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'Code needs to catch up': Macon-Bibb Planning and Zoning holds convenience store work session

Macon-Bibb Planning and Zoning put a moratorium in place as requests for more convenience stores in the county starting pouring in.

MACON, Ga. — About 60 days into a 90-day moratorium set by the county, the Macon-Bibb Planning and Zoning Commission decided to hold a work session. 

This was a chance for the public to come in and voice their own opinions on new convenience stores coming to Macon.

On Monday, about 20 people met in Macon Terminal Station for an open discussion.

Jim Thomas, Executive Director of Macon-Bibb Planning and Zoning, kicked it off by mentioning why there's currently a brief pause on approving new convenience stores.

"The reason we adopted the moratorium was to give us time to look at the language and make those decisions, actually draft up the new code," Thomas said. 

He says the current code is outdated.

It goes back to the 1960's when convenience stores were still serving stations.

But he says that's no longer the case, and convenience stores are now multi-functional, with gas pumps, food, coin machines, and more.

"The code just needs to catch up with the current practices," Thomas said.

So when Planning and Zoning opened the floor for questioning, business owners, like Tim Thornton, shared thoughts of their own.

"Rather than scatter, start restricting where convenience stores with alcohol can go, I think I can sit here and make as good an argument and say are we not better off to cluster them together and then spread them out over town? The perfect example would be an interstate interchange," says Thornton.

The commission also turned to the county for answers.

"We want to be careful we don't over-regulate them. We don't want to put them out of business, you know we all buy gas. So we have to find that level of control that's appropriate for the community," Thomas said. 

The moratorium expires on November 23, and at that point, they'll have to decide whether or not to extend it.

During the meeting, Thomas and the commission mentioned listening in on Atlanta area planning and zoning meetings to get some ideas on what language to use once they update.

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