'Neighborhood versus the hood': Warner Robins P&Z says no to apartments

mstucka@macon.comApril 8, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- A standing-room-only crowd applauded after the Warner Robins Planning and Zoning Commission said no to a rezoning request Tuesday that would put as many as 200 apartments behind their homes.

LRG Construction Services LLC’s Keith Bauer told the commission he planned between 100 to 200 apartments to be built on the site. He said he had been talking with other officials, including the city officials, about whether traffic could be routed to other streets.

The commission’s vote now will be forwarded to the Warner Robins City Council for a final decision. LRG also has the right to appeal to the council.

Opposition came largely from the area around Wynn Place, a street off Wellborn Road. That’s the core of the Spring Hill subdivision, which has about three dozen houses and was expected to serve as the main street of access to the apartments. Other neighbors came from the other side of the site, near Huntington Middle School.

Residents said they are worried about heavy traffic on Wynn Place. Bauer said conceptually he could bring automobiles through Russell Parkway or a connection to Armed Forces Boulevard. Armed Forces Boulevard does not come near his site, and LRG presented plans Tuesday that included property that wasn’t part of the rezoning request and appeared to be part of a state-planned veterans training center. Bauer told commissioners that was to conform with the commission’s request for a conceptual drawing that could include other access ways.

Pastor Josh B. Kirvin Sr., who oversees the adjoining New Beginnings child care center, told commissioners they had a stark choice to make. A nearby apartment complex on Wall Street has been boarded up and ransacked, and the new apartments would lead to new declines, he said.

“It’s clear to me: neighborhood versus the ‘hood,” Kirvin said.

Neighbors worried most about traffic. Resident Fernando G. Hernandez said he had a petition with 161 signatures from people opposing the rezoning, which he said shouldn’t happen until a traffic study and other studies were done. He also opposed the conceptual sketch Bauer presented.

“I don’t see how you can address the entire picture he marks up on that piece of paper, when it’s not part of the original petition for rezoning,” he said.

Hernandez said he had been asked to sell his property for the development, but only if LRG obtained permission for at least 180 apartments.

Commissioners Clayton Mays, Arthur Head, James Boswell and Buddy Norris voted against the rezoning. Eric Blazi, who was voted chairman earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, did not indicate how he would have voted. The chairman doesn’t vote unless there’s a tie.

Bauer declined to comment after the decision.

Asked if she was happy with the decision, Barbara Thompson, a 46-year resident of Wynn Place, widened her smile and said, “Yes, yes, yes.”

About 70 people attended the hearing, though some were there for other business. During the hearing, some people had to stand around the walls of City Council chambers while others stood outside the room.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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