South Bibb neighbors thwart commercial encroachment

Macon-Bibb P&Z also allows group home expansion, travel trailer park and OKs altered plans for River Edge neighborhood off Bloomfield 


Liz Fabian

After the required six-month waiting period, Next Step Recovery Ministries received Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning approval to build a new two-story building for staff quarters and amenities for program residents in the 4400 block of Houston Ave.

Residents of a south Bibb County neighborhood convinced the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission to deny a neighbor’s request to run his business out of a home on the corner of Sardis Church Road. 

Harold and Catharine DeLoach presented legal briefs at Monday’s hearing asking commissioners to deny Joey Prince’s rezoning request for 7078 Murray Drive and the adjacent 4661 Sardis Church Road.

Prince wanted P&Z to rezone the two lots from Agricultural to R-2, a residential district that allows professional offices, to allow him to run his property management business out of the Murray Drive house he owns, but won’t be living in.

The DeLoaches informed the commission that the Fairystone neighborhood has restrictive covenants limiting the properties to residential use only. 

Harold DeLoach said the widening of Sardis Church Road has already disturbed their quiet, peaceful neighborhood where they had to stop and let cows cross the road in the late 70s.

“We’re concerned about the devaluation of our property,” Harold DeLoach said. 

Catharine DeLoach told commissioners she was representing the residents seeking to protect the integrity of the neighborhood. Several neighbors attended the meeting. 

“Our concern is not only having a business, but what’s going to happen when that business changes?” she asked. “We will have no recourse for what comes in later.”

A lawncare business on Sardis Church Road that was approved nearby in 2015 has become a parking ground for large equipment, the neighbors said. 

P&Z Commissioner Wykesia Stafford said she thought, at first, that the trucks on that lot were there for road construction, but they stayed after the road was finished. 

“It’s an eyesore because you drive down and see nicely manicured lawns” around the landscaping business, Stafford said. 

Commissioner Josh Rogers noted that after hearing the neighborhood’s objections, the commission should deny the rezoning.  He cited P&Z’s rezoning criteria and said there are  grounds for denial because the hardship caused to Prince by not being able to use the property for his business was not greater than the benefit of keeping the neighborhood agricultural for the sake of the neighbors.

The denial was unanimous, with Commissioner Tim Jones absent from Monday’s meeting.  

Recovery ministry approved for expansion on adjacent land

Next Step Recovery Ministries will be building a 4,000-square-foot, two-story building at 4418 Houston Ave. to serve as housing for its employees and meeting space and amenities for its neighboring residential recovery facility. 

Because the request was an expansion of an existing transitional-type recovery center, Georgia law required a six-month waiting period from when the project was first proposed in September until it could be approved. 

Commissioners agreed to commercial zoning for the lot, which is currently being used to store timber. It was zoned R-2, the residential neighborhood distinction that only allows certain types of businesses.  

P&Z also signed off on the plans for the new building, which includes three staff bedrooms, a bathroom and kitchen upstairs. The downstairs, which adjoins the current building, will feature a library-type conference room, offices, laundry room, weight room and bathroom with showers. 

In other business

  • 112 Broadway – Signs approved for the Riverside Storage facility at the rear of the old Telegraph Building, facing Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.                                                                  
  • 502 Mulberry St. – Approval granted for new signs for Adams ADR at the corner of Third Street. The law firm did not apply for the required Certificate of Appropriateness until after the installation, but the Design Review Board determined and P&Z concurred that Adams’ signs need to be moved up a bit on the building to accommodate the Oconee State Bank signs that did receive approval before installation. 
  • 3648 Eisenhower Pkwy. – Yvonne Hawes was granted permission to open a Pars Car Sales used car dealership in the old Rooms To Go location. The company has been operating in the Atlanta Metro Area for more than 30 years and currently has seven locations, including one that opened in Athens last November, according to the application. The Macon business plans to employ up to six people and be open Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. with an inventory of up to 100 vehicles to sell.
  • 2918 Bloomfield Road – The River Edge Foundation was granted conditional use approval for a 26-unit multi-family development for seniors and the disabled. The property was rezoned in 2021 to allow for the subdivision, but the resubmitted plans indicate the neighborhood’s community center will be built later when funds are available.
  • 5300 Eisenhower Pkwy – Conditional use approval granted for a travel trailer park on 34 acres recently rezoned from agricultural to a planned commercial development. The company plans to build 156 parking pads, a check-in station, bath house and a pad for a dumpster on that site that was previously used as a motocross track. Commissioners approved the proposal as long as a second emergency exit is designed to allow access for the fire department.

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