Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Against Rezone For Restaurant On Hog Mountain Road Opposite RaceTrac

***Traffic Congestion A Concern***

The Oconee County Planning Commission told the Board of Commissioners on Monday that it thinks building a drive-through fast food restaurant on a tiny piece of property on Hog Mountain Road across from RaceTrac is a bad idea.

The property actually fronts on the stub of what was Hog Mountain Road before it was re-engineered to meet the widened U.S. 441, and traffic would have to cross that stub before reaching or leaving the restaurant.

County planners showed a complicated set of modifications to the roadway that would be needed to make the plan work.

The restaurant as proposed shows seating only at a small outside patio.

Property owner Mike Thornton also is asking that the requirement for a 50-foot buffer around the restaurant be dropped in favor of buffers of 12 and 15 feet.

The Planning Commission voted 6 to 0 to recommend that the Board of Commissioners deny the rezone request.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the Board of Commissioners approve a rezone for Jeff Bell to build a series of homes along Colham Ferry Road backing up on the existing fishing lake on the site.

Bell also is asking for a variance to accompany that request, but the Planning Commission does not review variance requests.

Tiny Restaurant, Tiny Lot

Mark Campbell of Carter Engineering Consultants, representing Thornton at the hearing on Monday, said several “parties” are interested in the restaurant but would not identify them.

Herring, Right, Responding To Hilyard (Center)
Commissioner Penny Mills At Left

According to the development narrative, the restaurant will be only 1,500 square feet in size. The lot itself is less than 0.6 acres.

The restaurant would have a maximum of 20 seats, Campbell said, and would not operate in the mornings.

The site plan shows outdoor patio seating on the side of the restaurant looking toward U.S. 441.

The drive through order location would be behind the building, and the pick-up window would face west.

The surrounding property is zoned residential, necessitating the 50 foot buffer, according to county code.

The Board of Commissioners will take up the variance request when it considers the rezone at its meeting on Aug. 3.

Road Design Presented To Commission

Oconee County Planning Director Guy Herring ended his comments before the Planning Commission on Monday with a sketch of what he said would have to be done to accommodate the traffic from the proposed restaurant.

Traffic Plan Presented By Herring
(Click To Enlarge)

Herring said the traffic consultant to the county had recommended that the stub of old Hog Mountain Road be modified to include a new stop sign and expanded traffic “noses” where the stub meets the existing Hog Mountain Road.

In addition, a small island should be built to restrict traffic entering Hog Mountain Road from the stub to right turns only, he said.

A left-turn lane would be added to Hog Mountain Road to allow traffic to turn into the stub and then the proposed restaurant.

The entrance to the stub aligns with the entrance to RaceTrac on the opposite side of Hog Mountain Road.

Commission Response

Herring said it is the staff recommendation that a condition for the rezone be that Thornton would have to pay for the needed road improvements.

Only one citizen spoke at the hearing on Monday, asking a question about the traffic plan Herring had presented, and no one spoke in opposition to the proposal.

“That area is a real bottleneck,” Commissioner Karen Hilyard said in questioning Herring about the plans. “I am not sure it can handle any additional traffic.”

Commissioner Chuck Hunt told his colleagues that what was done with this small tract would have impact on what could be done with the surrounding properties and expressed concern over the request for a variance to the buffer requirements.

Earlier Rezone

Thornton is asking to rezone his small parcel from AR (Agricultural Residential District) to B-2 (Highway Business District).

Once it is rezoned B-2, other uses consistent with that classification are possible.

Back in 2016, the Board of Commissioner rezoned 1.7 nearby acres at the corner U.S. 441 and Hog Mountain Road from AR-1 (Agricultural Residential One-Acre) and B-2 (Highway Business) to B-2 (Highway Business).

The proposal was for a single-building shopping center at what was once called Ray’s Crossing. The shopping center was to revive that name.

A convenience store and a pharmacy also were mentioned in the planning documents as possible uses.

In May of 2018, the county’s Development Review Committee approved site plans for a car wash on that site. Tyler McClure applied for a building permit for a Fire Station Express Car Wash in February of 2019.

One exit from the Fire Station Express Car Wash that was built is onto Hog Mountain Road via the stub that runs in front of the Thornton property.

Other Commission Action

The Planning Commission unanimously approved a request by developer Jeff Bell to carve just more than 13 acres from the 93.6-acre-tract on Colham Ferry Road that surrounds an existing fishing lake.

Those acres will be divided into five lots that will be part of what is being called Bell Lake Subdivision.

Much of the acreage for each lot is under water and part of the lake itself.

Each of the lots fronts onto Colham Ferry Road, and there is no residential street connecting them. Two of the lots are separated from the other three by property not owned by Bell.

Because the county’s development code requires that residential subdivisions be connected by an interior subdivision street, Bell also will need a hardship variance for his project.

The Planning Commission on Monday also unanimously recommended approval of a request by Jennifer Crawley and Lori Wagner to rezone 13.5 acres on Jimmy Daniell Road south of the SR 316 interchange from AG (Agricultural District) to OBP (Office Business Park).

Builder Kevin Price is proposing to construct up to 86,000 square feet of general office and office-warehouse space on the property.

Video

I did not attend the Planning Commission meeting, but I did watch it via the live Zoom broadcast.

Philip Ashford did attend the meeting and recorded the video below.

The rezone request of Crawley and Wagner is at 13:30 in the video.

The rezone request by Thornton is at 31:30 in the video.

The rezone request by Bell is at 51:43 in the video.

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