Citizen Group, Smart Smyrna, Opposed to Proposed Downtown Brewery
In December, over 100 members of the community, both supporters and opponents filled a town hall meeting to learn about the proposed brewery for downtown Smyrna. Supporters said a brewery would help breathe new life into downtown, while opponents criticized the location, saying it was inappropriate, given its proximity to the community center. They also cried foul on the sale of city-owned land to StillFire, which was not advertised to the public as being available for purchase.
On Tuesday citizens on both sides will be in the meeting where the sale of this acre of city-owned land to Suwanee’s StillFire Brewing will come before the City Council. Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton, who has thrown his support behind the brewery, is “cautiously optimistic” the City Council will approve the sale.
The brewery is part of Norton’s effort to remake Smyrna’s downtown area, but his plan has proven to be a controversial one, starting with the sale of the land to StillFire Brewing. Not so fast says opponents who allege StillFire was given a sweetheart deal by Smyrna on the land, which had not been advertised as being available for purchase. They say the location itself would have prompted a number of companies, beyond the brewery, to consider locating a family-friendly business in that location.
Norton, described as an outspoken supporter of the plan, is going up against Smart Smyrna, a group founded last summer to oppose his downtown redesign. The group issued a news release Thursday asking city residents to call their council members and demand they “oppose the rushed vote,” a move that would “give more time to resolve major issues and address the many concerns raised by citizens.”
Presented to the public in December, the brewery plan called for a three-story, 28,000-square-foot facility without a kitchen of its own, with food trucks on-site for hungry patrons. Since then, plans have been scaled down to a two-story, 15,000- or 16,000-square-foot facility with a permanent kitchen offering pizza by the slice “or something similar,” according to Norton. It will still host food trucks, the mayor added.
According to city documents, the .94 acre parcel will be sold, with council approval, for $600,000. City attorney Scott Cochran said in December the land had been appraised at about $600,000 per acre. The city’s economic development director, Andrea Worthy, is taking credit for identifying the acre beside the city’s community center as an ideal location for the brewery after StillFire owner Aaron Bisges approached her looking for land downtown Smyrna. The City Council gave Worthy permission to consider leasing the land.
Smart Smyrna points to other concerns including the lack of an environmental review as well as critical questions that are unanswered, such as “noise, lights, traffic, pollution, and water issues” says Kathy Omaits, a city resident and member of Smart Smyrna.
The opposition group has the support of two of the seven council members, Charles “Corkey” Welch and Susan Wilkinson. Both have voiced their opposition to the brewery and the larger downtown redesign. Norton does not get a vote on the issue unless there is a tie vote, but he believes the council will approve the sale. Smart Smyrna is hoping the Council will not.
Citizens interested in this issue should make plans now to attend this meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 18th at Smyrna City Hall in the Council Chambers.