By M.J. Subiria Arauz
It wasn't a normal council meeting for the City of Lovejoy.
About 100, outraged Hampton residents gathered inside Lovejoy City Hall.
Resident after resident stepped up to the podium before Lovejoy councilmembers, to voice their concerns about a sign that advertised the coming of a Shell gas station. The sign was posted on the corner of McDonough Road and Panhandle Road, in Hampton.
If the gas station is built, it will be located directly across from Tiny Treasures Early Childhood Development, at 1513 McDonough Road, in Hampton. The proposed gas station will also be near a church, Lovejoy High School, and various subdivisions, according to residents.
Residents argued that the station would attract more crime, depreciate home values and increase garbage and debris in the area.
"Take it to Tara Boulevard," said Kim Jones Hunter, in an angry tone.
Betty Huger said she lives in the Pebble Ridge subdivision, which can be accessed from McDonough Road. She said the subdivision will be near the gas station, and is near Lovejoy city limits. She said she believes the gas station will increase crime in the area. Children are already getting initiated into gangs, she said, and this could make it worse. She said her son was attacked in the area by 12 young men, in June 2010.
She said the gas station will attract troubling youths, since it will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "If they find a place that is open all night, that is what they are going to do," said Huger.
She said it may also attract unruly, drunk adults. "We have enough service stations already."
"I feel the concerns of all these people," responded Lovejoy Mayor Joe Murphy.
Marci Fluellyn, a Lovejoy councilwoman, said there are no official plans for a Shell gas station to be built. The proper paperwork should have been submitted to the city, before the sign advertising the station was placed on the property. "They haven't submitted paperwork to the city for something to be built there, yet," she said.
Sonya Barge, owner of Tiny Treasures Early Childhood Development, said she first saw the sign, on May 16. She said it is not displayed anymore, and she is unsure when the sign was removed.
Lovejoy officials said the property, which is more than 3 acres in size, was annexed about three months ago. The city acquired it from Clayton County, they explained.
According to Sebastian Jackson, Lovejoy's city manager, Steve Reeves, of S.J. Reeves & Associates, represented the property during the annexation procedure. Jackson said he is not certain if Reeves is the developer of the proposed gas station. According to the Better Business Bureau's web site, www.bbb.org, Reeves' company is located in Zebulon, Ga., and offers land service, land planning and subdivision design.
"They [S.J. Reeves & Associates] are supposed to bring the architectural design plans to the council, which is what we request of anyone who wants to build something in the city," said Lovejoy Councilwoman Rebekah Holland Wright. "We will approve, or not approve of the landscape and design. [But] ... we haven't gotten anything from him [Reeves]."
Wright said Reeves attended a council meeting a couple of months ago, where he was informed of the proper procedures he needed to follow.
"I am not going to say it was illegal for him to do that [place a sign on the property], but it was not a practical move to do anything like that without first going through the proper procedure to get the plans approved for that site," said Murphy. "It was premature."
Murphy said Reeves will have to abide by guidelines in the zoning stipulations that protect schools, churches and daycare centers. "All that will be taken into consideration when they present this to us," he said.
Reeves could not be reached for comment.
Murphy said transportation was also a concern of Hampton residents, during the meeting. Over the next 10 years, McDonough Road will have a total of four lanes. He said the city has already seen the architectural drawings of the Georgia Department of Transportation and The Transportation and Development Department of Clayton County.
"That is going to take care of a lot of traffic concerns that were involved here tonight," he said.
Murphy said he will research the property's history, though he is aware it was a residential property for about 20 years. He said it remained a vacant residential property for several years.
"We just came through the biggest housing bubble in the history of the United States, and it was not developed as a residential unit at that time ... I, personally, don't think there is a person out here that will buy that property and build a house on it," he said.
Dale Millican, of Hampton, said he and another resident assisted in gathering residents to the city council meeting, on Monday. He said he is not pleased with the proposed gas station, and the "negative impact" it will have on the community. "I am disappointed," said Millican.