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Branch, Maxwells Appeal Jonquil Village Denial

The complaint against the City of Smyrna alleges the recent denial of the amended Jonquil Village site plan amounts to a denial of the land owners and developers' constitutional property rights.

This site plan for Jonquil Village was rejected by the Smyrna City Council on Dec. 2, but the developers behind it and the site's owners are appealing the decision. Credit: Branch Capital Partners
This site plan for Jonquil Village was rejected by the Smyrna City Council on Dec. 2, but the developers behind it and the site's owners are appealing the decision. Credit: Branch Capital Partners
The owners and developers behind a $40 million mixed use development at the site of the stalled Jonquil Village project are suing the City of Smyrna over its recent 4-3 denial of the proposed amendments to the approved site plan.

The complaint, which is attached to this article, alleges the city has violated Branch Capital Partners and T&C Land, owned by Todd and Cheri Maxwell, their constitutional and common law rights to develop their property and make profit off of it due to the onerous zoning of the 11.03 acre site, which was approved in 2007.

In 2007, the site was zoned Mixed-Use Conditional and a site plan was approved which supported 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. Since the economic downturn, however, this project fell through and is now deemed by the plaintiffs to be economically unviable.

The complaint alleges unconstitutional taking, arbitrary and capricious denial, and denial of due process. The plaintiffs allege that the 2007 zoning makes development of the site impossible under current economic conditions and amounts to the taking of the plaintiff's property without compensation and a "substantial destruction of plaintiff's valuable property rights."

In addition, it is alleged that the Smyrna City Council improperly delegated legislative authority when they were swayed by public comments to vote against the rezoning instead of voting strictly on the merits of the amended Jonquil Village site plan, which called for 288 apartments and 35,000 sq. ft. of non-residential space.

The plaintiffs are asking a judge to rule the zoning ordinance for the site unconstitutional and to order the city to reconsider the amended site plan to allow the plaintiffs "the highest and best use" of the property.
Observer December 17, 2013 at 07:58 PM
So the tactic is to throw it all against the wall and see what sticks. I was particularly amused by the allegation that the council delegated legislative authority to citizens. Anyone who has lived any length of time in Smyrna knows full well that the council doesn't give any weight to input by the rabble. Oh, they let people speak at council meetings for the purpose of fooling them into believing they are being heard, but it's just theater. If the city caves on this, and they probably will, you can expect Halpern to be next in line to smack them around.
Brian December 17, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Observer: The reason the delegation to citizens was added is because precedence is that they can't vote based on how many people complained. Smyrna already lost a lawsuit for a similar thing based on that years back. I think it's a tough sell since the reasoning the council members who voted against it gave was having to do with problems they saw with the plan, not peoples' complaints. This was all on TV and recorded. Note that I am in favor of the development, but just stating the facts. I am also not a lawyer.
Brian December 17, 2013 at 10:31 PM
However, I doubt this is going to go to court. I imagine the city's lawyer will answer with a laundry-list of valid reasons and retorts, especially to #26, #28, #29, #35, #36, #37, will read as a very boring constitutionally-based retort and will mention potential hardship to community members and health of community, will explain the 12 months is to avoid abuse by developers to tire out the council and also related excessive costs to the city, will question that it is fully within the spirit of the original MU-conditional proposal and there are scaled down uses that are appropriate, mention that owners entered into property knowing the restrictions, that the economic downturn is incidental and affected everyone and doesn't absolve the owners' of their obligations, and also mention the potential hardship to the corner property owner then privately lawyer-to-lawyer offer a proposal that they will waive the 1 year waiting requirement in this case in lieu of a formal appeal process through the city and allow Branch to re-submit with modifications addressing some or all of the concerns, and that Branch also purchases the corner property. This will probably culminate in conversations between the city's lawyer and Branch's and we'll be back at city hall meeting in February with an updated proposal on the meeting agenda. The slightly upgraded proposal will then be approved. In the meantime, we can only hope that the corner property becomes available. Note that again I'm in favor of the development, but just offering some speculation as to the result of all this.
Brian December 17, 2013 at 10:40 PM
One other thing that should be of note is that the request to strike the zoning at the end of the filing could potentially be disastrous. I don't think he judge has the authority to assign a zoning but does have the authority to create stipulations Smyrna would have to follow to apply a zoning back to the property. That window could allow Branch to apply for a rezoning to anything, even GC or Industrial.
Observer December 18, 2013 at 01:06 AM
The request to strike any zoning is just to put the fear of G*D into the council, again pure theater on the part of the developer. It is highly unlikely that that request would be granted as there isn't precedent for this type of action. I'm for reasonable development of this parcel, but caution has to be taken with this developer given their previous actions regarding West Village.

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