The owners of a Macedonia cemetery have sued Cherokee County commissioners for allowing a planned RaceTrac gasoline station and convenience store to be built within 10 feet of their property line instead of the standard 30 feet.
Commissioners approved the variance at their Jan. 15 meeting and Macedonia Memorial Properties, LLC, filed suit in February against the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners and RaceTrac Petroleum. The site for the planned RaceTrac station is at the corner of Ga. Highway 20 and Cherokee Drive, currently the site of Macedonia Baptist Church.
During that Jan. 15 meeting the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved a variance on the easement between the property where the gas station would go and where the cemetery is located, reducing the buffer space between the two. The variance carried with it the stipulation that RaceTrac would have to place some sort of opaque screen (most likely plants of some kind) in the space to lessen the effects of the gas station on the cemetery.
The lawsuit alleges commissioners did not follow guidelines on when it’s appropriate to approve a variance. While a variance can be issued when the size, shape or topography of a piece of property affects its development, lawyer Stuart Teague, who is representing Macedonia Memorial Properties, said his clients do not feel these conditions were met.
“My clients do not object to a reasonable use of the land,” Teague said. “Their main concern is with the way it is configured on the site plan. It all comes down to challenging the variance and where the station would be located in relation to the property line.”
In the suit, Teague said his clients are looking to reverse the variance. Teague said he feels the cemetery owners have a strong case, but added that it’s hard to know what may happen once the suit goes to trial.
In response to the suit, both the county board of commissioners and RaceTrac have filed motions to dismiss portions of the suit, namely the section that would prevent the project from moving forward, the section declaring the county was in error when it granted the variance and the section awarding attorney’s fees and litigation expenses to Macedonia Memorial Properties.
“The county is confident the decision they made is the right one,” said Paul Frickey, the attorney representing the board of commissioners in the suit. “The county will defend its decision.”
In its motion to dismiss, RaceTrac asserts, among other things, there is no underlying claim made against the company in the lawsuit.
Neither of the lawyers were certain when the case would go to court, or if it might be settled beforehand.
Lawyers representing RaceTrac and RaceTrac officials declined to comment for this story.