But in northeast Cobb, the planning commissioners advanced a proposal for a meal-movie project. County commissioners will have the final say on both projects on March 20.
On the Vinings proposal, the commissioners voted 5-0 to recommend rejecting the application of Walton Communities LLC, which wanted to build a 262-unit, midrise apartment building on 23.5 acres near the intersection of Spring Hill and Mt. Wilkinson parkways. The case had been continued three times, once by the Planning Commission, and twice by staff.
Planning Commissioner Michael Terry, who represents the area, said developers have sought to change the planned use of the 24.75-acre site a number of times, including a 1989 case that resulted in a lawsuit that the county ultimately won.
Terry said that case was decided on concerns over the development decreasing property values, creating noise and increasing traffic.
“I’m not sure that doesn’t still hold true,” Terry said.
Attorney John Moore, of Marietta’s Moore, Ingram, Johnson & Steele firm, represents Walton Communities. He said developers went out of their way to appease residents of the nearby single family subdivisions, calling the proposed 724-foot conservation easement between the rear of the apartments and the closest residential property the largest in Cobb zoning history. He said that allowing the site to be developed as single family residential, as some have suggested, would jeopardize that.
But Frank Savini of the Paces Homeowners Alliance said the large green space buffer would be needed by any developer because it is a storm water drainage area.
“We’re not opposed to development,” Savini said. “What we are opposed to is development that is not compatible with the area.”
Savini disputed Moore’s claims that the upscale apartment building, which is designed to have parking garage, would not be visible from the nearby subdivision. He displayed a rendering showing the building would take up the equivalent of four-and-a-half football fields.
While Moore said the single-family homes already have apartment complexes nearby, Savini said they don’t have the impact that Walton’s planned development would.
“Yes we do have apartments that surround us,” Savini said. “But we don’t see them and they don’t see us.”
Although she voted against the project, Planning Commissioner Judy Williams said she might reconsider if the developer tweaked the proposal.
“Since the court case, things have changed,” she said. “Any time you can have a development come in and have a buffer that’s 700 feet, that’s not going to happen again.”
After the commissioners voted, the 60 people opposed to the project cheered.
Meanwhile in northeast Cobb, planning commissioners recommended approval of a movie theater/restaurant called Movie Tavern in an old Kroger shopping center on State Route 92 between Sandy Plains and Mabry roads.
Attorney Kevin Moore, also of the Moore Ingram firm, represents the developer, DDR Southeast Sandy Plains LLC.
Movie Tavern is a Dallas-based company that has 15 meal-movie locations in six states. It has one location in Georgia, in Tucker, and plans to open in Suwanee later this year, according to its website.
Kevin Moore said owners agreed to limit the theater to 12 screens, but balked at requests from some of the 15 neighbors in attendance who wanted the complex to have seating for no more than 1,049 people. Planning Commission Chairman Murray Homan said capacity is an issue for the fire marshal.
Moore said the theater could help bring back the Sandy Plains Village shopping center, which is only 18 percent occupied. Developers plan to spend $2 million improving the shopping center, in addition to the $4.5 million it will cost to put in the Movie Tavern.
A few neighbors insisted more planning was needed.
“We’d like to see the proposal go forward. However, we still have concerns about the specific plans, or lack of specific plans,” said Andrew Douglas, president of the Chatsworth Homeowners Association.
Developers will aim to make the buffer behind the building 35 feet deep, and will install an eight-foot privacy fence to help block noise and lights, said Kevin Moore.
Planning Commissioner Christi Trombetti, who represents the area, said she hopes more projects like this one will come to some of the area’s blighted shopping centers.
“The fact that it is being considered is a good sign, and very good for the community,” Trombetti said. “We need to be open to new uses, and I think this is a good option.”