Kennesaw City Council will have the final say on whether or not the store can remain open on May 16.
Planning and zoning director Darryl Simmons acknowledged that his own error allowed the Cruchelow Jewelry & Loan pawnshop to go into the Mack Dobbs Point shopping center, but said that error had to be corrected.
“It is my responsibility to make sure that all of the zoning conditions are met,” he said. “It was my oversight and my error that allowed the processing of that business license and subsequently their moving in to that suite ... Based on my analysis, based on the minutes of the 2004 review and based on the original intent of the land use restrictions, it is planning and zoning administrator’s recommendation that we uphold the 2004 rezoning conditions in its entirety.”
The property’s owner, Celestino Venturi, is asking the city to amend the zoning at the strip mall he owns that houses Cruchelow Jewelry & Loan, located at Cobb Parkway and Mack Dobbs Road. He wants the store to be allowed to remain in the shopping center for the remainder of its five-year lease. The pawnshop was allowed to go in the center despite a condition in the city’s 2004 approval of Venturi’s initial zoning request that prohibited certain businesses — including pawnshops — from being placed in the Mack Dobbs Point shopping center.
During the initial zoning process, neighbors expressed concern over the strip mall, which led to an agreement being reached about what types of businesses could go in the shopping center. Also among the 32 prohibited uses, which were written into city ordinances, were adult bookstores, tattoo parlors and golf driving ranges.
But the Kennesaw City Council approved pawn and precious metal and business licenses for Cruchelow Jewelry & Loan last year. The store opened Dec. 28, 2011.
Many of the 50 people in attendance at the meeting opposed the pawnshop.
“They built this business to disguise it as a pawnshop,” said Carol Robertson, a resident of the nearby Summer Stream subdivision. “If you want to be a jewelry, be a jewelry. If you want to be a firearm sales, be a firearm sales. But do not be a pawnshop, because that broke the rules.”
But attorney Garvis Sams, who represented Venturi, said pawnshops have become more upscale since the use was first restricted in 2004. He even submitted a photograph of a ribbon-cutting, attended by Mayor Mark Mathews, taken in February at Cruchelow Jewelry & Loan, before resident complaints started coming in.
“It’s aesthetically pleasing,” he said. “I would consider it a high-end retail store with a pawn capacity as well.”
Venturi also apologized for his role in putting the pawnshop in his shopping center, but said it has had no problems or any complaints of “bad looking” people around.
“I would like to say on my behalf that I have always been an upstanding citizen in Kennesaw,” Venturi said. “I have created jobs, tax revenue. I think I have created a nice looking center.”
But Bill Harris, who has helped lead a campaign against the pawnshop, said Venturi knew what he was doing.
“He knew back in September 2011 what the intended use was,” Harris said. “We’re getting stabbed in the back, and we don’t like it.”
Sams also submitted a petition with 164 signatures in support of the pawnshop, in an attempt to offset petitions with more than 100 signatures that have been submitted by residents of surrounding subdivisions. After the meeting, he denied claims that they were obtained from “transients” staying in extended stay hotels near the pawnshop. Sams said around “75 percent” of the signatures were from Kennesaw residents, with a “couple” each from Marietta and Acworth residents.
Sams said he hoped to get better results when the city council takes up Venturi’s rezoning request at a special called meeting on May 16.
“We’re disappointed, but we’ve got two weeks to work on it and get some more support for the applicant,” he said.
City council previously discussed shutting the store down because state law prohibits pawnshops from using the word “loan” in its name or advertising. But it determined at its April 2 meeting that the city did not have authority to rule on this law, saying it is a state issue.