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8-25-04 Does Oconee Have New Master Plan?

Property owners and developers can benefit from a fast-growth policy. However, residents should expect quite a different Oconee County. It is regrettable that real public meetings and discussions were not held before we quietly embarked on this course. .. It will be interesting to see where the lines are run first - influential landowners, developers and speculators. .

AVOC

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August 25, 2004

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Oconee Seems to Have New Development Plan

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc

It is becoming more and more obvious that Oconee’s leadership has decided on a goal of greatly accelerating growth in the County.

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I attended the ‘Public Information Meeting’ on August 24 for the massive $ 126 Million Master Wastewater Plan for Oconee County.    Last week one was held for the Hard Labor Creek Reservoir project with a total cost of $ 342 Million.

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Neither meeting had many citizens- some Walton citizens attended the Water meeting.    The format used by the Oconee County Commissioners does not allow audience questions    .It uses the GA DOT format of a general presentation and then ‘breaking into small groups’ and discussing the project with Consultants.

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This type format avoids any real public discussion.    It allows the Commissioners and Consultants to ‘control’  the press reports and agenda.  These type presentations are usually attended by more County Officials, staff, consultants, developers and land investors than citizens.   In the past, some of us old veterans of local government called such events “dog and pony shows”.   They are designed to sound positive and simple.   As usual, the “Devil is in the Detail”.

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The presentations for both water and sewer had similar points - ”that Oconee will experience “fast growth” and will have approximately 65,000 people in less than 25 years- over double what we are now!  

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QUESTION:  AT WHAT POINT AND IN WHAT MANNER, DID OCONEE COUNTY DECIDE ON FAST DEVELOPMENT?   WHO DECIDED IT?WHERE WERE THE MEETINGS?WHO PARTICIPATED?

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With current infrastructure plans and zoning decisions, this fast growth rate will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.   The sewer plan calls for most of Oconee County to have sewer service AND SMALLER MORE DENSE LOTS.

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During the last year, we have witnessed some neighborhoods attend meetings and question MPD’s and their density.   Growth was debated during the recent election cycle.   The Pro-Development group argued for “progress” and that Oconee was not growing fast.    Folks, that is not the case now!

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Citizens should attend the infrastructure meetings.   IT IS ALL RELATED.   We will have water and sewer lines all over Eastville, Dark Corner, Buncombe and High Shoals.   We will have wall to wall subdivisions!

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It is obvious that the County is headed toward issuing more bonds for these improvements.   The debt payment will extend well past the terms of current commissioners.   A number of consultants, attorneys (bond and county), engineers etc stand to make big bucks.

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We can repay the bonds if we allow the FAST GROWTH policy that has apparently been adopted by the Commissioners.   However, it will take much tax money to build the schools, maintain and upgrade our two-lane-1950's - Farm to Market Roads, libraries, more fire stations and firemen, larger county facilities and so on!

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Property owners and developers can benefit from this policy.   However, residents should expect quite a different Oconee County.   It is regrettable that real public meetings and discussions were not held before we quietly embarked on this course.

It will be interesting to see where the lines are run first - influential landowners, developers and even speculators.    An area getting a lot of attention is the GA Highway 53 corridor- one of the last real agricultural corridors north of Greensboro Highway.

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NEW OCONEE GROWTH CENTER - GA HIGHWAY 53

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It is becoming obvious to me that a Master Plan is being followed to make the Hog Mountain Road the new "Growth Center" for Oconee County.  This is being done at the expense of Epps Bridge Parkway, University Parkway, U S 441 and U S 78.
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The Plan can be found in many matters under consideration by the Board of Commissioners:
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1. MACORTS - A B-H Article - 8-22-04 (2. Georgia Highway 53 widening
(Oconee): $ 19.3 million to four-lane a three-mile stretch between Hog
Mountain and Elder roads) a new project unheard of until the last couple of years;
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            2. Master Recreation Plan of $ 20 Million Includes 200 acre new Park on
GA 53 near Elder Road;

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            3. New Oconee 810 Lot  Subdivision Coming On GA Highway 53; Tract of
500.61 acres Between GA 53 & Mars Hill Rd Being Reviewed;
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            4. The Willow Creek MPD -on Georgia Highway 53-  passed 4-3 at Oconee
Planning Commission Meeting on 8-16-04;

            5. Oconee To Have "Public Hearing" On $ 126 Million Wastewater Plan---
Expansion of the Rocky Branch Land Application System (LAS) to 0.9 MGD in
2008. These additional flows would be treated to reclaimed water standards;

            6. Hard Labor Creek project (TOTAL ESTIMATED COST OF $ 342 MILLION) ---
OCONEE 28.71 %; 12.0 MGPD; $ 100,573,000.


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