Cobb BOC denies application for oil-change business in Canton Road neighborhood

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The Cobb County Board of Commissioners at its zoning meeting last Tuesday denied a request to allow an oil-change business on Canton Road that is forbidden by the stipulations for the corridor put in place in 2007, when the area was rezoned Neighborhood Retail Commericial.

Overview of the hearing

What was the request?

The request was to allow the construction of a three-bay oil change facility at 2023 Canton Road.

Why was the request required?

Light auto repair is prohibited under the land use guidelines for the corridor.

What do the neighbors think of the application?

Thirteen neighbors showed up the the hearing in opposition, with a petition signed by 96 residents of the adjacent subdivisions.

What was the applicant’s main argument?

The person speaking in favor of the application, commercial real estate broker John McCormick argued that the conditions along Canton Road made the uses the neighborhood prefers (restaurants, coffee shops) unfeasible, and that a newly constructed oil change facility would be an improvement.

How did the Commissioners vote?

The vote went 5-0 to deny the application.

What happened at the hearing?

The property is located at 2320 Canton Road on the the southeast intersection of Canton Road and Liberty Hill Road.

According to the agenda packet for the meeting:

The subject property was zoned Neighborhood Retail Commercial (NRC) in 2007 for retail. The applicant would like to amend the zoning stipulations to allow a light automotive repair facility on the property. The existing building will be demolished and a new one-story four-sided brick building with three service bays will be built. If approved, all previous stipulations not in conflict with this revision should remain in effect.

District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell asked that the applicant, Lonnie Shor, asked him to come to the podium and explain why he wanted a continuance on the case, since it had already had one continuance.

Shor said, “There’s been new information obtained that we have to research.”

Birrell asked if the prohibited use he requests is changing.

Shor said no.

Birrell asked Carol Brown, who represented Canton Neighbors at the hearing, to come to the podium and state what she thought of continuing the case until a future meeting.

Brown said that 13 people were the meeting in opposition, and that the petition opposed to the oil-change facility had 96 signatures of neighbors in the immediately surrounding area.

“It’s the use that is objectionable,” Brown said. “And unfortunately, not enough has changed in that whole area since the 2007 zoning where those steps were put in place. “

“If people have made an effort to get here this morning, and if the use isn’t changing, we would prefer that the case be heard today,” she said, “if that is agreeable to this commission. That’s all I have to say really, I don’t think anything’s gonna change.”

John McCormick, who described himself as a commercial real estate developer, presented the case in favor of the application allowing the construction of the oil change facility, and said that 136 signatures had been gathered in support of the application.

McCormick listed a number of places that draw people to restaurants and coffee shops, like Marietta Square, Town Center and the Battery, and said that the conditions on Canton Road make it unlikely those business would thrive there.

“The community says, ‘Oh, we want this, we want that, we’ll support it.’ They’re not. They’re going to downtown Marietta. They’re going to downtown Woodstock. They’re going for walkability. There isn’t any walkability here. What there is is 8- or 10,000 more cars than when the comprehensive report was written. Because it’s a corridor.”

Brown took the podium to oppose the application.

“NRC has 33 permitted uses and 14 special exception uses for a total of 47.” she said. “Two subcategories, neighborhood retail and professional offices, list 60 possibilities.”

“That’s a lot of potential uses,” she said. “The stipulations that we got in the 2007 zoning excluded 12 uses. Among them were full service gasoline station and light automotive repair.”

“That was one of the excluded uses present in the zoning stipulations when Mr. Shor acquired the property in 2011.”

“The area is overserved by automotive uses, and that was the case in 2007, which was one of the reasons, along with the Canton Road steering committee report, that found that there were too many automotive uses on that corridor,” Brown said. “And that really hasn’t changed.”

“Right now, there are five automotive uses plus the busy Racetrac, and if this is approved, there would be six.”

She asked that the application be denied.

Birrell made a motion to deny the application, and the BOC supported her motion 5-0.