The Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission discussed a project development that would bring in housing and other infrastructure to around 41 acres of land at Lexington Road in its Tuesday voting meeting.
The commission removed the contract from the agenda following the executive session, which was not available to the public. Mayor Kelly Girtz said the contract needed a "contract language update.”
The housing ordinance was met with disapproval from some Shadybrook Drive residents during the public comment period hoping to delay the vote or dismantle it altogether, citing it will alter their lifestyles and the environment.
“I’ve been there 25 years, built a family, raised a family there and intended to leave the planet there, and leave that property to my children,” Athens resident Tess Cunningham said. “For me to have to endure that … at age 71, have to relocate and start over again — I’m asking that it not be approved.”
District 2 Commissioner Mariah Parker said going forward with the project will address the problems of affordable housing and gentrification. District 10 Commissioner Mike Hamby said the residential building would tower over the Shadybrook Drive, significantly impacting the nearby residents.
“There’s no reason … we have to approve such a big, huge building in order to get the affordable housing that we need,” Hamby said. “The affordable housing component with this developer was an afterthought.”
Hamby continued that people on Shadybrook Drive made an investment on the community for a long time and should not make significant changes because of the development.
District 6 Commissioner Jesse Houle echoed Hamby’s sentiment that the project is huge and would potentially house 1% of Athens residents.
“I do understand the residents’ concerns. When you’re living in single-family homes on fairly large lots, the idea of three- and four-story buildings being a couple hundred feet away is kind of scary,” District 3 Commissioner Melissa Link said. “As someone who lives in town and sees three- and four- and five- and six-story buildings going up all around me, it's not a big deal.”
The housing project’s developer has a contract set to expire Feb. 15. As it approaches, commissioners delayed voting on the ordinance until next week, providing time for more discussion about the issue.
The commission removed a vote about the extension of a contract for police equipment from the agenda and agreed to revisit it in the coming weeks. If renewed, the contract would supply ACCPD with 231 updated Tasers and replace 231 body cameras. In its Dec. 1 voting meeting, the commission postponed voting on the $2.7 million contract extension with Axon technology company.
The commission unanimously approved around $267,000 in allocations to several agencies focusing on services for low-income people and granted approval for Bootlegger liquor store to build an addition to the back of its building. The commission had to vote on the modification because the original construction occurred under a binding site plan, Houle said in an email to The Red & Black.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the commission’s discussion about the police equipment contract and the contents of the liquor store construction permit. The Red & Black regrets these errors and they have since been corrected.