MARIETTA — After months — nay, years — of meetings, petitions and hearings, the redevelopment of the blighted Sprayberry Crossing shopping center in east Cobb is still pending.
The Cobb Planning Commission once again voted unanimously to hold Atlantic Realty Acquisitions’ plan to build townhomes, senior living and retail space on the site. The proposal had been held once already in April, and will now be reconsidered in June.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, a number of new changes to the design, planning commissioners said more work was still needed before the project could go ahead.
Atlantic removed 125 apartment units from its latest design, one of the most controversial parts of the redevelopment. Those units have been replaced with expanded senior living and townhome units. Atlantic’s attorney Kevin Moore said the developer “deserved to be congratulated” for addressing “the No. 1 criticism, the No. 1 concern” of the area’s residents.
“Yet again, Atlantic Realty is sacrificing to put together a plan that can meet the terms of redevelopment for this property,” Moore said, going on to call out a “mob mentality” on the part of the opposition.
Moore’s choice of words didn’t win him any converts from the opposition, who continue to argue the density of the redevelopment is inconsistent with the neighborhood.
“Their focus is really on the highest profit they can gain at our expense,” said David Stafford, a self-identified member of said “mob.” “Atlantic Realty has left our residents, on both sides of this issue, unhappy.”
Others argued the project would be disastrous for traffic in the area, located at the intersection of East Piedmont and Sandy Plains roads. Cobb DOT Deputy Director Drew Raessler said the latest version of the design warranted further examination, but the department had “qualitative” concerns pending a new traffic study.
Planning Commissioner Deborah Dance said her motion to hold the project would include some “very specific instructions.” Namely, she requested the developer produce an updated traffic plan immediately, expand green space on the site and meet with residents both for and against the project to reach a (hopefully) final rendition.
The same fate befell North Point Ministries’ proposed new church and housing complex on Johnson Ferry and Shallowford roads. In response to traffic and density concerns, North Point removed several acres of commercial space from its design and added more detached single-family homes, while reducing the number of townhomes on the site.
The new changes likewise seemed to create more questions than it answered, but Planning Commissioner Tony Waybright said he liked where things were heading.
“This was a big step,” Waybright said. “There were several major improvements over the previous version.”
Nevertheless, opposition remained as stiff as it was a month ago. From the lectern, Ruth Michels led the charge against what she said was a deceptive presentation from Moore, also North Point’s attorney.
“Don’t even get me started on the stormwater and flooding issues,” she said, as she showed photos of flooding in the neighborhood after Monday’s heavy rains.
But Waybright argued that based on a recent survey and over 800 emails he received prior to Tuesday, public opinion is trending in a positive direction.
“Development in the area is inevitable. I mean, the real estate market’s unreal,” said Katie Peters, a nearby resident and employee of North Point Ministries, echoing a common refrain of developers countywide.
“It’s a church that’s very civically minded. What we’ll put back into the community, as well as not allowing any further development to happen on our side, it’s just going to outweigh anything that goes on … we want to be good neighbors and we’re always ready to listen,” Peters said.