Kroger is exploring the possibility of putting a gas station near its Baconsfield Drive store just off Gray Highway in Macon, but some area residents oppose the idea.
Cincinnati-based Kroger has a contract to buy a 3/4-acre lot at the intersection of North Avenue and Nottingham Drive, across from its existing store, said Eyvonne Johnson, assistant real estate manager for the Kroger Southeast division.
Preliminary plans would involve Kroger demolishing the existing building on the property -- currently the law office for Stone & Driggers -- then constructing an 800-square-foot building and installing six gas pumps that would service 12 cars, she said.
Johnson has set up a public meeting for area residents to hear more about Kroger’s plans and for the grocer to get feedback. That meeting is set for 6 p.m. Monday at Highland Hills Baptist Church, 1370 Briarcliff Road.
“The property would have to be rezoned (from a residential district to a commercial district), and part of our process, before we go to the city with anything, we want to talk to the community and get their input and feedback on it,” Johnson said.
Jim Thomas, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission, said Johnson had a meeting a few weeks ago with staff to understand what needed to be done if Kroger decided to build the gas station.
Thomas said he was pleased to hear Kroger had set up the meeting for residents as suggested.
Since the property would have to be rezoned, the process takes awhile. A posted notice would go on the property, a legal ad would run in The Telegraph and it would be at least 45 days after Kroger files a rezoning application before it could be heard by the commission, Thomas said.
Kroger is not looking at putting the gas pumps in the existing shopping center parking lot because it would remove too many parking spaces from customers to the grocery store and other businesses, Johnson said.
“Our main business is groceries, so we want people to get in and out,” she said. “So (Kroger) determined that the parking lot is really too small.”
SOME RESIDENTS OBJECT TO LOCATION
Kroger last added gas pumps to a store in Macon in 2012, when it opened a fuel station on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard. At the time, there was no public resistance.
But the grocer has been met with opposition before. When Kroger first tried to put gas pumps at its store on Pio Nono Avenue, Vineville neighborhood residents spoke out against them.
Some residents already are pushing back against Kroger’s latest proposal.
There are two homeowners associations in the area. One is for the Shirley Hills neighborhood, and another is in the process of forming for the adjacent North Highlands neighborhood.
Johnson said she met with the board members of the Shirley Hills Homeowners Association about two months ago.
Paul Rogers, vice chairman of the Shirley Hills group, said Johnson contacted him just prior to the association’s regularly scheduled board meeting to make a presentation.
“We talked with her about the issues we saw, and they ranged from encroaching on a historic district and problems with traffic,” Rogers said. “We suggested several alternative sites that were already commercially zoned. We told her we thought North Highlands would fight it vigorously and that North Highlands are our neighbors, and we want to continue to be good neighbors to them.”
Rogers said he was relaying what happened at the meeting since Jeane Easom, chairwoman of the Shirley Hills Neighborhood Association, sits on the board of the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission.
Rogers said the board took no vote regarding the matter during that meeting.
“It was a pleasant meeting. ... But we in no way gave (Johnson) our approval or support of what they are attempting to do,” he said.
Rogers said he personally opposes Kroger’s plan.
“I don’t think it’s feasible from a traffic standpoint,” he said. “I don’t like the encroachment into the neighborhood. I think there are several sites in the near vicinity that are more appropriate.”
Pam Bass, who lives in the North Highlands neighborhood, said most of the residents in her area received notice of the meeting Monday, but she understood Shirley Hills’ residents did not get the notice.
“We are trying to make sure everyone in Shirley Hills knows about the meeting,” Bass said.
She was especially concerned about the timing of the meeting since it is three days before Christmas, and many people will be out of town for the holidays.
Bass said she opposes Kroger’s plan.
“For one thing, that is the entrance to our neighborhood,” she said. “We are not going to have a service station as the entrance to our neighborhood. The other thing is Gray Highway is already a nightmare. There is no way to get in and out of that property.”
Johnson said in an attempt to further get the word out about the meeting on Monday, notices would be put in customers’ bags at the Baconsfield store over the weekend.
She understands some people oppose the plan, and one reason for the meeting is to gauge their response and reasons.
“Are they adamant about ‘no, no, never’ or are they saying ‘if it’s done right, we can accept it?’ ” Johnson said. “We think we do a really nice product. In this particular case, we will own it. If we ever leave, we will take it with us. We just want to talk with them about it. Hopefully, there is a compromise.”
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.