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Town Hall Meeting Discussion (12/12)

In summary, the Town Hall meeting was not centered on the sale of public green space but instead the nuances of the design of the industrial brewery/distillery/bar, which was a disservice to the public input process, to a large extent.  The overarching concern expressed by Citizens was the location is not appropriate for a brewery since it is sandwiched between two churches, sits adjacent to the Community Center and is a stone's throw away from 9 other alcohol-serving establishments.  There are many other concerns; however, the observations below offer a general overview of what took place on that day.  UPDATE (1/14/22):  Still no mention of a third party buyer. #StopTheSale #Vote4Referendum

The Town Hall Meeting was well attended with a line that flowed down the sidewalk with participants funneling into a number of overflow rooms inside City Hall. The meeting started late with Andrea Worthy, Economic Development Director, giving a presentation on the potential impact of breweries on Smyrna along with a video of the Suwannee Stillfire walkthru.  Some commented that the slides did not reflect accurate numbers.  Aaron Bisges, Stillfire General Manager, gave a presentation on the concept design and provided additional information about many of the concerns raised by concerned citizens. Scott Cochran, City Attorney, presented the history of the original downtown redesign and how similar concerns were addressed.  He also discussed control of the property using the zoning laws, Urban Design, a series of deed restrictions and right of first refusal to address the concern regarding the land use model.  Aaron Bisges pushed back on the lease option which became a "non starter". A hard copy of the transcript of a previous meeting with Suwannee city leaders was provided to address the concerns raised by citizens. The following links provide additional information, more info forthcoming:

Video Recording of 11/15 Council Mtg
Video Recording of 12/12 Town Hall Meeting

The following abbreviated questions and answers were asked during the Town Hall meeting to further address citizens' concerns.  Click the link to the video recording above for full and complete dialogue:

Q: The concept of 3 stories implies division of the community and potentially separation of ages.  Have you considered just having one level in the interest of encouraging community and keeping the operation solvent?
A:  The brewery won’t be bigger than 3 stories and we are currently rethinking the size.  We are entertaining rooftop level.  Events must run all the time to keep the operation going.  The Suwannee location is limited as it is difficult to rent a portion of a single story.  The GM agreed with the concern.  Regarding delineating ages, there are people who want to get away from their kids. The GM is open to other opinions.  If they find the split does more harm than good, splitting the levels will be scrapped. 

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Q: In previous presentations, one thing that has not been addressed is the selling liquor on the top floor.

A:  GM mentioned they only make beer in Suwannee.  Many other breweries s have a distillery component. They have looked into it and the scheme is not final.  If Stillfire decided to operate a distillery, they would have to get a license and would need to be approved by the city.  If they did sell liquor, they would have to produce on site. It is often offered as an option to customers who don’t like beer but still want to be at the brewery.  City attorney verified Stillfire would have to obtain their licenses from the City of Smyrna.

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Q:  Where are the churches and why aren't they speaking up?

A:  At Suwannee location, church service is held at the brewery on Sunday mornings by Phoenix Community of Atlanta.  Pastor of Smyrna First United Methodist Church later reported his support of the project.  He also mentioned he would consider an extended ministry at the brewery.

[Full Disclosure:  The Mayor is a current member of this church.]

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Q:  Where is the parking deck?

A:  The parking deck is located between the police station and the church.

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Q:  What did the City of Smyrna not agree to in the negotiations with Stillfire?

A:  The City of Smyrna did not give tax incentives, standard concessions not given, at one point renegotiated, financial things were asked for and not given, original price for the property was not what the final agreement was.
SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Q:  50 yrs the church was there before the city owned the land.  Ordinance 7 spells out minimum distances to church, schools, etc.  The church is less than 50 yards away, community less than 100 yards, when was ordinance 7 added to the ordinances and how is the distance measured.  Door to door

A:  Both state law applies and city laws apply.  Generally speaking, the state yields to the city for sale of alcohol on the premises.  Under the same roof…those were allowed because it dealt with alcohol being consumed on the premises.  The city has its set of ordinances, common among governments where you have mixed use areas and areas in the downtown because of zoning.  The city has updated its alcohol ordinances based on new businesses coming into the area.  They routinely update the ordinance to accommodate new businesses in the area.... [please refer to recording...]

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

[VERIFIED: This is the issue related to the reduction from 100 yards (300 ft) required distance between a place serving alcohol and religious and educational places per State requirements.  The City revised its ordinance to be 100 ft separation in Section 6-118 (b) (7) of the City Charter.]  

Q:  Park land, is it legally park land?

A:  Every rendering I’ve seen there was something planned for that site. [Correction:  The Comp Plan has shown that lot as park land for over a decade].

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Q:  what will the plan be for the city portion of the park space.  Would like to see the extra land used to expand the community center.

A:  Public park / Welch:  It seems that the park is really for Stillfire use. Why not let Stillfire buy the whole property and pay to develop their own park.

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum 

Q:  Did you received better ideas from anyone?

A:  Only soft inquiries, no hard proposals.
SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Q:  If approved, when does construction begin

A:  Would break ground in spring of the new year to open in spring of 2023.

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Q:  How did this public property become available?

A:  They found us.

SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum 

Q:  Why not ask what other potential uses could exist, why wasn’t the same opportunity available for others?

A:  It was a proposal made to the city.
SS Position:  #StopTheSale, #Vote4Referendum

Point of clarification:  The proposal officially came to the Council in late May.  A lot of work was done by the staff before then dating as far back as February.

Council Votes to Approve Downtown Redesign (10/18)

On October 18th, the Mayor and Council voted 4-2 to move forward on its plan to redesign the Downtown Smyrna area despite concerns expressed by many residents.  Councilmember Wheaton was absent from the meeting.


During the discussions leading up to the vote, Councilman Austin Wagner (Ward 2) agreed there are many unanswered questions and he raised his concerns about the process of community input and the impact of the redesign costs on the SPLOST funds for the South Cobb project. Referencing his concerns he put forth a motion to table the vote. Wagner along with Coucilmembers Welch and Wilkinson voted to table. Unfortunately, the other three councilmembers voted against the motion.  In a tie vote, the mayor cast the deciding vote and therefore the motion to table failed. Next, approval of the Redesign was called for a vote. Wagner then joined those in favor to approve the project despite the concerns he had outlined a few minutes earlier. Council members Wilkinson and Welch cast the opposing votes.

NOTE: The estimated costs for the Downtown Redesign have increased from the Council approved $2.5 mil and now sits at $5.7 mil+ for the first phase. Concerns remain that the SPLOST funds for the Redesign project might drain away funds from the South Cobb Improvements project. The $12 million dollars in the SPLOST funds are not line item designated and are a shared fund between the two projects. In 2017 the costs of three concepts put forth for the South Cobb project were estimated to be between $5.8 and $11.8 million. The South Cobb Improvement estimates are now over 4 years old and it is probable the estimates, if calculated in 2021/22, would be higher.

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