Kennesaw residents packed the room at Tuesday’s city council meeting to protest a proposed industrial warehouse and distribution center from moving in next door to their homes.
Oakmont Pacolet Acquisitions, LLC applied for rezoning of the property at 1630 Stanley Road from residential to city light industrial. Additionally, the applicant requested a variance on the required minimum 75-foot setback in the front of the property.
According to Zoning Administrator Darryl Simmons, the setback variance request is because although the address is on Stanley Road, the applicants wish to build a driveway to access Cobb International Boulevard, which runs along the other side of the property.
Due to a family member’s involvement with the property, City Attorney Randall Bentley recused himself during discussion and public comment on the topic, though he had to return twice to swear in more citizens who wanted to speak but arrived after the meeting had started.
Scott Smart, the first to address the council, spoke with the MDJ before the meeting started.
“I love living there. I chose that place. It’s beautiful. Got a great view of Kennesaw Mountain. ... People look out for each other. A lot of retirees are there too. It’s going to be my retirement home and any changes that bring loud noise are going to ruin it and devalue the property. I don’t want to have to move,” he said.
Smart asked the council to “think of the people who live there,” drawing loud applause from the audience. Mayor Derek Easterling requested the audience refrain from such displays for the remainder of the meeting.
Kris Brown, HOA president of the Overlook at Marietta Country Club, told the council they have united with the Cedarlake Townhomes HOA to request certain conditions be put in place should the rezoning pass: permanent prohibition of access to Stanley Road, increase the buffer from the proposed 50 feet to 100 feet or more with vegetative barriers, require compliance with noise restrictions and limit operation times, and move semi-truck parking away from the residential side of the business.
“I was literally horrified when I learned that there’s consideration for rezoning to light industrial in such close proximity to our homes,” said resident Yolanda Rucker. “I believe that our home values would suffer tremendously, and it’s almost heartbreaking that it would even be under consideration to allow light industrial in such a heavily residential type of an area.”
Attorney Andrew Lampros spoke as a representative for some of the homeowners and expressed concern that a current report indicates 206 tractor-trailers will be in and out of the property each day.
“They will be tearing up the roads and not contributing much if anything to the tax base,” he said.
Simmons recommended the council table the issue until its Feb. 5 planning commission meeting and Feb. 17 council meeting. He expects to have the results of a report by then that will consider the impact on traffic and the environment. He also said the applicant is working on a revised site plan, but that news did not appease concerned neighbors who continued taking turns at the microphone.
Two Kennesaw State University students, Haley Fent and Cyarra Walter, asked the council to consider how the additional tractor-trailer traffic would affect students commuting to campus. Resident Sheree Starr told them she’s opposed to the noise, the traffic and said she wants to continue to see deer in her backyard.
“I hope as a community we stay unified and show out in February if need be,” Starr said.
The council unanimously approved the motion to table the issue until February.
Zoning wasn’t the only issue that drew protesters. Several downtown business owners said proposed plans to move the fireworks display from the downtown area to Swift-Cantrell Park will be bad for business.
Mitch and Lori Phillips, owners of Honeysuckle Biscuits and Bakery on Main Street, said the Fourth of July celebration is one of their biggest days.
“We came to Kennesaw because we thought the city wanted to support the downtown district and it affects us when they move big events like that off,” Mitch Phillips said.
The owners of other businesses, including Cheeseburger Bobby’s, Pisano’s Pizzeria and BurgerFi were also present, leading Easterling to create a committee of downtown business owners on the spot. He asked them to work with city officials on a plan for the festivities and figure out the logistics of keeping it downtown. He also appointed council members James “Doc” Eaton and Tracey Viars to the committee since they both have businesses on Main Street.
In other business:
The Swift-Cantrell Park Foundation presented a check for $100,000 to the city for the new inclusive playground that opened earlier this month. The new play area includes wheelchair accessible equipment, sensory activities and artificial turf.
“Aside from their financial donation for the inclusive playground, the Swift-Cantrell Park Foundation and their contributions have been instrumental to the growth and success of Swift-Cantrell Park: skate park, splash pad, new inclusive playground. They are community leaders that have made a huge impact on our park, and they have been critical to its success,” said Becca Graham, communication and engagement manager for Kennesaw.