Politics City Council debates re-zoning legislation By The New Political Posted on January 24, 2013 5 min read 0 0 371 Athens City Council members debated for over an hour as they attempted to put the new year in order during Tuesday’s meeting. Beginning the meeting was Law Director Patrick Lang with his yearly report of the county’s judicial proceedings. Lang reported that no new civil cases had been filed against the county, and that the four cases currently being defended are from previous years. Lang continued to refer to the most important case as being the federal lawsuit brought against the city for a proposed strip club on Stimson Avenue, a case originally brought before the city in 2007. Two of the remaining three cases deal with infrastructure issues throughout the city such as sewer backup and damages from water breaks. The law director’s office also reported once again ending the year under budget. The director’s office claims approximately five percent of the city’s total budget for salaries and other office expenses. “We [the law director’s office] were pleased to see this year that we were able to return a good deal of money to the city from our budget last year,” Lang said. City Auditor Kathy Hecht addressed concerns of residents who learned they owe city income tax from previous years. Following a one-month amnesty for those who came forward to pay their taxes in early 2012, several residents were surprised to learn that they owed money. “Once you come forward we will have you in our system,” Hecht said. “I would not recommend ignoring a letter from the income tax department.” Residents need only check their W-2 tax forms to learn the amount owed. The city has a payment plan in place for those who cannot pay all at once. In addition to the money owed, residents must also consider the interest of 1.5 percent, which Auditor Hecht believes to be fair. The most debated ordinance of the night was the legislation concerning the re-zoning of sections R1 and R2 of the city, which lie near Utah Place and Townsend Place. Council has debated re-zoning for months following the concerns of residents within the area. During the meeting 3rd Ward Rep. Michele Papai proposed amending the ordinance to allow five residences or “parcels” to keep from being re-zoned. “Re-zoning does take a good amount of time because you are dealing with people’s property rights and those sort of issues,” 4th Ward Rep. Chris Fahl said. “People have had this very open between neighbors, property owners and business owners in that area.” All members of the council approved the amendment to the ordinance unanimously. “There have been numerous meetings. This is probably one of the most open zoning issues we have had in the city,” Fahl said.