Monday, August 25, 2014

Oconee County To Consider Design Work For Roadway To Open More Land For Development Across From Epps Bridge Centre

Gordy Family Tract

Oconee County will soon begin design work for an extension of Parkway Boulevard, which will open up new land for development behind Lowe’s and Wal-Mart, if the Board of Commissioners approves a design services contract for the project tomorrow night.

The new Parkway Boulevard would be an extension of the road that now leads to Kohl’s from Epps Bridge Parkway. The new road would turn back to and connect with the new Oconee Connector, crossing 114 acres owned by the Evelyn and Frank Gordy Family and 41 acres owned by Rod and J.L. Wright.

Oconee Connector--Future Parkway
Boulevard Ahead On Right

Action on the design service contract for the road project is one item on a short but intense agenda for the Commission meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at the courthouse in Watkinsville.

Other items include an update on projects involving Daniells Bridge Road and Jimmy Daniell Road, a report from the county’s Industrial Development Authority recommending a change in zoning procedures, approval of a new loan agreement for Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in Walton County, and discussion of a paving contract for the walking trail in Veterans Park.

(I discussed the Daniells Bridge Road and Jimmy Daniell Road projects in a post on Saturday, and the IDA report in a post last night.)

Design Service Contract Bids

The county accepted bids for the Parkway Boulevard project on Aug. 7, with the low bid among the five submitted coming from Abe Consulting, 2410 Hog Mountain Road, just west of Butler’s Crossing. That bid was $96,925.

Abe Consulting is owned by Abe Abouhamdan, chairman of the county's Citizen Advisory Committee for Land Use and Transportation Planning.

The drawing that was part of the request for proposals for the design work shows a new road running across land owned by three others in addition to the Gordy Family trust and the Wright brothers, local developers.

These parcels are owned by Epps Bridge Parkway LLC, 2500 Daniells Bridge Road, Henry L. and Corneli Combs of Winterville, and Sebelle Hill Jordan, 5051 Mars Hill Road.

Gordy Family Tract

In January of 2012, the four voting members of the Board of Commissioners rejected a plan to provide sewer services to the Gordy tract when they determined that the line being proposed was too small to serve future county needs.

The line had been championed by BOC Chairman Melvin Davis as needed by Zoom Bait and the St. Mary’s facilities on Jennings Mill Road, and the county had secured $186,711 in federal funding for the sewer line.

It turned out that Zoom Bait and St. Mary’s were reluctant to cooperate fully in the project and that a primary beneficiary would be Atlanta developer Frank Bishop, who had an option on the Gordy tract.

Bishop is the developer of Epps Bridge Centre, across the Oconee Connector from the Gordy land.

It is not possible with public records to determine if Bishop still has an option on the Gordy Family land.

Hard Labor Creek

The Board of Commissioners will be asked tomorrow night to approve loan documents for $12 million with the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to continue construction of the Hard Labor Creek Regional Reservoir in southeast Walton County.

The documents, which were to be approved last month, will obligate the county to an additional $3.5 million in debt.

In January of last year, the Oconee Board of Commissioners approved similar loan documents for a separate $20 million loan from GEFA, obligating the county to $5.8 million in debt.

Chris Atkinson, attorney to the reservoir’s Management Board, told the group last week at its meeting in Monroe that he had completed negotiations with GEFA over the exact language of the loan.

Atkinson said the language needed to be modified to reflect the shared responsibilities of the two countys for the debt, as had been the case with the earlier documents. Those negotiations have resulted in the delay in processing of the documents.

Walking Trail

The Commissioners tomorrow night also will be asked to approve a contract with Garrett Paving Company of 1195 Winterville Road in Athens for three-quarters of a mile of paved walking trail to complete the 2.5-mile walking trail loop at Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.

The BOC approved as part of the fiscal year budget spending $60,000 from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenues for the project, but the contract with Garrett is for $73,500.

County Finance Director Wes Geddings attributed the additional costs to increases in the cost of asphalt and said funding for the extra $13,500 is available.

The county had sought unsuccessfully to obtain $68,000 in federal funds for the project through a Georgia Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trails Program.

Property Tax Hearing

Prior to the meeting tomorrow night, the county will hold a required hearing on what the state is calling a property tax increase for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

In fact, the county is not increasing the tax rate, but, because of the increased value of assessed land, property owners will be paying more in taxes this year than last.

The result is that the county is required to hold a public hearing, which will start at 6:30 p.m., on the increase in taxes a property owner will pay.

The BOC is scheduled to discuss and possibly give tentative approval to the tax rate during the regular meeting.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oconee County Development Authority Says County Should Begin Zoning Land To Meet County Plans

US 78 And SR 316 Corridors Identified

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority is calling on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners to set aside its current practice of rezoning property only when an owner requests the change in favor of advance zoning to reflect county plans for future development.

The IDA is scheduled to deliver a report to the commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday night calling on the county to identify key commercial corridors and “pre-zone all parcels in those corridors consistent with the intended long-term use.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Oconee County Commissioners Scheduled To Get An Update On Controversial GDOT Project Framework Agreements

No Action Expected

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to get an update on Tuesday night on pending project agreements with the Georgia Department of Transportation for widening of Jimmy Daniell Road, for widening of Daniells Bridge Road, and for construction of an extension of Daniells Bridge Road.

At present, the BOC is not scheduled to take any action on those agreements.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mars Hill Road Widening Will Be “Fun” And “Painful,” Oconee County Public Works Director Told Citizen Group

Work To Start Soon

Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara last week described the upcoming reconstruction and widening of Mars Hill road as “fun,” “challenging” and “painful” in his latest update of the project to the Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning.

Beshara said he expects construction crews to be on the site next month or the month after and to continue working on the project for three years.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Federal Government Approves Money To Protect Farmland In South Of Oconee County

Ludwig Farm

The federal government has approved $182,000 for protection of the Carole Ludwig farm in the south of Oconee County as part of the new federal farmland protection program, Sharon Holbrooks, easement specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservative Service, announced last night.

Funding was approved in early August for the Ludwig farm, Holbrooks told a gathering at the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center of the University of Georgia at Government Station Road and Experiment Station Road.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oconee County Cities Will Be Holding Liquor-By-Drink Referendums On Nov. 4 By Default

1987 Law

Five intertwined but distinct Oconee County elections will be held on liquor by the drink on Nov. 4, though voters may not be aware of the complexity of the decisions they will be making.

Officially, voters will be asked if they want to allow “the governing authority of Oconee County” to “issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Oconee County Issued Building Permit For Cheddar’s At Epps Bridge Centre

Without Liquor

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office last week granted a building permit to C&P Restaurant Company of Macon for construction of a Cheddar’s restaurant at the Epps Bridge Parkway entranceway to Epps Bridge Centre.

The permit is for a 8,385-square-foot wood and steel building. Cost is listed on the permit as $2.3 million.