Forsyth Street convenience store plans get another chance at P&Z

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning had health concerns about fuel center, and potential to cut through to Monroe Street


Liz Fabian

The Summit Group wants to tear down this 1956 Handy Andy store and build a new convenience store at Forsyth and Monroe streets.

The developer of a proposed convenience store at Forsyth and Monroe streets will get another hearing before the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission.

P&Z’s intention to deny the rehearing seemed a certainty after Monday’s administrative pre-meeting, but The Summit Group’s Jim Rollins offered to remove the fuel tanks from the design while he and attorney Bill Larsen made their arguments for another look.

Neither the Design Review Board nor P&Z approved Rollins’ prior application.

DRB’s Chair Chris Clark was concerned people would cut through the property if traffic backed up at the light. He spoke against the proposed store at a P&Z meeting in June.

The application for the new store was filed before P&Z enacted restrictions on having fuel pumps or tanks within 500 feet of homes over potential health hazards from fumes.

In the request for the rehearing, Rollins mentioned that the gateway to downtown Macon would be enhanced by tearing down the old Darrell’s tavern and the existing corner store and building a design recently approved on Amelia Island.

“I firmly believe that the store design presented will be and (sic) improvement to a 1956 Handy Andy store… and a building built in 1929 that has no wiring and roof… ,” Rollins wrote in the application.

Larsen took issue with what he called the commission’s “vote” during their pre-meeting when multiple commissioners said they did not want to rehear the application as they discussed agenda items with staff in the public meeting.

“I don’t buy the criticism,” P&Z’s Josh Rogers told Larsen as Rogers explained commissioners were only voicing their opinions, which was not a formal vote.

Larsen also complained about DRB Chair Clark’s comments about the store placement and proposed tanker truck route through the parking lot. Larsen said DRB’s role in the decision only should have involved a small section of the lots that was zoned Historic Commercial.

P&Z Chair Jeane Easom told Larsen the commission was only interested in the new information they were bringing to the table for reconsideration.

The rehearing application included new correspondence from the Macon-Bibb County traffic engineer that posed no objection to the store, information from GDOT about curb cuts, and more details on sidewalks, landscaping and the fuel tanker route.

“The burden from you right now is that your new information is enough to show we made a bad decision or need to reconsider,” Rogers told Larsen.

Once Rollins mentioned removing the gas pumps, commissioners unanimously agreed to rehear the store application at a later hearing.

Revised used car lot plans for Log Cabin Drive

P&Z told the applicant for a used car sales office in the 4600 block of Log Cabin Drive that the design need to fit in with nearby “million dollar properties.” (Liz Fabian)

Plans for a Log Cabin Drive used car lot made it through P&Z after commissioners rejected the applicant’s planned mobile home and two-story office building during the July 11 meeting.

Faisal Sultan was told to come back Monday with new plans for the office building that would be more in line with what Easom, a professional appraiser, called “million dollar properties” nearby.

Sultan’s new proposal calls for a 320 square-foot-building made out of brick, a paved lot to hold up to 35 cars and a fenced, gravel lot for 15 to 20 vehicles in the rear of the property at 4606 and 4614 Log Cabin Drive.

“I think you’re going to sell a lot more cars this way, too,” Rogers told Sultan.

“This is a much better presentation, so I think, like Josh said, you’re going to sell a lot more cars,” Easom echoed.

The business will be open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Detour design dilemma

When the new owners of a north Macon hotel wanted to fix its failing façade last year, P&Z learned the original builders of Woodspring Suites didn’t use brick as was approved in the 2008 original design for 2000 Bowman Park Blvd.

Monday, Phillip Cox requested that commissioners help owners cut rising costs of the repairs by changing the materials.

In December, commissioners approved panels of the synthetic stucco-like EFIS, or Exterior Insulation Finishing Systems, and brick veneer to replace the faux brick panels that were installed incorrectly and have warped, the applicant said.

The estimated cost of the approved façade change is now about $640,000, so they proposed using a mixture of EFIS and Hardie Board or Hardie Board and thin brick veneer. The new options would run between $475,000 and $500,000, according to the application.

“Since this was built originally, there’s been a lot of development in that area and unfortunately that development is a higher scale,” Easom said.

Rogers lamented that staff did not catch the builders using cheaper materials when the hotel went up off of Interstate 75 near Bass Road.

“It really makes me upset to make the wrong decision because we made the right decision,” Rogers said. “It should be brick.”

Even if it were within budget, the four-story building as built would not support the brick, P&Z’s Gary Bechtel noted.

Commissioners opted to approve all Hardie Board, which they felt would hold up better and be easier to maintain.

New tire store for sub-south

A new Mavis Tire Store is going up in the Tobesofee Crossing Shopping Center near Publix on Thomaston Road. (Liz Fabian)

As construction is underway for a new Mavis Tire Store on Thomaston Road near Publix, another location for the chain of more than 700 stores is planned on the south side of Bibb County.

P&Z Commissioners approved the conditional use of more than eight acres at 4391 Hartley Bridge Road, adjacent to the Kroger, for the 6,730 square-foot tire store showroom, storage, service bays and restroom.

The project includes two additional retail spaces of 2,000 and 2,500 square feet, but no tenants have been secured yet.

The new Mavis Tire Store and accompanying retail shops will be built next to the Kroger at 4391 Hartley Bridge Road. (Liz Fabian)

Kirk Farrelly explained the buildings would be on about 1.7 acres of the larger parcel. The eight service bays would be facing the Kroger with access all around the building and 35 parking spaces.

“Cars do not idle or anything when they are serviced so there’s no fumes,” Farrelly said.

He equated the noise to nothing more than already is coming from nearby Interstate 75.

Mavis plans to hire up to eight employees to run the store.

Reversing rezoning and expanding Allentown

Developer Ashok Patel came back to P&Z Monday to ask commissioners to reverse their earlier rezoning decision for his motel property at 4173 Cavalier Drive.

In 2018, Patel originally had it rezoned from General Commercial to Multi-Family Residential due to a pending application for tax credits to build low-income housing.

The tax credits were not approved and the plans fell through. Now Patel is planning to refinance the business, which requires the proper zoning. The former P&Z commissioner tore down the blighted nightclub nearby in January after it was on Mayor Lester Miller’s Top 10 blighted property list with more than three years of unpaid taxes, according to a #13Investigates report on WMAZ-TV.

Commissioner Bechtel said it is not uncommon for deals to unravel when tax credits are not secured.

“Next time we should make it an automatic reversal” if the plans do not go through, Rogers said.

Commissioners approved the rezoning and conditional use of the hotel in that commercial district.

Developers will finish what was started in 2006 in the Allentown neighborhood after P&Z approved expanding the subdivision at 2661 Allen Road.

Property owner David McCrory plans to subdivide nearly 16 acres into 68 single-family lots in phases 4 and 5 of the neighborhood.

Bechtel noted that south Bibb County has been plagued recently by flooding issues, but the developer pledged to maintain the stormwater retention pond on the property to guard against runoff.

Commissioners approved the new construction as long as builders leave a 25 foot-buffer around the property.

In other P&Z business:

350 Second St. – Illuminated sign approved for the new Woodward Hotel at Mulberry Street Lane.

519 Plum St. – A new Emerson at Plum sign was approved as part of the rebranding of the former Emerson Ballroom event center between Second and Third streets. The logo of a gilded “E” between pairs of tall, thin evergreen trees mimics the courtyard of the event center. Former owner Cesare Mammarella, who moved to Italy last month, told The Macon Newsroom he sold the business to Jarvis Willis, who has an events and designs business at 3243 Vineville Ave.

892 Elm St. – New windows approved for an over 100-year-old house in the Beall’s Hill neighborhood.

910 Tattnall St. – New fence and trellis over the front gate approved.

1464 Calhoun St. – Fence approved for the side and rear yards.

2870 Vineville Ave. – Commission approved replacing two garage doors with twin pairs of wood double-hung windows.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.