‘Jilted’ City Council defers townhomes

Posted:

JOHNS CREEK Ga. – The Johns Creek City Council felt like the date stood up on Saturday night, when the developer didn’t show and sent only his lawyer instead.

The Aug. 18 rezoning hearing for 50 townhouses on Abbotts Bridge Road just west of Jones Bridge Road was supposed to be a compromise settlement of a lawsuit filed by developer Charlie Roberts. Last September, the City Council denied a petition to develop the property with 74 apartment units with about 15,000 square feet of retail/commercial space.

The property has been the subject of a lawsuit, and this plan had been brought by Roberts and JEH homes as a compromise. The lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court has been placed in abeyance to see if this plan would be acceptable to both parties.

Attorney Josh Belinfante was there to represent the plaintiffs, but he did not have much authority to negotiate any of the details of the plan, and there were several items brought up by the community.

Not the least of these was a request brought on the residents’ behalf by David Kornbluh, president of the Johns Creek Community Association, that the townhouses be limited to 35 units.

He reasoned that the property is on the cusp of two city character areas. One allowed a maximum of five units per acre, and the other allowed five to eight units per acre. The 35 townhouses on 7 acres yield five units per acre – the maximum of one character area and the minimum of the other.

Belinfante said the one point the applicants were firm on was the 50 townhouses for the project. He noted that originally the owner sought 105 apartment units, then 74 units and the city had offered 55 units as its maximum recommendation.

“This is 50 townhomes with no commercial,” Belinfante said. “My clients won’t accept less than the 50 they are requesting.”

None of the community members who spoke against the project said the townhouse use was “the best” they could hope for. But they had conditions they wanted on the property ranging from the number of stories allowed, fencing issues and having units on Abbotts Bridge Road facing the road.

Belinfante said that he would have to “phone” the owner Roberts to see if he would accept any of the conditions, but he did note Roberts had sent his answer to those conditions at 5 p.m. before the meeting.

Council had them printed and distributed among members and the audience, but that rankled Councilman Lenny Zaprowski.

“Has the public seen these responses? They were just compiled at 5 p.m. I think we should just defer it for two weeks to discuss this and let the public see it,” Zaprowski said.

Councilwoman Kelly Stewart agreed.

“The community has not heard these. Is it OK to debate these step by step?” she said.

Things went downhill after the first condition was discussed – whether to use a chain-link fence proposed by the owner to border the southbound property or use a wooden fence as requested by the community.

Belinfante said he could not answer but said he “would call” his client to get his reply on all the conditions.

That was it. The council quickly moved to defer the case until the Sept. 8 meeting.

“We don’t want to wear down the public by asking them to return. Nor do we want to turn our backs on what could be a good compromise,” said Mayor Mike Bodker.

But he did not see any recourse. The other councilmembers agreed and the motion to defer was carried.

JC-8-20