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Storm shelter for Cowart Elementary will now be rental homes in Athens

WAAY-31 learned the bids for construction on a storm shelter were too high, so now there's a possibility for rental homes instead.

Posted: Jan 30, 2020 5:16 PM
Updated: Jan 30, 2020 5:43 PM

Athens land once designated for a storm shelter could now become rental homes instead.

The city told WAAY 31 that bids for a shelter in the area behind the James Cowart Elementary School came back too high.

The nearest storm shelter is 3 miles away from this area.

But now there's a possibility for nearly 30 rental homes to be built here instead.

"We're to the time now, where we need storm shelters everywhere. There's no certain area, every area needs it now," said Titus Redus.

Redus said he was disappointed to hear the city council ruled out the possibility for another shelter.

The land is owned by the board of education, and officials told WAAY-31 after waiting for more than a year, bids for construction were still too high.

They wanted to use the land for something, so they decided on single-family rental homes, which is something some people in the area aren't happy about.

"More rental houses just means more traffic in the area," said John Watson.

Watson lives across the street from the elementary school and said there are days the traffic is so bad he can barely leave his driveway.

The developer wants to build about 30 houses on 6 acres of land.

They'd be priced between $160,000 and $180,000.

Redus told us he hopes the city is aware of what it's giving up for more homes.

"F-1s, F-3s, F-5 storms I don't think Cowart is built to be a protective shelter," said Redus.

The decision on the rental homes is tabled until February's city council meeting, but most are hoping the city will consider a closer storm shelter in this area.

Athens City Council said if the school board allows for the new homes, they would have to rezone the area.

They'll bring the conversation up in their next council meeting on Feb. 10.

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