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In February 2000, a documentary crew with a national news agency interviewed members of Oconee Citizens for Responsible Growth, a grassroots effort to stop unwanted sprawl and development.

Almost 21 years later, a new group called Mars Hill Responsible Development may not have attracted national attention, but its persistent efforts to prevent a large shopping center from locating at Oconee Connector made quite an impression on the Oconee County Planning Commission.

In a unanimous 8-0 vote to deny the rezone, members of the commission on Tuesday thanked citizens for writing letters and expressing their concerns the night of the meeting.

The Oconee Board of Commissioners will vote on the rezone for the 46.87-acres site at its Feb. 2 meeting.

Sembler Corporation, the developer of the proposed Oconee Connector Shopping Center, has a contract with Publix to anchor the $50 million commercial development at the intersection of Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector across from the QuikTrip. The first phase would also include retail shops, a gas station and a bank. 

The second phase would include restaurants, retail stores, a 27,000-square-foot car dealership, as well as a 130-room hotel and a 110-room hotel.

If the BOC approves the project, construction on the first phase is expected to be finished in the fall of 2022 or early winter of 2023. The second phase would be complete by 2024.

For more on this story, see the Jan. 21 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website. 

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