Business

Plans for distribution center — perhaps for Amazon — approved by Macon zoning board

Plans for a proposed distribution center in south Bibb County received unanimous approval Monday by the zoning board.

Two south Bibb residents expressed concerns about the increase in traffic the center would bring, but a traffic study is expected to be approved shortly by the county and state.

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved an application for a conditional-use permit to allow a distributing warehouse taller than 35 feet at 4995 Sardis Church Road. A majority of the property was rezoned last month for warehouse and light industrial, and it is currently a hay field. The applicant was the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, which owns the land.

The company planning to go in is called “Project Unicorn” on the application. Company names often remain a secret until the deal is finalized and the company is ready to make an announcement.

However, as reported in The Telegraph in September, the 1 million-square-foot building is similar in several ways to fulfillment centers Amazon.com is building around the country to fill its online orders quickly.

The Seattle-based e-commerce company has been building a number of fulfillment centers across the country. The size, height, layout, color scheme and planned use of the Macon facility are the same or similar to many of those fulfillment centers.

The proposed distribution center would be built on 97 acres adjacent to Interstate 75, Sardis Church Road and Skipper Road, according to the application.

Plans call for a concrete building with a height of about 50 feet. This falls in line with other industrial buildings in the area, including Tractor Supply Co., Tyson and FedEx, all in the I-75 Business Park across I-75 from this proposed project.

“This is pretty much the same site plan we talked about at the rezoning meeting,” said Don Carter, with Macon-based Carter & Sloope Inc., consulting engineers. “So, this is a fulfillment center, or distribution, with approximately 600 employees at non-peak, with up to 1,000 or 1,100 during peak season. Peak season is typically October through the holiday season, through the end of the year.”

It would operate around the clock all year. The center would have about 1,000 parking spaces, plus up to 100 future spaces for employees and visitors, 250 spaces for trailers and 75 future trailer spaces, according to the commission’s staff report. It would have about 95 doors for trucks, Carter said. The property will be surrounded by an 8-foot high fence. Barbed wire would be put around a portion of the fence away from Sardis Church and Skipper roads.

The center would be used “for the purposes of receiving, storing, shipping, distributing, and selling of products, materials and merchandise, which may also include alcohol products and grocery items, … for limited direct customer product pick-up from self-service kiosks, … (and) for processing customer product and merchandise returns,” according to a statement filed with the zoning office.

The center would face Skipper Road with the loading docks and truck parking adjacent to I-75, Carter said. While he agreed “you can’t hide a 50-foot-tall building,” plans include a heavily landscaped 4-foot-tall earthen berm that would be added adjacent to Skipper Road. Also, the site would include other landscaping such as canopy trees and shrubs throughout the site. The site will include two storm water treatment ponds on each side of the building.

Plans call for a signal light to be installed at the intersection of Sardis Church and Skipper roads, with turn lanes on those roads.

While Bennie Puckett, who lives on Walden Road, said he didn’t “really have an objection” to the distribution center, but that the entrance and exit ramps for I-75 should have been designed differently and predicted the current design was going to cause problems in the future.

Harold DeLoach, who lives on Murray Drive, spoke briefly, saying he had shared his concerns about the truck traffic on Skipper Road with the zoning staff.

“This is a long-standing residential area and these residents out there do have concerns,” said Commissioner Jeane Easom. “So as long as we are comfortable with the fact that these concerns have at least been addressed and things are modified as far as traffic and safety is concerned, you know, progress is progress. It’s a great opportunity for Bibb County but we don’t need to do anything that’s going to harm those who already are already here. ... I think that traffic study will hopefully show you’ve done all you can do.”

Other items on the agenda were:

ITEMS FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS:

2790 Vineville Ave.: Certificate of Appropriateness to allow design approval of roof, porch and to remove trees, HR-1 District. Jay Strong, applicant. Approved.

3975 West Oak Drive: Variance in setback requirements to allow an accessory building, PDR District. Deldra Phillips, applicant. Approved.

VARIANCES:

2350 Riverside Drive: Variance to allow a reduction in setback requirements to a residential district, C-2 District. Jed Renfroe, applicant. Approved.

RATIFICATION:

750 Baconsfield Drive: Conditional use to allow a job readiness training/coaching facility [17-21176], C-4 District. Nattlie Ringer, applicant. Approved.

Linda S. Morris: 478-744-4223, @MidGaBiz

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