Birrell: 2012 was a year of success for Cobb's District 3
by Jon Gillooly
December 31, 2012 12:39 AM | 4615 views | 11 11 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Northeast Cobb District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell (MDJ/ Laura Moon)
Northeast Cobb District 3 Commissioner JoAnn Birrell (MDJ/ Laura Moon)
NORTHEAST COBB — Looking back over 2012, Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said it was a great year for her community.

“A lot of accomplishments with the housing market, the way it’s coming back with eight new subdivisions alone under construction in District 3, and with the commercial, the businesses coming back, especially in the Canton Road area, and 92 and Sandy Plains, I think it’s been a very — there have been some challenges, but I think it’s been a very positive year and good economic year for us,” Birrell said.

Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman Tony Britton said he was pleased with Birrell’s leadership.

“I think JoAnn has just been very engaging in general to the community, to the business community specifically,” Britton said. “I know she’s had an awful lot of passion along the Canton Road corridor and the redevelopment of that and trying to help the business folks in that area, and from the Chamber’s standpoint I very much appreciate any effort, any engagement to help move business forward and help people be more successful as we work through the tough economic times we’ve been experiencing.”

Birrell’s district is bordered by Commissioner Bob Ott’s district to the south along Roswell Road and Commissioner Helen Goreham’s district to the west along Interstate 75. It also picks up a portion west of I-75 near Kennesaw Avenue in Marietta.

The 2010 census counted 171,932 people in Birrell’s district with 128,075 of them white and 23,389 black.

Eight-three percent of registered voters in her district are Republican, she said.

The first roundabout built in District 3 at Holly Springs and Davis roads this year is one accomplishment Birrell said she’s particularly happy about. The location was originally a four-way stop.

“You could see a line of cars backed up every morning and every afternoon,” she said. “With the roundabout now it is really helped with the traffic flow and alleviated a lot of the traffic and backup in that area.”

The $400,000 cost, originally budgeted in the SPLOST list for $4 million, came in significantly under budget because the county didn’t have to purchase right-of-way, she said.

Birrell said she’s also pleased with the opening of the Big Shanty Connector this year, a four-lane road that tunnels under Interstate 75 to link Chastain Road to Chastain Meadows.

“Big Shanty Connector has really helped with the traffic up in the KSU area, Town Center Mall area,” she said.

As Britton referenced, revitalizing the Canton Road area, an older, mostly commercial part of her district, has been another focus. Last year, the county government identified 38 commercial sites in Cobb that were either blighted or vacant and in need of redevelopment. Thirteen of those sites lie along Canton Road in District 3. Birrell formed a committee to target the problem made up of the area’s business and community leaders chaired by Frank Wingington, who also served this year as president of the Northeast Cobb Business Association.

The idea, Birrell said, is to “bring commercial back there and residential too, but to fill those voids where we have vacancies and businesses that have closed their doors and are run down and vacant.”

The group has filed to become a nonprofit named the Canton Road Redevelopment Foundation.

“Once they get their nonprofit status they will be able to go to the Development Authority of Cobb and ask for grant money to kind of be an additional incentive for businesses to come to Canton Road,” she said.

Birrell said she’s already seeing movement in the area with three of the 13 blighted locations being redeveloped.

One is the $3.8 million Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market, which is expected to open near the end of March at Canton and Blackwell roads.

“I think that’s going to really encourage others to come, not just to that shopping center where they are, but all along Canton Road,” Birrell said.

A closed car wash at the corner of Chance and Canton roads is reopening in February. And this month commissioners approved a zoning change to allow a furniture store to open by the Bay Breeze Seafood Restaurant on Canton Road.

Birrell said her goal is to see the area revitalized in the next two to four years.

“We’ve seen some progress already, and I really think once some of these other businesses come on board the market is getting better. It is turning around, both on the residential side and the commercial side. It’s just not going to happen overnight,” she said.

Another project on the redevelopment list is an empty shopping center at the corner of Sandy Plains and Highway 90 that was the site of a former Stein Mart. A $6.8 million movie complex is opening there later in the New Year, she said.

“And then there’s a Wal-Mart neighborhood market going in where the Kroger is at that same intersection, so that’s a really big positive for the commercial businesses sector up there,” she said.

This year Kaiser Permanente expanded its health center at Town Park adding 78,000 square feet at a cost of $47 million. The expansion, which opened in August, will add 100 new jobs.

Home Depot opened a new national call center at Chastain Meadows in October at a cost of $24 million, adding 700 new jobs.

And the Wash Barn on Canton Road brings an investment of $825,000 to the area which includes building renovations and 10 new jobs, she said.

Residential is also beginning to recover with eight subdivisions under construction in her district totaling more than $124.7 million in construction costs.

All four districts are receiving a number of new sidewalks. Birrell said most of the ones in her district are centered around the schools for safety.

One of the challenges Birrell said she faces is identifying money to develop Mabry Park, the 26 acres of undeveloped rolling pasture and woodlands the county owns. The property is set off from Wesley Chapel Road by two other lots, and while the county has an easement for access, it needs to build a road to the park at an estimated cost of $750,000.

Looking ahead, Birrell said she is excited about plans to build a “diverging diamond” interchange at Wade Green Road in Kennesaw like the one built this year at Ashford-Dunwoody Road over Interstate 285 in DeKalb County.

The $2.6 million diverging diamond is expected to open in late 2014.

“It alleviates traffic and helps the traffic flow getting on and off the interstates,” she said.

Birrell, who was first elected in 2010, said she’s enjoyed serving as a commissioner and intends to run again when her four-year term expires.

“I really enjoy what I do, and I feel like I’m accomplishing a lot in the district, and I hope I have the support of my constituents that think the same and want to keep me there,” she said.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
top cat
January 02, 2013
When did it become the government's job to create jobs? Especially Reppublicans should be against this.
Lady Love
December 31, 2012
I find that some people are so critical because they are not happy. People who look for faults in everybody or everything are usually jealous of the other people. Job well done, Commissioner Birrell. You are an asset to Cobb County.
JoEllen Smith
December 31, 2012
Commissioner Birrell is doing a great job and I'm happy that she will run again in two years. She is hard working, responsive to her constituents and committed to this community. All for a salary of under $20K per year, a good use of my tax money!
East Cobb Guy
December 31, 2012
Ms. Smith,

Cobb County Commissioners are paid over $40K for their part time jobs, not $20K.

Also I do not approve of public money going to private businesses. I worked on Canton Highway. Our landlord spent a great deal on improvements to get us to renew our lease. Those who did not improve their property lost their renters. Now the public is to bear the cost that should be borne by these property owners.
December 31, 2012
You certainly did have an awesome year, Commissioner Birrell, and you have a lot to be proud of. Wishing you even more success in 2013.

CJ in Acworth
December 31, 2012
I am glad to see the improvements and progress. Please keep up the great work and ignore all the naysayers!
Pat H
December 31, 2012
Commissioner Birrell, the right turn lane to Barnes Mill Road was eliminated, although it is a much used road to I75 North. Instead, Roswell Road now has a left turn lane into Wendy's.

mk-real measure
December 31, 2012
Yep, all of Cobb's commissioners measure success on how much of OUR money they can spend on roads, sidewalks & round-a-bouts!

How about JOBS???

Cobb Countians need GOOD tech & manufacturing JOBS!!!

Baxter bringing 1,500 jobs to Covington!

Foss, 150 jobs to Rome.

CZM manufacturing to Pembroke.

Pyra Max, 60 manufacturing jobs to Jefferson County.

NCR, bringing 870 jobs manufacturing ATM's to Columbus, Ga.

KIA,... 3,000 jobs to West Point.

(plus 40 new businesses have opened connected to the KIA plant)!!

Gulfstream, adding 1,000 manufacturing jobs to their 5,500 workforce in Savannah.

Sany Group bringing large manufacturing/assembly to Peachtree city!!

Athens-Clark County, Henry County and Gwinnett, all being the biggest winners, are working hard & bringing jobs to THEIR areas!

Better get on the ball, Cobb!!!!!!!

We are WAY WAY behind and it is showing!!

Commissioner Gloat
December 31, 2012
Excellent commits MK!! I have never heard such "just thumping," egotistic, I AM the greatest, since Obama and look where he has gotten us! Get to work on real growth Birrell, Ott and especially Goreham. That is Goreham with an L -- Loser!! And MDJ quit writing these glowing pieces of Ed Ops. It only shows your incredible ignorance!
December 31, 2012
Never thought I would agree with MK, but in this case she is correct.

The problem is that the Chamber, the County and the various Cobb municipalities are fighting over economic development turf instead of cooperating with each other (the way they did in past years) to bring quality jobs and businesses to the county.

If they would get together and mount a "team" effort things would improve considerably.

The Chamber's EDGE program is a joke with immature, inexperienced leadership.

The Cobb Development Authority has a Executive Director who has no previous related experience.

The Chamber itself has demonstrated that it is more concernned with accumulating political clout and power than with it's effectiveness in attracting business.

The County's ED efforts are severely hampered by a Chairman who is beholding to the Chamber and relents to their power grabbing agenda.

January 01, 2013
The only behind that is showing belongs to you.
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