Thursday, October 30, 2014

Advertisements In Oconee County Weekly Newspapers Tout Referendum 2 But Don’t Say It Is For Liquor By The Drink

Improve Quality of Life

Oconee County voters who want to improve the quality of life in the county, enhance the county’s infrastructure and spur economic development should vote Yes on Referendum 2 on Nov. 4, according to advertisements in today’s edition of both of the county’s weekly newspapers.

Voting for the referendum will make sales tax revenue go up and property taxes go down, the half-page advertisement in The Oconee Enterprise claims.

Vote Yes For Referendum 2

The full-page advertisement in The Oconee Leader states that Referendum 2 will increase funding for water and sewer services and for public works, i.e., roads and bridges.

Referendum 2 will increase funding for parks and recreation, the advertisements in both papers assert.

Neither advertisement mentions what Referendum 2 actually is about, and voters might think they are being asked to vote for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, which is on the Nov. 4 ballot.

If approved, the 1 percent sales tax will generate funds designated for the county’s parks, for water and sewer projects, for roads and bridges, and for economic development.

Referendum 2, however, is for liquor by the drink.

Ad Sponsors Unknown

The advertisements carry the name “Oconee Citizens For Economic Growth” and list the URL at the bottom

That link leads to an attractive web site with a series of rotating pictures.

It lists additional benefits of passage of Referendum 2 as funding for the Oconee County Sheriff’s (it says Sherrif’s) Department and for Oconee County Fire Rescue.

It also has a large button at the bottom linking to the Secretary of State’s online voter registration system, though registration for the Nov. 4 election closed on Oct. 6.

Small Button At Top

At the top of the web page is a button marked “Referendum 2.”

That button links to another web page with this statement:

    Officially, voters will be asked if they want to allow “the governing authority of Oconee County” to “issue licenses to sell distilled spirits for beverage purposes by the drink.”

In fact, the issue is more complicated.

If citizens in the four cities in the county approve the referendum, the governments of those cities also will be authorized to pass ordinances for the issuance of licenses for the sale of distilled spirits in restaurants provided the referendum passes countywide.

The page also contains this message:

    Click on map below to zoom in and see where the sale of distilled spirits, beer and wine will be permitted:

The map shown is for the county’s current beer and wine ordinance.

The county has not written an ordinance for where alcoholic beverages will be allowed in restaurants if the referendum passes.

Who Paid?

Neither advertisement indicates who paid for its publication, and neither of the papers wrote a story about the advertisements or who paid for them.

The web site also does not indicate who is responsible for it.

Costs for construction of a web site vary greatly, from several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

Advertising costs also are hard to estimate, as publishers print rate cards but can discount from them.

Based on rate cards from this spring, the half-page color advertisement in The Enterprise could have cost more $600.

Again based on rate cards from this spring, the full-page advertisement in The Leader should have cost about $750.

Russell Lee

The Leader reported in its City Desk column on Sept. 25 that Russell Lee and a group called Oconee Citizens for Better Economic Development planned to advocate for the liquor-by-the-drink referendum through a web site, social media and mailers.

That name is similar, but not identical, to the group named in the advertisements.

Though The Leader report didn’t say, Lee is the former president of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce. The Leader story also didn’t identify any other member of Lee’s group.

I called Lee’s home and cell phones numerous times after that story appeared and left message, but Lee did not return them.

I called Lee on his cell phone again at 7:30 p.m. tonight, and he answered.

He told me I was “interrupting” his dinner. I asked him when he would be finished, and he said in about an hour.

I called back at 8:30, but Lee did not answer this time. He also didn’t return the call.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oconee County Attempting To Enforce Sign Ordinance At SR 316 And Connector After Long Delay

Boswell Sign Included

The Oconee County Code Enforcement Office has sent letters to permit holders for signs on three properties at the busy Oconee Connector intersection with SR 316, telling them they have until Nov. 17 to bring their signs into compliance with the county’s ordinance.

Code Enforcement Officer Paul Smith posted the registered letters on Oct. 17 to Jamie Boswell, owner of Boswell properties, and to two other sign permit holders, pointing out that the county’s Unified Development Code prohibits the installation of signs on the right of way of a public road.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oconee County Rep. Quick Planning Legislation To Make Development Authorities More Transparent

”Shadow Governments”

Regina Quick, who represents part of Oconee County in the Georgia House of Representatives, has asked legislative counsel of the General Assembly to draft legislation that would force independent governmental authorities in the state to be more transparent.

Quick refers to these groups as “shadow governments” and said she wants the legislation to specify that these bodies, if they already are spending public money on a website, must post agendas, minutes, contact information of members, and core documents on those sites.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Plans Filed For Gunter Property At Lavista Road With Oconee County Planning Department

Falls Of Oconee On Hold

Almost six years after the county rezoned 13 plus acres on U.S. 441 north of Watkinsville at Lavista Road, Fred Gunter Property LLC has submitted plans to begin construction of an office complex on the site.

The plans call for a single 12,000 square foot building on the southern part of the property, furthest from Lavista Road. Access would be off U.S. 441, with a right-turn only exit from the property.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Oconee County Industrial Development Authority Extends Purchase Contract For Clyde Armory For One Year

At Very Brief Meeting

The Oconee County Industrial Authority voted in a called meeting on Thursday morning to extend its purchase agreement with the owner of Clyde Armory until Nov. 15, 2015, for property the IDA owns south of SR 316 in the west of the county.

The IDA had agreed to the terms of the extension in an executive session at the end of its regular meeting on Oct. 13 but had not taken formal action in public. The meeting on Thursday was to make public the decision.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oconee County Planning Commission To Review Plans For Another Medical Complex On Virgil Langford Road

New Phase: Three Sixteen Professional Quarter

The Oconee County Planning Commission will be asked tomorrow night to give its approval to the rezone of 14 acres at the corner of Virgil Langford Road and Jennings Mill Road that will be part of a 65-acre complex including medical and professional offices and a retirement community.

The project joins recently rezoned Resurgence Park, which now includes a dermatology and cancer center that is nearing completion and another retirement community under construction, in defining the area along Virgil Langford Road north of SR 316 as a medical office destination.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Oconee County Chamber Of Commerce Had Beautiful Weather For Its Fall Festival

250 Vendors

A big crowd turned out today on a picture-perfect fall Georgia Saturday to enjoy the Oconee County Fall Festival in downtown Watkinsville.

Vendors numbering 250 stretched from Main Street to beyond Thrasher Drive, with the heaviest concentration in Rocket Field opposite the old school gym.