The residents of the neighborhoods nearest the Kroger store at Baconsfield got a chance to express their concerns regarding a proposed fuel center Monday.
And they took it.
About 100 people showed up at the informational session organized by Kroger at Highland Hills Baptist Church.
Early in the meeting, resident Diann Brannen turned to the crowd and said, “Let me ask you to raise your hand if you came here to support a gas station on our corner.”
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Only one hand was raised, and that person said she liked the idea of a gas station, just not at the corner of Nottingham Drive and North Avenue, as currently proposed by Kroger.
That sentiment carried over for the rest of the hourlong meeting, which was led by Eyvonne Johnson, assistant real estate manager for the Kroger Southeast division. She introduced the proposal, then opened the floor for questions and comments from residents.
Perhaps none expressed themselves more strongly than Tracy Montgomery, who estimated he spends $600 to $700 a month at Kroger.
“If you put that fuel center there, God as my witness, I will never buy from Kroger again,” Montgomery said, drawing standing applause from several of the other residents.
Johnson said that while the response from the residents was “tough,” the meeting was still a productive one.
“It was good feedback,” she said. “It was feedback that I’ll take back to my group, ... and we’ll give these guys some feedback as well.”
Many of the concerns dealt with the intersection itself, which also joins with Gray Highway. Residents such as Robin Massey, who said he’d lived in that part of Macon for 60 years, said the added congestion that a fuel station would bring could exacerbate the existing traffic issues.
“There’ll be wrecks constantly,” he said.
Others said the main issue dealt with aesthetics. The bright lights, long lines and fuel tankers that come with a gas station could have adverse effects that outweigh the savings.
Kroger has a fuel discount program connected to grocery purchases, but that didn’t erase the doubts of Mary Alice Applegate, a frequent Kroger shopper.
“It would take a long time and a lot of groceries to make up for the loss of property value,” she said.
While most of the issues that arose surrounded the fuel center, some came up about the meeting itself. Contrary to Johnson’s belief, notices were not stuffed in grocery bags over the weekend, according to the residents in attendance. Also, some of the residents nearest the proposed fuel center location, currently the law offices of Stone & Driggers, said they didn’t receive notices in the mail like many of their neighbors.
Dare Massey and Carolyn Raines, both of whom live adjacent to the property, were among them, and that drew criticism from Donna Massey.
“You have to know we don’t trust you when you don’t tell the two homes affected the most,” she said to Johnson.
Residents spent a bulk of the meeting suggesting alternate locations for the new fuel center. Among them were behind McDonald’s near Kroger and behind Kroger itself.
Donna Massey said she was thinking of her neighbors such as Raines when she suggested one of those other lots to Johnson.
“You put it in your backyard instead of (Raines’) backyard, and you can build something beautiful,” she said.
Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission will consider the rezoning of the property from residential with a waiver for the law office to commercial in January, and just a few days after that, Kroger’s contract to purchase the land is up.
That and scheduling with the church, recommended as a location by the city, are why Johnson planned the meeting for a holiday week, she said.
“There’s time and there’s deadlines, and we wanted to have feedback,” she said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.