After meeting with resistance from residents and Cherokee County in June, developer Jim Rollins has asked the city of Canton to annex and rezone 9.03 acres at the only entrance of the Estates at Brooke Park to build a 4,070-square-foot Flash Foods.
The Canton Planning Commission is scheduled to consider Rollins’ requests during its meeting Nov. 18, according to the city.
Peggy Davis, president of the neighborhood’s homeowners association, said Wednesday she and the other residents plan to put up a fight against Rollins’ plans, just as they did before his request to rezone land for the same purpose was shot down by the Cherokee Planning Commission in June.
“Our feelings are still the same,” Davis said. “Nothing has changed.”
During its last meeting, the Cherokee Board of Commissioners discussed the possibility of filing a legal protest to Rollins’ request for annexation to the city of Canton, but were advised by County Attorney Angie Davis that firm legal grounds might not exist.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said Thursday he expects the Board of Commissioners would take up the matter at its meeting Tuesday and vote to remind Canton of its concerns that Rollins’ request could negatively affect the neighborhood. The board made a similar statement to Canton in June amid concerns he might seek annexation.
“I expect we’ll vote to repeat our respectful request of council to either decline the annexation or restrict the property to light commercial,” said Johnston, who represents Post 1 where the Estates at Brooke Park is located. “Our only choice in this case is a friendly request to the City Council. Given the good working relationship between Canton and the BoC, it’s probably the best choice anyway.”
According to Estates at Brooke Park HOA treasurer Walt Miller, the neighborhood of about 140 homes is totally against Rollins’ proposed gas station.
“We polled the neighborhood back in June (and) we asked homeowners, ‘If you have any position other than opposition, please let us know,’” Miller said Wednesday. “We got nobody’s feedback. Our community, I would say safely is 100 percent opposed.”
The Highway 20 residents’ issues with the gas station include its potential environmental impact, noise, lighting, traffic and property values. These worries are much like those of residents in the Harmony on the Lakes subdivision in Holly Springs, who are also trying to stop Rollins from building a gas station at their north entrance.
Perhaps the most widespread concern for residents in the Estates at Brooke Park is the fear that the gas station would greatly add to what is already a serious traffic issue at the entrance of the neighborhood, thanks to their proximity to Canton Marketplace just down Highway 20.
“It’s important to note that the size of the subdivision is about 140 homes, but we only have one entrance,” said resident Stan Hathcock on Wednesday. “That is very restrictive.”
The HOA president agreed.
“We have a hard enough time turning into our neighborhood (now),” Davis said. “We’re concerned about the congestion.”
The residents also pointed out that a RaceTrac gas station was soon to be built less than a mile down Highway 20, solving the lack of access to fuel in the area. They also noted that in addition to their dealings with Rollins in June, they have fought for less impactful zoning classification on the same piece of land for years.
But Rollins has consistently maintained that his gas station wouldn’t be a burden on the residents.
In response to questions about the traffic, Rollins has argued that, because gas stations only service customers who are driving through anyway and not bringing people to the area, the impact is minimal. They are not “destination places,” he has said.
But according to Hathcock, the fact that customers stop at gas stations and then leave quickly makes them worse for traffic.
“That’s really a hollow argument when you’re talking about traffic impact,” he said.
The residents said their concerns about traffic are not only about the convenience of not having to wait for more cars to pass before they can leave or enter their neighborhood — it’s also about safety.
“One of the weaknesses of our neighborhood is having access to medical and fire,” said Hathcock.
“When you go up there at 4 or 5 o’clock, try to bring a fire truck or an EMT unit into this community,” Miller said. “You will dodge a lot of traffic.”
On top of the issues of traffic, noise and lighting, neighborhood resident Al Bensimon said the environment is something important to consider.
Bensimon said Wednesday that neighbors were concerned mostly about water runoff when it comes to the potential environmental impact of the Flash Foods. This concern is based on the fact that the proposed site slopes greatly. According to Bensimon, the slope of the land could help pollution make its way into streams on and near the property which feed into the Etowah River.
There have also been reported sightings of endangered fish near the site, he said.
Putting up a fight
With their many concerns in tow, the residents said they plan to contact the city of Canton and urge them against allowing Rollins to go through with his plans.
Hathcock said he hoped they would listen, but because the Estates at Brooke Park sits in Cherokee County, not Canton, the residents don’t have much power.
“We don’t get to vote on council people,” he said. “We’re not citizens of Canton, technically. But I buy my gas in Canton, I buy my clothes in Canton, I buy virtually anything they sell (at Canton Marketplace) or down at Riverstone.”
Despite their many objections with Rollins’ plans, the residents said they are OK with development on the piece of land, just not a gas station.
“We recognize that with everything that’s going on across the street that it’s going to be commercial, but it should be appropriate,” Hathcock said. “We’re not trying to fight this guy for making money or making a profit.”
Another resident in the neighborhood, Ken Eggers, seconded that notion Wednesday.
“We’re not opposed to something being built there,” Eggers said.
Eggers said he can also understand Rollins’ position, no matter how much he is against it.
“In all honesty, if I were selling — which is what Rollins is doing — it’s a pretty easy deal. He gets a bill, takes his money and runs, and guess who’s stuck with the deal,” said Eggers. “It’s the 140 families that live in this community.”