For the past several years, Cheney Woods residents have opposed the expansion of Oxford Academy Inc., which is located in the neighborhood on Flagler Circle off Church Street. The business is run by former Councilman Jimmy Smith and his wife. But their neighbors’ hope for change in the city’s zoning ordinance looks to be fading.
“I know that it is on the agenda, but it’s my understanding that’s going to be tabled so that the council can discuss it more and look into the verbiage and study it more,” said Councilwoman Susan Wilkinson of the proposed amendment to R-15 zoning.
Residents of Flag Circle remain dumbfounded about the city’s refusal to budge on the ordinance, which they fear will raise traffic congestion and lower property values in the neighborhood of ranch homes. They’ve long suspected Smith and underhanded politics have been involved.
“We just feel that by slipping this day care center language in, it seems sneaky,” said Flagler Circle resident Bonnie Berry.
In 2006, Smyrna City Council members voted 5-0 to amend the city’s R-15 zoning to allow for “day nurseries and kindergartens.” Smith did not vote and has since left the council.
His attorney, Garvis Sams of Marietta, said that Smith and his wife, Cindy, have agreed not to further expand Oxford into the Flagler Circle property in question, not now or in the future. Instead, he said his clients plan to expand their business in their Church Street home next to Oxford.
“My clients’ reaction to the opposition has been to undertake the steps necessary to address and resolve the issues which have been raised and to keep the city informed of their efforts in that regard,” said Sams.
Present enrollment at Oxford totals 141 children, with at least 300 more on the waiting list, according to Sams.
Last Monday, the Smyrna Planning and Zoning Board did propose implementing a minor change to language in the R-15 zoning ordinance, concerning access to day care driveways. The council is scheduled to vote on that tonight.
But the move has done little to satisfy residents.
In spite of what they say has been a lack of response from city officials, the residents say they will continue to fight for the removal of day care centers from residential zoning in Smyrna’s ordinance.
“When you have these municipalities like Smyrna, and you’ve got these historic neighborhoods, commercial does encroach,” said Berry. “I think it takes really smart, savvy city planning to do it well. I think it can be done, but you can’t sit back and expect it to happen.”