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Trees Cut for Papa Johns

By Nancy Leighton
After months of delay, a building permit was issued on August 10 to build a new Papa Johns Pizza store at 1098 Moreland Avenue near the intersection of Moreland Avenue, Skyhaven Drive and East Confederate Avenue. The delay came about when nearby neighbor John Morse filed an appeal of the trees being cut for the project.
Mr. Morse went to the South Atlantans for Neighborhood Development (SAND) neighborhood organization to state his case. He said that the big beautiful trees were of great aesthetic value to the area. He pointed out that the intersection of Moreland, Skyhaven, and East Confederate is a very busy, confusing, and dangerous street crossing due to Skyhaven and East Confederate not entering Moreland at the same place. Having another business in that area with more curb cuts would add more congestion to the confusion and make it more dangerous. He also pointed out that the proposed Papa Johns would be a take-out only restaurant. He stated that we had enough take-out places and what we need is a neighborhood place where we can sit down to enjoy a meal. SAND members agreed with him and encouraged him to go ahead.
The appeal was successful with the Tree Commission but the property owner appealed it to the court. At the end of July a judge agreed with the owner and by August 10 the owner was granted his building permit. That permit allows the cutting of the trees that were marked by the arborist to proceed. By mid-August the trees were on the ground.
The property at 1098 Moreland Avenue is zoned Light Commercial (C-1). The permit to build on C-1 property also grants the right to cut trees to build an approved project. When the owner or builder submits plans for approval a city arborist goes out to the site to check that if the trees and the sizes shown on the plan matches what is actually there. The arborist also counts and measures the tree. These measurements will be used to charge the builder a tree recompense fee which will go into a fund to be used by the city to plant more trees which will in some way make up for the trees lost in construction.
When the leaves fell off the trees as winter came it was possible to see the trees on that site more clearly. Unfortunately the trees to be cut had many structural flaws. The huge oak tree had lost its leader 50 to 75 years ago. Below the broken part extra branches sprouted out and ever since stretched their way skyward. This created a basin effect at that spot in the tree. The basin could hold water when it rained and that water could cause rot, over the years the rot could work its way down through the whole tree causing it to be hollow and weak. The trees behind the big oak showed signs of limb breakage in the past, which could be a sign of failing tree health. The pretty conical evergreen in the front also had a flaw. Ten feet up from the ground a second main leader had formed. This could be seen as a “Y” formation in the branches destroying the ideal conical shape that tree should have.
All the street front property south of 1098 Moreland Avenue is zoned Light Commercial (C-1). In this zoning category any building must be built far enough back from the street to allow for parking between the building and the sidewalk, additional parking can be on the side or back. A drive down Moreland Avenue will reveal that every business follows this pattern. A sit-down restaurant requires a high ratio of parking places. A take-out place requires less parking places. This could be why the Papa Johns corporation decided to build only a take-out restaurant.
The problems seen in the Papa Johns case and the QuikTrip case have brought up a reconsideration of the Livable Communities Initiative (LCI) on Moreland Avenue. Meetings will be held throughout the community in September and October to consider rezoning everything on Moreland Avenue right away.
With the new Papa Johns in place the part of Moreland Avenue between Skyhaven and Vickers will become a kind of Pizza hub. The Pizza Hut next to Kroger, the recently opened Little Caesar’s Pizza at Vickers, and Papa Johns will be within a few thousand feet of each other.

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