After a more than hourlong discussion, Macon planning and zoning officials decided Monday to defer for 45 days a decision on a demolition permit for the Douglass House.
Real estate broker Jim Rollins represents applicant Lou Patel, owner of D&D Middle Georgia LLC, who now owns the historic Douglass House property. Patel also owns the property adjacent to the Douglass House -- the former Tremont Temple Baptist Church property -- and he needs the house moved to provide more space for a planned Dunkin’ Donuts shop.
Rollins asked the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission to approve a deferral for 60 days and issue the demolition permit if he received no offers to move the house during that span. But the commission instead opted for the 45-day deferment.
Rollins told the commission that just before the meeting he received “another opportunity to pursue” regarding the house.
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Patel had discovered after buying the church property that he could not use an alley belonging to The Medical Center of Central Georgia for additional parking. In April, Patel made a deal with state Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, that Patel would buy the Douglass House property and Beverly would arrange to have it moved to another location.
While Rollins and Patel have said they don’t want the house torn down, they were compelled to request the demolition after earlier arrangements to move the house -- made with Beverly, Mercer University and Historic Macon Foundation -- did not move along as expected.
The Douglass House has historical significance because it was home to Charles Douglass, a successful black Macon businessman in the early 1900s who developed and managed the Douglass Theatre downtown for nearly 30 years. The house has been vacant about 42 years.
Before the commissioners made a decision Monday, some people pleaded for them to save the house.
“In wake of the Tremont Temple demolition, the Historic Macon Foundation and our partners have worked tirelessly to preserve the Charles Douglass House,” said Ethiel Garlington, Historic Macon’s executive director. “We urge you to deny this application.”
Camilla Simmons, one of Charles Douglass’ grandchildren, said “it would be a travesty of justice” to tear down the house. She said it would akin to tearing down the Hay House or the Sidney Lanier Cottage.
Another granddaughter, Lillian Ray, said in a July 26 letter to Patel that if the house could not be moved, she had “no objection to tearing it down. I understand the situation that you are faced with.”
During the commission’s deliberation, some commissioners appeared ready to vote to allow demolition.
“Mr. Patel has done something that no one else in this room has done,” said Commissioner Jeane Easom. “And that is, he bought that house when nobody else would come up with the money or a plan. He has a plan for it. ... It’s not a plan I want, but he has invested money in this property. Now I don’t want to see this house torn down. I want somebody to do whatever it takes, but we can’t hold this man up in perpetuity. ...
“Somebody has got to get off of their duff and do something and make things move forward.”
Chairwoman Sarah Gerwig-Moore, who had voted with Easom to deny the demolition of Tremont Temple, said “we need to plant our feet here.” She said it was important to show the opposition at the meeting that “we can save a historic building. ... I will not vote for demolition.”
But Commissioner Bryan Scott questioned how the commission could hold other people accountable.
Commissioner Kamal Azar said that Beverly and others had four months to come up with a plan to move the house, and he questioned why Historic Macon had not done something to save the house during the 42 years it was on the market.
Gerwig-Moore asked the commissioners specifically for a motion to defer the matter for 45 days. That motion was made by Bryan Scott, and the commission unanimously approved it.
After the meeting, P&Z Executive Director Jim Thomas that because the 45-day deferral falls between regular meeting dates, the matter could not be heard until the Oct. 13 meeting.
Other items on the agenda were:
4290 Dellwood Drive: Conditional use to allow convenience store with fuel sales, C-1 District. Kunj Patel, applicant. Approved.
8351 Eisenhower Parkway: Conditional use to allow used auto sales, C-2 District. Kaushik Patel, applicant. Approved.
3805 Napier Ave.: Conditional use to allow a day care center within an existing church, R-2 District. Ervin Clowers, Glorious Hope Baptist Church, applicant. Approved.
240 Baconsfield Drive: Conditional use to allow an ambulance service, C-4 District. John Padgett, Southeast Ambulance Service Inc., applicant. Approved.
114 Trailer Park Drive: Conditional use to allow a travel trailer park with variance in access requirements, C-4 District. Brazawa Krowa LLC, applicant. Approved.
3051 Kumho parkway: Conditional use to allow revisions to a previously approved site plan with final site plan approval of a tire manufacturing facility, M-2 District. Joseph Na, 12 Baskets LLC, applicant. Approved.
2816 Avondale Mill Road: Conditional use to allow a borrow pit, A-Agricultural District. Steve Rowland, Cunningham & Rowland, applicant. Approved.
CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS:
727 Fifth St.: Certificate of Appropriateness to allow design approval of a sign and an access ramp, CBD-2 District. Clay Chatham, applicant. Approved.
123 Lake Ridge Drive: Variance in height requirements to allow a fence, R-1AAA District. Stephen Martin, S. Martin Construction, applicant. Deferred to Aug. 25.
ITEMS FOR COMMISSION RATIFICATION:
866 Second St.: Conditional use to allow a medical office (dialysis clinic), CBD-2 District [14-20420]. Carter & Sloope, Central Georgia Kidney Specialists, applicant. Approved.
484/488 First St.: Conditional use to allow a pint café and growler fill station, CBD-1 District [14-20459]. Jeff Kressin & Beth Kressin, Lazy Dog Growler, applicant. Approved.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.