Marietta City Council denies Nexus developments

Hunter Riggall, Marietta Daily Journal, Ga.
·3 min read

Apr. 15—MARIETTA — In the face of overwhelming community opposition, the Marietta City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to prevent two mixed-use developments from being built near the intersection of Powers Ferry Road and South Marietta Parkway.

Rezoning applications on behalf of developer Stephen Macauley were denied for the proposed Nexus Gardens and Laurel Park developments. The projects would have included hundreds of townhomes, apartments and senior living units, as well as retail and office space.

Council chambers were standing room only and residents brought signs to signal their opposition. Addressing council members, they said the projects would make the area less affordable and increase traffic to dangerous levels.

Residents created two websites to organize opposition. Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly, citing the will of residents, made the motion to deny the first rezoning application. The second application failed some 30 minutes later, precipitating a round of applause from the audience.

"You guys really came together as a community," Kelly said. "You've expressed your concerns. I don't think I've ever gotten so many emails and phone calls. But you're doing exactly what I believe this democracy is designed to do."

Kevin Moore, an attorney for Macauley, said Wednesday their only comment was that "we are very disappointed."

Moore had argued to the council that the current zoning already allowed for "far more impactful" development, such as hotels, motels, offices or retail.

Macauley told council it would provide a sense of community, an attractive gateway into the city near Interstate 75, increase property values and become a retail destination. The area has seen little change over the past 50 years.

Resident Brian Peters said revitalization of the area was already happening organically. He moved to Marietta to escape the "insane traffic, the high noise, the crime caused by runaway development in Buckhead."

Another resident, Ron Remillard, said the process had stirred up a "bee's nest" in the area.

"We recognize that owners have a right to develop their property, but not at the expense of our neighborhood," Remillard said.

Anna Holliday said she and her husband "scraped and saved to buy a small home" in a mature neighborhood, a neighborhood she said should be protected from "speculative and predatory developers."

Resident Hill Wright said the projects would cause overflow parking on neighborhood streets. Another resident, Chris Klaer, said his neighborhood already had too much speeding and street parking.

Plus, even now, "turning left on Powers Ferry from Scott Drive is a total deathtrap due to a huge blind spot," Klaer said.

Some residents were frustrated with the length of the process, accusing the developer of having the applications tabled to drag out the process and exhaust opponents. Macauley countered, saying they had done so to alter plans after feedback was received.

Nexus Gardens would have included 15,000 square feet of retail and restaurant use, 160 senior units, 176 apartments and 50 townhomes.

The developer did in fact reduce the number of homes proposed for one of the two projects — Laurel Park, to 134 homes instead of 204. That did little to appease residents, however.