Robins commission rejects zoning change for new development

But City Council still could overrule decision

ROBINS — The Robins Planning and Zoning Commission voted Wednesday night not to recommend a proposed zoning change for a section of the Robins City Square.

A zoning change is the first step in developer Geoff Franzenburg’s plans to have his company, Compass Commercial Service Inc., develop part of Robins City Square as a five-building mixed-use space. The space would consist of five two- or three-story buildings of townhomes, commercial space and mixed-use buildings with commercial space on the bottom floors and apartments on the second and third levels.

The development would be built on 5.4 acres of land in Robins City Square. The land is zoned as a commercial district. The proposed change would make it a planned unit development district.

Franzenburg spoke to the seven-person commission Wednesday, in a room overflowing with people seeking public comment, asking that they send a recommendation to approve the zoning change to the Robins City Council.

“What I want to keep in mind here are the benefits of rezoning this property, regardless of the project, to PUD,” Franzenburg said.

A PUD designation would allow the city to plan with the developer specific to a project, which Franzenburg said would work well for Compass Commercial and the city. He also said the district already allows two-story, 31-foot buildings in the square, and his proposal has buildings going only to 36 feet.

After hearing residents’ concerns at a June meeting, Franzenburg said he held meetings with residents and the city and scaled back the proposed residential space to address their objections.

Resident Brian Cohen said he isn’t sure Robins is the kind of community that would attract enough new residents and businesses to fill the space.

“It’s a beautiful idea, but I don’t think it’s going to work in Robins,” Cohen said.

Resident John Gaffney, who is part of a group that created the website to oppose the development, said residents are fine with the businesses. The issue is the size of buildings and the residential space, Gaffney said.

“We’d love him (Franzenburg) to come back and develop this as commercial,” Gaffney said.

Mike Dupont, a resident and Save R Square member, took issue with Dean Helander’s recommendation for the City Council to approve the zoning change. Helander is the city’s planning and zoning administrator and a part of the Robins Economic Development Initiative. That group’s letter to the council recommended the change because the land has been “idle for 20 years because single unit stores are not sustainable in a town our size.” Dupont also referenced a 2012 resident survey that showed 57 percent of respondents supported new business development.

“That exact survey also states that housing availability is least important to Robins citizens,” Dupont said. “No one asked for more housing ... Plus we’re going to put these apartments in Robins Square, the only place left to put other businesses.”

Ed Rathgeber, chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, said he voted no primarily because a petition from Save R Square showed more than 700 property owners opposed a zoning change.

The recommendation to reject the zoning change will be sent to the Robins City Council, whose members still can decide whether to rezone the land.

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