The council voted 5-0 to agree with a recommendation from city planning and zoning staff, as well as the city’s planning commission, denying the request from property owner Celestino Venturi to amend his strip mall’s zoning to allow for a pawnshop for the duration of its five-year lease. He had allowed the Cruchelow Jewelry & Loan pawnshop to open on Dec. 28, 2011, in his Mack Dobbs Point shopping center at Cobb Parkway and Mack Dobbs Road, despite having agreed not to let a pawnshop, or 31 other types of business, to open at the site when he got initial zoning approval in 2004.
But a city oversight last year, and subsequent city council approval, allowed the pawnshop to get a business license, as well as pawn and precious metal licenses.
Lawyer Garvis Sams, who represented Venturi, said after the meeting that he planned to appeal the decision to Cobb Superior Court.
“We’re disappointed. We were hoping that they would have a different opinion and decision,” he said of the city council.
Sams, who has 30 days to file a challenge, said the property owner’s constitutional rights were violated.
“Their decision to prohibit us from using the shopping center for the highest and best use is tantamount to a taking of Mr. Venturi’s property rights,” he said.
The decision came at the end of a 45-minute special called meeting, attended by around 40 people, though some of them were there for a council work session later in the evening.
Some residents of the nearby Summer Stream and Summerbrooke subdivisions spoke against the pawnshop.
“The impact of this particular business is directly on these two subdivisions,” Gary Greenhut said. “It’s also on the church that’s across the street, and the new school across the street.”
One person, Thomas D. Smith, who claimed to be the only person who can easily see the shopping center from his house, spoke in favor of the pawnshop.
“I’ve had no problem with this business,” he said. “I’ve seen no difficulty with anything they do. I visited the pawnshop and thanked them for being there.”
After the meeting, Bill Harris, who has maintained a website critical of the pawnshop, said that not only is Venturi likely to sue the city, but he expects the pawnshop owners, John and Serena Cruchelow, to sue Venturi for letting them move into two suites in his strip mall, despite knowing that was not allowed.
“I’m very much in favor of it,” Harris said of the city’s decision. “It’s a positive thing, and we’ll see where it goes from here.”
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, who did not vote on the matter because he only votes in case of a tie, said he agrees with the rest of the council. He said he will wait and see whether a lawsuit is filed.
“We’ll have to go through the process and see what happens,” he said.
Councilman Bruce Jenkins said he was not concerned about the decision opening the city up to litigation; instead he was interested in “maintaining the integrity of the zoning that was originally in place and the agreement with the neighborhood.”
This was the second high-profile case Sams had lost in as many days, with the Cobb Board of Commissioners voting Tuesday against a permit that would have allowed another of his clients, the Bankhead C&D Transfer Station, to take in household garbage at its site in south Cobb. In both cases, Sams’ clients had gone ahead with their plans without zoning approval.