Judge blocks Stony Point apartments

A Georgia-based developer will have to back off a major Stony Point apartment project – at least for now.

Local neighborhood associations won a court-ordered temporary injunction last week barring Taubman Centers from selling Stony Point land to Atlanta-based Wood Partners for a 282-unit apartment development. The Huguenot Farms Area Association, which represents about 250 residents in the Stony Point area, will return to circuit court in hopes of making that ban permanent.

“The complaint asks for permanent injunctive relief, to the extent that we would ask the court to prohibit Taubman from selling to Wood or anyone else for the purpose of developing that property as residential,” said Mark Shuford, a Spencer LLP attorney representing the neighborhood association.

Wood Partners plans to build a four-building apartment project just northwest of the Dillard’s store at Stony Point Fashion Park. The 27-acre plot was reserved for an office and light retail use under the Stony Point Community Unit Plan.

But the city council and the planning commission voted in November to amend the plan to make way for the apartments.

The city council has changed Stony Point’s governing plan many times since it was first adopted 40 years ago.
But Shuford argued last week that the neighbors had their own agreement with Taubman to bar residential development onsite, regardless of council action.

“What the planning commission or city council might be inclined to do at any one time might be different than it would be 10, 20 or 30 years later,” he said. “Regardless of the political changes that might occur in city council or the planning commission, there was a direct agreement with the parties in terms of what uses they would allow.”

The Huguenot Farms association petitioned in court in May, saying that the land sale between Wood Partners and Taubman was scheduled to close within weeks. A judge granted the temporary injunction last week.

When city council considered the project, proponents said Wood Partners offered extended buffer zones to reduce the impact on surrounding neighborhoods, and a lighted office complex with sprawling parking lots could have been more intrusive than a residential development.

Representatives from several neighborhood associations countered that the apartment project’s density was excessive and the around-the-clock occupancy at a residential development would be less desirable than a 9-to-5 office park.

Other Stony Point-area neighborhood associations are working with the neighborhood association to permanently block the apartments in court. Gene Winter of the Saratoga Area Neighborhood Association, which represents an area just east of the Huguenot Farms, said there may be room for a compromise on the project, but Taubman has not attempted to negotiate a new development plan for the land

“Even if (the injunction) is upheld, we are open to voluntarily work with Taubman to amend the agreement or change it,” Winter said. “That would leave the door open for a variety of uses, which would include residential.”

Taubman Centers, a Michigan-based retail focused REIT, developed Stony Point Fashion Park about 11 years ago. The company announced plans to sell the mall earlier this month, but a Taubman spokesman said parcels of undeveloped land near the mall would not be included in that sale.

Carter Siegel, development director at Wood Partners, did not return a phone message requesting comment on firm’s development plans by press time. A hearing date for the community’s request to replace the temporary injunction with a permanent one has not yet been set.

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