Sardis Road truck stop project in Macon faces obstacles

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Neighbors opposed to Travel Centers of America truck stop on Sardis Church Road expressed frustration in hearing

MACON, Georgia – Editor’s Note: The video in this story is from the February coverage of the truck stop.

Anticipating a crowd opposing another truck stop on Sardis Church Road, Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission moved Monday’s hearing to Commission Chambers at the Government Center.

Although the space has allowed social distancing due to COVID-19, a sheriff’s deputy has kept a vigilant eye on the workforce as a dozen masked residents have registered to speak out against the project.

Jessica Malone, who lives a few doors down from the 5250 Sardis Church Road site, says the safety of her family is her top priority.

“We have noticed a huge increase in non-residential traffic,” said Malone. “Much more camping around the Love truck stop. We are concerned that these people camping in the woods will be pushed back to properties. “

Its neighbors have also opposed increased traffic, noise and light pollution, the movement of wildlife, including destructive feral pigs, and environmental concerns related to stormwater runoff near wetlands.

At a hearing in February, others spoke out against the proposal for a America Travel Centers DG Development Partners and Foresite Group truck stop, convenience store and repair shop. The opposition led to the deferred item to allow a traffic study.

David Stoniecki of Foresite explained that recent research has shown that the Interstate 75 interchange did not produce sufficient criteria for the Georgia Department of Transportation to install a signal. Macon-Bibb County traffic engineers believe a traffic light is needed due to the booming industrial complex along Frank Amerson Parkway that ends in front of the proposed new roadhouse. The industry-rich promenade runs parallel to the south side of the highway between the Hartley Bridge and Sardis Church exits.

“We want a traffic light,” Stoniecki said. “I think our developer’s concern is that we might show up at the wrong time. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back by getting the traffic light and we’re trying to decide if we own 100 percent of that cost… or if we can own our share.

A traffic light could cost around $ 200,000, the commissioners discussed at their administrative meeting.

P&Z Commissioner Gary Bechtel said the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority has expressed a desire for the light and may be willing to bear some of the costs with the county.

The developers wanted to change the zoning of the 30-acre parcel from agriculture to light industry, which coincides with the Amerson Parkway and Love’s truck stop across the street.

Commissioner Bryan Scott, who chaired the meeting, suggested changing the zoning of the 20 acres for the truck stop and leaving the remaining 11 acres on the site for agricultural purposes to provide a better buffer zone for residents.

A number of agricultural uses could be seen as damaging to neighbors and the rezoning of only part of a plot is also frowned upon, the commissioners said.

Commissioner Josh Rogers favored the rezoning of the property to Planned Development Industrial, which would only allow the proposed truck stop and give Commissioners more control over the design and what happens on the exterior plots of the property.

The rezoning of the PDI was adopted unanimously. A traffic light will be required and developers must come back with detailed plans for how they will handle lighting and stormwater management before the truck stop can be built.

Other than Stoniecki, George Wilson was the only person to take charge of the second truck stop at the interchange. He thinks this is the best use for the property.

“My big thing is, Macon needs more truck stops for the sake of the truck driver,” Wilson said. “At the Jackson exit, you see trucks lined up on the exit and entry ramps. … Anything we can do to improve the safety of our truck drivers is good.

By law, truckers must stop and rest after 11 hours of driving.

The opposition left the meeting discouraged.

“They don’t care about everything we’ve said,” one said as he stepped out of the rooms.

Licensed medical offices on Zebulon at Bass

For more than two decades, residents of Zebulon Road have opposed various commercial rezoning proposals near the intersection with Bass and Foster Roads.

On Monday, no one spoke out against the rezoning of five plots from single-family residential to neighborhood commercial for medical or professional offices and certain commercial uses.

It was noted that Glenn Smith, a persistent opponent of business development along this stretch of Zebulon, filed a written letter of opposition.

Supporters believe the time has come to change the zoning of what has gone from a two-lane street to a busy thoroughfare with stores and restaurants that have sprouted near Interstate 475 over the past 20 years .

“We probably received 100 phone calls about a gas station or a dry cleaner. Every time we’ve said it won’t work, ”said George Emami, who represented one of the owners of the property, Annette Barnette.

Barnette bought two houses at 5561 and 5581 Zebulon Road about five years ago.

After the vagrants continued to creep in, she demolished the houses.

“This proposed development, in our opinion, is a great use for the property,” said Barnette.

Emami said single-family residential zoning is now obsolete.

“There is no more economic value for this corner because it was zoned before,” Emami said. “Even on Zebulon Road, closer to the highway, the economic value of much of the housing in this area is declining due to commercial uses.”

Since 1997, P&Z has refused a daycare, funeral home, assisted living facility, animal hospital, dentist’s office, banks, and personal care home in the neighborhood.

In 2015, the commissioners authorized new lofts and commercial development in block 5800. After months of wrangling, they also approved a new Sonny’s barbecue Last year.

Lawyer David Hollingsworth, who is representing Manisha Patel on the proposal, said they had secured support from close neighbors and believed the offices were compatible with the 2040 development plan. They are ready for enlargement expected from Bass Road, he said.

A Warner Robins family doctor plans to own and occupy the first building along Bass Road. Another doctor’s office is possible on Zebulon’s side, Hollingsworth said.

Commissioner Rogers feared going from residential to commercial with no guarantees that no junk restaurant or junk business would enter.

“It would allow anything that was submitted in this plan to happen, but it wouldn’t allow anything afterwards,” Rogers said. “If you want an opportunity for the neighborhood to continue to have the ability to influence whatever would be available under (commercial-1), you want to go with PDC.”

The commission followed Rogers’ suggestion and opted to change the zone as a planned business development, which means the doctor’s office is approved, but any other future tenants or commercial use will need to be approved.

New low-income apartment complex near Zebulon

Just two weeks after P&Z approved a Macon Housing Authority Affordable Housing Development at 7081 Peake Road, commissioners have approved another low-income apartment complex nearby.

BFB General Partners, a self-proclaimed family-run company based in Valdosta, is planning a two-phase development with 152 units on nearly 20 acres along I-475 behind Kohl’s department store off Zebulon Road.

Joe Johnson, who represented the company, said he expects the Macon Transit Authority to add a new bus line to the development.

The first 80 units are conditioned for securing Housing tax credits for low-income people of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. Phase 2 would not have income limitations, Johnson said.

The Housing Authority Housing in-fill Inc. is seeking similar tax breaks to build its planned seniors’ complex at Peake Point.

Contact Liz Fabian, Senior Civic Journalism Researcher, at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]

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