By Rebecca Gaunt
Three years after a community meeting to draw attention to the blighted Sprayberry Crossing shopping center, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners approved zoning Tuesday for the application submitted by Atlantic Realty.
The current plan includes a 34,000 square-foot grocery store, 102 townhomes and 132 senior apartments. It passed 4-1 with Commissioner Keli Gambrill as the only vote against, citing parking and pedestrian safety concerns.
“I just don’t see this as a redevelopment that is in keeping with what a community activity center should be,” Gambrill said.
The 17-acre property is in Commissioner JoAnn Birrell’s district.
Getting to this point was a rocky road. After months of continuations at the request of the developer, it finally reached the Cobb Planning Commission in April. Due to unresolved issues regarding road access to the site, the Commission held it until May. Because there were still questions regarding the traffic plan and access points, it was held again until June. The Planning Commission then made the unusual decision to pass it along to the Board of Commissioners without a recommendation for either denial or approval.
In addition to traffic safety, the opposition has raised concerns about the senior apartments, and the possibility that they could lose their age-restricted status if they are unable to meet federal requirements under the Fair Housing Act. Apartments for the general public were included in the original plans, but were dropped because they drew so many complaints. The developer’s attorney Kevin Moore included a stipulation that the apartments must remain age-restricted, which Cobb County attorneys have reviewed and said will be effective.
“I’m relying on our expert staff and attorneys for this one,” Birrell said.
According to Birrell, from June 2016 to May 2021, there were 127 calls to police. Since 2004, there have been 391 complaints to code enforcement at the property.
Tim Carini, a vocal opponent of the plan, delivered a petition against it with more than almost 1,800 digital and written signatures. He spoke against application of the redevelopment overlay district (ROD-1) zoning in the area, arguing that it was not intended for a single-home residential area.
He also submitted to the record an email response from Planning Commissioner Fred Beloin to a citizen (recipient’s name was blacked out) who had contacted him with safety concerns about the proposed zoning.
Beloin wrote, “I agree with each of your criticisms of the plan. It went up without our approval. I told everyone that applicant’s failure to fix any traffic issues was blatant and meant that I could not support. I think he will get people killed with this plan. You should push JoAnn on this. She may have money to solve road problems.”
Plans to route incoming traffic at the Kinjac Road and Sandy Plains traffic signal through what is now the parking lot of Sprayberry Bottle Shop have also changed. The road will now wind to the left and behind the shop.
“The plan that you see before you today is not a perfect plan by any means. There is no perfect plan to my knowledge. Anything that goes here is gonna obviously increase traffic on the road surrounding this,” Birrell said.
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.