Rezoning request for townhouses in the heart of Smyrna provokes controversy

Artists rendition of proposed townhouses

A group of three pre-World War II homes on Atlanta Road near downtown Smyrna could be removed to make way for the development of 43 townhomes by John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods. The proposal has provoked controversy among some Smyrna residents.

Signs have been in place for weeks notifying residents of the potential redevelopment, which would require a rezoning of the property from R-15-LC to RTD-Cond. Smyrna’s planning and zoning board tabled the issue at its most recent meeting and will take it up on Aug. 14.

From there, a public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at Smyrna city hall, and the issue will likely go before the Smyrna City Council during its Sept. 18 meeting. In addition, a town hall meeting is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2 at Brawner Hall.

Plan for the proposed development.

The replacement of three older homes near the southwest corner of Atlanta Road and Concord/Spring Road, two of which date to 1928 and one built in 1913, has drawn the ire of some neighbors and those concerned with historic preservation.

“When we warned [Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon] a couple of years ago that failure to purchase and save the Reed House would result in the western side of Atlanta Road eventually looking like the east side, I did not envision that a proposal for the demolition and replacement of the three adjoining properties would follow,” local historian and author Bill Marchione write in an email stating his concerns. “These four buildings constitute an architectural ensemble with a handsome uniform setback that deserve to be protected intact.”

Marchione said he’s contacted both the mayor and city council to express his opposition.

The needed rezoning would reclassify the parcels from medium density residential to urban residential with a density of 7.83 townhomes per acre.

Rendering of the proposed development

Jennifer Dixon, a Smyrna citizen who has long advocated for a historic preservation ordinance in the city, also feels the townhomes would negatively affect not only the area itself but also the historic Reed House next door.

“Historic preservation, and an ordinance to provide that oversight, helps to create a unique sense of place which is what attracts people and businesses to a city,” Dixon said. “Look at places like Senoia and Marietta — locations that have maintained their history while attracting film crews and tourists.”

For that reason, Dixon opposes the development.

“Preservation does not appear to have been part of the planning process,” she said. “What preservationists prefer to see is a planning process where alternatives were seriously considered, such as keeping the significant historic structures and developing around them, maintaining the expansive setback and developing at the rear of the property, or simply finding a better place within Smyrna for such a development.”

As of the time of publication, Councilman Doug Stoner, who represents the ward containing the land affected by the rezoning request, had not responded to request for comment.

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Haisten Willis

Haisten Willis is a freelance writer who lives in Smyrna with his wife, daughter and dog. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from California State University, Fresno, serves on the board of SPJ Georgia and even rides a bike when time allows.