In a voting session on Tuesday evening, the mayor and the Athens-Clarke County Commission approved voluntary inclusion zoning, an impending estate resolution regarding the firefly trail and the construction of a library in the east of Athens.
The commission unanimously approved a zoning code amendment that encourages developers of multi-family residential projects to set aside a portion of units for affordable housing.
Incentives include an increase in the number of residents allowed, a reduction in the number of parking spaces required and, in the town centre, a reduction in the commercial space required on the ground floor.
District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link joined nine other commissioners in supporting the amendment, but said she wished the vote had taken place sooner.
“I can’t wait to see this implemented. I feel like this is something that, quite honestly, we should have written eight or ten years ago,” Link said. “We lost a lot of opportunities in the student housing boom to get some of that affordable housing.”
Developments are eligible for incentives if at least five multi-family units are built, renovated, rebuilt or modified.
In a 9-to-1 vote, the commission approved a resolution authorizing the acquisition of a right of way over eminent domain to construct Section 3 of the Firefly Trail.
District 1 Commissioner Patrick Davenport was the lone dissenter in the vote.
“I 100% support the firefly trail,” said Davenport, “I think it’s a great idea, but almost a year ago today we had a long chat with some residents who worried that their property would be taken and I just want to continue to represent those constituents.
Davenport represents most of the Winterville area, where Project Three takes place.
District 8 Commissioner Carol Myers explained that the resolution is not typical eminent domain, but follows a specific set of requirements.
These requirements include when owners do not get back in touch, when there are ownership disputes over the property, when the owner has limited capacity, or when the parcel is subject to a federal tax lien.
There are currently 12 plots of land affected by these situations. According to County Attorney Judd Drake, properties where residents refuse to sell in Athens, such as those mentioned by Davenport, are not included in this resolution and will be brought before the commission later.
East side library
The commission also unanimously approved a construction award to McMillan Pazdan Smith for the construction of a new library in the Athens East area.
The project was first launched as a SPLOST 2020 project to provide a full-service library, consistent with other public libraries in Athens-Clarke County. The proposal includes ideas for meeting rooms, study rooms, a children’s area, a teen area and computer rooms.
District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker outlined the timeline for the project.
“We expect to acquire the site and schematic design by September next year,” Parker said. “And to have the build completed by 2026. I know the community is also very excited about this, wondering when it will go live.”
According to the Athens Library website, the Aaron Heard Resource Center located east of Athens is temporarily closed. Residents are encouraged to visit the Baxter Street Library.