Last week, I put up a very long post entitled “Glock, Nimbys, and Land Use Planning.” In the post, I examined Glock’s request for variancs to the City of Smyrna’s stream buffer ordinance. It is worth going back and reading to understand the roadblocks that opponents to a manufacturing plant’s expansion – especially those in the firearms industry – will seek to employ.
Since that post, I have had a chance to read the draft minutes from the August 2nd Smyrna City Council meeting as well as the staff reports from the City’s community development department. In addition, I stumbled across a website set up by the opponents to this expansion called http://www.blockglock.com/.
First, let us examine the staff reports which can be found here and here. The reports detail the request by Glock, they analyze what standards apply to the stream in question, and then look at whether the Glock request meets the criteria required for granting of a variance. The reports also show pictures of the outskirts of the area in question. As I said in my earlier post, the water drainage impacted by Glock’s site prep and construction flows downhill away from the homeowners who are protesting.
In both variance requests, the City staff said:
Community Development has reviewed the request against the variance review standards and found it to be in compliance with three (4) of the four (4) standards.
The City staff recommended the approval of both variances with conditions. The conditions included a 1:1 ratio of mitigation for the encroachment into the buffer zones. This mitigation could be either on-site or elsewhere. No land grading or site prep could proceed until a separate mitigation plan was presented and approved. On Variance 10-019 which encroached upon what are called “state waters”, Glock would also be required to get the requisite state approvals before proceeding.
Neighborhood opponents set up a website, http://www.blockglock.com/ , to help marshall the opposition to Glock’s expansinon and the needed variances. They said the purpose of the website was:
This website is intended to provide up to the minute information on the ongoing battle between residents, Glock, and Smyrna City Hall over whether Glock should be permitted to expand their manufacturing facilities to within 50 feet of a residential subdivision.
Residential subdivisions and manufacturing plants just don’t fit together for a lot of reasons, including safety, security, aesthetics, property value, and quality of life. For some reason, the City of Smyrna decided to zone heavily wooded and steep land off a residential road as “light industrial” instead of residential. Instead of recognizing the utter ridiculousness of this zoning, the City instead is proceeding to allow Glock to develop the land into a massive manufacturing compound under the theory of “well, it’s zoned light industrial and so they can do what they want with their property.”
Citizens throughout Smyrna need to recognize that our current City Council is more concerned with helping boost industrial development than in protecting the quality of life of the residents. It is untenable that the City could permit this type of zoning without considering the impact on its residents.
NOTE: This is NOT an anti-gun site. The majority of residents involved in this issue have no problems with guns, the 2nd Amendment, or gun manufacturing. The problem is with the location of the gun manufacturing facility so very close to residential neighborhoods of young families.
It should be noted here that the Glock factory opened in 1987. Most of the houses in the adjoining neighborhoods were not built until 2001 or later during the height of the building boom in suburban Atlanta. The land where the Glock factory sits and where it wants to expand have always been zoned Light Industrial.
The opponents state that they have environmental concerns about the grading and tree cutting. They also note that “Variances take away our community’s basic protections for the benefit of a single landowner.” They then make the suggestion that Glock use other vacant buildings or vacant shopping centers for their expansion. Of course, this latter suggestion ignores the utility of having manufacturing in one location as well as the security concerns given it is a firearms manufacturer.
City Council Meeting
On August 2nd, the Smyrna City Council heard both variance requests and approved both of them by a 7-0 vote. With few exceptions, the testimony of the area residents was against the variances for Glock while the testimony of staff and a representative from the Chamber of Commerce were in favor of them. As these are only draft minutes, I won’t quote any one individual. However, the residents generally opposed it because a) it would cause flooding; b) trees would be cut down; c) there would be construction traffic and construction workers; and d) it would lower the value of their property.
In testimony by the City Engineer, he noted that Glock was providing a 5 acre permanently dedicated greenspace as a 2:1 mitigation for the encroachment upon the stream buffers. He also noted in response to a question from a member of the council that if Glock wasn’t given the variances, Glock could reconfigure their plans so as not to need a variance and that would cause greater problems downstream.
The council approved the variance requests with the following stipulations:
- A 1:1 mitigation for encroachment
- Glock would provide a flagman or crossing guard in front of the Wetherbrooke Subdivision for one hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon when school children would be moving about.
- A Landscape Oversight Committee composed of a Glock representative and a representative from the HOA would review all landscape plans. A representative from the Community Development Department would be an ex-officio member and could vote in cases of ties.
- Any proposed or future Glock buildings visible from the Wetherbrooke Subdivision must have a brick facade.
- Glock must use low-intensity lighting that would prevent illumination of the Wetherbrooke Subdivision.
- The condition of the construction access road, Camp Highland Rd, should be assessed in advance and a maintenance plan approved by the City Engineer to correct any damages caused by construction traffic.
- The gate at the end of Camp Highland Road should only be accessible by Smyrna emergency vehicles outside of times of construction.
- Approval must be received for any disturbance of any “State Waters” and presented to the City Engineer prior to beginning grading in those areas.
In my opinion, Glock got their needed variances because they were willing to accept the stipulations and because they were willing to compromise on their project to meet the city’s concerns. Moreover, it was obvious to at least the Mayor that the HOA was trying to “shake down” Glock for a park and a $150,000 non-refundable damage “contribution”.