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Branch Capital Will Appeal Jonquil Village Denial

A judge will decide whether or not the current zoning of the 11 acre site called the "Gateway to Smyrna" is unconstitutional.

Branch Capital Partners will appeal the City of Smyrna's Dec. 2 denial of their amended zoning and site plan for Jonquil Village. Credit: Branch Capital Partners
Branch Capital Partners will appeal the City of Smyrna's Dec. 2 denial of their amended zoning and site plan for Jonquil Village. Credit: Branch Capital Partners
The developers behind a planned $40 million mixed-use development near the heart of downtown Smyrna plan to appeal the city council's recent denial of their amended site plan.

Branch Capital Partners was refused permission to alter development plans currently on file for the 11 acre site of Jonquil Village at the intersection of Atlanta and Concord roads by a 4-3 vote of the Smyrna City Council on Dec. 2. Now, the developers will take the city to court to get the project started again.

Branch Capital's lawyer Garvis Sams told the Marietta Daily Journal that the developers' appeal is based on the position that the denial violated constitutional rights.

The City of Smyrna will have 30 days to respond to Branch's appeal, then the matter will be decided by a Cobb County judge. The judge will rule on the constitutionality of the zoning of the Jonquil Village site itself, but will not be making a sweeping change to the city's zoning laws.

The original 2007 plan for Jonquil Village was a $185 million development with a Publix as an anchor retail store, 160,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 30,000 sq. ft. of office space, and underground parking.

2008's economic downturn killed this iteration of Jonquil Village just as work was getting under way, and the site has lain mostly undeveloped since then.

Branch's new plans for Jonquil Village called for a $40 million project containing 24,500 sq. ft. of retail space and 288 high-end condominiums with a projected monthly rent of $1,200.

Sams says that the 2007 plan imposes an unconstitutional "significant economic detriment" upon both Branch Capital and the property's principal owners Todd and Cheri Maxwell.

However, dozens of residents crammed Smyrna City Hall the night of Dec. 2, mostly to speak out against the new proposal and its expanded apartment presence. Many speakers did not see the merit of more apartments when the city had just spent millions of dollars buying and tearing down other apartment complexes in the city.

Sams told the MDJ that he believes that many people who spoke out against the Jonquil Village apartments did not differentiate between the dilapidated, low-rent apartment complexes the city bought and tore down with the proposed high-rent family units geared towards young professionals making six-figure salaries.

Jesse Shannon, Branch's Director of Acquisitions said during the meeting that grocers or big-box retailers did not see an economic benefit to opening a store in Jonquil Village, and stressed that the area needed high-density, high income housing to serve as a foundation to build a strong retail presence.
Brian December 13, 2013 at 05:46 AM
I expected this to happen, as probably did the city of Smyrna. No clue what the result will be however I suspect Smyrna and Branch will probably try to come up with an agreement before the court date.
Observer December 13, 2013 at 09:19 PM
Broad Street is playing a game of chicken. The city council needs to hold fast and not give in, otherwise every two-bit developer will stamp their feet and threaten to sue if they don't get their way. It would be a dangerous precedent to set and a return to the past that Smyrna has struggled to pull itself out of.
Brian December 16, 2013 at 12:40 AM
Smyrna has been sued before by a developer and lost that time, however the situation was somewhat different. This boils down to property rights, and the project will probably move forward, however I think the lesson here for future developers is to heed the feedback of neighboring residents more since no developers want to go through this in the future. It's time-consuming and expensive. I wonder if things would have changed if it were 1/4 condos and 3/4 apartments. I think it may have had very different results.
Observer December 16, 2013 at 08:36 AM
Property rights, which despite having a high degree of protection, as they should, are not absolute. The gray area that needs to be resolved is whether the developer gets to build his particular mix of buildings on this site. Again, the city should take this issue all the way through the court system. The cost of defending against this particular suit would be minimal, but the consequences of not defending could be immense if by interpretation and practice the city's planning actions become suspect and are challenged by every developer with an inclination to do so.
Jonquil Gardener December 16, 2013 at 05:58 PM
ZONING LAW is not all that gray. Private property rights are pretty strong. It will boil down to the facts. The facts are that the previous zoning allowed for apartments and retail of a greater amount. The applicant filed for approval for a plan which had less apartments, less density, less traffic and less retail. To uphold the City's decision the City attorney will have to show that when compared with the previously approved plan, this particular development will have a substantively negative impact on the City and surrounding neighborhoods. It will not be about how Branch's plan compares with people's dreams and visions of what "could" be there, it will only be compared vs the previously approved plan and zoning. The part that will make this interesting is that Branch is also negotiating with the City to buy one or two parcels that the City owns as part of the project. Regardless of the zoning, the City can definitely decide who they want to sell the land to and how it can be used. In any case, if I was a betting man, my money would be on Branch getting approved. They would not file suit and risk damaging the relationship with the City unless they felt pretty strong about their case.
Observer December 16, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Oh, I'm pretty sure that the council will cave, because that is what they do with some regularity. However, just because the developer might prevail is not a compelling argument and of course they would file suit, this is about present money and possibly future money. The developer is trying to establish who wears the pants in this relationship, nothing else.
pigkiller December 23, 2013 at 08:36 AM
Jonquil Gardener: I'm afraid that the relationship between the city and Branch has already been damaged. It certainly didn't help for certain representatives of Branch to portray the residents who did show up to express their opinions as the unwashed masses, carrying their torches and pitchforks to the castle, demanding that the monster be turned out and killed.
Brian December 26, 2013 at 04:02 AM
I think this all boils down to a development that will move forward and some council members got to vote their conscious in the meantime. The city will probably negotiate in a few other things during this stage during the settlement. 10% condos, anyone?

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