Thursday, May 23, 2024

Oconee County Planning Commission Recommends Approval Of Rezone For Duplexes Despite Planning Staff Rejection Of Request

***Staff Cited Comprehensive Plan In Recommending Denial***

The Oconee County Planning Commission on Monday set aside the recommendation of the county planning staff and instead told the Board of Commissioners it should approve a rezone request for development of 3.4 acres on Moreland Way just north of the Watkinsville city limits.

The Commission made this recommendation after Justin Greer, speaking on behalf of property owner Richard Grayson, and Grayson himself, said that the project was a positive development for the neighborhood and had support of owners of the adjoining properties.

Grayson is proposing to combine two parcels, one zoned Mobile Home District (M-H) and the other zoned Agricultural Residential District (AR), to create a single lot zoned Two-Family Residential District (R-2).

Grayson said he wants to build two single-story duplexes accessible off Moreland Way and backing up to U.S. 441.

Greer reminded the Commission that Grayson could put a mobile home on the smaller of the two lots without the requested rezone, but that owners of the two adjoining properties, on which stick-build homes exist, have said they would prefer Grayson’s plan to a mobile home.

The county planning staff recommended denial of the requested R-2 zoning, saying it is “not consistent with the adjacent uses that are single family residences,” that there is “no adjacent R-2 zoning or any R-2 zoning in the vicinity,” and the proposed used is not consistent with the county’s Comprehensive Plan.

The Board of Commissioners will receive both the planning staff recommendation and the recommendation of the Planning Commission and is scheduled to reach a final decision at its meeting on June 4.

Staff Report

The Planning Staff Report says that the current zoning for both parcels Grayson is asking to rezone was created when the county adopted zoning in 1968.

Screen Shot Of Grayson 5/20/2024

The county granted a demolition permit in 2017 for a single family home on the smaller parcel of 0.5 acres that is currently zoned M-H, according to the Report.

That parcel is part of the Moreland Heights subdivision, dated Feb. 2, 1962, the Report states.

Grayson is seeking to combine the two parcels, rezone them to R-2, divide the property into two lots, each sized 1.7 acres, and construct a duplex on each.

Since no sewer is available, the proposed dwellings will use on-site septic systems.

The units proposed will have a minimum of 1,600 square feet and be either one- or two-bedroom units.

The Grayson property is surrounded on three sides by property zoned AR and M-H and on the fourth side by Georgia Department of Transportation right of way for U.S. 441.

The county stopped accepting applications for property to be zoned M-H in 2019, according to the county Unified Development Code. Applications may be accepted for modifications of property with that zoning provided that the changes do not increase the land area or density of use.

At present, manufactured homes are allowed only on land zoned AG (Agricultural District) or on land already zoned M-H.

Zoning Hearing

Greer said at the meeting on Monday that Grayson bought the larger lot in 2016 with the hope that he would be able to purchase land at a later day to provide access to Moreland Way.

Screen Shot Of Neighboring House 5/20/2024

The large lot technically has access to U.S. 441, but the grade and requirements for accessing the roadway make that very difficult, he said.

When the smaller lot became available in 2017, Greer said, Grayson purchased that lot because it fronts on Moreland Way and provides the proposed driveway leading to the larger lot on which Grayson proposes to build the two duplexes.

Greer said at the meeting on Monday night that Grayson plans to construct and retain the residences and make them available to the rental market once completed.

Greer asked the Commission to take a more flexible approach to the definition of land use in the Comprehensive Plan.

Grayson said that the “staff reports all have negative. They don't have the positive things in it. They don't say in there, well I'm fixing to drop $400,000 to $500,000 in there building two buildings that's going to start the renovation of that subdivision."

“There’s already people in there remodeling houses and fixing them,” Grayson said. “The neighbors will like it,” he added.

Grayson was followed by Suzannah Heimel and Victorial Cruz, both candidates for the Board of Commissioners, who also spoke in favor of the rezone.

Discussion and Vote

After a brief discussion, the Commission accepted the three conditions suggested by the Planning Staff, offered in case the staff recommendation of denial was not followed.

One of those stated that the units have facades that consist primarily of brick, stone, stucco, or lap siding consisting of painted wood lap or fiber cement board siding.

The Planning Commission added a fourth condition requiring that access be from Moreland Way, as is shown in the concept plan.

Commission Members Jeff Burks, Mike Floyd, Nathan Byrd, Matt Elder, Chris Herring, Jim Jenkins, Ann Evans, Lisa Ferguson, in addition to Chair Chuck Hunt, were present at the meeting on Monday.

Herring made the motion to approve with the four conditions, and Elder seconded the motion.

The vote passed with a vote of 7 to 1, with Jenkins opposed.


The video embedded below is on the Oconee County YouTube channel.

The meeting begins at 4:56 in the video.

Discussion of the Grayson rezone begins at 8:16 in the video.

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