North Bibb County residents protest proposed zoning change at Bass, Rivoli

More than 200 people gathered Monday to protest a proposed zoning change that would allow a developer to build hundreds of residential units at the intersection of Rivoli Drive and Bass Road.

The meeting was held at North Macon Presbyterian Church on Rivoli Drive.

Many of the attendees signed a petition at the door opposing the new development. Several took copies of the petition home with plans of going door-to-door soliciting signatures from their neighbors.

Lawrence Mink said he and other residents are concerned about the magnitude and scope of the proposal to develop 70 acres into 350 apartment units, 63 townhomes, single-family homes and an assisted-living facility.

“The density would be too much for the area,” he said.

Mink serves as co-chairman of the North Bibb Citizens Coalition, a group formed in October to be an information center for residents concerned about the proposed zoning change and development.

With property values already in peril because of the economy, Mink said many residents fear their property values could sink lower if the property is rezoned and the development is approved.

Elmo Richardson, coalition co-chairman and a Bibb County commissioner, said the development would be incompatible with the area of Bibb where he built his home in 1977.

Richardson said he fears traffic on Bass Road would increase with people moving into the development.

Currently, there’s no money available to improve Bass Road, he said.

Improvements are in the long-range plan, but he said it will take a lot of tax money to fund the improvements.

Residents Trina and Twoin Davis said they already have to wait too long in traffic on Bass Road and oppose the new development.

As it is now, Trina Davis says, it takes an extra 10 minutes for her to make the drive from Interstate 75 to her home in the Rivoli Country subdivision during rush hour.

“It gets bad about 5 p.m.,” said Twoin Davis. “With this, it’s going to get worse.”

Don Beringer said there are days when it takes him 10 minutes to get onto Bass Road from Howard Oaks subdivision, where he lives.

“I think this is a beautiful part of Bibb County and it has absorbed some projects that are very beneficial to the community,” Beringer said. “But we’re barely able to.

“It’s just hit its limit.”

Richardson told the people gathered at the meeting that the land that’s being considered for the zoning change is mostly wooded and developers would have to “rape the land” during the building process.

Erosion and sedimentation could become factors, he said.

“Inevitably, it can create a lot of problems,” Richardson said.

Zan Thompson, the land planner and development consultant working with the family trust that owns the land, was not at the meeting. Before the meeting Monday, Thompson said a traffic study has been conducted as a part of the planning stages for the project and in response, a left-turn lane will be built at the entrance to the development across Bass Road from the St. Croix subdivision.

No other major impacts were uncovered in the study, he said.

Thompson said it’s his experience after 40 years in the land-planning field that well-planned developments have no negative impact on property value. Thompson described the planned apartments as “club type” and would be designed for people with strong incomes who don’t want to own a home. For example, he said the apartments would be perfect for retired people who don’t want to maintain a yard or for young professionals.

A report filed with Bibb County Planning and Zoning shows 350 apartment units in 15 buildings are proposed.

Thompson said the assisted living units, estimated to number between 191 and 261, would be similar to those at Carlyle Place on Zebulon Road.

At the earliest, Thompson said ground could be broken in about a year if the zoning application is approved.

But in the current state of the economy, he said it also could be several years before construction begins.

Bibb County Planning and Zoning is scheduled to meet and discuss the rezoning application Jan. 12.

Mink encouraged the crowd gathered Monday night to attend the meeting and to send letters opposing the zoning change to the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission.