Online comments directed toward a Roswell councilwoman who made the deciding vote on a contested mixed-use project this week were so bad police stopped by her home after the meeting to make sure all was well.
Most of the residents who spoke during two marathon meetings pleaded with the council to deny the $75 million project, East Roswell Village. Councilwoman Marie Willsey’s vote broke a stalemate over the development, which is set to bring 400 apartments and townhomes along with spots for retail to a former Super Target site on Holcomb Bridge Road.
The first meeting earlier this month ended with Willsey asking the developer to add some items to the plan like more greenspace and improved pedestrian flow. She then requested to delay the vote to Tuesday’s meeting. The developer made the changes Willsey suggested, and she became the third vote to approve the new plan 3-2.
She said she also approved the plan because the property has been sitting vacant for two years and she didn’t want “a lesser project without the community input we wanted.”
City spokeswoman Julie Brechbill said she knew of no specific threats to Willsey after the meeting and added that the police check was “just to be on the safe side.” Premises checks can be requested by residents for times like when they are out of town on vacation.
But in her 15 years with the city, Brechbill said she doesn’t know of a time when police went by a council member’s home after a contentious vote.
“Because of the tone of social media and emails coming into the councilwoman, the police department did drive by her house a couple times after the meeting to make sure everything was OK,” Brechbill said.
A deciding factor for the check, Brechbill said, was someone posting Willsey’s address online.
“I’m absolutely fine and safe and not worried about it,” Willsey told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. Willsey, who has been on council since 2018, said she didn’t understand why people were so angry with her.
At the meeting, residents mockingly laughed at her when she asked people to keep an open mind. People wagged their fingers, scoffed at the council and said the project would worsen traffic and be a burden on local schools.
There were social media posts of people calling 911 to say Willsey was speeding through her neighborhood and that police were camped outside her home to protect her, but Brechbill said the 911 center has no record of any such calls coming in and police did not post themselves outside Willsey’s home.
On the Facebook livestream of the meeting — which drew about 1,000 comments — people voiced disappointment with Willsey, sometimes naming her. Others came to her defense.
“I live in the community. I love the community. I have been there since 1993, and my concern and my heart is always to make the best decision that I can possibly make for the long-term future of the city,” Willsey said.
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