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City Commission says no to rezoning for duplexes

ALBANY, Ga. — The Albany City Commission decided Tuesday evening to reject the recommendation of its Planning Commission and unanimously voted down a rezoning request that would have allowed for the construction of duplex apartments in an East Albany neighborhood.

Developer Chris Hatcher’s request to have 11.34 acres of property at 508 Johnson Road rezoned from single-family residential (R-2) to single- and two-family residential (R-3) was opposed by a group who lives in the neighborhood, several of whom spoke at Tuesday evening’s business meeting.

“What is zoning for? You’ve already determined what you want this neighborhood to look like,” Dougherty School Board member Darrel Ealum, who lives near the property, said. “Please don’t destroy these peoples’ neighborhood.”

Resident Bertha McDonald said, “Most of the people who own homes in this neighborhood are retired military. They’ve served their country. Who would want to move into a neighborhood with duplexes across the street if I ever decided to sell my home?”

Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard jokingly said he could leap across the 20-foot natural barrier between nearby homes and the proposed duplexes or jump over a 6-foot privacy fence that Hatcher was to construct as one of the conditions of the rezoning.

“I tried to keep my personal feelings out of this, but nobody in their right mind will say they want to spend their money on a home located in a neighborhood of duplexes, except maybe a drunk man, and he would probably at some point wake up and ask what’s going on,” Howard said. “The people in East Albany may not have the money of people on the west side, but we do have pride.”

Hatcher argued that he grew up in East Albany and still maintains an office in the district.

Howard later said, “I say to this board, at some point we have to realize that we’re destroying this city by putting apartments in single-family neighborhoods. At some point we in East Albany are going to say ‘Enough is enough.’”

Resident Jane Powers chided Hatcher, saying, “Mr. Hatcher may have grown up on the east side, but he doesn’t live there now. Maybe he’d like to build his duplexes off Doublegate where he lives.”

The commission also adopted a $109 million Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which includes funding for the Flint RiverQuarium and the Albany Civil Rights Institute. Ward V Commissioner Bob Langstaff voted against the budget, citing opposition to funding the agencies.

When Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said, “There’s also funding for the police department in the budget,” he was gaveled down by Mayor Dorothy Hubbard.

“We’re not able to give our employees a COLA, but we’re giving $200,000 to these entities and we don’t even know how they’re spending the money,” Langstaff said. “The county and the city have given the RiverQuarium $2.3 million since 2007. If we’re going to give any money, we should match what the county does.

“People compare this to our giving money to Chehaw (Park), but we have someone sitting on the Chehaw board. And their meetings are open. I’m not saying don’t support the RiverQuarium — I do with my personal money — but I’m saying we shouldn’t just stroke them a check without a voice in what they do.”

Also at the meeting, the commission:

  • Approved a one-day alcohol license for an Aug. 17 cancer coalition fundraiser;
  • Approved a retail alcohol license for Albany Package Store at 2901 Gillionville Road;
  • OK’d an ordinance that will allow commercial vehicles to park in residential areas only when providing service at a residence and then for no longer than four hours;
  • Executed a lease that will allow the Kappa Alpha Psi alumni chapter to lease city-owned property at 102 S. Lee St. for $500 a year;
  • Exempted June 29 and July 13 downtown events from city noise ordinances for certain hours;
  • OK’d contract renewals with national and state lobbyists;
  • Approved the use of Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI funds for street repairs;
  • Entered into a lease agreement with Destiny Transportation Group for $6,550 a month (in federal funds) to provide a location for the city’s Transit System.