More News & Features
By Jessica Blomquist
The Agricultural Land Use Discussion group met on Thursday, June 12 at 6 p.m. to continue discussion on the potential formation of an agricultural cooperative in Morgan County.
Dr. Tommie Shepherd, an agribusiness economist with the University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, attended the meeting to deliver a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on cooperatives.
According to their website, the CAED-sponsored Georgia Cooperative Development Center is “committed to helping groups in rural Georgia find ways to increase their profits from current and new activities by working together in cooperatives to add value to their products.”
Many of the 20 attendees were interested in creating a cooperative that would unite all producers in Morgan County, including beef, produce and dairy farmers.
“There are co-ops that do multiple products,” said Shepherd.
This would create a Morgan County brand that would ideally serve a 50-mile radius of customers. By tapping into the local markets of Clarke, Oconee, and other nearby counties, it would allow the cooperative to sell directly to grocery stores or restaurants and cut out the middle man, said Alison Moon, senior planner of Morgan County Planning and Development.
Shepherd’s PowerPoint presentation also offered information about value-added agricultural products. These are products with added attributes that increase the value of the product, and are symbolized on product packaging with stickers proclaiming the product to be Certified USDA Organic, American Grass-fed, Certified Humane, or Georgia Grown.
Shepherd’s research suggests that consumers are most willing to pay for locally grown food.
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
The Bank of Madison was the low bidder in a request from the city Downtown Development Authority for a $1.5 million loan to complete the town park.
Some of that money will be used to immediately retire a Region’s Bank loan with a balance of $140,000, money that was used several years ago to purchase the former Bi-Rite Grocery on the site of what is now developing as the park.
The new loan will have an interest rate of 3.58 percent, with four years of interest only and no penalty for paying down the loan or paying the loan off early.
“The Bank of Madison is the low bidder—all the terms met the RFP,” said DDA chairman Kevin Meeler at a DDA meeting earlier this week. The group agreed unanimously to accept the terms of the loan and pass the matter on to a finance committee; DDA member Clifton Hanes, who works for the Bank of Madison, abstained from voting.
An intergovernmental agreement with the City of Madison will back the new loan, although DDA is legally a separate, autonomous entity from the city council.
In other park news, some pavement is now complete and already being utilized as parking around the future meeting space and events venue.
“I didn’t know asphalt could look so pretty,” said Hanes. The second contractor on the site, working on other paving and drainage projects, has already begun work; work on the cottage is expected to begin soon, and bid documents for work on the park pavilion are expected to go out to local contractors by the end of July.
“We’ve got work going on through the fall,” said City Manager David Nunn.
story by Kathryn Purcell
photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Thousands are expected at ‘Go Tell Crusade’
By Ramsey Nix
GIM Synergy Lake Oconee, LLC broke ground last Tuesday morning in Buckhead, celebrating the commencement of construction at Kingston on Lake Oconee, a new master planned community in Morgan and Putnam counties. Standing under a tent in front of a field of freshly upturned red clay, chief operating officer Don Davis announced, “Kingston on Lake Oconee has broken ground. We’re moving forward on the first phase of development.”
That first phase should produce 400 new lots for prospective homebuyers. The developers are planning a golf course, pool and tennis center, lake club, and marina on the 1,187-acre plot of land located on the west side of Lake Oconee, a few miles from the Buckhead exit off I-20.
This is not Synergy’s first master planned residential community. According to marketing director Ashley Flo, the real estate developers have created award-winning residential developments in Woodstock and Canton.
Kingston has been in the works for three years as the developers sought out multi-jurisdictional support from Morgan and Putnam counties. According to Putnam County Commissioner Bob Landau, there were no irreconcilable differences between the counties, and the final 15-page development plan received unanimous support from both boards of commissioners.
According to a Kingston press release, the developers have planned for 1,370 single family, town home and lakeside villa sites. When asked how Kingston plans to attract buyers, given the state of the national economy, Davis said, “Compared to other similar projects around Lake Oconee, their lot prices are 30 percent to three times as much as ours. Kingston will have the same quality at a lower price.”
By Tara DeRock Mahoney
Senior Staff Writer
City council members recently approved changes to the Madison zoning ordinances and accompanying map that creates a new commercial zoning classification in the city, the C-5 district.
The new C-5 areas of the city were all areas that were previously classified as I-1. The changes were made in areas of former I-1 property that were occupied by a preponderance of commercial uses, as opposed to true industrial or manufacturing uses.
“Staff was asked by the Mayor and Council to find ways to protect the industrial component of the I-1 Light Industrial/Limited Commercial Zoning District from commercial encroachment and consider altering uses to protect future industrial development,” wrote City Planner Bryce Jaeck in a staff report on the zoning changes. “When staff examined the uses allowed in I-1 and the actual uses of the properties comprising the district, it became clear that the majority of the listed uses were commercial in nature in both cases,” said Jaeck.
In other words, the city’s precious and limited industrial land areas were slowly becoming commercial in nature. Rather than limit the commercial uses of the I-1 district and risk having a majority of the parcels of land in those zones become “non-conforming” and “grandfathered” uses, city planners noted that most of the commercial-type uses in I-1 were clustered in certain areas, thus suggesting the creation of a new classification.