The Council ultimately decided to postpone the decision until next month’s meeting.
State Rep. Terry Johnson (D-Marietta), the broker for the property owner who wants to sell the nine acres to RaceTrac, said he was puzzled by the opposition.
“We’re a little bit surprised,” Johnson said. “When you have 41,000 cars a day going down Powder Springs Road, you’re immediately across the street from a Waffle House, there’s commercial zoning all around you, we’re a little bit surprised that the neighbors opposed it. It’s always been vacant property for a number of years, and quite truthfully and right now it’s not very sightly and aesthetically pleasing.”
The neighborhood in question is the 85-home Elizabeth Acres subdivision. Resident Ron Ridgeway, a grandfather of three, said one of the problems the neighborhood has is that it is located in the county while the nine acres is in the city, meaning they can’t hold the City Council members accountable at the ballot box.
This isn’t the first time the zoning request has come before the Council. Councilman Grif Chalfant said the Council considered the request last November, but seeing it was going to be rejected, the request was withdrawn by the attorney representing the property owners, Kevin Moore.
The property is owned by the estate of John Melvin Clark.
In November, the request was to rezone the entire nine-acre lot to commercial. This time around, the Clark estate requested the front five acres be rezoned to commercial, leaving the back four residential. The Planning Commission recommended approving the request in a 6-0 vote on May 1.
Johnson described the late John Melvin Clark as “a generational kind of a founding family of Cobb County,” who used to run an ice house and, along with his brothers, developed hundreds of homes in the county.
Johnson said the district he represents in the state house doesn’t encompass the property in question, but it is nearby.
“Anyone that comes into my district that wants to do something legitimate and positive, we try to pat them on the back and encourage and assist them,” Johnson said.
The state representative pointed out that RaceTrac is headquartered in Cobb County.
“They’re a Cobb County institution,” he said. “They’re good neighbors. They’re good partners in education. They’ve been very friendly to our community and concerned about its development over the years.”
Other offers Johnson has had for the property include a 24-hour liquor store and a bail bonds office, offers his clients have turned down.
Richard Calhoun of Brock, Clay, Calhoun & Rogers is representing the homeowners. Calhoun said the neighborhood would be fine with a bank, funeral home or some office building on the site, but a gas station was not appropriate to build next to a neighborhood.
Ridgeway said the gas station would be adjacent to his home.
“We won’t even be able to use our backyard because all the noise, the gas fumes and everything else emanating from that service station,” he said. “At night we’re going to have 24-7 daylight.”
Resident Alison Lanier said there are already six gas stations within a two-mile radius of the site and 22 within a five-mile radius. She argued that because it’s near the Cobb County jail, people released from jail would gather at the gas station and cause problems.
Councilman Jim King asked Moore to consider donating the four residential acres to the city to be used as green space, a request Moore said RaceTrac would agree to do. But Mayor Steve Tumlin and Councilman Johnny Sinclair raised concerns about the city having to maintain the site once it was donated. And a suggestion to donate the four acres to the neighborhood’s homeowners association was rejected by Ridgeway for a similar reason. For one, the neighborhood doesn’t have a homeowners association, but even it were to create one, maintaining the site would be cost-prohibitive, he said. So the city voted 5-1, with Sinclair opposed, to postpone the decision until the next council meeting.
“I would have preferred to go ahead and turn it down,” Sinclair said after the meeting on why he voted against tabling the matter.
Ridgeway said the city is doing what he expected.
“They’re doing everything in the world to work out a deal so RaceTrac is there. They don’t care about us citizens. They’re only concerned with getting their $15,786 a year in revenue plus their sales taxes. They don’t care about us citizens. We’re a subdivision of $50,000 to $100,000 houses. Our residents cannot afford an HOA and pay $100 to $200 a month in order to maintain that area and pay for the liability insurance. It’s the city of Marietta. They don’t care about Cobb County residents. It’s the way it is.”
Also Wednesday, the Council voted 6-0 to purchase a 0.42-acre parcel on North Marietta Parkway for $100,000 to help expand the site of the Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center. The existing 1.8-acre Porter Center is a city-owned facility on Montgomery Street between Cole and Allgood streets that serves as a recreation center with a gym and game room and is also used as a spot for town hall meetings. Parks director Rich Buss said the facility was used in the 1940s as an all black hospital for a few years before integration.
The purchase, located at 373 N. Marietta Parkway, was made from The Graham Family, LP using 2009 parks bond money.
Sinclair said the goal is to expand the current Porter Center to make way for a new multi-million facility that can hopefully open by fall 2013.
The new facility has been projected to cost between $4.75 million and $6.75 million.