Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

P&Z decisions delayed on Big House demolition plans, Mead Road waste transfer station 

Two controversial items failed to receive majority vote due to P&Z board members’ absences
Liz Fabian
Attorney Matt Shoemaker, center right, and architect Bob Brown present plans for a new event center at the Allman Brothers Big House Museum on Vineville Avenue during the Oct. 9 meeting of the Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning Commission.

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission met quorum for Monday’s hearings, but its split votes resulted in further delays for those seeking approval for the Allman Brothers Big House Foundation’s event center and local businessmen trying to build a transfer station on Mead Road

With commissioners Gary Bechtel and Josh Rogers absent from the meeting, Chair Jeane Easom, Tim Jones and Kesia Stafford had to vote in unison to receive the required 3-vote majority for an agenda item to be approved or denied. 

After hearing neighbors’ robust arguments against both projects that have taken months to get to a final decision, the three could not agree on which way to proceed.

A Macon-Bibb County building inspector condemned the house at 2353 Vineville Ave. last year due to structural issues, but the mayor rescinded the order which sent the matter to P&Z. (Liz Fabian)

The Big House Foundation is seeking to tear down a house at 2353 Vineville Ave. that was cobbled together in 1915 from the estate of the family of Catherine Brewer Benson, who was among the initial graduating class at Wesleyan College. Because her last name began with a “B,” she was the first to receive her diploma, and has the distinction of being the first woman in the world to earn a Bachelor’s Degree. 

Benson died in 1909 and never lived in the building, the foundation argued. 

Although neighbors accuse the Big House of demolition by neglect, the foundation’s attorney said they had every intention of renovating it until they discovered the house was actually pieces of other buildings and had structural damage from a fire.

The county’s chief building official condemned the building, but Mayor Lester Miller rescinded the order to allow “all sides to be heard,” he said at the time, which sent the matter to P&Z for approval of the demolition and future plans.

The original garden landscape plan was denied in August of 2022 due to concerns Vineville was losing another home from its streetscape that is already threatened by commercial encroachment. Neighbors also had suspicions the garden would allow for an amphitheater and larger concerts, which the foundation said was not part of the proposal.

Since last year, the Big House has worked with the Vineville Neighborhood Association to develop a plan to tear down the house and build an event center in its place to fill the hole left by the demolition. 

Monday, VNA President Will Davis spoke in favor of the current plan, but opposing neighbors argued they did not have input in the association’s vote and that the organization did not represent them. 

The Design Review Board rejected the initial event center architectural drawing as being too commercial with its brick facade. Last week, the DRB was also split in approving the current design and did not pass on a recommendation to the full Commission. 

Easom, who is a commercial real estate appraiser by trade, believes the existing building should be saved, regardless of the cost, because of Vineville Historic District requirements placed on other property owners who continuously appear before P&Z.

“Whether it’s the replacement of original wood windows or if it’s the roof style, or whatever, whether it’s the fence or the front steps,” Easom said. “And we require those people to go back with exactly what was there before to ensure the integrity of the neighborhood, so I’m going to vote against it,” Easom said.

The 2-1 vote without a full commission requires the applicant to come back for a final review in two weeks.

State Senator John Kennedy, right, an attorney representing the Mead Road Transfer Station, and engineer Kelvin Seagraves testify before P&Z during the Oct. 9 meeting (Liz Fabian)

The Mead Road transfer station met a similar fate as Easom was inclined to approve the project, which has been redesigned to address concerns about the facility being too close to a county park and Crown Candy Company

Jones voted no because he thinks it would adversely affect the Lynmore Estates neighborhood where Habitat for Humanity has built more than 65 homes for many first-time homebuyers. . 

Once Easom and Jones deadlocked, Stafford did not cast a vote as there was no way to get to a majority. 

This matter is further complicated by legal questions concerning whether a solid waste transfer station falls under the county’s Solid Waste and Materials Management plan, which  could require county commission approval, or is it automatically permitted by the state? 

In July, Miller’s administration put out a request for proposals for a waste transfer station on county land that was the site of the old animal shelter near the closed landfill. 

In September, the County Commission issued a temporary moratorium on placement and building of any private solid waste handling facilities until the county can review and update its management plan. 

Both P&Z Executive Director Jeff Ruggieri and attorney John Kennedy, the state senator who represents the Mead Road project, say the moratorium does not apply since the application for the transfer station was submitted before that was in place. 

Projects approved by P&Z 

  • 500 block of Moreland Ave. and 3870 Desoto Drive – Venture Properties out of Atlanta received rezoning to build up to 10 cluster homes on 1.1 acres at the northeast corner of Desoto Drive and Moreland Ave. Tax records show vacant houses on each of the four lots but the property is so overgrown, it’s unclear whether the buildings are still standing, according to the P&Z staff report. The homes will require future conditional use approval before the Commission.
  • 1182 Calhoun St. – Historic Macon plans to build four apartments in the old Korner Kupboard at the corner of Hazel Street. Both DRB and P&Z approved the Certificate of Appropriateness required for the project to proceed. Two units will be built in each of the buildings, the one-story brick building and the two-story former grocery store. Three years ago, P&Z approved a caterer’s plans to build a restaurant and commercial kitchen, but after a hiccup over alcohol sales with the neighboring church, that project did not proceed. 
  • 1081 Ash St. – Certificate of Appropriateness approved for Edward Segura’s three-foot, wooden picket fence with two gates. P&Z determined the fence follows Beall’s Hill Historic District guidelines and abides by the required 10-foot easement from the right of way. 
  • 1075 Frank Amerson Pkwy. – P&Z granted a Conditional Use permit to allow Tyson Foods Distribution Center to erect a 44.5-foot tall liquid hydrogen storage tank to fuel forklifts. The above ground tank will hold 18,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and be surrounded by bollards and a chain link fence. 

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

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