ACC Commission Approves Smaller Buena Vista Heights Historic District in Athens, Ga.
The number of properties is significantly fewer that that proposed by the Historic Preservation Commission last year.
A long-time effort to designate an historic district in the Buena Vista ended Tuesday night in a packed chambers at City Hall.
The Athens Clarke County Commission voted six to four to approve a truncated version of the Buena Vista Heights Historic District, one that includes 62 properties instead of the 100 or so recommended by the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The alternate map was drawn by Commissioner Kelly Girtz and signed by Commissioner George Maxwell, who didn't vote for it.
With the opening of UGA's Health Sciences Campus, development pressure has come to that neighborhood, which is tucked off Prince Avenue. Many longtime residents remain concerned at the number of smaller houses that are being bought, torn down and replaced with large structures that encompass most of the lots on which they sit. If you drive the neighborhood--along Park, Yonah, Boulevard Heights, Satula, Easy and Nantahala Extension--you will see smaller houses, valued at less than $100,000, near ones that sold for $400,000 to $500,000.
"Character is being chipped away tree by tree, and house by house," said UGA librarian Deborah Stanley, who has lived in the neighborhood 10 years.
In the hour-long comment session before Tuesday night's vote, several property owners--some who live in the area, others who don't, many new to Athens--told the Commission why they couldn't support the designation: property values would drop, restrictions would increase, taxes would rise, property rights would be infringed upon, expansions and renovations would end and modern materials wouldn't be allowed in renovations.
Some of these concerns are based on misinformation, said Sharon Bradley, a member of the HPC. She said her commission approves expansions regularly, as well as modern materials. "To say a certain thing would never happen is wrong," she said.
Many of those against the designation scoffed at the notion of Buena Vista providing "affordable housing for musicians and artists," with Jim Law--whose wife owns a house on Park Avenue--saying that affordable housing is where you can afford to live. They also questioned the value of historic districts and said their particular properties might be old but they aren't historic.
Buena Vista Heights resident Melissa Link said Park Avenue and Easy Street shouldn't be omitted from the district, as Kelly Girtz's plan shows. She said the neighborhood will receive "overscaled redevelopment" without the designation, but adopting the HPC recommended map could foster a "sensible real estate market."
Commissioners Maxwell, Jared Bailey and Jerry NeSmith voted to approve the HPC's original map, but they were the only ones to do so. Everyone voted for the Girtz version except Doug Lowry, Harry Sims, George Maxell and Allison Wright.