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Oconee County Moves to Keep Economic Development Out of the Public Eye

Photo Credit: Lee Becker

County Administrator Justin Kirouac.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday night will consider transferring the county’s economic development activities to the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce.

The action comes in the form of a memorandum of understanding that would convey $100,000 annually to the chamber and give it responsibility for providing economic development services for the county, including attracting and recruiting new businesses and industries.

The intent of the agreement, according to Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell and County Administrator Justin Kirouac, is to circumvent the state’s open records and open meetings laws.

The chamber staff, unlike county staff, would not be subject to the state open records laws, and a chamber-appointed oversight body, the Economic Development Council, would not meet in public, Daniell said.

Citizens would get first notice of the county’s economic development activities, according to Daniell, when the Oconee County Industrial Development Authority is asked to act on requests for project funding or tax abatements.

The commissioners on Tuesday night also will consider a request for a variance that would allow the developer of a shopping center at the intersection of Mars Hill Road and SR 316 to reduce the buffer with an adjoining property to increase the density of the development.

The commission also will consider a request for a modification of rezones for a business on an undeveloped lot on Mars Hill Road just north of Butler’s Crossing. The request is being made because access to the property was changed by the recently completed widening of Mars Hill Road.

For more, visit Oconee County Observations.