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Rezoning request for 58-acre sports facility

The city of Zebulon zoning board held a public hearing on the rezoning of around 58 acres on Highway 19 south near Smoots from PRD (Planned Residential Development) to HC (Highway Commercial) for a recreational sports facility. They voted to allow the rezoning request to be heard by Zebulon city council, with board member Beverly Walter stipulating that the developers need to provide more details on lighting and hours of operation. City of Zebulon council members will consider the rezoning request at their Oct. 24 meeting.

According to developer Steve Reeves, the property will eventually include six ball fields, two larger ones for baseball, two for softball and two for baseball/softball and other uses. It will also include a gym with basketball and multi-use courts, a playground, an amphitheater, pickleball courts and a total of 537 parking spaces. Reeves noted that previously, preliminary plans for a 40-lot subdivision on the property were submitted to the board but the required sewer system is not available from the city that far south. He requested the city waive the requirement for city sewer since it is not available yet. He noted the facility will be on the city’s water system. He said there will be three separate restroom facilities as well as a multi-purpose building and each will have its own septic system and replacement area for the future.

“This is like the Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come,” said Reeves. “This property is going to be developed and I think we all prefer this versus the impact 40 houses will have on the city. But this is income-generating for the city.”

During the public hearing, one citizen spoke in opposition, noting he has lived there for 30 years. Ben Maxedon’s property is adjacent to the planned development.

“I’m completely surroundeed by this and because of the way it is set up, mine will probably be the property most impacted by this,” he said. “With 500 plus parking spots, we’re talking about possibly a couple thousand people going there at one time. What assurance do we have that people will not be migrating through our yard?” He also asked about the noise, the lighting and if the facility will be open 24 hours a day. “We are going to be surrounded by a lot of people we don’t know who could possibly be a security risk and I don’t know how you would contain lighting in that small of an area. Putting this here will have a major impact on my property value because people don’t want to live where there’s a lot of noise, traffic and light all night.”

Michael Pierce of Double P Properties is one of the owners and operators and he said he is not attempting to be insensitive in any way to surrounding property owners and said he would love the opportunity to sit down with Maxedon and work out any issues. He said lighting will be state of the art and new technology allows for more control of excess lighting.

“I’m not opposed to planting Leland cypresses to help block noise and lighting from your home,” he said. “Also, there will be a fence entirely around our property and it would be gated so people would not have access to your yard from our property.”

Pierce said the plan is to eventually provide an after school program for local students so they can be picked up from school, do their homework with tutors and then work on their athletic skills before they go home.

“I grew up here and I have played baseball since I was 5 years old. I spent so much time in the vehicle with my mom and dad traveling to practices and lessons and to play. There’s so much talent here and everybody is taking their talent to facilities in Peachtree City and McDonough. We are not going to settle for anything less than state of the art because we want the best for these kids,” he said.
Partner Mickey Moody said he has lived in Pike County for more than 20 years.

“There’s not a better place on earth than Pike County, Georgia and in my 46 years of coaching, I see a direct impact on these kids lives. Our Pike County dollars are going somewhere else and I see the impact that has made for other communities,” he said. “This is a hot bed for baseball and softball talent in Georgia and these athletes are going to other counties and other facilities to get training.”
Moody noted that the 600-800 seat amphitheater would be used for opening and closing ceremonies and other ball-related events instead of being planned primarily for concerts.

Major League Baseball pitcher Hunter Strickland is one of the partners on the project. He said growing up, he had to travel out of county to find facilities as nice as this one will be and he wants families to be able to get world-class training close to home.

“I just came home a couple months ago. I was tired of being a Facetime dad. My kids at home here need me and my wife needs me. I prayed that the Lord make it clear what my next move needed to be and within 12 hours I walked into the clubhouse and I was released. It was a clear sign of where I need to be,” said Strickland who noted the time he has since spent at home with this family and giving lessons to local kids has been fantastic. “I want to give these kids the best opportunity to succeed. I believe we can truly help in increasing ball skills and at the same time, these kids are learning life lessons like discipline, structure and teamwork – things that will help them in their futures whether they are professional ball players or not.”

City of Zebulon planning board member Beverly Walter noted that she has experience living next to a sporting facility when she and her husband, mayor Joe Walter, lived in Lawrenceville.

“We’ve got to do everything we can to make this more suitable for the neighbors,” she said before approving the rezoning request to go before the city council with stipulations that developers provide more details on lighting and hours of operation for the city council members at their Oct. 24 meeting.

The Zebulon planning board also:

  • Denied a request to allow for a .11 acre lot division to separate the existing Ice House ice vending machine from the storage units and also a .05 lot division to separate the existing billboard from the remainder of the property.
  • Approved the installation of a fence installed at 15640 Concord Street.

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