Friday, July 02, 2021

No Legal Challenge Filed To Oconee County Commission Rejection Of Shopping Center At Mars Hill Road And Oconee Connector

***No Revised Plans For Shopping Center Submitted***

Maxie Price let the deadline pass on Thursday without filing the threatened constitutional challenge to the decision by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners not to grant a rezone for a shopping center at the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road.

Angela Elder-Johnson, Clerk of Superior, Magistrate, and Juvenile Courts for Oconee County, confirmed on Friday morning that Price had not filed suit in Superior Court by the end of the day on Thursday.

Oconee County Attorney Daniel Haygood also confirmed on Friday that Thursday was the 30-day deadline for Price to file the suit to challenge the May 4 decision of the Board of Commissioners to deny Price’s rezone request.

As of Friday, Price also had not asked the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department to review any modification of plans for the shopping center, which was proposed to include a Publix as well as hotels, restaurants, and a car dealership.

Price has another five months to present a scaled down version of his initial request.

He can come back to the county in 11 months and ask for reconsideration of the request denied on May 4 or for consideration of a modified version of that request.


Price, through his Deferred Tax LLC, owns three parcels fronting on SR 316, the Oconee Connector, Mars Hill Road, and Virgil Langford Road totaling just less than 47 acres.

Connector (Top) And Mars Hill Road 7/2/2021
Shopping Center Proposed On Left

The parcels are zoned B-2 (Highway Business District), B-1 (General Business District), and R-1 (Single-Family Residential).

Price asked the county to combine the properties into a single tract to be zoned B-2 for development of a shopping center with a grocery store as the main tenant and for retail, restaurant, and hotel uses.

Sembler Corporation of Florida was to be the developer of the proposed shopping center with Publix as the grocery store operator.

The Board of Commissioners, in a 3 to 1 vote on May 4, turned down the request.

Price lists a residential address in Old Waverly subdivision off Rocky Branch Road in the north of the county.

Constitutional Challenge

Price’s attorney, William Berryman, notified the county in a letter dated March 2 that Price was prepared to challenge a rejection of his request as unconstitutional.

Such claims of unconstitutionality are standard in major zoning decisions and do not indicate that the applicant actually will file suit.

If Price were to have filed suit, according to County Attorney Haygood, Superior Court most likely would have limited its review of the case to the issue of constitutionality.

If the Court were to have ruled that the county had not acted constitutionally, Haygood said, it would not have rezoned the property but rather would have sent the request back to the county for another hearing and decision that met constitutional requirements.

Price had until 30 days after the Board of Commissioners, on June 1, approved the minutes of the May 4 meeting at which the rezone was denied.

Options Still Available

It would be possible to put a grocery store on the two properties zoned B-1 and B-2, though it would be necessary to modify the submitted rezone plans for those properties to accomplish that.

Any request that would come before the Commission after the six-month lag from June 1 would have to address access to both the Connector and Mars Hill Road, and, in the case of the B-1 property, the square footage.

The third property zoned for residential development would require new concept plans reflecting current lot size requirements in the county.

Guy Herring, director of Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement, told me in an email on June 8 that “We have not received anything from Deferred Tax” following the rezone denial.

Grace B. Tuschak, senior planner in the Planning and Code Enforcement Department, told me in an email message on Friday morning that Herring was out of the office this week.

“To my knowledge, we have not received anything new from the applicant since the BOC vote,” she wrote.

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