Some in opposition said they will consider appeal
With only a one-vote margin, an application to rezone a former assisted and independent senior living facility so that it can be a hotel passed the city of Roswell Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday night.
But Mary Ellen Johnston, one of the people speaking in opposition to a hotel at 2801 N. Kentucky Ave., which most recently had been an Avamere senior facility, said she thinks that an appeal might be made to the City Council through the homeowner’s association of Quail Village. Others attending the meeting also talked about wanting to appeal.
Many in opposition to the rezoning are residents either of Quail Village, which is adjacent to the subject property, or North Shore, a nearby residential community.
Numerous homeowners in the area had written emails or letters to city staff and commissioners prior to the meeting to express their concerns about what would happen to a neighborhood they described as quiet, peaceful, well-maintained and good for seniors. One of the audience members also mentioned that a petition had been circulated among nearby homeowners.
Johnston, a retired nurse who moved into Quail Village in 1986 as one of its first residents, said that she and her parents specifically chose the area because it offered a quiet, tranquil alternative to living near busy, commercial streets and areas. She also said that they chose to invest by building two homes, and she worries what will happen to that investment.
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Objections from about nine other speakers included worries about increased lights, the loud sound of trucks revving early in the morning, possible decreased property value, the possible increase in transients and criminals that would be across the street from a Catholic school and church, increased parking in the street and more traffic along Kentucky Avenue as well as “deteriorating” arterial roads, and the possibility that people could have difficulty obtaining mortgages if their homes are near commercial properties.
The 4-3 vote of the commission in favor of rezoning left some people visibly upset, but several commissioners had said before their votes that it was “difficult” and a “unique” case. City Engineer Louis Najar and Community Development Manager Bill Morris also made similar remarks.
The case before the Planning and Zoning Commission was whether to rezone the existing property — which sits on about 7 acres — from R-3 to C-2, community commercial. Narendra Mistry of Roswell and the company he is affiliated with, United Partners LLC, wants to convert the now-vacant building that has been owned by several companies in recent years into a 131-room hotel.
Mistry said that he has been operating successfully in the hotel industry since 1992. He said he wants to be a good neighbor and will welcome allowing people to continue strolling or walking their pets across the site as they do now.
“This property was zoned R-3 in 1986, 34 years ago. It is allowed to go apartment. Apartments and hotels are pretty similar,” he said. “I just want to care about the property and care about the neighbors, and I will make sure that they will be happy with it. … I don’t see any motel (making) the value go down in the neighborhood, unless the property is not kept up.”
He added that he was sad to hear that some senior citizens had been required to leave the Avamere facility when it closed the building in September 2019, but he stressed that decision had nothing to do with him or his company.
Mistry said that his hotel would have on-site security, that the property would be staffed at all times, that he would agree to build an attractive wall as a barrier between his property and Quail Village, and that he would comply with a restriction to keep semi-trucks off the site.
Najar and a couple of commissioners agreed that, as zoned now, the property could be used not only for apartments but also as a transitional housing facility, a hostel, a substance abuse rehabilitation facility, a hospital or similar uses. They said any of the possible uses under current zoning would have similar issues for neighbors.
Because Avamere continues to operate a senior living community just to the east on North Pennsylvania Avenue, a non-compete agreement bars the North Kentucky Avenue property from being used for assisted living or memory care for seniors.
Najar, who toured the building and property, expressed his view that it would be worse for the building to be unused than to be rezoned commercial.
“Devaluation happens when you leave any kind of property alone, whether it is a residence, a business or, in this case, a big property,” Najar said. “The facts and findings lead me to support the hotel issue as the best (resolution) that we have right now.”
“The last thing you want is for this to be dark,” he said. “That’s the last thing that you want.”
Both Morris and Najar stressed that decisions by city staff, commission and City Council have to be made based on the facts and evidence, not popular sentiment or the emotional content of statements.
The motion that was voted on was to allow the rezoning but require a 7-foot solid “aesthetically pleasing” fence and disallow semi-trucks. David Storey, Jana Lessard, Jesse McDaniel and James MacCornack voted in favor. Riley Armstrong, Kent Taylor and Saul Aguilar voted against the motion.
An appeal would have to be filed with the Roswell city clerk by noon Thursday to be considered at a future City Council meeting.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.