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45-Foot-Tall Cobb Movie Theater OK'd

The 4-1 county commission vote clears the way for a $6.5 million revival of Sandy Plains Village.

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.

Do you like the idea of Movie Tavern next to the Chatsworth subdivision? Tell us in the comment area below.

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.

The Chatsworth residents had the support of Lee Berg of the Northeast Cobb Coalition and Jill Flamm of the East Cobb Civic Association.

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.”

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Michael Jacobs March 21, 2012 at 11:32 AM
Does the Movie Tavern plan with its 23 zoning variance stipulations balance the needs of residents and commercial property owners?
Steve GATT March 22, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Who cares! This shopping center is doa! Would you rather have a Walmart? Let's get off our high horses and support business ! They pay taxes and sales tax
louise March 24, 2012 at 02:42 AM
It is a shame that despite opposition the commissioners chose to approve this, even though DDR, the developer, and its attorney Kevin Moore did not provide the information they were required to in the timely manner that they were supposed to. According to Joann Birrell this "variance" will not set a precedent for 45 ft buildings so close to a residential neighborhood. (currently 25 ft from one homeowners property line.) because this was a "special exception" . What does that tell you? Bob Ott has shown that he is the ONLY commissioner that is thinking with his brain, and isn't caving in to the big developers and their money... how would these commisioners vote if this was in THEIR backyard????
Debbi Brooks March 25, 2012 at 01:18 PM
I can understand the neighbors feelings about the height of the building but perhaps some Leyland Cypress trees would add enough green to shield most of the building over time. I am in that area quite frequently and that shopping center has really gone down hill over the years. A vacant shopping area over time becomes more of an eye sore than anything else. This movie theatre will bring in much needed revenue for an otherwise non existent money making shopping plaza. It will add evening and weekend entertainment for nearby residents. The wonderful thing is that they are building up an area that already has been built up as opposed to knocking down trees and green space that exist in the community. I applaud this decision in many ways. Hopefully developers are also considering the grounds surrounding the movie theatre and add fresh landscaping to beautify the area a bit. This would create a a bit of natural and welcomed landscape development. This would be more pleasing to the eye than that area being all blacktop parking space.
louise March 30, 2012 at 02:01 PM
I don't think Leyland Cypress trees grow to 45 ft. Debbi. This shopping center has historically had problems due to traffic flow. Yes, I agree that a vacant shopping center is an eye sore, but then just clean it up and revitalize it without constructing a monstrocity which will impact the neighborhood adjacent to it. This shopping center could be successful if the developer had cleaned it up.. They are counting on an anchor (the Movie Tavern) to spend the money to do it. I venture to say that DDR the developer is not concerned with beautifying, they are only concerned with spending as little as they can to make money.
Liz Cornett May 03, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Oh come on, do you all think that a dinner theater is going to make that much of a difference to this area? Take a minute and look back to why you all move to this congested, consumer hungry area of N. Metro. This Sandy Plains Village Shopping Center had it's hay-day, business' actually did well. Now it is a ghost town, no grocer, no drug store, no pizza hut, no gift shop NO NOTHING. This is not an area that has miles of parks, trees or anything other than shopping, traffic, eating, traffic, shopping, traffic etc. Building this movie theater will not increase or decrease your property value. Suck it up, you at least won't have far to see a show/dinner. Think of it again all the things that NE Cobb is famous for shopping, traffic, eating, traffic, shopping, traffic. Sounds like a win/win.
Kevin Miller June 12, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I am excited with the coming of a Movie Tavern. This may establish a much needed pattern for new business and bring in something nice to fill the vacancy of the Kroger and Blockbuster that left and created a ghost town in my backyard. I would like to see the homeowners get some relief from the building as mentioned with the planting of some very tall trees however.
Kit Baty October 18, 2012 at 05:51 PM
I have also heard that a Walmart Grocery store (without the huge bug box store) is considering the old Kroger spot. That, along with the Movie Tavern would be a huge boon for this decaying shell of a retail center. I hope the Chatsworth residents concerns are addressed and satisfied - because I live less than a mile down Mabry and would love to see another grocery option as well as an entertainment option.
chip December 05, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Looks like construction is beginning. I haven't seen what but would welcome both the grocery and movie options. The property owners were stupid years ago when they wanted to get Lowes to come in and they chose no to renew the lease for Kroger. Blockbuster just plain died. I abhor Publix except for BOGO and don't like having to drive 5 miles for Kroger in crabapple or johnson ferry. Having a theater option would be great as the whole family could walk or bike the 1.5 miles. I just hope they put bike racks in place.
Kimberlie December 07, 2012 at 08:32 PM
I am super excited to see something happen to that barren piece of Real-Estate. I get to walk with my kids to a movie soon. What a great night. Could have, should have would have. I say let's move forward and do it.
Beth January 03, 2013 at 06:58 PM
I am excited about this movie theater. We travel down Holcomb Bridge for Studio Mivie Grill. This closer location with the similar concept will definitely improve the area and bring in the needed revenue. New stores/restaurants may move in and finally be successful. I understand the residents' issues and they are definitely valid. Does anyone know when the theater is scheduled to open?
Michael Gilbert January 11, 2013 at 08:07 PM
I have lived within 2-3 miles of this location since before the shopping center existed and have endured all of the development, expansion and Hwy 92 road widening along this east/west corridor. The creation of a multiple screen dinner/movie facility will be a welcome business and consumer addition, however I don't quite understand the necessity for a 45 foot tall building. None of the other locations pictured on Movie Tavern's website appear to be that tall, with most seeming to be the more normal 20-30 feet. I can sympathize with the Chatsworth folks over the extreme height and concur with the suggestion for a Leyland Cypress buffer to lessen the impact. I would think it would be more feasible to "spread" the facility some rather than go "up" with the building. There is plenty of space in the shopping center and I would not agree with the County Commisioner's approving the extreme height variance. However, I am on the other side of the shopping center in Cherokee County and have no input in Cobb County business decisions.
Kristin January 15, 2013 at 04:44 AM
I was really hoping that construction was to build a Whole Foods. Happy they are revitalizing that shopping center but I would love to see a Whole Foods in the area.

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