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East State St. Zoning Subject to Change

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Following a public hearing in city council Monday, a zoning proposition made by citizens in the East State Street area is subject to change after locals voiced their concerns.

The neighborhood initiated proposition to the City Council Planning Commission  has been well received by some and has strong opposition from others. While several city council members praised the community for working together to bring about change as they saw fit, others were not very pleased with several negatively perceived possibilities.

Apartment duplexes, set to house many new residents (namely thought to be college students), are not what some community members want to see in their neighborhood.

Betty Sexton, a local Athens resident in the area in question, suggested feared potential changes in her neighborhood.

“We just want to protect the houses and yards around us from being turned into multi-story concrete boxes,” Sexton said.

Bill Walker, a local citizen, came to the city council meeting on Nov. 26 in order to represent Pete and Barb Good. The duo own five properties in the area, two of which were potentially affected. He pointed out several, in his words, flaws concerning the process that has gone into the planning of the re-zoning. One point Walker made concerned the time frame in which there was a proposed amendment to a city ordinance.

Kevin Gillespie, a local citizen involved with Fair Housing, voiced concerns over what he perceived to be a lack of communication between city council and the citizens. He suggested that there needed to be more discussion about the proposal, and that the city council itself should have members visit and talk to citizens in the R2 region and see how the change in zoning would affect them personally.

Chris Fahl, a member of the Athens City Council, commented on the dissent of some community members.

“I have not really spoken with the other council members,” Fahl said. “If we want to change the recommendation from the planning commission we can do that but then it needs to pass with a super majority.”

Fahl seemed positive and encouraged about the initiative taken local citizens. She noted that it was rare that citizens took such matters into their own hands. She did, however, have some concerns.

“Neighbors were concerned about the development of multi-family housing (specifically student housing) in the area,” Fahl said. “For the neighbors the idea is to preserve the integrity of their neighborhood.  I do worry about loss of the ability to have small duplex development in the area…those are good starter homes or senior citizen housing.  It is unfortunate that for most landlords or developers in Athens multi-family means maxing out the bedrooms and making the big box vinyl sided monsters that we see other places.”

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