Whether you call it representative government or participatory democracy, the Athens Town Council’s Tuesday meeting had plenty of “it” in evidence, as citizens shared their wishes concerning location of a Dollar General store in town.

Mayor Carol Bard opened the meeting by reading, for the second time, the proposed changes to Athens Ordinance 607.07, which would change the zoning of the plots on 106 and 108 North State St. from residential to business, and Ordinance 611.06 which would create one parking space per 300 square feet of retail space to establish 30 parking spots. After she read the ordinances, Bard opened the floor for comments.

Allen Martin read a letter from his son Scott, who was out of town and could not attend the meeting, expressing the younger Martin’s previously stated concerns about a privacy fence between the store lot and his property he said he was promised.

“We’re not opposed to business. We just think that approval of rezoning be made contingent upon the developer agreeing to address the concerns we, and others, have expressed in order to protect the property owners,” he said.

Rev. Greg Godwin, of the Concord United Methodist Church, which also adjoins the property, expressed his concerns about the potential safety of people using the basketball court behind the church.

Bard said she had written a letter to the developer expressing the concerns raised by citizens at the Feb. 4 Town Council meeting, including traffic flow on Route 20, fire truck access and retaining walls, among other issues.

Godwin said, “They need to fulfill what they’ve said they are going to do and respect their neighbors. Before they had even started core drilling, they had come onto our property without even notifying us. They need to talk to us before they cross our property.”

After further discussion, Bard then decided to conduct an informal audience survey as to their general feeling on the project. The feedback was, in general, positive with only Liz Roth expressing her opposition due to her concerns about traffic safety in the area.

Town Recorder John David Smith and Councilman Scott Ingram proposed that the council pass the ordinance changes and that a letter from the town to the contractor, the church, the Martins and other affected parties be sent. The letter would call for the contractor, town officials, the church and the Martins to meet regularly over the concerns expressed by the latter two parties.

After further debate, the first ordinance passed unanimously on motion of Ingram and Councilman Tim Pike. The second passed unanimously on a motion by Ingram and Councilwoman Sally J. Howard.

During the discussion, Bard said that, if the ordinances were approved, construction would begin some time in March.

— Contact Jeff Harvey at delimartman@yahoo.com.

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