In the Loop

  • The Varsity Files for Demolition Permits for Surrounding Properties

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    Photo Credit: Athens-Clarke County Planning Department

    853 Reese Street.

    The owners of The Varsity have applied for permits to demolish a half-dozen structures on the same block, potentially allowing them to raze several historic houses to make way for a mega-development.

    The permits are for 1076, 1086 and 1092 West Broad (the Dairy Queen that closed last year, a mechanic's shop and a house) and 835, 853 and 863 Reese Street.

    The applications were filed Tuesday. Commissioner Melissa Link, who represents the area, said she has already exercised her power under county law to put a hold on those permits for 90 days.

    "I have activated the 90-day delay, and I have every intention of seeking a long-term moratorium," she said.


  • May Day March to End Deportation Draws 150


    Photo Credit: Austin Steele

    At least 150 people gathered in downtown on Monday—May Day, or International Workers' Day—to protest the deportation of undocumented immigrants in Athens.

    "In our community there have been many cases of deportation," said Beto Mendoza, coordinator of the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition, which organized the rally. In many cases Immigration and Customs Enforcement has split up local families by arrested and deporting parents, while the children, who are U.S. citizens, stay behind, he said.


  • Epps Bridge Centre Phase II Is Coming Along

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    In the foreground are the new $3.3 million road Parkway Boulevard and the site of Epps Bridge Centre's second phase across the Oconee Connector from Phase 1.

    Oconee County expects to open Parkway Boulevard from the Oconee Connector to Kohl’s by the end of May, county Public Works Director Emil Beshara told a meeting of the regional metropolitan transportation planning organization on Wednesday.

    Construction on the roadway is “winding down,” Beshara told the group, with work remaining only on such things as pedestrian islands, guardrails, and striping.

    The roadway will allow traffic to flow from Epps Bridge Parkway just inside Oconee County at the bridge over McNutt Creek to one of the entrances to Epps Bridge Centre or onto the Loop and Highway 316, or the reverse.

    The county decided to spend $3.35 million to build the roadway not as a means of relieving traffic but to open up the area for further commercial development.


  • Rep. Jody Hice Is Now in Favor of Trumpcare

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    Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file

    Athens congressman Jody Hice was one of the uber-conservative House members who helped scuttle President Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan's attempt to undo much of Obamacare back in March.

    The American Health Care Act would have thrown more than 20 million people off their policies by sunsetting Medicaid expansion and cutting subsidies for older low-income people.

    Moderate Republicans said it went too far, while the House Freedom Caucus, of which Hice is a member, wanted an even more draconian plan. But the tea party has come around to the latest version of the Republican health care bill, although it remains unclear whether it will also win moderate support.

    Hice said in a written statement:


  • Podcast: The Trump Administration's Disarray at 100 Days

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    In this week's episode, hosts Baynard Woods and Marc Steiner talk with writer and analyst Imara Jones about the chaos surrounding the White House as we approach the 100th day of the Trump administration. Imara Jones holds a degree from the London School of Economics and is currently developing a television news program aimed at progressive millennials of color.

    Democracy in Crisis is a weekly podcast hosted by Baynard Woods and Marc Steiner, produced and engineered by Mark Gunnery for The Center for Emerging Media. Theme music by Ruby Fulton and the Rhymes with Orchestra.


  • Driver Injured in Prince Avenue Wreck


    Photo Credit: Austin Steele

    Bystanders gather around an injured driver after a wreck outside Hendershot's this afternoon.

    A three-car wreck on Prince Avenue injured one person and startled dozens of others on the patio at the Bottleworks—and it could've been a lot worse.

    Flagpole was on the scene, of course, since it happed right outside our office.

    At about 12:40 p.m., according to witnesses, a purple sedan traveling westbound on Prince suddenly swerved or turned, hitting a white SUV and a silver hatchback.

    The driver of the purple sedan was lying on the ground for several minutes before an ambulance arrived. He suffered a "serious injury," according to Athens-Clarke County police spokesman Epifiano Rodriguez.


  • Rep. Jody Hice Town Hall Draws 100 People and a Chicken, but No Hice



    Photo Credit: Stacey-Marie Piotrowski

    ACC Commissioner Melissa Link with our congressman's feathered avatar.

    On one of the busiest spring Saturdays in Athens, 100 people attended a town hall for District 10 congressman Jody Hice. The one notable absence was Hice himself.

    Michael Goltzer of Athens was one of several people who addressed a photo of Rep. Hice (R-Social Circle) propped up in a chair on the stage of the Athens Regional Library on Apr. 22. He pointed out that the town hall was the most basic form of democratic conversation and lamented Hice’s refusal to engage with his constituents.

    “Just tell us what we have to do to get you to meet with us,” he said.


  • Oconee Can't Provide Sewer to New Car Dealership

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    Photo Credit: Lee Becker

    Mercedes-Benz of Athens representative Jason Stough of On Site Civil.

    Oconee County told Mercedes-Benz of Athens on Friday that the county will not be able to provide sewer service for the planned new auto dealership on Highway 316 at Virgil Langford Road for another 12–18 months.

    The announcement coincided with the release of a memorandum stating that those requesting letters of availability of sewer service be advised of limited capacity in parts of the county’s service area and the complete lack of availability in others, including where the Mercedes-Benz facility is planned.

    The county released the announcement on sewer capacity in a meeting of the county’s Development Review Committee, which was considering the preliminary site plan and site development plans for the new auto dealership.

    The DRC approved the Preliminary Site Plan, but Sandy Weinel, assistant director of the Planning and Code Enforcement Department, told a representative of Mercedes-Benz the firm will have to build a private septic system if it wants to move forward before sewer capacity is available.


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