An Athens-Clarke County Planning Department report released this afternoon says that the planning commission and the county commission should approve the Selig development.
The staff report says that, even though the development is huge (the size of three Super Walmarts, since we love to measure everything in Walmarts), it still meets most of our zoning requirements. Selig is asking to build a dozen apartments on the ground floor; ACC requires first-floor commercial space in downtown developments.
The four newly proposed buildings will be larger than those that have existed on the subject property, but will still be within the permitted scale, bulk, and coverage of the downtown district, as well as compatible with nearby recently developed properties. Similarly, architectural compatibility will be maintained with that of nearby projects.
Leisure Services raised an objection...
Upon review, the Leisure Services Department has raised concern over the safety and convenience of bicycle access from the Firefly Trail, through the plaza, to Oconee Street. The width of the designated bicycle travel lanes along the back of the angled parking on the new section of Hickory Street is also a concern. Additionally, the Leisure Services Department has expressed a desire to see ground-floor commercial on both sides of the proposed plaza between Building #200 and Building #300.
...and so did the fire department.
As designed, the entry tunnel through Building #300 must be increased in height to allow for a minimum 15-foot clearance at the lowest point. Additionally, the turn radius where the new section of Hickory Street forms an internal intersection may not meet the minimum needed for fire truck maneuvering; therefore, a slight modification to the curb design and/or paving material may be required. Concern was also raised with regard to the type of species and height of the proposed street trees potentially causing interference with ladder reach; however, proper species selection during the plans review process will lessen this impact. The Fire Department recommends approval provided these comments are addressed prior to permitting.
But staff said those issues can be addressed. Focusing on the narrow nature of the special use, planners recommended approval.
Although this project is vast in size, the primary focus of the Special Use Permit request is related to the placement of up to fifteen multifamily residential dwellings along the ground-floor. The multifamily residential use itself does not trigger a Special Use Permit, nor does the proposed amount of commercial space or structured parking. Would it not be for the location of a few residential dwelling units on the ground floor, the entire project could move forward by right under the current zoning standards. Staff finds that this project is in accordance with the principles of the Comprehensive Plan. The plans represent a more efficient use of the land over that existing and should not create any negative impact on the future development of adjacent properties. The fifteen ground-floor residences, specifically located along Wilkerson Street, a portion of Oconee Street, and along a portion of the Firefly Trail, will not have an adverse effect on the community as a whole. As outlined previously in this report, a few minor technical design issues still exist, and must be addressed for this project to be considered in compliance with all applicable zoning standards.
Among the conditions for approval, Selig would be required to install a bus stop on Oconee Street, increase the height of the parking deck entrances to 15 feet, plant trees along East Broad, Wilkerson, Oconee and Hickory streets and Firefly Trail, and redesign the pedestrian plaza to include a bike ramp.
The planning commission is scheduled to vote on the special use request at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Dougherty Street Governmental Building, setting up a final ACC Commission vote July 2.