A Macon-Bibb County Commission committee supported Tuesday a proposal to permanently close a section of a north Macon road for a proposed shopping development.
The Facilities and Engineering Committee voted 4-1 in favor of the resolution that would allow The Jones Co. to purchase a section of property to close off Wesleyan between Riverside Drive and New Forsyth Road. The closure would be part of a planned development called Riverside Centre that could feature a movie theater and 415,500 square feet of stores and restaurants.
Commissioner Gary Bechtel voted against the proposal due to concerns from many residents who use that portion of Wesleyan.
Commissioners Scotty Shepherd, Al Tillman, Mallory Jones and Larry Schlesinger voted for it. The measure will be up for a vote again on the May 2 commission agenda. The county would sell about an acre of property on Wesleyan for $141,700.
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“I’ve heard from more residents about this particular issue than I’ve heard from anything going on in this county at any point,” Bechtel said. “It’s very difficult for me to hear from that many people and not support what they want to do.”
There are other planned road improvements in the area that could impact traffic near the proposed shopping center. They include the installation of a roundabout at Riverside Drive and Bass Road and the widening of Bass Road.
Drivers won’t be as inconvenienced as they believe with the road closure, said Jim Rollins with real estate company The Summit Group.
Wesleyan Drive would become a “de facto entrance” into the proposed shopping center that would be located at 1771 Bass Road and New Forsyth Road, he said.
“The difference in travel distance down Riverside from Wesleyan to New Forsyth Road is 200 feet,” Rollins said. “The inconvenience to neighbors is 200 feet.”
Roundabout could calm traffic
Members of the Facilities and Engineering Committee also agreed to support the Georgia Department of Transportation on a potential traffic calming measure at a busy intersection.
The road improvements could take place around Ga. 247, which is the major artery connecting Macon with Robins Air Force Base. Other major roads around the intersection include Houston Road, Houston Avenue, Pio Nono Avenue and Broadway.
The “letter of support” means that Macon-Bibb would cover landscaping costs if the roundabout is built. The committee added it would like to for GDOT to further examine two types of roundabouts and another option.
A state transportation official recently presented multiple options, including various types of roundabouts, an overpass and more, to Macon-Bibb commissioners.
“GDOT has ultimate responsibility for determining what’s most safe at this intersection,” Macon-Bibb County Engineer David Forston said. “i think we need to leave it up to the professionals to make that determination, but if it’s anything you don’t want then you can certain make that known. But I think we need to give them the flexibility to come up with the final recommendation.”
The full County Commission would vote on the resolution next week.
In other business Tuesday, committees also approved the following:
▪ An $800,000 loan for a popular downtown entertainment venue. The loan would allow the Crazy Bull to remain open after financial problems with one of its investors, said NewTown Macon President Josh Rogers.
▪ A resolution to spend $494,000 of the 2012 sales tax proceeds on a Lizella recreation facility at Flintrock Park, a section of Claystone Park;
Commissioner Joe Allen, who represents Lizella, said he’s working to resolve some of the infrastructure changes and other improvements desired by residents who live near the park.
▪ Using $2.8 million for renovations to the Grand Opera House. The first phase would be used to improve the seating and put in a new air conditioning system.
▪ There’s also another $964,000 of sales tax bond money proposed for renovations at Dolores A. Brooks Park, formerly known as East Macon Park. Those improvements include expanding the driveway, finishing work on a new T-ball field, renovating restrooms and cleaning the recreation center’s exterior.
Each of the recreation and cultural facility projects would be paid for through special purpose local option sales tax revenue or sales tax bonds. Each resolution approved Tuesday will be on the May 2 County Commission agenda.