Holly Springs City Council members voted unanimously Monday night to deny a conditional use permit application request for a “high-end package store” on Sixes Road.
The request has caused friction in the local community since its first proposal last year and news of unpaid taxes and liens on the property.
The council followed recommendations from city staff and planning and zoning commission to deny the application because documentation stating taxes and liens placed on the property were paid but not available for staff review.
Applicant Vincent Infanti asked city council members in the Holly Springs Public Safety Building to approve the conditional use permit in order to move the project planned for 700 Sixes Road forward. He said the three partners involved with the business have an escrow account with a “sufficient amount of money” to pay the taxes and liens in question.
Infanti said the partners could not access the escrow account until a loan for the property was signed for, which would require the approved conditional use permit before a bank could grant it.
“You already approved this six months ago, and then the tax issue came up, and then everybody pulled the breaks,” he said. “Everybody was, ‘Yes, let’s do this, let’s do this, let’s do this’ - all of a sudden there’s a dollar value. We have a way to pay the dollars. We have it. But we can’t touch it, until we get an approval and that’s where we’re at.”
Development Director Nancy Moon said at the last work session meeting, information requested by city staff concerning proof the taxes and liens for the property in question were satisfied were unavailable for review.
“The attorney for this applicant did submit a letter to you,” she said. “That identifies the funds currently still owed, as well as when those might be satisfied.”
Prior to the city council meeting, a lawyer representing Jayesh Patel—the owner of the abandoned Shell gas station and property at 700 Sixes Road—J. Daran Burns, wrote a letter addressed to Mayor Steven Miller, City Manager Robert Logan and Moon, according to city documents.
In the letter, Burns wrote he has been working with the Georgia Department of Revenue to determine the exact tax lien calculations, which are currently estimated at $207,698.90.
“I will be attempting to negotiate a settlement amount, but at this point cannot approximate any potential reduction,” the letters reads. “However, on behalf of the client, he will attest and affirm that the entire amount required to satisfy any and all outstanding tax liens initiated by the Georgia Department of Revenue, will and shall be paid upon approval of planning and zoning for conditional use permit for the property referenced.”
Burns said in the letter outstanding tax liens will be paid using funds from financing loan disbursement on first draw.
Infanti said if the council approved the permit request, he would take the approval letter to Burns, “in five days money will be deposited” and the partners could access the escrow account to pay the funds owed. He said these steps would be “cut and dry.”
“As you can see, there’s a dollar value towards that revenue,” Infanti said about the letter. “No one in the world could come up with that kind of money without the loan.”
Several Holly Springs residents have expressed their concerns about the proposed liquor store because of Patel being tied to the deal.
During his time as a the Shell owner, Patel has allowed taxes, liens and other monies owed to the city of Holly Springs, the state, Georgia Lottery and other vendors go unpaid, according to court documents obtained by the Cherokee Tribune.
In addition to the financial struggles, numerous citations were issued to the Shell gas station when it was still operating for selling alcohol to minors. City records show its liquor license was suspended for 90 days in 2008 after its third offense.
Aside from owning the land in question, Infanti said Patel “has nothing to do with this site.”
“This other group is taking and building this project, and when this project is built, Mr. Patel is going to take a sum of money. Mr. Patel goes this way and the group has their property there.”
More than $4,000 in state taxes on the property are still unpaid as of Tuesday, according to a 2016 property tax statement with the Cherokee County Tax Commissioner’s Office.
Infanti brought his ideas for a liquor store that “looks like a country store from the outside” to the city’s planning and zoning commission in November 2016.
Council members tabled the permit application in December 2016 at Infanti’s request to amend his plans to include an adjacent property for a restaurant space. The current zoning allows him to open a restaurant, according to Moon. He said he hopes to open a higher-end restaurant that serves steak and seafood in a multi-tenant building next door.
Shortly after, city staff members discovered the unpaid taxes and liens on the property in February.
The planning and zoning commission officially denied a recommendation for approval in early June after physical documentation for paid taxes and liens on the Sixes Road property were not submitted and the application had been tabled by the applicant numerous times.
Infanti said at Monday night’s meeting the taxes issue could have been worked out during the past five months and it was always a plan to use other funds in order to pay the monies owed.
“There are no Cherokee County taxes owed,” he said. “There are no Holly Springs taxes owed. We’re already approved by Cherokee County Sewer and Water on the site. We’re already approved by DOT on the site, for the deceleration lane. Everything is approved. We need you. This is what we need.”
Until all taxes were paid, Infanti said the partners would not ask for any land or building permits from the city.
“I need you guys,” he said. “I really truly need you guys. I need you guys to come through tonight.”