feet to 25 feet.
The Board also authorized Chair Daniell to sign a refinance rate term sheet setting a minimum of $450,000 minimum bond savings for the refinancing of the remaining $7.6 million in bond debt for construction of Oconee Veterans Park.
The Board also authorized County Administrator Justin Kirouac to negotiate with the highest scoring finalist for renovations to the Civic Center.
The video below is of the March 3 Board of Commissioners meeting.
Commission Chair John Daniell called for citizen comment, following normal procedure, at 1:16 in the video.
Discussion of the rezone for Life Church of Athens begins at 25:51 in the video.
Discussion of the fee schedule for youth football begins at 1:32 in the video.