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Supporter's Surprise Vote
Dooms Highrise On Square

Just when it looked as though the proposed highrise on Marietta Square would finally be approved, a supporter's vote ultimately doomed the project once again. The final tally was 4-3, with three members of the Board of Review not voting.

Tom Browning, the recently-appointed chairman and an outspoken proponent, sided with opponents on the Board when they asked that two members, restauranteur David Reardon and newly-seated member Wes Godwin, be forbidden to vote on the highrise due to what they believed was a conflict of interest because the two leased buildings from entities owned or controlled by the Goldstein family.

The vote was 5-4 on making Reardon and Godwin ineligible, dooming the highrise because the two were supporters and could not vote. That gave opponents of the highrise enough votes to defeat the proposal.

For a while, however, it looked as though the building would get the go ahead from the Board of Review.

Longtime member Kirk Dempsey's seat was declared empty because he had been sitting on the Board for two years without being re-appointed. The person responsible for keeping track of members' terms, Mayor Ansley Meaders, never informed the Board that Kirk's term expired in 1998.

That opened the way for a new member of the Board. Member Paula Goldstein Shea, daughter of the highrise's applicant, nominated Wes Godwin who was elected by a vote of 5-4. Opponents' faces looked long and drawn, expecting the final vote would okay the highrise because Godwin was believed to be a supporter.

The Mayor, who is suppose to keep track of members' terms, seemed to be readying herself for a barrage of criticism over the next few days because her negligence caused one seat to be turned over to someone who would vote in favor.

But Godwin never got the chance to vote on the proposal because he and David Reardon were soon ruled ineligible because of an alleged conflict of interest.

Cobb County Chairman Bill Byrne, a board member, questioned the ethics of Reardon and Godwin voting. The Board's attorney said the city's ordinance forbids votes when members have some kind of financial gain on pending issues. Both Godwin and Reardon are tenants in buildings owned by entities controlled by the Goldstein family. Both insisted they would make no financial gain as a result of supporting the highrise.

"If that is not real it is a perceived conflict of interest," Byrne, who had ethics problems last year. The Cobb Chairman said it was nothing personal against Reardon and Godwin.

Byrne and Mayor Meaders called for a vote on the question and highrise proponent Browning surprised everyone by voting to declare the two ineligible.

That's when opponents on the Board and in the audience of about 200 people knew the building was once again doomed. Some in the crowd left the meeting, already knowing the votes were there to defeat it.

The meeting continued with the attorney for the building's applicant, Mary Goldstein, addressing the Board, trying to note all the positive things the highrise would bring to the square. Four members of the audience were then allowed to speak, all voiced their objections to the building, including Patti Pearlberg who had lead a petiton drive to stop its approval and construction.

Pearlberg, during her speech, insisted that people in the audience shop and eat on the square. This goes counter to most merchants downtown who say they seldom have customers from the old neighborhoods where opposition to the highrise was centered.

The audience seemed to be from the west side of Marietta, there didn't seem to be any representation from east Marietta, nor the large African-American communities and the growing Hispanic community. Some proponents of the building said for weeks the effort against the proposal was coming from the west side of town only and didn't represent the feelings of the rest and possibility a majority of the city.

Interestingly absent was any one person or group that would speak in favor of the highrise. No one asked to speak and it wasn't known if any were in the audience. The Downtown Marietta Business Association had gone on record in favor of the highrise during one of its own meetings, because the group felt it would improve business, but no member spoke. The president of the Business Association did not attend.

Jimmy Duvlaris, a Board of Review member and restauranteur on the Square, spoke when the discussion was opened to members. He tried to convey to the Board that business was so bad on the square that merchants were having a hard time keeping up with simple repairs and asked the members to approve the highrise as a way to help them.

Then it was time for the 10-member Board of Review to vote on the actual question of building the highrise. Already a foregone conclusion, the final vote was 4-3 against, with Paul Goldstein Shea abstaining because of family conflict of interest and because of Reardon and Godwin being earlier declared ineligible to vote.

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