Residents of Oconee Crossing subdivision at U.S. 78 and Hog Mountain Road have made it clear from the beginning that they are not opposed to commercial development on the edge of their neighborhood.
They said they knew that development was coming when they bought their homes.
What they are opposed to is the proposed four drive through restaurants and a large grocery that will be in their back yards if Oconee County commissioners approve a rezone request at their meeting on Sept. 13.
The drive throughs and large grocery were not included in the plans approved by the Board of Commissioners when Oconee Crossing subdivision and the commercial shopping development were approved by the Board of Commissioners in 1990.
A large grocery story isn’t even needed, the residents have argued, because the county approved a large grocery as part of a rezone in September of 2021 for the nearby Markets at Meadowlands north of U.S. 78 between Dials Mill Road and Pete Dickens Drive.
No earth has been moved for the Markets of Meadowlands, however, and no site plans have been approved by the county for the project.
Approved site plans for another development project–at U.S. 78 and Mars Hill Road–which also was to include a grocery, show only a convenience store and Burger King restaurant.
Comparison of Plans
A simple comparison of the concept plans for the 1990 rezone of what then was called The Crossing and the concept plans for the rezone being requested by land owner Donald Hammett of Kennesaw shows how different the current request is from what was approved by the Board in 1990.
|Sign At Entrance To Subdivision |
That original plan incorporated all of what is now Oconee Crossings subdivision as well as the corner lot on U.S 78 and Hog Mountain Road now occupied by Striplings General Store and the undeveloped land in between.
Those plans called for a cluster of 13 connected buildings forming an L on its side abutting the lots of the subdivision on Oconee Crossing Circle that back up to the commercial land.
The back of the building was separated from those lots by a storm water detention facility.
The plans being proposed by Hammett show five connected buildings much closer to the now occupied lots.
The original plans did not show any buildings on three lots to the east of that building.
The new plans show a 48,500 square foot supermarket food store with an attached 13,000 square foot retail building.
That building backs up on three lots in Oconee Crossings, all with homes built on them.
Trucks would be making deliveries very near to the lot lines of those home owners.
Grocery stories are a key part of many proposed developments in the county, and they often lead to complaints from residents of nearby neighborhoods because of the problems of delivery traffic.
|Concept Plan 1990 Rezone|
Residents of Belfair subdivision protested unsuccessfully the grocery proposed for the Markets at Meadowlands for exactly that reason.
Commissioner Chuck Horton cited problems of grocery delivery traffic to the proposed Publix at the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road when he voted with the majority to reject a rezone for that project in 2021.
The inclusion of a grocery story in the original plans for the development at Mars Hill Road and U.S. 78 was not controversial.
No residential development is nearby, and developer William Jones of Jackson indicated his plans for a grocery were tentative at best.
Developer Frank Bishop listed a grocery as a possible tenant for the unbuilt Epps Bridge Centre III back in 2015, again without controversy. No residential development is nearby.
Residents of Oconee Crossing turned out in large numbers in July when the Planning Commission reviewed the request by Hammett for the change in the zoning for the nearly commercial center.
|Hammett's Concept Plan|
Their appeal had little impact on the Planning Commission, which voted 5 to 1 to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that it approve the rezone.
Residents also placed a large advertisement on page A3 of the July 28 edition of The Oconee Enterprise asking the Commission to turn down the request.
The residents also asked “for help from the community at large.”
“If you want to do even a small part in helping slow down the explosive commercial growth we’re seeing in the county, PLEASE come to the BOC meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 2,” the advertisement said.
The advertisement said residents objected to the noise created by the four drive through restaurants as well as by the grocery store.
At the Aug. 2 meeting, Oconee County commissioners granted a request by land owner Hammett to postpone the decision until Sept. 13 on his request to rezone the nearly 44 acres for the commercial development.
Farm And Garden Store And Parking
The 1990 zoning showed 11 commercial lots without any buildings on them in the concept plan.
That 1990 rezone allowed for 252,000 square feet of commercial space, including the Striplings. County tax records list that building as 15,626 square feet in size.
The new proposal is for 266,400 square feet, or 30,026 more than originally approved.
The grocery story with its parking lot and adjoining building is on seven of those lots previously shown without a building.
A drive through restaurant and a 23,500 square foot retail farm and garden supply store is listed on the four remaining lots.
Hammett also is seeking a variance to allow him to increase the maximum allowable parking spaces from 47 to 84 at the farm and garden store.
Actual Rezone Request
The actual rezone request before the county would split the 42.8-acre tract currently zoned B-1 General Business District into two parcels.
|Back Of Grocery Would Be Here|
The property facing Hog Mountain Road would remain zoned B-1 and would consist of six buildings with 71,000 square feet of space.
This would be used for retail and office development.
The property facing U.S. 78 would be B-2 Highway Business District and is made up of nine lots with eight buildings with approximately 195,400 square feet of building area.
Hammett cannot include the grocery or the drive through restaurants without the rezone to B-2.
No tenant has been named for the 48,500 square-foot-building identified as a grocery.
A search of county Planning Department electronic records show that developer Ellington Farms Development Partners LLC has not yet submitted site plans for either the commercial or residential parts of the Meadowlands project, approved on Sept. 7, 2021.
All that is listed in those records are the original concept plans.
No land disturbance or any other type of permit is listed.
I drove to the site on Sunday and saw no evidence of any construction on the property.
During the rezone process, Ellington Farms did not list any tenant for the 65,000 square foot grocery store shown on the concept plans.