Conyers city council approved a rezoning petition that would help clear the way for a banquet hall to operate in a former drywall warehouse but only after vigorous debate and comments from two neighboring businesses against the change.
Business owner Juan J. Garcia, Sr., represented by Walter Collins at the public hearing Wednesday night, had petitioned for rezoning from Industrial-Distribution to Office-Industrial and for a special use permit to allow a banquet hall at 2147 East View Parkway in the Quigg Branch Business Park. The space, about 2,100 square feet of administrative space and 4,150 square feet of warehouse space on 1.15 acres, houses Garcia's drywall business, which is no longer in operation due to the housing market collapse.
In his letter to the council, Garcia said he planned to upgrade the space to accomodate up to 300 people for weddings, receptions, meetings and other gatherings. He hoped to be operational within 90 days after getting zoning approval.
However, owners from two neighboring businesses expressed their concerns with parking for the facility and the effect it would have on the industrial area.
David Luther, who has the property to the east of Garcia's, said "Our concern is if this zoning changes to a banquet hall, would it be changed to allow night clubs" and stray from the intended use for the land. "We feel like when we built it, it would be this way and it would be sustained through the life of our business. We ask that you keep it this way so we can have an attractive office park."
Daniel Holzer, owner of Able Prosthetic Care, pointed out that Garcia's facility currently had 28 parking spots and that Garcia had presented plans to the Planning Commission to increase that to 46 spots. However, that would fall short of the amount of spaces needed for 300 attendees. He cited a study by Associated Transportation Engineers that advised 0.35 spots per person for a banquet hall. For 300 people, that would mean 105 parking spots.
The spillover, he said, would go onto the neighboring properties. "All those parking lots would be filled to capacity and the street would be filled to capacity... They just don't have the space to accomodate what they want to do."
Garcia's representative Collins replied that the 46 spaces provided adequate parking. "The concern expressed here is based on the assumption we're going to have parking in adjoining ownership. That is not true... We discussed this issue with city planners. They comply with code and intent of the code for city and county."
Planning and Zoning Department Director Marvin Flanigan replied that staff could not say whether the parking plans were in compliance. "We have not received buiilding plans... I'm not sure who told you the parking is compliance. We can't tell you that until we get the building plans."
Flanigan pointed out the building itself would still need to be approved and that the special use permit expired after a year, although the zoning change would remain.
Councilman Gerald Hinesly estimated with 46 parking spaces, the banquet hall would probably be allowed a maximum of a little more than 100 attendees and asked if that would be enough to sustain a banquet hall business.
Mayor Ramsey Mills asked Collins if the owner, Garcia, would be satisfied with the property zoning staying as Office-Industrial, which would exclude the drywall business, if the banquet building plans did not work out. Collins replied he would.
Councilman Cleveland Stroud said this vote was only about the question of zoning and questions of building code would be another issue.
Councilman Vince Evans expressed doubts on the parking issue but was also reluctant to hinder a business finding another use for their facility in a difficult economic environment such as this.
The zoning change and special use permit were approved unanimously.