Houston & Peach

Warner Robins council splits on Dehnad Center rezoning request, approves false alarm fine

WARNER ROBINS -- It took a tie-breaking vote from the mayor, but a businessman was able to get some residential property rezoned to commercial Monday.

The City Council split 3-3 on a request to rezone five residential lots behind the Dehnad Center, which is on Watson Boulevard across from Houston Healthcare. The lots are all along Cherokee Drive, which runs parallel to Watson behind the Dehnad Center.

The owner, Al Dehnad, bought the residential lots in recent years to expand the Dehnad Center with a focus on medical offices. He asked the council to rezone the lots commercial.

He told the council he would build a solid fence around the property to separate it from the residences on the other side of Cherokee Drive.

In the pre-council meeting, Councilman Mike Davis made clear that he planned to vote against the request. He asked the council members to consider whether they would want it across the street from their home.

“I think you are messing up a residential neighborhood,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t want it in my neighborhood so why would I do that to these people?”

The only resident of the neighborhood who spoke said he has lived there 20 years and did not object to Dehnad’s request.

When it came up for a vote, council members Carolyn Robbins and Clifford Holmes joined Davis in voting against the request. Council members Chuck Shaheen, Tim Thomas and Keith Lauritsen voted in favor.

Mayor Randy Toms broke the tie and said he voted to approve it because of the growth it could create in the area.

Dehnad said after the meeting that people are living in the homes being rezoned and he will have to wait until their leases are up before doing anything with the properties. He said it could be a couple of years before any work begins.

Another important vote at the meeting was considerably less controversial. The council voted unanimously, and without discussion, to approve an ordinance that would fine people for having multiple false alarms.

The first two false alarms would not incur a fine, but the third would be $50. The fine would increase incrementally with each subsequent false alarm. By the 10th false alarm, the fine would be $300.

Council members said in the pre-council meeting that they hadn’t heard any negative comments from the public since the proposal was discussed at the last council meeting.

The police department asked for the change due to the high number of false alarms officers were answering, particularly from businesses.

Also the council approved a contract of $402,000 from Warren & Associates Inc. to design and build renovations to City Hall. City Clerk Bill Harte said after the meeting that work could start in anywhere from three to nine months, and he expects it could take a year.

The work will be done in phases in different sections of the building so it will not require City Hall to relocate while the work is being done, Harte said.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.