Athens city council held public hearings on the proposed changes to off-street parking and short-term rentals on Monday, in addition to committee meetings.

Council recently passed an ordinance which, if approved, would reduce the number of off-street parking required for local businesses and rental housing in an effort to encourage the use of other modes of transportation and reduce the need for traffic. environmental impact. The order drew mixed reactions during Monday’s public hearing.

Resident Joan Kraynanski said she understood the rationale for the order, but was unsure whether a post-pandemic situation was conducive to its success. Kraynanski cited the reduced operation of the city’s bus lines, which would present a challenge for residents looking for alternative transportation. She also asked if a decrease in car use is underway in the city, as some local parking lots are being expanded to meet demand.

“I think it’s a really bad time to make that adjustment,” Kraynanski said. “So what I’m really asking is that you put this on hold for a while, don’t lose it, because there are good things here. “

Rob Delach, another Athens resident, however, has backed the new legislation and believes it will be a positive change for Athens in the long run. He said reducing the number of parking spaces required will allow businesses and property owners more autonomy to determine the number of parking spaces that suit their needs and keep costs down for tenants.

The short-term rental property audience saw a similar difference. The proposed ordinance amends the zoning code of Athens to include short-term rental properties in residential areas.

Alan Swank, who to serve to Council effective January 2022, posed several questions to Council regarding the ordinance. Some of the questions he asked included whether rental property owners must be present during a rental period and what the process for reporting a code violation and penalties looks like. Swank hopes the board will table the initiative until more details can be worked out.

“As more and more people in Athens take notice of the proposal, I am sure there are many more questions about this program that will be asked pending a response before a vote,” said Swank said.

Resident Jan Hodson is concerned that tenants are a nuisance to residents and urged council to require a landlord in a short-term rental unit to provide some degree of supervision.

The Council also heard a presentation from the Chief of the Athens Fire Department, Robert Rymer, on the deterioration of conditions at the headquarters of the department in consideration of a proposed levy for the May 2022 poll.

Rymer described the safety conditions related to the building’s structural issues, including multiple cracking and chipping brackets creating structural instability, very limited space, poor drainage, and lack of NFPA cancer prevention and ADA compliance.

The 20-year levy would result in an income tax increase of 0.1% for public safety capital improvements, which would increase the annual income tax of an average citizen by about $ 50. The measure must be presented to the Electoral Council by February to be included in the May 2022 poll.

The city has spent $ 500,000 on necessary repairs and upgrades to the fire hall headquarters since 2005 to keep the space functional. A current estimate puts the cost of a new building at around $ 7 million, with a prime location near the Stimson Avenue roundabout.

If approved, construction would begin as early as 2023.

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