Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Proposed Commercial Development Between Entrances To Malcom Bridge Middle School Will Increase Traffic Count At Busy Site

***School Board Blocked Road Improvements***

Parents dropping off their children at Malcom Bridge Middle School will encounter additional traffic congestion in the future if the Board of Commissioners approves a rezone request on Jan. 3 for a new commercial development opposite the middle school.

The Oconee County planning staff has recommended approval of the rezone request for the multi-use commercial development, as has the citizen advisory Planning Commission.

The Board of Education in 2019 blocked construction of a roundabout at the parent school entrance that would have provided access to the 3.3 acre tract that is being proposed for the development.

The current plans are for an entrance to the development off Malcom Bridge Road between the bus entrance and the parent entrance to the school.

The proposed development is to include a daycare facility, a doggie daycare facility, a dry cleaner drop off/pick up center, and a small general office building.

The Oconee County Planning Staff Report estimates that the development will add 1,865 average daily trips to area roads, with 305 morning peak hour trips and 246 evening peak hour trips.

The parcel already is zoned for commercial use as part of a combined residential and commercial master plan development approved by the Board of Commissioners in 2003.

The rezone request for the Malcom Bridge Road development will be joined on the Jan. 3 Board of Commissioners agenda with zoning requests for three self-storage buildings in the triangle of U.S. 441, Old Macon Highway, and White Oak Drive, and for six RV sites on the unbuilt Athens College of Ministry campus in the far east of the county.

Planning Commission Vote

The Planning Commission voted 8 to 0 on Dec. 12 to recommend to the Board of Commissioners that it approve the request from Lenru Development LLC for the commercial development. Rodney Jones as the registered agent for Lenru Development LLC.

Site Plan For Area Outlined In Blue
(Click To Enlarge)

The meeting room that night was filled with citizens, but only Bryan Marshburn from the nearby Harperfield subdivison spoke against the Malcom Bridge Road rezone.

Opposition to the self-storage buildings and the RV sites dominated the meeting.

Marshburn told the Commission that the daycare will create too much traffic and the dog daycare is not a “good fit” for the area.

Jones wants to construct three single-story buildings on the 3.3 acres that are in the narrow strip of land between Malcom Bridge Road and Lenru Road.

Access will be off both Malcom Bridge Road and Lenru Road.

The entrance off Malcom Bridge Road will allow only right-in, right-out traffic, while the entrance off Lenru Road will be full access.

The Village at Malcom Bridge

The 3.3 acres being proposed for the commercial strip development abut 7.5 acres that Jones also owns and that he is developing as The Village at Malcom Bridge.

That development, for which land has been cleared, will consist of eight buildings.

According to the project web site, it will have from two to four restaurants.

Jones is offering to build to suit and offering 1,000 to 4,000 square foot options.

The web site says that construction will begin in the spring of 2022, but as of Wednesday, the site has been partially cleared but no buildings are in place.


According to the project web site, The Village at Malcom Bridge will have a full access main entrance on Malcom Bridge Road, opposite Fern Hill Road.

It also will have a full access entrance at what is considered to be the rear of the project on Lenru Road, opposite Arlington Place.

“Inter-parcel access will be provided throughout the development and will be available to the adjacent parcel at the northern property line, if desired, for future development,” according to the web site.

In October of 2018, when the Board of Commissioners approved the rezone for The Village at Malcom Bridge, it required Jones to construct a roundabout at the parent entrance to Malcom Bridge Middle School.

That roundabout was to serve both The Village at Malcom Bridge and the 3.3 acres north of The Village at Malcom Bridge that is owned by Jones and is already zoned for commercial development .

In the plans that Jones has submitted for his commercial strip for the daycare facility, a doggie daycare facility, a dry cleaner drop off/pick up center, and a small general office building, that access opposite the parent entrance to the school has been dropped.

In its place is a simple internal roadway linking The Village at Malcom Bridge and the 3.3 acres for the proposed new commercial strip.

Lenru Properties LLC in 2018 was seeking to modify the conditions of a business rezone (B-1) granted by the Commission in 2004, and the Board of Commissioners imposed the roundabout as part of the conditions for the modifications.

Board Of Education

At the time of the 2018 rezone modification for The Village at Malcom Bridge, the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, which has responsibility for roads in the county, proposed building four roundabouts on Malcom Bridge Road to improve traffic movement on the roadway.

Labeled Entrances
(Click To Enlarge)

One of those proposed roundabouts was at Mars Hill Road, and one was at the intersection of Lenru Road and Malcom Bridge Road.

The Mars Hill Road roundabout was the first completed in the county, and the county abandoned plans for the Lenru Road and Malcom Bridge Road roundabout because it interfered with driveways at that location.

The other two roundabouts were to be at the bus and staff entrance between Malcom Bridge Middle School and Malcom Bridge Elementary School and at the parent entrance to Malcom Bridge Middle School.

The Board of Education objected to the roundabouts at the two school entrances, saying it didn’t want the county to make any modifications at either. To block the county, the Board of Education refused to grant to the county the rights of way to build those roundabouts.

County Response

The Board of Commissioners decided to alter the designs of the two school entrance roundabouts to be able to build them without School Board provision of the rights of way.

The county shifted the roundabout at the bus entrance onto county property so it could proceed without the easement from Oconee County Schools. That roundabout is now operating.

The county planned to shift the roundabout at the parent entrance to the property owned by Jones.

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell said in February of 2020, however, that the county had abandoned its plans to build a roundabout at the parent entrance to Malcom Bridge Middle School.

In June of 2020, the county proposed to the Board of Education several alternatives to the proposed roundabout at the parent entrance, while still maintaining that a roundabout was the best option.

The Board of Education rejected those plans, and the design in place is the result.

Access Questions

No record exists of what Lenru Development would have proposed in term of access to its 3.3 acre tract had the roundabout at the parent entrance to the middle school been built.

The lack of that roundabout makes it harder for the Board of Commissioners to reject the request for the right-in right-out access off Malcom Bridge Road between the bus and parent entrances.

No member of the Planning Commission raised any serious concerns about access to the proposed development at the meeting earlier this month.

The Oconee County Public Works Department, which is in charge of county roads, also offered no negative comments about the proposed access to the project in the Staff Report.

Construction of the strip center is scheduled to begin in early 2023.

The project could be built in phases determined by the need for each component, according to the Staff Report.

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