Plans for a 60-acre tennis facility in Roswell have been called off for now after an uproar from neighborhood and community groups upset about the proposal.
Roswell Mayor Lori Henry said in a message Sunday that the City Council will not consider a memorandum of understanding Monday to create a formal framework for negotiations, as had been planned. But the statement kept open the possibility of a tennis center somewhere within the city.
The about-face on the proposed tennis complex at Roswell’s Big Creek Park came just a few days after a family foundation announced plans Thursday for the Angela Krause Tennis, Pickleball and Fitness Center. The $50 million center, to be funded by the Krause Family Foundation, was designed to have the largest concentration of clay tennis courts in the nation.
But opposition quickly mounted to the proposal, with neighborhood groups complaining of potential traffic and other nuisances. Another source of opposition were patrons of the park and mountain biking groups who criticized the city for a plan that would pave over woods and eliminate about half of the Big Creek Park biking trails.
Brad Wender, president of the Roswell Alpharetta Mountain Bike Organization, said his group and others have seen an outpouring against the proposed tennis complex.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the whole community,” Wender said. “It was easy to see this was trying to be pushed through. It just wasn’t all above board.
“We’re happy to get things slowed down. We feel good,” he said.
Vernon Krause, a Roswell resident and owner of four metro automobile dealerships, dreamed up the tennis center as a memorial to his late daughter, Angela, who died in 2015 after contracting a rare form of cancer.
On Facebook, the Krause family said “we are hopeful that the mayor and council will schedule town hall meetings so that everyone can have a say, and a decision can be had as to what is the best use of their land (known) as Big Creek Park.”
“We were told that the land was purchased to be an active park, as opposed to its current use as a passive park,” the statement said. “With that information in mind, we felt as though a world class tennis, pickleball and fitness center would be a nice amenity for the citizens of Roswell. If this facility is not wanted by the majority of its citizens, we will look for another venture which will be a memorial for our daughter, Angela. For all off you that have expressed support, we thank you and hope that a positive resolution can be found in the near future.”
But residents had said they were disappointed by how quickly the process was moving, and they wanted more opportunities to weigh in.
By Sunday night, some 23,000 signatures were on a petition opposing the center on Change.org.
“The way it was handled was horrible,” said Stephanie Sears, president of the Barrington Farms Homeowners’ Association.
Sears’ neighborhood connects directly to the park, where mountain bikers have about six miles of trails and Cub Scout packs go for nature walks. The tennis center would be built on about a third of the park’s 168 acres and would include more than 135 tennis courts, including 80 clay courts and an indoor facility.
The proposal, Sears said, “came out of nowhere. …We all really feel bamboozled.”
Matt Harrell, president of the Spring Ridge Homeowners’ Association, said he was disappointed that no community conversations had been scheduled.
Wender, who leads the mountain bike organization, said Friday he feared Old Alabama Road, where the park is situated, couldn’t handle the additional traffic the tennis center would bring.
“A lot of people like those woods,” said Wender, who estimated about 10,000 riders per month use the trails. If the proposal goes through, he said, about half the trails would be destroyed.
“We just keep paving stuff,” he said.
Julie Brechbill, a Roswell spokesperson, said on Friday the park where the tennis center would be built had long been part of a master plan that included an arts center, an aquatic center and other construction.
The city never intended to keep it wooded forever, she said.
Brechbill said she had received more than 100 emails about the project, most of them in opposition. But some residents were in favor of the project. One, Donna Neidorf, said in an email that she was “thrilled” by the news.
“I totally support this being built and will use this facility constantly!” she wrote, with nine additional exclamation points.
Brechbill said the project was still in the beginning stages.
Residents expected a hearty turnout against the proposal at Monday’s council meeting. Wender said his group made about 200 red T-shirts and the mountain biking organization expects to show up at the council meeting just in case.
On Sunday night, Henry thanked the Krause family for their desire to invest in Roswell.
The mayor said the residents east of Ga. 400 had told the city a destination east of the highway was a top priority. City officials have sold the complex as an economic driver that would attract youth, college and adult tournaments from around the nation.
“When Mr. Krause approached the Mayor’s office with the generous offer of investing upwards of $50 million in a world-class tennis facility for the east side of Roswell, we were very excited about the project,” Henry said in the statement. “We believed it would have been an economic catalyst for the east side, drawing other investment into that area and being a driver for redevelopment along the Holcomb Bridge Road corridor east of (Ga.) 400.”
But the mayor said the community’s voice has been heard, “so we will not be moving forward with it.”
“In the coming months, we will hold a town hall meeting for further input from residents on the possibility and location of a tennis center in Roswell,” she said.