City Council met Monday to discuss a permit made by Athens County Agricultural Society to build a chain link fence on a city-owned property within the fairgrounds, located on Herrold Avenue.
Council extensively discussed the negative effects the fence would have on the surrounding community, which include a decrease in property value and being an eyesore for the neighbors.
“(The agricultural society) has to adhere to state law, and in this case, they want to erect a fence that is in part on a non-existent road that is legally a plotted right-of-way,” Councilmember Solveig Spjeldnes, D-1st ward, said.
Spjeldnes offered several solutions to the council that may appease both parties; she suggested moving the location of the fence further back with a gate and bushes surrounding it. Doing this would cause less of a disturbance to neighbors and still allow people to camp on the property.
Councilmember Alan Swank, D-4th Ward, revisited a previous issue with the agricultural society. He said it’s not right for the fair board to sign off on granting the society a fence on the city’s right-of-way because several years ago, the society voted against a city-made request that denied vendors from selling Confederate flag paraphernalia at the county fair.
“The agricultural society voted, overwhelmingly 2-1, to ignore what the city was requesting, and that was a request for vendors not to sell Confederate merchandise at the county fair,” Swank said. “What the fair board did, in the last two years, was highly suggest to vendors that they do not display Confederate merchandise in their booths.”
Attention was then directed to Lisa Eliason, Athens city law director, to understand if denying the agricultural society of this permit due to previous agreement violations would hold up in court. However, Eliason said she would need to do more research by second reading to confirm.
A Herrold Avenue resident spoke out to the council and voiced her concerns about granting the agricultural society a fence. She reiterated all of the council’s previous concerns with the addition of the fence decreasing potential wildlife in the area.
Council made no decisions on whether to grant the agricultural society a permit to build a fence and will further discuss it upon the second reading of the ordinance.