About 150 attend zoning meeting about Dollar General. They have to wait for decision

West Bibb County neighbors of proposed Dollar General turn out to oppose

West Bibb County neighbors of proposed Dollar General turn out to oppose zoning change that would allow store.
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West Bibb County neighbors of proposed Dollar General turn out to oppose zoning change that would allow store.

About 150 people crowded inside the main hearing room Monday at the Government Center as Macon’s zoning commission met to consider an application for a Dollar General store.

Most of those folks were there to oppose a plan to rezone 6855 Thomaston Road from an agricultural district to a planned development commercial district to allow the discount retailer to build a 9,000-square-foot store on nearly 3 acres of a 6 1/2-acre tract. Additional phases include a convenience store with gas pumps and another unspecified commercial use. The store would sit on the northwest corner of a large roundabout.

But after about two hours of comments from both sides of the issue, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission agreed it had a lot to think about and it didn’t want to have to make a quick decision. So, it plans to vote on the matter at the next meeting, Feb. 25, and at that time no additional testimony will be heard, said Chairwoman Jeane Easom.

“We’ve heard a lot of testimony,” Easom said. “Some of it is based on evidence and some on emotion. ... This is a complicated and emotional issue. ... We want to give it more consideration.”

Several area residents said during the meeting they opposed the project because it would increase traffic, cause crime and create litter. Some mentioned that another Dollar General was about 3 miles away and saw no need for another one so close by.

“Already our neighborhood has too much traffic,” said Dan Brown, who lives about two blocks from the proposed site. He also said, “it would bring crime.”

If the store was robbed, he said there was a good chance the robbers would run into the woods behind his house and could possibly try to break into his home to hide from police.

Gregory Agen also was concerned about crime.

“Right now there is zero crime in the area,” he said. “If there there is no store there, we won’t have crime.”

Danny Stuckey, said he lives within sight of the proposed store.

“We moved out there to get away from commercial, not have commercial comes to us,” he said. “It will make it nearly impossible to sell our house.”

Duke Groover, an attorney representing Dollar General, said that while the property is zoned agricultural, it would likely never be used that way in the future and he didn’t foresee anyone building a house at the roundabout.

“This area would be sought after for commercial development,” he said.

The commission’s staff had mentioned in reports going back to 2015, that the county’s 2040 Future Land Use Map recommended it be designated “suburban residential,” which could include small scale commercial uses, Groover said.

Groover said a traffic study commission by his client showed the store would have “negligible impact” on traffic in the area. He said most customers would be driving on area roads anyway. Also, while he agreed that a commercial development could bring a certain amount of crime, “Dollar General (stores) do not attract any more crime than any other commercial (uses).

“There is not any evidence it will substantially affect the neighborhood,” but he acknowledged the potential store was a sensitive issue for the area residents.

“I know it’s important to them and it’s important to my client,” he said.

Linda Morris, who has won several state and national journalism awards, covers business news for The Telegraph in Macon. Prior to beginning her journalism career, she worked with a commercial real estate developer, law firms, banks, a retailer and a wholesaler.