Sunday, January 23, 2022

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Denial Of Rezone Request By Townley For Small Subdivisions In West Of County

***Citizens Express Concerns About Rentals***

Homeowners along Ray’s Church Road and Aycock Road told the Oconee County Planning Commission on Tuesday night they do not like the small subdivisions Tony Townley is planning on the edge of his large land holdings in the west of the county.

They said they are afraid the homes will be rented rather than owned, that the subdivisions will increase the traffic on the roads, and that the development would alter the rural nature of the area.

Townley has built four homes on lots on Aycock Road in the last year, and he has retained ownership of all of them.

Several of those who spoke on Tuesday said if Townley wants to build this type of housing, he should put it on land he owns in front of his own residence on Hog Mountain Road rather than on the parcels near where they live.

The Planning Commission, in a split vote, recommended to the Board of Commissioners that it reject Townley’s rezone requests. The Board is scheduled to vote on those recommendations on Feb. 1.

In other action, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of a request by another land owner that he be allowed to divide his five-acre property to add a second house.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended a rezone combining two parcels on the northern side of SR 316 at Dials Mill Extension for mini warehouses, self service storage units, and an office warehouse.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning improvements to that intersection, but the design is not yet settled.

Townley Request

Townley is asking the county to allow him to subdivide two parcels he owns in the triangle created by Matthews Road, Rays Church Road, and Aycock Road so he can build a five-lot subdivision and an adjoining two-lot subdivision.

McCannon Before Planning Commission 1/18/2022

The larger of the parcels Townley wants to subdivide is 12.5 acres and is zoned AG (Agricultural District).

Townley wants to divide the tract into five residential lots of about 2.4 acres each and is asking for a zoning classification of AR (Agricultural Residential) to do that.

Access to the subdivision, to be called “Springs of Aycock,” would be off a single road intersecting Matthews Road.

In addition, Townley is seeking to divide an adjoining 4.25-acre-parcel fronting on Aycock Road into two residential lots of about two acres each. A modular home currently sits on the lot.

The parcel currently is zoned AG (Agricultural District), and Townley wants to change the zoning to AR (Agricultural Residential).

Townley is calling this two-lot subdivision “Woods of Aycock,” and each lot will have a driveway access to Aycock Road.

Introducing Townley

Jeff Carter, of Carter Engineering, representing Townley, gave a very brief introduction on Tuesday of the first rezone request, which is for the two-lot subdivision. The land is in the name of Fraser Creek Investments.

Carter said Frazer Creek Investments is “owned by Tony Townley, a local farmer who has grown up in Oconee County and lives just right down the road.”

Carter said Townley “desires to take this four-acre--a little over four acres--and split it into two lots and build two really nice homes.

“So I will be glad to try to answer any of your questions or concerns,” he said in closing.

Townley, cofounder of Zaxby’s with his boyhood friend Zach McLeroy, sold his interest in Zaxby’s in 2020. He has a home on Hog Mountain Road surrounded by farm land he also owns.

Land Holdings

According to county tax records, Townley owns 53 properties through the Frazer Creek Investments LLC name.

The larger of the two tracts he is seeking to rezone is under the name Townley Family Partnership LLLP, and Oconee County tax records list 61 properties under that name.

Included in the holdings are 107.8 acres in four parcels fronting on Aycock Road just across from his two proposed subdivisions, and just less than 2 acres at the intersection of Matthews Road and Rays Church Road.

Townley owns almost all of the land in the area bordered by Matthews Road, Aycock Road, Snows Mill Road, and Hog Mountain Road.

Two of the five “inholdings” in that large collection of properties are owned by Harold and Trena Townley Life Estate, and a third is owned by Harold and Trena Townley.

Already Existing Houses

Townley built a house in 2021 on one of those "inholding" parcels of 2.1 acres sitting at the corner of Matthews Road and Aycock Road. Ownership is listed as with Frazer Creek Investment LLC.

He didn’t need a rezone to do that.

That home is opposite his proposed “Springs of Aycock,” and, in a real sense, makes his subdivisions a cluster of eight houses on adjoining parcels of land.

An adjoining one-acre lot has a home on it built in 1988, and the 2.7-acre-lot next to that has a home built in 1978, according to county tax records.

With the addition of the seven new lots proposed for development by Townley, the cluster of homes is 10.

Townley also can build a home on the just less than two acres at the intersection of Matthews Road and Rays Church Road with its current zoning.

That would bring the cluster of homes to 11.

Opponents Of Requests

In the narrative for the two rezones, Townley says he is seeking the rezones “in hopes of enriching and enhancing the surrounding community.”

The nine speakers in opposition to the two rezone requests at the public hearing before the Planning Commission on Tuesday night said the subdivisions would have the opposite effect.

All nine of them have property that abuts or is across the road from property owned by Townley.

In several cases, the speakers have property that is across Aycock from Townley’s holding and bordering other Townley properties, because Townley owns land south of Aycock as well.

The nine speakers said they were extrapolating from what they have observed with the four houses Townley built in 2021 to what they expect to happen on the properties up for rezone.

Two Hearings

Because Townley is seeking to rezone two separate parcels, the Planning Commission held two separate public hearings.

Labeled Map Of Area Of Proposed Subdivisions

Seven persons spoke in the first, and the same seven plus two additional persons spoke in the second.

Jeff Carter from Carter Engineering presented the two rezones as two separate subdivisions, though on adjoining properties. The opponents didn’t make that distinction in their objections.

They simply treated the hearings as two opportunities to voice their arguments.

Patrick Whitehead, who lives on just less than eight acres at 1493 Rays Church Road, spoke first in both of the hearings.

“It's nice and quiet out there,” he told the Commission. “This is the reason we live in Oconee County. It's rural. It's quiet. It's not a lot of traffic.

“Putting in subdivisions is going to add extra people, extra cars, extra noise, a variety of things that I feel like a lot of us there don't want,” he said.

Houses Already Built

“Mr. Townley built three houses next to my property recently,” said Matt Alexander, who lives on just less than three acres at 1531 Aycock Road.

Brown At Planning Commission 1/18/2022

“I went in while they were being built,” Alexander said, “And they're well built. They're nice houses. They look good on the inside and the outside.”

“But they’re rental properties,” he continued, “and I’m afraid that these little enclaves of twos and threes and fours and fives are going to pop up all over that section of the county. We'll have a rental area of the county.”

Mandi Moreira said Townley tried to purchase property that her family owns on Aycock Road. (County records show the family owns 15 acres in five different tracts.)

“They were trying to scoop it up,” she said, “and I'm sure to build more tiny little rental homes.

“Tony's a nice guy,” she said. “Nothing personal, but this development is coming fast and if we don't go ahead and put a halt early on, I'm afraid it's it's just going to change this county.”

“The infrastructure in the area identified in the rezone is crumbling and not able to accommodate additional traffic in its current state,” Debra Brown, 1461 Aycock said.

“There are many potholes,” she said. “Aycock Road has no shoulder. Matthews Road has not been resurfaced in decades.”

Second Hearing

The tone of the second hearing was more critical than the first.

“I just don't want a bunch of extra houses around my house,” Whitehead said. “We live where we live because it's private.”

“I like having that peace around me,” he continued, “and may I just simply make a suggestion? If Mr. Townley wants to build seven houses, take one of those great big lots that's in front of his house and put it there maybe.

“That way he can have them close to him and not so close to us,” he added.

New Construction

“This guy here, Tony, has done a lot for the community,” McCannon said in the second hearing. “We have no problem with him.”

McCannon said, however, that when the builders were working on the three new houses added by Townley next to his property, his life was disrupted.

“I work at night,” he said. “So it kept me up for a year. Bulldozers, tractors, dump trucks all day long.

“Nobody has never came and said ‘Hey what can I do for you? Do I need to help you out or whatever?’ Nothing for the whole year.

“So I think that's kind of disrespectful to the people that's living there now because he don't have no problem. He's over in the middle on 500 acres. Ain't nobody gonna keep him up all night.

“But me, I've been up. I have to sleep in the basement, and I still get woke up, and I think it's pretty disrespectful,” he said.

Remaining Property Owner

“A subdivision like that, you don’t know who you are living next to,” said James Frazier, whose three acres are the only ones not owned by Townley in the triangle created by Matthews, Rays Church, and Aycock roads.

Frazier and his wife, Annie, spoke at the second hearing, but they had not been able to speak at the first because the others used up the 20 minutes allocated for opponents of the rezone request.

“So many different people coming in,” Frazier continued. “So many people, drugs and stuff going on now. You know, you just don’t know who be around.

“What we have now. Everybody know one another. We good neighbors. We understand one another. Nobody bothers nobody. I like where I’m at right now,” Frazier said.

“Way I look at it, if Tony want to put some houses, put them around his place,” Frazier said. “He got all that land and stuff. He can’t farm all of it.”

Rebuttal And Vote

Carter, in his rebuttal for the comments after the first hearing, said “I want to make sure that you know we're talking about two homes in this application and a few more in the next application, so we're not talking about a large subdivision.”

Labeled Site Of Townley Homes Built 2021

He did not address the issue of rental properties, other than to say that Townley “has shown he has a proven track record in the county of maintaining what he owns.”

Commission Member Chris Herring made a motion for approval of the first rezone request with the stipulation that “the original sale is for owner occupied and not for rental units,” but the motion died for lack of a second.

Commission Member Chuck Hunt made a motion to approve, but that motion was voted down.

Then Nathan Byrd made a motion to recommend denial of the rezone request, and that motion passed with Scott Green, Byrd, Herring, and Stephen Goad voting to deny, and Hunt and Mike Floyd voting against the motion.

In introducing the second request, Carter said “if you don't want two homes in the county, you're not going to want these homes, so I'm not gonna try to persuade you to agree to this development.

“But I do want to mention,” he said, “just as a long-time resident of Oconee County, it does seem to me that restricting people from renting homes, it doesn't seem like a good idea.”

Herring made a motion to deny the second rezone, and he was joined by Green, Byrd, and Goad in voting to recommend that the Board of Commissioners deny the rezone request. Hunt and Floyd again voted against the motion.

Scott Request

Kyle Scott asked the Planning Commission to recommend approval of a rezone of five acres with the address of 1370 Ridgeway Road, off Moores Ford Road in the northwest of the county.

The property already has one home on it, and Scott wants to rezone the parcel from AG (Agricultural District) to AR (Agricultural Residential District) so he can subdivide it and build a second home on roughly 2.5 acres of the land.

Scott also said he would renovate the existing home, which is a rental and likely will remain a rental.

The property is accessed through an easement on an adjoining property, which also serves property owned by Christopher and Joanna Boswell.

Boswell spoke against the rezone request, saying that the rental property is in disrepair and that traffic on the access road already is great because of the large number of vehicles used by the renter.

“So the traffic's already there,” Boswell said. “If you add another lot to that, it doesn't make any sense.”

“I invested a lot of money in my property,” Boswell said. “I built a nice home. I got a nice barn out there. It's real quiet and, you know, renters are renters.”

Hunt made the motion to recommend denial of the rezone request. The vote was unanimous.

Dials Mill Extension Project

Pittmann Engineering asked the Planning Commission to recommend rezone of two properties on the north side of SR 316 at the Dials Mill Extension intersection in the far northwest of the county for a multi-use commercial development.

Dials Mill Extension Rezone Properties In Red

The property is owned by Mike Power and the Estate of Jerry R. Huff.

The Power property is 4.6 acres in size, while the Huff property is 1.4 acres.

The Power property was zoned to its current OBP (Office Business Professional) classification in 2005 for a warehouse office complex that was never built. The Huff property is zoned AG (Agricultural District).

The request is to combine the properties under the OBP classification for a multi-use commercial development.

The property owners also are seeking a special use permit to include mini-warehouses and self-storage units.

The overall project will include up to seven buildings for office warehouse units, mini-warehouses, and self-service storage units.

The Commission voted to recommend approval for both the rezone and the special use permit.

Senior Planner Grace Tuschak, in response to a question from Commission Member Herring, said plans for the SR 316 improvements at the Dials Mill Extension intersection are not firm but a flyover has been discussed.


The video below was recorded by Oconee County and is on the county’s YouTube site.

The meeting starts at 6:18 in the video.

Discussion of the first of the Townley rezone requests–for the smaller tract--begins at 9:34 in the video.

Discussion of the second of the Townley rezones begins at 49:53.

Discussion of Scott rezone is at 75:34.

Power discussion begins at 1:37:22

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