Lilburn residents oppose potential restaurant on Arcado Road

About 30 upset residents packed into Lilburn’s council chambers on Monday to question city officials about the possibility of a new restaurant on Arcado Road.

Lilburn officials held an unofficial meeting in an attempt to quell public outcry and dispel rumors on social media about what will be built on commercial land located at 5073 Arcado Road SW.

Morris Bailey, who died several years ago, once operated an auto-repair shop known as Bailey’s Garage on the 2-acre property. According to former zoning maps still kept by Lilburn, the land has been zoned for commercial use for decades, but now sits amid land already developed with homes and subdivisions.

There are currently several garages and a single-family home on the land, which has become an eyesore to nearby residents. Jeanette Davis, who lives behind the property, said it’s filled with old tires, used car parts and other pieces of junk covered by fallen leaves. “It’s trashy back there,” she said.

Despite its zoning, the Bailey property is located in an area designated by the city’s 2019 comprehensive plan for residential homes. It exists as an island of commercial use surrounded by sprawling subdivisions of residential homes, including the Parkview Trace subdivision directly beside and behind it.

As of Monday, city staff still hadn’t received any plans for construction on the land, which it could approve or deny. Assistant City Manager Jenny Simpkins said the owner mentioned the possibility of opening a restaurant, but no details are known.

“I don’t want the rats and the garbage that would be there,” neighbor Davis said. “I have a pool in my backyard and it backs up to the property. You think I want rats coming over and nesting in my pool house?”

As of Wednesday, the name of the current property owner was not listed on the Gwinnett County Tax Assessor’s online property map. Lilburn officials declined to share the name of the owner.

Residents voiced their concerns about declining property values, increased traffic and the disturbance that could result from a restaurant opening on Arcado Road.

“It’s all about property value,” said Natasha Grove, who lives near the property. “It’s our main investment, it’s where we live and it’s what most of our money has turned into. We don’t want to see that devalue.”

Some residents said they felt like the city tried to keep the idea for the property under the radar. One woman, who declined to provide her name to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said she only knew about the potential restaurant because of an email sent out by her neighborhood association.

Lilburn is not required to advertise the purchase of land, nor will it be required to hold a public hearing when the owner submits plans to build, as long as the new construction conforms to the existing commercial zoning. Public hearings are only held for certain cases, like when a property owner requests a rezoning or special-use permit.

Philip Holland, a nearby neighbor of the site, suggested that the property be sold again to someone willing to redevelop it into residential homes.

Officials are speaking with the owner to try to persuade them to rezone the property or sell it to someone who will build homes, said City Manager Bill Johnsa. The city offered to speed up the process and waive fees if the current owner wishes to rezone the property for residential use, Simpkins said.

But the owner has the right to build a commercial business on the property if they wish, Johnsa said. Some residents pleaded for city officials to either rezone the property or purchase it themselves. One resident suggested that the city take the land through eminent domain.

The city worries that it could face a lawsuit if it rezones the property without a request. In regard to eminent domain, Lilburn likely lacks justification for taking over the land, said City Attorney Richard Carothers.

“There’s no overnight solution unless you want to see us irresponsibly spend taxpayer money in court,” Simpkins said.