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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

P&Z: Neighbors oppose car lot, new apartments could crowd east Macon elementary school

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning approves massive distribution center and truck parking lot near I-475, compromise with homeowner on fence
Liz Fabian
Timber Ridge resident Rachael Smith tells Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning commissioners it’s unfortunate that commercial zoning is currently permitted at the entrance to her neighborhood off Hartley Bridge Road.

Timber Ridge Estates neighbors packed into Monday’s Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission hearing to oppose the expansion of a neighboring car lot to recently purchased  vacant land at 4161 Hartley Bridge Road.

Concerns from the neighborhood and commissioners led the developer to go back to the drawing board and come back with a new plan late next month.

A petition listed 146 signatures of those against allowing Interstate Auto Sales to grow from a previously permitted 7 vehicles for sale at 4145 Hartley Bridge Road to an inventory of up to 76 vehicles on the adjacent lot, which borders the entrance to the single-family neighborhood.

Neighbors pointed out that business owner Josh Merrell was in violation of the prior zoning permit that was granted to a previous owner by having 16 cars on the Hartley Bridge lot. Merrell also was also cited for having vehicles improperly parked in the right-of-way at his lot on Mercer University Drive.

“We’re not opposed to him doing business. We just want him to follow the rules. But if you  haven’t followed the rules before, is he going to follow the rules at our site? I doubt very seriously,” said Timber Ridge resident Horace Holmes Jr.

Neighbors are also concerned about accidents and increased traffic as they said it’s difficult now to make a left turn out of their subdivision when weekday traffic backs up on Hartley Bridge Road.

Holmes said his car was rear-ended while trying to turn into the neighborhood.

Neighbor Garry Cummings worried the car lot would be a distraction and cause even more crashes.

Developer Matt Widner, whose company Winder & Associates applied for the permit, said they did some trip generating calculations for the car lot and determined it would be “far lower” than any of the other uses that are permitted for that C-4 commercially zoned property.

Attorney Steven Bloodworth, who was also representing Merrell’s interests at the hearing, noted the estimated additional traffic for the car lot would be 1.5 to 2 customers a day.

“That’s significantly lower than obviously a car wash, which is a permitted use, a hotel, motel, which is a permitted use,” Bloodworth said. “A strip club, which is a permitted use, could go in right now.”

Neighbor Rachael Smith said she was disappointed the Hartley Bridge frontage lots were not rezoned residential with the rest of the land when Timber Ridge was built so that homeowners would be protected from commercial encroachment next door.

“I know you weren’t on the Commission when these lots were allowed to remain C-4, but I think it’s very unfortunate and it only served the people who owned them and not anyone who is in the back of the subdivision, which they also made money off of. So, I would hope that you would take that into consideration when you make your decision,” Smith told commissioners.

Widner & Associates presented to Macon-Bibb P&Z this site plan that will be revised due to concerns raised at the Aug. 28 hearing.

The main issues for the Commission were providing enough of a buffer, such as landscaping or fencing to shield the neighbors and the proposed car lot exit onto Timber Ridge Drive.

Merrell wanted that exit to allow rollback delivery trucks to loop around the lot to leave without having to turn around.

P&Z staff noted the neighborhood entrance was not constructed to handle heavy vehicles and could cause damage.

Widner suggested taking some additional time to meet with neighbors and revise the site plan for the business.

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” said P&Z Chair Jeane Easom, who suggested they remove the Timber Ridge exit.

“That’s the only site plan I would consider,” said P&Z Commissioner Josh Rogers.

The applicants are due back with their new plan at the Sept. 25 hearing.

School growing pains, truck parking, distribution center

P&Z approved the third phase of an east Macon subdivision although the Bibb County School District raised concerns that the potential for new students could push the local elementary school to near capacity.

The Stonebridge West complex will add 290 apartments in 14 buildings on nearly 28 acres at 1797 Graham Road.

Engineer Steve Rowland presents plans for the Stonebridge West apartment complex on Graham Road in northeast Bibb County. (Liz Fabian)

Plans call for a mix of three-story buildings with two dozen units each, and where the land slopes there will be split-level buildings with two stories on one side and a third level on the other. Stonebridge West will feature a clubhouse, swimming pool and multi-use sports courts, according to the application.

In a letter to P&Z, Bibb schools’ Assistant Superintendent of Operations Sam Kitchens said the apartment complex is expected to bring about 103 new students: 46 in elementary 24 in middle school and 33 high schoolers.

While Appling Middle School and Northeast High School have available capacity, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School “will be nearing capacity with this new development.”

The accompanying chart showed MLK could be at nearly 91% capacity with the estimated additional students.

The school’s letter was not discussed in P&Z’s administrative meeting or during the hearing but commissioners discussed protecting the stream on the property.

Engineer Steven Rowland said he will maintain the required 25-foot buffer on either side of the creek and will extend sidewalks to the entrance at Graham Road.

“We feel like this will be a heavily-traveled pedestrian path” to get to the bus stop. Rowland said.

Rowland Engineering has two other single-family detached subdivisions underway at Stonebridge North and Stonebridge South.

On the west side of the county, Joyride Logistics will give truckers a place to park and rest at 4739 Hawaiian Village Drive, which is off Romeiser Drive near the Eisenhower Parkway exit of Interstate 475.

P&Z granted conditional use approval for a 37-space, fenced truck parking lot that will have keypad access, lighting and security cameras.

“This is great for truck parking,” said Damon Thomas, who spoke for applicant Rachel Cummings. “Truckers coming from Florida can rest before they hit Atlanta.”

Near the Thomaston Road exit of I-475, the Carter Engineering Group plans to build an 87,600-square-foot “last mile” distribution center at 202, 233 Mercer Junction.

Under the business proposal, packages will be delivered from off-site fulfillment centers and sorted inside the facility and loaded onto delivery vans.

P&Z granted the Conditional Use permit allowing construction on more than 22.5 acres at the corner of Tucker Valley Road.

Due to the proximity of the new Quik Trip store going in near that interstate exit, a traffic light is planned for Tucker Valley Road and Mercer University Drive.

Other agenda items

  • 2737 Hillcrest Ave. – Homeowner Andrea Matthews used a contractor who erected a fence without a permit or certificate of appropriateness and placed the finished side toward the property. All fences are supposed to be built with the nicer side facing outward and the supports and braces on the inside. P&Z and the Design Review Board said Matthews must comply with the regulations either by turning the fence around, or installing panels along the outside of the fence on the sides of her yard. Because there is little chance of development on the overgrown lot to the rear of her property, commissioners said she did not have to modify the fence at the back of her property line.
  • 330 and 340 Forest Hill Road – P&Z will grant a variance to allow property owner Kevin Hester to renovate both houses on the 1.42-acre parcel and sell them separately. A variance was required to allow access to the parcel not facing a public right-of-way.
  • 512 Bluewater Bay – Larry Harris Jr. approved for a variance in the rear yard setback from the waterfront for a single-family home at Lake Tobesofkee.
  • 496 Second St.  – Oliver’s Corner Bistro granted approval to install a new black awning and a corner sign to be seen from Poplar and Second streets.
  • 195 Holt Ave. – New landscaping approved that will replace a 2,600-square-foot paved parking area in front of Jay Palmer’s home and special event, wedding and photography business.
  • 557 Cherry St. – New sign approved for Churchills.
  • 632 Arlington Place – Alphonso Barksdale’s certificate of appropriateness was approved to install 2-inch wood pickets on the front porch handrail, remove the retaining wall and grade the front lawn, repair the concrete walkway, and plant box woods. As a condition of the approval, Barksdale must replace two vinyl windows on the right side of the house with either wood or aluminum-clad windows. The windows were installed before an application was filed.
  • 373 College St. – Jeremy Rosier granted permission to use PVC material to replace damaged wood under the windows on the right side of the home.
  • 905 High St. – St. Joseph Catholic School’s application for a new sign was tabled to allow the design to be scaled down to the required maximum of 12 square feet down from 19.

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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