Months of working the phones in an attempt to relocate a historic building targeted for demolition have ended on a somber note.
The Cherokee County Historical Society said its campaign to save the historic Bell's Store in the Buffington community has failed, paving the way for a developer to demolish the structure for a new gas station.
The organization initially asked the new owner, Jim Rollins of Macon, to incorporate the building into plans for the new Flash Foods convenience store with gas sales. When those talks broke down, the historical society began to scout for nearby properties where they could relocate the structure.
Several property owners came forward "with interest in taking the building, but ultimately these options failed due to logistics and the costs involved," Executive Director Stefanie Joyner said in a statement.
"The Historical Society would like to thank the many people who were involved in trying to save Bell’s Store, and hopes to bring these people together in the coming months to look at options for other historic sites in the future," Joyner added.
Bell's Store, which sits at 4864 Cumming Highway, is home to Cherokee Market Farm Fresh Produce, whose owner Lisa Meyer has been battling Rollins' plans to boot her off the property in favor of the new development. A petition was created and many in the community rallied around Meyer, but the property owners and Rollins prevailed.
Rollins has closed on the property, and Meyer said she has to be out of the store by June 30 when her lease expires.
The society will begin photographing and documenting the interior and exterior of Bell's Store before it's demolished, Joyner said. Its history has already been documented in the book "Buffington and Macedonia in Days Gone By" by W.F. Bell.
To preserve some artifacts from Bell's Store, and as an effort to start up a fund for future preservation projects, the organization will also obtain some of exterior bricks from Bell's Store.
Joyner said the historical society would like to use the bricks as a fundraiser to start an endangered properties preservation fund, an idea put forth by Board President Jeff Brown of Canton.
Anyone who wishes to contribute can purchase a commemorative brick, which will be engraved with the donor's name and placed at at new courtyard at the Rock Barn in Canton. Volunteers will be needed to clean the bricks and assist with moving them off-site, Joyner stated.
Bell's Store and its inevitable destruction will not be an isolated incident, according to the society. The organization feels the store's fate will be repeated in the coming years throughout Cherokee County.
“We’re not against development and progress; we would just like to see some of Cherokee County’s historic buildings incorporated into new construction, such as the Silos in Crabapple," Joyner added. "Including a little bit of history with new developments will only enhance our communities while retaining some of the character that differentiates Cherokee County from other Atlanta suburbs.”
For more information, to possibly purchase a commemorative brick or help with the project, contact Joyner at (770) 345-3288 or email@example.com.
There is a small window of light at the end of the tunnel for Meyer. She petitioned Cherokee County to rezone 1.2 acres at 11609 and 11611 Cumming Highway from light industrial and residential to general commercial.
One parcel — 11609 Cumming Highway — currently contains a house, and the commission voted to rezone that parcel from residential to office and institution while the other parcel — which has a vacant building — was granted the general commercial rezoning. The commission also imposed a condition that any form of outdoor barbecuing can't occur more than one day per month.
Meyer was hoping to rezone the entire land to general commercial, but faced opposition from adjacent residents who did not want to see the vacant home turned into a retail use or to smell barbecue on a daily basis.
Currently, Scott Boys BBQ sets up shop next door to Cherokee Fresh Market, and cooks outdoors on a daily basis. The company has not committed to moving along with Meyer to the new location.
Meyer was lukewarm about the commissioners' decision, and said she's unsure about what her plans are.
"I’ve got a lot to think about," she said.
District 1 Commissioner Harry Johnston said Meyer should be at least somewhat pleased with the board's decision. The general commercial rezoning will allow her to relocate to the new place if she wants, which appeared to be the most important goal in ensuring her business stays in Cherokee County.