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Planning board OKs East Albany duplexes

ALBANY, Ga. -- Despite passionate objections from a number of East Albany residents, the Albany-Dougherty Planning Commission recommended by a 5-2 vote Thursday approval of a rezoning request that would allow a local developer to build 28 duplexes at 508 Johnson Road.

Residents from the area said property values would go down and crime would go up if Chris Hatcher is allowed to build the proposed Rosebrier Gardens Complex on 11.34 acres at the junction of Rosebrier Avenue and Marianne Street, across from the now-closed Sylvester Road Elementary School.

Among those who attended the Planning Commission meeting were Ward I Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard and District 6 Dougherty County School Board representative Darrel Ealum, both of whom represent East Albany residents around the proposed development.

"That is a long-standing residential area," Ealum said in remarks to the board. "What's the value of your zoning ordinances if you change them at every whim? I ask you to honor the zoning of that area and deny the request."

Other speakers were more pointed in their remarks.

"We do not need this," Jane Powers said. "(To Hatcher) Go and spend your money somewhere else and let us live our lives. We fought the closing of our neighborhood school and lost; please do not let us lose this.

"This is all about money."

Ivy Fender said that while he understands Hatcher's efforts to have his investment in the property pay off, the mostly elderly residents in the neighborhood have few options if the proposed development lessens the value of their properrty.

"Most of us came here when we were young; now we can't get out," Fender said.

Hatcher said the development would target residents 50 and over. He said he'd gotten feedback on construction of single-family homes in the area, which residents said were preferable, but he'd found no takers.

"I went a solid year through Community and Economic Development trying to find single-family buyers, but I didn't get any," he said.

The commission voted to approve the rezoning request with the condition that the original density of the development be reduced from 6.8 units per acre to 5 units and that sidewalks be included in the development.

Commission Chairman William Geer told the residents who'd spoken out against the development, "We are a fact-finding and a recommending body. This is not a final vote on this matter. I encourage you to attend a public hearing before the Albany City Commission June 25."

Also at the meeting, the commission voted 7-0 to approve a rezoning application submitted by William Hancock that would allow him to locate a doctor's office in a building at 706 Baldwin Drive and to allow a variance that would permit David Whaley to build an accessory building at a height of 14 feet, 6 inches rather than at the height of the property's principal structure, which is 10 feet, 7 inches.

The board voted 6-1 to allow Wingate Land Development to utilize a 20-foot maximum front yard building setback from sidewalks in lieu of ordinances that require a 10-foot maximum setback. The variance would apply to 44 townhouses being constructed at the Stonebridge Subdivision at Stonebridge Country Club.

"This variance should not impact future development and is consistent with existing development," Senior Planner Rozanne Braswell said.