The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night, in a 3 to 1 vote, rejected the rezone request of Donald Hammett for a shopping center at U.S. 78 and Hog Mountain Road abutting Oconee Crossing subdivision.
The vote came after a lengthy discussion by the Board following presentations by representatives of Hammett and by representatives of the Oconee Crossing subdivision.
Much of that discussion centered on location of a proposed grocery store, which Hammett wanted to put on land near the subdivision. The homeowners wanted to move the grocery to an area that would have been separated from the subdivision by a retention pond.
Jeff Carter, from Carter Engineering, representing Hammett, said in response to a question from Commissioner Amrey Harden that it wasn’t feasible to move the 52,000 square foot grocery to where the homeowners wanted it located.
Harden was joined by Commissioner Chuck Horton and Commissioner Mark Saxon in voting to deny the rezone request. Commissioner Mark Thomas voted against the motion to deny.
In other action on Tuesday, the Board voted unanimously to rezone a lot on Jimmy Daniell Road across from the Fieldstone Subdivision from Agricultural District (AG) to Office-Business Park District (OBP), rather than to Highway Business District (B-2), as the owner requested.
The Board also voted to appoint John Thomas “Jay” Hanley III to chair the county’s Board of Elections and Registration and appointed Shami Jones to fill the position on the Board Hanley currently holds.
The action by the Board on Tuesday followed two postponements of the rezone request to allow for Hammett and his representatives to negotiate with the homeowners over plans for the commercial development.
Carter presented the commissioners on Tuesday night a new set of plans that moved the grocery store, reduced the number of fast-food restaurants from four to two, and reduced the total square footage of the buildings.
|Screen Shot Carter Before Board 10/4/2022|
In addition, Carter told the Board, the new plans added amenity areas and greenspace, increased the landscape buffer between the commercial development and the residential area, and added a pedestrian corridor.
Carter said the development will screen the planned car wash and enclose the vacuum stations at that facility to reduce the noise.
The new designs also included upgraded boulevard entrances off Hog Mountain Road and U.S. 78 and two roundabouts to move traffic within the development.
Carter reminded the Board that the original rezone in 1990 was for a Planned Unit Development and included both the commercial development and the residential component that now is Oconee Crossing.
“I do feel like we have done an awful lot to try to make this development work and try to make it to where we can be proud of it as citizens of Oconee County,” he said.
Stanton Porter, an attorney representing the Oconee Crossing homeowners, told the Board that “I’d hoped to come here tonight, especially considering the dialog we’ve had the last three weeks, and tell commissioners that this is how development should be.”
|Screen Shot Porter Before Board 10/4/2022|
“Sadly, though, we are not here with that position,” he said.
Porter said the grocery store should be moved to the front of the development on U.S. 78, rather than its proposed location to the rear of the current Stripling’s at the corner of U.S. 78 and Hog Mountain Road.
Porter proposed that the grocery replace a Tractor Supply Co. store in the plans and thus be buffered from the neighborhood by a storm retention pond.
Hammett was asking that the land be rezoned from its current General Business District (B-1) to a combination of B-1 and Highway Business District (B-2).
The grocery, because of its size, would have to be in a B-2 District, and Porter said the commissioners should protect the Oconee Crossing neighborhood by only allowing B-1 zoning for the land abutting the residential lots.
Porter was followed by three residents of Oconee Crossing subdivision, all of whom asked the commissioners to deny the rezone request.
The Board deliberated for nearly an hour before Commissioner Saxon made the motion to deny the rezone and Commissioner Horton seconded the motion.
The discussion was wide ranging, dealing with the history of the project, changes in zoning requirements over time, Hammett’s efforts to get sewer service, and the legal implications of both denial and approval of the rezone.
Harden was particularly concerned about the noise created by the dumpsters behind the grocery and by the vacuums at the car wash.
County Attorney Daniell Haygood told the Board that Hammett can come back to the Board and ask for a rezone of the same property in a year.
Jimmy Daniell Road Rezone
Lela Mae Moore Slaton of Monroe asked the Board to approve the rezone of 2.5 acres on Jimmy Daniell Road across from Fieldstone subdivision from agricultural use to B-2 (Highway Business District).
Adam Swann told the Board he has the Slaton property under contract to purchase and that he plans to construct a 45,000 square foot building on the site that will be used for sports training, office-warehouse, and construction contractor storage.
The initial use will be as a practice facility for baseball and basketball, he said, but long-term it will be turned into an office warehouse.
Properties across Jimmy Daniell Road in Fieldstone subdivision are zoned residential (R-1).
Two people spoke in opposition to the rezone.
Ian Taylor said he did not think a B-2 classification was appropriate since the property is not located on a major highway and there are residential properties located just across Jimmy Daniell Road from the proposed building.
Commissioner Horton proposed that the property be zoned Office-Business Park District (OBP) to create a proper buffer with the residential neighborhood. The OBP is more restrictive in terms of the types of businesses Swann will be able to have on the property.
Horton’s motion to approve the project under the OBP classification received unanimous support from the Commission.
Swann also was asking for a variance to reduce the minimum number of required parking spaces from 107 to 58. That variance was approved.
The county decided to split the appointment of the Director of Elections and Registration from the appointment of the Elections and Registration Board Chair when Rebecca Anglin stepped down as Director of Elections and Registration at the end of August.
The Board appointed Sharon Gregg as the new Director of Elections and Registration for the county at its Aug. 3 meeting.
After the decision was made to split the appointment of the Director of Elections from the Chair of the Board of Elections, the county announced that it was seeking application for the Board chair.
Nine people applied for the position.
Hanley is an Office Manager and Funeral Services Assistant, former Oconee County Republican Party Chair, and current Board of Commissioners appointee to the Board of Elections.
To fill Hanley’s opening on the Board with his appointment as chair, the Board turned to the other applicants for the chair position.
Jones is a homemaker with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She has worked as a probation officer in North Carolina.
The video below is recorded from the Zoom live stream of the Board of Commissioners meeting.
Discussion of the Slaton rezone is at 9:45 in the video.
Discussion of the Hammett rezone begins at 26:04.
The deliberation of he Hammett rezone by the Board begins at 1:10:36 in the video.