Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Rattlesnakes, alligator and floods don’t stop south Bibb development

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning approved a scaled-down subdivision neighbors oppose, and board plans to be proactive about design review districts
Liz Fabian
Engineer Steven Rowland explains changes made to plans for the Rocky Creek Estates subdivision at the July 10 meeting of the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission.

Stories of Frank, the 11-foot alligator, rattlesnakes chasing folks during mating season and shoe-snatching swamp mud were not enough to stop a planned high-density housing neighborhood in south Bibb County.

Last month, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved rezoning to allow a cluster development of homes on nearly 79 acres at 1658 Jennifer Drive, but commissioners asked for tweaks in the design before granting approval for Rocky Creek Estates.

Monday, Rowland Engineering came back from the drawing board with a revised plan that reduced the number of units from 363 to 346 by cutting the number of single-family homes from 273 to 248 and increasing the townhouse units from 90 to 98.

Engineer Steven Rowland included the design of the swimming pool, additional pocket parks for green space and scaled down trails in wetlands to satisfy the requirements for enhanced amenities in higher-density developments. At last month’s meeting, Rowland wasn’t even sure the nearby wetlands could support trails.

As was the case last month, several residents spoke against project at this week’s meeting due to concerns about traffic, flooding and disturbing wildlife.

Jennifer Drive was just a dirt road when John McCoy bought his home 25 years ago.

McCoy said he’s killed 56 rattlesnakes since then.

“Wildlife have to have somewhere to go. We had an alligator at the house across from me,” McCoy said.

That gator, whom neighbors named Frank, was relocated from the Stephens’ property in May with help from the Bibb County Sheriff’s Animal Welfare officers.

“It took seven hours for DNR’s alligator catcher. He was dangerous. They told us to keep the children in the house,” Lila Stephens said. “If there’s a lot of development in the swamp area, that’s what you’re going to wind up with.”

A 346-unit residential cluster subdivision has been approved on nearly 79 acres at the end of Jennifer Drive off Rocky Creek Road. (Liz Fabian)

Terry Herring, who lives at the current end of Jennifer Drive where the entrance to Rocky Creek Estates is planned, is not only concerned about increased traffic but stormwater drainage.

“It’s real swamp land,” Herring said. “After that floods, it’ll pull your shoes off it’s that boggy down there.”

Rocky Creek and Tobesofkee Creek come together near the proposed subdivision, and neighbors say there are also natural springs that pop up after heavy rains.

The residents of Jennifer Drive are on septic systems, but Rowland said a sanitary sewer system is planned for the new property owners. The Macon Water Authority and possibly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to approve the plans.

“Because of all the state and federal guidelines, you’re going to have to take care of that water,” P&Z Chair Jeane Easom said.

Rowland said a downstream analysis will be conducted before permits are issued, but the plan is to have rainwater drain into the neighboring wetlands.

“They’ve got a lot of hurdles to cross,” said P&Z’s Gary Bechtel, who also chairs the Macon Water Authority.

Easom’s main concern was about visitor parking on the street considering the close proximity of the houses, but developers said cars can be stacked in front of garages.

Studies also will be required to determine if a traffic signal will be needed at Jennifer Drive and Rocky Creek Road during the permitting phase for the project.

Commissioners voted 3 to 1 to approve the conditional use of the property with Wykesia Stafford voting no and Josh Rogers absent.

Educating historic property owners on design rules

In recent months, the Design Review Board of P&Z has dealt with multiple homeowners who failed to apply for appropriate permits before renovations. They ran afoul of DRB guidelines and begged for forgiveness from P&Z’s enforcement of the rules.

Jeffrey Ruggieri (MBPZ)

P&Z Executive Director Jeffrey Ruggieri said he has reached out to neighborhood associations and made a presentation to the Board of Realtors, but inspectors continue to find violations.

“It just still seems probably too many people are just falling through the cracks, especially a lot recently, and some of them are very, very serious,” Ruggieri told the board.

Several neighborhoods have strict rules for the type of materials used as well as fence placement and landscaping.

“These realtors are not inclined to make that real obvious,” Easom said.

People often claim ignorance of the rules as they make a case for exceptions, which are rarely awarded as the neighborhoods themselves requested the designation, and commissioners have repeatedly said they don’t think it’s fair to not equally enforce the rules.

Ruggieri plans a mass mail-out to the estimated 3,100 properties under the regulations in Vineville, Beall’s Hill, InTown and the Central Business District. He said he’s had success with that in the past, but the notices need to be resent when property changes hands.

The board embraced the concept and gave Ruggieri the go-ahead to spend money to print and distribute notices.

“An ongoing education process would be good, even a semi-annual, or annual newsletter,” said P&Z’s Tim Jones.

Ruggieri said he believes the campaign will reduce violations.

“I’ve done it in the past. It works, but you have to keep doing it,” Ruggieri said.

Other zoning decisions

The old Chuck E. Cheese building at 3374 Mercer University Drive has been vacant several years. Macon-Bibb P&Z approved an auto collision and glass repair shop for the building on an outparcel of Macon Mall near the county’s new amphitheater under construction. (Liz Fabian)
  • 3374 Mercer University Drive –  An auto body repair and glass shop is approved for the old Chuck E. Cheese location. Steve Rowland said the project is a “good reuse of a site that is currently vacant and somewhat blighted.” Rowland assured commissioners that wrecked cars will not be stored for long periods of time and will be behind a privacy fence, which commissioners mandated be 8 feet tall. Stafford asked about noise, since there are nearby homes, but a company representative said auto body repair has evolved to more of a part replacement operation than the “beating of metal” back into shape in the 70s. Gerber Collision Auto Body and Glass Shop plans to employ 15 to 18 workers making salaries between $90,000 and $300,000, Rowland said.
  • 4230 Mercer University Drive – Architect Gene Dunwody joked he would be appearing at P&Z for the last time as he planned to go into the car repair business after hearing of the potential six-figure salary.
    Macon-Bibb P&Z approved a variance in building setbacks after plans changed for a new convenience store at 4230 Mercer University Drive near Log Cabin Drive. (Liz Fabian)

    Dunwody explained that although his firm designed the new convenience store near Log Cabin Drive, contractors decided they could not save an on-site building that was part of the plans approved by P&Z, but failed to get approval for the new design. Dunwody appeared on behalf of the out-of-town contractor and successfully appealed retroactively for a variance needed for the placement of the new store.

  • 2980 Hillcrest Ave. – In the interest of providing affordable housing in the Economic and Community Development District of Cherokee Heights, P&Z unanimously approved a variance for a new duplex near the corner of Ernest Street. Omniterra Development did not meet the setback requirements for the front and rear of the property. Omniterra’s Stephanie Dietrich said the design could not be altered and keep the expected $100,000 price tag. Stafford asked if there was any consideration given to whether the modern industrial design of the Structural Concrete Insulated Panels, or SCIP, would seem out of place in the traditional neighborhood. “My concern is the aesthetics of it. It doesn’t look like anything else in the neighborhood,” Stafford said. “But I love it.” Putting up a stick-built home would be too expensive, said a company representative and Dietrich agreed. “We have a modular design for the amount of rooms,” Dietrich said. “This is the most cost-effective design.” Omniterra also plans to build a similar duplex next door.
  • 1060 Clinton Road – Rezoning granted from R-3 multi-family residential to C-2 general commercial and a conditional use permit was approved for Timothy Melton to operate a business selling and installing solar photovoltaic panels. On the old concrete pad of the demolished East Macon Health Care Facility, Melton plans to erect a 50 x 24-foot prefabricated steel building to house an office, bathroom and shop. Up to five workers will be hired to install solar systems on homes and small commercial properties. The business will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but delivery hours will vary between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to the application.
  • 3802 Pio Nono Ave. – Felicia Corbin was granted conditional use approval for an event center in the South Plaza Shopping Center near Rose’s. Corbin said she will not allow alcohol and won’t be cooking food on site. She is opening the business to host small gatherings such as baby showers and youth athletic celebrations.
  • 524 Mulberry St. – Certificate of appropriateness granted for exterior lighting for the sidewalk seating area at La Bella Morelia restaurant in downtown Macon.
Exterior lighting will be added to the sidewalk seating area in from tof La Bella Morelia on Mulberry Street.

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

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