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Sale of Zebulon properties faces several challenges

While the potential sale of several residential lots on Zebulon Road may face a rezoning hurdle, one thing slowing the process now is the economy.

“They are just waiting for a purchaser,” said Guy Eberhardt with Coldwell Banker Commercial, Eberhardt and Barry real estate firm.

Last summer, Eberhardt put “for sale” signs on seven residential properties between 5885-5801 Zebulon Road, which comprise about 25 acres. The lots are zoned residential but they are being marketed as one property for commercial use.

An online sales brochure lists the price at $5 million.

Even though Eberhardt said he has talked to some interested buyers, the sluggish economy has taken a toll.

“We’ll have to see a turn in the economy before we’ll see anything out there,” he said. “There are some folks who have an interest and think very highly of the property, but the current economic situation just doesn’t give them any opportunity to do anything with it.”

Carole Hollis, who owns 5861 Zebulon Road, said she has received a new prospectus from Eberhardt that included information about expanding the market search for the property. And while Hollis would consider selling for the right price, she agreed the economy would likely keep prospective buyers from doing anything for a while.

Homeowner Sonya Shepherd at 5881 Zebulon Road said she’s eager to see something happen to the properties.

“The traffic has gotten worse,” Shepherd said. “The city bus is letting off (riders) right beside our house.”

Shepherd has tried in the past to sell her house, but potential buyers were concerned about the amount of traffic and the noise from the five-lane Zebulon Road.

According to Eberhardt’s sale brochure, an average of 27,130 vehicles travel the road daily, based on a 2006 count.

The properties are less than a mile from the corner of Bass and Zebulon roads, where several unsuccessful attempts have been made over a number of years to change the zoning for commercial uses. Some nearby neighbors have fought all efforts to rezone that property.

An application has not been filed to rezone the residential properties up for sale, according to the zoning office. Typically an application is filed once a buyer is found.

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission has said in the past that Vineville North Baptist Church and Sonny Carter Elementary School — opposite each other on Zebulon Road — would be the buffer between commercial properties and residential properties along that stretch of road.

But interim executive director Jim Thomas said things could be different if this property comes before the commission now.

“What some folks forget is that time is part of the formula of development as well,” Thomas said. “As time goes by, things change. None of the commissioners are here now that were on board when they made that statement.”

About two miles away, a recent effort to rezone property on Rivoli Drive at Bass Road for a mixed residential project, which has been deferred numerous times by the commission, has been strongly opposed by a neighborhood group. The rezoning application is set now to be heard April 20.

Shepherd said if the Rivoli property is rezoned it might help overcome zoning hurdles for the Zebulon properties.

“If that passes then there is no reason they shouldn’t pass it for the developer to do ours the same way,” Shepherd said.

Eberhardt agreed that rezoning the Zebulon Road properties will be a hurdle that might be tough to overcome, but he’s optimistic.

“Just because there is a mountain, it doesn’t mean you can’t climb it,” he said. “Obviously there are always issues in our business and sometimes you prevail ... and sometimes you don’t.”

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

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