City DopeNews

Commission Approves Affordable Housing, Reorganizes Animal Control, Extends Bird Ban

More support is on the way for affordable housing with the commission’s approval of a “pocket neighborhood” at 250 Dublin St. at its last voting session Oct. 1. The Athens Land Trust is planning to build 13 homes on this lot with some help from Athens-Clarke County in the form of $148,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds and $226,000 from SPLOST 2011.

The East Athens parcel was rezoned for a planned development in February, but the developer has since backed out and put the land up for sale. The ALT had planned to build three affordable homes in the original concept and stepped up to buy the entire property when the development fell through. This means that all 13 lots will now be held in trust, and the homes that sit on them will stay permanently affordable, according to the land trust model.

Commissioner Mariah Parker, in whose district the homes will be built, called the development an “awesome deal” for her district. She said she believes in the land trust model, but that she is also pursuing alternative means of providing affordable housing for her constituents.

Members of the Concerned Animal Crusaders of Athens, a coalition of animal welfare groups, showed up to this Mayor and Commission meeting in large numbers. They were present to advocate for two items on the commission’s agenda relating to the ongoing controversy surrounding Animal Control. The first item was the replacement of the old Animal Control division, a part of Central Services, with a new Department of Animal Services, which reports directly to the county manager’s office. The second was an audit work plan including an audit of this new department. After some discussion by commissioners about prioritizing an audit of the Board of Elections instead, both items passed unanimously. The commission’s Audit Committee will discuss those future audits in more detail.

The commission also extended the ban on electric scooters (established in December of 2018) for six additional months, or until June 4, 2020. This was necessary because the commission’s Legislative Review Committee found the issues surrounding these scooters to be extremely complex. 

Part of the complexity involved creating a definition of “shareable dockless mobility devices” that distinguished scooters from electric-assisted bicycles, which the state of Georgia recently classified into three groups. The commission reauthorized bike share programs, including e-bikes, but only for those of class I (i.e., bikes that give a boost only when the rider is pedaling and not when traveling over 20 miles an hour). Commissioners and staff also need extra time to find a scooter company willing to play by their rules, and for the development of a pilot program to reintroduce these scooters into the wilds of Athens. Will Birds fly again? It’s possible, but if the ban is lifted, it seems clear that they will no longer be allowed to block sidewalks and delay pedestrians, as they did previously.