Rezone signs have appeared again on the undeveloped acreage on the northwest corner of the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road as the county considers new plans for a Publix Shopping Village and 10 additional commercial lots on the site.
The plans differ in one significant way from those rejected by the Board of Commissioners in May of 2021 when property owner Maxie Price sought to rezone the property for a Publix and a large commercial complex surrounding it.
The current plan involves rezone of only 34 of the 47 acres Price owns through his Deferred Tax LLC. Not included are 13 acres currently zoned for a residential development.
The plans continue to call for a “full commercial access median break” on the Oconee Connector and also for three access points in the first 1,000 feet of Mars Hill Road west of the Connector.
The Oconee County Planning Commission is scheduled to take up the new rezone request at its meeting at 7 p.m. on Oct. 17 at the Courthouse in Watkinsville.
The Board of Commissions is scheduled to act on the recommendation of the Planning Commission at its meeting at 6 p.m. on Nov. 1, also at the Courthouse.
The Board of Commissioners also is scheduled to act on a rezone request for a commercial development on 2.5 acres on Jimmy Daniell Road near the Deferred Tax property at its meeting at 6 p.m. on Oct. 4.
At that same meeting, also at the Courthouse, the commissioners are scheduled to take up the postponed rezone request for a shopping center at U.S. 78 and Hog Mountain Road abutting the Oconee Crossing subdivision. That shopping center also is to include a grocery.
Concept Plan, Narrative
|Sign Corner Lot Mars Hill Road/Oconee Connector 10/2/2022|
The new request is for a commercial subdivision of 11 lots, including a 9.4-acre-lot for a Publix grocery store and attached shops.
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.
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 proposal also calls for future access via Virgil Langford Road.
Deferred Tax owns three properties summing to just less than 47 acres between the Connector, Mars Hill Road, Virgil Langford Road, and SR 316.
One of those properties is zoned residential, and the others are zoned for general business (B-1) and for highway business (B-2).
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 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 rezone category being sought in the current rezone is B-1, General Business District.
According to the Narrative, Deferred Tax plans to complete the zoning by mid September. Ken Beall of Beall and Company is representing Deferred Tax in the zoning process.
Construction will begin immediately upon approval of the construction plans, according to the Narrative.
Construction on the 11 lots will require approximately three to four years to complete, according to the Narrative.
The Narrative acknowledges uncertainty about the access to Virgil Langford Road resulting from Georgia Department of Transportation plans to build a bridge to carry Virgil Langford Road over SR 316.
Georgia Department of Transportation officials have said construction work on that flyover as well as on the full interchanges with flyovers for Jimmy Daniell Road and the Oconee Connector will begin in 2024 and last for three years.
According to the GDOT officials at the June 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.
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.
Access From Connector
At present, there is no access to the Deferred Tax Property from the Oconee Connector.
Deferred Tax is proposing that it be granted access to the Connector at the median break that currently exists. That is identified as the main entrance to the commercial development.
The GDOT plans released on June 15 show construction on the Oconee Connector extending south nearly to the exit from Kwik Trip. It does not show access to the Deferred Tax property.
Chris Edmondson, a GDOT consultant, said in June that the median opening on the Oconee Connector shown on the GDOT plans “matches with the existing median opening that is out there now.”
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.
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.
Jimmy Daniell Road Rezone
The Planning Commission on Sept. 19 voted 6 to 2 to recommend approval of a rezone request by Lela Mae Moore Slaton of Monroe to rezone 2.5 acres on Jimmy Daniell Road from agricultural use to B-2 (Highway Business District). (The original post incorrectly reported the vote was unanimous. I apologize for the error.)
|Slaton Property Outlined In Green|
The plan is to build a “multifunctional big box building that will be used for sports training, office-warehouse and construction contractor storage,” according to the Narrative.
The development will consist of a 36,400 square foot building, plus a mezzanine that will increase the total leasable area to 44,800 square feet, the Narrative states.
The property currently contains a house and barn, and properties on two sides of the Slaton property contain houses.
Properties across Jimmy Daniell Road in Fieldstone subdivision are zoned residential (R-1).
One member of the Planning Commission said after the rezone that the change likely will result if additional commercial development in what is now a largely residential area.
No one spoke in opposition to the rezone at the Planning Commission.
Slaton also is asking for a variance to reduce the minimum number of required parking spaces from 107 to 58.
The Board of Commissioners on Sept. 13 approved a request by attorneys for property owner Donald Hammett of Kennesaw and for residents of Oconee Crossing subdivision to table until Oct. 4 consideration of a rezone request by Hammett for a commercial center.
The nearly 43-acres tract that Hammett owns currently is zoned B-1 for a General Business District.
Jeff Carter, representing Hammett, told the Planning Commission back in July that his client needed the B-2 zone to be allowed to build the drive-through restaurants on the new concept plan and “to build a grocery store over 20,000 square feet.”
Rick Caffery, from the Oconee Crossing neighborhood, told Oconee County commissioners at their Town Hall Meeting on Aug. 23 that he expected between 100 and 120 people to attend the Board of Commissioners meeting when the rezone will be heard.
Oconee Crossing residents have claimed that the proposed development does not match with what the Board of Commissioners approved back in 1990.