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Zoning commission defers decision on proposed Barnes Ferry Road rail spur in south Macon

The Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission deferred until May 26 a decision on a rezoning application requesting a rail spur to a pipeline loading station on Barnes Ferry Road.

Houston, Texas-based Epic Midstream LLC is looking to rezone about 50 acres at 2048 Barnes Ferry Road from an agricultural district to a wholesale and light industrial district to allow a rail spur from the Norfolk Southern mainline.

The site is near Sofkee Road and is surrounded mostly by vacant land, except for a single-family development across Barnes Ferry Road.

Epic plans to pump ethanol from rail cars through a new pipeline it would install to its nearby storage facility.

The matter also was deferred at the commission’s March 23 meeting after commissioners asked Epic representatives to meet with nearby residents to explain the project in more detail.

Epic’s attorney, George Greer, said Monday the neighbors seemed “more concerned about the existing pipeline” at that meeting.

In the 1980s, a leak occurred in an 11-mile pipeline supplying jet fuel to Robins Air Force Base. Even though NuStar Energy of Texas didn’t own the pipeline when the leaks occurred, when it bought the facility in 2005 it voluntarily agreed to clean up the pollution, according to a 2012 article in The Telegraph.

Linda Ferguson, director of compliance for Epic, said Monday that Epic bought the facility in 2012, and her company is not involved in the remediation of the older pipeline.

Resident Arthur Hubbard asked the commission to delay a decision on the rail spur, so neighbors could have more time to gather information about the remediation. He said he had a meeting set up at the end of this month with a representative from NuStar.

Hubbard said neighbors are concerned the new pipeline would be “adding to the problems we already have.”

Another resident, Bob Moore, said the neighbors “want to know what the risks are, and we believe that has not been answered.”

Greer pointed out that Epic is only asking the commission for the rezoning to allow the rail spur off of the main railroad, not for permission for the pipeline as that is regulated under federal guidelines.

“The pipeline is permitted,” he said.

Other items on the agenda were:

CONDITIONAL USES:

4315 Sheraton Drive: Conditional use to allow a bowling alley with variance in rear setback requirements, PDE District. Wendy Sherlock, PZDM LLC, applicant. Deferred to April 27.

985 Plant St.: Conditional use to allow revision to previously approved site plan with final approval of Phase I, PDR District. George Greer, Tindall Partners I, L.P., applicant. Approved.

CERTIFICATE OF APPROPRIATENESS:

2621 Cherokee Ave.: Certificate of Appropriateness to allow design approval of gate and landscape plan, HR-2 District. Melisa Brownlee, applicant. Approved.

2653 Cherokee Ave.: Certificate of Appropriateness to allow design approval of siding change, HR-2 District. Moses Jackson, applicant. Approved.

VARIANCES:

1371 Glendale Ave.: Variance to allow an off-premise sign with variances in height and area, R-2 District. Ron Burger, applicant. Approved.

4304 Pio Nono Ave.: Variance to allow off-premise sign, C-4 District. Ron Burger, applicant. Approved.

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

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