Blog Topic: Oconee Observations

  • In the Loop: GDOT Ditches Plan for 441 Bypass Around Bishop

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    City and GDOT officials review plans for 441 through Bishop.

    The Georgia Department of Transportation is proposing that U.S. 441 be widened to three lanes through the center of Bishop rather than build a bypass of the small Oconee County city.

    GDOT also is proposing that the highway be widened to four lanes from Bishop north to Watkinsville and from Bishop south to Madison, following the alignment of the existing roadway.

    GDOT released the proposed route Tuesday night at the first meeting of the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee, where it met with strong opposition from Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett and Farmington resident Buddy Murrow, both members of the Citizen Advisory Committee.


  • In the Loop: Cheers! Watkinsville Approves Sunday Sales


    Photo Credit: Paul Joseph

    Watkinsville voters overwhelmingly approved the Sunday sales of alcoholic drinks in the city’s restaurants and the Sunday sales of beer and wine in the city’s convenience stores in voting in the special election that ended Tuesday.

    Vote rturnout was low, but the margins in favor of Sunday sales in the city were even higher than they were when county voters approved Sunday sales last November.


  • In the Loop: Turnout Light for Watkinsville Alcohol Referendum

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Only 63 of Watkinsville’s 2,117 eligible voters participated in the three weeks of early voting leading up to todays ’s election on whether Sunday sales of alcohol should be allowed at the city’s restaurants and convenience stores.

    The turnout of less than 3 percent of the city’s voters suggests that only a small number of the city’s voters will decide the issue.

    In the Mar. 17, 2015 special election in the city on liquor by the drink, only 265 voters cast a ballot, representing just a little more than 15 percent of the 1,759 registered voters. Positive votes were cast by 216 of those voters.

    Voting on Sunday sales will take place from 7 a.m.–7 p.m. today at the city’s two precincts, City Hall and Annex.


  • In the Loop: Oconee Subdivisions Sue for Access to Sewer

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    The Parkside entrance off of Hog Mountain Road.

    The owners of the long-dormant Westland and Parkside subdivisions have filed suit again Oconee County, seeking to block the decision by the Board of Commissioners to refund sewer capacity fees for the massive master plan developments.

    In three separate lawsuits filed in Oconee County Superior Court, the owners contend, among other things, that the Board of Commissioners violated state zoning laws when it voted on Jan. 31 to refund sewer capacity fees paid by the developers of Westland and Parkside as well as by two other residential project developers.


  • In the Loop: Oconee Zoning Decisions Will Affect Athens Residents

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    The proposed convenience store and college campus are located near the point where Oconee, Athens-Clarke and Oglethorpe counties meet.

    Oconee County commissioners on Tuesday night will be asked to decide whether to allow a convenience store, a ministry college campus and an expansion of a community-scale church, all on land zoned for agriculture.

    Two of the rezones are in the only part of Oconee County east of the Oconee River—a triangle of land assigned to the county when it was split off from Clarke County in 1875.

    The commission’s decision on the convenience store will have impact on Athens-Clarke County residents, who live across Bob Godfrey Road from the proposed old-fashioned general store.


  • 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.


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