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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

P&Z stands firm to limit gas stations near homes

Real estate broker Jim Rollins pushed to remove the 500-foot distance rule between fuel pumps and residences, hospitals, schools, child care
Liz Fabian
The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission enacted new regulations for placement of convenience stores in 2022 following a 90-day moratorium to study the issues.

Commercial and investment real estate broker Jim Rollins felt so strongly about Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission’s revised regulations for fueling centers that he put up $1,875 of his own money to challenge it. 

Rollins’ recent comments opposing the 500-foot distance requirements between gas pumps and homes, residential zoning, hospitals, schools, child care facilities and other locations did not sway the four commissioners who denied his text amendment Monday to remove the distance rule.   

In January of 2022, P&Z enacted new criteria for fueling centers for various reasons including to protect against potentially harmful effects of emissions from benzene, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined is a cancer-causing chemical.  

A public statement on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website states: “Living near gasoline fueling stations or hazardous waste sites may increase exposure to benzene. People are advised not to have their families play near fueling stations, manufacturing plants, or hazardous waste sites.”

During public comments in May, Rollins told P&Z he believed the concerns are exaggerated because the Environmental Protection Agency limits the amount of benzene in gasoline to negligible levels and emissions are reduced through reclamation devices in cars and at the pumps.

In the spring, he said most cities on the Eastern Seaboard have done away with the distance rule. 

During his presentation Monday, Rollins said that P&Z’s supporting evidence “will not hold up under scrutiny.” 

In October of 2021, P&Z held a work session and issued a 90-day moratorium on new convenience stores to sort out a variety of issues after community complaints about the plethora of locations, blighted stores, and the prevalence of gambling machines. 

Rollins honed his objection to Section 23.11 [2] (b) of the Comprehensive Land Development Resolution for Macon-Bibb County that enacts the 500-foot rule. 

“There is no proof that the little amount of benzene released at convenience stores is a cause of leukemia in children per the American Cancer Society. There is no reason for a distance rule unless you are trying to eliminate c-stores,” Rollins said Monday. 

Both P&Z Chair Jeane Easom and Commissioner Tim Jones, the only two members still on the commission from 2021, were not persuaded to change course. 

Jones said he put forth the motion to deny the amendment “based on testimony presented here today, research done when we amended the text originally, and my personal research.”

After the ruling, Rollins said he talked to several convenience store owners who support removing the restriction and who are interested in taking future legal action.

All other items on Monday’s agenda were shifted to the July 22 meeting due to the cancellation of last week’s Design Review Board for lack of a quorum during the holiday week.

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

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