City DopeNews

New Developments, New Voting Precincts and More Local News

A rendering of a new hotel planned for the former Holiday Inn property. Credit: PFVS Design

The Board of Elections is holding off on voting to shift several polling places because it has not decided on a site for a newly created East Athens precinct.

The plan to redraw Athens precinct lines for the first time in decades includes creating a new precinct to take the load off of 2B (Stroud Elementary), the largest in the county. One potential site, the Heard Park gym, was eliminated due to concerns about accessibility for the disabled. There are two other potential options, the Miriam Moore Community Center and the East Athens Dance Center, but further discussions are needed, board members said July 11.

Athens-Clarke County Attorney Judd Drake told the board it could go ahead and put out legal advertisements for other precinct changes, but the board opted to do them all at once. A vote is now expected in August.

Election officials and county GIS staff recently redrew precinct lines to account for population shifts, and chose several new voting sites to replace ones that were deemed inadequate—too small, lacking parking or without the electrical wiring to handle the power demands of the state’s new voting equipment. Other proposed changes include eliminating precinct 6D (the Oglethorpe Avenue fire station) and adding it to 5A (Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School); moving 4A from the Multimodal Transportation Center to the Athens-Ben Epps Airport community room; moving 6B from Georgia Square Mall to the ACC Extension office; moving 5D from ACC Fleet Management to the Girl Scouts office; and moving 7C from the Five Points fire station to Milledge Avenue Baptist Church.

If approved, the changes would take effect for the March presidential primaries. Signs will be posted at polling places during this November’s election, and voters will be sent cards listing their new precinct by mid-February.

In addition, the BOE set the qualifying dates for Winterville city elections and a countywide special election for clerk of court in November. Candidate-qualifying for both will take place Aug. 21–23.

Mall Recycling Center Closing

People keep asking Athens-Clarke County Waste Reduction Administrator Joe Dunlop where the county is moving the recycling drop-off center at Georgia Square Mall. The answer is nowhere. “It is not being relocated,” he said. “We are closing it.”

The drop-off site near the old movie theater behind the mall is closing effective July 31 because of the upcoming mall redevelopment project and illegal dumping. Dunlop said that contractors keep dumping construction debris there instead of paying the landfill to take it, and even though ACC has installed security cameras and prosecuted a few cases, it hasn’t stopped. “We just don’t have the staff to keep it cleaned up according to our standards,” Dunlop said.

Other recycling drop-off sites are on government property that’s more easily secured—either gated or staffed 24/7. The closest to Atlanta Highway is the Jefferson Road fire station. The new fire station/extension office on Atlanta Highway is too small to accommodate 10–12 receptacles like the mall, nor has another suitable site been found, Dunlop said.

He advised anyone who takes their recycling to the mall to go to a different drop-off site or call their trash hauler. All private haulers operating in Athens are required by law to offer recycling pickup.

Development Roundup

Rumors have abounded ever since the downtown Holiday Inn, closed since the start of the pandemic, was torn down last year. But not much will change with the property—the hotel is merely being replaced by another hotel. Motel Enterprises, a company owned by the Benson family, which owned the Holiday Inn and owns several other local hotels, has submitted plans for a new hotel at the corner of West Broad and South Hull streets. The project will consist of two phases: a 200-room building and a parking deck, then another 100-room building and a deck expansion. Motel Enterprises is requesting a zoning variance to build a terrace along Broad and a plaza at the Lumpkin Street intersection, which will be heard by the Athens-Clarke County Planning Commission on Aug. 3.

At that meeting, the planning commission will also consider a resubmitted plan for a 216-home subdivision off Newton Bridge Road from national homebuilder D.R. Horton. The Athens-Clarke County Commission previously rejected a similar proposal. The latest version, though, includes a binding site plan and pedestrian connections to nearby Holland Park, which were concerns of several commissioners.

Kroger has submitted new plans to tear down the existing College Station Road shopping center, including the long-vacant KMart, and replace it with a new Kroger that, at over 100,000 square feet, will be similar to the “Space Kroger” on Highway 29. The plans are similar to those approved way back in 2016, with the new Kroger facing College Station but set far back from the road behind a large parking lot, several outparcels along College Station and drive-throughs along Barnett Shoals Road.

That new Kroger is also a potential site for a new Eastside library. A site selection committee is putting together a list of options for the ACC Mayor and Commission to choose from and added Southeast Clarke Park to the list last week. It would have been among the top options but did not meet criteria for sidewalks or proximity to schools, and committee members were concerned other sites might not work out. “I’m not sure I’ve talked to anybody who didn’t ask why [Southeast Clarke Park] wasn’t [on the list],” said committee member Laura Carter. Commissioners were scheduled to discuss the options at a July 18 meeting, Planning Director Brad Griffin said.