City DopeNews

Commission Approves Controversial Oglethorpe Avenue Cottages

Plans for a “cottage courtyard” call for 24 owner-occupied units on two acres off Oglethorpe Avenue, priced at about $265,000 each.

A recently released “Missing Middle” report suggests that Athens-Clarke County has a housing crisis that it can only solve by increasing density in urban single-family neighborhoods. The report highlights a gap between single-family homes and massive apartment complexes, and suggests filling it with duplexes, quadruplexes and small apartment buildings in walkable neighborhoods like Normaltown and Five Points, or in suburban neighborhoods that could be made more walkable. ACC’s zoning code largely forbids such development, though.

However, a controversial “cottage courtyard” project off Oglethorpe Avenue near the Knottingham neighborhood suggests efforts to increase density will meet stiff resistance. About a dozen nearby residents came to the commission meeting to oppose the development, which will consist of 24 units—small cottages, duplexes and fourplexes—on a little under two acres. They cited concerns about density, traffic, parking and gentrification.

The project’s developers, though, said it will fill a niche by providing smaller dwellings in the $200,000–$300,000 range that homebuyers like couples without kids and empty nesters say they want but can’t find. They asked for a rezoning and more than two dozen waivers, noting that, by right, a developer could build nine much larger $600,000 homes, similar to Jared York’s recent development near Bishop Park. The 1010 Oglethorpe development will include three below-market homes with assistance from Habitat for Humanity and the Athens Land Trust. It’s also required to have a homeowners’ association that will ensure none of the units become rentals. 

“The only way we can get out of this housing crisis is by building housing,” said Commissioner Tim Denson, who represents the area. He was joined by commissioners Jesse Houle, Mariah Parker, Melissa Link, Russell Edwards and Myers in supporting the request, which passed 6–4.

Thornton, Hamby, Wright and Commissioner Patrick Davenport voted against the development, saying the commission should listen to the residents. “If it’s a zoning problem, fix the zoning problem,” Thornton said. “Don’t put the solution on these peoples’ backs.”

Also related to affordable housing, the commission approved an application for a $30 million earmark from Sen. Raphael Warnock’s office for an affordable housing development in East Athens centered around Triangle Plaza and Athens Housing Authority-owned property in the Nellie B neighborhood. 

While details are scarce, according to ACC’s application, the funds would be used to “initiate construction of a high quality village,” including multifamily and owner-occupied housing, minority-owned businesses and a nonprofit that prepares and distributes food. AHA Executive Director Rick Parker has offered up a vacant lot at the corner of Vine and Peter streets, and chef and entrepreneur Rashe Malcolm, founder of the nonprofit Farm to Neighborhood, volunteered property she owns in Triangle Plaza.

Meanwhile, the commission also agreed to fast-track $5.3 million in federal ARPA funding it previously earmarked for affordable housing, with the aim of spending it by December rather than next spring or summer. “We do have a lot of stakeholder groups in the community that are ready to undertake projects; they just lack the funding,” Parker said.