Summerville Park neighbors Carol Greissinger and Eric McDowell appeared before the Rome City Commission Monday evening, seeking some sort of assistance in stopping the planned Sleep Inn from building on Martha Berry and Charlton Street.
The hotel, with 52 rooms and three stories planned, has the needed zoning. The neighborhood successful challenged a bid by the developer to forgo a sidewalk that was required by the city but that did nothing to stop the overall project.
Greissinger, who lives on Robin Street, spoke first. She detailed what she says was an error by the city in rezoning a home at 2 Charlton Street years ago, a move that is allowing the Sleep Inn hotel to encroach into the neighborhood. She details the other hotels — some in rough shape — already in the area, related crime concerns and the petition signed by 600 people opposing the project.
She cited the community’s historic family atmosphere and heritage designation, having been built in 1913. The home at 2 Charlton was built in 1918, she says, and faces demolition with the oaks on the property due to come down as well. “But help us, please, we need a solution” to what is planned, she said in closing to a loud round of applause.
Mayor Bill Collins, who lives in the area, thanked Greissinger and concurred with her assessment of the community, and praised her and other Summerville Park residents for continuing to fight. Commissioner Craig McDaniel said the commission is aware of the problems with the other hotels in the area and that he doubted any of the board was in favor of the hotel going into that location. But he also said the city doesn’t have a “magic wand” to reverse what has happened with the zoning.
Commissioner Wendy Davis said she’d “love” for the city to “dig into” what happened with the zoning in the first place. Davis says the best bet might be to focus on the developer and perhaps find a better location for the hotel.
Commissioner Evie McNiece said she recently spent time in a home in the community and experienced what Greissinger described to the board. McNiece says she wants a meeting with the neighborhood, city staff and the developer (Tony Patel) to seek an alternative or a compromise.
McDowell spoke following the commissioners and said time is critical. “There’s already stuff happening,” he told the commission.
At issue is debate over how a rezoning for property included in the hotel foot print was handed in the 1980s, taking in 2 Charlton St. as if it were fronting Martha Berry. The situation is somewhat similar to development along Turner McCall and potential encroachment into East Rome neighborhoods. Residents there have repeatedly been vocal and successful in turning back such bids — but in this case, the property already has the required zoning.
That might be a point worth litigating if the neighbors want to get the City Commission’s and administration’s full attention. This also is an election year where six city commissioners are up for new terms. Summerville Park is in Ward Three where Collins as well as commissioners McDaniel and McNiece are seeking new terms. Voters throughout the city vote in all the commission races.
The Facebook page for the neighborhood is filled with testimonials from longtime residents as well as pleas to Atlanta television stations for coverage. A better idea, perhaps, is an immediate voter registration drive among Summerville Park residents to ensure they have a louder voice in the Nov. 5 election.