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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

P&Z: Prior violations, unfulfilled plans doom business and Zebulon commercial expansion

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning Commission revokes zoning permit, denies project near Zebulon and Bass roads, blocks Shurling store
Liz Fabian
Property owner Harriet Swann tells Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning that new commercial development off Wesleyan View Drive will lead to a domino effect around her neighborhood.

Past behavior, unkept promises and unfulfilled expectations led the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission to revoke zoning compliance from one business owner and prevent others from expanding.

During Monday’s hearing, commissioners stripped Joshua Jackson of his ability to operate his trucking business at 1836 Railroad Ave. until he can bring the corner lot into zoning compliance and reapply.

P&Z Inspector Eric White testified that Jackson first caught their attention in September of 2022 when Jackson was illegally parking trucks at his relatives’ home on Roseview Drive in east Macon.

After five months of failing to remove the trucks and debris, a judge fined Jackson $1,000 in February for the Roseview property violations, according to the P&Z staff report.

Jackson’s wife emailed P&Z two days before the fine was levied to inquire about securing approval to park trucks at 1858 Railroad Ave. and neighboring parcels Jackson purchased.

P&Z replied that truck parking is permitted in that light manufacturing zoning district next to Interstate 75 as long as they’re in a fenced or screened area, or in a building. No repair work could be done outside of a building.

Macon Bibb P&Z inspectors discovered Joshua Jackson never installed the necessary fence required to park trucks on Railroad Avenue. (Liz Fabian)

A fence was never put up on Railroad Avenue and a March 28 inspection found that site also to be in violation.

In mid-summer, neighboring property owners complained to P&Z that Jackson had cleared their adjoining property, was parking trucks on their land, and mechanical work was being done on site.

There were also complaints of debris, hazardous materials and tires being stored on the land within view of passing traffic on the interstate.

Jackson told inspectors he cleared the neighbors’ parcels “as a favor because the lot was an eyesore.”

He said he would clean up his property as directed, but subsequent inspections documented no fence and a quantity of trucks exceeding the 10 permitted by the zoning.

Joshua Jackson, center, lost his zoning permit for 1836 Railroad Ave. after P&Z inspectors testified he was violating Macon-Bibb County codes at two locations. (Liz Fabian)

White testified that once the property failed a final inspection in September, Jackson became irate and threatened him. He was notified that the pending revocation would be on the November agenda.

Commissioners had little mercy for Jackson due to his treatment of staff and “sarcastic” attitude during the proceedings, as Commissioner Keshia Stafford described.

“Nobody should have to deal with being harassed or insulted,” Commissioner Josh Rogers said.

Jackson was told to completely clear the Roseview property and remove all the trucks and debris from both properties within two weeks. He must combine the additional lots near the Railroad Avenue property into one parcel, and build a fence before reapplying to use the property to park trucks.

P&Z Chair Jeane Easom told Jackson he must move those trucks to a designated truck lot.

“You’re going to have to pay to park these trucks because you haven’t done what you were supposed to do,” Easom said.

P&Z rebuffs offices over no buffer, encroachment

Nearly a dozen neighbors opposed rezoning for Phase 2 of a new office building complex near the corner of Bass and Zebulon roads, and the developer’s lack of follow-through on Phase 1 helped kill the deal.

Owner Manisha Patel and Carter Engineering wanted to add four office buildings totaling 19,000 square feet.

Macon-Bibb P&Z denied commercial rezoning due to encroachment on neighbors along Marjane and Wesleyan View drives. (Liz Fabian)

P&Z denied the request to rezone about four acres at 165 Wesleyan View Drive and 5543 Zebulon Road to Planned Development Commercial from Planned Development Residential.

Potential for future retail was one concern for property owners who have been battling commercial encroachment for years.

Chair Easom made up her mind from reading the staff report.

“This particular project goes into the residential area,” Easom said. “To be honest with you, I’m going to vote ‘no,’ because I don’t want to see that happen. This is a long-standing neighborhood back there.”

Commissioner Tim Jones said he was concerned that a future P&Z commission might allow retail or fast food to creep in.

Commissioner Gary Bechtel said great care was taken in approving the existing medical office at 197 Zebulon Road.

“That was a leap because that corner had been quote, unquote, ‘off-limits’ for a number of years and the right plan was presented with a buffer,” Bechtel said.

In 2021, P&Z rezoned the applicant’s adjacent property near the corner of Bass and Zebulon roads to Planned Development Commercial to allow for construction of an office/retail development.

The developer’s failure to put in a required buffer in the first phase of the office complex contributed to P&Z’s denial of a second phase application off Bass and Zebulon roads. (Liz Fabian)

One medical office currently housing Southern Primary Care was built, but P&Z noted the developer did not put in the necessary buffer to shield the neighboring homes.

The applicant’s attorney advocating for Phase 2 of the project, Justin Hollingsworth, testified that a 20-foot butter is slated to go in, but the developer wanted to plot out the rest of the newly available parcels in the current rezoning request.

“You should have put it in there,” Easom said of the buffer.

The lack of follow-through on the original plan gave other commissioners pause to trust that the current plans would be carried out.

Neighbors presented other arguments against the expanded office complex.

Realtor Harriet Swann, who owns several nearby properties, said the neighborhood must be preserved.

“This is a really lovely neighborhood. People walk up and down. It’s really a jewel, but if this is allowed, it won’t be a jewel anymore,” Swann said.

P&Z voted unanimously against the rezoning.

The Commission also balked at Widner Associates’ plans for a 4,500-square-foot convenience store with fuel pumps and 3,000 square feet of available retail space at 2500 Shurling Drive.

In January of 2022, P&Z unanimously denied a fueling center with a 12,000-square-foot building at the same location when an adjacent convenience store was unoccupied.

At the time, commissioners raised concerns about contributing to blight by building a new store next to a vacant one.

The recent application notes there’s a new tenant in the adjacent store, but applicant Tony Widner said the property owner “feels like new construction and a new investment will contribute to the tax base and unemployment.”

Easom noted there would be at least four other convenience stores within a half-mile if the project was approved.

“That just doesn’t seem reasonable to me,” Easom said. “I don’t want to discourage any commercial development that’s viable, but to me we already have four of them.”

Those nearby existing businesses have not been commercially viable since they were built, she said.

P&Z staff also raised concerns about the lack of pedestrian safety measures in the design and the risk of harmful chemical emissions from having too many gas stations that close together.

The commissioners denied the Conditional Use permit for the new store.

Widner’s request was approved for an additional Conditional Use permit for a new convenience store with retail space on a portion of about 33 acres at 3769 Fulton Mill Road.

The 3,500-square-foot store with fueling stations will be open daily from 6 a.m. until midnight near the corner of Eisenhower Parkway and Fulton Mill Road.

Other agenda items

  • 557 Cherry St. – Churchills on Cherry Cigar Lounge will be allowed to have live entertainment on the first floor of the building. The bar and restaurant is opening a banquet room and event space in the old hookah lounge location. Churchills’ first application for live entertainment on the second floor was denied in 2019 after a neighboring loft apartment owner raised noise concerns.
  • 500 Block of Moreland, 3870 Desoto Drive – P&Z approved Conditional Use to build 10, two-story townhomes in a cluster development on 1.1 acres. P&Z rezoned the property in October from single-family residential to Planned Development Residential to allow for the construction.
  • 443 Sixth St. – New signs approved for Blake & Pendleton Compressed Air Systems, which recently relocated from Terminal Station.
  • 685 College St. – Antebellum Arlington Place personal care home was granted permission to proceed with painting its walls, but the Design Review Board found it was inappropriate to paint the existing brick building in the InTown Historic District. The applicant apologized for starting the project before receiving the necessary approvals.
  • 2437 Vineville Ave. – P&Z accepted the DRB’s recommendation that ADA improvements to the rear entrance were appropriate for this former residence that will be used as an office. Plans also call for adding brick steps to the patio and new garage door panels.
  • 112 Broadway – New Riverside Storage sign approved to face Riverside Drive near the corner of the old Telegraph building.
  • 158 Steven Drive – Veterinarian Ronald Amsterdam granted a Conditional Use permit to  operate AVS Animal Hospital in the old Modern Woodmen of America office off Mercer University Drive. The hospital will be open between 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. every weekday but Thursday, and will be closed for lunch from 1-2 p.m.

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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