Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Mayor expects new development around amphitheater, national park

Macon-Bibb’s Lester Miller said talks are underway with hotels, restaurants and developers and speaks on campaign signs, blight and violence prevention
Send questions for Ask Mayor Miller to [email protected].

Weeks of successful shows at the new Atrium Health Amphitheater are helping make the case for new restaurants and hotels near Macon Mall, Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller said during taping of this month’s Ask Mayor Miller program. 

On the heels of the Turnpike Troubadours concert that drew 8,000 people April 27, Miller said he feels an announcement is pending. (1:09 into video)

“I’m not going to get ahead of ourselves, but I can say we’re in some good conversations with some hotels and some restaurants, and I expect to get some activity prior to next season, of course, on the O’Charley’s (former restaurant) and good prospects on the hotels and new development on site and off site,” Miller said. “So, as the numbers come in, like ‘if you build it, they’ll come.’ People are coming in droves. Everybody’s having a great time there. The numbers look really great. So, people are getting very excited about investing their own money at the mall.”

Miller addressed some social media comments complaining about the lack of video monitors at the venue and power interruptions at one concert. (2:34)

The amphitheater’s video monitors should be installed soon after getting stuck in customs in California “for a while,” he said. 

The county didn’t want to delay opening the amphitheater to wait for the monitors to arrive since many acts have their own AV systems, he said. 

The loss of electricity at one concert was the result of a patron who “had a little bit too much fun and they pulled the alarm,” Miller said.  (4:37)

“It triggered safety and security measures which basically cut the lights off on the stage,” he said. “It’s one of those things that’s a learning curve. So now, if that ever happens again, we got a quick fix for that right away. We want to make sure that was not a true emergency.” 

The 10-minute blackout had nothing to do with the 11 p.m. noise curfew, he said. (5:16)

“Eleven o’clock is supposed to be the time for the noise ordinance-wise, and if somebody goes over that time, there’s a $1,000 fine. So, most of them observe that,” Miller said.

Aside from one scuffle between women, Miller has not noticed any disturbances at any of the events and he’s attended them all. 

Fighting violence and blight

While April saw a rise in homicides, the mayor defended the Macon Violence Prevention program’s efforts to curb youth violence. (10:25)

“We measure success a bunch of different ways,” Miller said. “Down over 70% on youth committing crimes and being victims of crimes of the violent nature. So, that’s one way to measure the number of people getting engaged and involved in getting therapy they need through a mental health program.” 

New facets of the MVP program are upcoming and this year’s sheriff’s race could provide a new atmosphere of collaboration, he said. (12:04)

Miller said he hated that sheriff’s candidates Ron Rodgers and Marshall Hughes were disqualified for not getting their fingerprinting done before the deadline, but understands the Board of Elections’ decision. (12:41)

“Sometimes people have to follow those rules or pay the consequences,” Miller said. “But certainly we wanted everybody to have a fair shot at being up for the position that they asked for.” 

The mayor also answered allegations of bias raised by Macon Water Authority incumbent Desmond Brown who protested the county removing campaign signs from the Macon Mall which houses the new Board of Elections office. (13:32)

Brown accused mall co-owner the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority of enforcing co-owner Hull Property Group’s no-sign policy because Miller decided not to put out his own campaign signs this year. 

“I don’t put any great weight of credibility of somebody who swindled people out of their money before as a contractor. Strictly don’t,” Miller said. “But outside of that, anybody’s sign illegally placed needs to be picked up. Doesn’t have anything to do with Lester having signs out there or not. I chose not to do that because I see the great abuse we have out there.”

Signs are prohibited in the right-of-way and a candidate must have permission to post signs on private property, he said. 

Miller plans to continue his blight fight in removing dilapidated buildings and move toward filling in new homes. (16:32)

“We’re continuing to build up neighborhoods. This is the $7.5 million we mentioned for the affordable housing plan. We’re working with Habitat for Humanity and other people that are in the process of building things,” he said. 

Cameras are going up in illegal dump sites and the county will prosecute those not taking advantage of the free convenience centers to dump old furniture and appliances. 

He is also focusing on heirs property where there is no clear title, and those who have inherited it may not have the means to maintain the home. (17:46)

The county plans to contract with lawyers for a new program to work with property owners in Unionville.

“Our hope is to try to clear those titles, consolidate that into one person in the family — whether it’s purchasing someone out or seizing the rights of someone — so they can borrow money on the property, can repair the property, fix it up, borrow money on the property to address all those heirs property,” he said. 

Sharon Mims asked Miller if there are any plans to build new subdivisions like the ones she sees in Houston County. (6:31)

“We have more houses being built in the last several years than the previous decade,” Miller said.

He cited new subdivisions along Hartley Bridge Road, near Lake Tobesofkee and north Macon and work on Cliffview Park, which is expected to draw residential construction off Houston Avenue. (5:35) 

Miller predicted growth in east Macon if the Ocmulgee Mounds National Park and Preserve is approved by Congress. Soon, he expects to announce a master planner to oversee the proposed East Bank development off Coliseum Drive.

The national park designation also could provide momentum for expanding the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail outside of Macon-Bibb County, but he’s initially focused on connecting Maconites along the trail. (8:09)

“We want these neighborhoods to be connected, even the mall area, there. They’re not only talking about north Macon. That’s just a small part. It’s about connectivity through all of our areas,” Miller said.  

The county plans to engage the community on those future plans for development off Interstate 16 near the entrance to the park. (18:54)

“The stars are lining up for Macon-Bibb County and we’re going to see where it takes us, but I think next month we’ll be having a very different conversation,” he said. 

Have a question for next month’s Ask Mayor Miller? Email [email protected].

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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