After months of delays, the Cobb County Planning Commission will finally hold a public hearing on the proposed plans for Sprayberry Crossing shopping center.
The site plan has been through several iterations, after multiple requests for continuances from developer Atlantic Residential. The plan that will go before the commission April 6 includes a national grocer, 125 apartments, 125 senior apartments, 44 townhomes, more than 36,000 square feet of retail space and 8,000 square feet of office space.
The developer has attached stipulations that ban certain kinds of business from the development, including video arcades, adult entertainment and certain types of automotive shops. Atlantic will also build a privacy wall around the small family cemetery on the property.
The project has garnered so much attention in the community that Commissioner JoAnn Birrell held a virtual town hall Wednesday to answer previously submitted questions from the community. She said she had received 83 emails in opposition and 21 in favor that day, and that many people are asking why they are allowing apartments.
“Nothing has been presented before us as a board,” she stressed. “We have received word from different groups of petitions that are being circulated, and I am keeping a tally of all those for and all those against from emails and calls I’m receiving. You really need to email your…support or opposition for this application to the full planning commission and the full board of commissioners.”
The community’s demand for change at 2692 Sandy Plains Rd. has been contentious at times. While most interested parties agree that something needs to be done about the blighted property, which is operated by NAI Brannen Goddard, agreeing on what to do has been a different story.
In March 2018, residents packed the Sprayberry High School auditorium to demand something be done. Some attendees held signs shaming the operators for allowing it to fall into such poor conditions. The property consists of eight separate parcels, one of which was deemed blighted and subject to the blight tax. Residents also launched a social media campaign to draw attention to the decades of disrepair.
Two Facebook groups are dedicated to the property. Shane Spink and Joe Glancy started Sprayberry Crossing Action in 2017, which is at nearly 5,800 members, to push for something to be done about the dilapidated buildings. When Atlantic proposed the mixed-use development plan in 2019, Residents Against Apartments at Sprayberry Crossing, which currently has more than 500 members, also appeared.
The developer’s application for use of the redevelopment overlay district, a designation that is placed on top of a zoning district to make it more adaptable has drawn fire from opponents who say it is not appropriate for this kind of residential area. The ROD designation was adopted in 2006 but never used until this proposal. The ROD was eliminated from the code by the Cobb Board of Commissioners in February, but since the application for Sprayberry Crossing was filed while it was active, it could still be approved.
Tim Carini, who is opposed to the mixed-use development, said he has communicated extensively with the county about the use of ROD on the property. He found minutes from a 2006 BOC meeting in which the East Piedmont/Sandy Plains Corridor was removed from consideration for ROD, but when the comprehensive plan was approved in 2007, that language had disappeared. He told the Courier he has not been able to get answers on what happened.
“All of us want the blight gone, but we want smart development that fits the surrounding area. We all purchased homes in a single-family, owner-occupied community, and we want to maintain that suburban feel and way of life as well as our property values. This development of multi-family units and high density does not fit the character of the community and surrounding neighborhoods and will bring in a high number of transient residents,” Carini said.
A petition opposing the development currently has more than 1,300 signatures.
On the other side, those who welcome the development cite an end to the decades-long blight, the public green space in the plan and new retail.
“The development will be a great boost to the area. After living here for roughly 14 years, this is the best opportunity I’ve seen to date to improve the area,” said Chris Stephan.
Birrell said she will lead the discussion when the issue comes to the board since it’s in her district, but it’s important to reach out to all five board members who will vote on the application.
“I know everyone is tired of looking at Sprayberry Crossing and driving through the potholes,” she said. “There’s nobody that wants to see this developed more than me.”
The planning commission meets April 6 at 9 a.m. in the Board of Commissioners Meeting Room – 2nd Floor at 100 Cherokee Street, Marietta. Capacity is limited to 35 due to social distancing, with a separate overflow area. The meeting can be viewed here. Sign up for virtual participation here. All submitted documents pertaining to the property can be located here by clicking on planning commission zoning hearing.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.