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South Fulton land-use plans are in flux, but lawsuits still come

Next to the South Fulton funeral home owned by Monique Murray’s family, there’s already a McDonald’s and a Starbucks. She worried when developers wanted to add a Burger King to the mix.

Traffic is bad enough, Murray said.

So she was pleased when the South Fulton City Council denied a zoning request to change a mixed-use area to a commercial one so the restaurant could be built. The developers, however, were not. They sued the city last month.

It’s the third zoning lawsuit filed in South Fulton, which has been a city for less than a year and a half. 

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Odie Donald II, the South Fulton city manager, said the city is currently working to create a comprehensive land-use plan. In the meantime, it’s working from Fulton County’s old plan, from before the city was formed. Donald said there’s an “overabundance” of areas meant for commercial development and the city wants to refine its plan to allow for more diversity in development.

“We have the opportunity to really define what will come into our city,” he said. “We’re not in a rush or in a hurry. This is an important part of what the city is doing.”

Khalid Kamau, a South Fulton councilman who voted against the Burger King, said development demands can feel like “an existential threat.” One of the reasons voters formed South Fulton, he said, was to do better for residents — particularly in terms of development.

“It’s a period of adjustment for developers to realize they’re going to have to develop things with some attention and concern for the community,” he said. “Clearly, this is what happens everywhere — the standards go up.”

A spokesperson for GPS Hospitality Cascade, which filed the suit, said the company would not comment on pending litigation. But Harold Buckley, an attorney representing the developers, told members of city council that it would be impossible to build a mixed-use development, including housing, on just more than an acre.

“As a practical matter, it’s impossible to develop under the current zoning,” he said. “This property, under this zoning, has no use.”

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