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The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon wants to add ‘teeth’ to rules keeping downtown sidewalks clear

Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom
A man was hit by a car at Cotton Avenue and Cherry Street in early June.

Developer logos stretch across fences that have for months impeded foot traffic, forcing people to walk into traffic lanes of Cherry Street to pass by construction sites.

The Macon-Bibb County government is looking to change that by adding some muscle to its Complete Streets Policy and permitting processes that require private developers and public departments to include safe detours for pedestrians during construction projects that impede sidewalks and other public rights-of-way.

“It is an ordinance that we have as a county,” county traffic safety manager Weston Stroud said Tuesday during a meeting of the Macon-Bibb County Pedestrian Safety Review Board. “We just don’t have any teeth to it.”

Stroud said developers know they are required to purchase parking spaces if they occupy them for construction, but “when it comes to our sidewalks, they don’t typically associate a value or cost to it, or even requiring permission, which we do.”

The county engineering office currently issues such permits for free, which Stroud said is “a missed opportunity, missed income that we could generate.”

Stroud proposes charging developers for occupying a sidewalk and doubling the fee for ones that do it without county approval.

“We can actually have teeth to it instead of just saying, ‘Hey, you should have gotten a permit,’ we can actually charge them, you know, double the fee, like they would in planning and zoning if you put up a fence without permission,” Stroud said.

At least two developments downtown have for months impeded sidewalks. The Neel Lofts, a four-story building that will include offices, business space and 95 luxury loft apartments at 468 Cherry Street, is being built by Piedmont Construction. The developer of the $25 million project, Robbo Hatcher of H2 Capital Inc., benefits from a tax incentive granted to it by the Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority.

Piedmont Construction recently moved its fence back to leave space on the sidewalk for pedestrians to traverse. For months, the company had the sidewalk and several parking spaces enclosed by a fence.

Further up Cherry Street at Cotton Avenue, Sheridan Construction is building the 9,000-square-foot Otis Redding Center across from Hotel 45. A cloth-lined fence occupied a stretch of the sidewalk at the intersection on Tuesday, forcing pedestrians to walk in the road to circumvent the work site.

Nearly two weeks earlier, a man walking there was hit by a car and taken to the hospital, according to news reports.

Stroud said the engineering department also is looking at rolling dumpsters that sometimes “has people walking in the middle of the street on the west side, for example.”

“We have to redo our whole permitting process engineer for the county,” he said. “I think it’s going to be really helpful for us as we think about pedestrian safety going forward.”

A fence obstructs part of the sidewalk in front of the future Neel Lofts on Cherry Street. The $25 million development has for months blocked a portion of the entire sidewalk and several parking spaces, but Piedmont Construction recently moved back the fence to leave a sliver of sidewalk for foot traffic. (Laura Corley | The Macon Newsroom)

To contact Civic Journalism Fellow Laura Corley, call 478-301-5777 or email [email protected].

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