On June 20th, 2016, Councilman Steve Broadbent made the motion to approve the apartment complex that is currently under construction on Medlock Bridge Rd & Bell Rd. It came before council under guise of a lawsuit, and there was no legal notice for the zoning hearing. Councilman Jay Lin described himself as “Very close to the Real Estate industry”. He seconded the motion.
Broadbent cited concerns on spending potentially $100K for litigation fees in court for the case. (Ironically, in the very same meeting Broadbent gave an update on his pet project the ‘Strategic Economic Development Plan’ (SEDP) which has cost the City well over $100K on just 2 consultants…)
During the Zoning Hearing, Community Development Director Sharon Ebert described the development distinctly and how it will have a “2 level structured parking garage which will include 225 parkings spaces in addition to 50 surface or on site parking to a total 275 parking spaces”. Mrs. Ebert also stated there will be a 2200 square ft restaurant & 300 square ft yoga studio, both open to the public.
City Council voted 5-2 to approve these specific plans below, along with adopting this Ordinance document.
Approved Apartment Complex:
- Mayor Mike Bodker
- Steve Broadbent
- Jay Lin
- * Cori Davenport
- * Bob Gray
*Not on Current Council
Denied Apartment Complex:
- Stephanie Endres
- Lenny Zaprowski
Below are the site plans submitted by the developer "Norsouth Development" & Approved by City Council
Apartment Complex Permit Questions
Below are the building permit plans approved by the Community Development Director.
This is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from what City Council Approved.
Where the original plan was more natural space and landscaping, the current plan submitted for Permitting, is nearly all paved.
The Parking Garage has disappeared.
A double lane, perimeter road, now circles the entire facility. Parking spots engulf every available area. Will Seniors be able to back in and out of these tiny spots every day?
Surprisingly, this “Senior Living” Facility has only 7 handicap parking spaces TOTAL!
Pink = Setback
We’ve highlighted in Pink what appears to be ~47 parking spots in the Setbacks.
Below is from the City of Johns Creek Zoning Code of Ordinance: 18.3.1.No off-street parking shall be permitted within the required setback for the front yard and the side corner yard.
Yellow = Parking Lot Landscaping
We’ve highlighted in Yellow what appears to be ~87 parking spots are missing Landscaped Islands.
Below is from the City of Johns Creek, Zoning Code of Ordinance: 4.23.3.
Parking lot landscaping. At-grade, non-single-family parking lots shall provide minimum 10-foot wide landscape islands at the end of each parking bay, and a 10-foot wide landscape island every 6th parking space.
Concurrent Variances Approved...But Wait?!
City Council also gave special consideration and approved eliminating 40 ft landscaping strip on Medlock Bridge Rd and 25 ft strip on Bell Rd. This allowed the developer to squeeze the complex into the parcel.
- Does eliminating the landscaping strip, allow the developer to place parking into the setback?
- What about the south side of the parcel? The developer did not request a variance for near the storage facility and the majority of the 32 parking spots in the setback (in pink) are there.
Bizarre Zoning Application & Land Transactions
What makes this zoning case so unusual, the company that sued the City, Norsouth Development, is the not the Company who filed the permits to develop the property, Sojourn Johns Creek Venture Partners. Sojourn’s managing members are Richard Aaronson & David Dixon. David Dixon registered the LLC, and we found Richard Aaronson’s name buried in attached deeds to the property.
As soon as the permits were issued on 11/10/17, Sojourn Johns Creek Venture Partners sold the parcel to another LLC managed by Richard Aaronson & David Dixon, to Bell Road Venture Partners LLC.
With this transaction as the ‘current owner’, Aaronson’s name is listed on this LLC publicly and his Atlantic Realty Partners is now currently preparing the apartment complex for marketing for rental for prospective tenants. It is expected to open this spring 2019.
Developer was embroiled in investigation with Mayor Bodker
If there is 1 person responsible in Johns Creek for the amount of high density development in this area, we can all look toward Richard Aaronson. He has developed the entire western side of Medlock Bridge Rd, from Abbotts Bridge up to the Standard Club. He was even the applicant for the HUD apartment complex (Hearthside) across the way, that Mayor Bodker & Norsouth Development toted as an accomplishment during this rezoning hearing.
In 2013 City Council launched an investigation on Mayor Bodker for possible ethics violations, including receiving reduced rent ($300 per month) at Johns Creek Walk as well as free use of a vacation home owned by Aaronson. Subsequently, Mayor Bodker voted favorably to rezone Johns Creek Walk II, which included that HUD apartment complex (Hearthside) we noted above.
Accepting a gratuity and then voting on a rezoning involving property owned by Aaronson is a violation of the city’s ethics code. In addition, Mayor Bodker allegedly violated the City Charter through abuse of powers by directing staff to issue occupancy permits for Johns Creek Walk, after the city denied the permits. The ethics investigation was canceled after the election by the swing votes of Lenny Zaprowski & Cori Davenport upon their immediate swearing into office.
Developer & Owner Campaign Donations to Mayor Bodker
Both managing members of Sojourn Johns Creek Venture Partners donated to Mayor Mike Bodker. Only David Dixon’s campaign contribution was reported on the original zoning application, as required.
Other Established Relationships on Council
Councilman Steve Broadbent is on the Fulton County Development Authority. It was only a few months (3/2016) prior to this vote he saw Richard Aaronson regarding a Letter of Inducement for the issuance of an astounding $50,000,000 in taxable revenue bonds. This wasn’t the first time either ($84,000,000 taxable bond in 2014)…
Mr. Aaronson himself came to the meeting and discussed the community input. In contrast, that is something Johns Creek has lacked from him, with all of his development activities here…
Below is a snippet from the Fulton County Development Authority meeting minutes.
Apartment Complex Permit Questions Remain...
Where are the traffic improvements that was promised for Bell Rd & 141 intersection? They were to be implemented before the development, which is now slated to open in Spring 2019. Empty promises on congestion relief?
Why did City Staff feel so compelled to approve permits for plans that are so different from what City Council approved?
Likewise, at what point did City Council voting decisions become irrelevant in zoning cases?
Was saving the developer an estimated $4million dollars from constructing a parking garage, a consideration for City Staff, when approving these permits?
Was additional impervious space added to development?
Finally, was the City zoning ordinances overlooked, when issuing the Permits?
When did Mayor Bodker realize his longtime friend Richard Aaronson was involved in this apartment complex development?
Had Richard Aaronson been an applicant, would Mayor Bodker recuse himself?
Mayor Bodker has missed several City Council meetings and town halls lately. Has he been vacationing at Richard Aaronson’s home, again?
Lastly, did Mayor Bodker violate the City Charter through abuse of powers by directing staff to issue these permits?
Sources: Fulton County Property Records, Fulton County Deeds Office, City of Johns Creek, Fulton County Development Authority, WSB-TV & Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.