City DopeNews

Vote on Downtown Historic District Delayed

A screenshot of Commissioner Melissa Link's proposed downtown historic district boundaries.

Athens-Clarke County commissioners were scheduled to vote on a historic district for the west end of downtown at the Tuesday, Nov. 3 meeting—moved to Nov. 4 to avoid conflicting with Election Day—but at a called meeting Oct. 29, commissioners opted to push that vote to Nov. 17.

After further discussion with property owners, Commissioner Melissa Link proposed a new map that removes First United Methodist Church and properties on Hull Street owned by the Brown and Wilson families, and adds the building owned by Drew Dekle that currently houses Flicker Theatre & Bar as a contributing property.

“The district certainly has been whittled down significantly from what was originally presented,” Link said. The original map included properties across Pulaski and Dougherty streets—mainly churches—that were removed due to opposition, forming a smaller district that was endorsed by Historic Athens. The district closely follows the National Register of Historic Places district lines, Link said. (The National Register does not protect buildings as a local district does.) It still includes the Morton Theatre, an important Hot Corner landmark of local Black history, and some mid-20th-Century buildings that marked the dawn of the automobile age in Athens.

Commissioners Allison Wright and Patrick Davenport opposed moving the vote. Wright said she wanted to vote Nov. 4 on her proposal to allow property owners to opt in or opt out of the district. While that might satisfy property owners who don’t want to be a part of the district, it likely wouldn’t create a coherent district. And Historic Athens Executive Director Tommy Valentine told Flagpole he believes property owners are coming around because of the tax benefits involved in being part of a historic district. 

In other business, ACC extended the “parklet” program allowing restaurants to set up widely separated tables in parking spaces along West Washington Street so that patrons can safely dine during the pandemic. While the parklets are currently week-to-week, Manager Blaine Williams said staff is preparing a more comprehensive policy. One thing commissioners are debating is whether to allow bars to set up parklets.