Thursday, March 10, 2022

Oconee County Agrees To Sell Two Buildings Across From Courthouse Declare As Surplus

***Approves Rezone For Car Wash In Butler’s Crossing***

Oconee County accepted bids of $731,250 last week for sale of two properties that are next door to the Courthouse and will be surplus once the county moves its nonjudicial functions to the new county administrative building in June of 2023.

The Board of Commissioners voted to accept a bid of $376,250 for the Elections Office Building, 10 Court Street, on the south side of the Courthouse, and a bid of $355,000 for the Ward Building, on the opposite side of the Courthouse at 3 Third Street.

Darron Britt was the higher of two bidders for the Elections Office, and VSC Properties LLLC was the highest of three bidders for the Ward Building.

The bids were approved contingent on County Attorney Daniel Haygood working out a lease agreement on the buildings after closing of the sale.

In other action at its meeting last week, the Board of Commissioners rezoned just less than three acres on Mars Hill Road in Butler’s Crossing for a car wash.

The Board also awarded a $1.5 million contract to Strickland and Sons Pipeline for construction of a gravity-fed line from Wire Park to the Jerry Smith Drive lift station in the Watkinsville Industrial Park. Watkinsville will pay for the construction.

The Board also appointed Melissa Braswell as Oconee County Finance Director to replace Wes Geddings, who has stepped down from that position to become director of financial services in Hall County. Braswell has been Oconee County assistant finance director.

In an unrelated development, on Thursday afternoon the county issued a scam alert about calls involving the Clerk of Courts Office.

Surplus Property

The Board of Commissioners had voted at its meeting on Dec. 7 of last year to declare the Elections Office and Ward Building surplus property.

The county issued an Invitation to Bid on Dec. 7, with tours scheduled on Dec. 14 and 21. Bids were due on Jan. 6.

The Election Office is described in the Invitation to Bid as a 2,450-square-foot single story, commercially zoned office building on .17 acres. The building was constructed in 1996.

The contract “will require a lease agreement between the Successful Bidder (lessor) and Oconee County (lessee),” according to the Invitation. “Lease term will be 18 months after closing of the sale.”

The Ward Building is described as a 1,447-square-foot single story, commercially zoned office building located on .16 acres. The office was built in 1950, according to the document.

No lease was requested for the Ward Building in the bids, but County Administrator Justin Kirouac said in an email on Thursday that the county decided to ask for a lease and the county Facilities and Operations Office will continue to use the building until the new administrative building is completed.

The county expects to close on the properties on April 1, according to an Addendum to the bid documents.

The new county administrative building will be at the intersection of North Main Street and the U.S. 441 Bypass on the north side of Watkinsville.

Successful Bidders

Britt is listed in county tax records as the owner of two adjoining properties totaling just less than 100 acres on Snows Mill Road at the Apalachee River.

VSC Properties LLLP is listed in county tax records as having 15 properties in the county, including all of the parcels surrounding the Ward Building in the block created by North Main Street, Third Street, Water Street, and the Oconee State Bank branch office.

Virginia Wells is listed as the general partner of VSC Properties LLLP in the Georgia Secretary of State corporate records.

Wells is listed on LinkedIn as the owner of Wells & Co. Realtor, Inc.

Wells owns two additional properties under her name, one in Hickory Hills off Simonton Bridge Road and the other on Old Bishop Road inside the Watkinsville city limits.

VSC Properties did not bid on the Elections Office. Britt bid $280,100 on the Ward Building.

John Michael Grigsby bid $80,000 on each of the two properties.

Car Wash

Buffa Ericksen LLC asked the Board of Commissioners to modify the zoning of 2.7 acres on Mars Hill Road adjacent to the Golden Pantry at the corner of Mars Hill Road and Hog Mountain Road so it can build an automatic tunnel car wash.

Submitted Rendition
Slopped Roof Required In Overlay District

Paul Buffa, with a Bishop mailing address, is listed as the registered agent in Secretary of State corporate records, for Buffa Erickson.

The 2.7 acres are the front part of a larger parcel of just more than eight acres. The rezone request was only for the 2.7 acre part of the tract.

Access to the car wash will be off Mars Hill Road via an existing concrete apron installed as part of the widening of Mars Hill Road.

Concept plans show a driveway to the undeveloped property at the rear of what will be the car wash.

Water and sewer will be provided by Oconee County Water Resources Department.

Frank Pittman of Pittman Engineering, representing Buffa, said the property will be purchased by a developer with experience in operating car washes.

The Planning Commission had recommended approval of the rezone, and the Board of Commissioners gave unanimous approval to the rezone as well as to the special use permit required to operate the car wash in the Mars Hill Road Overlay District.

Sewer Project

The city of Watkinville had requested construction of the sewer line to serve Wire Park, the mixed use development project on Barnett Shoals Road.

The City of Watkinsville and the county have an intergovernmental agreement for construction of the sewer line.

Strickland and Sons Pipeline in Gainesville was the low bidder.

Oconee County will pay the cost up front for the project and then be reimbursed by the City of Watkinsville.

Watkinsville will use Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue for the project.

Oconee County will own the sewer line once it is built.

Scam Announcement

Angela Elder- Johnson, Clerk of Superior, Magistrate and Juvenile Court, for Oconee County, issued an announcement of a scam on Thursday afternoon.

She said that her office has received “several calls over the last two days in reference to citizens receiving phone calls from unknown individuals claiming to be from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office.”

The caller claims that the individual “failed to appear for jury duty, and that a warrant has been issued for their arrest.”

“The scammers are giving instructions on how to take care of the fraudulent warrant, as well as asking for personal information,” Elder-Johnson wrote. “The fraudulent call back number that has been used is (706) 310-5171.

“The fraudulent number is being answered by an automated answering service. This call is a SCAM. If you receive a similar call please do not provide the caller with personal information or follow the caller’s instruction on how to send money or gift cards to have the warrant canceled,” Elder-Johnson wrote.

“Please be aware that the Oconee County Superior Court will not issue warrants for Jurors' arrest and will not ask for money to satisfy the warrant,” she said.


The video embedded below is of the March 1 meeting of the Board of Commissioners and is on the Oconee County YouTube channel.

The meeting starts at 1:05 in the video.

Discussion of the Buffa Ericksen rezone request is at 12:14 in the video.

Discussion of the sale of the Ward Building and the Election Office Building is at 37:43 in the video.

Kirouac’s microphone was not working, and the audio is very difficult to hear.


Dan Magee said...

Three car washes just a football throw away from each other; this one, J&M Mini Storage & Car Wash behind Zaxby's, and Fire Station Express Car Wash down the road.

Can we get some actual sustainable economic development taking advantage of Oconee's school system and proximity to one of the largest universities in the country, instead of this Gwinnett-lite stuff that employs almost no one? BioTech Please?

Yes, Costco was a score despite the bending over backwards so Frank Bishop unpatriotically doesn't have to pay taxes,, but if the BOC is going to farm out EcDev to the Chamber, stuff like this and the Checker's on a postage stamp with no buffer next to the Fire Station car wash is a step backwards.

Kudos to Watkinsville for going big & sustainable with Wire Park (and the new library).

Billion dollar EcDev projects in Jackson County & Walton County...and Oconee adds... fast fooderies, self storage & car washes...

B Haumschild said...


Far be it from me defending a developer, but misinformation is something we need to be fighting everywhere we find it, and you appear to misinformed. The Oconee Enterprise in December said that The Bishop Company/Epps Bridge Centre development is by far the No 1 largest taxpayer in the county. And this deal supposedly generates $2 million more in tax revenue the first year. It seems like your language is deliberatively inflammatory.

And was any incentive given to the car wash? This article does not suggest that there was, so what does EcDev being in the chambers hands have to do with anything? It seems like you are ranting. I for one welcome another car wash. 3 is not an overabundance, we are not a tiny rural county anymore, and competition is healthy and good. I would be more concerned about making sure 1.5 million sewer deal is run well without corruption. Corruption is what we need to be fighting at every level of the government.