Cobbham Neighborhood Opposes Potential Fraternity House Construction
The ACC Historic Preservation Commission will vet a proposed fraternity house in the Cobbham Historic District. Some folks oppose the fraternity's construction, saying it will encourage more students to move into the area.
Cobbham neighborhood representatives and Athens-Clarke County Historic Preservation Commission members will review the design of a potential North Milledge Avenue fraternity house Wednesday at the commission's monthly meeting.
If accepted, the fraternity house, proposed by UGA Chapter of Sigma Chi, would be built at 340 North Milledge Avenue, between Hancock and Meigs.
Some Cobbham residents argue that the fraternity is inappropriate for the neighborhood. Retired UGA Math professor and Cobbham resident Clint McCrory said neighborhood residents are concerned that the diversity of the neighborhood and of nearby streets would change if the fraternity house were built.
"It's a diverse neighborhood in every way you can think of. There are student rentals and student housing and there are single family homes and residential housing," McCrory said. "A lot of the houses that could be occupied by single families will become more attractive to undergraduate students. Even the age balance in the student rentals will change from graduate students to undergrad."
McCrory said other developers had expressed interest in using the lot in ways more acceptable to neighborhood residents.
"There are a lot of uses that could go there that would be just fine — that would fit the neighborhood and the zoning requirements," McCrory said. "The uses along the street are not residential. There are doctor and lawyer offices and business places and the Republican Party headquarters. It's what the zoners call commercial office space and that's how it's being used."
McCrory said the neighborhood had also received some interest from Piedmont College, which might construct new classroom space in the lot if the fraternity is unsuccessful.
Other locations for the fraternity have been proposed as well. John English, a retired UGA journalism professor and former president of the Cobbham Historic Foundation, said an alternative location had been offered earlier in the year, but the alternative location was not accepted by all fraternity officials.
Efforts to reach Sigma Chi for comment were unsuccessful Tuesday afternoon.
During the meeting the Historic Preservation Commission will review the design of the house. In addition to having the design reviewed, the fraternity has to acquire a special-use permit in order to build, a requirement that was added after Kappa Alpha built a house on Hancock Avenue in 2006.
"Kappa Alpha had plopped down in the Hancock neighborhood and the nieghborhood couldn't do anything about it because the zoning allowed for it," English said. "It's something that has happened over and over in Athens, but we argue that this case is different because there aren't any fraternities on this side of Milledge, so it's a new use."
Similar fights between UGA fraternity houses and neighborhood residents have taken place before. Chi Phi received approval to build a fraternity in Five Points last year. UGA's Phi Kappa Tau is also considering a house near downtown, the Athens-Banner Herald reports. However, McCrory said this case is different from the others, and the process for arguing that will take several months.
"In a nutshell, it's the wrong location. There aren't any fraternities on this end of Milledge. All the fraternities on Milledge are on South Milledge," McCrory said. "We expect that this process will take up to six months from now. It’ll go before the boards multiple times. Unless the fraternity decides to withdraw, it’ll go on quite a while."
Correction: After publication of this story, Athens Patch was contacted by someone who was quoted indirectly in the original story. The person said he didn't wish to be quoted second hand, that the information relayed wasn't correct and that he didn't wish to comment. The information has been retracted.
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