The Atlanta Zoning Board of Review on Thursday denied an appeal by an Ormewood Park landowner to an earlier city ruling that, if reversed, would have paved the way for construction of a QuikTrip convenience store and gas station.
The ZBR's decision to uphold the city's ruling — by a vote of 4 to 0 — brings to a close a long standing battle between residents of Ormewood Park and Gobind L. Madan, who owns the rundown Jiffy Grocery store on the northwest corner of Moreland and Ormewood avenues.
"We are pleased with the board's decision and think it was the correct outcome," said Ron Lall, board chairman of the SouthStar Community Development Corp., which advocates for several communities along the Moreland Avenue corridor in commercial and residential development.
Madan, an accountant who also owns the Liberty Tax Service that fronts Ormewood Avenue and sits behind the grocery store, wanted to overturn the city planning department's denial of his request to split the land into two separate parcels.
Initially, the city approved his application to replat the property, meaning he could split it into two separate commercial tracts.
That was key to QuikTrip Corp.'s project, because city ordinances forbid gas stations from being within 100 feet of adjacent, single-family homes.
But in a letter dated May 25, Charletta Wilson Jacks, director of the city's planning office, wrote the decision to split the commercial lot into two separate parcels had to be reversed because it violated city regulations regarding street frontages.
Madan's attorney, Robert Raleigh, asked the board for a deferral, saying Madan was out of town. Raleigh also said he was Madan's general attorney and not a specialist in zoning codes.
But Robert Zoeckler, a land use lawyer and former Atlanta senior assistant city attorney, whom Ormewood Park's community group, South Atlantans for Neighborhood Development, hired to represent the community, noted Madan had already had a deferral from Sept. 1.
Lemuel Ward, the chief lawyer for the city of Atlanta, also noted Madan had more than enough time to plan in the intervening two months.
The board agreed and proceeded with the hearing.
Madan, who assembled several lots on Moreland's west side between Ormewood Avenue and Hall Street, obtained city approval to split or replat the parcels into two commercial properties.
The first tract — 1.161 acres and fronting Moreland Avenue — would be the site where the QT would be built. The second tract is 0.111 acres.
That second tract was important because city regulations bar gas stations from being constructed within 100 feet of any adjoining residential, single-family properties.
Because the proposed QT site abutted another commercial tract, the smaller 0.111 parcel, and not the homes on Ormewood Avenue directly, that 100-foot buffer rule did not apply.
But city code requires that smaller parcel to have 20 feet of side yardage because there are no intervening streets between it and the residential homes.
Ward, the city attorney, said the earlier decision to grant replatting, was wrong because it stood in violation of city codes. The city shouldn't and couldn't be forced to stand by its earlier decision because it can't violate its own laws.
All along, Ormewood Park residents, who said they did not oppose QT coming to Moreland — just not at that site — believed Madan simply wanted an end-run around the ordinance requiring the 100-foot buffer.
Zoning board members seemed to agree. The replatting, zoning board member Danita Brown said, "was created to circumvent our ordinance."
Technically, Madan has 30 days to file an appeal with Fulton County Superior Court on the zoning board's denial.
But Raleigh, his attorney, said Madan would not appeal.
He also said he did not believe getting another deferral would have made a difference in the ultimate decision.
"Not in the least," Raleigh said. "I don't believe it would have made a difference in the outcome."
As for what happens with the site now, it's not clear.
Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip, planned what it calls a "Gen-3" concept for the site: a 5,700-square-foot convenience store and 14 fuel pumps.
The company, which has 120 stores in metro Atlanta, has said it wanted to be on the Moreland Avenue corridor, but it withdrew its application to build on the Madan's site, Lall said.
A company spokesman confirmed to East Atlanta Patch it withdrew the application last month.
Madan's attorney said had the deal gone through, it would have been good for neighborhood curb appeal and property values, versus what's there now.
"What you've got now is a skanky store and a ramshackle building," Raleigh said.