The 2018 Draft Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) is an impressive document. Its size (hundreds of pages!) and scope (decades!) are overwhelming. With such a long-term, aspirational scope, it can be difficult to see how the Comp Plan will affect the future. Items we love may not be implemented; consequences we fear now may never come to pass. Still, the Comp Plan will be the guidestone planning document, one that “is meant to outline a collective strategy going forward that makes every attempt to ensure the continued health, safety, and general welfare of the community.” Because it such an important document, we want to provide our thoughts on the main bulk—the first 90ish pages—of the Comp Plan. We’ll begin with a few general observations and finish with some selections of specific text.

We are excited how often the principle of “Equity” appears in the Comp Plan. Time and again, the plan mentions the need to ensure our community provides equity and / or equitable access to Athens resources. Given the stakes—“More than one in three residents are classified as living in poverty. Almost 40% of the county’s children experience poverty” (Draft Comp Plan p. 6)—it is critical that we address inequality. Given the racialized aspects of Athens’ income inequality (see the Athens Wellbeing Project) it is imperative that, as the Comp Plan notes multiple times, we must embrace equitable principles to address these deep, historical injustices and ensure they do not deepen.

BikeAthens and Georgia Bikes recognize the hard work and dedication of the planning steering committee and ACC planning department in the creation process of the 2018 Comprehensive Plan. We also recognize the strategies and policies by which the committee aims to form a more equitable and accessible Athens. The Comp Plan describes a beautiful, aspirational, equitable Athens-Clarke County—a community that will work to ensure all the wonderful programs are accessible to all. But can the dream become reality? The Comp Plan describes the destination, but we are not sure it provides the roadmap. That is to say, in describing the hopes for a future Athens, the Plan remains vague, perhaps by necessity. Nonetheless, as written, the Comp Plan keeps the hard work in the future. It will remain ahead of us to create specific strategies and policies to create an equitable Athens-Clarke County (for example, the adoption and use of Equity Impact Analyses). In our exploration of the revised draft, we have made note of a few items to which we hope to provide some useful responses.

Page and Line #Comp Plan TextOur Response
P. 16, Health, Policy BContinue to support healthy livingWe understand that the Comp Plan needs to fit state-mandated formatting, we still want to note the need for holistic approaches. A discussion of health should include equitable access for safe places to walk and bike, including sidewalks, bikeways, trails, and parks/greenspace.
P. 17, Safety, Needs & Opportunities, “d”
Enhance a more equitable neighborhood traffic-calming program that promotes safe walkability to various destinations.
We agree! Traffic-calming would also promote bikeability and improve access to transit.
P. 18, Safety, Strategy 4Improve cyclist and pedestrian safety through educational campaign, facility improvements, and law enforcement.As mentioned in our previous comment, we of course support increased safety for people biking and walking. As it comes to law enforcement, we should be mindful that we are targeting dangerous behaviors, and not over-policing minority communities (See Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.)
P. 27, Housing, Strategy 1Target challenged multi-family developments for major redevelopment, especially mixed-incomeWe share the concerns of other commenters that this policy, while well-intentioned, may have the unintended consequences of causing more displacement.
P. 29, Land Use, Needs & Opportunities, “c-e”A vibrant downtown with less vehicles, but more open space, that is clean, walkable, and park-like. Examine parking standards to align with current trends and proven business needs that may result in a lower minimum ratio. Ensure that mixed-use development truly provides multiple uses amongst varying architecture and structure size. First-floor commercial should only be mandated in areas found to be appropriate; however, such areas then should strictly adhere to this requirement. We agree wholeheartedly!
P. 29, Land Use, Needs & Opportunities, “i”
Complete the Firefly Trail to the county line at Winterville and continue to develop the Oconee Rivers Greenway trail system. For both trail programs, develop a zoning overlay to encourage compatible adjoining land use and development.
We agree that this important to ensure equitable access to these resources as well as retain and encourage affordable/workforce housing and local business development on these corridors.
P. 33, Neighborhood, Needs & Opportunities, “g”Basic infrastructure (roads, utilities, sidewalks, etc.) should be the standard for all neighborhoods, and a lack thereof threatens prosperity.We agree! Moving forward into the creation of specific strategies and policies, we would like to see a framework for equitable prioritization and implementation.
P. 33, Neighborhoods, Needs & Opportunities, “o”
Public gathering and meeting spaces that are free and open to all, like that of public schools which can be used as centers for civic engagement. Open street events also provide an opportunity for neighborhood interaction and promote vitality.We agree. Atlanta Streets Alive and Open Streets Macon are both terrific examples of how we can spark the imagination of citizens and build community and a sense of place!
P. 34, Neighborhoods, Needs & Opportunities, Goal
Our neighborhoods will be vibrant, safe, and stable places where residents interact with each other and have access to a range of diverse housing types, public spaces, and services.
We agree. Everyone should have a safe, vibrant, neighborhood. At the same time, we also need to proactively protect and encourage workforce housing to ensure people are not displaced from “improved” neighborhoods.
P. 34, Neighborhoods, Strategy 2
Ensure equitable access to basic infrastructure, including sidewalks, lighting, street trees, etc. to enhance neighborhood safety and identity.
We agree and would expand this to include access to bikeways and transit!
P. 38, Environment, Needs & Opportunities, “q”.
Support the latest Greenway Network Plan through land use and transportation initiatives.
We agree. Let us use what we have and collaborate in our efforts to tie Athens together in multimodal ways!
P. 39-40, Environment, Policy D
Provide safer, affordable transportation options including walking, biking, and clean transit.
We agree.
P. 44, Transportation, General Statement
The community seeks a balanced approach to transportation initiatives that are influenced by a
number of factors. Multiple modes of transportation are encouraged for the pedestrian,
bicyclist, transit rider, and automotive driver. Incorporating street infrastructure that
accommodates all users will not only relieve traffic congestion, but accomplish the movement of
goods and services. Through context sensitive street design, health and safety are promoted,
and the desired sense of community is maintained.
We agree that all residents of Athens-Clarke County will benefit from improved transportation choices! Along with these goals, we, as a community should continue to pursue improved transit, and discuss the benefits of increased coverage versus increased ridership.
P. 44-45, Transportation, Needs & Opportunities, “ m”
Repair streets and sidewalks that will in turn increase safety while beautifying streets. A sidewalk bank should be used to help with costs.
We agree, especially about the idea of creating a sidewalk bank.
P. 45, Transportation, Needs & Opportunities, “r”
No person should have to have a vehicle to get from place to place within the county. Retail establishments should be accessible by all modes of transportation.
We agree. This touches on each person’s right to mobility and the importance of accessibility to destinations with different modes of transportation.
P. 46, Transportation, Policies.
We would like to see an additional policy based on recommendations in “Georgia Bikes: Complete Street Equity Analysis.”
P. 47, Infrastructure, Needs & Opportunities, “l”.“Consider simple dirt paths to expand walking and biking connectivity” We think this is an idea worth pursuing! Great to see “out of the box” ideas. Consider gravel as a cost-effective upgrade to dirt paths.