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The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Neighbors reject retail center, billboard; P&Z OKs fitness centers, downtown renovation

Planning & Zoning denies applications deemed to be detrimental to residential neighborhoods
Liz Fabian
Attorney Bill Larsen tells the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission that his client won’t be able to do anything with less than half-acre along the railroad tracks on Forsyth Road as long as it’s zoned residential.

Neighbors from two sides of the county successfully appealed to the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission to deny applications from their neighborhood.

P&Z denied rezoning that would have allowed for a billboard at 4837 Forsyth Road across from Covington Drive. Although P&Z staff recommended designating the sliver of land of less than a half acre to Planned Development Commercial from Single-Family Residential, the commissioners disagreed.

Attorney Bill Larsen, who represented applicant Rod McLeod who wanted to erect a Chicken Salad Chick billboard, argued there was no other use for that small strip of land that butts up to the railroad tracks on one side and U.S. 41 on the other.

“There is very much a hardship imposed here if it remains R-1AAA. We can’t do anything with the property,” Larsen said.

After two neighbors spoke against the plans, P&Z Chair Jeane Easom noted that the parcel is surrounded by residential zoning, and because of that, she would not approve any commercial use.

“Sorry if the current owner has bought something they can’t develop, but that’s not my decision,” Easom said.

Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the rezoning.

Larsen withdrew his two remaining applications that were contingent on rezoning. He initially sought approval for the billboard itself, and a variance for being within 1,000 feet of Wesleyan College’s National Historic Register District.

Three neighbors living off Log Cabin Drive also spoke against a retail strip center proposed at 4225 Alton Ave. near the Robins Financial Credit Union.

Barrington Brown wanted to rezone more than an acre of land from R-2, which is Two-Family Residential, to C-1, Neighborhood Commercial.

The nearby property owners said there are already vacant stores in the vicinity that could be used for community businesses. They worried about increased traffic and that an undesirable business could be moving near their homes.

Commissioner Tim Jones said he couldn’t see approving a shopping center in the middle of a residential district.

“My concern is, that section by Robins Financial, traffic is a nightmare. I travel it all the time. The reality is, in that curve, it’s a nightmare. It cannot handle traffic,” Jones said.

Commissioner Kesia Stafford expressed reservations about being able to rent the stores to businesses that could really serve neighbors and not detract from the neighborhood.

“There are so many empty smaller units right now,” Stafford said. “My concern would be just allowing anyone to go into there at some point.”

Commissioners unanimously denied the rezoning for the shopping center.

Macon Fitness centers, downtown building repurposed

Macon-Bibb P&Z approved a new storefront Monday for 476 Second St. that will allow separate entrances for the three floors to be developed. (Liz Fabian)

BTBB Architects will spruce up a vacant downtown building and bring three floors back to life for future tenants at 476 Second St.

Bob Brown was approved to add a new aluminum storefront with three doorways, one for each of the levels of the building owned by Dr. Reuben K. Ellis.

Although the intended use of the building was not included in the application, the entrances would allow for three separate occupants, one for each of the floors.

The building most recently served as a Goodwill thrift store until the early ‘90s. Some of its previous tenants include a chick starter business with the Bibb Electric Hatchery in 1930, it was a Piggly Wiggly for decades beginning in the ‘40s, later sold TVs and radios in the ‘60s and various other retail businesses since.

A new 32,500-square-foot fitness center with a swimming pool and tanning beds was approved on nine acres at 4154, 4210 Riverside Drive. The building will feature 24,500 square feet on the ground level with about 8,000 square feet on the mezzanine. About 3,000 square feet will be reserved for retail sales.

Widner & Associates expects to serve 136 clients per day but will have a capacity for 470, according to the floor plan.

The center is adjacent to planned apartments and a new residential subdivision that will stretch from Riverside to Northside Drive and Forest Hill Road.

Widner & Associates will also build a portion of the road that will connect the fitness center with the new neighborhood.

The Commission also approved a fitness center in the North Macon Plaza at 1625 Bass Road.

Taylor McKinney with D1 Training will occupy nearly 3,900 square feet of vacant space in Building 200, which currently houses the Beall’s Outlet at the end of that retail strip.

The center will include a check-in area, viewing bar, goal-setting room, cardio and weight exercise areas and restrooms.

Other agenda items

  • 1580 Lawton Ave. – Both the Design Review Board and P&Z denied applicant Christopher Haun’s planned removal and capping of a deteriorating, non-functioning chimney. Although a home inspection report noted the crumbling bricks and mortar, P&Z staff concluded the “historic character of the property will be impacted by removal of the historic chimney.” According to P&Z’s Historic District guidelines, chimneys are considered special ornamental features on some architectural styles. Haun was advised to repair the chimney while replacing the roof and metal flashing.
  • 3700 Lawrence Drive S. – Darnisha Goolsby will be allowed to renovate her house, which has been serving as a daycare home for about 20 years. Goolsby wants to expand her Little Disciples Daycare beyond the six children permitted in a daycare home. She currently cares for children between the hours of 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., but will be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. as a daycare center with four employees caring for up to 20 children. “I’m ready to take it forward to the next level,” said Goolsby, who will no longer be living at the home under the new application.
  • 857 Orange Terrace – Certificate of Appropriateness granted to allow applicant Ken Smith to replace windows, rotten siding and paint the outside of the building owned by Mercer University.
  • 1037 Calhoun St. – Homeowner Carlton Morgan secured approval to replace windows and siding and repair the front porch flooring and handrails in the Beall’s Hill Historic District.
  • 1015 Calhoun St. – Beall’s Hill property owner Ryan Griffin plans to renovate the house built in 1900 by rebuilding the roof, replacing windows, siding and porch columns, adding a driveway off Maple Street and two parking spaces in the rear of the house, repairing the foundation and adding landscaping. P&Z affirmed the Design Review Board’s approval of the project.
  • 920 Magnolia St. – Alessandra de Jesus received approval to replace single-pane wood windows with double-paned wood windows in the same size and design in the InTown Historic District
  • 7665, 7581 Columbus Road – Century Complete will be allowed to revise home plans for Phases 2 and 3 of the Arrowhead by the Lake development. P&Z approved house plans similar to Phase 1, but smaller to be more affordably priced and offer “entry level buyers an option for families of all sizes,” according to the application.

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

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