Saturday, May 04, 2024

Property Owner Demolished Historic Oconee County House That State Said Was Obstacle To SR 316 Interchange At Dials Mill Road

***County Issued Demolition Permit In January***

Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Engineer Marvin Gavins said in late March that the Department had picked Dials Mill Extension over Dials Mill Road for its preferred full interchange at SR 316 in part because of the existence of a historic house on the northwest corner of Dials Mill Road and SR 316.

The owners of that property literally have removed that justification.

UCS Dials Mill Road LLC applied for and received a permit in the middle of January to demolish the historic home, and the site is now cleared of what was the Lee Daniel Farm homestead, built in 1910, according to county tax records.

Oconee County’s Unified Development Code has no restrictions on issuance of a permit for demolition of a historical property, according to County Attorney Daniel Haygood.

Though there had been a public statement by GDOT officials of a preference for the full interchange at Dials Mill Extension, Gavin’s comment at the virtual Public Information Open House on March 22 that the Lee Daniel Farm played a role was a first.

Gavin also cited negative impacts of a Dials Mill Road interchange on Dials Mill Plantation subdivision and on “surrounding streams and wetlands.”

The Georgia Secretary of State business database lists Marcia L. Ulm as the Authorizer Signature for UCS Dials Mill Road LLC, and CEO and CFO of MLU Services Inc., which is listed on the demolition permit as the contractor for the demolition.

MLU Services is linked via the Privacy Policy page to a web site arguing that closing the preferred GDOT design will result in “long traffic jams, constant construction noise, more trucks on roads” and “could put your family at risk in the event of a disaster.”

Additional Linkages

The web site of MLU Services says it is a Leading Disaster Recovery Operations Contractor.

Click To Enlarge

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners in June of last year approved a rezone for Andersen-Wells II LLC to allow FEMA trailers to be parked on a 29-acre tract at 1291 Aiken Road, east of the former Lee Daniel property.

The trailers already were on the site, and the rezone was to bring the use in compliance with the zoning for the property.

The documents requesting the rezone were signed by William L. Ulm Sr. and by Marcia L. Ulm.

According to Oconee County Tax records, Andersen-Wells II LLC owns six properties on Dials Mill Road between Dials Mill Plantation and the Atlanta Highway that are open for development.

The property on which the Lee Daniel homestead had been located brings to seven the total number of properties that would be more attractive for development if the full interchange were at Dials Mill Road rather than at Dials Mill Extension.

UCS Dials Mill Road LLC, MLU Services Inc., and Anderson-Wells II LLC all list their principal office at 573 Hawthorne Avenue in Athens.

Marcia L. Ulm also is the Authorizer Signature for Andersen-Wells II LLC.

Past Listings

In the past the Andersen-Wells properties were listed by Boswell Properties, but they are not currently shown under commercial listings on the Boswell web site.

Jamie Boswell, owner of Boswell Properties, is the Congressional District 10 Representative on the Georgia Transportation Board, which governs GDOT.

At a meeting of that Board in May of last year, Boswell expressed publicly his interest in the Dials Mill Road/Dials Mill Extension interchange and was told by Andrew Hoenig, GDOT Construction Program Manager, that the plans were still being developed.

Neighbors in the area of Dials Mill Road received a mailing from an unknown sender containing the same message critical of the GDOT preference for the Dials Mill Extension interchange as on the web site and asked those concerned about the decision to write to GDOT.

One of those fliers recommended that the message go directly to Commissioner Russell McMurry and provided his email address.

Past Preferences

GDOT Documents from 2022 show that it had rejected the option of building one interchange between Dials Mill Road and Dials Mill Extension that would have served both roads. Oconee County officials has expressed a preference for that option

The documents show as a Preferred Alternative a full interchange at Dials Mill Road.

The email exchange shows that Boswell was copied on notification of that decision on the design.

In July of 2023, however, SueAnne Decker, GDOT District PreConstruction Engineer, told a meeting of the regional metropolitan planning authority (MACORTS) that the current preferred plans were for a full interchange at Dials Mill Extension, not at Dials Mill Road.

The virtual Public Information Open House on March 22 presented that Dials Mill Extension full interchange as the Preferred Alternative, consistent with what Decker had said at the July MACORTS meeting.

Demolition Permit

In the Demolition Permit application that UCS Dials Mill Road LLC submitted to the county, it listed the residential structure it wished to demolish–the Lee Daniel Farm home–as an 1,600 square foot wooden building with five rooms, served by electricity and on septic.

The LLC said MLU Services would use an excavator to demolish the building at a cost of $20,000, the application stated.

Atlas Environmental Services LLC of Hull was the listed contractor for asbestos abatement.

UCS Dials Mill Road LLC submitted to the county a notification it had filed with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources of the existence of asbestos. It told the state that the house was built in 1932.

UCS Dials Mill Road LLC filed the application for the permit on Jan. 16, or two months before Gavins announced publicly that the historical value of the Lee Daniel home was a reason for rejecting the interchange at Dials Mill Road.

He gave no indication that the house had been demolished or that the information that the Lee Daniel Home had played a role was public knowledge.

The proposed date for the demolition in the permit application was Jan. 30.


Pamela Hall said...

So many questions about these behind the scenes machinations and who is really profiting from rezone decisions. Thank you Lee for reporting in this issue.

Todd said...

As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that the biggest reason people run for and stay in office is to stay privy to information that the average resident would not know about or ever hear about. Our elected officials learn of land deals and rezoning deals that can or do benefit people in the know. Oh you can read this blog or go to the meetings or by accident see it in the paper but most citizens never do and miss out on a lot interesting stuff that is going on. I could say more and I know this does not apply to everyone and I am cautious to paint with wide brush but what I'm saying is true.....Todd Strickland

Dan Magee said...

The Ulm's demolishing a historic homestead.
Realtor & State Transportation Board member Jamie Boswell again skirting that conflict of interest line.
This entire situation stinks to high heaven.
Tough day for those who want to see the county's history preserved.

Boswell in his third five year term on the board.
Secret nomination process. Secret vote. In the year 2024.

So there's no one else in the entire district available without conflicts of interest??!!
Here's some Jamie stuff:
Boswell and IDA
Boswell’s involvement with the activities of the county’s Industrial Development Authority remains sketchy.
I learned of the $10,000 payment to Boswell’s company by the county’s IDA when I examined records of the Authority for a posting I did on its involvement in the Caterpillar project.
I sent an email message to Oconee County Finance Director Wes Geddings on Feb. 17 asking him to identify the services provided by Boswell that were linked to a $10,000 payment to a Boswell Properties Trust Account on Oct. 13, 2011.
Geddings wrote me the next day saying only that “Boswell Properties Trust Account is a trust, similar in nature to the escrow account for a mortgage.”
I wrote him back that day and asked what was being paid off by the transaction. He answered simply: “The payment was for an option on property.”