Roswell approves 350-apartment mixed-use development after testy talks

A plan to replace an empty Super Target location with more than 400 apartments and townhomes sparked two marathon meetings of the Roswell City Council and hours of resident complaints, but in the end developers left with the council’s approval in hand.

It was near midnight Monday when the council cast its vote to approve East Roswell Village, which will turn the East Roswell shopping center into a mixed-use development. Plans call for 350 apartments and 76 townhomes on a 30-acre property at 2640 Holcomb Bridge Road.

When the project was approved, dozens of people in the audience walked out. One man wagged his finger at the City Council as he left, saying, “Shame on you.”

Developer concessions did little to tamp down residents’ fears about the impact on traffic and schools.

Between its past two meetings, both of which lasted until nearly midnight, the City Council spent nearly 8 hours reviewing every facet of the $75 million project. The final vote to approve the project was 3-2, with one council member not present.

Monday’s unruly audience was silenced often by the mayor during the meeting for applauding those who spoke against the project and laughing mockingly at those in favor of the development.

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On Monday, 18 residents spoke, and all but a couple were against the development. In general, they wanted better integration with the surrounding area and a different type of project on the site.

A couple weeks ago, the council asked metro Atlanta builder The Worthing Companies to add more greenspace and public art to the site, along with increased connectivity so that it all flowed for pedestrians.

In the weeks since, Worthing redrew the site plan and included many of those items.

Worthing president Darin Collier told council members, “The market has turned its back on this site.”

Mayor Lori Henry said Target has “been really difficult to deal with” and did not respond to multiple requests from her office to talk about the development and all the new apartments, of which she was not in favor.

Curtis Foster, who said he has lived in the area 32 years, told the City Council that he was worried about what more apartments will do to area schools.

He said students in apartments are transient students and they make “it difficult on the teachers and on the administration.”

Carol Williams, a real estate agent, told the council her clients flew from New York two weeks ago looking to buy a home. Their one requirement was high-quality schools nearby.

Williams said she was sad to tell her clients that no three schools (elementary, middle and high) met their standards in East Roswell, where she has lived 27 years. She said they bought in Milton.

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Williams blames apartments for lowering the ranking of Roswell schools. “To approve more apartments amounts to self-inflicted demise,” she said.

Ryan Pernice, owner of high-end Italian restaurant Osteria Mattone in downtown Roswell, told council members he came Monday because he was tired of hearing people improperly describe those who live in apartments.

He said he lives in the Roswell City Walk apartments and has proudly invested lots of money in his business, which he walks to daily.

“The apartment characterization so far is not what I’ve seen,” Pernice said.

The main opponent of the project on council was Mike Palermo, who said the project doesn’t flow well enough and that he didn’t want the property set up for failure again.

“This council has no obligation to approve what’s requested,” he said.

After the vote, Palermo asked the mayor to veto the council’s approval of the project. She didn’t mention anything about a veto before the meeting ended at 12:40 a.m. Tuesday.

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