By Patrick Fox
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
After nearly a year of meetings, a dozen modifications and a court battle, a Fulton County businessman has won approval to build a gas station near a residential area in Milton.The City Council voted unanimously late Monday to rescind a decision made last May that denied a request by Mehdi Jannatkhah to construct a gas station on Bethany Bend Road at Highway 9. The rescision, prompted by court order, opened the door to renewed debate over the case.
After nearly an hour of debate, the council split 4-3, ultimately approving the application.
The issue drew about a dozen residents to the city council meeting.
Residents in opposition to the station raised safety as their key concerns. Tanker trucks negotiating the acute triangle intersection, they said, would present undue risk for nearby residents. Aesthetics and the impact the business would have on pedestrian traffic was another consideration, they said.
Phil Joseph, whose house sits closest to the property, said other cities deny permits for gas stations based on safety. He said an argument could be made in court that Milton, barely four years old, is working on a safety ordinance to cover these instances.
"I'm simply asking you to say no to the gas station because it's too close to residences," he said. "That seems to me, on the face of it, to be a rational position."
Resident Diane Palmer said even with concessions made by the developer, she remains concerned about the effect the station could have on the Bethany Bend community.
The issue drew steady opposition from the time it was first aired last February, when about half-dozen residents spoke against it at a planning commission meeting. The proposal was voted down unanimously.
But after the meeting, Jannatkhah modified his plans to shrink the size of the building and cut the number of pump islands from five to four. Because of the changes, the city council voted in March to refer the matter back to planners to reconsider the application.
But planners again rejected the application, this time by a 4-2 vote, in spite of a city staff recommendation for approval.
The city council followed suit one month later, voting 3-2 to deny the rezoning amid a cheering crowd of more than 50 residents.
Jannatkhah then filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court arguing that the city's own staff determined the revised proposal to be suitable for the area. On Sept. 1, the court ordered the city to reconsider the application.
Monday night's approval came at a cost. Jannatkhah agreed to further concessions proposed by council members, including reducing operating hours from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.