Neighboring convenience stores, new gym and Sardis Road truck stop approved

The debate over Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission‘s approval of two neighboring convenience stores shows why regulation changes are pending.

“This is one of the reasons why I think we can’t get new zoning regs fast enough, ” P&Z chairwoman Jeane Easom said during the commission’s administrative meeting Monday.

First up, commissioners approved Raxit Patel’s conditional use request to put what he calls a “small grocery” with fuel pumps in the old Taco Bell at 1212 Eisenhower Parkway, not far west from Interstate 75.

The commission also approved a conditional use request for Kareem Ali to build a brand new convenience store with gas pups at 1250 Eisenhower Parkway, next door to the Sunoco Store at the corner of Pio Nono.

Willam Larson, an attorney representing Patel, actually spoke against Ali’s proposal because of the proximity to his client’s project.

In the vicinity of that 1200 block, there are two other existing convenience stores on the other side of Eisenhower.

“We don’t need that many convenience stores,” Easom said.

“They would beg to differ with you,” P&Z Executive Director Jim Thomas noted of the applicants at the hearing.

A new convenience store with fuel sales has been approved for the parking lot in front of the old Piggly Wiggly at 1250 Eisenhower Pkwy. A light industrial manufacturer could be moving into the old supermarket. (Liz Fabian )

P&Z Commissioner Gary Bechtel noted that in this stretch of commercial blight “we have two people who wish to invest millions of dollars to put these two properties in service.”

Easom said she is “all for anybody opening a business and be successful,” but she worries what will happen to the buildings if the businesses fail due to too much competition in the neighborhood.

Bechtel said the commission needs to determine what is the best use for that land.

“I think that’s what we have to determine and not try to read into the future if somebody is going to make it or not,” Bechtel said.

The commission has enacted a moratorium on convenience store applications so they can further study what should guide their decisions. These two projects were filed before the moratorium was approved.

Jim Rollins and Robert Moore, who represented Ali at the hearing, said they also have plans for a light industrial manufacturing facility in a deal that is pending for the old vacant Piggly Wiggly on the same large parcel of the shopping center.

A future public work session is planned to include the convenience store industry in the discussion of how such properties would be handled going forward.

New gym approved for north Macon

Max Fitness, which recently opened a 40,000 square-foot-location on Sutherlin Drive in Warner Robins, will be opening a new 36,000 square-foot-gym at 4154 Riverside Drive, just north of Sue Drive.

P&Z commissioners approved the conditional use for the 9 acres zoned for agriculture, which includes certain recreational uses.

Fitness manager Jeremy Blowers said they hope to close on the land by the end of the year with construction expected to take at least a year.

“It’s going to be a large facility and will have boutiques inside,” Blower said.

The fitness center will include a large, family-oriented pool and tanning beds.

Sardis Church truck stop cleared for construction

Concerned residents packed into P&Z meetings in February and April to protest rezoning for a new truck stop at 5250 Sardis Church Road, but no one spoke against the project’s final approval Monday.

Although commissioners originally deferred February’s rezoning request to allow for a traffic study, they rezoned the land from agricultural to planned development industrial in April.

Monday, David Stoniecki of the Forsyth Group was back to show commissioners the final site plan for the Travel Centers of America location and its two outparcels for future development.

“This is a great property to continue servicing the industrial needs of the area,” Stoniecki said.

A stream, wetlands and a 150 foot-buffer will remain on the west side of the property adjacent to the residential neighborhood home to many of those who were opposed to the project.

Lights will be shining upward and away from houses.

“They will obviously still see a glow where there is not one now,” Thomas noted in the pre-meeting before the hearing.

The spring traffic study showed additional traffic from that second truck stop across the street from the existing Love’s location is still under the Georgia Department of Transportation’s threshold for a traffic light.

Negotiations are underway with Macon-Bibb County traffic engineers and the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, Stoniecki said. Entities are expected to share the cost of any future traffic signal at Frank Amerson Parkway, he said.

Other items approved:

384 Buford Place – new fence approved.

497 Second Street – new sign approved for Kinjo Kitchen.

636 – 696 Pio Nono Ave. – church approved in existing 5,000 square-foot-warehouse.

682 Cherry Street – new signs approved for Hotel 45 in the old Southern Trust building bordering Cotton Avenue and First Street.

915 Ross Ave. – landscaping renovations approved.

979 Edgewood Ave. – exterior modifications approved.

5021 Mercer University Drive  – 3-wheeled motorcycle, or Slingshot, rental facility approved.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County Government entities and can be reached at [email protected].