Nearly one year to the day after a proposal for 325 apartments on the Cumberland Community Church site was rejected, the Smyrna city council voted 4-2 to allow rezoning for the development of 108 townhomes on the property.
“I had a bigger vision for this property, and unfortunately that didn’t come to fruition, but here we are,” said Smyrna councilman and mayoral candidate Derek Norton in moving for approval. “I’m going to support the plan. I think we’ve come a long way to get here and the church has been very patient.”
The church is moving from the site at 3110 Sports Ave. to a location at the corner of Church Street and South Cobb Drive, a move which should get a big boost now that the first property has been rezoned to allow for housing.
The 108 townhomes will sit on 12.5 acres, good for a density of 8.7 units per acre. The homes will range in size from 2,000 to 2,400 square feet, either 20 or 24 feet in width, and with prices beginning at $450,000. Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon predicted that price would hit $500,000 by the time the first units were sold.
Developer Lennar Homes was represented by attorney Garvis Sams, who made the case for the project.
“Smyrna is well-known and well-loved. It’s a target area for residents,” said Sams. “We’ve done a 180-degree turn since what you saw last summer.”
The atmosphere was much less charged compared to last year, when more than a dozen speakers took up over an hour and a half with public comments. Just two residents spoke this time around, though both were against the project.
Skyler Akins, president of the Countryside at Cumberland condominium association, said that Lennar Mortgage and a related company, Eagle Home Mortgage, were the subject of lawsuits and complaints in Tampa, San Francisco, North Carolina and Denver, and that a different use might better for the property.
“You shouldn’t always take your first date to the dance,” said Akins. “We have the time and resources to wait.”
In between the failed apartment idea and the successful townhome one, Norton had proposed that the city buy the property and put in a performing arts center, but said the rest of the council wasn’t on board.
Councilperson Andrea Blustein, who voted against the townhomes, said she’d rather have Argyle Elementary School relocate to the site and also raised concerns about traffic on Spring Road and the potential for the units to be rented. Maryland Blackburn was the other “no” vote, with Corky Welch absent for the meeting.
Rusty Martin, who was promoted during the meeting to community development director replacing the retired Ken Suddreth, went over the proposal in detail, saying it was in line with the city’s Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) study and that staff recommended approval.
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.