Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Oconee County Commissioners Turn Down Rezoned For Major Shopping Center On Oconee Connector And Mars Hill Road

***New Plans With Roundabout On Connector Introduced***

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners, in a 3 to 1 vote Tuesday night, turned down the rezone request by Maxie Price’s Deferred Tax LLC for a rezone of nearly 47 acres at the corner of the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road.

Commissioner Chuck Horton made the motion for the denial after a public hearing and discussion among the commissioners that lasted nearly 90 minutes. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Mark Saxon.

Commissioner Amrey Harden joined in the vote to deny the change that would have allowed for a development that included a Publix, two hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, and a car dealership.

Commissioner Mark Thomas cast the only vote against the motion to deny the request.

Four citizens spoke against the rezone request, with traffic dominating their concerns.

Only land planner Ken Beall, representing Price, advocated for the project.

New Concept

Beall introduced a new concept plan for the development that included a two-lane roundabout on the Oconee Connector between the planned flyover by the connector of SR 316 and Mars Hill Road/Daniells Bridge Road and a roundabout plus three other entrances to the subdivision on Mars Hill Road.

Beall Before Commission 

Beall also said the project would be redesigned from what was originally presented to the county in October of last year to include more green space, a water feature, and better protection of the unnamed stream flowing through the property on its way to Barber Creek.

Jennifer Walker, 1201 DaAndra Drive, one of the organizers of citizen opposition to the rezone, focused heavily on traffic problems she said the project would create both on the Oconee Connector and on Mars Hill Road.

Walker said she did not have a sense of how the proposed roundabout on the Connector mentioned by Beall in his presentation would address those problems.

Chris Herring, 1291 DaAndra Drive, another of those who had organized in opposition to the rezone, told the Commissioners that the issue before them was the proposal to eliminate the residential component of the current zoning.

“The current zoning is right for Publix and is right for Oconee County,” Herring said.

Both Walker and Herring had spoken at the Public Hearing of the Oconee County Planning Commission which voted on April 19 to recommend denial of the rezone to the Board of Commissioners.

Questions From Commissioners

Following the closing of the public hearing, Horton said his concern was traffic on Mars Hill Road.

New Plan Introduced By Beall 
(Click To Enlarge)

He told Beall that he didn’t not feel references to traffic counts at Epps Bridge Centre and at Kohl’s were appropriate because both were served by four-lane roads.

Commission Chair Daniell, who votes only to break ties, questioned Beall’s contention that the agreement between the county and the land owner in 2009 over property access was relevant because it dealt with property on the other side of the Oconee Connector.

Beall told the commissioners that the rezone in 1992, which created the current zoning for two of the three properties—including the residential component and a business zoning that could accommodate a grocery store—was done before there had been any discussion of an Oconee Connector.

That rezone did not include any access to a roadway that did not exist and was not even planned, he acknowledged.

Commissioner Saxon questioned whether a roundabout could fit into the design of the Connector when the flyover is built. Construction is scheduled to start in 2024.

Commission Thomas asked about access to the property via Virgil Langford Road, but Beall said that would not be possible because the road was being elevated where the Price property abuts that road to fly over SR 316.


B Rodgers said...

There are plenty of unused commercially zoned areas near 316/Oconee Connector. Bone Island Grille closed and the building remains empty, Epps Bridge Centre has vacancies and Epps Bridge Centre II has only Hobby Lobby.
An option worth consideration is “conservation easements” which preserves property as is, including wetlands, old-growth forests, and wildlife habitats. Private property owners can apply for this through the Georgia Conservation Tax Credit Program for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Lee Becker said...
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Lee Becker said...

I have not published several comments submitted that did not include an actual name in the Google ID or were signed with an actual name. Please resubmit them with proper identification and I will publish them.