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Commission Debates Drug Grant, Approves Rezonings


The Athens-Clarke County Commission could create a criminal justice committee later this year after two commissioners briefly held up a federal grant that funds drug investigations.

The Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds the Northeast Georgia Drug Task Force, which consists of nine officers, six of whom work for the ACC Police Department. The grant partially funds four of those six officers, according to ACC Manager Blaine Williams.

Commissioner Mariah Parker removed the grant from the commission’s consent agenda—a package of noncontroversial items—at its Feb. 5 meeting. She and Commissioner Melissa Link said they would approve of the grant if the commission were to take action to establish a criminal justice committee. After discussion, the commission unanimously approved the grant and decided to return to the subject of creating the committee in six months, once new Police Chief Cleveland Spruill has time to settle in and take part in creating the committee. Mayor Kelly Girtz said the commission is scheduled to review the criminal justice system at its March work session.

The commission also approved the proposed preliminary plans for Phase Two of the Clayton Street infrastructure improvements, a revised stormwater ordinance, a rezoning of The Varsity and surrounding property to protect the neighborhood once it’s redeveloped, a pocket neighborhood off Dublin Street and preliminary plans to run the North Oconee River Greenway through Oconee Hills Cemetery.

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The 13-home Dublin Street development in East Athens drew some pushback from neighborhood residents and their allies, who said they fear that rising property values and taxes would push people out of the area. But district representative Parker and other commissioners said the higher density is appropriate, and that the $200,000 houses are as affordable as new construction in Athens can be given current building costs. Some of the homes will be kept affordable by the Athens Land Trust.