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8-25-08 Oconee Voters expecting change but will things remain same?

The Executive Session called for Wednesday, August 21, 2008, appears to be a thinly disguised effort to negotiate a rezone for the commercial development on La Vista Road,.. An agenda item to watch: August 26, 2008 - 10. Discuss 2009 SPLOST status Alan Theriault and Daniel Haygood.

AVOC

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August 24, 2008

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Oconee Voters expecting change – but will things remain same?

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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A slowing economy, drought and stagnant subdivisions have demonstrated some leadership mistakes in our county in recent months.   The ballyhooed MPDs have failed and brought problems: Coldwater on Union Church Road; Parkside on GA 53 and Mars Hill Road; Westland at Hwy 78 and Goat Farm Road, Triple Creek at Malcom Bridge- Lenru Road etc.  

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Voters seemed to say they wanted some change.   Many have been hopeful the dynamics of the Board would change.   We realize that the new commissioner will not come on board until January 1.  However, we thought the election mandate for Hale and Horton and the scare for Luke and Davis would help restrain this board from excessive zonings and spending projects for the rest of this year.

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Change takes time.   However, there are some troubling signs that things may not be changing.  Some examples:   Executive Sessions (really a cover for ‘negotiated zoning’?); no change on the Planning Commission; SPLOST Projects being decided by Staff and Melvin Davis without public debate; no real reduction in tax millage etc.

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Executive Sessions

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Executive sessions routinely appear on the BOC Agenda.   They are frequent events.  Under Melvin Davis’s leadership with the advice and consent of the County Attorney, the county has made many decisions and policy changes outside the public eye.   Retreats and ‘executive sessions’ are just too common.    Claiming potential or existing litigation sounds legitimate but is too encompassing when no cases are named and leads to a lot of speculation.   This Board holds more executive sessions in six months than we probably held in my last four years in office.

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The Executive Session called for Wednesday, August 21, 2008, appears to be a thinly disguised effort to negotiate a rezone for the commercial development on La Vista Road, (Rezone # 5462) being sought by Jeff Bell, a prominent local developer and campaign contributor.    The published work session agenda and an Oconee Enterprise article seem to support that theory.    See Agenda Excerpts and Oconee Enterprise Link below…THIS KIND OF THING NEEDS TO STOP.    I realize that the Oconee Enterprise, particularly its publisher and writer of this article, is not the best source of information adverse to the Chairman, but she is close to the situation and hears ‘whispers’ not always available to other media and citizens.

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PLANNING COMMISSION:

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The commissioners recently reappointed two sitting members to the Planning Commission which is heavily dominated by development interests.  Mike Maxey, an unsuccessful candidate for Chuck Horton’s post, who champions commercial and residential development, was reappointed.    Chuck Horton may have felt ‘funny’ about voting against him.  However, elections and positions have consequences.   Most voters did not support Mr. Maxey’s positions.

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A 20 year veteran, Bill Ramsey, was reappointed to another term.   Some like his planning background and lack of development community connections.  Others, including this writer, think he is ineffective and should have been replaced years ago.   He is not a typical homeowner and does not fairly represent the interests of average citizens.

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The Planning Commission needs revamping.   The cities have about 1/3 of the representation but only 15% or so of our population.  Many of those representatives do not attend regularly.   A selection process should be enacted that gives average citizens a real chance at appointment.    The current process is dominated by backroom maneuvering and ear whispers.   Campaign contributions and ‘connections’ seem to dominate the current procedure.    That needs to change!

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SPLOST Projects

An agenda item to watch: August 26, 2008 -10.      Discuss 2009 SPLOST status – Alan Theriault and Daniel Haygood.

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In recent years, the Melvin Davis Administrations have been able to ‘decide’ SPLOST projects without much public discussion or input.  (Closed door sessions with the Chairman and Retreats).   As a result we have a big, unfinished recreational facility that has aggressively increased the annual recreation budget and a bigger jail that has greatly increased that part of the annual budget.    The Annual Budget, Folks, is where the property taxpayers are saddled with these increased costs that had little public input.   

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1-7-08 Oconee County BOC held “retreat” – (secret meeting) in Madison on 12-7-07;

RETREAT MINUTES 12-7-07) http://www.oconeecounty.com/Whatsnew/publicnotices/RetreatMinutes12-07-07.pdf

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If we are not vigilant, we will have a new ‘Taj Mahal’ courthouse and library to fund.   We will also see the “big projects” for water and sewer that are claimed to be 'self-supporting' operations funded by Sales Taxes.    Some of this was ‘decided’ in Mr. Davis’s closed door sessions.   Unfortunately, the public does not know what all was ‘promised’ and what is involved.   CITIZENS NEED TO QUESTION THE NEXT SPLOST LIST AND DEMAND REAL PUBLIC HEARINGS.   We cannot leave this large source of revenue to the secret priorities of Melvin Davis and his minions.   

FOR DETAILS ON HUGE ROAD PROJECT & $ 6 Million Right of Way Purchases, in secret, see6-21-08 Questions About Melvin Davis’ $ 26 Million Road Project.

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Our water and sewer capacities evaporated with the unbridled growth of recent years.   Grandiose plans to build bigger and bigger sewer plants and water supplies have hit the wall of reality and declining revenues.   Our SPLOST taxes have been used to build “big things” that bring annual operating costs and increase our property taxes.

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“Secret meetings” and ‘executive sessions’ have been used as excuses to make major decisions without real public discussion.   Ethics issues involving some officials - including the county attorney acting as closing attorney in some of the real estate deals approved by the county.

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5-16-08 Proposal to Move Oconee courthouse has surfaced publicly – Opposition Building

6-25-08 The Oconee County Courthouse should stay on Square in Watkinsville - Part 1

6-25-08 The Oconee County Courthouse should stay on Square in Watkinsville – Part 2

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5-10-04 Oconee’s “˜Pot of Gold” Fuels MPDs & Land Rush

5-14-04 Thoughts on Changing Oconee County Policies on Sewer Service & Growth

5-4-05 Sewer Capacity, Cost and Effort, and Oconee County Plans

8-23-04 Oconee To Have "Public Hearing” On $26 Million Wastewater Plan

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4-09-04 Oconee County MPD Ordinances Were "Hatched and Birthed” in Secrecy

5-5-04 Oconee County Opened Pandora’s Box With Residential Sewer Policy Change


8-7-08 Same-O, Same-O! - Oconee BOC makes no change on Planning Commission Appointments

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The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/080708/news_2008080700480.shtml

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August 7, 2008

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County reappoints two planners

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Commissioners on Tuesday kept the team together on the Oconee County Planning Commission, reappointing two members for another term.

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Mike Maxey, the Watkinsville grading business owner who ran unsuccessfully for a county commission seat this year, and longtime planning commission member Bill Ramsey each will serve a new four-year term on the 12-member board.

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The planning commission, which includes eight county-appointed members and one member appointed by each of the county's four cities, reviews zoning and development issues and makes recommendations to county commissioners.


8-21-08 Oconee Commission meeting behind closed doors

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The Athens Banner-Herald

http://onlineathens.com/stories/082108/news_2008082100252.shtml

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August 21, 2008

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Oconee commission will meet behind closed doors

Most likely to discuss litigation today

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By Adam Thompson

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Oconee County commissioners will meet behind closed doors today to discuss a handful pending lawsuits, the county's commission chairman said.

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Commissioners on Wednesday said they couldn't talk about the specific subject of today's special meeting, scheduled for 4 p.m. in Watkinsville, citing an exemption in the state open meeting law that allows executive sessions for litigation and a small number of other reasons.

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"I suspect that it'll be on several litigation matters," commission Chairman Melvin Davis said.

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Oconee officials and their attorneys are dealing with a few lawsuits right now, including a federal discrimination complaint from a former sheriff's office employee, a threatened suit from the developer of a denied residential subdivision and an ongoing dispute with developers of a shopping center on U.S. Highway 441.

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Commissioners were set to vote this month on a rezone request for the new shopping center. Instead, at their July 28 meeting, they postponed the decision until Sept. 2 as attorneys on both sides continued to talk.

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The board's agenda-setting meeting for that Sept. 2 session is next week.

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Developers want to rezone more than 13 acres along U.S. 441 near Athens Academy to make way for a large grocery store, restaurants and retail shops, but residents in the adjacent Chaddwyck subdivision have opposed the proposed center since last year…………………


8-22-08 Oconee BOC Agenda for 8.26.08

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Agenda

Board of Commissioners

August 26, 2008

7:00 PM

Commission Meeting Room

Oconee County Courthouse

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2.         Discuss security for the Oconee County Courthouse - Sheriff Scott Berry.

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7.         Consider postponement of Rezone Request #5462 by Fred Gunter Property, LLC,           +13.43 acres, located on U.S. Hwy. 441, LaVista Road and Chaddwyck Drive.

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10.     Discuss 2009 SPLOST status – Alan Theriault and Daniel Haygood.


8-25-08 Is Oconee Commission ‘Negotiating Rezones’ in Executive Session?

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The Oconee Enterprise

http://www.oconeeenterprise.com/articles/2008/08/22/news/doc48ac640507a4d266156940.txt

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August 20, 2008

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Contentious rezone near Chaddwyck headed for resolution

Grocery store coming?

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By Vinnie Williams

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The suit filed by Fred Gunter Property LLC and developer Jeff Bell on a controversial new shopping center proposed for U.S. 441 north, near Chaddwyck, appears headed for a resolution.
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The Oconee County Board of Commissioners have announced a called meeting [Thursday, Aug. 21] in the Commission Chambers at 4 p.m. where attorneys for both sides will try to hammer out a final agreement.
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An announcement of an agreement, if any, will be made Tuesday, Sept. 2 during the BOC’s regular monthly meeting.
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A year ago the BOC denied the developers’ first rezoning application. Gunter and Bell, clearly knowing that the community generally was against it, ……..

During the past year, the BOC has gone into executive session after its regular meetings to discuss litigation with attorney Dan Haygood…….
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During the past two months the BOC has discussed litigation in executive session, but apparently could reach no conclusion with the litigants……..
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The developers want to rezone 13 acres along the highway between LaVista and Hog Mountain roads, near Athens Academy, for a large supermarket, a restaurant and retail shops. Residents of Chaddwyck, a good-sized subdivision on LaVista Road, rose up in arms, as did residents around Athens Academy.……………….


8-11-08 Foreclosure of Triple Creek Properties in Oconee County

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The Oconee Enterprise

http://www.oconeeenterprise.com

August 11, 2008               LEGAL ADS

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Start date: 8/11/2008

*NOTICE OF SALE UNDER POWER By virtue of the powers of sale contained in that certain Deed to Secure Debt from Triple Creek Developers, LLC to First National Bank of Gwinnett, now known as SunTrust Bank, dated September 10, 2005, recorded October 11,2005, in Deed Book 830 at Page 655, Oconee County, Georgia Records…………..


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