By Matthew Townsend
The Diocese of Atlanta has withdrawn a rezoning proposal necessary to build a 106-bedroom private dormitory that would replace its small campus chapel at the University of Georgia in Athens.
Online Athens reports that the withdrawal followed a meeting of the Athens-Clarke County commissioners in which developers heard serious concerns about traffic and congestion that the “Episcopal House” project might create.
The university also expressed concerns about the project in a letter, saying its classification as a dormitory “could create confusion by suggesting an affiliation with the university’s residential life program.” Like official UGA dorms, it would be in the middle of campus; unlike UGA dorms, Episcopal House’s undergraduate and graduate residents would lack access to supervision and support provided in university-run housing, the letter said.
Don Plummer, media relations coordinator for the diocese, told TLC that Episcopal House residents would live in an environment that differs from traditional dormitories. He described the project as a residential community in which support is present but different. “We will have an assigned chaplain, and there will be regular opportunities for students or others to be in contact with our chaplain, to have the opportunity for counselling, to have the opportunity for inclusion in group activities.”
The decision to withdraw the proposal now, before a vote, allows the diocese to submit a revised proposal at any time. If the proposal were rejected by commissioners, the diocese would need to wait a year before resubmitting, according to Online Athens.
“We definitely plan to continue the project,” Plummer said. “What we want to do is make it a good neighbor with both the city and the university. We think that the plan that we presented does that; however, because of certain concerns that were raised during the review process, we felt like it was appropriate for us to pull back for a moment and continue to solicit input.”
Plummer said the Diocese of Atlanta hopes to become a permanent part of the university community with this project, and to create a space where students, regardless of their religious affiliation, can find a spiritual and social alternative to traditional dorms. “That’s really been our goal from the very beginning.”
Image: Rendering by Studio BNA Architects of the Diocese of Atlanta’s proposed dormitory.