The first case was brought by Waleed “Lee” Jaraysi and attempted to undo the city’s efforts since 2005 to prevent him from building a “wedding hall” just off South Marietta Parkway near Interstate-75. The city had granted him a permit for an 8,700-square-foot building, only to belatedly realize the building going up would total almost 25,000 square feet. The half-completed shell of a building stood for years as an eyesore at one of the main entryways into Marietta as Jaraysi dragged out the case.
The long and winding case saw Cobb Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs grant the city permission in 2010 to demolish the structure and issue a restraining order to prevent Jaraysi — who earlier had promised the judge he would tear it down himself — from interfering. Jaraysi then appealed that ruling to court after court, with Federal District Court Judge Amy Totenberg ruling against him Thursday.
So to date, Grubbs, three Georgia Court of Appeals judges, seven Georgia Supreme Court justices and now a federal judge have ruled against Jaraysi.
“He’s got the magic dozen that have nailed him,” City Attorney Doug Haynie told the MDJ.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Supreme Court has chosen not to hear the case brought against the city by City Councilman and downtown property czar Philip Goldstein that sought legal permission to erect a five-story building facing Marietta Square.
Goldstein’s company filed the suit in April 2011 arguing that city’s recently passed downtown height ordinance should not apply to his property at 77 Park Square because it was “grandfathered” in under the old ordinance. That is, he already had a certificate of approval from the city’s Historic Board of Review for the taller (66 feet) building at the time the new guidelines limiting heights there to 42 feet (down from 85 feet) was passed. In the meantime, he demolished the century-old Cuthbertson Building that stood on the site to make way for his expected office/retail/residential building — even though he had no financial backing, no tenants lined up and no construction start date.
Cobb Superior Court Judge George Kreeger had ruled in 2011 that Goldstein’s case was not “ripe” because he had not first applied for a building license and thus, had not exhausted his options at the city level. Goldstein appealed, only to see the Georgia Court of Appeals rule against him twice and then see the state Supreme Court unanimously decide not to take the case.
Both the Jaraysi and Goldstein suits now seem at an end.
The city was correct to pursue the two cases, even though they have been costly to taxpayers. It’s hoped the city now will try to recoup the legal costs it incurred in the two cases.
Goldstein’s case had much wider ramifications than Jaraysi’s, as it was part of his decades-long quest to build downtown Marietta “up” — way up, in some past attempts, to as much as 10 or 12 stories high. A five-story building in 2010 could have been followed later by eight- and 10-story buildings on or just off the Square, undermining its appeal.
Those efforts — and the fears of the precedent a five-story building would set — were what drove Mayor Steve Tumlin and the city to impose the new height guidelines shortly after he took office.
Marietta Square is more than just the nucleus of Cobb County. It is the heart of Marietta. And it is in the city’s best interest to do all it can to maintain that ambiance. A five-story building would not have been the end of the world for the Square, but it would have pushed the Square toward a much different future than most Mariettans envision.