Isakson Living told to rework plans again
by Rachel Gray
May 07, 2014 04:00 AM | 4019 views | 8 8 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kevin Moore
Kevin Moore
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MARIETTA — In front of a packed audience, the Cobb Planning Commission told developers of a controversial senior living space not to return until September — and with a smaller number of units and reduced height for the project.

After months of reworking, the Atlanta-based Isakson Living returned to the Planning Commission on Tuesday morning with an updated proposal for the Isakson Senior Living development, with one-, two- and three-bedroom residences for seniors ages 62 and older.

The 53.7-acre site is off Roswell Road across from the Providence Road intersection, adjacent to East Cobb Park.

The original proposal called for 987 units, but this time Kevin Moore, a Marietta attorney who represents both the developer and the owner of the property, Wylene Tritt, said the newest site plan has a total of 748 units.

Of those units, 621 are independent living units in 3-story villas above a parking garage, and 96 are health care units.

New to the plan are 31 one-story cottages with basements, which will be placed closer to the perimeter of the land with the taller buildings collected in the center, “so it is not institutional in appearance, but residential in appearance,” Moore said.

Planning Commission Chairman Mike Terry said the significant case that falls in his district is one that came with thousands of emails, many of which were in support of the plan.

“I have struggled with this for a year,” Terry said.

The Isakson Senior Living development is the first application heard for a new Cobb zoning category called continuing-care retirement community.

For the land to be zoned CCRC, Terry said the plan needs to fit the area as far as intensity and height of the development.

The buildings around the outside of the development would be hundreds of feet from Roswell Road and surrounding properties, with trees added along with undisturbed natural areas.

If the plans only have shorter buildings, Moore said it would spread out the units, placing the structures closer to the subdivisions and forcing greater walking distances on the senior residents.

Terry told Moore to return in four months at the earliest with no more than 500 units with only two- to three-story buildings, and only after providing all materials to the board at least two weeks before the case is heard again.

“I think they have their marching orders,” Terry said.

The need for senior housing

By 2020, the population of Cobb residents over the age of 65 will be more than 100,000 people, Moore said, which is up from nearly 60,000 in 2010.

The growing senior population means “Cobb County should lead the area in providing housing options for seniors,” Moore said.

Terry said more than once at Tuesday’s meeting that Isakson Living builds quality projects and areas all over Cobb need options for senior housing.

“We all believe that is the case,” Terry said.

Robert Burke, who is an eight-year resident of Cobb and lives off Mitsy Forest Drive to the west of the proposed site, presented the Planning Commission a petition with 2,300 signatures against the development.

Isakson Senior Living would include 65,000 square-feet of common area for a health and fitness center, art studio, woodworking shop and dining facilities. Moore said there would be 119 surface parking spaces and 763 underground parking spots, with 209 employees at the site in the course of a day.

The scale would be the same size footprint as Cumberland and Town Center malls, Burke said, changing the suburban area to urban.

“The view from East Cobb Park would be destroyed,” he said.

Burke added there are large concerns about the traffic generated from a massive retirement community, compared to a single-family attached subdivision with 100 homes.

“Owning and driving a car is part of being an independent senior,” Burke said, and there are no shops, restaurants or worship centers within walking distance.

Although Moore admitted the future land use for the property is designated as low density, he said the complex would generate $1,132,000 in tax revenue, with more than $718,000 going to the Cobb school district, which would not see an increase in services needed for the retired residents.

Moore added the developers will donate 9.5 acres to East Cobb Park, a corner pocket in the southwest portion of the land north of Fuller’s Park.

But Doug Rohan, who lives off Nantucket Drive, south of the proposed site, said the tract is “unbuildable” and only offered to “curry favor” with the board.

Community split during vote

The board room at Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting was crowded with several people standing along the walls, filling space in the back and overflowing into a room across the hall.

The mostly east Cobb residents were anxious to hear the latest details about the proposed retirement community, and the crowd was split, with 149 people raising their hands in opposition to the plan and 97 in support.

Many of the people in opposition wore neon yellow T-shirts with lettering that read, “Is this the right development for East Cobb?” and “Protect East Cobb from overdevelopment.”

Co-first vice president of the East Cobb Civic Association, Jill Flamm, told the Planning Commission the organization was recommending denial after not seeing an updated plan in a year.

She also stated there was a lack of community meetings held by the developers, yet there were letters and phone calls placed to east Cobb residents that were heavy-handed in garnering support.

Planning Commissioner Christi Trombetti said the large amount of opposition and “emotion over the case” is due to a perception that the developer does not care about the concerns of east Cobb residents.

Commissioner Bob Hovey agreed with even more direct words, stating the Isakson Living application is the worst he has seen in his tenure on the Planning Commission.

“They have aggravated the citizens and they have aggravated this board,” he said about not receiving the stipulation letter and project details until Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Another point of contention was the eight- to 10-year construction period proposed by the developer.

Moore said it would not be a continuous build-out. After an initial 18 month period of construction, the rest would be done in phases.

In a statement released from Isakson Living Communities, the developer said, “We will be working over the next few months to respond to the Planning Commission’s requests and provide that information to the Commission, neighborhoods and civic associations.”

Comments
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Alternatives
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May 08, 2014
Park - desirable though un-affordable

Residential - less property tax generation, than commercial, plus added pressures on local schools that are at or over capacity, 365 day per year traffic generation during peak commute and retail shopping hours

As planned - maximizes property tax generation, no senior homestead exemption, no additional burden to school system, limited traffic impact when compared to potential residential development, needed senior residential development that may move seniors to sell their personal residence to those not exempt from school property tax

Re: Alternatives
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May 08, 2014
In regards to taxes, it is true that there will be no senior homestead exemption, but that will likely be offset by the super-low assessment the development will ask for, and for which Isakson Living will likely sue Cobb County if they don't get their way. They spent 4 years suing DeKalb County to lower their taxes at their Park Springs facility (http://www.cceastcobb.com/1/post/2014/04/could-isakson-living-east-cobb-cost-taxpayers.html).

Their Park Springs facility in DeKalb County has 398 Independent Living Units. The health care units and all the other buildings can be seen as amenities of the Independent Living Units, which have entry fees ranging from $196,000 to $518,000 (http://www.parksprings.com/our-homes/availability-pricing/). Park Springs consists of two parcels assessed by DeKalb (post-lawsuit) in 2013 at $45,793,769. That works out to slightly more than $115,000 per Independent Living Unit. If the average entry fee is $300,000 (and it is probably higher), Park Springs should be assessed at over $119 million, and should be paying more than double the taxes it pays now.

The tax argument doesn't fly.

Dave Z
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May 07, 2014
Listen to yourselves, people!

What a bunch of spoiled brats trying to tell a private landowner what to do with their land. I'm guessing that Ms. Tritt has lived there longer than all of you. I guess you all would prefer that this tract of land on a major state highway stay undeveloped in order to preserve your woodsy views? Well, I'm sure you're welcome to buy the property and do just that. (149 opponents x $150,000 each should cover it.)

As for Isakson Development, at first I (and everyone) assumed they may get special treatment, but it seems that the board is going out of its way to prove otherwise. First, they are told to pull their original proposal so the county can rework the zoning. Then when they hesitate (as they should), they are shamed and told they can't be a part of the solution if they have an active case. So they pull the application, and now, with the solution / new zoning in place, they are again told to go away for at least 10 months.

I would sue the county for the strong-arm tactics and costly delays.
youshallsee
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May 07, 2014
Hey, genius. Has nothing to do with being a 'spoiled brat.' New hospital is directly across the street. That 'street' happens to be a gridlocked 120. Can't wait for the day when you are stalled in bumper to bumper traffic and late for something imperative and think to yourself, 'Oh...so THIS is what all those spoiled brats were worried about!!'
Dave Z
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May 07, 2014
That should say "at least 4 months."

By the way, who made Mike Terry the King of Cobb County? "I have given my orders, now do as I say." Amazing.
Dave Z
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May 07, 2014
@ youshallsee

Throw in your $150,000, get 150 neighbors to do the same, then have it your way. God Bless America.
IMBY
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May 07, 2014
Amen, Brother.

Us East Cobbians just love to tell other people what to do on their own their property.

This property is on a state highway, next to a public park, and across the street from a 3 or 4 story medical complex. Where else would you put a development like this, in an industrial area?

Typical "now that I'm here, shut the door and don't let anybody else in" mentality . Never mind that when the 1/2 and 1/3 acre subdivisions where the NIMBYS live started popping up in place of farms and acreage tracts years ago, that was just fine.

Let them build as much as they want to on their property . Somehow the neighbors will survive it.
Just Sayin'....
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May 07, 2014
Folks, this land is going to be developed, and here is someone not asking the county or the taxpayers for a darn thing. You are going to push and push and this developer is going to go away and then something much less desirable is going to come in. Typical East Cobb "not in my backyard" mentality, and Mike Terry is dropping the ball on this one.
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