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8-31-08 Oconee County needs to review & change policies –Zoning etc.- Not its government form

Do we really want ‘dead shopping centers’ all over the place like some ‘dead subdivisions’? ………….We need a new vision and some real leadership for Oconee County. Without it, the county we have known is going ‘down the tubes’!

AVOC

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August 29, 2008

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Oconee County needs to review policies-Zoning, Spending etc - Not government form

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

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Media reports indicate the Oconee Commissioners will soon have a two day “work session” at the courthouse.   A headline subject will be the form of government and possible legislation.   Other subjects will involve SPLOST and future and past capital projects.

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Of more concern to me (and should be of the Board) is the direction of our county and growth policies. They should be reviewing spending cuts and taxes, zoning policies that are overwhelming our resources and acquiring more land for the courthouse to house our burgeoning administrative staff that dominates much of the first floor of the courthouse.  

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REZONES:

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Just like the housing binge, Oconee is going overboard on commercial development.    This area market can only support so many stores, restaurants etc.   We already have a surplus of office space.  

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The pending US 441-LaVista-Chaddwyck Drive Rezone and the proposed huge development at Oconee Connector-Epps Parkway-Athens Loop seem to be a bit much at this time.   Any casual ride around the Butler’s Crossing area shows empty commercial space.   The market will only support so much retail activity.    SEE LEE BECKER’S BLOG FOR DETAILS ON THE EPPS BRIDGE REZONE. Lee Becker’s Blog http://www.oconeecountyobservations.blogspot.com/

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AVOC has concerns and questions about the proposed Epps Bridge Centre.   When was the project and new $ 29 Million Road project decided?   Who decided?  Who have we paid $ 5-6 Million in RoW costs?   When was this decided?   Where?   Was this another product of Executive Sessions in which all the Board Members participated?

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I always supported economic development and increasing sales taxes and tax digest.   However, revenues have increased multi-fold in recent years and property taxes keep going up!    We need more balance and restraint in commercial and residential development.     We are going too fast for this kind of development.   We will have our very own "Mall Mess" right here in Oconee County!   Do we really want this?

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Do we really want ‘dead shopping centers’ all over the place like some ‘dead subdivisions’?

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Shopping Facilities in area of Butler’s Crossing 9-22-07

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Inactive Subdivision with utilities on Mars Hill Road at Union Church Road 9-22-07

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TAXES & SPENDING

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The BOC is on the verge of setting tax millage to support a huge budget with NO REDUCTION in our property taxes.   We all know revenue is down and fees are down from development.   AVOC sources indicate that the Environmental Health Department had decreased fee income of $ 100,000 under last year.   The planning and inspection fees have to be down also.   Such fees won’t be coming back very soon because Oconee has a surplus of housing already.  At the same time, we seem to be “milking” fees from new businesses.  A friend has told me of the horrors of trying to open a restaurant in Oconee County- there are fees at every corner!   SEE ARTICLE ON PLANNING REVIEW FEE ON PRINCE AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH in Athens Banner-Herald on 8-30-08

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SPLOST

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The final decision on SPLOST projects should be made after the first of January 2009 when the new board is in place.   The decision should then be made only after a series of public hearings involving citizens.

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During the election season, there was widespread opposition to moving the courthouse.  Yet there is little indication that this board is looking at expanding the Courthouse Campus with the available 10-11 acres on Water Street.   The Board needs to get serious about this issue.   It is a little curious that the board is considering changes in “Courthouse Security” at this time.   That is well and good so long as it is not a prelude to a new campaign to move the courthouse!

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We need to take a fresh look at infrastructure needs.   We are not going to have the fast growth that this Administration has so aggressively projected.  Commuting, traffic and gas prices will change the dynamics of living here and driving somewhere else to work.   SPLOST should not go for debt incurred to promote and facilitate the ‘growth industry’!

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We need a new vision and some real leadership for Oconee County.    Without it, the county we have known is going ‘down the tubes’!


LEE BECKER

1031 Willow Ridge
Athens, GA  30606

Lee Becker’s Blog

http://www.oconeecountyobservations.blogspot.com/

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August 30, 2008

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RE:   Epps Bridge Centre

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Dear Friends,

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On Tuesday night, the Board of Commissioners will vote on a major commercial rezone planned for beside and behind Lowe's on Epps Bridge Parkway. The project will greatly change the amount of traffic in the area, will pave over streams feeding into McNutt Creek, will create a large amount of impervious surface, and will generate a lot of tax revenue for Oconee County.

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This is a very big project.   When it is built out--and it almost certainly will be approved--it will greatly change the nature of the part of Oconee County where it is located. Think of a 16-screen movie theater and seven restaurants. Think of retail space rivaling Georgia Square Mall.

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It is safe to say Oconee County will never be the same. And this is only the beginning of what is planned.

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For details of the project, please go to my blog, at

http://www.oconeecountyobservations.blogspot.com/


Lee Becker’s description of the proposed project at Epps Parkway - Oconee Connector

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……..Epps Bridge Centre, as proposed, is a long strip mall consisting of four clusters of building and 15 self-standing buildings, including the 16-screen movie theater. The four clusters are designated for anchor stores. The largest is 45,000 square feet in size. Three of the four clusters also include space for small shops.

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The seven restaurants shown on the conceptual site plan vary in size from 1,860 to 7,000 square feet. The theater is 60,000 square feet in size.

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At build-out in 2013, the project is expected to be valued at $ 76 million and produce just less than $ 752,000 annually in property taxes for the county, according to the Northeast Georgia Regional Development Center. The estimated annual sales tax revenue at build out is expected to be $ 11 million. The applicant estimates it will cost only $ 55,500 annually to provide community services for the project.

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Mars Hill Road Strip Center 9-22-07

Hog Mountain Road Near Oconee County High School

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Inactive Subdivision with utilities on Mars Hill Road at Union Church Road 9-22-07

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Parkside Subdivision on 12.20.07

8-23-04 New Oconee 810 Lot Subdivision Coming On GA Highway 53

12- 2-04 Did Oconee Officials Compromise Zoning Action Early On?


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