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1-27-03 Plea for “Saving” South Oconee County

. Oconee County is still a good place to live. However, it seems too many people are seeing it as a ‘big ole pie’ and want a piece of it. Responsible citizens and property owners should be concerned.

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Citizen of South Oconee--SOUTH OCONEE STILL HAS GOLDEN EGGS, BUT DEVELOPERS ARE DROOLING OVER THE PROSPECTS OF EGGS BENEDICT. THERE ARE REQUESTS FOR APPROVAL FOR ZONING CHANGES THAT WILL SUBURBANIZE SOUTH OCONEE.

AVOC

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January 27, 2003

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Plea for Saving South Oconee County

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.

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The letter below was written by a citizen who grew up on GA 15 South of Watkinsville and attended the Oconee County Schools during the 40’s & 50’s when I did.Persons of our generation remember a different Oconee County from present day Oconee.

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Oconee County is still a good place to live.However, it seems too many people are seeing it as a ‘big ole pie” and want a piece of it.Responsible citizens and property owners should be concerned.

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To Ms. Shumake, AVOC says AMEN!


MEMO TO: BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

FROM: HILDRED SHUMAKE

RE: DEVELOPMENT IN SOUTH OCONEE

 

I GREW UP IN OCONEE COUNTY WHEN AGRICULTURAL/ RESIDENTIAL MEANT FARMHOUSES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE COTTON PATCHES. THERE WERE NO ZONING ORDININCES; THE SUCCESSFUL FARMERS WERE THE GOOD OLE BOY GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WHO MADE THE DECISIONS.

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I WENT TO DEKALB COUNTY WHEN IT WAS THE BEST PLACE TO LIVE IN GEORGIA. THERE WERE SMALL TOWNS; THERE WERE VERY GOOD SCHOOLS; EXPRESSWAYS WERE BEING BUILT TO MAKE TRAVEL TO ATLANTA EASY AND FAST; NEW SUBURBAN DEVELOPMENTS FELT “SAFE” AND HOMOGENOUS.

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SO EVERYBODY WANTED TO COME. POPULATION DIVERSIFIED; SCHOOLS BECAME OVERCROWDED AND BEGAN TO LOSE THEIR EDGE; ROADS BECAME SLUGGISH AND SLOWED BY CONSTANT CONSTRUCTION. DEVELOPMENT HAD KILLED THE GOOSE THAT LAID THE GOLDEN EGG.

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SO PEOPLE BEGAN TO ‘MOVE OUT’ - TO FIND SPACE AND SMALL TOWN LIVING AND GOOD SCHOOLS AND GOOD ROADS. THEY MOVED OUT TO GWINNETT.THE DEVELOPERS CAME BULLDOZING IN TO MEET THE DEMAND; THE SPACE GOT CROWDED AND EXPENSIVE; THE SCHOOLS WENT TO TRAILERS; THE SMALL TOWNS WERE LOST IN SUBURBIA; THE DEVELOPERS TURNED THE GOOSE INTO PATE`AND SCRAMBLED THE EGGS IN THEIR BIG HOUSES IN THEIR BIG SUBBVISIONS BEHIND THEIR BIG GATES.

 

SO PEOPLE STARTED LOOKING FOR LAND AND HOUSES OUT IN THE COUNTRY-OCONEE COUNTY- AND THE DEVELOPERS ARE BUSY.

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WE DECIDED TO RETURN TO THE ATHENS AREA IN 1986.WE LOOKED AT THIRTY-SEVEN LOVELY SUBVISIONS, BUT WE JUST COULDN’T COMMIT A LIFETIME INVESTMENT FOR A HOUSE WHERE THE VIEW FROM MY BEDROOM WINDOW LOOKED INTO SOMEONE ELSE’S BEDROOM. WE CAME BACK TO THE FARM I HAD LEFT IN ORDER TO HAVE TREES, SPACE, PRIVACY, YARDS, GREEN PASTURES AND, YES, CHICKENHOUSES.

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BUT, BEFORE WE DID, WE STUDIED THE ZONING MAPS FOR THE COUNTY DATED TO BE IN EFFECT UNTIL 2017. SOUTH OCONEE WAS ZONED AGRICULTURAL/ RESIDENTIAL. ALTHOUGH IT IS ONLY VERY EARLY 2003, I AM NOW “IN TRANSITION”, WHICH MEANS I AM IN TROUBLE BECAUSE THE COMMITTEE, WHICH WILL DEFINE TRANSITON, IS HEAVILY TILTED IN FAVOR OF DEVELOPMENTAL INTERESTS.

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SOUTH OCONEE STILL HAS GOLDEN EGGS, BUT DEVELOPERS ARE DROOLING OVER THE PROSPECTS OF EGGS BENEDICT. THERE ARE REQUESTS FOR APPROVAL FOR ZONING CHANGES THAT WILL SUBURBANIZE SOUTH OCONEE.

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THE PREVIOUS PLAN WAS WORKING, ANYONE COULD BUILD HOUSES [ONE PER FIVE ACRES]; FARM LAND WAS PROTECTED; LARGER LOTS GENERALLY MEANT HOUSES THAT WOULD SUPPORT THEMSELVES WITH SCHOOLS AND UTILITIES; DEVELOPERS COULD MAKE ‘A LIVING’[IF NOT ‘A KILLING’; FEWER HOUSES MEANT LESS TRAFFIC; DISTANCE AND SPACE PROVIDED BEAUTIFUL SURROUNDINGS AND HAPPY PEOPLE. DRIVING THROUGH OLIVER BRIDGE ROAD PROVES MY POINT.   SAXON ROAD NOW HAS GROWTH THAT SEEMS TO BE SPACIOUS AND ATTRACTIVE AND SOME CONTRACTOR IS MAKING ‘THE NUMBERS WORK.’

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THE GOOD OLE BOYS OF FIFTY YEARS AGO MADE DECISIONS THAT GOT US TO AN OCONEE THAT MOST OF GEORGIA ENVIES.

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I WORRY THAT CURRENTLY ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE NOT WILLING TO TAKE LONELY STANDS ON HARD ISSUES. CAMPAIGN PROMISES OF ‘SMART GROWTH’ SEEMS TO ALLOW APPROVAL FOR ALMOST ANY REQUEST FOR ZONING CHANGE. WE MAY NOT BE ENVIED FIFTY YEARS FROM NOW. FEW IN OCONEE WISH THEY LIVED IN GWINETT. CAN’T WE LEARN FROM THEIR EXPERIENCE?

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I HEAR SOME OFFICIALS ARE CONCERNED THAT DEVELOPERS MAY SUE THE COUNTY IF THEY DON’T GET APPROVAL, BUT ARE THERE LAWYERS LOOKING AT THE ADVISABILITY OF CLASS ACTION SUITS FOR HOMEOWNERSAND FARMERS WHO INVESTED IN SOUTH OCONEE UNDER THE PROMISE THAT THERE WOULD BE SPACE FOR PRIVACY AND FARMING WITHOUT HAVING TO DEFEND AT EVERY BOARD MEETING?

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I HAVE REQUESTS FOR THE CURRENT BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS:

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1.       DELAY EFFORTS TO REVISE THE LAND USE PLAN UNTIL 2017. THE FIVE-ACRE PLAN BELOW THE RAILROAD WAS WORKING .THE ONLY REASON FOR CHANGE IS HIGHER PROFITS FOR DEVELOPERS. THE COUNTY CANNOT MAKE DECISIONS ON THE BASIS OF PERSONAL PROFIT.THERE ARE ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES OF WATER CONSUMPTION, AND SEWAGE AND SCHOOLS THAT MATTER.

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2.       PUT SOME REAL FARMERS AND SOUTH OCONEE RESIDENTS ON THE COMMITTEE THAT DECIDES ZONING CHANGES.   THE CURRENT COMMITTEE IS NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE AREA AND IS A REAL POINT OF IRRITATION.

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3.       WHILE THERE ARE DISCUSSIONS AND DEFINITIONS GOING ON ABOUT ZONING CHANGES, PUT   ALL REQUESTS ON HOLD.

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4.       ONCE DEFINITIONS ARE ESTABLISHED, STICK TO THE PLAN. WHY ALLOW DEVELOPERS TO CONSTANTLY ACQUIIRE LAND WITH THE FULL INTENT TO GET ZONING CHANGED TO THEIR LIKING? LET THEM BUY AND BUILD IN THE AREAS THAT ARE ESTABLISHED. IF THEY WANT TO BUILD A GROCERY STORE, GO TO THAT ZONE; IF THEY WANT TO BUILD MANSIONS, GO WHERE THAT ZONING IS ESTABLISHED.

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5.       DISSOLVE THE PLANNING COMMISSIION. THEIR TIME, ENERGY, EFFORTS, STUDY SEEM FUTILE.THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS ARE IGNORED AT MOST BOARD MEETINGS.

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RESIDENTS OF SOUTH OCONEE ARE NOT AGAINST ALL GROWTH. WE HAVE NEW, INTERESTING PEOPLE COMING IN, BUT THEY WERE LOOKING FOR A RURAL, AGRICULTURAL ENVIRONMENT. THERE ARE MANY OTHERS OUT THERE WHO WANT A HOUSE ON FIVE ACRES. WE DON’T WANT SOUTH OCONEE TO LOOK LIKE HIGHWAY 316 THROUGH GWINNETT!


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