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Commission Meeting Notes
February 18, 2003

AGENDA SETTING MEETING

WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT TECHNOLOGY UPGRADES
Mark McConnell spoke on behalf of UOWN, raising concerns that the wastewater treatment technology under consideration doesn't adequately treat for Phosphorous. He also suggested including treatment options that serve multiple purposes, i.e. constructed wetlands. Ryan Crehan also asked the Commission to consider constructed wetlands, for long-term water quality goals and wildlife and economic benefits. Augusta, GA has a large-scale constructed wetland that treats 60 mgd.

Commissioner Harry Sims said that Treatment Option B was the unanimous recommendation of the committee, and ACC doesn't have enough acreage for constructed wetlands. Commissioner John Barrow asked for more detail on odor and noise abatement. Asst. Manager Bobby Snipes said this will include enclosing the noise- and odor-generating areas of the plant. Commissioner Carl Jordan asked for more information about nutrient-loading of the Oconee Rivers that would be permitted from the plant, or plants. He also asked why the capital cost of building one plant to handle the entire treatment load is projected to be the same as for building two that split the load, explaining that since the economy of scale in construction is enormous he would expect that it should cost less to build one plant. He also wanted an estimate for the cost of building three plants, and suggested ACC decide whether the other values of the Oconee Rivers (other than capacity to handle pollutants) justified the additional cost of treating it to a higher level.

BIKE MASTER PLAN 2ND YEAR PROJECTS
This item will determine how the money for bike projects is spent for the next 2 years. The option presented by Transportation & Public Works includes several restriping projects and "alternate bike route" signage.

Dorothy O'Niell, Sandy Cederbaum, and Kris Boudreau spoke against the proposed option on behalf of BikeAthens. BikeAthens worked with T&PW for over a year on recommendations, but this option does not reflect their input. They all stressed the need for connectivity and providing safe, direct routes from homes to businesses. Ms. Cederbaum pointed out that the alternate route signage was a poor use of taxpayers' money, since cyclists, like other commuters, prefer flat, direct routes and the proposed alternate routes are extremely hilly. New cyclists are deterred by hills and seasoned commuters won't change their routes. Ms. Boudreau pointed out that while the project now has less than half of what was allocated 6 months ago, the most recent estimates for each project are much higher than the figures they were given to work with in December 2001. E.g. striping North Ave. went from $40,000 to $120,000, and striping Sunset Ave. went from $20,000 to $40,000. They urged the Commission to closely examine the costs, delay approval, and consider other options.

Commissioner Barrow said that he has long been critical of the alternate route signage option, pointing out that cyclists have the legal right to use main roads, that signage won't make those roads any safer, and that making the roads safer will benefit drivers as well as cyclists. Commissioner David Lynn agreed, and said it should raise a red flag when the principal constituency is opposed to the option. Commissioner Jordan said that ACC needs bike lanes that connect, and that we should go back to the original Bike Master Plan of Oct. 2001. Prince Avenue needs to be reinstated in the BMP. This option is helter-skelter and makes no sense to cyclists or the community at large. Commissioner Kathy Hoard noted the opposition of BikeAthens to this option, and suggested that T&PW meet with BikeAthens again and try to come up with a mutually-agreeable option.

Manager Alan Reddish defended the option. He said that this was based on the BMP as adopted, with projects approved by the Commission. The signage is not intended to force anyone off main roads.

Commissioner Barrow said that the Commission should consider reinstating Prince Avenue so that staff can include it in their option.

T&PW Director David Clark said that his office worked closely with the bike community, and these projects are very consistent with their December meeting. They had an extensive list of projects, many of which overlapped. T&PW would rather use Greenway money for some projects. The Alps Road lanes were in direct conflict with new bus shelters for Athens Transit.

Commissioner Jordan pointed out that Alps Rd. is a really important connection. He said that if there are conflicts between two programs authorized by the Commission, the Commission, rather than the Manager or T&PW, should adjudicate.

Manager Reddish said his office could invite BikeAthens to offer more suggestions.

ATHENS ARCHES RIGHT-OF-WAY ENCROACHMENT
The developers want to build a ramp to a planned parking garage in the basement of the Adcock building. The Planning Dept. recommends that this be on Washington St., but the developers would prefer it be from Clayton St. because their application for National Register of Historic Places, and tax credit eligibility, will be jeopardized if the ramp is on Washington St.

Commissioner Lynn said that the Washington St. side seemed a much more logical place for retail than Clayton; and questioned whether they really needed a parking garage at all.

Asst. Manager Snipes said that their parking needs could be met off-site. His office and the Downtown Development Authority have concerns about disrupting the Clayton St. sidewalk.

Commissioner Barrow confirmed that the petitioners are pursuing National Register status of their own accord; this is not connected with the suggested designation of downtown as a historic district.

Commissioner Cardee Kilpatrick said that while she appreciated that the developers have prevented the building from destruction, she feels it is important that we have 8-foot sidewalks, and that we protect the investment in infrastructure that the county has just made, namely stormwater and streetscape which have just been redone on Clayton but not Washington.

Commissioner Barrow suggested that the alley next to the building could be used for the ramp; conflicts with its use for a dumpster and delivery vehicles for adjacent businesses could be resolved. He suggested that an engineering solution could be found to remove a pillar that currently restricts vehicles from being able to enter the basement from the alley.

Commissioner Jordan remarked that the rental value for below street-level retail on College Square was very high, and petitioner should explore this option to make the project economically feasible without a garage.

T&PW Director Clark said that relocation of the stormwater infrastructure would be petitioner's responsibility.

CONSERVATION SUBDIVISION REGULATION REVISIONS
Planning Department has come up with three potential timelines for revising these regulations, Options A and C for 9 weeks, and Option B for 22 weeks. The Planning Commission recommends Option C. The options include the extension of the moratorium on accepting new Conservation Subdivision applications during the revision period.

Jerry Nesmith urged the Commission to adopt a clean and visionary ordinance; and continue to protect neighborhoods during the revision process, as we can't afford to lose a single parcel of AR land. Ed Robinson suggested the Commission not bother reviewing the CS ordinance, as there is no use for CS in ACC; Instead, they should go back to the master plan of 5 years ago, with10 acre lots in the AR zone with no subdivision allowed.

***[Editor's note: ACC does not have a Conservation Subdivision Ordinance; we have Conservation Subdivision regulations which are part of our general Zoning and Development Standards. Our Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which calls for protecting the land that is now zoned AR as a low-density greenbelt, is still in force; however our Zoning and Development Standards do not reflect this goal of the Land Use Plan. The Land Use Plan is a guide, but the Zoning and Development Standards are the law.]***

Commissioner States McCarter said that the notice Commissioners received re. pending litigation convinced him they did the right thing by enacting the moratorium.

Commissioner Lynn said that Option C seemed very, and questioned whether it would allow enough time to incorporate extensive public comment.

Manager Reddish said he had asked staff to devise the most compact timeline possible to limit exposure to litigation, with as much public input as possible.

Planning Director Brad Griffin said that the plan was to focus public input in the beginning with staff research, and that his office would contact citizen groups and individuals who want to be involved. The first 3 weeks would consist of taking in that initial information and writing a draft; then input would be taken at two community meetings and minor modifications made to the draft. They have already started researching other CS ordinances, and trying to identify and bring all players to the table.

Commissioner Lynn said that while he appreciated the quick timeframe, he felt that since the Commission has taken such a drastic step they needed to be sure to do this right.

Commissioner Kilpatrick suggested putting Option C on the consent agenda.

Commissioner Jordan disagreed, pointing out how many mistakes were made 2 years ago when the Zoning Code vote was rushed through.

OPEN BURNING BAN
This would restrict open burning throughout ACC all year (currently burning is prohibited 6 months of the year under state law.) Commissioner Jordan explained that he had updated the language to relate it more closely to the state regulations, and talked about the devastating health effects of particulate matter from burning, and that open burning isn't really appropriate for an urban county.

Commissioner McCarter felt this proposal was too restrictive, especially for the AR zones, where it would ban certain gardening practices.

Commissioner George Maxwell expressed concern that banning the burning of tree limbs and stumps at construction sites would cause problems at the landfill. Mayor Heidi Davison asked the Manager if this were the case; he said that these debris would be ground for mulch either on the construction site or at the landfill.

Commissioner Charles Carter said that ACC still has lots of rural land, and that ten acre lots in the AR zone can't be called urban.

Commissioner Barrow pointed out that we don't have 10 acre lot zoning yet, but he hopes we get there soon, since it's called for in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan; and he would remember Commissioner Carter's remark. He also suggested Commissioner Jordan come up with a less restrictive version of the ordinance.

NOISE ORDINANCE REVISION TO REGULATE LEAFBLOWERS
This amendment would restrict the use of leafblowers and other mechanical yard maintenance equipment to the hours of 8 am - 8 pm in residential zones, and within 400 feet of a residential zone.

Commissioner Lynn thanked the Commission for considering this amendment so quickly, and related that, ironically, earlier in the week he was awakened at 2 am by a contractor for a neighboring fast-food restaurant using a leafblower. This kind of conflict is a common occurrence (although not usually at 2 am).

Commissioner Tom Chasteen suggested that the distance be changed to 300 feet from residential zoning districts.

Commissioner Harry Sims said that while he could see how people want to sleep in, in the summertime it can be 90 degrees at 8 am. If you start have to wait till 8 and it's 90 degrees this could create health problems.

Commissioner Carter suggested 7 am to 7 pm to be consistent with the noise ordinance as a whole.

Commissioner Barrow pointed out that the other parts of the noise ordinance cover party noise, and people aren't having parties at 7 am; they are running leafblowers. The problems with stereos are confined to a different hour of the day. There is a great incentive for people to run this equipment when it's unpleasant to a great number of people. He further pointed out that a lot of yard work can be done without the use of this noisy equipment. It is a problem in many neighborhoods. 7 to 8 is a quiet time; they just shouldn't be able to use equipt that destroys ability to be in your own kitchen.

Commissioner Lynn said that 8 to 8 is very reasonable. As we ask people to live more densely and in mixed use neighborhoods, we have to deal with this.

County Attorney Holly Hilton suggested drafting an option which exempts the AR zone.

CHANGE TO COMMISSION MEETING SCHEDULE
Mayor Davison has proposed changing the Agenda Setting meetings to the Thursday following the 3rd Tuesday of each month, and holding an optional 1½ hour discussion meeting on the 3rd Tuesday; also, to take public comment on zoning issues at the Agenda Setting sessions rather than at the voting meetings. There was lengthy discussion of this topic, with Commissioners Kilpatrick and Chasteen speaking against the proposal because they don't think another meeting should be added to the schedule, Commissioner Jordan speaking against it because he didn't believe the schedule would work well. Commissioner McCarter was strongly in favor, and Commissioner Barrow also expressed support. Commissioners Carter, Maxwell, and Hoard seemed dubious but willing to give it a try.

Beth Gavrilles