Athens Clarke County Commissioners Meet
A bridge and beaver needs; public art and proposals for free murals; the anti-Wal Mart/Big Box folks turn out in force.
8:49PM...Mike Hamby says Kaiser Permanente has given Athens a $25,000 grant. Alice Kinman says an ordinance needs to be revisited that deals with community gardening in Athens. Kelly Girtz wants to move forward with a neighborhood group trying to develop a passive garden at Barber and Boulevard.
8:47PM....Mayor Denson says Beechwood Cinema wants to serve beer and wine as Cine does. She wants the legislative review committee to consider adding movie theatres to the businesses that can apply for a distance waiver in order to serve beer and wine.
8:45PM... Tim Staley. I think Wal Mart woudn't look like a state prison. It would look like a federal prison. He wants officials to look at how the development would sit on site, viewing it from the top and the bottom of the hill. "Any Big Box store at the low end of that site will change Athens forever." It will consume Athens as we know it. It will look like an airport. No one has talked about the illumination factor.
8:38PM...Jane Scott who owns Native America Gallery on Clayton Street. She has wonderful customers and wonderful stories to share. Life can be very complicated but can also be very simple. Love and money. Every day. No matter who you are dealing with. If you come from a place of love, it can help with your finances. What do these people (meaning, Selig and Wal Mart) know about Athens? And what do they care? You've got to care when it gets hard to care. We are doing something right. Please help us nurture and protect downtown.
8:37PM....Athens is a brand, says Danielle. We should be taking advantage of that. We should be working toward having entertainment, like film and movies, as our economic development engine
8:34PM...Krysia Haag. Concerned about the impact of the project on the roads around the development. Delivery trucks will degrade the roads. Wal Mart requires cars with trunks to fill. A 100,000 square foot building is not an adaptive building type. Wal Mart is known from abandoning buildings. Precious land so close to downtown shouldn't be wasted.
8:32PM...Randall Abney, who was living on an olive farm in Italy when he decided to return to the U.S. Making dollars and living on Euros didn't work. Looked at three cities and picked Athens. When we drove into town, it felt like home. When we drove in Woodhaven, it felt like home. He has been in 102 counties. Why don't you come home to LaFayette? The Big Box stores came and his family's department store went out business and it killed his father. Let's not do that to Athens. Athens deserves better. Let's not do that to Athens.
8:27PM...Mr. Smith who's from Athens. The idea that if you have money you can do what you want is ludicrous. People can't plunk down $5,000. It's your responsibility to protect us from big business. The issue is Big Boxes destroy local business. I urge you to encourage small businesses, a grocery store. We don't need a giant box, it would be a disaster.
8:24PM...Devin Clower, a 10-year resident. She owns Frontier, a downtown business. The success stands on putting a size requirement on businesses. Athens thrives on local businesses, and a large business doesn't promote a sense of community.
8:22PM...John Marsh says that people who own the property get to decide who goes there. it's not the place for government to pick and choose.
8:16PM...David Ferguson of Child Street. He arrived in Athens 23 years ago, and he stayed. He has traveled all over the world. Nothing has anything like what we have in Athens. There's a lovely campus, a beautiful downtown. I want to add my voice to those saying we don't need a 100,000 square foot building.
8:11PM...Russell Edwards rises to talk about something not on the agenda. Thanks them for their public service. Apologizes for anyone who has been ugly over the proposed development on the Armstrong & Dobbs property. We can do better than to put a 100,000 square foot Wal Mart on the property. He's asking the Commission to pass legislation that will shrink the size of the anchor building. Selig has not submitted any environmental impact statement; Selig has not submitted any site drawings; Selig has not submitted a traffic study. Edwards has a giant pile of paper containing the names of people signing a petition circulated by People for a Better Athens, and he has put the names of everyone on a flash drive to give to all the Commissioners and Mayor.
7:59PM...The Super District Committee met and says the Superdistricts don't dilute the voting power of minorities. Andy Herod says that the committee started out with divergent views but came together to agree that the Supers don't need to be changed. Andy thanked the people who were involved in the committee. Kathy Hoard now thanks Richard White, Gail Schrader, Holly Hilton, Bill Berryman and Linda Meagher for their work. The process brought together people from different backgrounds, different races and ages. Ed Robinson once again weighs in and says the gerrymandered district should be called McKillip's Boner. The Commission accepts the report, with the exception of Doug Lowry.
7:56PM...Demolition delay on 585 West Cloverhurst Avenue. Kathy Hoard Mike Hamby and she reviewed 100 properties that were 50 years old or older and were falling down. She is now seeing houses that aren't falling down that people want to tear down. The residents don't mind demolishing the house. They talked to a lot of people and want to let the person tear down his house. It's approved.
7:44PM...Kathy Hoard says she supports the public art program. She's enthusiastic about the Cultural Affairs Commission. She has been overwhelmed by people in her district. People who contacted her are people who have remained silent on hundreds of issues. She says it might be a good place for public art at the jail. But her job is to listen to the people she represents. Her peeps feel it's not appropriate to spend any money on public art at the jail. So she's not going to vote for the proposal to put art in the jail, but she would support a private effort to do that. Ed Robinson says he doesn't want Lexington Road to look like a dystopian sci-fi landscape, with razor wire around the jail, because we are going to build an airline terminal on the hill. Kelly Girtz says he thought a reduced amount for public art would be appropriate, but no, he won't support spending $50K on the art. Jared Bailey says the jail is a public building and the art will have value to the community, even at the jail, and that's why he supports it. Ed Robinson says Athens is one ugly town to drive around in, just one step up from Augusta. The vote was 6-4, to not to put any art in the jail, with Hamby, Herod, Hoard, Lowry, Gertz and Bailey voting against spending $50,000 on public art at the jail. After the vote, Bailey said he had been confused and that he would bring up the matter again at the next meeting so they can vote again. Which would mean that Mayor Denson would have to break a tie.
7:40PM...Mike Hamby speaks on the Downtown Development Authority. Has a community enhancement program. The DDA helps pay for Twilight, Popfest, the Homecoming Parade and the Holiday Parade. Money for the Hot Corner Celebration has been cut by $2K, says George Maxwell. Why? They can come back and ask for extra money, Hamby says. They also cut the holiday parade and the UGA Homecoming Parade. Everyone votes yes, with Bailey abstaining and Lowry voting no.
7:38PM...Kelly Girtz speaks on the rails-to-trails project. He wants to know the future steps and anticipated time line on this complex project. Alan Reddish says the project has been delayed because of environmental studies have been required. He says they will be getting back to them in a future date. They vote to accept option 1.
7:14PM...Kelly Girtz speaks on the Sandy Creek bridge. He has crafted a commission defined option that the illustration in the agenda report is illustrative. The mayor and Commission can look at the design about how it will interact with wildlife. Alice Kinman endorses this idea. Alice believes it's an exciting project. The motion takes into consideration the bigger environment. Andy Herod wants to get the bridge built, and sooner than later, and what does this do to the time line? Kelly says the design will come through the commission. Alan Reddish says it's a proposal, a design build proposal. The county has done the study on the flood plain. And Reddish says they have found a beaver expert, at Clemson! Who knew? They have reviewed the proposal in terms of beaver needs. Alice says the Beaver Needs are in line with the eco-system around the bridge. Twenty incredibly confusing minutes have passed and they are calling the question. Mayor Denson breaks the tie with a yes.
7:11PM...Marilyn Wolf Ragatz speaks on art in the jail. A budget of less than one tenth of one percent should go for art. We think the community believes in the law enforcement community. Hopes the public area will calm those who pass through there. On any day, at any time, we may find ourselves visiting this public building.
7:07PM...Artist Jason Matherly comes to speak. Has an artist studio on Barrow Street. There are embarrassed they haven't acted sooner. "We have sat by and idly watched the debate over the art at the jail." We would rather there be art than no art. We will make the art for free. We give our art away for free. He says they will gladly paint on the walls of the jail for free. He said he extends his hands to the entire community. We offer the gift of a new mural and the gift of making art to anyone in the community who wants to join us.
7:06PM...Walt Cook comes to talk about the bridge in Sandy Creek. He's happy there's going to be a bridge. He is surprised at the width and length of the bridge. Some people have objected to the bridge coming so far on the west side, but he doesn't think that's a good idea. He thinks the people who did the cutting did a good job.
7:05OM...The Commission votes on its consent agenda. It passes.
7:04PM...Kathy Hoard nominated Andy Herod as Mayor Pro Tem. Ed Robinson seconds the nomination, though he said he fears for Andy's mental health. He is elected unanimously.
7:02PM...Public Information Officer Sandi Turner was in charge of the redesign of the county's website. An international group gave the county an award for the website (www.athensclarkecounty.com). Sandi accepted the award graciously.
7:02PM....The Commission approves the minutes of December meetings.