P&Z goes virtual as COVID-19 concerns cancel most Macon-Bibb govt. meetings


Liz Fabian

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission’s Design Review Board conducts its last meeting Monday afternoon before the office closes. The office is suspending public gatherings until May.

Concern over the global coronavirus pandemic is putting disaster preparedness plans to the test.

The Macon-Bibb C0unty Commission will be meeting by phone Tuesday and the Planning & Zoning department has decided to close its doors to the public.

“Our goal is to have the least amount of disruption and yet maintain the protocols laid out by the CDC to try to stem the spread of this nasty virus,” P&Z executive director Jim Thomas said Monday afternoon.

Planning and Zoning hearings will be canceled through April, but the staff will continue to serve customers online and try to expedite the process, Thomas said.

As Macon-Bibb County grapples with the threat of COVID-19, it might be easier to keep up with what hasn’t been canceled than the mounting list of cancellations.

The Bibb County Health Department canceled its March board meeting Monday morning out of “an abundance of caution” as the nation tried to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

Macon-Bibb County’s assistant to the county manager for public affairs Chris Floore said plans are changing rapidly.

As of Friday, county leaders planned to proceed with this week’s scheduled meetings but by 11 a.m. Monday, the SPLOST advisory committee meeting planned for Monday evening was canceled along with Tuesday’s 10 a.m. Pedestrian Safety Review Board meeting.

Monday morning, the CDC advised that any public gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks. By afternoon, President Trump recommended only groups of 10 or fewer meet until the virus subsides.

Floore said Georgia law allows the commission to broadcast public meetings and that is a good option for anyone interested in the agenda to learn what actions are taken without coming to Government Center.

Tuesday’s Pre-Commission meeting and regular meeting will be broadcast on the county’s Facebook page.

The county also canceled its March 25 monthly meeting of the Pension Trustee Board of the Macon-Bibb County Pension Plan.

Monday afternoon, the Macon-Bibb County Design Review Board went ahead with its 4 p.m. meeting with only two agenda items that kept attendance to under 10 people.

The board approved certificates of appropriateness for a new roof at 961 Park Place and a privacy fence at 1315 Ross Street.

The measures will need to be ratified by the full commission, which will likely happen remotely.

Going forward, P&Z staff will not only be taking phone calls and answering emails, but will over an online chat with the Design Review Officer at MBPZ.org.

By next week, the website will be set up for filing online zoning applications.

Thursday, the Bibb County Board of Education will hold its regular committee meeting at 4 p.m. and board meeting at 6:30 p.m. but is canceling the student and staff recognitions planned for that evening.

Tuesday at 5 p.m., the board of education’s first FY2021 budget work session will go on as planned but the board will not hold its annual retreat this Friday and Saturday.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected].