Your chance to get dinner and a movie in the same Northeast Cobb seat moved closer to reality Tuesday.
The voted 4-1, with East Cobb’s Bob Ott opposed, to approve the rezoning of the Sandy Plains Village Shopping Center and clear the way for Movie Tavern to move in.
The decision offers the dated, largely vacant shopping center a new life but exposes neighbors in the Chatsworth subdivision to a 45-foot-tall building just beyond their backyards.
The shopping center along Highway 92 (Woodstock Road) between Sandy Plains and Mabry roads dates to the late 1970s and was built before Chatsworth.
It once was home to two anchor stores, Kroger and Stein Mart, but now is only 18 percent leased, said Kevin Moore, an attorney for owner DDR Southeast Sandy Plains.
“To allow a center at this prominent location to go dark pulls down” the community, Moore said.
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Modernization of the center requires rezoning from the defunct NS (neighborhood shopping) to the NRC (neighborhood retail center) designation and an anchor tenant to justify the expense. The commissioners approved both in one vote.
DDR will spend $2 million on the renovations, Moore said, and the cost of building the 45,000-square-foot Movie Tavern space will be an additional $4.5 million.
The building will have a maximum of 12 screens and 1,500 seats.
“This is a very exciting concept. I know a lot of hard work and time has been put into this,” said Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, whose District 3 includes the site.
The NRC zoning doesn’t allow movie theaters or buildings taller than 35 feet, so DDR needed variances for Movie Tavern, whose roof will be 40 feet high and whose peak in the front and back will be 45 feet. The former Stein Mart building is less than 25 feet tall.
DDR and Chatsworth homeowners negotiated for months over the height and other issues, but a 21-point stipulation letter prepared Monday didn’t satisfy everyone.
Eighteen people raised their hands at the meeting to show opposition to the proposal.
Chatsworth Homeowners Association President Andrew Douglas, one of three residents to speak, said people living in eight to 10 homes on Wickford Circle behind the theater will see a “quite dramatic” change in view, even though the building will be at least 25 feet from the property line.
Douglas asked for taller, fast-growing trees to be planted in the landscaped buffer to make up for the fence being only 8 feet tall. Other changes he sought included noise limits, enclosures for all trash bins at the shopping center and a final start time for movies of not later than 10:30 p.m.
Berg said he’s not against the concept, and he wants the center to be a commercial success. “But it can’t be at the expense of the community.”
With Moore’s consent, Birrell tweaked the 21 stipulations, including details about the fence color, a 10-foot minimum height for the trees, and limited hours for outside cleaning and maintenance.
She added two stipulations: Employee-only parking signs must be installed behind the building, and the Movie Tavern construction must start within 18 months.
The changes weren’t enough for Ott.
“A building on this scale this close to neighbors is too much of an impact,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd.
Commissioner Helen Goreham said she shared Ott’s concerns about the building height, but the opposition over the height wasn’t clear at Tuesday’s hearing.
“Height obviously is a concern of the neighbors,” Birrell said, but “all in all, they want redevelopment of that shopping center and have something to revitalize that area and attract other tenants.”