Residents divided as Sprayberry Crossing rezoning vote looms

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Sprayberry Crossing revisions
Some residents living near Sprayberry Crossing say multi-family housing, even for seniors only, is not appropriate for their community.

It’s been more than three years since residents pushing for a redevelopment of the Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center organized a town hall meeting to press county officials to address the long-standing blight in their community.

The sentiment was nearly unanimous on that March evening at Sprayberry High School that the eyesore taking up a corner of Sandy Plains Road and East Piedmont Road needed an overhaul.

Two years later, an Atlanta apartment developer filed a rezoning request to do just that, proposing to convert Sprayberry Crossing into a multi-use development with apartments, town homes, a major grocery store, retail space and community trails.

Over the last year, Atlantic Realty Acquisitions LLC has made numerous site plan changes, especially as opposition grew to apartment dwellings.

Before the May Cobb Planning Commission hearing, Atlantic Realty dropped market-rate apartments altogether, but kept senior living (55 and older) in their plans.

That hasn’t been enough to appease opponents who fear the developer could convert senior-living apartments to market-rate apartments, and who also have concerns over traffic.

Those issues were addressed earlier this month by the Planning Commission, which issued a stunning no-recommendation on whether the Sprayberry Crossing rezoning should be approved or not.

That’s where the matter stands as the Cobb Board of Commissioners is scheduled to take up the case on Tuesday.

The latest Sprayberry Crossing site plan, filed in late May, reduces the number of senior apartments to 132 and increases the number of townhomes to 102.

The divisions among some residents who’ve organized for and against the Sprayberry Crossing plan run deep, and after the Planning Commission vote East Cobb News contacted parties on both sides for their perspectives.

Sprayberry Crossing opponents have crafted t-shirts to fight the rezoning case.

Tim Carini is among the vocal opponents of the Sprayberry Crossing request, whom Atlantic Realty attorney Kevin Moore has described as being part of a “mob” to derail what he says is a badly needed redevelopment in the area.

Carini and others have proudly worn “Rod Mob” t-shirts (the case number for Sprayberry Crossing is ROD-1, which stands for Redevelopment Overlay District).

He said the Planning Commission vote is “a disservice to the community and residents of Cobb County, especially with the way it was done and the timing.”

There were only three of the five Planning Commission members in attendance at the June 1 meeting, and Carini says he has been told by a County official that Planning Commissioner Deborah Dance and “[Cobb] Commissioner [JoAnn] Birrell are hellbent on getting this passed.”

He says the site plan doesn’t conform to the ROD code, and “now the County is throwing out significant portions of the ROD code to get this to pass. It’s now zoning at will in Cobb County, and it’s clear it’s at will for the developers and not the community, taxpayer, or voters.”

Moore said at the June 1 meeting that his client wants a vote, saying that contracts with the property owner and Lidl, the prospective grocery retailer, are nearing an end.

“If this was so time sensitive, why did the applicant continue this case for seven months?” Carini said. “Now, with known and publicly criticized traffic and safety concerns from the Planning Commission, this is urgent and had to be pushed through on a Tuesday after a holiday without a full Planning Commission Board.”

Carini and other opponents have created a Facebook page and are pressing for a big turnout at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

Residents demanded county action at the blighted Sprayberry Corners Shopping Center during a 2018 town hall.

One of the leaders of a group of citizens who’ve wanted to clean up Sprayberry Crossing for years is optimistic about Tuesday’s vote.

Shane Spink is a facilitator of the Sprayberry Crossing Action group and has said those in opposition may be vocal, but he thinks they’re a vocal minority.

He said the Sprayberry Crossing case “has basically come down to a traffic/in and out of the property issue that I think should be able to be resolved because frankly, these issues would exist with any development that goes into this particular property.”

Spink noted that Atlantic Realty has worked extensively with the community “to try to meet all of their concerns and demands, including dropping an apartment building and adding more for sale townhomes. So to think it comes down to just an ingress/egress issue is pretty amazing.”

He said his impressions speaking with others in the community—the Sprayberry Crossing Action group has more than 6,000 members—as well as other citizens and business owners in the area is that “the majority of the folks want to see this development go through and are ready for 25 years of blight to finally be over with.

“They want to have a quality development go in and continue the improvement of the Sprayberry area right along with the rebuild of the high school. And look, some opposition will always be there, but in this case I don’t believe they, from what I have seen, reflect the overall sentiment of the community.”

The Cobb Commission rezoning hearing begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday. There will be limited in-person attendance due to COVID-19 protocols, but the hearing will be aired on the Cobb County government’s Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as on the CobbTV public access outlet, Channel 23 on Comcast.

Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center
Most portions of the Sprayberry Crossing Shopping Center have sat in disrepair for years.

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