P&Z approves new funeral home, office building, but nixes cell tower


Liz Fabian

Richard Robinson plans to build a new funeral home at 2500 Shurling Drive across from St. Paul AME Church.

Neighborhood cooperation proved key in Monday’s hearings of the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Compromises with north Macon neighbors smoothed the approval of a new office building on more than 7 acres on three parcels at the juncture of Arkwright Road and Wesleyan Drive. But it was the lack of response from east Macon property owners that troubled commissioners enough to deny a proposed communications tower in Dry Branch.

Before Monday’s meeting, Steven Rowland, of Rowland Engineering, tweaked his proposal for a two-story office building after meeting with a strong contingent of Wesleyan Drive area neighbors. Five of them showed up at the hearing.

Progressive Communications plans to build a two-story office near the intersection of Arkwright Road and Wesleyan Drive. (Liz Fabian)

Julie Bragg, who’s lived there 45 years, asked that 1.6 acres on the corner be left agricultural and untouched as 2151 Wesleyan and 5773 and 5753 Arkwright are rezoned to allow for a new office for the Progressive Group.

“We know we can’t stop this commercial development that’s coming out there but we really wanted to protect Wesleyan,” said Bragg, who remembers when the closest commercial property was down near Northside Drive.

She lamented the loss of the neighborhood’s old Holton community that was one of the oldest settlements in Georgia before it faded into obscurity.

Bragg also successfully lobbied for Rowland to seek Planned Development Commercial zoning instead of Neighborhood Commercial so that any other future development would have to come back for P&Z approval.

Bragg was disappointed to learn at the meeting that the building will be two stories, but she agreed the quiet, 9 to 5 operation would be the best option for neighbors.

Rowland shifted the building so that the driveway entrance is farther from the corner down on Arkwright and increased a proposed buffer from 50 feet to 75 feet along the boundary of the office lot and Scott Chambers’ adjacent property.

Chambers said he did not oppose the office but was not happy about what it could do to his property value and the privacy near his swimming pool.

“With all the commercial property vacant in this town, I don’t know why it’s being put in my backyard,” Chambers said.

Commissioner Josh Rogers agreed it was unfortunate that Progressive’s current location could lie dormant in a cycle that has plagued Macon and led to increased commercial blight.

Marion Discher, who lives in nearby Stagecoach Estates, wanted commissioners to know Maj. Tarpley Holt is buried in a small cemetery on the land next to Chambers’ backyard.

“He was the first legislator from our county and he founded Mulberry Methodist… so he’s basically a founder of our Methodist churches,” Discher said.

Holt, a Halifax County, Virginia, native, was the first settler in Bibb County west of the Ocmulgee River and commanded a battalion at old Fort Hawkins in the Creek Indian War, according to Telegraph archives.

She has been hoping a scout troop might clear out the cemetery one day, restore the monuments and give access to Holt’s resting place.

Rowland said he was aware of the cemetery which is one of the reasons for the increased buffer.

Commissioners unanimously approved the rezoning even with Rogers’ reluctance,

“I think this is the best we can do,” Rogers said. “That means there will be something else on the blight list and we’ll be tearing it down.”

What goes up could come down

Planning and Zoning commissioners heard no opposition about a proposed communications tower at 5719 Jeffersonville Road, but had their own concerns.

Andy Logue, representing Tower Source, sought approval to build a 260-foot-tall tower to provide better coverage for AT&T in the area.

Logue presented color-coded maps showing how the tower would improve the signal.

Although he had a signed letter from the primary property owner, Logue said he could not track down owners of adjacent properties, including one plot with a house so close to the proposed site that a variance was needed.

The tower is designed to withstand 110 mile per hour winds and buckle instead of topple, but its hazards due to icing were not specified.

“So with ice, we don’t know,” Commissioner Tim Jones said.

“I don’t like the idea that there are houses out there and this could fall on them,” Chairwoman Jeanne Easom said. “Ninety-nine-point-nine percent probably won’t, but that less than one percent chance.”

“We’re living in a time that things we never think would happen, happen,” Commissioner Bryan Scott said.

They denied the conditional use and variance for the tower.

East Macon Funeral Home

Mortician Richard Robinson plans to expand into east Macon.

The owner of two funeral homes that bear his name on Russell Parkway in Warner Robins and in the former Crestlawn Funeral Home on Pio Nono Avenue in Macon, wants to build a nearly 7,300-square-foot location at 2500 Shurling Drive, across from St. Paul AME church.

Robinson plans to buy half of an 8-acre parcel along the state highway.

It will be a full-service funeral home with a 140-seat chapel. Cremations will be done off-site, according to the application.

“We have a good buffer around the neighborhood now, but have some challenges working with the state,” architect Gene Dunwody Jr. told commissioners.

A deceleration lane will likely be required by GDOT engineers, he said.

“That is a hard area in there to find something that fits,” Chairwoman Easom said.

Robinson had tried to buy the old school on Millerfield Road but could not agree to a deal, Dunwody said.

A wood-frame, brick accented building is planned.

“There’s a need out there and we want the building to have a nice design from the street,” Dunwody said.

Commissioners unanimously approved the project.

Other actions

Up to 15 used cars at a time will be sold on this lot at 995 Key Street. (Liz Fabian)

995 Key St. – Commissioners granted conditional use for a used car lot next to Superior Paint and Body Shop at the corner of Keystone Street. Applicant Rachell Tindell plans to sell no more than 15 cars at a time at Superior Auto Sales.

371 Spring St. – Commissioners approved architectural shingles on the roof.

534 – Bartlett St. – Commissioners approved a sheet metal shop inside an existing 2,600-square-foot-structure. Applicant Frantz Dieubonne plans to make brackets, hobby signs, name plates and other small metal parts.

4841 Harmon Place – Variance granted to plat property not fronting the public right-or-way in a family lot in an agricultural district.

Contact Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected].