Planning commission gives the nod to Smyrna Academy of Excellence
by Jon Gillooly
May 08, 2013 12:15 AM | 3491 views | 1 1 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Cobb Planning Commission on Tuesday approved a permit for a proposed 300-student, prekindergarten to eighth-grade private school that would be located close to where Interstate 285 crosses the Chattahoochee River.

The school, which hopes to open in August, would operate on part of a 82-acre tract expected to house a $300 million mixed-use development.

Developer Jamestown has already spent about $1.4 million “moving dirt” in preparation for the construction of 2.3 million-square-feet of single-family homes, town homes, apartments, condos, retail and office space, said attorney Garvis Sams, who represents both Jamestown and the school, the Smyrna Academy of Excellence.

Sams said construction on the $300 million development is expected to begin within the next year and will likely be done in phases with a 10-year build out.

The school wants to lease 7.9 acres of the Jamestown site for 36 months, staying there as a startup while it finds a permanent location. Sams said the school would bring in portable buildings.

Planning Commission member Mike Terry said another private school, Whitefield Academy, which is located a mile away, began the same way before it could find a permanent location. Whitefield has now become so “wildly successful” that it has more applicants than it can take, Terry said.

He said people are moving into the area of south Cobb because of the affordable housing. But while they may elect to send their children to the public elementary schools in the area run by the Cobb School District, Terry suggested the school district’s middle and high schools were not their first choice. But private schools such as Lovett and Westminster are too far away and too expensive, he said.

Because the school site is adjacent to industrially zoned property, Terry asked Sams to consider committing to a clause that would hold the surrounding industrial businesses harmless in the event a future parent of the school opted to sue because of noise or dust.

Planning Commission member Bob Hovey wasn’t satisfied. The purpose of the commission is to consider zoning, not the need for schools, Hovey said.

Hovey said he also wanted to avoid the kind of “shoot out” that unfolded in the city of Marietta a few years ago when residents of the Kennesaw Battle neighborhood rose up to complain about the noise caused by a recycling center on nearby Marble Mill Road.

Hovey asked how the children in the proposed school could be expected to study with all the noise from the industrial businesses.

The difference between a school and the homes that are slated to be built on the Jamestown development, Hovey said, is that the future owners of those homes will be adults who will know the kind of environment they plan to buy into. Parents of 300 children who drop their children off at the school might not have such a good feel for the area, he said.

“I think it’s our responsibility to make sure the clash doesn’t happen. I think that we’re making a mistake,” Hovey said.

The commission approved the request in a 4-0 vote. The matter advances to the Board of Commissioners meeting on May 21 for final approval.

Sams commented on Hovey’s reasoning after the meeting.

“Without denigrating Mr. Hovey or his opinion, he voted to approve the mixed-use development, which at that time and still does include residential for families with children and homeownership on the same tract that the school is going, so I fail to follow his rationale,” Sams said.
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anonymous
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May 08, 2013
I agree with Hovey to get an iron-clad rule laid out that people cannot move there, then sue later for "nuisances" that were already there. If it were up to developers, they would build houses right directly on the top of Kennesaw Mountain if they were allowed to. There needs to be something in place to guard against later lawsuits. Reminds me of the chicken thing. You knew you were moving into surburbia when you moved there. I remember a law firm in Atlanta located their practice right next to an existing soup line, then sued the city to shut down the soup line because it disturbed and ran away their clients. Lines must be drawn to protect people.
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