No decision on rezoning for south Bibb rail spur or proposed change to Design Review Board

For the fourth time a decision on the rezoning of property for a rail spur to an ethanol pipeline in south Bibb County has been delayed.

George Greer, a Macon attorney representing Texas-based Epic Midstream, asked the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission on Monday for a continuance because his client had not had time to respond to new information presented late Friday by the commission’s staff.

Epic Midstream had filed an application to rezone about 50 wooded acres from an agricultural district to a wholesale and light industrial district at 2048 Barnes Ferry Road. It would allow a rail spur from the Norfolk Southern main line to serve a rail pipeline loading station for ethanol.

The matter was first heard March 13 and it was deferred to the April 13 hearing, the May 26 hearing and to Monday’s hearing so concerned residents who live in the area could gather more information. This was the first time the applicant had requested a delay.

The commission’s attorney, Pope Langstaff, pointed to the commission’s regulations that allowed the postponement which states: “The hearing may be continued from time to time for good reason shown.”

Some of the new information added to the staff report states that ethanol was classified as a hazardous liquid in recent weeks. A result of that change is that ethanol will be subject to more strict federal regulations.

The addendum concludes, “After further review of the facts surrounding this proposal and in light of the additional information regarding ethanol and its dangers to public health and welfare, staff has concerns that this proposed development will pose significant negative impacts to the adjoining and nearby properties.”

Several people attended Monday’s meeting for this agenda item and once the commission approved the delayed, nearly half the chamber at the government center emptied.

Residents who live in the area of the proposed rail spur have told commissioners they don’t want it because of problems with previous leaks from a jet fuel pipeline that some of them dealt with for years. Some wells in the area were polluted because of the fuel leaks, they’ve said.

A previous owner was responsible for those issues, Greer has said.

In another matter, the commission deferred indefinitely making a proposed change to its design review process by eliminating the Design Review Board. The board now reviews all Certificate of Appropriateness projects and offers a recommendation to the Planning & Zoning Commission, which has final say.

The commission had proposed that its staff would review and approve Certificate of Appropriateness applications for property in the historic districts, which the commission would review. Also the formal Design Review Board would morph to an informal Design Review Advisory Committee to provide comment when convened by staff.

Historic preservationists, including representatives of several historic neighborhoods in Macon, are against the move. Several spoke at the meeting saying that getting rid of the board could endanger Macon’s historic properties. They asked the commission to at least delay a vote.

Commission Chairman Kamal Azar, who had served on the Design Review Board for 12 years several years ago, said that while the board “has done a tremendous job, ... I sometimes feel there is some disconnect. This was just to streamline some things. We definitely are not trying to take away the review (of historic buildings). Almost 80 percent are simple applications. ... All we want in the end is what’s good for Macon.”The commission unanimously agreed to defer the matter.

Other items on the agenda were:

REZONINGS:6855 Thomaston Road: Proposal to rezone from A-Agricultural District to PDC, Planned Development Commercial District. The purpose of this rezoning is to allow a retail development (Dollar General). SW West Macon LLC, Colin Edwards, applicant. Withdrawn.

MANUFACTURED HOMES:8960 Hopewell Road: Conditional use to allow a manufactured home with decks, A-Agricultural District. Joann Johnson, applicant. Approved.

CONDITIONAL USES:3750 Pio Nono Ave.: Conditional use to allow auto sales, C-4 District. Joseph Pilkenton, applicant. Approved.

4684 Presidential Parkway: Conditional use and final site plan approval to allow retail sales of tires, C-2 District. Cunningham & Co., applicant. Approved.

343 Plantation Way: Conditional use to plat property before site plan approval and approval of a revised site plan, PDE District. Zebulon Road Properties, LLC, Sterling Nelson, applicant. Approved.

VARIANCES:8960 Hopewell Road: Variance in lot width requirements to allow a manufactured home, A-Agricultural District. Joann Johnson, applicant. Approved.

4140 Houston Ave.: Variance in setback requirements to allow a church, C-2 District. Deeper Life Bible Church, applicant. Approved.

3684 S. Lizella Road: Variance to plat property without frontage on public right-of-way, A-Agricultural District. Robbie and Brandi Sellers, applicant. Approved.

Information from The Telegraph archives was used in this story. To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.