Johns Creek says no to shopping center apartments

The Johns Creek property owner who wants to convert part of his struggling shopping center into apartments said his rezoning request was unfairly denied and he’s considering legal action against the city.

During a Monday meeting, City Council denied rezoning at Sid Tejpaul’s Shops of Douglas property at Jones Bridge and Douglas roads. Tejpaul wants to rezone the 1.4 acre property from commercial business district to mixed-use district.

“I conformed to everything they asked,” TejPaul said Wednesday, adding that in its current use, the small commercial property has been a financial challenge.

Tejpaul built the shopping center in 2005 with a commercial building designed to house eight businesses. Space in back of the small center isn’t visible from the road and has been difficult to lease, he said. He’s spent more than $12,000 for traffic studies, architectural designs, colored renderings and more, he said.

“For you, it’s a game that these developers play,” Tejpaul said during his public hearing with City Council. “For me it’s real money, a lot of money.”

Tejpaul has made changes to his plans to address concerns of neighborhood residents and city staff.

His original plan called for converting commercial space in the back of the shopping center into nine apartment units in a 9,450-square-foot, three-story apartment building. Following September meetings with officials, Tejpaul reduced the apartment addition to two stories with six units and 5,991 square feet.

Monday, council members denied Tejpaul’s rezoning request in a 4-3 vote with Mayor Mike Bodker and Council members Lenny Zaprowski, Stacy Skinner and John Bradberry (mayor-elect) in favor of denial. Council members Erin Elwood, Stephanie Endres and Chris Coughlin were not opposed to Tejpaul’s changes.

Before the vote, Community Development Director Ben Song said Tejpaul’s rezoning request complies with the city’s comprehensive land use plan for the neighborhood in that it would be a low density and mixed-use development. But the vision for the area is more live, work, play with open green space that would be in a town center or village center development, Song said.

During the meeting Bodker added that mixing uses of apartments and retail outside of those areas wouldn’t be ideal for Johns Creek.

“We have a number of retail centers that I believe would immediately rush in to change,” he said. “As much as I hate not supporting a small business here in Johns Creek ... it’s just an inappropriate mix of use.”

The City Council members said Tejpaul must wait a year before he can apply for a rezoning again, according to city code.

“Government shouldn’t be getting in the way of people being able to prosper,” Endres said during the meeting. “It should be allowing businesses to function.”

Tejpaul told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s talked to an attorney and might file a lawsuit against the city over the denial of the rezoning request.

“It’s very shameful what they’ve done,” he said. “I am not going to give up on this because I am on the right side.”