Smyrna narrowly rejects four-house development near downtown

Map of rezoning request -- from the City of Smyrna website

With the snow falling outside, the Smyrna City Council heard a full hour of debate on a proposed four-house development near the city’s downtown.

Located across Atlanta Road from Market Village in historic Williams Park, the four homes would have been lined up in a dead-end private road — some would call it an alley — shooting off Spring Street. In the end, Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon broke a 3-3 tie to deny the rezoning request, sending a half-dozen local residents home happy.

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“I’m going to vote to deny,” said Bacon, who had to break a tie in part due to the absence of council member Andrea Blustein.

Rendering of proposed development — from the City of Smyrna website

The four homes would have been located on what is now a set of two undeveloped lots at 1505 and 1515 Spring St. Even though Smyrna’s Planning and Zoning Board previously voted 5-1 against the rezoning, attorney Garvis Sams made his best effort to make a case for the project to city council, speaking for 18 minutes in the process.

Sams compared the development to a similar attempt at rezoning which failed in 2015, saying the two were simply not the same.

“You can’t base your decision on red herrings,” he said.

Sams added that the homes would sell for between $650,000 and $720,000, potentially more, with a size of between 3,200 and 4,500 square feet each. He said the project had been in the works for 12 months, and that even though planning and zoning voted against the development, it was consistent with the city’s future land use plan.

“The rezoning attempt in 2015 was obviously a density grab,” Sams said. “Our focus has been on the quality of this development.”

When he was done, six area residents all made strong statements against the project, led by Lemuel Ward.

Rendering of proposed development — from the City of Smyrna website

“The city should protect us from this type of inappropriate development,” said Ward, who asked for equal time to state his case given the length of Sams’ statement. “Even Mr. Sams admitted this is an alley.”

Ron Davis, who also lives in Williams Park, pointed out that two or three homes could be placed on the properties without a rezoning, and said  “greed” was the only factor that could lead to the proposed plan.

“Build two houses or build none,” he said. “Please don’t set this precedent.”

Rendering of proposed development — from the City of Smyrna website

Another resident also brought up the concept of precedent, calling the homes a “slippery slope,” and others encouraged the council to follow the advice made by the planning and zoning board.

Council member Maryline Blackburn, who represents the area, made a motion to reject the rezoning and was joined by Susan Wilkinson and Derek Norton. Council members Corky Welch, Ron Fennell and Doug Stoner voted in favor of the development. Bacon quickly broke the tie before moving on.

“I’ve never hesitated to step up to the plate whenever there’s a vote,” Bacon said. “I vote to support the motion, which is to deny.”

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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.

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