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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

PZ: Cemetery not suitable greenspace for dense housing at Oakview 

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning doesn’t want folks ‘dancing on grandma’s grave’
Liz Fabian
Lead zoning inspector Eric White puts out more chairs for Monday’s Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission hearing that drew residents of the Oakview neighborhood opposed to new phases of denser housing.

Developers planning to build new homes on two abandoned phases of the Oakview subdivision off Hartley Bridge Road “better get me some greenspace and sidewalks,” Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission Chair Jeane Easom said at the conclusion of Monday’s hearing

Both proposals were deferred for two weeks to allow for design revisions.

Dozens of current Oakview residents signed a petition against the new homes, but P&Z commissioners already had concerns of their own before anyone spoke in opposition about increased traffic, storm drainage issues and cheaper building materials for smaller homes. 

Garden Street Communities Southeast, a prime developer for Adams Homes AEC of Pensacola, Florida, submitted plans for 34 single-family, detached homes on 21.6 acres at 3535 Hartley Bridge Road and 29 homes on 11.1 acres at 670 Britton Way on the northeast side of the existing Oakview neighborhood. 

Because the development is higher density, the so-called cluster development is required to have open space “to serve recreational, scenic and public service purposes.”

P&Z staff and the commission determined the golf cart path along the 4th and 5th holes of Oakview Golf Club was not sufficient greenspace for the Britton Way addition, and a utility easement and private cemetery for the new Hartley Bridge Road phase did not fulfill the requirement.

There are more than 60 graves noted on the plans, but Garden Street’s Gary Furrow said there are only a couple that have headstones.

P&Z’s executive director, Jeff Ruggieri said a graveyard would not satisfy the open space requirement in any definition he’s come across in his career. 

“We don’t know who’s in there,” Ruggieri told the commission. “We don’t want people dancing on grandma’s grave.”

To approve the reduced lot sizes under its code, P&Z needs better greenspace for families as a tradeoff for smaller yards. 

Easom said developers need to understand the concept of providing amenities such as parks, playgrounds, trails or other usable open space in order to maximize the number of homes under its regulations. 

Furrow said he thought the option of purchasing a pool or golf membership would suffice, but he will bring a revised plan back in two weeks. 

Residents’ concerns

Although P&Z planned to defer, they allowed the opposition to speak on the record so people would not have to come back on July 8.

Current residents are worried about increased traffic on the main thoroughfare in the neighborhood and the departure from the building standards set by original developers, which they fear could lower property values. 

Melynn Canova, whose house will abut new homes, opposed the planned use of fiber cement siding in various styles with only an option for brick veneer or stone accents.

“What he is proposing is nothing like my house looks like,” Canova said. “Hardie board with brick accents does not look like four sides brick at all.”

Neighbor Jeff Rowe said he has a copy of the original covenants that set the standard for 80% brick or stucco. Rowe also fears existing stormwater issues will get worse, but Furrow disagreed. 

The project engineer is well-trained in dealing with runoff and could actually improve existing drainage, Furrow said.

Denser developments were approved for these remaining phases in 2006, but were never built as the economy soured.

P&Z Commissioner Tim Jones, seen center lower left, requested a 50-foot undisturbed buffer be put back in plans to keep golfers like him from hitting balls into yards. (Liz Fabian)

P&Z Commissioner and recreational golfer Tim Jones expressed concerns about replacing a previously approved 50-foot, undisturbed buffer between homes and the golf course with two rows of alternating evergreen trees. 

He was concerned that “folks like me” would shag a ball and knock it through the trees into a yard and potentially hit a child. 

“I’d like you to revise that on your return and keep the 50-foot buffer,” Jones said. 

Barry Bell, the manager of Oakview Golf Club who selected the site about 30 years ago and initiated the 50-foot buffer stipulation, agreed with Jones.  

“This man plays. Golf balls don’t listen,” Bell said. “Evergreen trees do grow fast but they die fast and all of a sudden you have houses fully exposed.”

In the initial planning, he also expected Hartley Bridge Road to be widened to four lanes, which hasn’t happened.

Bell also did not foresee smaller lot sizes in these future phases. 

“I didn’t see the smaller houses, but it’s there and hopefully we can stop it,” he said. 

Appealing fueling center requirements

Some developers are seeking a revision in P&Z’s 2022 policy to ban gas stations or fueling centers within 500 feet of homes, schools, hospitals, group homes and child care facilities, citing a lack of proof of harmful health effects. 

Jaymin Patel was on Monday’s agenda to appeal the staff decision denying his application to build a fueling center and store at the corner of 7050 Houston Road and Sardis Church Road. 

The proximity to the South Bibb Recreation Center was the reason for the staff’s denial, but Patel objected. 

Staff noted in the administrative pre-meeting that the rec center holds after-school programs and camps that would legally deem it a child care facility and disqualify the application.

Although staff thought moving the gas pumps away from the corner and to the far end of the property could meet requirements, Patel withdrew his appeal and application for the fueling center. 

Developer Jim Rollins, who lobbied for a relaxation of the 500-foot rule in May, has proposed an amendment to the policy which is scheduled to be heard July 8.

Bey & Associates plans to renovate the law office at 971 Washington Ave.

Other Agenda items

  • 971 Washington Ave. — Renovations approved for the facade, signage and fence installation of the law offices of Bey & Associates. Contractors will uncover front windows originally covered over when two houses were joined together to create commercial space. “That looks 100 times better than it has been,” Easom said of the plans. 
  • 535 College St. — Modifications to the walkway and circular driveway approved. 
  • 732 Riverside Drive — Signs approved for the new home of AlaMed Injury Clinics at the corner of First Street. 
  • 125 Third St. — Piedmont Occupational Medicine signs approved facing Third Street and Riverside Drive. 
  • 1000 Guy Paine Road — Ryland Environmental approved for a 12,000-gallon above-ground fuel tank to service its vehicles. 
  • 4706 Harmon Place — Clara Wright approved to place a manufactured home on the property as long as it is parallel to Harmon Place Extended, a dirt road she must maintain as an easement for others living nearby. 
  • 7001 Price Road — A 3,500-square-foot building addition approved for existing day care. Project will increase capacity from 129 to 175 children and bring the number of employees up to 21. 

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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