In the Loop

  • Bill Prohibiting House Design Regulations Passes Committee Over Oconee's Objections

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    A screenshot of Athens homebuilder Jared York testifying before the House Agriculture Committee.

    The Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee of the Georgia House of Representatives voted 6-5 Wednesday morning to pass House Bill 302 prohibiting local governments from regulating building design of one or two-family dwellings.

    The vote followed a discussion of more than an hour that was dominated by the building industry in the state, with speakers strongly favoring the bill and criticizing local regulations of residential housing.

    One of the most outspoken of those who addressed the committee was Jared York, past president of the Athens Area Home Builders Association, who singled out Clarke and Oconee counties for criticism.

    Representatives of the Georgia Municipal Association and the Association County Commissioners of Georgia spoke against the bill, as did Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist. Lilburn is in Gwinnett County.

    Oconee County Commission Chair John Daniell and Commissioner Chuck Horton attended the meeting and asked to speak, but Committee Chair Tom McCall called for a vote before they could do so.


  • Frances Berry Appointed to Clarke County BOE

    Frances Berry web.jpg

    The Clarke County Board of Education voted 6–2 Thursday night for Frances Berry, a well-known volunteer in progressive circles, to fill the District 2 seat recently vacated by Vernon Payne.

    The vote followed a plea from BOE member Linda Davis to choose a black person for the position—namely, former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims—since the school district is majority black. Only a black person, she said, can understand what it’s like to live as a black person. “It’s one thing to have theories and another to live like that,” she said.

    Board member Greg Davis said he was voting for Berry because she wouldn’t be satisfied with the status quo, which he said was failing the district’s students by not offering them the skills needed to get good jobs. Three young women joined the school board last year, he said, referring to Kara Dyckman, LaKeisha Gantt and Tawana Mattox, and he wanted to add a fourth. Berry’s training as a counselor, and as a teacher of counselors, should serve students well, Greg Davis said.


  • 'Run It Up' Podcast, Ep. 3: Kenosha Kid, Imani Scott-Blackwell


    Photo Credit: Jamie Derevere

    Kenosha Kid

    In "Run It Up," Flagpole's new podcast, we take a deeper look at some of the stories from the current issue. In this week's episode, Kenosha Kid guitarist and composer Dan Nettles talks to Gabe Vodicka about his band's exploratory sound, as heard on the new album Missing Pieces. Plus, Athens activist Imani Scott-Blackwell tells Gabe and Blake Aued what she witnessed on her recent trip to the U.S.-Mexico border.


  • ACC Officials Raise Concerns About Housing Bill



    Commissioner Mike Hamby.

    ACC officials are concerned about a House bill co-sponsored by Rep. Spencer Frye (D-Athens) that groups like the Georgia Municipal Association say would prohibit local governments from setting design standards for single-family homes.

    Commissioner Mike Hamby told Flagpole that House Bill 302 could make it easier to construct cheaply built, oversized infill McMansions. “This takes away local government’s ability to regulate designs for single-family homes,” he said. Frye, however, said it only applies to a house’s appearance—roof styles, window styles, exterior cladding and color—and won’t affect zoning laws related to height or setbacks.


  • Three Candidates Apply for Clarke County School Board Seat


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    Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims.

    Former Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Harry Sims is among three applicants for the District 2 seat on the Clarke County Board of Education vacated by Vernon Payne.

    East Broad Street resident Mary P. Bagby and Mulberry Street resident Frances Berry are the other two applicants for the open seat. Berry, a photographer, is a former president of the Federation of Neighborhoods and managed Commissioner Patrick Davenport’s campaign in 2018.


  • In the Future, Athens' Climate Will Feel Like Florida's


    Photo Credit: Ebyabe/Wikimedia Commons

    Welcome to Athens circa 2080.

    Children growing up in Athens today won't have to move to Florida when they retire. Florida is coming to us.

    A study recently published in Nature Communications by researchers from the University of Maryland and North Carolina State University modeled how the climate will change in 540 North American cities by 2080, then found cities where the current climate matches the model. For the average city, the climate 60 years from now will be like the climate is today more than 500 miles to the southwest. For those who don't want to wade through the entire study, Earther interviewed co-author Matthew Fitzpatrick.

    If nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Athens' climate will most closely resemble that of Leesburg, FL's. Located near Tampa and Orlando, summers in Leesburg are now 2.4 degrees warmer and 78 percent wetter than in Athens.


  • 'Run It Up' Podcast, Ep. 2: Drive-By Truckers/Adam's House Cat, Earth Strike


    Photo Credit: Patrick Hood

    Adam's House Cat

    In "Run It Up," Flagpole's new podcast, we take a deeper look at some of the stories from the current issue. In this week's episode, host Gabe Vodicka chats with Drive-By Truckers engineer David Barbe about the band's annual Homecoming series and the unexpected reunion of pre-Truckers group Adam's House Cat. Plus, Blake Aued explains why a local activist group wants UGA to ban Chick-fil-A. Also: Flagpole welcomes a new columnist.


  • Commission Debates Drug Grant, Approves Rezonings



    Commissioner Mariah Parker.

    The Athens-Clarke County Commission could create a criminal justice committee later this year after two commissioners briefly held up a federal grant that funds drug investigations.

    The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds the Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force, which consists of nine officers, six of whom work for the ACC Police Department. The grant partially funds four of those six officers, according to ACC Manager Blaine Williams.

    Commissioner Mariah Parker removed the grant from the commission’s consent agenda—a package of noncontroversial items—at its Feb. 5 meeting. She and Commissioner Melissa Link said they would approve of the grant if the commission were to take action to establish a criminal justice committee. After discussion, the commission unanimously approved the grant and decided to return to the subject of creating the committee in six months, once new Police Chief Cleveland Spruill has time to settle in and take part in creating the committee. Mayor Kelly Girtz said the commission is scheduled to review the criminal justice system at its March work session.


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