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Athens Needs Affordable Development

I just read the letter from Heather M. Fletcher (“Athens Needs Growth,” Oct. 4), who is a Realtor in Athens. She states that the developers who are building the high-rise student housing complexes and the expensive condos that are going to be built on Mitchell Street are what we should expect due to the nature of the supply and demand of desirable property—the choice properties will be bought up at premium prices and will sell for premium prices. Fletcher states that the good news is that these types of development will provide the taxes that Athens needs for the services we all benefit from, such as schools, transportation, etc.

I’m not willing to accept that point of view, however. I still believe that our public servants, the people we elected to represent us, should listen to our voices when decisions are made about future development. Fletcher notes that “developer” is not the same as “philanthropist,” which is obvious, but it shouldn’t be the same as “greedy mother—–,” either. There should be some sort of compromise with regard to what’s being built in our town.

We still need affordable housing. It doesn’t have to be downtown, since that’s being taken over by student housing, parking decks and, now, the Mitchell Street condos. OK, we give up on having an affordable downtown. But there is no affordable housing being built anywhere in Athens. The only things being built are the expensive high-rises and nothing more.

Athens residents, speak up to your commissioners and other public officials. The Comprehensive Plan is being prepared now, and it will finalize the direction for growth in Athens-Clarke County for the next decade. If you care about what’s going on in Athens, and if you don’t like what you’re seeing, call, write or speak to your commissioner to voice your opinion.

If you’re a Realtor, then you might not think there’s anything worth saving or changing. Just let the developers have their way with our town until no one can afford to live here except students being bankrolled by their wealthy parents in Atlanta, and their parents who buy the expensive condos which they’ll use for football weekends (and rent as Airbnbs the rest of the year). If that’s OK with you, then do nothing.