When the Oconee County Planning Commission meets in September, it will have to start strategizing for selection of a new chair, as the Oconee County Board of Commissioners has turned down current Chair Maria Caudill’s request for reappointment to the Planning body.
At its regular meeting on Aug. 4, the Board of Commissioners selected incumbent Planning Commission Member Chuck Hunt for reappointment, but selected Nathan Byrd, a minister, over Caudill.
Hunt and Caudill are the only two members of the 12-member Commission whose terms expire on Sept. 30, and Hunt also had asked for reappointment.
Byrd was among the 10 others not currently on the Planning Commission who had applied for a four-year appointment to that body.
The Board of Commissioners does not actually select citizens who apply for appointment to its various committees at its regular meetings, though that is when the formal vote is taken.
The actual decision on these appointments is made, as a personnel matter, in executive session at the end of the agenda-setting meeting the week before.
At the meeting on Aug. 4, the Board of Commissioners also appointed a new member to fill a vacancy on the Animal Services Advisory Board and four members for the Recreation Advisory Committee.
No Explanation Offered
I asked each of the four members of the Board of Commissioners to offer an explanation for the decision not to reappoint Caudill to the Planning Commission, but none of them responded.
Caudill has been on the Planning Commission since October 1 of 2012.
She was elected chair of the Commission a year ago.
Caudill, 1300 South Rossiter Terrace, off Simonton Bridge Road, lists her occupation as administrative manager of Caudill Associates Engineering Services on her application and said she has 25 years of work experience in public and private transportation and finance.
“It is an honor to serve on the committee and I am strongly committed to serve as illustrated in my high attendance record,” Caudill wrote on her application. “I ask to continue serving on the Oconee County Planning Commission.”
Caudill ran unsuccessfully against incumbent Post 4 Commissioner Mark Saxon in the June 9 Republican Primary. She is a former chair of the Oconee County Republican Party and was a long-time volunteer at Eagle Tavern.
Caudill also had been serving as chair of the county’s Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee until the Board of Commissioners disbanded that body late last year.
The commissioners appointed a smaller Transportation Task Force from the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee’s members and did not include Caudill on the Task Force.
The Planning Commission did not meet for its regularly scheduled meeting on Aug. 17 because of a lack of items requiring consideration, but it is scheduled to meet on Sept. 21.
Bryd’s term begins on Oct. 1 and runs for four years.
Byrd, 1311 Ferncreek Drive, off U.S. 78 in the northwest of the county, lists his occupation as minister to older adults at Milledge Avenue Baptist Church in Athens-Clarke County.
“I would like to be more involved in our community and to have a voice as we are changing and growing,” Byrd wrote in explaining why he wanted to be appointed to the Planning Commission.
Hunt, 1080 Sam Cooper Road, off Colham Ferry Road south of Watkinsville, also has been on the Planning Commission for eight years.
Hunt lists his occupation as farmer and retired teacher and said “I have gained lots of useful experience that I would like to continue to put to work reviewing and guiding plans for growing our county in a sustainable way to benefit residents and business growth alike.”
Planning Commission Composition
The Planning Commission historically has been made up of 12 members, with eight of them appointed by the Board of Commissioners and the other four appointed by each of the county’s four cities.
The Planning Commission hears rezone requests from property owners in the unincorporated parts of the county and in Bishop, Bogart and New High Shoals.
The county Planning staff reviews these requests and makes recommendations before they come before the Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission holds public hearings and make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners or to city councils of Bishop, Bogart and New High Shoals.
Watkinsville, though it has had a representative on the Planning Commission, has its own planning staff and does not send rezones requests within the city to the county Planning Commission for review.
The county pays the eight members it appoints $25 per meeting, and the cities make their own decision on compensation.
Early in January, outgoing Watkinsville Mayor Dave Shearon made the decision not to make an appointment to the Planning Commission on the grounds the city handled its own zoning matters.
Incoming Mayor Bob Smith reversed that decision, and the Watkinsville Council approved his appointment of Jonathan Kirkpatrick to fill the spot.
In an email message in March, however, Smith told Kirkpatrick that the county was no longer offering the city a position on the Planning Commission because the city has not involved the Planning Commission in its zoning decisions.
In an email message to me on Aug. 20, Oconee County Commission Chair John Daniell said “Watkinsville can have a member on the Planning Commission.
“The resolution creating the Planning Commission allows any City using the Planning Commission to have a seat on the PC,” he wrote.
“Currently, Watkinsville does not use the PC in their zoning process and we would welcome Mayor Smith to appoint a member once Watkinsville updates their zoning procedure,” the email continued.
Other Committee Appointments
At the meeting on Aug. 4, the Board of Commissioners also appointed Heather Macbeth to serve a vacant slot on the Animal Services Advisory Board. The term will end on June 30, 2021.
Macbeth, 118 Hight Drive in Watkinsville, is a licensed professional counselor.
Three others had applied for the opening. The Advisory Board has five members.
The Board of Commissioners reappointed Richard Ashmore, 1132 Trotters Walk, off U.S. 78, and Wesley Scott, 1381 Arizona Bend, off Jimmy Daniell Road, to the Recreation Advisory Committee to fill two-year terms expiring on Sept. 30 of 2022.
Ashmore is retired and Scott is a financial advisor.
The Board of Commissioners also appointed Dan Moore, a banker, and Giles Moree, a forester.
Moore lives at 1421 Beverly Drive, off Daniells Bridge Road, and Moree lives at 1030 Eaglewood Drive, off Dials Mill Road in the northwest of the county.
Two of the current members whose terms expire on Sept. 30 did not seek reappointment, and eight people not on the Committee had applied for appointment.
The Committee has nine members.
Motions And Votes
State law allows the commissioners to make their decisions on personnel in executive session closed to the public and to refuse to reveal discussions in those sessions.
All four of the commissioners participate on those discussions, though Daniell does not vote on the actual appointment unless, somehow, there is a tie.
At the meeting on Aug. 4, Commissioner Mark Thomas made the motion to appoint Byrd and Hunt to the Planning Commission, and Commissioner Saxon seconded. Commissioner Chuck Horton joined in the unanimous vote.
Horton made the motion on the Animal Services Advisory Board appointments, which was seconded by Saxon. The vote was unanimous.
Saxon made the motion on the appointments to the Recreation Advisory Committee, and the motion was seconded by Thomas. The vote was unanimous.
I sent an email to all four of the commissioners on Aug. 19 asking: “Would any of you be willing to explain the decision not to reappoint Maria Caudill to the Planning Commission?”
I have not received a reply from any of them
Other Commission Action
In other action at that Aug. 4 meeting, the Board of Commissioners approved amendments to the county’s Alcoholic Beverages Ordinance to allow caterers to sell alcohol and revised the Animal Services Ordinance to define key terms.
The Board also approved a series of rezones and allowed special uses involving four different land owners. All were small acreage requests.
The Board also authorized Daniell to apply for federal relief funds to offset expenses resulting from actions taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Board also approved a new alcohol license application for Los Primos Taqueria Express Inc., located at 7990 Macon Highway, with Elias Hernandez as the registered agent.
The Board of Commissioners is holding its agenda-setting meeting at 6 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday) night, preceded at 5:30 by a public hearing on its proposed tax rate for the fiscal year that began on July 1.
I watched and recorded the video of the Aug. 4 Board of Commissioners meeting on Zoom, but Sarah Bell attended the meeting and produced the video below.
Discussion of appointments to the three citizen committees begins at 35:56 in the video.
I also have embedded below a video I recorded from Zoom of the Planning Commission meeting of July 20.
Caudill chaired the meeting, and Hunt is seated to her right (left on the screen).