Property of slightly less than 25 acres along Old Dawson Road is being considered for development by Danny Blackshear, whose plan has drawn protest from residents who live along Old Dawson. Critics say the addition of as many as 92 new housing units along the busy road could further impede trafffic flow. (March 14, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- Where several others before him have failed, Albany developer Danny Blackshear thinks he has a workable plan for development of the 25 acres of attractive land at 3101 Old Dawson Road. It's a plan, though, that's not without complications.
Blackshear says his $15 million development plan to put a combined 92 apartment, townhouse and single-family housing units on the property will bring in between $350,000 and $500,000 in yearly tax revenue for the county. Current tax records show the property brings in slightly more than $3,500 a year.
But people who live on or near Old Dawson Road -- many of whom expressed their displeasure with Blackshear's plan at recent meetings of the Albany/Dougherty Planning Commission -- say there are serious flaws with the plan, not the least of which is the potential to further gum up the area's already frequently snarled traffic flow.
"I feel a little better after talking with the Planning Commission, but there are four areas of major concern that we have (with developing the Old Dawson property)," Ellen White, the coordinator of the nearby Fairfield 1 Neighborhood Watch program, said Thursday. "We feel that the areas of safety, traffic, need and environment should be thoroughly discussed before development of that land starts.
"We understand that that land is going to be developed, that it needs to be developed. But before it is, we think those four areas should be addressed."
The Planning Commission has already recommended approval of Blackshear's request to change the conditions on which development in that area is based, but the recommendation comes with an additional condition that Blackshear says may be a deal-breaker. One of the conditions suggested by the Planning Commission is that "access to Pointe North Blvd. or Kensington Court (northeast of Old Dawson) must be completed prior to issuance of any building permits."
The developer says that requirement would be too costly to make the razor-thin profit/loss margin of the project feasible.
"As our plan is now, only the (20) single-family and (32) townhouse residents would have access to Old Dawson," Blackshear said. "The only access to the (40-unit) apartment complex would be through Kensington, so residents of only 52 of the units would impact the traffic on Old Dawson. And that would come in under the traffic capacity."
Engineer Tod Lanier, with Lanier Engineering, confirmed the traffic count numbers.
"The city supplied us traffic studies, and with 52 new residents (entering onto Old Dawson) we would come in slightly under the capacity for that road," Lanier said.
Planning Director Paul Forgey confirmed that the capacity traffic count for Old Dawson from Pointe North Boulevard to Colonial Drive is designed for usage by no more than 16,600 vehicles per day, while capacity count from Colonial to Wexford Drive on Old Dawson is 18,600. A recent count completed by city traffic engineers shows usage by 16,108 vehicles.
"If you add the projections for the single-family units and the townhouses, the count would be around 16,485," Planning Manager Mary Teter said.
Blackshear said adding a second entry for the townhouse and single-family units would add an estimated $200,000 to $240,000 to the cost of the project.
"With the cost of the property, (adding the second entry/exit) would make the whole development a challenge financially," he said. "I have made concessions on some of the other elements of the plan -- such as lot sizes and sizes of the single-family units and the townhouses -- and I hope the (Albany City) Commission will allow us to move forward without the condition of adding the second entryway.
"If they're not willing to do that, I will have to talk with the property owner about renegotiating the cost of the land. If they're not open to that, all of this may turn out to be moot."
City Commissioner Bob Langstaff, whose Ward V includes the property on Old Dawson Road, said he's worked to keep Blackshear and citizens in the area as fully informed on the issues surrounding the proposal as possible. But he said he's limited in just what he can and can't say.
"According to the city attorney (Nathan Davis), I have to abstain from voting or trying to sway my fellow commissioners one way or the other on the proposed rezoning because Albany Realty (for which Blackshear is a principal) is managing some property for me," Langstaff said in an email to The Herald. "Since it could indirectly influence their vote, I also don't think it would be proper for me to offer any opinion on the proposed rezoning to the media."
White said her priority concern about the proposed development is the safety factor.
"There has been much discussion about the traffic issue -- and rightfully so -- but I think the safety of our neighborhoods around this development should be discussed," she said. "There are a lot of elderly citizens and a lot of children that live around that area. And there are a number of people who walk and jog in those neighborhoods. We already have issues with people cutting through our neighborhoods as shortcuts to U.S. 82, Gillionville and some of the other roads around here.
"There's also the question of what will happen with the wildlife on that property once development starts. We're seeing more and more deer, raccoons and even foxes on that land -- they got all the okra I planted last year -- and you have to wonder how this will affect them. I'm just not sure any of our concerns will be addressed before they start development."
Forgey said he's not sure he could recommend the commission approve Blackshear's development plan without a second access for all residents who might locate there.
"From a planning perspective, transition in an area like this is important," Forgey said. "They've actually done a good job of buffering the different elements around the development, so from that perspective it is a good plan.
"But that road (Old Dawson) is close to capacity as it is. I don't think I'd feel very good about that project without a second access. The citizens have a right to be concerned about the traffic issues."
The City Commission will get its first look at Blackshear's proposal at its work session Tuesday and will vote on the matter at its night meeting March 26.