Athens City Council met Monday evening to discuss and approve several ordinances, including the establishment of a designated outdoor refreshment area, or DORA, in uptown Athens.
The creation of the DORA establishes a designated area in uptown Athens where open container laws are temporarily suspended during restricted hours. Patrons can carry disposable cups from local establishments onto other participating DORA establishments. The ordinance, proposed by the Athens Uptown Business Association, is aimed at stimulating economic growth in the area while incorporating a social aspect.
Prior to approving the DORA, Council authorized two amendments to the language of an ordinance to update accurate location and sanitation information. The uptown DORA will extend to Station Street, instead of Factory Street, which includes Athens Uncorked. The amendment also extended the DORA further down Union Street to Smith Street in order to include Star of India and Ciro.
Some safety concerns regarding crosswalks within the area on the south side of Union Street were discussed following the amendments. Councilwoman Arian Smedley, D-1st Ward, questioned the likelihood of a summer 2021 time frame and suggested the creation of the DORA be postponed to allow for more time to solidify a plan for implementation; however, both council members and attendees expressed their support for approval of the DORA this year.
“I think it would be a really good way for us to understand and make the changes necessary for how it could really be, what I see as a boom for the summer of ‘22,” Jackie O’s owner Art Oestrike said. “It’s kind of a perfect little opportunity for us to play with something that could be awesome for Athens.”
Also approved Monday were ordinances allocating funding for replacement of the city building roof, as well as for resources to repair the Athens Fire Department headquarters. The city building roof has sustained attempted repairs and ultimately needs to be replaced, a project Council estimates will cost approximately $200,000. Similarly, the 66-year-old fire department building was recently examined, which resulted in the request of numerous urgent repairs to keep the building safe for its inhabitants. The project is allocated $50,000.
A resolution was approved to begin the process to amend city zoning laws regarding off-street parking. The new zoning requirements would be less restrictive in the amount of parking private businesses and residences are required to have. Athens City Planner Paul Logue discussed the potential impact of the amendments.
“I can certainly think of a lot of negative impacts that we’re having to our existing regulatory schedule for parking,” Logue said. “Reliance on single occupancy vehicles impacts our ability to walk places, our ability to use public transit and to ride bicycles makes an unsafe city and traffic is an incredibly noisy endeavor.”
Council’s next meeting will be in August, following a July recess, and will resume meeting in-person.