Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Watkinsville Council and Other Updates

Good city council meeting tonight. We approved changes to our land use code that will allow recreational facilities -- everything from tennis courts to swim centers to climbing walls to places like Pump it Up -- in the Employment Center and Commercial Corridor areas. This will allow Zion Skate Park -- a privately run skateboarding and rollerblading facility -- to set up off of Morrison Street. Hopefully this will give kids and teens who want to skate a safe, supervised place to do so, and allow future recreational facilities in areas that have the infrastructure for traffic or the type of buildings that allow for indoor recreation.

We also approved several business licenses and discussed an updated solid waste ordinance for the city, which will likely be adopted next month once we work through some issues on concrete pads and screening for dumpsters at businesses (exciting, I know). Budget wise we are on track but next month we should know more based on Local Option Sales Tax Revenues. We are also going to check into voluntary recycling options for city residents as part of trash pick up (likely with a fee).

Also, if you catch a hard copy of the Oconee Enterprise this week, be sure to read the story on residential property values. It appears that the Tax Commissioner's office is beginning its annual "campaign to justify increasing property values" a few months early this year. I'm sorry, but the premise -- that if you hold on to your house long enough you can get a return -- doesn't hold water. There is a cost to holding onto your home, especially if you have to or need to move. Anyone with any sense in Oconee County knows that we are overbuilt, that the vast majority of property values are flat or down. So lets not hide from that fact. We've all benefited from pretty aggressive increases in property values over the past 5-10 years. See my previous rant on property assessments here.

It's a little bit far afield for me, but if you ever wonder what is wrong in Atlanta, here's an indicator from the AJC:
Franklin has estimated it would cost at least $20 million to hire, train and equip 200 officers. The police department currently has 1,633 sworn police officers and 79 recruits who are on track to becoming officers, said Sgt. Lisa Keyes, a police spokeswoman.
What???? That is $100,000 per officer -- is that normal? Seems unbelievable. They should already be trained. And they can share vehicles. I still own a rental unit in Atlanta, and believe me, they need more police, but this explains why they have budget problems.

Back to the local scene, there is also a front page story in the OE about the demise of Creekside as well as significant coverage in the Athens Banner Herald earlier this week. Folks, whether you call it Green Hills or Creekside, the only question about this course is how in the world it made it so long. For most of its history, it was poorly maintained and has always been 15 minutes from civilization in any direction. There are too many quality and affordable golf options in this area for it to make it. Having financing with the now defunct The Community Bank out of Loganville did not help either. Moving ahead, Creekside would make a great passive recreation area if it could be picked up cheaply by Oconee -- install some horse, running, mountain bike trails that requires minimal maintenance but mostly let it return to the wild. There are beautiful woods and great terrain out there. There is also lot of history in that area that is disappearing (see item below) so it might be neat to preserve some space out there. And if you are looking for outstanding local public golf courses, start with newly renovated UGA and Lane Creek and the Georgia Club. There are many more.

Last thing -- two fascinating stories and photos in the Athens Banner-Herald's Oconee section today about Barnett Shoals Dam (wonder if Georgia Power is renewing its lease on the Dam next year?). This was a mile or two upstream from the old wire bridge (pictured) that connected Oconee and Oglethorpe Counties that is the namesake of Wire Bridge Road. Roy Ward -- his art and his knowledge -- is a gem in our community that should be recognized more often.

Photo credit: Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State

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