Monday, June 27, 2022

New Plans For Publix Shopping Center On Oconee Connector Under Review

***Main Access Off Connector***

Deferred Tax LLC has submitted preliminary paperwork for a second attempt to rezone property on the west side of the Oconee Connector between SR 316 and Mars Hill Road for a shopping center that is to include a Publix.

The rezone request includes only a little more than 34 acres of the total 47 acres owned by Deferred Tax and seeks a less intense business classification than sought in the first rezone. The Board of Commissioners rejected that request in May of 2021.

The documents submitted for the rezone, which have not yet been fully reviewed by the Oconee County planning staff, once again propose that the main entrance to the shopping center is to be via a “full commercial access median break” on the Oconee Connector.

No entrance to the property from the Connector currently exists.

Last week, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) released its plans for construction of a multi-grade intersection of SR 316 and the Oconee Connector that has the Oconee Connector fly over SR 316.

The GDOT plans do not include any access to the Deferred Tax property.

Three Properties

Deferred Tax, whose principal in Maxie Price, owns three properties summing to just less than 47 acres between the Connector, Mars Hill Road, Virgil Langford Road, and SR 316.

New Concept Plans For Deferred Tax Rezone
(Click To Enlarge)

One of those properties is zoned residential, and the others are zoned for general business and for highway business.

When Deferred Tax initially submitted its proposal rezone in October of 2020, it asked that all three parcels be zoned B-2, or Highway Business District.

The preliminary documents submitted for the current rezone do not include the 13.2 acres currently zoned residential. The 1992 rezone of that property specified a 15-lot single-family subdivision.

The new request is for a commercial subdivision of 11 lots, including a 9.4-acre-lot for a Publix grocery store. The rezone category being sought is B-1, General Business District.


The narrative for the new rezone states that “The primary access point to the development will be located at the proposed full commercial access median break on the Oconee Connector.”

The plans do not provide details of that access, but the earlier plans specified a light with right in and right out, and left in and left out, traffic.

 Enlarged Deferred Tax Plans
Oconee Connector

The proposal also is for three separate commercial access drives on Mars Hill Road.

One of those is to be opposite the existing Old Mars Hill Road.

Another is approximately opposite the existing Hollow Creek Lane.

A third access drive is to be west of Hollow Creek Lane and will “serve as a primary access to the Publix Shopping Village for vehicles traveling on Mars Hill Road,” according to the narrative for the rezone.


The narrative for the rezone documents submitted by Deferred Tax to the county say that construction of the infrastructure for the shopping center will begin as soon as zoning is approved and will take six to 10 months.

Building construction will require three to four years, according to the narrative, to “accommodate” construction of the new SR 316 and Oconee Connector interchange as well as a new bridge to carry Virgil Langford Road over SR 316.

Georgia Department of Transportation officials have said construction work on those interchanges will begin in 2024 and last for three years.

According to the GDOT officials at last week’s virtual public information session, the east bound exit ramp at the Oconee Connector could be closed during one period of construction for up to 45 days,

That probably will be necessary, the officials said, because the contractor will need to haul in fill dirt to raise the exit to meet the ramp to the bridge carrying the Oconee Connector over SR 316.

The Oconee Connector as well as SR 316 will remain open to traffic during the three years of construction, the engineers said, but the number of lanes on the Oconee Connector will be reduced to two in each direction to handle the construction.

Impacted Properties

Phil Copeland, a GDOT consultant, said at last week’s virtual meeting that 12 properties will be impacted by the Oconee Connecter interchange construction, and seven will be impacted by the Virgil Langford bridge construction.

Enlarged GDOT Plans
Oconee Connector

One business, on the northern side of SR 316, will be displaced by Virgil Langford construction, Copeland said. Copeland is with HNTB, a construction engineering company in Atlanta.

According to the plans released for the Virgil Langford intersection, GDOT will require some right of way from Deferred Tax on Virgil Langford Road.

The Deferred Tax property will meet Virgil Langford Road at the ramp to the bridge, making access to Virgil Langford Road impossible.

The GDOT plans do not show the need to acquire any right of way from Deferred Tax for the Oconee Connector intersection.

But the plans do show the eastbound exit ramp elevated to meet the northbound ramp on the Oconee Connector leading to the bridge over SR 316.

The Connector will shift slightly to the east from its current location, according to the plans.

Future of Median Cut

The GDOT plans released on June 15 for last week’s meeting show construction on the Oconee Connector extending south nearly to the exit from Kwik Trip.

In response to a questions from Jennifer Walker, Chris Edmondson, another GDOT consultant, said at last week’s meeting that the median opening on the Oconee Connector shown on the GDOT plans “matches with the existing median opening that is out there now.”

Walker is one of the organizers of citizen opposition to the rezone for the Publix .

The existing median opening “will be replaced in kind,” Edmondson continued.

“It’s no different than what is in the existing condition right now,” he repeated.

At present, there is no access to the Deferred Tax Property, but it is at this median break that Publix and Price are seeking to have the primary entry to the shopping center.

The narrative argues that such an access point was approved by GDOT in 1997, before the Connector was built, and “reaffirmed” by GDOT in 2021.

Comparison Of Plans

The narrative submitted by Deferred Tax says that “The petitioner hopes to achieve an average of 9,000 SF of building area per acre of site for a total maximum building square footage in the development of 283,410 square feet.”

The future buildings will vary in size based on the specific use and the final size of each lot, the narrative states.

“The existing remnant of the pond located on the property will be reshaped, enlarged, and enhanced to become a visual amenity for the area as well as a retention pond addressing stormwater detention, channel protection, water quality,” the narrative states.

The proposal rejected by the Board of Commissioners in a 3 to 1 vote last year called for 320,000 square feet of commercial space and was to include restaurants, retail, a hotel, and an automobile sales lot. Commissioner Mark Thomas was the vote in support of the rezone.

The new concept plan does not show any restaurants, but full service restaurants and limited service restaurants without drive-throughs are allowed by right in a B-1 zone, and drive-through restaurants are allowed with a special use permit.

In releasing the concept plan and narrative for the rezone to me on Monday morning, Oconee County Senior Planner Grace Tuschak said “Please note that this is just the initial submittal and it is deficient in some respects."

“We will be requesting more information from the applicant as we proceed with the review process,” she continued.

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