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Albany City Commission OKs rezoning to allow westside grocery store

Albany city commissioners approve rezoning requests after an extended debate

ALBANY — Despite extended discussion on why they should not grant a rezoning request for a Walmart Neighborhood Grocery Market and complementary fueling station near the junction of Gillionville Road and Westover Boulevard, Albany city commissioners eventually voted 7-0 to allow the rezoning needed for the 41,000-square-foot grocery story.

During a public hearing held Tuesday to discuss the rezoning of 1.2 acres of land at 101 Logan Court and 9.167 acres of land at 100 S. Westover Blvd., Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell asked if the request to rezone the two tracts of land from C-5 to C-2 was an attempt “to keep this from administrative review.”

Planning Manager Mary Teter said the primary reason for the rezoning request was that C-5 designation does not allow for buildings larger than 4,000 square feet. The C-2 zone, she said, allows for a building up to 50,000 square feet.

Ward I Commissioner Jon Howard asked what kind of business would be located on the property, noting that The Albany Herald had reported April 16 that three property owners in the area indicated the proposed project would be a Neighborhood Market. Ben Carroll, with Polestar Development, said, “I am not at liberty to reveal the name of the proposed tenant at this time. They like to do their own announcements. I can, therefore, neither confirm nor deny what was reported in the newspaper.”

That prompted Ward II Commissioner Bobby Coleman to ask again for the proposed tenant at the site.

“You’re asking us to rezone property to suit your needs, and yet you don’t want to tell us who’s planning to come here,” Coleman said. “We should at least be able to know who it is. My constituents in East Albany are concerned that this will be another Walmart. They don’t want another Walmart in the county.”

Ward V’s Bob Langstaff, who is an attorney, asked City Attorney Nathan Davis if the commission could legally hold up a rezoning request based on the agent’s nondisclosure, and Davis said that was not one of the criteria for determining the validity of a zoning request.

Obviously perplexed at the tone of the discussion, Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta and Ward III’s B.J. Fletcher spoke up in favor of the request.

“We lost the Piggly Wiggly on that side of town,” Marietta started, and Postell interrupted with a brusque, “What side of town are you talking about?”

Marietta, who is a professor at adjacent Darton State College, continued, “We’ve lost three grocery stores in that area. We’re excited to get one back. We don’t care what kind of grocery store it is.”

Fletcher said, “We are supposed to be the hub of Southwest Georgia. I don’t care who it is, I appreciate any chain coming here and creating jobs in our community.”

Howard asked Teter if another grocery store, “Like a Mike’s Country Store,” planned to locate “within 200 yards of that location.” The Herald had quoted Mike’s owner, Mike Rogers, in its April 16 edition as saying he was moving forward with plans to locate a store “in that area.”

Teter said there had been no paperwork filed on Rogers’ behalf in the Planning office.

After the public hearing was closed, the board voted unanimously to approve the rezoning requests, and associated drainage and sanitary sewer requests, without further discussion.

The commission decided, however, to table a proposed text amendment that would regulate parking at new developments in the community. During a meeting pre-briefing, Planning Director Paul Forgey showed commissioners proposed changes to the text amendment suggested by a local developer. Howard asked if the commission would be wise to make the changes based on suggestions of just one developer.

“Are we putting the cart before the horse here?” he asked.

When Forgey pointed out that the board had tabled the matter at its last business meeting for “additional input from the community,” Marietta suggested tabling it another month for further review. The board voted to approve the request to table during its formal meeting.

Commissioners also approved an alcohol license transfer for Buy Rite at 2400 Clark Ave. and a one-day license for an Albany ARC fundraiser May 22, OK’d a new model airplane ordinance that prohibits the flying of gas-powered model planes and allows electric- or rubber band-powered planes only in Hilsman and Festival parks, and approved a resolution that will allow for $5 fees to be added to court fines with the money going to support the Dougherty County Law Library.