A rezoning request that has pitted an Albany developer against residents on Old Dawson Road who complained the proposed $15 million residential development would cause traffic snarls has been rejected by the Albany City Commission. After a close vote garnered the rezoning request a positive recommendation from the Planning Commission, the City Commission voted 6-0-1 Tuesday to deny it.
ALBANY, Ga. -- It was a resigned Danny Blackshear who reflected Wednesday morning on the Albany City Commission's decision to deny his request for a change in zoning conditions that would have allowed him to develop 25 acres of property at 3101 Old Dawson Road.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Blackshear said, responding to the commission's 6-0 decision to deny a request that would have paved the way for a 92-housing-unit development on the land. "I felt like this was a good project, and I think everyone's going to look back at some point and see that it was a lost opportunity."
Charlie Peeler, a partner in the Flynn Peeler & Phillips law firm who represented the interests of the Beela Ellis estate, had warned commissioners at the Tuesday meeting that a denial of the developer's request "would not withstand Constitutional scrutiny."
"Zoning is an emotional topic, as we've seen here," Peeler said. "But I must remind you that when considering zoning applications, you must comply with the laws of the state of Georgia and the U.S. Constitution. If it does not comply, the applicant has the right to appeal to Superior Court.
"There are six Constitutional factors in this case that weigh heavily in favor of granting this application. The fact that this piece of property has been on the market for 10 years demonstrates that it is not marketable as zoned. If you do not grant this application, you are denying the property owner the right to reasonably market and sell the property."
Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell, who chastised Peeler for "threatening me with a lawsuit," discounted the attorney's claim that Constitutional factors supported Blackshear's application.
"There are probably six other factors in the Constitution that say just the opposite," Postell said. "That document was created to give everybody a fair chance."
Blackshear said he's keeping his options open on nearby property at 3007 Old Dawson for which he'd sought rezoning to develop a 24-unit apartment complex. That request had been approved by the Albany Dougherty Planning Commission by an 8-0 vote, and Postell offered a motion to approve the request Tuesday.
His motion died for lack of a second, though, and Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard offered a motion to deny that request as well. His motion was approved 6-0. Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff, who has business dealings with the principles in the matter, abstained from voting in both cases.
"I've already had my realtor contact the listing agent on the Ellis tract and cancel my option," Blackshear said Wednesday. "I'll ask for my earnest money back and move on to another project. I will try to look at other options on the second property, though. I see no reason for denying that proposal."
Blackshear said he did come away impressed with the proceedings that led to Tuesday evening's denial of his proposal.
"It was really interesting to see how a group of citizens can impact a government agency the way the citizens did in this case," the developer said. "Obviously, I wanted it to go the other way, but it was actually quite impressive."