Mayor, Commission review historic Milledge Avenue

Milledge Avenue has always been one of the enduring images of the Classic City.  Now, the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission want to make sure it remains as citizens have remembered it for years to come.

After over two years of preparation, the Mayor and Commission finally discussed the historic preservation of Milledge Avenue at their agenda setting meeting this past Thursday, May 18th at City Hall in downtown Athens.  The item would designate Milledge Avenue as an historic district and establish development restrictions to ensure the preservation of the popular street.

No final actions were taken at last Thursday’s meeting.  All business items discussed were moved to the meeting set for Tuesday, April 6th.

While a number of items were discussed, the historic designation and preservation of Milledge Avenue grabbed the most attention.

Kathy Hoard, the District 5 Commission, has spearheaded the effort to preserve Milledge and protect it from what some would consider improper development.

“Obviously, I’m very excited about this,” Hoard said at last Thursday’s meeting.  “This has been a two year process with a lot of input from the [UGA] Greek Community and our in-town neighborhoods.”

District 7 Commissioner David Lynn is glad to finally see this item come before the commission.

“This is an area that’s overdue, frankly, for this kind of work” said Lynn before the commission on Thursday night.  “We’ve seen some consequences of that.  This is one of those areas that –when you think of Athens – Milledge Avenue is one of those places you think of.”

According to the Historic Preservation Committee, the Milledge Avenue Local Historic District contains both sides of Milledge Avenue, from where it intersects with Broad Street to its intersection with Lumpkin Street.  Many of the structures on Milledge remain in their original form, some with a few alterations.  Newer ones have replaced older buildings through time.  Especially during the Great Depression, single-family homes gave way to apartments and commercial structures.

But the most recognizable aspect of modern-day Milledge is the affiliation with UGA’s Greek organizations.  University of Georgia members of fraternities and sororities such as Alpha Gamma Delta, Kappa Alpha Theta and Alpha Delta Pi have been a part of the community for over 50 years, according to the ACC Commission agenda.

One aspect of the proposed legislation would mean that Greek organizations will no longer be considered a special use. Such organizations would be allowed into the district without any special use review.  A special use allows property owners to bypass certain zoning regulations when making alterations to existing properties.

“We would not have Milledge as we know it today without [the UGA Greek community,]” said Hoard.

At last Thursday’s meeting, Commissioner Hoard proposed an amendment that would not require a special use for any additions to less than 50% of the heated space of an existing structure.  This is one of the few aspects of this legislation that is still up for debate.

“I think there may be some concern that 50% [of the heated space] is too much, and a lower threshold might be more acceptable, given the expansive size of many of the buildings on the corridor,” said Athens Mayor Heidi Davison.  “At this time, I am still considering this amendment and am not prepared to say one way or another whether this is something I can support.”

The Mayor and Commission will meet for final consideration of this and other items on Tuesday, April 6th.  Concerned citizens are encouraged to attend this meeting.

While there is still some debate left to be had considering some aspects of the item, the Mayor and the Commission look forward to moving ahead with this item.

“We’ve had a few mishaps,” said District 3 Commissioner George Maxwell.  “This will ensure that this street is preserved for future generations to enjoy.  So I hope we have unanimous support on April 6th.”

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