A controversial zoning application for a liquor package store near Interstate 575 in Holly Springs was recommended for denial, nearly seven months after it was introduced to city staffers.
Holly Springs Planning and Zoning Commission heard pleas from applicant Vincent Infanti on Thursday night to approve his conditional use permit for a proposed liquor store at the site of an abandoned Shell gas station at 700 Sixes Road. The application was tabled and put on hold since February when staff members discovered taxes, liens and other monies owed to the city of Holly Springs, the state, Georgia Lottery and other vendors have not been paid by the property owner.
“We’ve done everything on our end to take care of Holly Springs’ taxes and paperwork and everything else,” Infanti said. “So it’s now in the hands of the two attorneys, that’s where we’re at.”
At last month’s meeting, Infanti again asked the city officials to table his application until the taxes were paid. The Shell station was in the process of being demolished in preparation for Infanti’s “high-end package store” which “looks like a country store from the outside.”
He told city planners that his corporate attorney for the project was in a meeting with the city attorney drafting documentation for mediation, and he could not get in touch with either attorney before the meeting Thursday.
When commission member Chris Adams asked for clarification, Infanti said the state had reached an agreement to settle liens placed against the property last month and all dues had been paid, but the Superior Court had not closed the files and released funds to the parties owed.
“The people who are waiting for their money, Superior Court is not going to issue that money until they bring back the paperwork that says they’re releasing the lien, everything else that they could put into the computer system and then cut the funds,” he said. “The funds are sitting there at Superior Court. All the money is sitting there.”
Roughly $147,000 was paid and needs to be dispersed between three people, Infanti said.
“That’s everything out on the table,” he said. “So there’s nobody trying to run away from a bill, there’s nobody trying to run away from a debt, the money’s there. Everybody’s just got to do their part. That was a four and a half hour meeting in Cartersville with all the attorneys from all the different sections, Superior Court judge, everybody. It was settled, it’s just now, come back with your paperwork, fill out the proper documents and let the superior court document it in the computer system.”
Nancy Moon, the city’s community development director, said she had received documentation that city taxes unpaid since 2008, as well as fees and penalties that had accrued, had been paid by the applicant. However, she said city staff could still not recommend approval since there had been no evidence the state taxes and other liens in place had been paid.
“At the last meeting, we tabled this because we didn’t have all of that information taken care of,” she said. “So I still don’t have proof of that and I guess they’re meeting with that, but until I have that, I can’t recommend anything else but denial at this point.”
Infanti first revealed his plans for a liquor store in Holly Springs late last year, and amended his plans in January to include an adjacent property. He said he hopes to open a higher-end restaurant that serves steak and seafood in a multi-tenant building next door.
However, the plans for a liquor store close to a historic community and interstate has been met with opposition from many Sixes residents. Several have voiced concerns at past meetings about robberies, criminal activity and vagrants pouring into the area off I-575, including Debra Frieden, who has opposed the plans since it was first brought to the commission in November 2016.
“I would think that this CUP application, if they were seriously interested, they would have their documents and taxes and everything else in order by now,” she said to the commission. “It’s been about six months. I don’t know how much more time the employees should have to spend on this for someone who’s not interested in moving their own boat along.”
At past meetings Frieden has spoken her concern about one of the business partners for the proposed liquor store, the owner of the abandoned Shell gas station.
Numerous citations were issued to the station when it was open for selling alcohol to minors. City records show its liquor license was suspended for 90 days in 2008 after its third offense.
Frieden said records showed the store’s property taxes were past due each year since 2008, and the gas station’s owner was issued a bench warrant after failing to show up in municipal court. She asked Thursday night for the commission to finally deny Infanti’s application.
“I don’t think that this particular applicant is good for the city or the citizens in it,” she said. “I think they would run their business the way that they’ve run this application.”
In response to Frieden’s comments, Infanti said he was serious about the project and more than $300,000 had already been invested into the plans.
“I really do thank you and appreciate the amount of time and considerations you have taken in this project,” he said to the commission. “But we’ve just finally now got to that point where we can get all the pertinent information, and that’s what the two attorneys are doing right now.”
Adams made a motion to deny the application, given that not all the documents were present. The commission voted unanimously to deny the application with city staff’s recommendation.
The application will appear before the Holly Springs City Council at its work session meeting July 3, Adams said. He said the planning and zoning commission was just a recommending body and the final decision on the matter would be decided by city council members.
“City council will make their final and binding decision, they can approve it or deny it,” he said. “They can follow our recommendation, or go the other way. At this point, just where we are, we can’t really recommend approval. If they have all the information that satisfies what we need, then they could possibly go the other way. That’s the reality.”
After the vote, Infanti said he would submit the documents to the city as soon as he received them.
Frieden said she was happy with the commission’s decision and said she hoped to appear at the city council work session. Her concern, she said, is the new liquor store would run its business the way the previous Shell gas station had.
“I think the facts speak for themselves,” she said. “I prefer not having a package store that close to a cancer treatment center, the landmark of the Mill, WellStar, the aquatic center and all of the neighborhoods. I don’t think it’s a good fit for that pocket.”
The Holly Springs City Council will gather July 3 for a work session meeting in the Holly Springs Public Safety Building at 3237 Holly Springs Parkway.