Managing Partner Daniel S. O’Neill of Marietta developer Columbia Properties said he didn’t have “the foggiest idea” why a seemingly simple procedure became a lightning rod for controversy.
“I’m confused. We’ve never had this problem as a developer,” he said. “It was just an approval of a change of our site plan, so it was just moving around our buildings. We’re already zoned for all those uses. I don’t understand why it hasn’t been approved.”
The company wants to modify its previously approved 2008 site plan to put a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, a Del Taco restaurant, an Auto Zone car parts store and a bank, as yet unnamed, on a 6-acre site at 4560 S. Cobb Drive.
After a public hearing, the council deferred the company’s zoning request to the March 18 meeting.
“They felt it didn’t create ‘a sense of place.’ That was the quote from the staff recommendations. I don’t know what they mean,” O’Neill said.
Opponents weighed in on the plan.
“There were three people who spoke in opposition. One was basically talking about the original landscaping by Smyrna Eye Group,” O’Neill said about an existing business next to a Race Trac gas station. “One lady suggested we put a high-rise condo tower on the site, so that doesn’t count. And another said she didn’t like our site plan.”
Mayor Max Bacon said the council did not defer the matter lightly.
“We had a lot of discussion on it and some concern by the council members. It was tabled by Ron Fennel,” he said about a city councilman.
Fennel and City Councilman Wade Lnenicka held a town hall meeting Feb. 7 about the project, at which Fennel called the corner “a gateway for Smyrna.”
Bacon said the timing of a traffic signal at the corner led to the deferral, to give the developer and staff time to consult.
“The main issues were transportation and traffic. I’m hoping that those issues can be resolved and figure out how to regulate the light so folks can get in and out of there,” he said.
Bacon said he also hoped a good resolution will pick up the local economy, replacing some of the revenue the former Home Depot landscaping store took away when it went dark.
“It’s been vacant for I don’t know how long. Then they were going to put a CVS on the corner. That fell through,” he said.
The company has worked hard to attract nationally known tenants, Bacon said, which will help the city’s tax base.
“Some days you think the economy is better and sometimes it isn’t. I’m hoping it’s just a few issues that we’ll have to resolve and make sure everyone’s taken care of,” he said. “If we resolve the issues, we’ll be all right.”
O’Neill said he and stakeholders like Krispy Kreme representative Colliers International, project manager The Trilogy Group and attorney Garvis Sams will rehuddle.
“There will be some discussions with the council members,” O’Neill said. “We’re not sure what were going to do at this point. We may or may not stay with this site plan.”
He described a fallback position.
“Some of our tenants can go on the approved site plan,” he said. “The Auto Zone parcel was on the original site plan. Because of time constraints and issues with our lenders, we may move forward with Auto Zone.”