City denies borrow pit zoning request

ALBANY -- The Albany City Commission voted 4-2 Tuesday to deny a request by an Albany construction company to continue using a borrow pit to haul sand used in construction out from 16 acres near neighborhoods on Blaylock Street.

Buddy Clark of Concrete Enterprises said he bought a total of 26 acres off Blaylock Street near the Paul Eames Sports Complex six months ago from Cecil Musgrove specifically because of its previous history as a borrow pit and its high-quality dirt.

But, unbeknownst to Clark, the zoning ordinance governing the site had changed and, according to city officials, had not been grandfathered into the new ordinance because it appeared that the pit hadn't been used for more than a year when Clark bought it.

So when planning officials got a complaint from a concerned citizen, they and Clark realized the property was improperly zoned for that kind of usage.

"We dropped the ball and didn't do our due diligence when we bought the property," Clark told the commission Tuesday. "Had I known we would have to go through all of this, I wouldn't have bought it to begin with."

About 40 residents of the Catalina Beach and St. John's neighborhoods near the site told Clark and the commission they wished he hadn't either.

"There will never be any more residential development in this area if this is allowed to continue," Bishop Victor Powell told the commission. "No one would want to build a house looking over a big hole in the ground."

William Edwards, husband of Dougherty County Commissioner Muarlean Edwards, who lives nearby, said a major concern is what will happen to the pit once it's expanded.

"My concern is what the hole would be filled with when its dug," he said. "We really don't want this to happen in our area."

Ward 6 Commissioner Tommie Postell railed against the idea, saying that the move could lead to the development of another Maple Hill landfill.

"I think what we have here is a future landfill," Postell said. "They have already been hauling dirt out of there that wasn't authorized."

Clark said he and his company had planned to increase the slopes of the existing holding pond on the property, making it safer in case children wandered over to the site, and that it would never be used as a landfill.

But he did caution that if the city didn't rezone the property and it remained under its current M-1 or light manufacturing designation, the type of business he would have to bring in would be much worse to the neighborhoods than keeping the borrow pit.

Jeff Lanier of Lanier Engineering, who is helping develop the site, told commissioners that a plan for the property includes space along Blaylock for businesses, while threatening litigation if the zoning measure wasn't approve.

"I feel like I need to advise you that if you don't approve this issue then you'll be taking the land away, and that's a violation of the property owner's constitutional rights," he said.

After more than an hour of debate between concerned citizens and the developers, the commission voted to deny the zoning application, with Commissioners Morris Gurr and Bob Langstaff voting not to deny the measure.