By Rebecca Gaunt
Neighbors opposed to Atlantic Realty’s redevelopment plans for Sprayberry Crossing, who had hoped the Cobb Planning Commission would put an end to the months-long fight, were disappointed Tuesday.
In a surprising decision, the planning commission did not give a denial or approval recommendation on the case. This was the third hearing in as many months because of wrangling over the apartment component and traffic issues. The commission voted 3-0 to pass it on to the Cobb County Board of Commissioners sans recommendation where it will be heard June 15. Planning commissioner Tony Waybright and newly appointed commissioner Michael Hughes were not present.
Access to the site is a major sticking point since the shopping center is surrounded by privately owned outparcels along Sandy Plains Road, E. Piedmont Road and Post Oak Tritt. Sprayberry Bottle Shop sits at the intersection of Kinjac Road and Sandy Plains, blocking direct access to the site from the intersection. The developer is in talks with the owner to move the shop’s parking to the other side of the building in order to create direct access.
The access point along Post Oak Tritt also raises questions due to the lack of a traffic signal and dangerous left turn out of the development.
Maureen Rittner and Tim Carini addressed the commission wearing red shirts with ROD MOB printed on them. The shirts were a reference to Atlantic Realty attorney Kevin Moore’s comment last month saying the opposition had a mob mentality.
Carini told the commission that he sat at the Post Oak Tritt access point Friday morning, and in a 15-minute period, 24 cars turned left. He also reiterated his argument from previous meetings that the development does not conform to the requirements of the redevelopment overlay district zoning the developer requested.
“Commissioner Waybright and Commissioner Porter, who is no longer on the board, both said last month the way this sits, it isn’t it. They couldn’t approve it the way it sits, and there’s been no changes from last month to this month with the majority of the site plan,” Carini said at the hearing.
Moore responded that the access issues would exist regardless of what was built on the property.
Carini told the Courier that he reached out to county officials to ask how they calculate whether the development meets the zoning requirement that 20 percent be non-residential for ROD designation. Officials were unable to provide him with an answer, writing in an email that “the code doesn’t give specific direction on how to measure this.”
The plan has been through several revisions and scaled down to its current form, which includes 102 townhomes, 132 senior-living apartments (reduced by 40 units), and a 34,000 square foot grocery. Additional retail space will be located on the ground floor of the senior living space. Significant changes have been made from the original plans, which had five-story buildings, now down to three, and the market-rate apartments and public green space were removed.
“There could be no better candidate for redevelopment…however, it does come with challenges,” Moore said of the property.
In his final comments, Commissioner Fred Beloin said he’d rather hold the case than pass it on.
“I would like to have said this is something I’m behind and think it’s great. But what I see is a situation where what might become the main entrance in, entrance out, that issue has not been addressed yet really. It’s just something in discussion. And the second issue regarding traffic on Post Oak Tritt is something the developer thinks is not worth investing any dollars in…” Beloin said.
In an email, Carini told the Courier, “Yesterday’s decision of non-decision has been par for the course with this application. The developer kicked the can down the road for seven months with continuances (initially was to be heard Sept 2020)…Now, yesterday, the developer states the process is taking too long and they have contracts with the current landowner and Lidl that is coming to an end. Commissioner Dance also mentioned time is of the essence after months of delay. The unusual decision to move it to the BOC without a recommendation for an approval or denial is shameful.”
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.