Planning Commission allows Milledge Avenue overlay to proceed

                                                                                                           

The March 4 meeting of the Athens Clarke County Planning Commission began with business as usual. At 7:00 p.m. commission members and citizens alike assembled into the gray room of the government building on Dougherty Street, and sat in their respective seats. All members were counted present, the rules on public commentary were stated, and the meeting was motioned to begin.

The first item of business, according to the agenda, was old business involving the proposed Milledge Avenue overlay and text amendments. The commission voted a unanimous yes on this item, which allows the proposed overlay to proceed. The next step for the proposed overlay is a presentation to the Mayor and Commission at their April 6 meeting at City Hall.

Brad Griffin, a staff member of the Planning Commission, was present at the meeting to answer any questions the commission members had about the proposed overlay. He conducted one final presentation using props such as a large-scale map, and a projector, to visually illustrate the exact area of land that the proposed overlay would cover.

Griffin spoke again of the importance of this proposed overlay and its pairing with the historical document, which, has already been approved. “The historical document does not cover parking or tree conservation,” said Griffin, “and tree canopy is a significant part of the character of Milledge Avenue.” Griffin noted that the objective of the proposed overlay was to reduce parking requirements by 30%, increase bicycle parking, and promote alternate transportation.

Upon completion of the presentation, the approximately 20 citizens in attendance, including Athens mayor Heidi Davison, were asked to step forward to the wooden podium if they wished to comment on the matter. No one stepped forward, so the members of the commission began their discussion.      

As the members discussed the item seated at the two rectangular tables facing each other, most seemed in agreement that the overlay should be approved and presented to the Mayor and Commissioners.

However, a slight bump in the road arose, when wording in the part of the report referring to bicycle spaces appeared to cause some confusion.

The exact section in the report causing the problem was the following, “Fraternities, sororities, semi-public halls, clubs, and lodges shall provide four on-site bicycle spaces for every 20 required auto parking spaces. Fractional spaces shall be rounded up to the next whole space.” The source of the confusion was the phrase “fractional spaces.” Commission members were unsure if this meant bicycle or automobile spaces, and they were unsure of the specific measurements of a fractional space.

As comments and suggestions went back and forth between the two tables, commission members joked that “it[the parking language issue] could be something for the Mayor and Commission to figure out,” which produced a chuckle out of Mayor Davison.

About 20 minutes later an agreement was made to change the phrase to a more specific “bicycle spaces” and to determine that fractional meant anything less than a regulation size parking space. Following the agreement, a motion for adoption of the text amendments with the language change was voted on, to which the members of the commission voted a unanimous yes.

So how do residents of Milledge Avenue feel about the vote allowing the proposed overlay to proceed?

According to Lennie Cole, a Milledge Avenue resident and president of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority at the University of Georgia, many of the Milledge Avenue residents, including her, are happy about it. “Our[the Alpha Gamma Delta] house has already been granted historic status, so we [members of Alpha Gamma Delta] are excited about the possibility of all of Milledge Avenue being able to achieve this status as well,” said Cole.       

“Milledge Avenue is such a special and important part of Athens and the University. We need to make sure that we do all that we can to ensure that it is preserved and protected. I have spoken to leaders of the other Greek organizations with houses on Milledge Avenue and they all agree. We want to be supportive of this and make sure that it happens.”

Due to the lack of negative commentary at the meeting, it seems that most Milledge Avenue residents feel the proposed overlay would be a positive thing for Athens. With support from the Planning Commission and members of the Greek organizations it seems certain that the proposed overlay will proceed successfully, and go on to be approved by the Mayor and Commission.

In other news, land developer Thomas Dekle’s request to amend binding requirements for his land off Barnett Shoals Road was not approved, and Frankie Gatrell’s request to use his Lavender Road property as a personal care home was unanimously approved by the board.

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be on April 1 at 7:00 p.m.

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