July 9, 2013

Downtown Property Owners: We're Being Ignored


Some downtown property owners say they've been left out of the process of making a master plan for downtown Athens.

Janey Cooley, senior vice president for First American Bank & Trust, told the Athens Downtown Development Authority that UGA College of Environment and Design professor Jack Crowley, who is writing the master plan, hasn't sought her feedback since a meeting with the Downtown Athens Business Association a year ago.

Nor has Crowley spoken to "a large group" of property owners about the plan since then, Cooley said. 

"This is one of our major concerns," she said. "It's not these downtown property owners are opposing anything. It's just that we've not been consulted."

Chick Piano owner Anne Shepherd, Masada Leather owner Irv Alhadeff (who also owns several other buildings) and hotel executive Will Benson, among others, also attended the meeting but didn't speak. 

It's not the first time downtown business owners have claimed they've been snubbed.

Crowley said he has sought input on the plan from more than 3,000 people, many of them informally. In addition, he said he met with about 100 groups and held two public  town hall meetings. He said he gave ADDA board member Regina Quick a list of property owners he's spoken to and asked for names of any he hasn't contacted. Although the plan is nearing completion, he said he's still trying to talk to as many people as possible.

"The most important thing we can do is make sure everybody's bought into it," he said.

Cooley said property owners also wanted a marketing study that hasn't materialized. Apparently, she was unaware that former ADDA executive director Kathryn Lookofsky was working with the Terry College of Business on one when her contract expired last month.

Crowley also updated the ADDA on the plan. He's taking a three-week break to focus on accreditation for a CED program. Then the finished plan will start winding its way through the Athens-Clarke County government for final approval.