A planned development project that would bring a QuikTrip gas station and convenience store to the northwest quadrant of Moreland and Ormewood avenues in Ormewood Park has some Southeast Atlantans fuming.
The project would bring some much needed redevelopment to that corner, which is home to the dilapidated Jiffy Grocery package and convenience store at 731 Moreland and a Liberty Tax Service franchise behind it that fronts Ormewood Avenue.
But what some in Southeast Atlanta object to is what they say is the project's developers circumvention of city planning regulations that are designed to keep gas stations at least 100 feet away from residential property.
The proposed site — which sits across Ormewood Avenue from the Ormewood Square retail center — is adjacent to some residential, single-family homes.
It would would be what QuikTrip Corp. calls its Gen-3 concept: a 5,700-square-foot convenience store vs. its traditional 4,500-square-foot model, said Mike Thornbrugh, a spokesman for the Tulsa, Okla.-based company.
City planning regulations say if a commercial site is to be used for a filling station, there has to be a 100-foot buffer between it and any adjacent residential property.
The landowner, Gobind L. Madan, who assembled several lots on Moreland's west side between Ormewood and Hall avenues over the last 20 years, split the assembled parcels in two.
Essentially, that creates two separate commercial, or C1, properties: A 1.161-acre tract, where the QuikTrip would be built, and a second, 0.111-acre parcel.
Because the proposed QuikTrip tract abuts the commercial parcel and not the residential properties directly, the 100-foot buffer requirement doesn't apply. The city also doesn't have minimum lot size requirements for commercial properties, raising concerns that this could be replicated all over the city.
"The lot was replatted to circumvent the intent of the rule, said Ron Lall, public safety chairman of Neighborhood Planning Unit -W, an advisory group to Atlanta City Hall that makes recommendations on land use and planning in East Atlanta Village, Ormewood Park, Woodland Hills and several other Southeast Atlanta neighborhoods.
Madan, an accountant and owner of the Liberty Tax Service business, said he believes the proposed project would be a vast improvement from what's there now.
"We want to make sure we'll be preserving the beauty of the neighborhood," he said Wednesday during an interview with EastAtlanta.Patch.com. "That is our ultimate desire."
Madan, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December, said he knows nothing of QuikTrip's development plans or city zoning regulations, even though he said he is retaining ownership of the land and that the fuel company is entering into a long-term lease.
"I do not know what the rules are; they know the rules and regulations, I do not have any input into this," he said. "The developers are the ones who are making the decisions. I am a completely passive person in this area. I'm a passive investor type with this deal."
Thornbrugh, the QuikTrip spokesman, said the company, which has 120 locations in metro Atlanta, isn't seeking to be disruptive and wants community dialogue.
"We always do everything above board; we meet with all the neighbors and affected businesses and explain what we're trying to do," he said, advising residents should call the company's real estate executives at its Atlanta division at 770.368.1616.
The Gen-3 design comes as the company offers more fresh food to go and baked goods, he said.
"I think that people will really like the new concept and the look. Anybody that has thoughts and concerns — all they have to do is pick up the phone and call us."
"There are two buckets of concern," said Lall, who also is board chairman of the SouthStar Community Development Corp.
SouthStar, founded in 1998, also advocates for several communities along the Moreland Avenue corridor in commercial and residential development.
"One has to do with the replatting of the property and the creation of this small, non-usable commercial lot. My concern there is the city now has a door open to allow someone to create unusable C1 lots and I don't think that’s in the best interest of any community in any part of the city."
Lall, who made a presentation Tuesday night to the East Atlanta Community Association, will make a similar presentation Thursday to the South Atlantans for Neighborhood Development group at its meeting.
SAND's meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on April 14 at the Beulah Heights University Student Center.
SAND is the official neighborhood organization for Ormewood Park, Glenwood Park, Boulevard Heights, Woodland Hills, Benteen Park, North Ormewood Park and McDonough-Guice.
At the EACA meeting, members approved four resolutions that would request city officials:
- adopt the zoning districts proposed in the $120,000 South Moreland LCI study conducted in in 2008, which calls for mixed-used development in that part of the Moreland Avenue corridor,
- object to the issuance of any building permits that are in conflict with the land use recommendations of the South Moreland LCI study, which were adopted by the city,
- establish minimum lot size requirements zoned for commercial C1 to C4 uses and a moratorium on replatting of all C1 to C4 zoned lots until the minimum lot size issue is resolved, and
- object to the issuance of any building permits based on the subdivison replatting of the lots in the QuikTrip project.
Asked if he felt any obligation to meet with Ormewood Park residents and neighborhood groups, Madan said no because he is not developing the project nor is he letting just anything go in there.
"I am a part of the neighborhood, but I am not the one developing it," he said, adding the Rite-Aid and Walgreen's pharmacy chains also had expressed interest in previous years. "I do not know how to develop anything."
Madan, who also owns the commercial strip on Moreland's west side between Faith and Sanders avenues, just below I-20, said he wouldn't let anything go in the proposed QuikTrip site.
He said QuikTrip would improve the street's aesthetics, improving the neighborhood.
"They are an excellent business, their business model is very enticing for any community."
To be sure, the project has support from some residents.
Steve Devore, who owns a home on Ormewood Avenue a few doors down from the project site and another home in East Atlanta Village, said he wants the project to go forward.
"I don't want to wait 10 to 15 years, when other mixed use is having limited success," he said Tuesday night at the EACA meeting. "I'd welcome that as a vast improvement. There's not uniformity of opposition."
Still, Lall noted a gas station is will change traffic patterns on that stretch of Moreland Avenue, which doubles as U.S. Route 23 and is already heavily trafficked.
Plans call for access to the gas station to be on Ormewood and Hall avenues, not Moreland.
The Moreland and Ormewood intersection, which has a traffic light, already is busy with patrons entering and leaving the Ormewood Square center. Drivers exiting the QuikTrip may find it difficult to navigate that intersection.
Lall said he's concerned they'll turn west on Ormewood Avenue increasing traffic in Ormewood Park's side streets to avoid waiting at that light. There is no traffic signal at Hall and Moreland, but with more vehicles turning in and out of that block, it could create more driving hassles and longer waiting times for motorists at that intersection, Lall said.
But Madan countered he doesn't believe traffic will be impeded and that he studied other QuikTrip locations in metro Atlanta and didn't see any traffic issues.