The proposed 52-acre development is targeted for the northwest corner of Barrett and Cobb parkways.
Atlanta-based Fuqua Development plans to close at least part of the Castle Lake Mobile Home Park, which sits on the site and serves as home to dozens of families.
In December, Fuqua filed papers with Kennesaw seeking to rezone the property from a county residential mobile home park to a city planned village community.
On Monday night, the Kennesaw City Council voted 5-0 to both rezone the land and annex the property into the city limits.
An additional 34 acres of the mobile home park, west of the proposed development, would stay county property and remain owned by Castle Lake Mobile Home Park.
Attorney Garvis Sams, of the Marietta-based firm Sams, Larkin, Huff & Balli, LLP that represents Fuqua, said he believes that 34 acres will most likely be redeveloped and brought into the city limits in the future.
This first project would break ground in six months and open in the spring of 2016, Sams told the council.
Developer to plan the space
Mayor Mark Mathews said Fuqua has the site under contract and knows the market through demographic studies, so the developer will decide what mix of stores would work best.
The massive mixed-use project would include 450,000 square feet of retail space and 30 townhomes on the western side of the property, said Bob Fox, the city’s economic development director.
The townhomes would be purchased, not rented.
Whole Foods Market has agreed to anchor the large shopping complex. There is also space designated for a sporting goods store, with room to add a drug store, casual dining restaurants, specialty retail shops, office space and even a gas station, Sams said.
Fuqua has agreed to stipulations that pawn shops, thrift stores and tattoo parlors would not be allowed.
As a life-long Cobb resident, Sams said he is an advocate for this particular plan for the site.
“My wife wants to see a Whole Foods more than you can possibly imagine,” Sams said.
Mathews said neither the City Council nor the Kennesaw Development Authority have any plans to offer tax abatements or other monetary incentives to the developer or the businesses planning to lease space.
If any requests are made, including to the KDA, Mathews said he and the City Council would have to approve the deals.
Residents hold on to American Dream
Some of Monday night’s speakers made their statements in Spanish, with a city-provided interpreter translating the pleas of people who have invested their life savings to purchase and repair homes in Castle Lake.
A mother of two daughters, Jacqueline Lopez, 29, began to cry when she told the council their “American dream was being taken away.”
One man, Joaquin Banuelos, 22, who has lived at Castle Lake for over 10 years, said Fuqua’s plan sounds like a great benefit to the “millionaire” developer, but where does it leave the tight-knit Latino community?
“I don’t even know where I am going to go next,” Banuelos said.
Because he is “poor,” Banuelos said he is worried his words would not mean anything to the councilmembers.
“We work for you, the millionaire people,” said Banuelos, who works in the construction industry.
Councilman Jim Sebastian, who moved to Cobb in 1976 and is an owner of a consulting and brokering firm which specializes in retail service contracts, said development of the land is part of the city’s expansion strategy.
Sebastian said the city has asked the Castle Lake Mobile Home Park property owners to consider annexation for at least three years, with limited feedback until a year ago.
The Kennesaw Planning Commission, at a Feb. 5 meeting, voted 5-0 to recommend approval of the annexation, with a condition requiring Fuqua to submit a relocation plan to move existing residents prior to construction beginning.
Where’s the relocation plan?
Although most of the speakers from Castle Lake came to object to the project, many said they realized the commercial development would not be stopped.
The consistent question became, if the development has been planned for years, why were the mobile park residents only informed of the sale now and why is the relocation plan not finalized?
Sebastian said the exchange of the property was between two private companies, and if the development had been residential and remained part of the county, the deal would never have been reviewed by the Kennesaw City Council.
Monday’s public hearing about the rezoning and annexation was a benefit to homeowners in Castle Lake, Sebastian said.
“It gives them time to voice their concerns,” he said.
Mathews said the council was not aware the management of Castle Lake had not communicated the plan to sell the land until recently.
The mayor said the city made every effort to inform the residents about Monday’s meeting.
Mathews gave his word Monday night that from this point forward the Castle Lake families would be treated fairly and be placed in a better living situation than the one in which they are currently living.
“I can assure you the buyer will be working with residents very, very closely,” Mathews said.
Jeff Fuqua, who formed Fuqua Development, LP in March 2012, attended Monday’s public hearing.
After talking with his client, Sams said Fuqua would form a committee this spring to start relocation assistance on a family by family basis.