The People spoke and the City listened — For now



Fayetteville citizens who wanted to maintain their quality of life stepped up and achieved a major victory last Thursday on March 21.

They hype and controversy of the last three months surrounding a proposal to build Avila Fayetteville, a 254 (down from the original 265) horizontal cottage-style apartment complex on 30 acres of land at the intersection of Highway 54 and Gingercake Road had finally come to an end.

Based on recommendations by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, the Fayetteville City Council voted overwhelmingly to deny the request by NexMetro and HGF Development/Rochester to amend the future land use map. Doing so would have given the green light to rezone three land parcels from Residential Commercial to Residential Multi-Family (RMF-15). Construction would have followed.

Many of the citizens who voiced their opinions at the February 27, 2024 Planning and Zoning meeting likely influenced and reinforced the commission’s decision to recommend non-approval of these future land use map and rezoning requests. The comments provided by citizens at that meeting were echoed at the 21 March 2024 City Council meeting.

These comments included potential drainage and retention pond overflow, leakage from those retention ponds into a stream emptying into nearby Bennett Lake, soil erosion, lack of adequate parking and increased traffic problems spilling over into an already congested intersection.

A seasoned school bus driver expressed concern over child safety on Gingercake Road because of the potential traffic problems caused by this development. Another citizen read angry reviews from similar developments in Arizona and Texas, where residents there complained about continuous price increases, unresponsive staff, excessive noise, to include continuous, unabated dog barking day and night, as well as thin walls that do not keep out any kind of noise.

Another citizen commented that if Avila Fayetteville was being marketed to those earning at least $135,000 a year, who in that income bracket would want to rent these types of homes? The rates, as well as the resident standards, would have to be lowered.

With all concerns being voiced, the vast majority of citizens present, whether they offered a public comment or commented among themselves, appeared to oppose this development.

The developers came back with rebuttals, citing “tens of thousands of reviews,” saying that people want this type of housing, because it “allows for flexibility and convenience,” besides being affordable. These rebuttals seemed to fall on mostly deaf ears and elicit sarcastic, cynical comments murmured between many in the audience.

I had been advised earlier through a source that the motions to amend the future land use map and subsequently rezone this property for multi-family use would be denied. I came to this meeting to hear just that. The hopeful citizens who had come to the meeting also wanted to hear it. They did not leave disappointed. A bad idea had been laid to rest! Again, kudos to the citizens who were concerned enough to speak up. It got results!

Although Avila Fayetteville was stopped in its tracks because most had deemed it as a bad idea in a bad location, the plan to continue building multi-family housing in Fayetteville continues.

Another proposed multi-family housing project down the road off of Highway 54, known as Render Fayetteville, is offering 273 apartment units containing up to three bedrooms at the intersection of Weatherly Drive and Knight Way. At the same February Planning and Zoning meeting, there was also a request to amend the future land use map in order to rezone this property.

Citizens also voiced complaints. The request to amend the future land use map to this property was tabled at the March 21 City Council meeting.

There is also Meridian on the Square, a planned 220-unit mix-use development at the corner of North Glynn Street and West Lanier Avenue, which was approved some time ago. Meridian on the Square will contain 18,500 square feet of commercial, retail and office space, as well as Class A multi-family residential units. Anticipated construction has been scheduled for late 2024.

During the Fayetteville city government’s retreat in February, a 2022 Housing Market Analysis was reviewed. This analysis showed a need for constructing more townhomes and conventional single-family dwellings “to stay consistent with the demand level through 2026.”

Additionally, this study showed “a high demand for rent options” in the city. It was estimated that “400 additional apartments” would be needed to meet the demand.

City Manager Ray Gibson stated that the current housing summary for 2024 is “248 single-family detached units and 127 single-family attached units” Mr. Gibson went on to say that the city is “on track to meet the projected demand for single-family homes, with the main area of concern being apartments.”

Interestingly enough, the city also owns 38 acres of land, where mix-use has also been proposed. During the city retreat, a development model was presented for retail, restaurants, office space and residential, similar to what has been planned for Meridian on the Square. This development would possibly include parking garages and a hotel, ostensibly to meet the needs of visitors to the QTS Data Center and the US Soccer Training Center.

This led to discussion about the future of Meridian on the Square with two possible scenarios: 1) the developer withdrawing because of the plans for the 38 acre property, or 2) scrapping the original plans and designing “a more historical look, to prevent the downtown area from becoming too modernized.” Would a “more historical look” include multi-family housing?

Does the “market” that was referenced in the 2022 Housing Market Analysis at the city retreat only pertain to Fayetteville, or does it pertain to the market which is everywhere south of I-20 exploding with multi-family complexes?

The overbuilding that we are now seeing in south Metro Atlanta, to include Fayetteville, will prove catastrophic, especially if there are no jobs for the thousands of people in this area who are living in these already approved units. They will have to drive elsewhere to work, creating significant traffic issues on our roads.

The question comes down to this: how do we really want our city to look? When I campaigned to be on the Fayetteville City Council, many people that I talked to said they moved to this city to maintain a small town way of life. This now appears to have various interpretations.

Who is coming here to live and work? How many are working elsewhere, but coming to live in a bedroom community? Why have apartments become the new “affordable housing”?

When attending city council meetings, I have often heard Mayor Johnson refer to Fayetteville as “our progressive city.” Can Mayor Johnson give us a precise definition of “progressive”? The people, not just the city government, must provide the answer to which direction our city will take.

[Cathy Vaught is a Fayetteville correspondent for The Citizen.]