New Studies Suggest Caps On New Buildings On Prince and Oconee Streets

The Athens Banner Herald reported that plans have been filed for a new medical office building to be built on Prince Avenue. The building will be four stories high. There will be a three story parking deck. There will be a large basement. The building will be around 42,000 sq ft. And it may be the last building of that size on Prince Avenue.

The Athens Clarke County Commission decided to approve the Oak Street/Oconee Street and the Prince Avenue corridor studies Tuesday night at the monthly commission meeting. Those studies recommend new regulations to be placed on the sizes of the buildings built in these areas, a size that would place many current buildings way over the allowed space. Those limits would decide development in those zones for years to come

The Oconee Street corridor study recommended new buildings to be under 30,000 square feet. The Prince Avenue corridor study recommended buildings be kept under 10,000 square feet. This move has

 Many residents are worried about what continued development would mean for their living. Amy Johnson from Bike Athens is worried that continued development could increase the fatality rate of pedestrians and bikers, on Oconee Street in particular where the fatality rate is already high. Bike lanes themselves could also prove to save many more lives.

“The American Journal of Preventative Medicne in an article titled Urban Sprawl delayed ambulance survival.”  The problem with the sprawl is that drivers are tempted to drive quicker to get to their destination.

The commissioners are seeking to implement a complete street policy- a policy that considers how best to manage the streets among drivers, pedestrians, public transport areas, and pedestrians that maximize ease of use for all – in the most traveled corridors in Athens.

Implementing this policy could be harder to do because of Athens Clarke County being

An issue for strong contention is how the potential new regulation would affect the new medical college. The college is expected to bring in many new medicinal businesses that are expected to seek shop on Prince Avenue to cater to the students. The limit on development  could deter  businesses, something that the Commission is considering.

Commissioner Ed Robinson has seen in person how new medical campuses affect a community. He felt that the Athens Clarke County government was better prepared than any he has seen before. He appreciates the work that has already gone in. “This is a start. Pressures will be tremendous.”

A number of current businesses currently exceed the proposed building limits, a fact not lost to Ed Nichols. Nichols – a man who considers himself an expert on medical office buildings- was the only man who urged that the council vote down accepting the studies that were proposed by public works. He raised concerns about flawed language.

He argued the council should wait till the zoning office fixed the problems before they passed the studies. “It has fallen short of its goal.

A representative from the Athens Chamber of Commerce, Ryan Brinson, also spoke at the meeting. He advocated accepting the studies but cautioned the members to consider the needs of businesses. “What you decide to do with Prince Avenue will be slow and forming but permanent consequences.”

Ed Nichols, a man who considers himself to be an expert of medical offices, said that 10,000 square feet is unrealistic in today’s world.

There are at least seven buildings over the requested cap. Issues could arise if any of those businesses wish to renovate.

The commission voted to pass unanimously pass both studies.

There is concern that a state wide tax may reduce the ability of Athens Clarke County to act on these issues.

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