‘This city is broken’: Angry property owner’s signs target Roswell officials

Roswell resident Jason Yowell owns land along the Chattahoochee River on Azalea Drive where he's been putting up signs with messages for city officials.

A Roswell property owner says the signs he’s posted on his land criticizing the city are his way of pushing back against officials who’ve done him wrong.

Jason Yowell owns nearly an acre of land zoned for conservation along the Chattahoochee River on Azalea Drive. Since December, he’s had big signs on the property that read “Roswell is a mess” and “This city is broken.”

The largest has the latter phrase with words “The mayor is a petty tyrant,” painted in yellow underneath.

“I’m just sick of it,” he said. “You’ve got a mayor taking way people’s rights with impunity.”

In a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding Yowell and his signs, Mayor Lori Henry described Roswell as a well-run city with a sense of community that residents enjoy.

“The city of Roswell is not broken,” Henry said. “I have an open door policy and meet with anyone who would like to talk with me. Mr. Yowell has never contacted me to sit down and meet with him since I’ve been mayor.”

Yowell, 64, is a homebuilder and contractor who moved to Roswell in 1996. He frequently speaks out at City Council meetings and on social media with criticism of officials’ management of the Historic Gateway and Oxbo Road projects. He’s considered a disrupter by city officials, and has been cut off in the middle of public comment. City spokesperson Julie Brechbill said that occurs when his language doesn’t follow the rules for meeting decorum.

Yowell has been at odds with the city for years on a variety of issues. He’s still sour over the city’s rejection of his 2014 offer to give Roswell his nearly one-acre property in exchange for allowing him to build townhomes on 10 acres of land he owned across the street.

Their current differences are over special event permits. Yowell said he believes officials amended a law in February to prevent him from hosting special events on his property located by Azalea Park and across from homes valued at more than a half-million dollars. Those homes are located on lots Yowell sold individually instead of building the townhomes.

“It’s just another effort to thwart what I’m doing,” said the former New Yorker.

Tree-filled Azalea Drive has idyllic homes on hilly lots with views of the river. The road is a draw for kayakers who put in the water at Azalea Park as well as runners and walkers along the street. Kayakers visiting the raft center next door to Yowell’s property can see his sign near the parking lot.

Some locals disapprove of the signs. One neighbor sprayed the post holding up one of them, Yowell said.

Last June, Yowell partnered with Tim Stevens, owner of From the Earth Brewing Company, to hold weekend beer garden events over four weeks. Stevens obtained a special event permit in order to provide beer and wine on Yowell’s riverbank property.

The beer garden was limited to 200 people each day and was a great success, said Stevens, who is not a fan of Yowell’s yard signs.

The weekend beer gardens stopped in July when the mayor issued a moratorium on special event permits. Yowell and others have knocked the city for holding special events on City Hall grounds during the moratorium. Henry’s order ends this month and special events will be able to take place again starting in April.

A special event permit for Yowell’s conservation property might not be easily obtained. The beer garden permit was issued in error, according to the city. At the time, city codes didn’t allow special events to take place on conservation land, Brechbill said.

The city was trying to adapt to the pandemic but also help a local business — From the Earth Brewing — stay afloat when it issued the permit, Brechbill said.

In February, City Council changed its law, allowing special events on conservation land on a case-by-case basis. The person obtaining the permit must appear before City Council to explain the event before council members vote to approve or deny.

Yowell said he believes the mayor is against him and he would have little to no luck getting a special events permit with Stevens or another partner.

“The mayor doesn’t like me because I’ve been very critical of her,” Yowell said. ”I’ve been very critical in particular of the transportation department, the city administrator and the city attorney.”

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