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Planning Commission OKs rezoning that would allow hotel on Old Dawson Road property

Developer assures board north Albany hotel will not draw traffic off congested Old Dawson Road

ALBANY — Warner Robins-based Peach State Hospitality moved a step closer to approval for the construction of an 80-room Suites by Marriott hotel at 31101 Old Dawson Road with the OK of a rezoning request by the Albany-Dougherty Planning Commission Thursday afternoon.

The commission voted 6-0 to allow the estate of Beela Ellis to rezone 4 acres of a 24.705-acre tract of land that fronts on Dawson Road from C-RC (community residential multiple-dwelling with conditions) to C-2 (general mixed-use business). The rezoning, which must be formally approved by the Albany City Commission, is a condition for Peach State’s purchase of the larger tract.

Peach State principal Danny Patel told the commission he would gladly adhere to conditions recommended by Planning staff, including acquisition of an easement that will allow access to the property off Kensington Lane, no access from Dawson Road and screening along property that adjoins R-1 and C-R districts.

The 4-acre tract was part of a 2013 proposal by Albany developer Danny Blackshear that was denied primarily because of the concern about increased traffic off Old Dawson Road. Patel assured the Planning Commission that would not be the case with the hotel development.

“Not even one construction truck will come off Old Dawson Road,” he said.

When one resident in the area expressed concern that the planned use for the land might change after the rezoning was granted, Patel said he would accept an additional condition that limited use of the 4-acre tract to the planned hotel. Commissioner Billy Merritt added that condition to his motion that the rezoning request be granted, and it passed with a 6-0 vote.

“I appreciate your professionalism in dealing with this matter,” Commission Chairman William Geer told Patel. “We all know this is a very sensitive area.” Geer added after the meeting, “Because of the way this is being handled, I believe this is looking good for an orderly development.”

Restricting traffic on Old Dawson Road was not the case with Blackshear’s attempt to develop the property into a gated community and apartment complex last year. Residents in the area complained that traffic on Old Dawson, already near capacity and prone to delays during prime morning and afternoon drive times, would become unmanageable with the additional traffic the development would bring. The City Commission nixed the development.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the Planning Commission first granted a variance that would allow New St. Stephens Baptist Church to expand onto a .58-acre site rather than the generally required 1-acre minimum site, then OK’d a special approval request by the church to expand on the property.

Dougherty County Commissioner Harry James, whose James Unlimited construction company will work on the project, said the church wants to add a “slightly less than 1,500-square-foot multipurpose room” onto its property at 1100 and 1106 E. Third Ave. Both requests were unanimously approved.

The Planning Commission also approved Pankajbai S. Patel’s R-1 (single-family residential) to C-1 (neighborhood mixed-use business) rezoning request at 2402 Whispering Pines Circle on land whose development will front on Dawson Road. Pankajbai Patel told Planning staff he wants to build a convenience store at the property located adjacent to the Family Dollar store currently under construction along Dawson, but Planning’s Mary Teter said she’d made the applicant aware that one of the restrictions placed on zoning in that neighborhood is on the location of convenient stores on the property.

“Everyone who’s inquired about that property, we’ve told that we would recommend that the conditions that apply to Family Dollar remain in place,” Teter said. “The applicant, Mr. Patel, indicated he’d like to build a convenience store with four attached fueling pumps, but he’s indicated he will look at other options.”

Residents of adjacent neighborhoods said they did not object to the rezoning with the restrictions in place.

The Planning Commission also approved a rezoning request (C-1 to C-2) that would allow developer Roderick Chamberlain to rehab and re-open a car wash at 1608 and 1706 S. Jefferson St. Chamberlain has already redeveloped a restaurant and retail outlet in the shopping complex on South Jefferson.

“I’d like to say that I really appreciate Mr. Chamberlain’s work on that property,” board member Helen Young said. “I’ve never seen it look so good.”