City DopeNews

Commission Frowns on Downtown, Winterville Area Developments

Plans for the 300-acre Homestead development near Coile Middle School.

Two major developments are slated for an Athens-Clarke County Commission vote on June 1.

One is a massive residential development off rural Old Elberton Road, near Coile Middle School, that would include more than 500 houses and 200 multi-family units on 233 acres, with another 90 acres of greenspace. Echoing planning commissioners who unanimously recommended denial of a rezoning and waiver requests, county commissioners said the project has a good design but is in the wrong place. The area in the northeastern part of the county is set aside as rural, located near several industries and lacks infrastructure like transit service or sewer lines.

“It’s like putting a farm in the middle of downtown,” Commissioner Patrick Davenport said. “It’s not the right project for this area.”

Nearby residents overwhelmingly opposed the project because they say it would drastically change the area’s rural character, require expensive infrastructure, and overload roads and schools.

Another project is a tower on Mitchell Street near downtown and the UGA campus that the commission is seeing for the third time. Controversially approved in 2017 as a retirement community, the project is now back as student-oriented housing. In its current iteration, it has already been sent back to the planning commission once.

The developer, Chicago- and Austin-based Core Spaces, is asking for a waiver on density because it exceeds the limit of 200 bedrooms per acre in the downtown zone, with 390 bedrooms on 1.7 acres. In addition, the developer is planning to provide 15 “affordable” units by putting two beds in each bedroom. That could benefit students, officials pointed out, but it won’t help families seeking affordable rental housing.

Commissioner Allison Wright, the commissioner for the property, said she supports it because it will take students out of neighborhoods. However, Commissioner Mariah Parker said she’d rather deny it and force the developer to go back to the drawing board and submit a better plan. 

“We are full up on student housing downtown,” Link said. “We need to spread that development around a little bit and diversify our housing stock downtown.” 

In addition, the commission heard a pitch from Indiana-based developer Trinitas to use revenue from a newly created tax allocation district alongside Lexington Road to build below-market workforce housing at a previously approved apartment development. With TAD assistance totaling $2.9 million, Trinitas would build 120 Class A one- and two-bedroom units renting for about $200 below market rate to people making between 60%–120% of the area median income of $65,900.The Lexington Road TAD Committee is opposed to the subsidy because, members said, it would only benefit a few people, and the money would be better spent on corridor improvements or job training. But approval was recommended by Manager Blaine Williams and the ACC Economic Development Department.