Owners of nearly two dozen of the 34 residential properties on the western end of Milledge Circle, from McWhorter Drive to Westlake Drive, don’t want to be subjected any longer to a moratorium on demolition approved by Athens-Clarke County commissioners in May.
Additionally, said Tom Wilfong, who lives in the 500 block of Milledge Circle, the western end of Milledge Circle does not want to be considered for inclusion in a locally designated historic district that other residents of the street have expressed some interest in pursuing.
“We do not think this moratorium is necessary. We do not want to be designated a historic district,” Wilfong recently told commissioners.
Designation as a local historic district subjects many proposed structural changes to properties in the district to review by the county’s appointed Historic Preservation Commission, which decides whether to approve changes in advance of issuing a required “certificate of appropriateness.”
Part of the eastern end of Milledge Circle, at South Milledge Avenue and South Lumpkin Street, is within the federally designated Milledge Circle Historic District, part of the National Register of Historic Places, but that register listing does not include any restrictions on renovation or new construction.
Institution of the demolition moratorium, which could extend through June 5 of next year unless commissioners take earlier action on it, was precipitated by the filing of a demolition permit application for a home at 398 Milledge Circle in the heart of the intown Five Points neighborhood. The home was built in 1920 by Marion Caskey, a then-prominent residential contractor whose work can be seen throughout Five Points.
The moratorium instituted in May does not apply to building permits for interior renovations, to building permits affecting the rear of a structure (with the exception of the roofline), or to the demolition of outbuildings.
In the months leading up to the filing of the demolition permit application for 398 Milledge Circle, many residents of Five Points and other intown neighborhoods had become concerned as homes were purchased in their neighborhoods and subsequently demolished for new construction, or substantially modified in renovation to the point that the homes were sometimes wildly out of scale and character with the rest of the neighborhood.
As a result of those concerns, county planning staff developed a set of infill housing regulations, subsequently approved by the county commission, that allows construction heights to increase only as structures are moved back from the street.
Wilfong, a former trustee of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation and past president of the Athens Historical Society, said a survey of the owners of the 34 properties on the western end of Milledge Circle found them “overwhelmingly opposed” to the moratorium and the pursuit of local historic designation.
Among those opposed to the moratorium and historic designation, and among the three sets of neighbors for whom Wilfong said he was speaking Wednesday, are former University of Georgia athletic director and head football coach Vince Dooley and his wife, Barbara, who have lived on Milledge Circle for years.
Commissioner Diane Bell, whose district includes the south side of the western end of Milledge Circle, was one of theree commissioners who voted against the demolition moratorium in May, along with Commissioners Sharyn Dickerson and Harry Sims.
Mike Hamby, whose district includes the northern side of the western end of Milledge Circle, supported the moratorium in the commission’s May vote. Hamby did not immediately return a Friday telephone call seeking comment.
In other business commissioners recently:
—Approved a special-use permit that will allow installation of a drive-through window at a liquor store at 106 Tallassee Road. Commissioners Andy Herod, Sharyn Dickerson and Jerry NeSmith dissented, with Herod suggesting that an associated change in the county’s future development map, which designated the 1-acre tract as neighborhood mixed-use, was inappropriate because that designation does not allow auto-centric development.
NeSmith suggested that, instead of installing the drive-through — which will not have an order board or speaker system — the store could use one of its two traffic lanes for parking.
—Rejected a request for rezoning and a change to the county’s future development map from Capital Resource Management, which had planned a six-lot residential subdivision, with lots ranging from 1 acre to 2 acres in size, at 1370 Athens Road in the eastern part of the county. In a 7-3 vote, commissioners rejected the request on the grounds that the proposed subdivision was incompatible with nearby agricultural and industrial zoning. Commissioners Melissa Link, Allison Wright and Jared Bailey voted against the rejection of the rezoning request and the associated change to the county’s future development map.
—Amended a resolution they passed in February for the downtown Athens area establishing a moratorium on multifamily residential construction and prohibiting the issuance of permits for, or approval of any new use of property as a bar, unless the establishment has an occupancy rating of 49 or fewer people.
The amendment ensures that work on 100 Prince, a mixed-use development on Prince Avenue in the western edge of the downtown area, can proceed. A portion of the tract is zoned Commercial-Downtown, but work to get the required construction permits was under way prior to the commission’s imposition of the moratorium.