The Oconee County Planning Commission on Monday approved, in 5 to 3 votes, a rezone request for a commercial development at the front of the massive Parkside residential development on Hog Mountain Road that will include self storage units and small shops.
The shops, Abe Abouhamdan, representing the Parkside developer, said will be tailored to patrons of adjoining Oconee Veterans Park and are likely to include an ice cream parlor, coffee shops, small restaurants, and speciality shops.
As part of the development, owner Mark Jennings has agreed to build a second entrance for Oconee Veterans Park that will direct traffic through the commercial development.
Four persons spoke in the public hearing, and all raised concerns about the traffic caused by the new development.
The Planning Commission, on the advice of county planning staff, set as a condition for approving the requests that Jennings build the entrance to Oconee Veterans Park before the county issues any permits for construction of the commercial center.
Abouhamdan said Jennings would commit to building only a part of Dooley Connector. The Connector will run from the commercial development to Hog Mountain Road and give park traffic access to Hog Mountain Road, though without any traffic signal.
Dooley Connector eventually will extend beyond the proposed commercial development to Dooley Boulevard, a four-lane road that is to run through Parkside from Hog Mountain Road to Mars Hill Road.
Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Director Guy Herring told the Planning Commission that, as a requirement of the rezone for Parkside in 2004, Dooley Boulevard will have a traffic signal where it intersects with Hog Mountain Road.
Planning Commission Discussion
Much of the rather lengthy discussion among Commission members following the public hearing resulted from concerns of Jim Jenkins about the facades of the buildings and of Gavin Jordan about the buffer between the self storage units and the adjoining properties.
|Abouhamdan And Commission|
In the end, the motion approved by the Commission stipulated that EIFS, or synthetic stucco, could be used only in accent parts of the facades and that the northern border of the development must have additional plantings or fencing.
That motion also added to the list of disallowed uses in the shopping center convenience stories and drive through restaurants.
Several Commission members did discuss the concerns about traffic raised by the speakers at the hearing.
In response to Commission Member Matt Elder, Abouhamdan said the plan is to build Dooley Extension to the end of the proposed development, “and, if possible, circle around all the way to the other entrance.”
Commission Member Chris Herring, fairly late in the discussion, said the citizens who spoke were concerned about traffic and that he shared that view. He said he was concerned in particular about the existing entrance to the park and the second entrance via Dooley Extension “being so close together.”
“At Dooley (Boulevard) and (SR) 53 there is already a signal planned for that location,” Planning and Code Enforcement Director Guy Herring said, “through the Parkside rezone.” Hog Mountain Road is SR 53.
Chris Herring, Nick Hobbs, and Stephen Goad voted against the recommendations to the Board of Commissioners that they approve the rezone and special use for the self storage units when the Board meets on Dec. 5.
Details Of Rezone Request
Jennings is asking that the county rezone 20 acres that front on Hog Mountain Road and abut the eastern side of Oconee Veterans Park currently zoned for agriculture as well as five adjoining acres cut from another parcel zoned for residential development to highway business use.
|Chris Herring, Center, Hobbs|
Four lots totaling 8.7 acres will be developed in the initial phase, with one of those lots, 5.8 acres in size, to be used for a self-storage facility consisting of 12 one- and two-story buildings.
Jennings also is asking for a special use approval to allow for the self-storage facility.
The development is being called Parkside Promenade and will include, according to the narrative submitted with the rezone request, retail shops, a pharmacy, convenience store, offices, including medical offices, restaurants, and service centers.
The submitted rezone documents specified that no fuel pumps and no drive-through restaurants will be included.
The acreage used for Parkside Promenade is the first within Parkside being developed.
According to the narrative submitted with the rezone request, construction on that first phase will begin in 2024 and take one to two years to complete.
Parkside, which consists of 500 acres and stretches from Mars Hill Road to Hog Mountain Road, will have 776 residential lots, with 269 of those lots designated for persons 55 years old and older.
Jay Sultan was the first to speak at the public hearing on Monday, and he said “I think anytime we're rezoning residential to commercial we ought to just take a hard breath. That scares me. In this case I think it makes sense.”
|Elster And Commission|
Given the size of the Parkside residential development, he said, “Trading off some of that residential development for commercial sounds like a really good idea to me.”
“I'm very concerned about the parking impact on the park itself,” he said. “As I look at the map, I don't see a lot of room for parking even with those relatively small buildings. Maybe they need fewer buildings and more area given over for parking.”
“I'm also extremely concerned about the impact on Hog Mountain Road,” he said.
Carolyn Elster told the Commission “my biggest concern is what's going to happen with (SR) 53 and how this new project will impact that.”
“My second concern is the commercialization of Veterans Park,” she said. “I think the commercialization will actually make people forget that we honor our Oconee fallen and military.”
She said she also was concerned about people “carrying all of the stuff from the restaurants over to the park” and the expense of keeping the park clean when the commercial project is built.”
Pam Hendrix said “I’m not really against. I just came here to listen and try to understand about this project. I really have a lot of questions. My main concern is the park ”
“I'm the current Regent of the Reverend John Andrew Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution,” Hendrix continued. “We take a big interest in the Oconee Veterans Memorial.”
Hendrix said she was concerned that the new entrance would become the main entrance to the park and divert traffic away from the Memorial at what currently is the only entrance to the park.
Hendrix also said that the planned new entrance “is going to dump a lot of traffic out onto Highway 53, and it's already very, very, very congested.”
Dan Magee was very direct.
“Attractive self-storage. There’s no such thing,” he said. “There’s plenty of available options for self-storage in the county.”
“This area is very, very highly congested,” Magee said. “I think we have better options for this. I ask you, please do not approve.”
Abouhamdan, in responding to the citizen comments, said “anybody could have put a big box there, but that's not the intent. We want to help that circulation. We want to invite pedestrian connectivity, and we want to keep it small scale.”
In one of the more unusual actions at a Planning Commission meeting, Jordan, who represents Bogart on the Commission, opposed a request by the Bogart City Council to change the conditions of a rezone for acreage in the Gateway Technology and Business Park.
The Council wanted to remove some language from a 2001 rezone that set development guidelines for the property. The development, without that rezone, will be controlled by covenants on the property.
Jordan said he wanted the city to sit down with an adjoining property owner to discuss development plans for the whole area before he would support the action.
Jordan’s motion to recommend to the Bogart City Council that it turn down the requests the Council had made of the Planning Commission died for lack of a second.
When Goad made a motion to approve, Jordon cast the lone negative vote.
The Planning Commission approved unanimously a request by Oconee County Commissioner Mark Thomas that a cell tower already approved for property he owns on Cedar Road in the south of the county be allowed to be 49 feet taller than originally proposed and be moved slightly on the property to maximize its reach.
The video below is on the county’s YouTube channel.
The meeting starts at 7:12 in the video.
The Parkside rezone application comes before the Commission at 10:38 in the video.
The first of four citizens to speak came to the microphone at 24:46 in the video.
Discussion among the members of the Planning Commission began at 43:49.
Discussion of the rezone request from Bogart began at 1:26:02 in the video.
Discussion of the Thomas request began at 1:38:21 in the video.