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Smyrna City Council Denies Jonquil Village Plan Amendments

The 4-3 vote against the amended site plan means that the 11 acres at the "gateway" to downtown Smyrna will remain undeveloped for a least another year.

The Smyrna City Council has rejected Branch Capital's amended site plan for the Jonquil Village site, which has lain dormant since 2008. Credit: Hunt Archbold.
The Smyrna City Council has rejected Branch Capital's amended site plan for the Jonquil Village site, which has lain dormant since 2008. Credit: Hunt Archbold.
The seven-year long saga of the mostly empty lot at the gateway to downtown Smyrna will continue for at least another year.

The Smyrna City Council voted 4-3 against proposed site plan amendments to the Jonquil Village property brought forth by Branch Capital Partners, following a three-hour public comment session.

Council members Andrea Blustein, Charles "Corkey" Welch, Wade Lnenicka, and Susan Wilkinson cast votes against the proposal.

Because the council voted to deny an amended zoning plan for the site, city regulations state that a new plan for the site cannot be brought forward for another year.

By and large, the members of the public who came out to speak during the meeting opposed the proposal, saying that they felt the $40 million project placed too heavy of an emphasis on residential units at the expense of retail fixtures.

Several representatives from the Williams Park community claimed that this "mixed-use development" could not be called such when, according to their calculations, 94 percent of the square footage and 75 percent of the parking was being designated for private residential use exclusively.

Other residents felt that the idea of a gated, insular community right in the heart of downtown Smyrna would signal a weak market and send a poor sign to retail that may want to invest in the area.

With the news of the Atlanta Braves' relocation to Cobb County coming on the same day as the Planning and Zoning Board recommended denial of the Jonquil Village plan, many Smyrna residents in attendance said that the city and the developers need to start from scratch on a "major league development."

Answering concerns by supporters of the amended plan that the site would sit idle and continue to be an eyesore for at least another year if Branch's plan was rejected, one resident of Williams Park said that he would be more than happy to look at the eyesore for another seven years instead of accepting a plan that he felt was not right for the community.

Proponents of the plan said that in order for there to be more significant retail properties in or near downtown Smyrna, the area's residential density and residential income need to be increased. Jesse Shannon, Branch's Director of Acquisitions, said that no grocers or big-box retailers felt that building on the Jonquil Village property would be an economically sound decision.

Shannon said that the average household income for the area within a two-mile radius of the site was $55,000 a year, which was not enticing to retailers. Branch's Senior Vice President Jack Haylett said that the development would be the catalyst for organic growth in the area.

Shannon also cautioned that those who see the new Braves' stadium as a year-round financial windfall should temper their expectations. The Braves will only play 81 home games each year (excluding the playoffs), which means that for four out of every five days of the year the park will be empty. The privately-funded mixed-use development being built by the Braves next to the stadium will help, but it may just as easily be deserted when the team is not playing, he said.

Immediately after the vote was announced, Smyrna-Vinings Patch went on Facebook to see what folks thought of the decision.

"Branch properties [sic] should probably now just move on. What’s another 5 years with a desolate lot on that pivotal corner?" wrote Thomas House.

Was the city council's decision to reject the latest Jonquil Village site plan the right one? Tell us in the comments!

Brian December 03, 2013 at 04:57 AM
This site will probably remain empty for many more years now.
Daniel December 03, 2013 at 08:32 AM
I understand why the council would not want more apartments in the area, but I also don't see anyone else lining up to fill this empty spot. I hope that anyone interested in the property will make their intentions known in the near future.
DG December 03, 2013 at 08:49 AM
Great vote! That space is better off empty than putting a ton of apartments, and traffic is already terrible during rush hour. There is plenty of apartments already, and we need more higher end residential to bring up values. We'll never get the better retailers in the area if we don't increase avg income and housing cost.
Scott December 03, 2013 at 09:14 AM
Lets have another city park! Damn...
Chris Long December 03, 2013 at 10:17 AM
Myopic NIMBY crowd wins again.
Drew W. December 03, 2013 at 11:08 AM
This was a good move by the council. The last thing Smyrna needs are more apartments. You want to know why the average household income for the area within a two-mile radius of the site is $55,000 a year? Look at the north side of Atlanta Road. Apartment complex after apartment complex after apartment complex. Look at Spring Rd. Apartments. If residential space in Smyrna needs to grow, and I'm not sure it does, the only way we can increase household income is with single family housing, not densely packed $800/month apartments. Bring more apartments, household income falls below $55k, and the naive will continue to wonder why retailers or high end brands looking for household incomes over $75-100K don't want to invest in Smyrna.
Allyson December 03, 2013 at 11:10 AM
What Smyrna needs is something to give it personality. It has nothing that makes someone say, let's run to Smyrna and spend the day! A few cute and fun shops scattered here and there, nothing unique in the way of restaurants, nothing that entices anyone to make the drive here or to pull in higher income folks who would invest in the community. Roswell is adorable, Woodstock has a cute downtown area by the tracks, V. Highlands provides a central hub for meeting and eating, Decatur is eclectic ... That said, I love living in Smyrna because in many ways it still has that small town and country feel to it, but I go elsewhere to eat, drink and be merry. How can we make Smyrna unique? Can we make it a central hub for something? But WHAT is the question! A textile area for arts? A community theater area? An music hub? What I see is an area that is becoming more crime ridden and that continues to add the same old same old monotonous USA shops we see everywhere we go. More gas stations, tire shops, chain restaurants ... sigh, it is simply boring. We have a nice park area, we have a nice community center, and we could have a Village that would draw us to it, but something is missing. What? How can we be unique? I agree, I would rather wait and take care in planning what will be on the corner of Atlanta Road and Spring Road as whatever lands there will be stuck there! NO BOXES PLEASE! Maybe the development that will grow around the stadium area, all the new offices, will promote people to move to Smyrna to be closer to their work. It would be nice to see Spring and Concord Road cleaned up. I understand why businesses are hesitant to commit to the area based on what we currently offer. I hope we can make the right decisions and do a little more research on what we could offer both businesses and Smyrna folks because Smyrna has the potential to be a really neat place.
Brian December 03, 2013 at 12:23 PM
Allyson: You are sadly mistaken to say $800/mo apartments. Sadly mistaken. In fact, you are so far off base, you may as well be in the outfield (with Braves coming, baseball puns seem appropriate). I am not only a Smyrna resident but I'm also a landlord for a property on Spring Rd that I personally own and rent out. I know a bit more about the rental market than you do, most likely. My unit I rent out to a tenant is from the '80s with virtually no upgrades and low ceilings. In this old condo, I have never had a tenant lower than $825, and I've had three. I can get $950/mo for my unit if I'm willing to wait a few weeks, and pick the right time of year. My unit does not even come close to competing with what they were planning. It doesn't even compete with Post Springs. What they were planning far surpassed Post Springs, probably the next best thing in the area other than West Village and a couple things in the center of Vinings and the new stuff going in Cumberland. Units will go for $1200/mo and up. The only way low end tenants will move in is if they are roomates. However, some roomates would be frugal high-end renters. Of course, roomates would bring even more foot-traffic into the downtown area. You guys handled this all wrong. You should have gotten Branch to promise rents wouldn't fall below X amount. Instead, you refused to work with Branch. You made Smyrna look really bad. I hope you're happy. No investor will want to work with us now, unless they are building townhomes. Townhomes are cute and good in general, but we do need more than just a bedroom community of townhomes. I heard one person speak of the Branch development turning Smyrna into a bedroom community. Quite the opposite - your actions have turned Smyrna into a bedroom community. At least downtown. The new downtown will be Jamestown, at least unofficially. I live close enough to Jamestown that I shouldn't complain, but honestly, I'd rather have downtown be in the geographic center of the city, where all the city offices are. Not on the river.
Allyson December 03, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Hey Brain. I don't recall saying a thing about what you are writing back to me. No mention of rental property in my comment or what was being planned. Just a generic outlook to what I and many others express about the area. As I mentioned, I love living in Smyrna, but people are not blind to the issues we are dealing with in trying to get something done at that corner and to revitalize the Village area so others will bring their businesses here and we can make it an area people will frequent. I have confidence, from what I am reading and hearing, that the people in charge are looking out for everyone's best interest.
Drew W. December 03, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Hey Brian, I'm sure your condescending lecture about the rental industry was meant to be directed at me & not at Allyson. I think she deserves an apology for that one. As for the content of your message, I get it, you favor transient residents who can take advantage of "Get 4 months rent free" deals when occupancy drops below 80% meaning that the rent on that 12 month lease on a $1200 unit just fell to $800/month. But I'm not going to engage in a back & forth about rental rates in the 30080 zip code, because thankfully, that ship has sailed & the Smyrna commission has saved us all from that sad fate. What the area needs at that corner is exactly what Allyson described. Something that will draw people to Smyrna. The Braves will bring people to Cumberland, but a mere 2 miles south on Spring Rd will be nothing more than a passageway between the stadium & the Atlanta Rd/285 intersection. We need a development where people will stop & spend their time & money. Something with more than just a grocery store. Something with an eclectic mix of shopping, entertainment, and culture that is deserving of that prime location. It will take someone like you Brian to make that happen. Someone who is smart enough to know what the value of the right development in that area can do for Smyrna & not just for their own pocketbook.
Allyson December 03, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Thank you Drew! :-) I think we are all a little nervous about what will happen to Smyrna, "the corner", traffic and whatnot with the changes coming our way. I think, if the powers that be take their time to think things through carefully, we can all get what we want ... a beautiful community with people who enjoy the amenities. I have lived in many different towns and cities over the years and heavy rental areas are not conducive to people investing in the community for the long term. It just is what it is. Anyway, we can argue that point until the cows come in ... but we can also agree to disagree with one another in a dialogue that is respectful. I am out of here! :-)
Michelle December 03, 2013 at 11:11 PM
Laughable at best..."we" say we want Woodstock, Decatur or the likes of those cities...what do they have near them that foster that feel of a live, work, play community.....CLASS A, High Density apartments. You want eclectic shops and restaurants, you have to have the demographics that will support it. Clearly, we don't have that...nor have we or this issue would not even be up for discussion. What Branch proposed (minus a few potential changes our council could have requested), would have provided exactly the demographic to support that possibility. Unfortunately, that opportunity was lost last night by a 4-3 vote by our council members. Not only do we get to spend another 12 months admiring the dirt hill, but we most likely have created a reputation of being difficult and what developer in their right mind would want to waste their time or MONEY if this is what they are up against. Someone commented about wanting anchor stores, big box retail......I wonder how all of our wonderful and special "local" businesses would feel about that or the possibility of any future small local businesses?!?! I know I would hate to see the unique boutique shops and such not survive because we want another strip center with large retailers at the "gateway" of our city. Which by the way...if everyone is so concerned about the "gateway" to our city....where were you when CVS and BP Oil became a main feature of that precious "gateway"?!?! If Ivy Walk or West Village had failed...then the arguments made last night would have made more sense...but I know we drive the extra mile down the road to frequent the shops and restaurants in those areas more often than our own Market Village. It's a shame that it will be awhile...if ever....that the downtown Smyrna area will come close to what those two developments offer. Furthermore...to compare apartments that are 30 plus years old and what apartments are built like today is like comparing apples and oranges. In addition, there is a population of baby boomers (the fastest growing consumer of our current time), that do not want to move into the "traditional" Independent Retirement Communities of yesterday (check out the census of many in the greater Atlanta area). They also don't want to have large homes and many are not interested in buying a newer smaller home, so the appeal of a high-end apartment community that has high-class amenities and services to cater to their wants and needs along with being convenient to entertainment, restaurants, shops, parks and hospitals is in demand. However, as of last night and the final vote...we lost that opportunity too. If Smyrna is going to be successful for the long term...it has to open its mind, opinion and opportunity to appeal to a vast population of people who are the consumers of today. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening any time soon.
Brian December 04, 2013 at 02:00 AM
Allyson: Apologies, I pulled the wrong name off Drew's response Drew: Unless someone is fiscally impeccable, a 1 month free deal (4 months free is a bit of a stretch) requires a steady monthly income, income verification, credit check, etc. Most consumers are not disciplined enough to spread that savings over the entire year. Therefore, your analogy of rent being X per month is not accurate. So they need the income to cover the rent, and all they get is a little extra spending money one month. The people who jump their leases or don't pay after the free period only get to do it once in the entire country before they have a judgement against them and get hit on their credit report and can't rent again. I had a tenant in once with 1 month free, kept him for 3 years, raised his rent once up to $875 on this 30 year old unit, and eventually he bought a new townhome in Smyrna. So you are in a real dream-world if you think they can't get more than $1200 for these top of the line units with all the amenities. As I said, you guys went about it all wrong, and you didn't respond to that. You should have requested they don't dip their rent below X amount per unit, and that transfers to future buyers, etc. You ended up hurting Smyrna and I don't know if there's any recovering from this.
Brian December 04, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Michelle: You are exactly right.
Brian December 04, 2013 at 02:07 AM
I want to re-iterate that people that opposed the development have done so much damage to the city of Smyrna, they cannot imagine. They just shooed away exactly what they have wanted all along. I really hope that Branch are still willing to make something work at that site. Those of us who were attracted by what Smyrna is becoming are really disappointed that at the last hour, people seem to all of a sudden be opposed to urban development with no real consistent complaint, just opposition to anything that's presented and a different complaint each time.
Brian December 05, 2013 at 12:02 AM
The only saving grace is that the economy is getting better. Hopefully, 12 months from now 18 months of rising condo values will be behind us. Hopefully we can get Branch back to the table then and the banks will finally be ready to finance some of their development be condos, and hopefully they just tweak the latest proposal instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater bringing to us something worse. I really do think there's some value of leaving at least some of the units apartments and others condos (like West Village was) and I don't think 100% condos will ever be financed. A mix of apartments/condos probably will. I don't think that requires a variance for MU as long as they aren't in the same building, but I may be wrong.
Jonquil Gardener December 06, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Braves new retail village will be game changer alright...how about a million square feet of new retail to compete directly for retail franchisees in Smyrna. This site will sit vacant now for at leat three or more years if not a lot longer. And when it comes back, the only viable business and the mix to get approval will require twice as much retail which means double the traffic and a good chance of some boring big box anchor that will be out of favor 15 yrs later. Big fat fail for Smyrna. Ps this site is as much a gateway to Smyrna as is any other big intersection. The real Gateways are the Bridge at Arglye elementary and the covered bridge and perhaps Windy Hill as you drive under thecrail road.Belmonts corner is a real gateway location...but not Jonquil. Its s hole in ghe ground lower than Spring road.

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