Blog Topic: Oconee Observations

  • In the Loop: Oconee Solar Farm Isn't Dead, Developer Says

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Wild Indigo Crossing, looking toward the proposed solar farm.

    When the developers of Wildflower Meadows, a 263- acre subdivision in northwestern Oconee County, wanted to launch the project in 2006, they assembled 10 different pieces of property to accommodate the proposed 170 lots.

    The largest of the 10 assembled tracts was a 113-acre parcel owned by the Hammond family of Gainesville.

    Another tract of 12 acres also was owned by the Hammond family, and today it provides one of the two Wildflower Meadows entrances off Dials Mill Road.

    The decision of the family to sell the two tracts in 2006 came back to haunt it on Jan. 3, when the Oconee County Board of Commissioners voted 3-1 against a rezone request for an adjoining 204.8 acres owned by the Hammond family.


  • In the Loop: Oconee County Moves to Slow Growth, Revokes Sewer Permits for Unbuilt Subdivisions

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Wayne Hanie speaks to, from left, commissioners John Daniell, Mark Thomas, Chuck Horton, Bubber Wilkes and Mark Saxon.

    Oconee County Commissioners voted Tuesday night to refund sewer capacity for four undeveloped subdivisions in the county, significantly reducing the need for increased sewage treatment capacity in the county.

    The decision will make those four housing projects—including the massive Parkside and Westland subdivisions—unbuildable as zoned, since they require sewage capacity for the intensive development proposed.

    The decision provides some relief to the county school system, which has raised concerns about the increased residential growth on the county schools.


  • In the Loop: A Bible College Wants to Build Its Campus on an Old Oconee County Golf Course

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    The location of the proposed campus in northwestern Oconee County near the Clarke County line.

    The Oconee County Planning Commission tonight will consider a request to convert a portion of the former Green Hills Golf Course and Country Club in the far east of the county to a ministry college.

    Green Hills Farms LLC, the current land owner, is seeking a special use to allow the Athens College of Ministry to develop a campus on just more than 100.2 acres on the agriculturally zoned land.

    Green Hills Farms LLC currently owns 189.2 acres in the small triangle of Oconee County on the east side of the Oconee River tucked between Athens-Clarke County and Oglethorpe County. The property has been vacant since 2009.


  • In the Loop: New Chairman John Daniell Is Changing the Oconee Commission's Secretive Culture

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Melvin Davis wasn’t at the work session of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Friday, but he had impact on the discussion nonetheless.

    The meeting began with a review of the ethics ordinance for commissioners, which has been used only once—in a complaint filed against Davis.

    The next topic was an ordinance passed by the commissioners in 2009 to reassert the power of the commission as a whole versus the power of the chairman. Davis opposed the ordinance when it was passed and fought it until he retired on Dec. 31.


  • In the Loop: Oconee Commissioners Turn Down Solar Farm

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    From left, Oconee County commissioners Mark Thomas, Chuck Horton, Bubber Wilkes and Mark Saxon.

    Oconee County commissioners in a 3-1 vote Tuesday night turned down a request for a 30-megawatt solar energy farm at the intersection of McNutt Creek Road and Dials Mill Road in the northwestern part of the county.

    Commissioner Chuck Horton made the notion to deny the request for a special use of the 205 acres zoned agricultural for the solar farm, proposed by Rural Green Power LLC of Athens. Commissioner Mark Saxon seconded the motion and was joined by Horton and Commissioner William “Bubber” Wilkes in the vote on the motion. Newly elected Commissioner Mark Thomas provided the sole vote against the denial.


  • In the Loop: Planners Recommend Approving Oconee Solar Farm

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    The location of the proposed solar farm and planned subdivisions around it.

    The Oconee County planning staff, after reviewing the revised plans for the solar farm on Dials Mill Road at McNutt Creek Road, has reaffirmed its recommendation that the Board of Commissioners approve the project.

    In a report dated Dec. 27, 2016, the staff advocated that the commission grant Mr. Chick Farms Limited Partnership a special use when the commission meets at 7 p.m. today at the courthouse in Watkinsville.

    The Staff Report addresses concerns raised by citizens in public hearings on Nov. 14 and Dec. 6, calling them “understandable” but dismissing them in the end as unfounded or inconsequential.


  • In the Loop: Horton Wins Oconee Commission Seat

    Former commissioner Chuck Horton defeated Marcus Wiedower by a 520-vote margin Tuesday night in the special election runoff for the open Post 2 seat on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners.

    Horton carried seven of the county’s 13 precincts, including the two largest, to get 56.8 percent of the vote overall.

    A total of 3,845 voters cast a ballot, representing 15.6 percent of the county’s 24,657 registered voters.

    In other county action tonight, the Board of Commissioners postponed a decision on a requested rezone in the western part of the county for a solar farm.

    The board also approved a change in the county’s alcohol ordinances to allow for Sunday sale of beer and wine in groceries and convenience stores and beer, wine and alcoholic drinks in restaurants. The ordinance goes into effect immediately.

    For more, visit Oconee County Observations.


  • In the Loop: Trump Underperformed in Heavily Republican Oconee County

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    Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

    Donald Trump underperformed in Oconee County on Nov. 8, compared with how Republican presidential candidates fared in 2012 and 2008, an analysis of the official results for the last three presidential elections shows.

    Trump got 67.4 percent of the vote in Oconee County, compared with Mitt Romney’s 73.6 percent in 2012 and John McCain’s 70.8 percent in 2008.


  • In the Loop: Dan Matthews Wins Watkinsville City Council Seat


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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Dan Matthews, a longtime Democratic activist and a fixture in the Athens music scene for decades, has won a Watkinsville city council seat, according to the Athens Banner-Herald.

    Matthews, the office manager at Eric Krasle’s law firm, beat Mark Melvin 570 votes to 568. He was declared the winner Monday after a handful of absentee ballots arrived from overseas. It was Matthews’ fourth run for local or state office.


  • In the Loop: Anonymous Mailer Attacks Oconee County Commission Candidate as 'Career Politician'

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    The campaign for the open Post 2 seat on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners turned negative this week as a campaign flier attacking candidate Chuck Horton as a “career politician” who has threatened the county’s school system arrived in select mailboxes in the county.

    The dark colored, six-inch by 11-inch flier does not indicate who paid for the mailing, but it lists as the mailing address the postal box used by Marcus for Oconee BOC, the organization of candidate Marcus Wiedower.

    Wiedower has not responded to repeated attempts to talk to him about the advertisement.

    Ben Bridges, the third candidate for the Board of Commissioners position, said Thursday night he had not seen the flier and had nothing to do with it.

    Horton also said that 25 to 30 of his campaign signs posted on private property have been stolen or damaged. Several of the damaged signs were run over by a vehicle, he said.


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