The proposed $40 million development would include 328 new apartments and 49 townhomes on 32 acres, according to Garvis Sams, an attorney with Marietta-based Sams, Larkin, Huff and Balli, LP. Sams represents Amak Partners, L.P. and Masal Partners Ltd. L.P. of Vancouver, Canada, who are selling the property. Sams said there is a large amount of interest in the development, although no company has come forward to actually buy the land.
During public comment, nearly a dozen residents of Castle Lake Mobile Home Park — who would be dispersed to make way for the new construction — told the council the property owners had deceived them and the proposed $2,500 relocation money wouldn’t be enough to haul their trailers to another area.
Residents shared horror stories about the landowners. Several said they’d received notices saying they had 30 days to leave their homes. Cindy Blackford, who works at Northern Tool and Equipment in Marietta, said she bought a $15,000 trailer in Castle Lake on May 5, and management did not mention anything about moving or a new development.
“Castle Lake outright lied to everyone here,” she said. “Our neighbors flooded us with information. Castle Lake hid it.”
Several speakers said it would cost between $6,000 and $8,000 to move their trailers to another park. Some asked if they’d be evicted after the required 60 days’ notice if they couldn’t afford to move.
Juanita Billingsley, a housewife who has lived in Castle Lake 37 years, said she’d had a mild stroke that morning but checked out of WellStar Kennestone hospital to make sure she could be heard at the meeting.
Dozens of families live in the property’s 320 mobile homes, many of whom are Spanish-speaking Latino residents. An interpreter was present at the meeting, which drew more than 100 people from the community. Attendees were asked to stand up if they agreed with the person speaking, and almost everyone in the room stood up at several points.
After being asked several questions about the treatment of tenants by Castle Lake, Sams responded that he’s only representing the company regarding the new development and has no knowledge of the management situation.
One site, two developments
Sams said there is no construction timeline for the potential development because no one has purchased the property, but added that more than 13 builders are interested and said plans call for the owners to sell the property “as soon as they can.” Kennesaw’s Planning Commission voted 5-0 to rezone the property on June 9.
The annexation of the additional 32 acres would have meant the entire Castle Lake Mobile Home Park would fall inside Kennesaw’s city limits.
The proposed development sits adjacent to a 53-acre property annexed into the city by a unanimous vote in February, which will be developed by Atlanta-based Fuqua Development. That property will become a 450,000-square-foot shopping center — valued at $150 million and anchored by Whole Foods Market — Sams said will open no later than fall 2016. Sams said Fuqua will close on the property this fall, with major construction commencing in summer 2015.
However, Sams said Fuqua will work with Castle Lake tenants on an individual basis on that side of the property, rather than paying a flat rate.
During his presentation to the council, Sams said the new townhomes will sell for at least $300,000, while the apartments could be owner-occupied condominiums in the future, with nine-foot-high ceilings and granite countertops. Sams said previously they are mostly one or two-bedroom apartments meant to attract young professionals without school-aged children.
Sams said the two projects combined will generate more than $1 million in annual tax revenue for Kennesaw, compared to the current mobile home park which contributes “negligible” tax dollars.
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews said the property owner requested the annexation.
Council hits the brakes
Following the lengthy public comment, city council members were less than pleased, including Post 2’s Tim Killingsworth.
“Mr. Sams, I hope and I pray that if something illegal is happening, somebody is held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.
Post 4 representative Debra Williams specifically asked that the property owner and property manager be present when the issue comes before the council again. The annexation was tabled indefinitely, but the council asked for an update on the situation from the company at their next meeting July 7. When the council hears the proposal again, more public comment will be taken.