27 residents appeal Zebulon Road rezoning decision

lmorris@macon.comDecember 12, 2013 

Twenty-seven residents who live near a proposed shopping center on Zebulon Road filed court paperwork Thursday against the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission, which rezoned the property.

The appeal filed in Superior Court seeks to reverse the commission’s Nov. 12 decision to rezone about 25 acres at 5801-5885 Zebulon Road from a residential district to a planned development district. That rezoning could allow the mixed-use development.

The 25-acre site comprises seven contiguous tracts of property owned by seven different owners, who agreed to sell their property to Development Co.

Alabama-based Blackwater Resources, under the name Development Co. LLC for this project, plans to build a 250,000-square-foot shopping center including five outparcels along Zebulon Road. John Abernathy, director of development and leasing for Blackwater, said the company plans to make a $30 million investment in the project, which would create 350 to 500 jobs. A speciality grocery store would anchor the shopping center, he said.

Thursday’s appeal was filed by Macon attorney Bill Larsen on behalf of 27 property owners who live directly across from the proposed center or who live in the Stone Edge subdivision next to the rezoned property.

Jim Thomas, executive director of the commission, said he just received a copy of the appeal from Larsen late Thursday and had not yet read it.

“I can’t really say anything at this point,” Thomas said. “We will review it and take necessary action.”

Prior to the commission’s decision to rezone the property, opposition to the project included petitions signed by more than 250 people, numerous personal letters and about 150 people who showed up at commission meetings displaying signs urging commissioners to vote no.

The commission first heard the rezoning request Oct. 28, but the matter was deferred at the request of Abernathy, who presented a revised preliminary site plan at the November meeting.

At that meeting, commissioners questioned Abernathy about adding a residential element to the project so it would better fit the requested zoning. Commissioner Kamal Azar said the property could be developed as a small neighborhood village center with proper buffers.

Commissioners Al Tillman, Bryan Scott and Azar voted for the rezoning with Commissioners Sarah Gerwig-Moore and Jeane Easom voting against it.

“The proposed shopping center will cause substantial damage to the interests of the petitioners, whose properties surround the Development Co. tract,” according to Thursday’s appeal.

The shopping center would “cause many negative impacts” to residents, including increased noise, odors, exhaust fumes, light pollution and increased traffic, it said.

Other issues addressed in the appeal:

• The rezoning is contrary to the Macon-Bibb County 2030 Comprehensive Plan and the Macon-Bibb County 2040 Future Land Use Map.

• New proposals for offices and residential uses in the shopping center, which was brought up at the Nov. 12 meeting, were not part of the conceptual plan submitted with the rezoning application.

• Development Co. did not meet “its burden of proving that the property cannot be developed as (previously) zoned.”

• The proposed development “would create an isolated commercial land use in the middle of a sea of single-family homes and would ... (create) spot zoning.”

“If the rezoning decision of the commission is allowed to stand, the beneficial use and enjoyment of the petitioners’ properties will be substantially, adversely and permanently affected,” the document states.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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