About 200 residents fill a Cobb County community center on June 7, 2017, to voice their concerns about a proposed Lidl grocery store.
Photo: Ben Brasch/AJC
Photo: Ben Brasch/AJC

Cobb grocery store plan to be discussed after residents raise concerns

Cobb County commissioners will hear about a proposal for a grocery store to replace a movie theater at their meeting on Tuesday, months after a commissioner tried to calm a room of 200 constituents fuming about the project.

Even though commissioners will hear about one procedural amendment to the proposed site plan, many protesters of the project are expected to attend the meeting to voice their concerns.

Lidl — rhymes with “needle” — is a Germany-based grocery store chain with 10,000 stores in about two dozen countries that wants to open a location where the Park 12 theater is at Shallowford Road and Gordy Parkway.

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Nearby residents say they don’t want to lose their community movie theater, they don’t need another grocery store and they think the Lidl would make traffic more dangerous in the area.

In proximity to the would-be Lidl, there is a Publix and a Kroger each 1,200 feet away, a Target 2,400 feet away and four Walmarts less than 4 miles away.

Lidl announced weeks after the meeting that it was opening a distribution center in Cartersville, the company’s fourth in the country.

Cobb residents have garnered more than 2,200 signatures on online petitions that urge commissioners to let the movie theater stay.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents East Cobb, said it wasn’t her job to get involved with how private businesses worked or who approached who in a property deal.

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Birrell said she wanted to help get all parties on the same page, so she called a June 7 meeting inside the East Cobb Senior Center for residents, Cobb traffic officials, a Lidl representative and a Marietta attorney representing the company so they could all talk.

Residents were animated, adamant and against anything anyone from Lidl had to say. Just one resident spoke out in favor of the grocery stoe but did not say why.

After one barrage of resident concerns during the hour-long meeting, Lidl’s United States manager of real estate acquisitions Eric Astrin said he had never seen such opposition to a project.

Parks Huff, the Marietta attorney hired by Lidl to help the company through the local process, said with outstretched arms, as if to hold the crowd back, that he was there to listen but not to argue.

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There isn't another Cobb movie theater within four miles of Park 12.

The property was zoned as a shopping center in the late 1980s, according to a zoning application from that time.

The theater has served as venue to plenty of film memories — including sold-out shows in 2000 for “Remember The Titans,” which filmed a scene at Sprayberry High School.

The petition showed as much, with many people saying to close it would mean their closest option would be Movie Tavern in Roswell.

“This movie theater has been my home theater for most of my life. I can't imagine it being anything else,” one person wrote.

“The emotional concern is the loss of the movie theater and the second concern is how the proposed use would impact the traffic,” Huff told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday.

Residents at the meeting scoffed at the company’s claim that the store wouldn’t make traffic worse. Many mentioned nearby Lassiter High School.

Candace Kollas, who lives in Northampton subdivision, told Lidl representatives that she has a 16-year-old child who attends Lassiter.

“These are new drivers” she said. Adding the she gets scared “anytime we increase the traffic, especially near a school.”

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Huff said Friday that the company had to delay appearing before the board so they could conduct a traffic study while school was in session so it would be accurate.

He said the study predicted that a Lidl would not increase traffic patterns in the area.

An online invitation asks residents to bring neighbors along with friends because the board will take a headcount of those opposed to the project and take that into consideration.

The meeting will be at 9 a.m. inside the commission chambers on the second floor of the county building at 100 Cherokee St.

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