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Notes From the ACC Commission Meeting - January 2, 2002

Highlights:

  1. Approval of grant application for EPA nonpoint source pollution reduction grant for the installation and monitoring of porous pavement at the ACC transit facility.
  2. Approval of addition of a property to the Dearing Street Historic District
  3. Approval of designation of the Bottleworks as a local historic landmark.
  4. Vote to proceed with bike lanes on College Station Road as first project implemented under the Bicycle Master Plan
  5. Mayor Eldridge asked for Commissioners to submit names for the long-awaited appointment of a committee to look into TDRs, to be named at the January 15 agenda setting session.

Details:

NONPOINT SOURCE POLLUTION REDUCTION GRANT
Commissioners approved the EPA Section 319 nonpoint source pollution reduction grant application as part of the consent agenda, so there was no discussion of this item.

HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Commissioners voted unanimously to add a property to the Dearing Street Historic District, at the request of the property owner and with a unanimous recommendation from the Historic Preservation Commission. One citizen spoke against the proposal, and two (the homeowner and the head of the HP Commission) spoke for it.

2. Commissioners voted unanimously to designate the Bottleworks on Prince Avenue as a local historic landmark. The same citizen who objected to the Dearing Street designation also spoke against the Bottleworks - intimating that it would have negative tax consequences, that it had received less scrutiny than other historic designations, and that "members of the legal community are keeping track" of historic designations. Four citizens spoke in favor of the designation, citing the significance of the Coca Cola bottling plant to Athens, the positive impact the project has and will continue to have on the ACC tax base, the positive precedent of this public-private economic development partnership, and the fact that the project has undergone the scrutiny of the state and federal historic landmark designation process, more rigorous than that of the local designation process. There was little discussion, except for a statement by Commissioner Hugh Logan, who expressed that, while he doubted the historical significance of the buildings, he appreciated the revitalization of the property, especially that the developers used private funding. He said that this was a precedent-setting vote, and that he tries to be the voice of reason and analysis. The Commission could have voted to rezone the property as industrial. He also said that there are some unanswered questions about the tax status of the old and new sections of the project, and asked the ACC Attorney whether this was all in order. Attorney Ernie DePascale stated that the question of whether the owners would receive tax benefits was very complex, and in any case should not influence the Commission's decision.

BICYCLE MASTER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION PROJECT
Commissioners voted 9 - 1 to add bike lanes to College Station Road (from Riverbend to Research Rd.), and at the same time to pursue funding for the widening of the College Station Road Bridge. Commissioner Carl Jordan dissented; he felt that the motion should be tabled until a firm financial commitment to the project was secured from UGA.

Representatives from BikeAthens spoke in favor of the project, emphasizing that the Research - Riverbend section must be considered as Phase I, with the extension of the lanes to Barnett Shoals Rd. as Phase II. BikeAthens is participating in negotiations with UGA, whose representatives have expressed interest in collaborating with ACC on this project. BikeAthens also urged that the Commission consider some of the smaller restriping projects that have been identified as possible BMP implementation projects along with the College Station Road project.

Commission discussion focused on concerns about safety and funding. Commissioner States McCarter did not want to add bike lanes that would lead cyclists to a bridge that was too narrow to safely accommodate them. Commissioner Kilpatrick suggested the approach that was eventually adopted, to move forward with the bike lanes while at the same time pursuing state, federal and private funding to widen the bridge. Commissioner Carl Jordan suggested tabling the vote until it could be determined if UGA would participate in the project, but Commissioner Tom Chasteen said he felt it would be more productive to proceed without waiting for UGA. He is serving on a subcommittee of the UGA Staff Council which is considering bike facilities improvement (along with Commissioner Logan) and his sense was that if UGA sees a commitment from ACC, they will realize that ACC is serious about the project.

TDRs
After the Commissioners concluded the Old and New Business portions of the agenda, the Mayor asked them if they had any further remarks. Commissioner John Barrow raised several issues that he had brought up in 2001, that had still not been addressed. These included design standards or pursuit of historic designation for downtown; development of a TDR program; and exploration of how other communities have dealt with the problem of empty big box stores, a problem that Athens is now experiencing. Mayor Eldridge replied that he is now ready to appoint a TDR committee, and requested that the Commissioners submit (or re-submit) names to him of individuals to serve on this committee. He said that he would announce the committee's make-up at the next Agenda-setting meeting.

OTHER
Commissioner Cardee Kilpatrick suggested looking into incentives for infill development of vacant and partially vacant buildings, but only if other commissioners had any interest in it.

Commissioner Carl Jordan suggested looking at ACC's fleet vehicle policy for possible revision to require better fuel economy.

During the citizen comment period for issues not on the agenda, Richard DeRose announced that he would be running for Mayor as a Democrat.