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UPDATED: QuikTrip Development Plan Fuels Controversy In Ormewood Park

Project planned for Moreland and Ormewood avenues raises concern over traffic and city planning rules

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.

Doug April 14, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Bulldawg - Truck has to head west on ormewodd or hall to service the location as there is NO access off moreland as proposed. So yep - semis are gonna be there.
Marcia Killingsworth April 14, 2011 at 09:22 PM
I'm afraid it might come to legal action, P. Schwartz. If it does, since this would maneuver could have a negative impact on every Atlanta neighborhood, we can get other neighborhoods to join us in the fight. Anyone know any good pro bono land use & zoning lawyers?
Marcia Killingsworth April 14, 2011 at 09:30 PM
Bulldawg, yes, I would rather have Jiffy, Big "H, and the old Rubberman Tires before I'd want this put in my neighbors' back- and front - yards. Just because they are scruffy doesn't mean that we can't wait for something better than QT. We must wait for something that works for our neighborhood, and this definitely ain't it. And that's not even mentioning the shady zoning maneuver pulled so this could be built this close to families. It's a disgrace, and QT's contempt for our neighborhood has lost me as a customer. We're lucky that we have a Kroger gas station -- and six others, too, I think, along Moreland -- less than a mile south of this site. Cheap gas is no problem.
Marcia Killingsworth April 14, 2011 at 09:38 PM
Just a bit more info on this issue: In case you missed this in the last Porch Press, Elizabeth Dillon’s article "The Gas Station – An Inconvenient Neighbor" is a must-read: http://theporchpress.com/?p=167 Elizabeth is a respected member of the community. Professionally, she is with Historical Concepts, which designs and creates homes, neighborhoods and communities based on the long-standing principles of traditional architecture and planning. In the community, among other responsibilities, Elizabeth is a member of the SouthStar Board, is one of our area’s representatives to NPU-W, and is on the SAND and NPU Land Use and Zoning Committees. In other words, this is someone who knows her stuff.
dina b April 14, 2011 at 11:16 PM
Milo, your comments are offensive. I lived near the QT on Sydney Marcus. During the station's high traffic periods, it was very difficult to use the street to access my apartment. Sydney Marcus is a far larger street than ormewood. It has one lane of traffic in each direction. Sydney Marcus has 6 lanes. Just another stupid development with no consideration of traffic. Like most of Atlanta!
dina b April 14, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Doug, great point - also - can you imagine how difficult for semi truck to turn on ormewood or hall. they would back up traffic on moreland and the side streets.
Paul Donsky April 15, 2011 at 01:36 AM
Ormewood may not be home to a MARTA station like Milo's beloved Buckhead, but it is a very close drive to several rail stations. I made the quick commute to the Inman Park/Reynoldstown station every day for 6 years and rode the train to work. Some days, I picked up the bus on the corner until budget cuts eliminated the route. I put very few miles on my car. And when I needed to drive downtown for work, my commute from Ormewood was just 3 miles, much closer than Buckhead. Ormewood ain't the sticks. It's a sustainable intown neighborhood with houses of modest size, walkable streets, and perhaps the best ice cream and Thai food in town. From our house, we can easily walk to three parks, the Zoo, drug stores, cafes, restaurants, schools and bars. We know our neighbors.
D April 15, 2011 at 02:06 PM
QUOTE: 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 comapny's real estate executives at its Atlanta division at 770.368.1616." I'm sorry... This is basically saying, "At whatever point you find out about what our plans might be, and that we are willing to take advantage of a loophole to change the rules in our favor, you can call us and we'll get back to you." Shame on you, QuikTrip. You could have engaged the community from the start by asking at any one of a half-dozen monthly meetings, "What does the community want, and how can QuikTrip be a part of it?" Had QuikTrip done so, you might have gotten exactly what you wanted (or much of it) with the support of the community. What you have now is a fight. A fight in the courts, in the City's bureaucratic process, in the media, and online. And Mr. Madan, this is your fight too. Over the past three years QuikTrip has lost, and lost and lost when communities organize against them, and I don't expect there will be any diffrerent outcome here. The best option for QuikTrip at this point will be to look at alternate sites, be as "above board" as they claim to be, and to engage the communities surrounding those sites.
Milo April 15, 2011 at 02:21 PM
D, you need a more substantive argument than you are mad at Quick Trip for not asking nicely. You sound like the typical "angry homeowner" who makes people in power roll their eyes and think "here we go again." Make actual points, test your logic, and back it up, if you want to be taken seriously.
Milo April 15, 2011 at 02:38 PM
You win, P. Donsky. That was the most clearly stated and convincing post I've read on here. They should pick you to lead the movement. Now, just work on your arguments of why you don't want one of the nicest retail chains in business upgrading the somewhat lacking commercial corridor that runs through your neighborhood.
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 15, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Actually, Milo: Several people have told me they're not opposed to QT coming to the neighborhood. They feel it doesn't work at that intersection. Several have said another larger lot further south on Moreland would work fine. If they were saying "we don't want it! we don't want it!" then you could argue it's a case of NIMBY. But if folks are offering alternatives doesn't that show a willingness toward finding a solution that could make both sides happy?
Milo April 15, 2011 at 05:19 PM
Peralte, one of the "sides" you've got to keep happy is the guy who owns that property now. If he's ready to sell, you can bet it will be redeveloped soon. If the Quik Trip deal falls apart he will sell it to someone else. I'm sure QT offered him the best price - so most likely they are the highest-quality business that expressed interest. If you piss off the property owner, there's no telling what he'll put there or who he might sell it to. The neighbors will be kicking themselves for not negotiating with QT.
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 15, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Milo: You're right, the property owner is one of the parties that needs to be made whole, too. However, the building's on that property — one which serves as his accounting offices — have been in a state of disrepair for quite some time, now. When I asked him why he let them fall into such a state, he said he was being wooed continuously by developers and didn't see the point in pouring $$ into fixing them up. Plus, he said he's not a developer and doesn't know anything about developing properties. From the residents' side, however, it might appear a tad disingenuous, to sit and hold onto properties, let them fall in a state of disrepair and then sell — or in his case, offer a long-term lease — to a third party and then say it's better than what's there now. One could argue, the property owner, who declared bankruptcy in December, is partly, to blame for the conditions his buildings are in. The owner and the city building inspectors. You can be sure that wouldn't be tolerated in Buckhead.
Milo April 15, 2011 at 06:33 PM
There is nothing disingenuous about sitting on a property until you get the price you want. Would you sell your house before you got a good enough offer? Why would he or anyone sink money into fixing up a property when they've already made up their mind to move out? His office really does look like crap, and you say he went bankrupt. That tells me this guy is no super-millionaire. Maybe he worked his whole life and QT is his chance to retire with a nice sum of money. Wouldn't you do the same? Is someone "to blame" if he spends years trying to make a living in a depressed neighborhood, pays property taxes there, hits hard financial times, and then gets lucky because the neighborhood starts to revive and he finally has a chance to cash out? Is that blameworthy? If the homeowners think he is a tad disingenuous, I would say they are a tad naive, a smidgen spoiled, and smothered in self entitlement. He's moving out. He doesn't owe the neighborhood shit.
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 15, 2011 at 06:42 PM
No, I'd get the best offer I could. But my neighbors wouldn't stand for me to let my place fall into disrepair for years and years and years. You really need to come to Ormewood Park, Milo. The only thing that gets that neighborhood depressed now is the high Fulton County property tax homeowners pay.
Milo April 15, 2011 at 06:47 PM
The residential streets may not look depressed but that particular corner certainly looks dilapidated. All you need to do is post a photo of the Jiffy Grocery on your Web site and it will end all argument of whether Quik Trip should take it over. Case closed.
Marcia Killingsworth April 15, 2011 at 09:42 PM
Milo, it's always fun to read your posts, so completely free of logic and in-depth knowledge of our area and our residents. You see, many of us don't believe in the "anything is better than what's there" reason for development. We believe in waiting for right development for our neighbors and our community... and we ARE a community. In this case, the property was replatted so that there is a mere 10 feet in some places and 20 feet in another between gas tanks and single family houses. The city regs say it should be no less that 100 feet. But because this new completely unbuildable, 10 & 20 foot L-shaped lot is zoned commercial, they are able to circumvent the spirit of the regulations designed to protect homeowners from proximity to tanks of highly flammable, explosive gasoline. Forget QT. This is the kind of maneuver that, if allowed to stand, could devastate neighborhoods across the City of Atlanta, and endanger millions of people. That's what we're trying to stop. This is NOT the right place for QT. There are lots of other places on Moreland that are perfect. We just want to protect our neighbors, and will welcome QT when they choose a more appropriate location, distant from single family homes.
Milo April 16, 2011 at 03:24 AM
If you are genuinely concerned about explosions, it would be safer next to single family homes where there would be fewer deaths than if it were beside multifamily homes or in a busy shopping center. Nice debate. Bye.
J. H. April 16, 2011 at 11:55 PM
I welcome this change to the neighborhood. The Jiffy is falling down and is an eye sore.
Keely May 10, 2011 at 12:54 PM
The QT on Sydney Marcus is routinely used as an APD Paddy Wagon and DUI Mobile Truck staging area during all hours of the night. Ugh. I would hate to see that coming in right next to my house!
EARL July 16, 2011 at 05:07 PM
Not sure if stupid or just trolling.
Milo July 18, 2011 at 02:01 PM
@ Earl. I'm not stupid; just logical. If the argument is that a gas station is too dangerous next to a single family home, it stands to reason that it would be even more dangerous next to an apartment complex, where more potential casualties live. When people say "Not next to single family homes!" -- what they are saying is "put it further down the road where the renters live." It has no logical basis. It comes from a sense of superiority with overtones related to class, race and marital status. Calling me stupid without countering the logic of my position, does not speak well of your thought process or conversational skills. Your reply is quite revealing.
Milo July 18, 2011 at 02:16 PM
You would hate to see an abundance of police protection in your neighborhood?
Nick July 18, 2011 at 08:11 PM
Logistically, I could see why QT would choose that location (it's closer to I-20) as opposed to further south on Moreland...But I don't like the sneaky way of putting it there, and I don't feel it should be a SUPERSIZED QT...I also agree that they should get community opinion before any groundbreaking takes place!
Milo July 18, 2011 at 08:24 PM
Perhaps the neighborhood should push for a smaller QT instead of rejecting it outright. Supersize sounds like it belongs at a highway exit. A neighborhood scale QT should be OK.
ELF September 01, 2011 at 01:07 PM
When I first moved to Ormewood in 1997 there was ONE restaurant in the EAV: the Heaping bowl and Brew, surrounded by defunt hair salons and mattress stores. Now it is a booming nightlife destination. But that didnt stop some neighbors from whining. For years the local Krogers was something out of Russia and if I wanted to go to a big box store I had to drive to Buckhead. When they built the Target complex on Moreland and Caroline street, the hippies in L5p wailed and gnashed thier teeth. Now they all shop there, I know I can tell by thier bumper stickers. When they built the development across from Jiffy I heard the same protestations. NOw the whole neighborhood que's up for ice cream. Carla Smith, our CC rep lives on Woodlawn Ave, you would think if something was being done underhanded, surely she would be on top of it, right? I welcome QT over Jiffy, a bankrupt tax business ( !?) and the Big 'H' 'casino that operates a half a block away. your milage may vary. Remember this city was burned completely to the ground TWICE: rebuilding this city is part of our culture. The QT is an upgrade to what is there now, in my humble opinion.
Péralte Paul (Editor) September 01, 2011 at 01:10 PM
Many people feel as you do, ELF.
Marcia Killingsworth September 02, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Is "It's better than what's there now" REALLY how we want development decisions made in SE ATL? God, I hope not. I hear people say, 'Well, it could be worse!" but it could also be BETTER! We should a) be more demanding, and, b) value the potential of our neighborhoods and intown location more than that. Hundreds of residents were involved in the South Moreland Livable Communities Initiative, aka LCI, and an exciting and ambitious consensus was reached on what would be BEST for our area. This kind of business in this particular location isn't it. (Do many people feel as I do, Peralte? <heh>)
Péralte Paul (Editor) September 04, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Most people I talk to on both sides of Moreland, say that corner needs improvement. Some are even OK with a QT until they learn about the potential loophole.

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